Sunday, September 30, 2018

Greetings from the Biltmore

We are howling watching SNL after a spectacular day mostly at the Biltmore Estate, the Vanderbilt family home and village built to support it, which currently has a Chihuly exhibit that ends next weekend. We had lunch there, toured the enormous mansion as well as the extensive gardens, then had Ethiopian food for dinner at Addissae and drove back to Mocksville. More pics when I am more awake but I had to share the staircase at the Biltmore which is a reverse copy of the one at the Chateau de Blois which we saw earlier this month, and the library, and some Chihuly:

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Saturday, September 29, 2018

Greetings from Mocksville

Quickie, I had a much better day than yesterday and not just because of the amazing women who persuaded Jeff Flake that women had a right to be heard and believed. We are in North Carolina after picking up Cheryl in Richmond and driving south through Durham, where we met my good college friend Karen for dinner at Thai Cafe, the same excellent restaurant where we had dinner in 2010 with my kids and her husband, who had to work tonight. On Saturday we're going to the Biltmore Estate for the Chihuly exhibit and just to see the mansion -- one of younger son's least favorite places in America! Here is an ice rainbow we saw over NC and us with Karen:

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Friday, September 28, 2018

Poem for Friday, Girls Trip, Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey

Rat Wheel, Dementia, Mont Saint Michel
By C.K. Williams

My last god's a theodicy glutton, a good-evil gourmet—
peacock and plague, gene-junk; he gobbles it down.
Poetry, violence; love, war—his stew of honey and thorn.

For instance, thinks theodicy-god: Mont Saint Michel.
Sheep, sand, steeple honed sharp as a spear. And inside,
a contraption he calls with a chuckle the rat wheel.

Thick timber three metres around, two persons across,
into which prisoners were inserted to trudge, toil,
hoist food for the bishop and monks; fat bishop himself.

The wheel weighs and weighs. You're chained in; you toil.
Then they extract you. Where have your years vanished?
What difference? says theodicy-god. Wheel, toil: what difference?

Theodicy-god has evolved now to both substance and not.
With handy metaphysical blades to slice brain meat from mind.
For in minds should be voidy wings choiring, not selves.

This old scholar, for instance, should have to struggle to speak,
should not remember his words, paragraphs, books:
that garner of full-ripened grain must be hosed clean.

Sometimes as the rat wheel is screaming, theodicy-god
considers whether to say he's sorry: That you can't speak,
can't remember your words, paragraphs, books.

Sorry, so sorry. Blah, his voice thinks instead, blah.
He can't do it. Best hope instead they'll ask him again
as they always do for forgiveness. But what if they don't?

What might have once been a heart feels pity, for itself, though,
not the old man with no speech—for him and his only scorn.
Here in my rat wheel, my Mont Saint Michel, my steeple of scorn.   


I watched TV most of the day. I was pretty okay while Ford was testifying, even though it was obvious the Republicans wanted a prosecutor not to get at the truth or even protect them from sounding like assholes (since they were perfectly comfortable all day sounding like assholes) but to try to make the story about the Democrats playing politics while they pretended to feel sorry for the assault victim. As soon as Kavanaugh came out shouting and ranting, though, with Lindsey Graham declaring that this is the most despicable thing he has seen in politics -- we need to put him in a for-pay prison or send him to live in Flint -- I had to get out before my blood pressure became dangerous.

It wasn't all bad when I decided to live in denial for a couple of hours. I did back-to-back Mewtwo raids at the mall and got an invite to what we all hope will be a Deoxys raid at Starbucks next week, then when Paul got home we went out for Mexican food with Karen and Jim. I needed something funny and feminist when we got home, so we watched Girls Trip, which is fit the bill pretty perfectly; I was worried that the infidelity-and-forgiveness story was going to take over one character's arc, but that was resolved greatly to my satisfaction, and the acting was spot-on and hilarious even when over the top. Here because it relaxes me is the Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel:









Thursday, September 27, 2018

Poem for Thursday and Port of Honfleur

Invitation to the Voyage
By Charles Baudelaire
Translated by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Think, would it not be
Sweet to live with me
All alone, my child, my love? —
Sleep together, share
All things, in that fair
Country you remind me of?
Charming in the dawn
There, the half-withdrawn
Drenched, mysterious sun appears
In the curdled skies,
Treacherous as your eyes
Shining from behind their tears.

There, restraint and order bless
Luxury and voluptuousness.

We should have a room
Never out of bloom:
Tables polished by the palm
Of the vanished hours
Should reflect rare flowers
In that amber-scented calm;
Ceilings richly wrought,
Mirrors deep as thought,
Walls with eastern splendor hung,
All should speak apart
To the homesick heart
In its own dear native tongue.

There, restraint and order bless
Luxury and voluptuousness.

See, their voyage past,
To their moorings fast,
On the still canals asleep,
These big ships; to bring
You some trifling thing
They have braved the furious deep.
— Now the sun goes down,
Tinting dyke and town,
Field, canal, all things in sight,
Hyacinth and gold;
All that we behold
Slumbers in its ruddy light.

There, restraint and order bless
Luxury and voluptuousness.


So apparently I am either having allergies, or my sinuses are upset from all the dust from cleaning yesterday, or the migraine that came in with this evening's storm has settled in my sinuses, or despite having seen few of my friends in days I have managed to catch a cold, but in any case my head is stuffed right now and I feel incoherent. It was not an exciting day, anyway, despite being older son's 25th birthday -- we Skyped him briefly, but he was on his way out to go play mini golf with friends.

We were supposed to have dinner with Karen and Jim, but postponed till tomorrow because of the weather, so we ate leftovers. I had to turn off the news so I wouldn't throw up and ended up watching a bit of Iron Man 3 on USA, which put me in the mood to watch the whole thing, and we did. Here are some photos from Honfleur, including the plaque commemorating Champlain's 1608 departure to found Quebec, the 14th century church that is now a marine museum, and the view Monet painted that has changed little:









Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Poem for Wednesday and Rouen Cathedral

By May Wedderburn Cannan

April 26-May 25, 1915

Early morning over Rouen, hopeful, high, courageous morning,
And the laughter of adventure, and the steepness of the stair,
And the dawn across the river, and the wind across the bridges,
And the empty littered station, and the tired people there.

Can you recall those mornings, and the hurry of awakening,
And the long-forgotten wonder if we should miss the way,
And the unfamiliar faces, and the coming of provisions,
And the freshness and the glory of the labour of the day.

Hot noontide over Rouen, and the sun upon the city,
Sun and dust unceasing, and the glare of cloudless skies,
And the voices of the Indians and the endless stream of soldiers,
And the clicking of the tatties, and the buzzing of the flies.

Can you recall those noontides and the reek of steam and coffee,
Heavy-laden noontides with the evening’s peace to win,
And the little piles of Woodbines, and the sticky soda bottles,
And the crushes in the “Parlour”, and the letters coming in?

Quiet night-time over Rouen, and the station full of soldiers,
All the youth and pride of England from the ends of all the earth;
And the rifles piled together, and the creaking of the sword-belts,
And the faces bent above them, and the gay, heart-breaking mirth.

Can I forget the passage from the cool white-bedded Aid Post
Past the long sun-blistered coaches of the khaki Red Cross train
To the truck train full of wounded, and the weariness and laughter
And “Good-bye, and thank you, Sister”, and the empty yards again?

Can you recall the parcels that we made them for the railroad,
Crammed and bulging parcels held together by their string,
And the voices of the sargeants who called the Drafts together,
And the agony and splendour when they stood to save the King?

Can you forget their passing, the cheering and the waving,
The little group of people at the doorway of the shed,
The sudden awful silence when the last train swung to darkness,
And the lonely desolation, and the mocking stars o’erhead?

Can you recall the midnights, and the footsteps of night watchers,
Men who came from darkness and went back to dark again,
And the shadows on the rail-lines and the all inglorious labour,
And the promise of the daylight firing blue the window- pane?

Can you recall the passing through the kitchen door to morning,
Morning very still and solemn breaking slowly on the town,
And the early coastways engines that had met the ships at daybreak,
And the Drafts just out from England, and the day shift coming down?

Can you forget returning slowly, stumbling on the cobbles,
And the white-decked Red Cross barges dropping seawards for the tide,
And the search for English papers, and the blessed cool, of water,
And the peace of half-closed shutters that shut out the world outside?

Can I forget the evenings and the sunsets on the island,
And the tall black ships at anchor far below our balcony,
And the distant call of bugles, and the white wine in the glasses,
And the long line of the street lamps, stretching Eastwards to the sea?

When the world slips slow to darkness, when the office fire burns lower,
My heart goes out to Rouen, Rouen all the world away;
When other men remember, I remember our Adventure
And the trains that go from Rouen at the ending of the day.


On Tuesday morning I picked up an eight-cube organizer shelf that looked like it would fit perfectly in the completely impractical broom closet space in the built-in pantry at the back of our kitchen, and I spent pretty much the rest of the day taking everything out of the pantry, cleaning everything, throwing out approximately fifteen containers holding fifty thousand stale nuts and some salt water taffy purchased too long ago to confess, and reorganizing and putting everything back.

So not a super-exciting day, but I wish I'd done this ten years ago. Paul had to work late so we had microwaveable dinner, then we watched Disobedience, the Orthodox Jewish lesbian love story set in London, which has some scripting and editing issues but is really well acted by Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams. Here are some photos from Rouen Cathedral, visited by Charlemagne in the 700s, destroyed by the Vikings and rebuilt, housing the heart of Richard the Lionheart:









Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Lyrics for Tuesday and Mediaeval Baebes Concert

Erthe Upon Erthe
By Ruth Galloway

Erthe out of erthe is wonderly wroghte
Erthe hase geten one erthe a dignite of noghte
Erthe upon erthe hase sett alle his thoghte
How that erthe upon erthe may be heghe broghte

Erthe upon erthe wolde be a kinge
Bot how erthe to erthe shall thinkes he no thinge
When erthe bredes erthe and his rentes home bringe
Thane shall erthe of erthe have full harde parting

Memento, homo, quad cinis es
Et in cenerem reverentis

Erthe upon erthe winnes castells and towrres
Thane sayse erthe unto erthe, "This es al ourres"
When erthe upon erthe has bigged up his barres
Thane shall erthe for erthe suffere sharpe scowrres

Memento, homo, quad cinis es
Et in cenerem reverentis

Erthe goes upon erthe as molde upon molde
He that gose upon erthe, gleterande as golde
Like erthe never more go to erthe sholde
And yitt shall erthe unto erthe ga rathere than he wolde

Whye erthe lurves erthe, wondere me thinke
Or why erthe for erthe sholde other swete or swinke
For when erthe upon erthe has broughte within brinke
Thane shall erthe of erthe have a foul stinke

Memento, homo, quad cinis es
Et in cenerem reverentis


We may have missed the Maryland Renaissance Festival because of rain on Sunday, but we ended up not missing the Mediaeval Baebes' visit to the area because Paul got us tickets to see them at the Institute of Musical Traditions concert at Saint Mark's Church ten minutes from our house! They did two sets in a place with much better acoustics than the outdoor faire stage, the place was packed -- I think Victoria made them more famous in America than they had been -- and we ran into Angela, Lena, Jack, and several of their friends there so that was lots of fun! My day was otherwise not exciting -- it rained from dawn till dusk again with periods where it was merely drizzle and periods where it was coming down hard, I did a bunch of chores, tried to walk in the park but it was too muddy for me to keep it up for long. So have some photos from the concert!

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Poem for Monday, An Inspector Calls, Mall Culture

By Stephen Crane

Places among the stars,
Soft gardens near the sun,
Keep your distant beauty;
Shed no beams upon my weak heart.
Since she is here
In a place of blackness,
Not your golden days
Nor your silver nights
Can call me to you.
Since she is here
In a place of blackness,
Here I stay and wait.


Quickie as I am very boring right now. This was going to be our Renfaire weekend -- Pennsylvania on Saturday, Maryland on Sunday -- but after putting off the former yesterday, we looked at the weather forecast on this very rainy morning and decided to postpone the latter as well. So we had a kind of slow morning reading the paper and organizing stuff on our computers, then went to the mall to take a walk when I learned my friends were congregating for a Mewtwo raid (though it appears that the mall gym is no longer an EX raid gym, sigh).

We just watched the 2015 TV film of An Inspector Calls, which is great -- age and setting notwithstanding, feels very relevant right now, and the whole cast is great though of course it was David Thewlis and Miranda Richardson who caught my eye. I read some of the analysis about the socialist leanings and feminist underpinnings of the play that put me in a good mood. Montgomery Mall currently has a Culture Fest going on to celebrate all the diversity in Montgomery County, so here are a few photos of the exhibits and music:

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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Poem for Sunday, Annmarie Artsfest and Flag Ponds

By T.E. Hulme

A touch of cold in the Autumn night –
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded,
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.


Our plan for Saturday was to go to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, but Cheryl wasn't feeling well and didn't think four hours of driving was a good idea, so while she stayed home to recover, Paul and I went to ArtsFest at Annmarie Sculpture Garden in Solomons. There are always wonderful glass and jewelry craftspeople and lots of food vendors; we ate lunch while listening to PBC Vocals and I caught lots of Chikoritas for Pokemon Go's Community Day while walking through the craft displays in the woods. I only bought a couple of little things!

Then we drove to Flag Ponds Park and walked down to the beach. The water in the Chesapeake was pretty much the same temperature as the air, and the waves were bigger than usual because of the wind, so it was a really awesome beach day; we even saw some crabs as well as the usual greedy seagulls. Since we had to pass College Park on the way home, we messaged Adam (whose girlfriend is out of town visiting family) to see if he wanted to have dinner and we ended up at IHOP. Then we binged the rest of Jack Ryan. So all in all a good first day of fall!


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