Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Poem for Tuesday and Hugh Mercer Apothecary

Last night,
By Michael Broder

I dreamt of making sense,
parts of speech caught up in sheets
and blankets, long strips of fabric
wrapped loosely around shoulders,
goblets, urns, cups with unmatched saucers.

You were there, and the past seemed important,
what was said, what was done,
feelings felt but maybe not expressed,
signs randomly connected
yet vital to what comes next,
to a coming season,
next year’s trip to Nauset Beach.

I woke up wanting to read a poem by that name,
and I found one with a lifeguard’s chair,
a broken shell, gulls watching egrets,
home an ocean away.


I feel like every night by the time I get to blogging I'm too upset to post substantively about that day's dissolution of the United States I recognize in our insanely swift slide into fascism while the rest of his political party either cowers or focuses solely on their own far-right agenda, and I'm also too stressed to say anything meaningful about anything else. I would so much rather be happy that the Boy Scouts have finally started allowing transgender scouts, though then I start thinking about all the people on the far left I know who voted for Stein on the grounds that incrementalism is useless and Clinton represented incremental change rather than big change, and I think about how in a decade the Boy Scouts have gone from no gay scouts to just no gay scout leaders to accepting gays but not transgender boys to this, and I want to punch the "if I can't have everything perfect right this very moment for my own progressive agenda then fuck everybody Trump might as well be president" people in the face.

Ugh. I've written letters and made phone calls and had many conversations about the horror of the Obamacare repeal and the return of the pipelines and the cabinet appointments one of which is worse than the next (if I could only block one, which is more important, a Secretary of State not in the oil lobby's pocket or a Secretary of Education who's at least educated about how schools work?) but this week all I can think about is the appointment of a fascist to the NSC, thus giving him and Trump the power to arrest or assassinate anyone they want to label an enemy of the United States, whether or not that person is a citizen, without needing any authorization beforehand and with no culpability after the fact -- a white supremacist who hates Jews and supports men who believe women exist to serve and service them -- while the president, who has already filed to run in the next election, can essentially take bribes now and call them campaign donations, including one from a Russian oil company.

Yeah, my mood is not good. This is in part because Maddy got stuck at work till after 2 a.m. yesterday because of a crisis there and we couldn't get her on the phone to make sure that she was, in fact, still at the theater, so we were up very late to make sure she was okay. So I slept late while our dusting of snow melted and got behind on everything, which is going to be a trend this week because I have lots of appointments. I had two big laundries to fold so at least I had an excuse to catch up on Madam Secretary (always enjoyable) and Victoria (still ten degrees west of history), and in the evening we watched the new Supergirl (which was all about the boys who want to be superheroes and was painfully boring) and Timeless (for the most part, the same). Here are some photos from the Hugh Mercer Apothecary in Fredericksburg yesterday, where an apprentice explained potions I mean treatment ingredients and a nurse demonstrated the use of leeches and scalpels in bleeding:

Monday, January 30, 2017

Greetings from Fredericksburg

Paul and I picked up Annmarie in Woodbridge and spent a lovely day in Fredericksburg with her and Cheryl, beginning with an awesome brunch at Legume, a pescatarian resaurant with lots of vegetarian options (I had vegan biscuits and gravy, eggs benedict rancheros, yogurt with nuts and fruit, potatoes, and a peanut butter chocolate chip bar; some people got omelets and pancakes). We did a little shopping at Irish Eyes and a few of the many antique stores on the way to the Hugh Mercer Apothecary, founded in the 1700s before the Revolution and run by a man who knew George Washington.

After smelling many traditional cures and meeting surprisingly adorable leeches, we stopped for drinks at Hyperion Espresso (where I caught a Snorlax!), then walked to the James Monroe Museum, which is at the site of Monroe's former law offices and has exhibits on his political career, items from his homes, and a collection of his books. After that we walked over to the LibertyTown Arts Workshop, which is really a collection of artists' studios like the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria and has a lot of delightful galleries of pottery, glass, jewelry, metal, and paintings. We finally walked through town back to our cars by the river and drove to Stafford to have dinner at Carlos O'Kelly's.

Star Wars Antique Shopping

Outside the Apothecary Shop

And Inside, With Leeches And Amputation Equipment

In the Courtyard Outside Monroe's Offices

Gallery At LibertyTown Arts Workshop

We dropped Annmarie off at home before her cats, like our cats, could become overly depressed from several hours of no new treats in their food dishes, and got home just in time for the start of the SAG Awards, which I always like because it's performers talking about performers rather than critics or producers judging them. I very much appreciated that Ashton Kutcher came right out demanding justice for people in airports being denied the things the U.S. has always stood for, a theme echoed by several presenters and winners, including the cast of Orange is the New Black whose members shouted out the countries they or their relatives had come from. The memorial montage was utterly brutal, beginning with a quote from Alan Rickman straight through to Carrie and Debbie.

I was very happy for Mahershala Ali from Moonlight, who talked about the kinds of persecution children face, and John Lithgow, who won a well-deserved award for playing Churchill in The Crown and insulted Trump without even naming him by saying he wanted to repeat Meryl Streep's Golden Globe speech. I was rooting for Westworld's Thandie Newton but I'm not particularly sorry Claire Foy won for The Crown, too; I'm much more annoyed that Emma Stone won, but since Viola and Denzel won for Fences, and Hidden Figures won the ensemble award, I won't complain too much if the same thing happens at the Oscars. Now we're watching Cousins do in the Pro Bowl what he did too often this season playing for Washington.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Poem for Sunday, Great Falls Virginia, Allied

Come Slowly, Eden!
By Emily Dickinson

Come slowly, Eden!
Lips unused to thee,
Bashful, sip thy jasmines,
As the fainting bee,

Reaching late his flower,
Round her chamber hums,
Counts his nectars—enters,
And is lot in balms!


We all got up and went to pick up Alice, Jeremy, and Avery so we could take a walk at the Virginia side of Great Falls. It was gorgeous out, a little colder than earlier in the week but there is winter jasmine in bloom locally! Maddy needed to join a group call from school and had trouble getting a signal, so we met her in the visitor center and saw the exhibits there. Then we all tried to go to IHOP, but it was so crowded that we ended up at the Lebanese Taverna Cafe in Arlington.

Afterward we dropped Maddy off at work, then watched the very exciting Terrapins-Golden Gophers men's basketball game. Paul made Chinese and Thai food for dinner for the lunar new year, and after dinner we saw Allied. I am not a particularly big fan of Brad Pitt but having watched Casey Affleck's over-hyped performance in Manchester by the Sea, I was impressed by him (Cotillard is always wonderful, and the movie itself is well-paced and visually interesting).

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Poem for Saturday, Manchester by the Sea, Butterflies

Silent Friend
By Soheila Ghodstint

My backpack is staring at me
with its wide dark eyes,
and deep blameless look
Where to?
Where is the next destination?
When is the final destination?
When will this never-ending path end?
When will this non-stop train stop?
My silent friend
is confused but ready
full but empty
tired but lively
old but brisk
scared but brave.
I fill it with my mother’s old picture.
my father’s long forgotten shirt
my nanny’s threadbare handkerchief
with my memories and dreams.
For a moment I believe
they’re ready to burst out.
But as long as I loved
the backpack on my shoulders
never complained, not once!
I fetch the stars
from one corner of the sky,
place them inside my backpack,
and zip it up.


Friday was colder than Thursday and kind of overcast. It did not start on a great note -- getting in the car to take Maddy to work, the tire pressure light came on, and we're still not sure whether there's a slow leak or the temperature changes screwed with it. It was a fairly busy news morning (Holocaust Remembrance Day, Chinese New Year, impending end of the world) and younger son was happy because he was invited into computer science honors. I kept getting distracted from chores, so a bunch of things did not get done, though I did manage to watch the beaver lodge episode of Bones. After picking up Maddy, we had dinner with my parents, then we dropped her off so she could take the bath she was looking forward to all day with her new Lush bath bomb and went to see Manchester by the Sea.

I have to admit that it felt uneven to me -- even more so than the overhyped La La Land. It's beautifully filmed and the director does a decent job of not letting the snowy small town visuals get in the way of the story, but his use of classical music is so excessive that it takes away from the emotion of what should be powerful scenes, like we're being told how to feel all the time. By contrast Affleck's performance is so closed-off that it's as much frustrating as sympathetic, with a lot of emphasis on his Man Pain at the expense of a lot of female characters, especially Michelle Williams who's not in the film nearly enough. It reminds me a bit of the superior Ordinary People, which I'd been thinking about because of the seaside and because it's one of Mary Tyler Moore's best performances. Brookside:

Friday, January 27, 2017

Poem for Friday and Brookside in Summer

Elegy for a Year
By Joseph Fasano

Before I watched you die, I watched the dying
falter, their hearts curled and purring in them

like kitfoxes asleep
beside their shadows, their eyes pawed out by the trouble

of their hunger. I was
humbling, Lord, like the taxidermist’s

apprentice. I said
yes, and amen, like the monk brushing

the barley from the vealcalf's
withers, the heft of it

as it leans against his cilice.
Winter, I have watched the lost

lie down among their bodies, clarified
as the birdsong

they have hymned of.
I have heard the earth sing longer than the song.

