Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Poem for Tuesday and Golf Lighthouses

By Leonora Speyer

The squall sweeps gray-winged across the obliterated hills,
And the startled lake seems to run before it;
From the wood comes a clamor of leaves,
Tugging at the twigs,
Pouring from the branches,
And suddenly the birds are still.

Thunder crumples the sky,
Lightning tears at it.

And now the rain!
The rain—thudding—implacable—
The wind, reveling in the confusion of great pines!

And a silver sifting of light,
A coolness;
A sense of summer anger passing,
Of summer gentleness creeping nearer—
Penitent, tearful,


My Monday was all about chores because I am spending the rest of the week with Paul's relatives -- both his brothers are coming to the east coast with their families, and we're doing a bunch of sightseeing with them and their parents, plus a baseball game with my parents. So I had to get laundry done and organize computer stuff and things like that. My parents took Daniel to lunch and shopping for a bed to have delivered in Seattle, and Adam brought his girlfriend over to study calculus.

I was not as pleased with the Supreme Court as I was last week -- the lethal injection decision disgusts me and the EPA decision absolutely boggles me -- it's okay to poison people since that's more cost-effective than not poisoning them? At least they won't let Texas shut nearly all its abortion clinics. We spent the evening catching up on Key & Peele after I watched Voyager so I can get my review done over the course of the week! Some of the lighthouses at the Dulles Golf Center's mini golf course:

Monday, June 29, 2015

Poem for Monday, Mini-Golf, Minority Report

Weekend Guests from Chicago, 1945
By Toi Derricotte

In their brand new caramel Cadillac,
Julia and Walter arrived at 4,
Trunk stuffed with leather suitcases,
Steaks, champagne and oysters in a cooler,
And Walter’s only drink—Johnnie Walker Blue.
Julia, hands flaring, in the clunky music
Of a pound of real gold charms,
Walter in a tan linen jacket
And shoes soft as old money.

Sweet-tempered, sweet-tongued,
He’d tease the women to blushing,
And let his wife reign queen
In a diamond ring to knock your eyes out.

She was known from New York to LA
For her fried chicken and greens,
And didn’t hesitate, after hours of driving,
To throw an apron over a French cotton dress
And slap the flour on thirty or more pieces.

Oh the chicken breasts and thighs
Spattering, juicy, in just the right degree of heat,
As she told stories, hilarious and true
To a kitchen full of steamy women
That made them double over and pee themselves.

Saturday morning, men to golf,
And women in floral robes
With cups of a New Orleans blend
So strong they said
It stained the rim and turned you black;
Me, in a high chair, straining
For language, my bottle
Stirred with a spoon of coffee
And half a pint of cream.

At 15,
My first trip cross-country on a train,
I stopped to spend the night.
We took the “L” to Marshall Fields
Where Julia bought my first expensive cold creams
And hose the shades of which—for the first time—
Dared the colors of our colored skin.

She told me she had lovers,
One a handsome Pullman porter.
My last nights onboard,
I, myself, enjoyed a notable service:
A café au lait gentleman
Woke me for breakfast
By slipping his hand through the sealed drapes
And gently shaking my rump.
I waited all night,
damp with wonder.

She had a wart on her chin or nose—
I can’t remember which—
She wore it
Like exquisite jewelry,
Like Marilyn Monroe wore her beauty mark,
With unforgettable style.


After a week of heat and a day and a half of pouring rain, Sunday was absolutely gorgeous -- clear, cool, partially overcast. Except for Adam, who did yard work, we had a slow morning, had lunch together, then picked up my parents and went to play miniature golf at the Dulles Golf Center & Sports Park, which has a course with replicas of famous lighthouses at the holes. (I did not come in last, ha!) We stopped for ice cream, came home for a while so we could feed the cats and Adam could get some homework done, then my parents took us to Blaze Pizza for dinner -- we ate outside to enjoy the gorgeous weather.

