Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Poem for Tuesday and Sewer Museum

A Bedtime Story
By Clay Matthews

Pipe tobacco and the passing of clouds.
The small promises of collarbones
and cedar shingles. Has it been so long
since I’ve really said anything? My days are filled
with meaningless words and the child’s
laughter. Little of what I do
is important, but maybe the ways
are. The crows outside bathing
in the gutters, the strange necessity
of holding up an appearance
and nodding our heads at dinner parties.
If I misspoke, if I misunderstood…
A litany of the stains that show
through on white T-shirts and hands.
What comes out in the wash are afternoons
and sand from the sandbox, a migration
of beaches to backyards, backyards
to the bottoms of sewer lines and imaginations:
what shore do the waves in my dreams
arrive from? Sometimes I hear you
sing there. You bade me speak,
and I howled. You bade me roll over,
and I played dead. I show up beside you
in bed with a dozen bad similes about love.
Don’t ask me what they mean, or if
I am ever          — I don’t know. Only the streetlight
coming in and out behind the curtains,
our shadows making shadows
on the wall. Your eyes gone heavy
at the sound of my voice, reading you
these things others have written.


I got to spend Monday with Cheryl, who stayed in Maryland overnight so we could spend a day watching movies and looking at Paris photos! We started with the 2011 Jane Eyre because of Michael Fassbender's Rochester, then we went to the mall to try Wicked Waffle since the crepe place is not yet open -- I had a mango and brie waffle, which was delicious, and we shared a nutella waffle for dessert. We ate them at home while watching Sharpe's Regiment and Sharpe's Siege, both of which are great episodes, then we watched a few episodes of Shoujo Cosette through the barricade right up to Valjean going into the sewer (see below). After Cheryl went home and we had dinner, our evening was centered around watching the Maryland women beat Tennessee to get into the Final Four!

Le Musée des Égouts de Paris, a.k.a. the Paris Sewer Museum, may not be the most fragrant of tourist sites, though it doesn't smell as bad as some of the Metro stations we were in, and I readily admit that it was Victor Hugo's fault we went there after his descriptions in Les Miserables. But it was fascinating -- a museum in which drain engineers are heroes who saved thousands of lives by figuring out how to purify the water supply, set within a pumping station at the Pont de l'Alma. Older son, who was often reading things on his phone instead of studying the placards in the art museums, was completely attentive. If you have engineers in your family or kids who would enjoy walking on grates over a river of sewage while learning where their poop goes, this is definitely worth an hour of your time in Paris.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Placeholder for Monday

Quickie because I'm watching Shoujo Cosette with Paul and Cheryl after an evening of Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (mostly for the awesome Camelot scene). Earlier we had a day of museum-going at the Phillips Collection to see Man Ray – Human Equations: A Journey from Mathematics to Shakespeare, Hiroshi Sugimoto: Conceptual Forms and Mathematical Models, and O'Keeffe and Friends: Dialogues with Nature, then the Hillwood Museum's annual Faberge Egg Festival, orchid display, and Splendor and Surprise: Elegant Containers exhibit. Here are some photos from Hillwood; more tomorrow!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Poem for Sunday and Basketball Birthday

Sonnet--To Science
By Edgar Allan Poe

Science! true daughter of Old Time thou art!   
Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.
Why preyest thou thus upon the poet's heart,   
Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?
How should he love thee? or how deem thee wise,   
Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering
To seek for treasure in the jewelled skies,   
Albeit he soared with an undaunted wing?
Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car,   
And driven the Hamadryad from the wood
To seek a shelter in some happier star?   
Hast thou not torn the Naiad from her flood,
The Elfin from the green grass, and from me
The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?


I spent Sunday with my entire local family to celebrate Paul's 50th birthday with his parents and mine. We picked up younger son from College Park, stopping briefly at Best Buy to get Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, and went to my parents' house to watch the Maryland women play Duke -- not their best game, but they were never behind, and the Terrapins won by 10 points.

We may have a serious conflict with my in-laws if UConn and the Terps meet in the Final Four! We munched all through the game and had pizza afterward, then birthday cake, and my in-laws brought us Utz snacks from Hanover to bring home, so I have pretty much been eating all afternoon and evening. After we took the kids back to College Park, we watched the end of the Kentucky-Notre Dame game.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Poem for Saturday and Château de Chambord

From 'Six Epistles To a Friend in Town'
By Chandos Leigh

French peasants, famed for loyalty, obey'd
Their king, danced in their chains and taxes paid;
The noble gaily lived, in battle brave,
Tyrant o'er others, at Versailles a slave.
Thus were the seeds of revolution sown,
When vice, reign after reign, bediram'd the crown.
Great Rabelais, whose mine of wit ne'er fails,
Whose genius oft a mystic curtain veils,
Of Chinon was; at rubbish of the schools
Laugh'd he, at lazy monks, and formal fools;
His satire, safe beneath a motley dress
Of words, struck those he feared, not hated less.
Who lived at Usse? certes, gallant knights;
But here tradition gives uncertain lights.
The lords of Saintre, mighty in romance,
Famous among the chivalry of France;
Burning for tournaments if there they dwelt,
At times ennui the lively heroes felt.
(Nobles in England, sober country, draw
Their rank not from knight-errantry but law)
But, no fictitious hero, great Vauban
There made improvements on a soldier's plan:
Generals, though eminent, have small applause
For raising terraces, or framing laws.
A monarch, sensual and religious, lived
At Chambord; there his monks and minions thrived.
There Francis, squire of dames, display'd a show
Of chivalry, inimitable now.
What yet of Chambord rests, where Pleasure breath'd
Sweet poison? towers fantastically wreath'd,
And walls so richly wrought, they seem to be
The work of fairies for their revelry.
Gone are the habitants, monks, minions, dames:
Read, if you please, in annals old, their names.


There are flowers in my neighborhood! And there are lambs at the University of Maryland campus farm, though I only caught a glimpse of them while we were picking up Daniel there. I spent the morning working on a review of Deep Space Nine's penultimate episode, "The Dogs of War", before retrieving son. Then, after enjoying the gorgeous weather, flowers, and bunnies for a bit, we went to my parents' for dinner. Now we are catching up on Dig, which gets crazier as it goes on, but it's just my kind of conspiracy story (Messianic prophecy, the Temple Mount, Jesus clones, and Jason Isaacs).

The Château de Chambord was built for Francis I as a hunting lodge with decorative moat, though it proved impossible to heat properly even with fireplaces connected to the more than 350 chimneys that make its silhouette so memorable. Leonardo da Vinci designed the double helix staircase and likely worked on the building architecture as well. The red and blue bedroom was furnished for Louis XIV. During World War II, the contents of the Louvre, including the Mona Lisa, were stored at Chambord for safekeeping. Despite all the chimneys, it proved impossible to heat the 400+ rooms in the winter!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Poem for Friday and Basilica of Saint Denis

From "The Princess"
By Alfred Tennyson

Come down, O maid, from yonder mountain height:
What pleasure lives in height (the shepherd sang),
In height and cold, the splendour of the hills?
But cease to move so near the Heavens, and cease
To glide a sunbeam by the blasted Pine,
To sit a star upon the sparkling spire;
And come, for Love is of the valley, come,
For Love is of the valley, come thou down
And find him; by the happy threshold, he,
Or hand in hand with Plenty in the maize,
Or red with spirted purple of the vats,
Or foxlike in the vine; nor cares to walk
With Death and Morning on the silver horns,
Nor wilt thou snare him in the white ravine,
Nor find him dropt upon the firths of ice,
That huddling slant in furrow-cloven falls
To roll the torrent out of dusky doors:
But follow; let the torrent dance thee down
To find him in the valley; let the wild
Lean-headed Eagles yelp alone, and leave
The monstrous ledges there to slope, and spill
Their thousand wreaths of dangling water-smoke
That like a broken purpose waste in air:
So waste not thou; but come; for all the vales
Await thee; azure pillars of the hearth
Arise to thee; the children call, and I
Thy shepherd pipe, and sweet is every sound,
Sweeter thy voice, but every sound is sweet;
Myriads of rivulets hurrying thro’ the lawn,
The moan of doves is immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees.


Except for a few minutes taking a walk in the amazingly gorgeous 70-degree weather to see bunnies and flowers before the rain of the morning returned abruptly while I was admiring my neighbor's daffodils, I spent the entire day working on my Shutterfly book with our France photos. It came in at 43 pages and I didn't even include my very best photo because I had a very similar one that had my kids in it, but I am very pleased with it and pleased that I got it done while my coupon was still good!

And my Google Music Manager is working again! Though I am not sure whether this is because I opened Port 80 and Port 443 or because either Google or Microsoft Firewall updated some setting. Either way, I am glad I can upload "Midnight Confessions" before it gets stuck in my head again. We watched two episodes of "Madam Secretary" which means that we are now halfway caught up, and I believe I am ready to review the penultimate episode of Deep Space Nine tomorrow before bracing myself for the finale.

Here are some photos of the Basilique Royale de Saint-Denis, the Gothic church from the 1100s where most French royals are buried (in whole or in part; some of the graves were ransacked during the Revolution, and monarchs who died during the conflict were buried elsewhere at first). In these photos are statues of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette plus their graves, Charles V and Jeanne de Bourbon, Clovis I and his son Childebert, Francis I and his queen Claude, and the heart of Louis XVII.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

France Photo Book

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Poem for Thursday and Château de Chenonceau

If You Must Hide Yourself From Love
By Christopher Salerno

It is important to face the rear of the train
as it leaves the republic. Not that all

departing is yearning. First love is
a factory. We sleep in a bed that had once

been a tree. Nothing is forgot.
Yet facts, over time, lose their charm,

warned a dying Plato. You have to isolate
the lies you love. Are we any less

photorealistic? I spot in someone's Face-
book sonogram a tiny dictum

full of syllogisms. One says: all kisses come
down to a hole in the skull,

toothpaste and gin; therefore your eyes
are bull, your mouth is a goal.


I am very pleased to report that all our trip laundry has been washed, dried, and folded! That was no small accomplishment while I am trying to get all my best France photos edited and uploaded so I can use my free Shutterfly coupon to make a photo album before the end of the week. I am about halfway through creating the book and impressed with my photos of Paris in the haze, though less impressed with how my photos in the catacombs came out. I don't have all my clothes and scarves and the four decks of playing cards that are my major souvenirs put away yet, but I am working on it!

Tonight I have spent hours at war with both my computers, desktop and laptop, apparently because Windows changed some setting in their latest mandatory update that seems to have affected my firewall, because suddenly I can't FTP or log in to Google Music Manager (the programs allege that I am not connected to the internet when I am; according to several web forums, I am supposed to open Port 80 and Port 443 to fix this, but at this hour I am too tired to figure out how to do that, let alone how they got closed in the first place or whether that IS really why I can't upload music).

Here are some photos of the Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, which is not only extraordinary beautiful inside and out -- the castle spans the River Cher, which has swans and herons along the banks, and has gorgeous restored rooms with fresh flowers in most of them, plus it has a hedge maze on the grounds -- but also served as a means of fleeing the Nazis because the long gallery let people escape from the occupied side of the river to the free zone on the other bank. Francis I and Henri II both slept here, as did Catherine de' Medici, who had to share it with her husband's lover.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Poem for Wednesday and Chartres Cathedral

The Labyrinth
By Robert P. Baird

Torn turned and tattered
Bowed burned and battered
I took untensed time by the teeth
And bade it bear me banking
Out over the walled welter
                                           cities and the sea
Through the lightsmocked birdpocked cloudcocked sky
To leave me light on a lilting planetesimal.

The stone walls wailed and whimpered
The bold stars paled and dimpled
Godgone time gathered to a grunt
And bore me bled and breaking
On past parted palisades
                                           windrows and the trees
Over a windcloaked nightsoaked starpoked sea
To drop me where? Deep in a decadent’s dream.


Tuesday was Paul's 50th birthday, which is crazy -- neither of us has any idea how we got so old, even though Daniel and Adam reassure us regularly that we are. He worked from home, so we had lunch together (don't get excited, it was just sandwiches and faux chicken soup, since he has had a cold since we were in France, though we had some chocolate that my friend from London had brought us). I still have laundry to fold, but the photos have been uploaded to Flickr and to Shutterfly so I can make a book with the coupon Laurie gave me before it expires this weekend!

In the late afternoon we went to College Park to get Paul a Terps sweatshirt, which was one of the things he wanted for his birthday. Adam and Christine came to meet us at the bookstore, then we picked up Daniel and all went to the Silver Diner in Greenbelt, for which we also had a coupon. I had eggs benedict and a chocolate milkshake. We came home to watch Forever (and Agents of SHIELD, which seems to have jumped the shark while we were out of town -- Skye is now being compared to Captain America? It was bad enough when she was being compared to Asgardians).

Here are some photos of the Basilique Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres a.k.a. Chartres Cathedral, which had long been at the top of my must-see list in France because of the labyrinth and because it's been around since about 1200 (it was saved during World War II by Americans who refused to destroy it before confirming whether the Germans were using it for local headquarters, which the Germans were not). The coronation of Henri de Navarre, who became Henri IV of France, took place here, and the church has beautiful carvings and gorgeous stained glass that was cleaned and replaced last century.