Come, I said, come
summer, come

after: you were the bull-elk in the moonlight
of my threshold, knocking off the mosses from its antlers

before it backed away, bewildered, into foliage.
You were thin-ribbed, were hawk-

scarred, were few.
Yes, amen, before I heard you giving up

your singing, you were something stumbling hunted
to my open door; you were thinning with the milkweed

of the river. Winter, Wintering, listen: I think of you
long gone now

through the valley, scissoring
your ancient way

through the pitch pines. Not waiting, but the great elk
in the dark door. Not ravens

where they stay, awhile, in furor,
but the lost thing backing out

among the saplings, dancing off the madness
of its antlers. Not stone, not cold

stone, but fire. The wild thing, musk-blooded, at my open
door, wakening and wakening and

wakening, migrations
in the blindness of its wild eyes,

saying Look at them, look at how they have to.
Do something with the wildness that confounds you.


Fasano tells Poets.org that he wanted to "speak, after some months of silence, directly to the particularly tumultuous year that had passed, as though it were some strange wild thing that had paid its visit."

It was not as warm on Thursday as it was on Wednesday, but it was still a good day for getting out. I got to take a long walk, and I also spent a long time at Target with Maddy, where she was getting everything from school supplies to clothing to bathroom decorations while I was getting valentines and shoes with memory foam. Meanwhile Paul had lunch with a former co-worker to discuss possible job leads.

Since we are now caught up, we watched the new Nashville, which had a lot of WTF stuff going on that did not line up the way I thought it was going to, and we were finally up to the Bones wedding episode, which was sweet but I see why a lot of people thought it was a letdown based on what Brennan always said she believed. Here are outdoor flowers from last summer at Brookside, since I need some cheer:

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Poem for Thursday, Loving, Chihuly

The Glass-Blower
By Jan Struther

By the red furnace stands
   Apollo mute,
Holding in upraised hands
   His iron flute.
Slowly from back and brow
   The bright sweat drips;
He sets the clarion now
   Light to his lips,
And ever, as he blows,
   Without a sound
His molten music flows,
   Golden and round.

Never from herald's breath
   In brazen horn,
Telling of strife and death
   Or of peace new-born;
From silver clarinet
   By fingers small
To lips of ruby set
   In raftered hall;
From jilted shepherd's reed
   Plaintively proving
How he in very deed
   Must die of loving–
Never from all these came
   A music sweeter
Than this bright sphere of flame
With neither sound nor name,
   Cadence nor metre,
That steadily, as he blows
   On his iron flute,
Trembles and swells and glows,
Gold-amber, amber-rose,
   In melody mute.


It was 60 degrees on Wednesday! Nice enough that a walk in the park was practically required, so we went, though everything is very brown at this time of year. I also had a neighbor loan me a screener of Loving, so we watched that while doing computer chores -- superb performances, lots of emotion -- there's no big speech like Katherine Goble's in Hidden Figures, the focus is less on the legal arguments than the excruciating treatment of people who just wanted to live as a family.

Maddy did not have work, so she came with us to the food store and worked on homework. After dinner she watched the new episode of The Magicians while we caught up on The Young Pope, which remains very crazy (and probably super-offensive to religious Catholics, but as an outsider, it's a really interesting look at what happens when an ordinary guy receives the ability to speak infallibly). Here are some of Chihuly's baskets and macchia from Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle:

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Lyrics for Wednesday, Moana, Oscars, Longwood Lights

We Know the Way
By Opetaia Foa'i and Lin-Manuel Miranda

We read the wind and the sky
When the sun is high
We sail the length of the seas
On the ocean breeze
At night we name every star
We know where we are
We know who we are, who we are

Aue, aue
We set a course to find
A brand new island everywhere we roam
Aue, aue
We keep our island in our mind
And when it's time to find home
We know the way

Aue, aue
We are explorers reading every sign
We tell the stories of our elders
In a never-ending chain
Aue, aue
Te fenua, te malie
Na heko hakilia
We know the way


I had a bunch of chores to do on Tuesday but I had a pretty nice day around them. Maddy had an appointment in the morning and work in the afternoon, but around that I managed to see Moana, which I enjoyed from the opening goddess to the concluding girl power. Oh, everything in it reminded me of something else, the first song is very Pocahontas, the second song is very Mulan, they all sound vaguely like things from Hamilton, and there's an island that looks like it's from POTC, a tower that looks like Saruman's, the Galaxy Quest mini-monsters, an Improbability Drive...I can see why Polynesian people are so frustrated by it, it has lots of Disney cliches thrown around, but its sins are minor compared to a lot of princess movies and Dwayne Johnson is hilarious.

