Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Poem for Wednesday, POTC:DMTNT, Gunboat Philadelphia

The Homesick Pirate
By Joshua Seigal

There was a homesick pirate,
His name was Danny Dunn,
Last night in bed he made a wish –
He thought it would be fun
To hop aboard a pirate ship
Instead of going to school.
I don’t know why, I guess he thought
It would be kind of cool.
But now he’s going to and fro
Across the Irish Sea
When all he wants is to go home
And settle down to tea.
They hoist the Jolly Roger
And they drink their jugs of rum,
But it isn’t quite as Danny thought:
He’s crying for his mum.
He didn’t know they’re dirty
And he didn’t know they stank
And the pirates keep on threatening
To make him walk the plank.
There’s droppings in the porridge
And no mattress on the bunks;
There’s lice in Blackbeard’s beard
And there’s sand in Danny’s trunks.
Everyone has scurvy
And they scowl with snaggled teeth;
There’s beetles on the top deck
And the rats live underneath.
So next time that you make a wish
Heed what I say, it’s true:
Young Danny hates the pirate life
And so, I think, will you.


On Tuesday morning, we dropped Daniel off at Dulles, then dropped Adam off at work at NIH, and the rest of the day was spent catching up on maybe 1/3 of the things we postponed while we had both sons here. Since my day was not exciting enough to report on anything besides the fact that Adam has now ordered both a new laptop and tickets to Greece for the academic conference he will attend in June, here is the longer commentary I promised about Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Here be spoilers!


The big complaint I saw from critics about the film was that it was completely derivative of the first POTC film -- a mediocre soft reboot -- which was precisely what I enjoyed about it. Yes, Johnny Depp's schtick is wearing very thin, but I'm in a minority in that Jack was never one of my two favorite characters in the original trilogy; the second film's my least favorite of those, even though it's better directed than the third, because Barbossa isn't around and Elizabeth isn't a pirate king. So I appreciate that a lot of Jack's role in DMTNT involves the guillotine equivalent of the Hamster Wheel of Doom and treating Bootstrap Bill's grandson the way he treated Bootstrap Bill's son, while the dramatic storyline belongs to Barbossa and Carina (who isn't Elizabeth Swann, which is my single biggest complaint about the film -- that they insisted on replacing a not-even-middle-aged woman with a much younger one, but more on that later).

I feel like half the reviewers were looking for reasons to knock Depp and his schtick, to bring up his marriage and the arrest for sneaking dogs into the country and the abuse allegations and the expensive divorce, but since I was never such a big fan of Depp in the first place, I just kind of rolled my eyes at Jack the way I always have and waited for them to get back to the more interesting storylines, because Jack has always been more enjoyable playing in counterpoint to everyone else -- Elizabeth, Will, Norrington, Barbossa, Tia Dalma, Bootstrap Bill, Davy Jones, Beckett, Teague -- than at the center of the story. If the POTC franchise is all about Jack for you, then this isn't one of its better installments, but if, like me, it was always about Elizabeth and the world she inhabited, this isn't a terrible direction to take it in.

Of course, the writers didn't intend to have Elizabeth in the movie at all -- I thought it was broadly hinted that her death was the reason Will was overtaken by the Dutchman's curse, since I assumed that while she protected his heart, he'd be safe from Davy Jones' curse, and only death would have made her betray Will in such a manner. I'm torn between being grateful that we get to see her at all and irate that they didn't understand from the beginning that she is THE crucial character, the one who binds everyone else together, who gives us some investment in the Royal Navy and the merchants and the various pirate factions. I don't believe for one second that, having been a Pirate King, she retired to the land forever while raising a son who snuck off to the sea. So as glad as I am that she and Will get their happy ending, her lack of agency is MY major gripe with the film.

That said, I really do like Carina, who initially suggests that her father taught her to be a scientist, but we later learn that she taught herself based on a misunderstanding of the significance of the book he left her. Unlike Elizabeth, she isn't looking for love -- it finds her quite by accident -- though like Elizabeth she's naturally more drawn to rebels than the officers and officials who presume that any woman capable of her level of scientific reasoning must be a witch, even though she's the biggest skeptic in the franchise. I liked her already before realizing that she wasn't going to turn out to be Norrington's or Beckett's love child but Barbossa's. My second least favorite thing about the film, of course, was his presumed demise, but I've mourned Barbossa before, and I'm assuming that money and scriptwriting will determine whether he returns, not Carina's scientific definition of death. If Geoffrey Rush doesn't return to the franchise for some reason and there's another film, I'm really glad it's Barbossa's daughter.

If I have a redundancy complaint, it's about Will's son following Will's own arc in pursuit of a cursed pirate father. Henry is cute enough but there's absolutely nothing clever or original about his character. I know a lot of people were excited about the specter of Davy Jones in the stinger after the credits -- yet more evidence that no one needs to stay dead in this franchise -- but if he comes back, I don't see how we avoid a retread of the whole revenge storyline. Why else would he show up then disappear in Will and Elizabeth's bedroom? It sure didn't look like it was to bless their union now that he finally has true love. I'm delighted with the stinger otherwise because it suggests that if there is another film, Will and Elizabeth will both be bigger players, but again, why is it Will and NOT Elizabeth having the visions of Davy Jones?

I reiterate: she was a pirate king! I know that title only matters while the Brethren Court is meeting, and that's so far from DMTNT that Keith Richards doesn't even put in an appearance (though I greatly enjoyed Paul McCartney's cameo, he should have been Uncle Albert, not Uncle Jack). It's very typical of Hollywood to assume that a boy is more affected by an absent father than a present mother, but in this case it's a snub to the entire original trilogy not to have Elizabeth more involved in Henry's storyline even if she's not in the movie and it's entirely him reflecting on the stories his mother told him, both about growing up as the governor's daughter in Port Royal and about sailing the high seas on the Empress. I'm going to assume that Henry is attracted to a woman like Carina because Elizabeth DID raise him to appreciate strong, smart, ambitious women. That's what any future sequel needs, not some big dramatic Jack Sparrow storyline.

We picked up Adam and had spaghetti and veggie meatballs with him, then started watching the atrocious Orioles-Yankees game which thankfully we got to turn off in favor of Genius, though it was a very unhappy episode. Then we put on the beginning of the Nationals game, though now we're watching The Daily Show for our dose of sanity-saving Trump-mocking before bed. In honor of the Black Pearl, here are photos of the Gunboat Philadelphia, the Revolutionary War ship on display in the Smithsonian along with the shot that sunk it in Lake Champlain:









Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Poem for Tuesday, POTC:DMTNT, Memorial Day

The James Bond Movie
By May Swenson

The popcorn is greasy, and I forgot to bring a Kleenex.  
A pill that’s a bomb inside the stomach of a man inside

The Embassy blows up. Eructations of flame, luxurious  
cauliflowers giganticize into motion. The entire 29-ft.

screen is orange, is crackling flesh and brick bursting,  
blackening, smithereened. I unwrap a Dentyne and, while

jouncing my teeth in rubber tongue-smarting clove, try  
with the 2-inch-wide paper to blot butter off my fingers.

A bubble-bath, room-sized, in which 14 girls, delectable  
and sexless, twist-topped Creamy Freezes (their blond,

red, brown, pinkish, lavendar or silver wiglets all  
screwed that high, and varnished), scrub-tickle a lone

male, whose chest has just the right amount and distribu-
tion of curly hair. He’s nervously pretending to defend

his modesty. His crotch, below the waterline, is also
below the frame—but unsubmerged all 28 slick foamy boobs.

Their makeup fails to let the girls look naked. Caterpil-
lar lashes, black and thick, lush lips glossed pink like

the gum I pop and chew, contact lenses on the eyes that are  
mostly blue, they’re nose-perfect replicas of each other.

I’ve got most of the grease off and onto this little square  
of paper. I’m folding it now, making creases with my nails.


I spent Monday with my family, which was lovely though we did nothing as Memorial Day-relevant as the day before when we visited a fort. While both sons did online research, we watched most of the Maryland men's victory in the NCAA lacrosse championship -- that's both the Terrapin men and women as national champions! Adam's Surface is beyond the help of the Microsoft Store so he is getting a new laptop.

Then we went to see Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (from the back row so I could stand), a lot of which I loved, a couple of things I didn't like, one thing I really Did Not Like but I think it's possible that it will be reversed in a future sequel, and one thing quite irritated me but I suspect it was more a result of Hollywood studio issues than screenwriting or directorial planning. I'd rank it well above 4 but well behind 1. More on this later.

We had dinner at my parents' house so they could see Daniel before his flight Tuesday morning, then we came home, played Forbidden Desert, and watched Moonraker since we'd been in the mood for a Roger Moore James Bond film since he died last week and the boys did not remember it though I think we watched it with them several years ago (they remembered The Spy Who Loved Me because of the submarine). It's as cheesy as ever!








Monday, May 29, 2017

Poem for Memorial Day, Fort Ward, Alexandria

My Country's Wardrobe
By Emily Dickinson

My country need not change her gown,
Her triple suit as sweet
As when't was cut at Lexington,
And first pronounced "a fit."

Great Britain disapproves "the stars";
Disparagement discreet,—
There's something in their attitude
That taunts her bayonet.


We had a quiet morning watching the Maryland women win the national lacrosse championship while Adam researched computers and flights to Greece and Daniel played with his Nintendo Switch. Then we had homemade waffles and eggs and picked up my parents to go to Fort Ward near Alexandria, which has a Civil War museum plus some of the earthworks and cannons. It was drizzly, so we then went to Alexandria with the intention of walking around the Torpedo Factory, but we found the replica Spanish ship El Galeon and many geese, ducks, and fish, so we actually spent more time out on the waterfront.

We had dinner (and several desserts) for my father's birthday at Bilbo Baggins, in an upstairs room that we had to ourselves because there was a big party in the room with the Hobbit murals. Then we came home and watched Inferno, which Daniel had not seen (nor read the book, so it was all new to him) and I have to admit that despite its flaws I still like the movie much better than the book. Now we're watching a rerun of the National Memorial Day Concert, which I always find uplifting when it's about World War II veterans and incredibly bombastic whenever modern events are mentioned. Some pics:








Sunday, May 28, 2017

Placeholder for Sunday

I had a really nice Saturday with family and friends -- first lunch at the Mountain Gate buffet restaurant in Thurmont, where we all drove with my parents and met Paul's parents and ate far too much pie (there were at least nine kinds), then dinner with Kay and Chris and their kids at California Pizza Kitchen plus a walk around the lake so Daniel and Adam could see the goslings. Now we're watching the late broadcast of Doctor Who after the Kidman-Urban-Cumming Graham Norton Show. This will be a weekend of family photos, though I forgot to take one with the Helgesens so this one is from the last time we met at Washingtonian Lake without all the kids!







Saturday, May 27, 2017

Poem for Saturday and Visiting Family

I'm nobody! Who are you?
By Emily Dickinson

I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they'd advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog – 
To tell one's name – the livelong June – 
To an admiring Bog!


Daniel is home! And Adam had a great first week of his internship and got straight As! And Paul accepted a job -- this was his third offer but the one he felt best fit his interests and skills (he turned down one that was a good job but in a government agency that Trump has made noises about abolishing, and it just does not seem like a good time to become a federal employee). So other than my spine still being a literal pain in the ass, things are good!

Most of our early day was chores -- laundry, shopping for cat litter, a stop in Michael's for a piece to fix a bracelet -- plus a long phone conversation with Noelle. Adam's girlfriend Christine came over in the afternoon, hung out for a while, and came with us to pick Adam up from work, after which we went to my parents' for dinner, then left to go to the airport to retrieve Daniel!






Friday, May 26, 2017

Poem for Friday, Red Nose Day, Son and Cat

After the First Child, the Second
By Mary Austin Speaker

for Chris Martin

To you
through whom

these sudden days
blowse & hum

thirst & quench
a tide of tensing trees

days tick by
beats in a song

my body grows
fuller each day

I think my life
has always been

for this quiet

your forehead
& eyelashes

face pressed
to my breast

your skin a texture

my fingertips
wool on cotton

wool on glass
the fibers rise

& I can’t sleep
for being alive


After dropping Adam off at NIH this morning, I went to physical therapy! Which was great! I mean, my back still aches and I have sharp pains shooting through my hip and down my leg when I sit for more than 20 minutes, but at least now I have exercises! We came home for lunch afterward, Paul talked to some job people, then we went to the post office to mail Maddy a package and to Kohl's so Paul could get shoes and I could get a nightgown I almost bought on sale last week which is now another few dollars cheaper. We also took a walk around the lake there to see the goslings.

We picked Adam up in the midst of a thunderstorm, had meatloaf for dinner, and watched The Handmaid's Tale and Genius with him (he has a low opinion of political dystopias, having been scarred by Ayn Rand's Anthem in school at a young age, and he doesn't have a great opinion of Einstein's useful smarts after this miniseries). Then we watched the Red Nose Day special, mostly to see the Love, Actually mini-sequel, which was cute but I don't love the original enough to be too deeply invested! Since Daniel is coming Friday and Effie is enraged about having her claws clipped, pics from his last visit:

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Rushed Thursday Entry

A Haiku

By Me

the sound of Star Trek
phasers firing in the trees
the cicadas sing


Wrote a whole entry and LJ ate it. My day in brief, though it was long: drove Adam to a deep learning conference in College Park, had breakfast at IHOP since we were over there, went to the mall to get gifts and pick up Maddy's paycheck to send her, went to the food store, took a walk, started watching the Dirty Dancing remake, turned it off because it was mediocre to watch The 100 season finale, then turned Dirty Dancing back on to see whether it had improved (nope), Adam got home late. Three photos from Arles earlier this year:

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Poem for Wednesday, Genius, Busy Chipmunk

For the Chipmunk in My Yard
By Robert Gibb

I think he knows I’m alive, having come down
The three steps of the back porch
And given me a good once over. All afternoon
He’s been moving back and forth,
Gathering odd bits of walnut shells and twigs,
While all about him the great fields tumble
To the blades of the thresher. He’s lucky
To be where he is, wild with all that happens.
He’s lucky he’s not one of the shadows
Living in the blond heart of the wheat.
This autumn when trees bolt, dark with the fires
Of starlight, he’ll curl among their roots,
Wanting nothing but the slow burn of matter
On which he fastens like a small, brown flame.


The highlight of my Tuesday was seeing an orthopedist, who looked at my MRI scans, took x-rays, prodded me in various places, and concluded as my internist had that the slight protrusion of one of my discs is causing all the pain, so the good news is that there's no stenosis or herniation but the bad news is that it might take months of physical therapy and meds before the pain is gone. Given that driving for more than five minutes is painful, I'm not even sure how I'm going to get to my follow-up appointment in three weeks if PT doesn't help, but obviously this is better than finding out something is really wrong with the bone. We're sad about Roger Moore but we didn't have time for a Bond marathon because of carpooling.

Adam is very much enjoying his internship, though in typical fashion he is finding dozens of related papers and textbooks to read and doing much extra work. Because he now has all his grades for the semester, four As and one A+, after we picked him up we took him out to dinner at Grand Fusion where we had lots of wonderful tofu (orange, salt and pepper, Thai basil, satay). I missed the beginning of The Flash season finale though I'm more concerned with the end -- if That Person had died I could have lived with it, but are they switching focus entirely? -- followed by the newest Genius (uggh Albert your background and era are not excuses) and the one before, which son had missed. Local chipmunk seed gathering:










Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Poem for Tuesday and American History

Elsa Is Involved in a Clandestine Love Affair
By Angela Veronica Wong

There is no fixed place and by that I mean
take a look at things that are. Split by the
turn of year, its newness and all it brings,
which of its possibilities can we trust?
Elsa is involved in a clandestine
love affair which, let’s be honest, should be
all love affairs until they’re over. She finds
herself dreaming of children and many
other delicacies. Sugared eggs. A
lost palace. But night brings a great expanse
and it’s much too quiet in these hallways.
On her back, Elsa holds her breath, her hands
beneath her, resisting, resisting. That
temptation can be such a dirty rat.


The poet told that this poem is from a series of sonnets about a fictional mistress of Louis XV exploring gender and colonialism, but I don't believe for a single second that we're not supposed to hear Disney and Frozen in the lost palace and dangerous hands.

Paul needed to go downtown for clearance and security checks that some of his potential employers require, so since I needed to be awake early anyway to get Adam to NIH for the first day of his internship there, I drove into DC with him. While he was getting fingerprinted and dealing with paperwork, I went to the Smithsonian's Museum of American History, where he eventually met me. We went to several of our favorite exhibits, including the Gunboat Philadelphia and the Machine Age, as well as the new one on Japanese-American internment camps during World War II. Then we went to the Reagan Building's food court for lunch, where we ate Mediterranean food and I caught an Aerodactyl.

The EPA from the front of the National Museum of American History

George Washington as Greek god

Brown Box prototype video game system

Commercial ship replica from the start of the nautical exhibit...

...and SS United States deluxe passenger cabin items from near the end

Me and a Lego model of the Statue of Liberty

An exhibit on Japanese-American prison camps during World War II

From a Reagan Building exhibit on World War I, a British recruitment poster featuring George V

When we got home, we caught up on the weekend television we missed, namely the distressing season finale of Elementary and last week's Matrix-y Doctor Who. We went to pick up Adam, who had a long and very good day working out his research plans with the professor in whose lab he'll be working, and came home for leftover gumbo. In the evening we watched the season finale of Supergirl (not the best they've done this season but plenty of Cat, some Lena, and gratuitous Superman, so I was happy) and James Corden's prime time Carpool Karaoke special, plus another episode of Genius for Adam. Given both the local and international news these past two days, we needed distraction.