In the evening we decided to watch Minority Report, since we'd been debating whether that or Edge of Tomorrow was Tom Cruise's best performance (my vote goes to Minority Report; it's a more emotional performance and he shows a lot more range, though there are definitely a bunch of plot holes just as there are in Edge of Tomorrow and Colin Farrell deserves more screen time). We also watched Last Week Tonight, in which John Oliver suitably eviscerates anti-gay marriage judges and transphobic politicians. And I finished my Project that needed to be done before the 30th, so go me!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Poem for Sunday, A Little Chaos, National Aquarium

No Swan So Fine
By Marianne Moore

"No water so still as the
   dead fountains of Versailles." No swan,
with swart blind look askance
and gondoliering legs, so fine
   as the chintz china one with fawn-
brown eyes and toothed gold
collar on to show whose bird it was.

Lodged in the Louis Fifteenth
   candelabrum-tree of cockscomb-
tinted buttons, dahlias,
sea urchins, and everlastings,
   it perches on the branching foam
of polished sculptured
flowers - at ease and tall. The king is dead.


We had pouring rain nearly all day Saturday, flooding lots of local roads and making it no fun to walk around outside, though it was nice and cool. We met Kay and Chris and their kids at Ted's Bulletin, which is new in Gaithersburg and which a local reviewer said had the best milkshakes around (I don't know whether they're the very best because I've never done a study, but they were really good, plus their veggie burgers are excellent particularly the Greek one which I had).

Since the weather made any outdoor fun impossible, we went to see A Little Chaos, which conveniently is only playing in our county at the theater at the mall. The pacing is slow but the acting is great and the cinematography is gorgeous -- not just the settings, which are beautiful, but the structuring of the shots. It's a very woman-in-a-man's-world story but it does pass the Bechdel test. I wasn't sure if my kids would like it, but they seemed interested. particularly since they've been to Versailles.

Since we had such a big brunch, we ate very little for dinner and at strange hours -- I had a cat trying to steal the cheese off my bagel -- while we watched the Canada-England women's World Cup match. Then I thought Paul and I were going to watch Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, but he fell asleep and snored through it, so I watched that (why do there have to be zombies in everything) and now Graham Norton. Here are some photos from the National Aquarium last weekend:

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Poem for Saturday, Heroes and Demons, L'Hermione Baltimore

The Photograph
By Constantine Cavafy
Translated by Daniel Mendelsohn

Looking at the photograph of a chum of his,
at his beautiful youthful face
that forever more; — the photograph
was dated 'Ninety-two,
the sadness of what passes came upon him.
But he draws comfort from the fact that at least
he didn't let — they didn't let any foolish shame
get in the way of their love, or make it ugly.
To the "degenerates," "obscene" of the imbeciles
their sensual sensibility paid no heed.


I had a morning of joy on the internet, catching up on happy pro-Obamacare articles from yesterday and segueing into an explosion of happiness when the Supreme Court declared marriage a right for everyone. I saw the alerts about the terrorist attacks but those don't make me less happy for people here or less proud of the people who've worked for this day for all these years.

I did have to get work done, though the Voyager episode I was reviewing, "Heroes and Demons", cannot be described as intellectually taxing -- I have to wonder whether anyone on the writing staff ever read more than the Cliff Notes of Beowulf, let alone the physics of matter-energy conversion. I also worked more on the Project from yesterday that must be finished by Tuesday!

We had dinner with my parents, keeping an eye on Scherzer's several perfect innings before he gave up a hit, then we went to see Woman in Gold. I mostly liked it -- thought it was very prettily filmed, mostly appreciated the acting though it's not Mirren's best performance, found it fairly predictable in terms of how the story is told. Here are some more photos from L'Hermione's visit to Baltimore last weekend:

Friday, June 26, 2015

Poem for Friday and Maryland Prairie Dogs

At the Touch of You
By Witter Bynner

At the touch of you,
As if you were an archer with your swift hand at the bow,
The arrows of delight shot through my body.

You were spring,
And I the edge of a cliff,
And a shining waterfall rushed over me.


I spent a lot of Thursday working on a Project (it's a surprise for someone so in case that someone is reading this, I will not say more). Otherwise, I read a lot of people celebrating and a few ranting about Obamacare, spent a little time filtering some of the latter off my Facebook news feed, had lunch with Paul (Daniel was home but took too long getting downstairs for his lunch), and tried to get organized for my insane next couple of weeks.

This morning I realized that Beauty and the Beast was finally back on the air -- I'm not sure how many episodes I missed, but I caught tonight's, which wasn't its best but had lots of women kicking ass and not obsessing over their boyfriends, which was sorely lacking most of last season. Then I watched Voyager for review (not one of my favorites but Robert Picardo is always fun to watch). Here are some pictures of the Maryland Zoo prairie dog colony:

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Poem for Thursday, Lewis Ginter Flowers, 13 Going On 30

Partita for Sparrows
By Brenda Hillman

We bury the sparrows of Europe
with found instruments,
their breasts light as an ounce of tea
where we had seen them off the path,
their twin speeds of shyness & notched wings
near the pawnbroker's house by the canal,
in average neighborhoods of the resisters,
or in markets of princely delphinium & flax,
flying from awnings at unmarked rates
to fetch crumbs from our table half-spinning
back to clefs of grillwork on external stairs
we would descend much later;

in rainy neighborhoods of the resisters
where streets were taken one by one,
where consciousness is a stair or path,
we mark their domains with notched sticks
of hickory or chestnut or ash
because our cities of princely pallor
should not have unmarked graves.
Lyric work, flight of arch, death bridge
to which patterned being is parallel:
they came as if from the margins
of a painting, their average hearts half-spinning
our little hourglass up on the screen.


Wednesday was another relatively unexciting day, though I got to argue with both my children about the quickest way to destroy the human race and I got to pick up my new glasses, including a pair of progressives that it will probably take me a month to get used to (last time I tried progressives, I fell down an elevator at the mall and up a curb at the food store, both causing serious leg cuts) and a really adorable pair of prescription sunglasses, something I have never had before. I drove myself and Daniel there, because Daniel was picking up new glasses too, but he had to drive us home, because I had to have all the tests that require eye dilation that I didn't get last time so I could drive while his eyes were dilated!

We had one coupon for a free Domino's pizza and another for half off because of the Nationals' no-hitter last week (tonight they merely won in extra innings, heh) so we tried their handmade pizza, which is actually pretty good (of course I got feta on my half and split with Adam who got pineapple). Then we watched an awesome NOVA special on birds, after which 13 Going On 30 turned up on some cable channel. I am feeling much less silly about liking Cinderella because Cinderella may actually be more sophisticated and less objectionable than the former, and I'm saying this despite Mark Ruffalo who was of course my only reason for watching in the first place! From Lewis Ginter Botanic Garden earlier in the spring: 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Poem for Wednesday, Cinderella, Brookside Animals

In Search Of Cinderella
By Shel Silverstein

From dusk to dawn,
From town to town,
Without a single clue,
I seek the tender, slender foot
To fit this crystal shoe.
From dusk to dawn,
I try it on
Each damsel that I meet.
And I still love her so, but oh,
I've started hating feet.


Tuesday was a chore day, though not particularly a bad one -- my most crucial ones got done, and so did Daniel's, though he is refusing to make a dent in sorting things in his room and I am resorting to threatening to toss or give away his entire childhood if he doesn't at least tell me which of his high school papers can be discarded. I would say that we took a break to get bagels, except I think lunchtime was when he first got out of bed! He did take care of some moving-related things and I got laundry sorted and folded (and I got to watch Body of Lies while doing it). The weather was atrocious pretty much all day -- nearly 100 degrees before the storms arrived in the late afternoon, then thunder, pouring rain, flood warnings, and we weren't even in the area with the hail and tornadoes. We were going to get our free Domino's Pizza for dinner -- we got one of the post-no-hitter coupons -- but didn't want to venture out in that weather, so we had hot dogs and macaroni instead.

By then the skies had calmed down and we saw the live-action Cinderella directed by Kenneth Branagh, with a cast of great actors, of whom the most interesting was probably Cate Blanchett in the thankless role of the stepmother whom we're supposed to hate not in this version because she's physically abusive, but because she dresses fashionably, throws parties with gambling and drinking, and resents the fact that the man she had to marry to avoid destitution is obsessed with his dead first wife. We're supposed to think she is evil for not being able to afford to pay the servants, and because her cat, being a cat, chases mice. I get pissed off when people snark on Cinderella for not being a feminist heroine (for similar reasons that I've always defended Bella Swan, also a survivor of a miserable childhood), but the stepmother deserves forgiveness; watching this version, I was struck by how much her bitchiness towards other women reminds me of beloved Jane Austen characters. Brookside animals: