Friday, April 28, 2006

Friday lit. blogging: Tennyson's "Ulysses"

Awesome, awesome poem. It's all about determination--I love the part about "'Tis not too late to seek a newer world..."

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vest the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers;
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breath were life. Life piled on life
Were all to little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle-
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me-
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads- you and I are old;
Old age had yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices.
Come, my friends,'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in the old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal-temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.


Monday, April 24, 2006

'Geisha' question

So this weekend Mr. Fraulein and I rented the DVD of "Memoirs of a Geisha." Watching this movie brought up the same question I remember having when I read the book many years ago: Why is it that we are not supposed to think the geisha are prostitutes? Obviously they are being forced into it, but still...they live in a house run by a madam, where their virginity is auctioned off to the highest bidder. How is this not prostitution? Maybe the more accurate term is sexual slavery? Whatever it is, it's gruesome. To think that this story is based, however loosely, on the true lives of geisha is beyond depressing.

Ugh. Anyway, depressing though it is, it's worth the rental if you haven't seen it, if only for the gorgeous costumes and nice visuals.

Heard around our house recently

Here’s what happens when you live with a toddler: you find yourself actually saying things like this:

-- Please take the cheese out of your ear.
-- Will you stop standing on the Cheerios box?
-- Can you take the remote control out of your mouth?
-- Why are you trying to wedge your baby doll into the wine rack?
-- No, really, take the cheese out of your ear.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I'm it

This is exciting: I've been tagged by Magpie over at Shocked & Appalled. (OK, this was weeks and weeks ago, and I am just now getting around to it, which is pathetic.) So here goes:

Four jobs I've had

1. Obituary writer at a small local newspaper. This involves spending a lot of time talking on the phone to funeral directors, who, as you might expect, are partial to macabre jokes.

2. Corporate marketing whipping-girl at The Management Consulting Firm From Hell. My boss WAS Michael Scott from The Office, if you can imagine him as a 58-year-old woman. Same hellacious insecurities. Same cluelessness about the violent inappropriateness of everything that came out of her mouth. This is an actual conversation I had with this woman not long after I was hired:

Boss From Hell: So, how old are you?

Me: Um, I'm 33...why?

BFH: Well, you know, the mid-thirties are the best time of a woman's life! You are approaching your sexual peak now! I hope your husband appreciates that!

3. Managing editor of a teeny weeny weekly newspaper. This was the weirdest job I've ever had (and for those of you who don't know me, that is saying something). When the toilet paper ran low in the ladies room, we would approach the company facilities manager, who would supply us with a single additional roll. Once, at a staff meeting for the editors of the papers in the chain, it was reported that another managing editor left for lunch several days earlier and hadn't been seen since. The job paid so little, she didn't even bother to call anyone to say she was quitting.

4. Reporter at a tech trade magazine during the Internet boom. I look forward to regaling my grandkids with stories about this one.

Four movies I can watch over and over

1. Office Space
2. Monsters Inc.
3. His Girl Friday
4. Raising Arizona

Four places I've lived

1. Boston
2. Oxford, U.K.
3. Northern New Jersey
4. Telford, Shropshire, U.K.

Four TV shows I love to watch

I'm hard pressed to come up with four -- I just think TV sucks lately! But The Daily Show and The Office spring to mind.

Four places I've been on vacation

1. Bermuda
2. Tuscany
3. Ireland
4. Cape Cod

Four blogs I visit regularly

1. Daily Kos
2. This Modern World
3. Shocked & Appalled
4. EverythingSFNE

Four of my favorite foods

1. Bagels, muffins--the whole carb group
2. Prosciutto and melon
3. Fresh mango
4. Shu mai (Chinese dumplings)

Four places I'd rather be

1. The King's Arms pub, Oxford
2. Driving through the Tuscan countryside
3. Watching the sun set on the beach in Wellfleet
4. Walking in London

Four albums I can't live without

At this point we have pretty much given up our CDs in favor of XM Radio.

Four vehicles I've owned

1. A crappy Renault
2. A crappy Pontiac
3. A crappy Mitsubishi
4. A slowly-crapifying Honda

More Tom Cruise wackiness

Good news: Tom and Katie have downplayed reports of their plans to eat their baby's placenta.

Can you imagine what kind of loon this poor kid will turn out to be?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Friday lit. blogging: Virginia Woolf

Because you also can't get enough Woolf (or at least I can't.) Here is an excerpt from a scene I love in Mrs. Dalloway -- the scene where Peter Walsh returns to England and visits Clarissa Dalloway on the afternoon before her party. What I love most about this scene is the wordless emotional interplay between the two characters:

Peter Walsh had got up and crossed to the window and stood with his back to her, flicking a bandanna handkerchief from side to side. Masterly and dry and desolate he looked, his thin shoulder-blades lifing his coat slightly; blowing his nose violently. Take me with you, Clarissa thought impulsively, as if he were starting directly upon some great voyage; and then, next moment, it was as if the five acts of a play that had been very exciting and moving were now over and she had lived a lifetime in them and had run away, had lived with Peter, and it was now over.

Now it was time to move, and, as a woman gathers her things together, her cloak, her gloves, her opera glasses, and gets up to go out of the theatre into the street, she rose from the sofa and went to Peter.

And it was awfully strange, he thought, how she still had the power, as she came tinkling, rustling, still had the power as she came across the room, to make the moon, which he detested, rise at Bourton on the terrace in the summer sky.

Good omen

OK, so I'm still fairly bummed out about the possibility that the Chimp-in-Chief is going to start a nuclear war, so I'm grasping around for anything that seems like a good omen for the future. This afternoon was gorgeous here in Massachusetts, just as it should be with Easter coming up this weekend. The trees outside our windows are just beginning to bud, and the daffodils are blooming. (Whenever we are outside, we point out the flowers to the Peanut, and tell her that they are "beautiful flowers, just like you," since her middle name means "beautiful flower" in Chinese.) I took a walk at lunchtime to pick up some cookies from Athan's, and I was amused to hear my wedding song, Ella Fitzgerald's version of "Love You Madly," playing as I made my selections.

For my money, there is no such thing as too much Ella Fitzgerald. Especially when you're browsing in a pastry shop on a lovely spring afternoon.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Living mindfully; working for change

These days, I am trying very hard not to take anything for granted. I guess that's one mother of a cliche, but it's how I feel right now. The last few months -- really the last few years, since the stolen presidential election of 2000 blasted me out of my complacency -- I've been having an incredibly strong feeling that our whole way of life is about to change, and not for the better.

Between the nuclear sabre-rattling, the global warming, the peak oil, and the economy, I look to the next few years, and I can't imagine things continuing as they've been. It's very hard to picture a peaceful, stable future for this country. So I try to live mindfully, cherishing every moment with my family and friends, every book, every movie, every sunset, every meal.

But the question now is, what do I do? I can't do nothing. I can't look into the Peanut's eyes, years from now, and tell her I didn't at least try to make things better. I know that writing letters to our "representatives" in Congress is probably hopelessly naive, as I've said before. So if we want to make our country live up to its former greatness -- if we want to create an America that values education and personal freedoms, that helps the weakest among us instead of demonizing them, that accepts its responsibilities as a steward of the planet, that cooperates with the rest of the world instead of starting pointless wars -- what do we do?

I want to ensure some kind of future here for my daughter, if I possibly can, and I want to start today. How do we create this new reality?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Friday lit. blogging: Andrew Marvell

To His Coy Mistress

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shoudst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
But at my back I always hear
Time's wing├ęd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long-preserved virginity,
And your quaint honor turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust:
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Tom Cruise: Bonkers

OK, it's not like we didn't know he was nuts, but even for him, this is completely wacky:

Tom Cruise may have found a way to keep Katie Holmes from violating the precepts of Scientology and shrieking in pain when she gives birth to their child.

It's a specially crafted adult pacifier, reports Star magazine.