Oh and speaking of movies, and the Oscar nominations came out. Look, I liked La La Land as fluffy Hollywood musicals go, but the massive L.A. masturbatory self-congratulation surrounding it is more irritating than any New York "greatest city in the world" overpriced overblown Broadway number could ever be, particularly since movies are and should be accessible to so many more people. Emma is starting to have the stink of Gwyneth -- first she does two terrible Woody Allen movies, then she gets a nomination that should belong to Taraji P. Henson for a role that half a dozen equally famous actresses could have acted and sung better than Emma does. Why is Viola a supporting rather than a lead actress? And did Hidden Figures or Denzel's Fences direct themselves?

I can't even bring myself to root for Viggo after his summer of Jill Stein evangelism because Clinton=Trump; it's Denzel all the way. We had faux fried chicken for dinner, plus we watched the return of The Flash, which needs to let Iris control her own fate more but I love Draco Malfoy's crush on Barry and I like Caitlin's storyline, and in any case it's SO much better than the painful nonsense that is Agents of SHIELD this season (hey, I'm a shipper! I love when shows start pairing characters off, the return of bubblegum soap opera Nashville makes me happy! but oh my god stop the random stupid relationship drama and wrap up this idiotic May storyline!). Here are some photos from the Klip Collective's Nightscape at Longwood Gardens last fall:

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Poem for Tuesday, Hidden Figures, Silence, Zoo Birds

By Erika Meitner

Hand-painted on the side
of a shack we pass
on the road to Ohio:
what this world comin to?

This is not haiku. This
is more like fog and we’re
socked in and your body

is invisible and right
across from me

How much ammo you got?
says one guy to another
in the cola-chip aisle
of the Food Lion.

The fortitude of rain
hitting the roof:
percussive sadness.

Almost-saved is not
good enough, says
the church sign. We are
out of ketchup again.

Did you see what he
put on Pete’s grave and
what he put on Junior’s?

says the woman in
the Bob Evans bath-
room stall with a cane.

It was sprained, not
broken. From high up,
from far away.

He was still working
at that bar in town,
after all these years,

assigned to a circum-
scribed position, like
the supermoon, like
employee parking.

In the dark 7-Eleven lot
two officers approach
a white van, flashlights on
and held overhand.

The church sign says
living without God
is like dribbling a football.

The light—it was
too bright to be captured
in an iPhone photo

where people are not
the urgency of the
present moment.

Did you get it squared
away? asks one man to
another at the Starbucks
condiment counter.

One of the officers
has a hand on his
holster. What is he
saying to the driver?

The church sign touts
tonight's sermon: Entering
the Miraculous Zone.

There were no grounds
for prosecution. I left
before I heard
the answer.


Cheryl and I had a nice relaxing Monday ignoring the world! (Well, she did have to deal with driving to DC in the rain and wind, but after that!) We went out to get Lebanese Taverna, then we came home and ate it while watching this season finale of The Crown, and then we went to see Hidden Figures, which was just as awesome the second time. It's a nearly perfect film -- it may not have the indie vibe of Moonlight, but it has superb lead actors and even the minor characters are well developed, not just advancing the story. Plus it has lots of humor among the drama.

Since it was a rainy day, we decided we might as well do a double-header, so we also saw Silence. It's very well-acted, but I didn't love it. You'd think a movie set in Japan could present a single Japanese individual who's both admirable and a fully developed person rather than a plot device to inspire white priests. You'd also think that a movie with a Buddhist Inquisitor could make some single mention of the Catholic Church's history of both Inquisition and ignoring the rights of indigenous peoples in the places priests proselytized during the epoch of this film.

It was already dark when Cheryl went home, at which time we took Maddy to the mall to meet up with friends and came home ourselves for Supergirl (not bad, but I still miss Cat so much) and Timeless (pretty good, often a little preachy, could also use more humor). Now we're watching The Daily Show, which is subjecting me to more of the inauguration than I saw during or after it happened thus far, and the kittens are fighting for couch and lap space by aggressively grooming each other. Randomly, here are some photos from last fall of birds at the National Zoo, resident and visitors: