Monthly Archives: June 2006

Academy of Theatrical Arts

Dawn and I leave work early, around 4:30 p.m. We meet as usual at Federal Triangle. Dawn has crackers and cheese that she’s bought for dinner. The cheese is very stinky. I mean that in a good way.

We eat quickly when we get home, then we hop in the car. We’re off to Rockville for Celebration 50, the fiftieth anniversary recital of the Academy of Theatrical Arts, where Dawn used to take ballet class. Yahoo/MapQuest directions suggest going up the GW Parkway, to the American Legion Bridge, to get to I-270 North. We do a quick check on traffic at and see that traffic is backed up on the Inner Loop from I-66 all the way around to Connecticut Avenue, so we decide to go up 295 to the Beltway, the Outer Loop way, instead. We have a few minutes of congestion on 295 around Greenbelt, but then it’s smooth sailing once we’re on the Beltway. We see the horrible mess on the other side and are very glad we’ve taken this route.

We end up getting to the venue, the Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center at Montgomery College, about fifty minutes before showtime. We wander around the campus for a while. It’s a remarkably ugly campus, squat charmless brick utilitarian buildings. We walk by a pond, and we notice quite a lot of raccoon shit on the grass and sidewalk. What’s the deal? Oh, wait, that’s not raccoon shit, that’s goose shit. And sure enough we turn the corner and find a flock of geese walking around. I honk at them and want to generally observe and annoy them, but Dawn pulls me away and asks me to at least try to act like an adult.

And there’s another show going on, turns out, some sort of dinner theater in the Theatre Arts Building. Damn Yankees, we find out later. We see the actor playing the Devil wandering around. But best of all is that there’s a bar set up outside the building, with a not too shabby selection of beers. I get a Sam Adams Summer Ale and Dawn gets an Amstel Light. We sit on a bench and have a lovely few minutes.

Finally close to time for the show to begin, we meander back over to the Parilla Center. In the lobby we chat with Rosemary, who used to take ballet with Dawn. We make our way to our seats, and I read Horatio while Dawn peruses the program. There will be two acts separated by a fifteen-minute intermission, with about a dozen performances in each act.

The show itself begins with an American flag projected on the large back scrim, accompanied by a recording of God Bless America. Which song I pretty much loathe, by the way, although I wish I were a bigger fan of its alter-ego, This Land is Your Land.

The rest of the show breezes by, with inspired amateur adults interspersed with perfectly adorable children. Of special note are the wonderfully-named elderly sisters, Helen and Joan Bonk, the no longer tiny now just little Gena Basha (her sister Maya now the tiny one), and the amazingly poised teenager Julissa Hernandez.

Afterwards there’s much giving of flowers to Ms. Jackson and Mr. G. amidst much hugs and tears. It’s amazing that they’ve been doing this for fifty years. How many students they’ve had! How much passion and hard work they’ve passed on to so many people. They are treasures.

Also, I do a little Googling and find Mr. Garney quoted in the Washington Post in one of its original stories about Rep. Wilbur Mills and Fanne Foxe. How utterly funny & wonderful.

Pop Culture

I was happily immersed in popular culture as a child. As a young adult, I viewed it with a somewhat arch and ironic eye. Now it just makes me queasy. I feel totally violated at the grocery store by all the magazine covers shrieking at me, every one of them with Jen & Brad & Angelina and now the baby, with Britney, with that horror show Jessica Simpson and her oaf Nick Lachey.

Today it’s one Star Jones. Who exactly is this Star Jones? How did she become famous? What can we do at this point to put a stop to it? Seriously. Queasy.

(Later, the Television column in Slate handily recounts, and therein I learn, the history of this show called The View on ABC daytime, whence rose this particular Star.)

Julie’s Happy Hour

I head out of work right at five with Kate, as we’re all having a happy hour for Julie who is leaving us. She’s leaving the Meetings Department, going off to be some sort of event planner for a bookstore farther north in Maryland, closer to her boyfriend. Said happy hour is down at Rumor’s, which I guess is technically in our building, although they have some sort of extra structure built on to the side of the building as well.

Right away we spot Dwight and Sameer, who are discussing the upgrade to 6.3. We join them, as others from ASH keep trickling downstairs. I share my time between the upgrade discussion and the celebration for Julie. The best beer I can find with the happy hour special price is Rolling Rock.

Sadly we get booted out about an hour later, for a private party. As we’re heading out, I stop at the back bar, the one up a couple steps, to say hi to Anna, whom I had seen walking by earlier. Anna dances at Camelot, but I know her from way back when she used to dance at Archibalds. I’m sure that she doesn’t remember me, but I ask after her and her son, who must be heading off to college soon. Next year, she says, to study engineering. Good for him.

I head with Kate, Elisa, and Stephanie, in the direction of Mai Tai. But we detour and end up at Porters, which used to be Acme, years ago, before the war. I spent many an evening at Acme, usually with Paul Abugattas. Elisa shows us some clothes that she’s bought today. A couple of folks walking by stop to talk to Stephanie. I try to be just one of the girls, or like a kindly grandmother or something.

I get home late, much later than I wanted to or should have. Dawn’s a little peeved.

Phone Kid

I get on the train at Farragut West, as per usual. It’s not that crowded. I don’t get a seat, but I’m not pressing up against other flesh trying to hang on.

I hear some snippet of obnoxious rap music, and I think that if that’s coming out of some guy’s headphones he’s going to be deaf by the end of the train ride. But then I see a woman in front of me on the right lean forward and tell someone to the left, “Turn that down. Don’t nobody want to hear that.” I see to the left who it is she’s addressing, a kid, maybe eight, with a cell phone. Apparently the snippet of rap is his ring tone.

It goes off again. The woman again tells him to cool it. But he doesn’t.

A man maybe in his late twenties or early thirties leans down to the kid and really gives it to him, telling him to knock it off. “For real,” he emphasizes. But this kid is not backing down. Off goes the snippet, again and again.

By this time I’m way past being offended by the noise. I’m just impressed now, in awe and amazement at the balls that this kid’s got. He’s just this little thing, in simple jeans and a t-shirt, sitting there with his legs that don’t even reach the floor. But he’s not taking any shit from anybody. This is his world and we just live in it.

Later the woman and man both leave, getting off at Metro Center or L’Enfant Plaza, I don’t remember where. Dawn gets on and we get the seats right in front of this kid, who by this time has grown bored with the rap ringtone and is just cycling through the various rings available on the phone, at a really loud volume. Dawn turns around, ready to say something, but I tell her not to bother.

There’s an older kid sitting next to the phone kid, maybe twelve or thirteen years old, dressed similarly in jeans and t-shirt. I guess he’s the older brother. He makes no attempt to either discipline the phone kid or to shield him from others’ wrath. He mumbles comments to the kid every so often, encouragement or daring him to continue or threats, I don’t ever know.

But phone kid, he just does what he wants to do. He’s my hero. I wish I had his guts at my age, that he’s got at eight.


I hesitate1 to dip a toe into this cesspool again, or, to maybe somewhat mix metaphors, to continue this ridiculous pissing match, but I have to mention having laughed ruefully at my poor brother’s feeble attempt to enumerate examples of the level of vitriol directed at our President, in contrast to the bile directed at his, the President’s, predecessor.

Rob lists as his first example a quote from a columnist in another country. And then an actual American, thankfully, a politician even. Oh, but wait. Only a candidate, actually. A candidate for city council in California somewhere. Oh, and the last example, even better, a college student.

Oh, please.

I’ll simply counter with the very American, actual office holder, in the United States House of Representatives, sitting chairman of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee, calling President Clinton a scumbag, a used condom, in an interview, and then obstinately refusing even to apologize.

Then I’ll go with Francisco Martin Duran, convicted of attempting to assassinate President Clinton after firing dozens of rounds from a semi-automatic carbine into the White House2

There’s also our friend Frank Eugene Corder, crashing a plane into the White House.3

Comparing all of this to the ramblings of a college student? Bah. That’s what I call bullshit.

1No, really. It’s true. It’s depressing, but then also is very distracting. I get really behind on blog entries, worrying and chewing over and getting angry and then depressed and more worry and chewing over ad infinitum, when I’m working on these.

2Although in true pissing match style, Rob can possibly counter Mr. Duran with Vladimir Arutinian, although the nature of Mr. Arutinian’s failure, indicative of rather a lack of purpose, as well as his very foreign location, might greatly diminish his value in this equation.

3But I think I’ll have to trade Mr. Corder for Robert Pickett. Both suicides or would-be suicides, to be certain, but Mr. Corder’s much more in the vein of trying to take someone, say President Clinton, with him, rather than Mr. Pickett’s more classic suicide-by-cop attempt.

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today we welcome the new Archbishop.

I thought it would be more crowded than it turns out to be. Looks more like a regular Sunday crowd, maybe a few hundred people. It’s really pouring out there though. Real cats & dogs. Has to have kept a lot of people away.

One thing I notice is that we’ve got something of a band today, along with the choir. Three trumpets and/or cornets, I’m not nearly savvy enough to tell the difference. A trombone and a tuba and a kettle drum. They make a huge, joyful noise. Good for welcoming.

We welcome His Excellency Donald William Wuerl first thing, with singing and music and a grand procession, through the big main doors that are hardly ever opened. Joining us today with Archbishop Wuerl are two of our former archbishops, His Eminence William Cardinal Baum and His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick. Trumpets blare and the drums boom and we & the choir all sing, again with the Hyfrydol and Alleluia! Sing to Jesus. Seems like we’ve been singing that every week. And normally I think the choir would be gone by now for the summer, but I guess they’ve been held over this one last week.

The first reading is from Job.

The Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said:
Who shut within doors the sea,
when it burst forth from the womb;
when I made the clouds its garment
and thick darkness its swaddling bands?
When I set limits for it
and fastened the bar of its door,
and said: Thus far shall you come but no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stilled!

It makes me think first of the great doors of the Cathedral that we’ve seen opened today, the part about the sea being shut within doors. But today we’ve seen the doors opened, of course, not shut them. Although with the rain outside today, sounds like the sea could come bursting through any second. But Cardinal McCarrick tells us that rain is of course a blessing and that it’s a special blessing today for our new archbishop. Then the making of garments from clouds is lovely imagery. Today we have so many garments, with so many different clergy here today, Cardinals and Archbishop and a number of priests. There are three priests acting as masters of ceremony, Father Caulfield among them; they’re in the old-fashioned black and white choir dress.

The second reading is from Second Corinthians, St. Paul telling us that Christ has died for us, therefore we should live not for ourselves but for him. What’s especially nice for today is the end of the reading, “[T]he old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” Indeed.

The Gospel is from St. Mark (as it is during Lectionary Year B, of course). What’s also cool is that both the Gospel Reading and the Responsorial Psalm speak of storms at sea, and of the Lord calming them. And again with the storm motif, today with the great storm outside.

His Excellency gives his homily from the way high up pulpit. He tells of receiving a letter from a young man named Dominic, in which letter he, Dominic, expresses amazement that (then) Bishop Wuerl knows a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who knew Jesus. I have to agree with Dominic here, and I too really like the idea of apostolic succession. That when I was confirmed, it was by the bishop Cardinal McCarrick who himself had been consecrated by a bishop who had himself been … by a guy … who himself … this other guy … goes way back … consecrated by … consecrated by …. who had been consecrated by St. Peter who had been consecrated by Christ. How amazing is that?

Like Cardinal McCarrick used to do, Archbishop Wuerl refers to himself as “your unworthy servant” during the anamnesis and intercessions of the Eucharistic Prayer. On our way out after Mass the ushers hand us prayer cards with Archbishop Wuerl on the front and his dates of birth & ordination & installation on the back.

(The next day the Washington Times carries a story saying that parishioners “were given pocket-sized, colored photographs of Archbishop Wuerl.” Heh.)

Sleeping Beauty

Back to the Kennedy Center on Saturday night for ballet. Tonight it’s the Royal Ballet with Sleeping Beauty. Our performance features the lovely Marianela Nuñez as the Princess Aurora. (She apparently played the Lilac Fairy in the performance reviewed in the Washington Post.)

What amazes me most is not just her beautiful technique, but her astonishing endurance. She completes an amazing scene, and my legs are aching from the effort. But then she comes back for yet another scene.

Elizabeth McGorian looks like she’s having great fun, hamming it up as the evil Carabosse. She seems to be accompanied by an army of refugee mice from The Nutcracker, who drive her in a funky evil vulture carriage.

Later, Little Red Riding Hood and a truly disturbing Puss in Boots show up. Strange.

Lunch with Mom

We arrive at the Polo Grill, late, grumpy, argue-y. I’m not pleased about having been pulled over and given a ticket. I’m angry at myself. Dawn’s angry at me too, but at least she has someone at whom to direct her anger. Mine’s got nowhere else to go.

The subject of the ticket comes up quickly after we greet and seat. Dad immediately wonders why I was even on that particular stretch of road in the first place. Why didn’t I take 95 down to exit such and such?

Well, fuck me, I don’t know why I didn’t go a different way, okay? How exactly are you helping things by asking me this? Thankfully Main is a little more perceptive, announcing that it’s likely a sore subject and we should maybe just move on to discussing something else.

Dawn orders about the only vegetarian thing on the menu, the spinach-artichoke dip. I opt for the étouffée. The name intrigues my sister, who asks me what étouffée is. Although I just ordered it, I really don’t know what it is. It’s got crawfish in it. It’s a cajun thing, a gumbo thing, spicy, rice maybe, is all I know. I have to refer back to the menu for a better description. I come to the conclusion that I ordered it because it’s called étouffée.

Or, I suppose, maybe, because, how often are you out somewhere and étouffée is an option on the menu? Don’t you like have to jump at the chance, when you can?


We leave around 11:40 a.m. to go to Lorton to meet my family for lunch. Mom is coming through town on her way to Florida, driving with Main from NJ to board the autotrain. Why there’s a train that goes from Lorton VA to Florida and carries cars, I don’t know. But Mom loves the autotrain. We’ll be meeting at the Polo Grill, one of Mom’s favorite places. Rob & Carol will be there, as will Dad.

I’ve just turned left off of Alban, where years ago there used to just be a stop sign, but now it’s a big intersection. To the right is Rolling Road. To the left it becomes Pohick Road at some point. There’s a long stretch as it goes over Interstate 95. I see way up ahead at the top of the hill a bunch of cops parked over on the right shoulder. There’s a cop standing there pointing a radar gun at me. He’s nailed me. He motions for me to pull over.

Dawn is pissed already.

I stop and roll down the window and get out my wallet. I pull out the drivers license. Dawn in the meantime has gotten out of the glove compartment the registration and insurance card.

“Good afternoon, officer,” I say as he walks up. He tells me that he’s Officer Kushener, and he clocked me going forty-eight in a thirty-five mile-per-hour zone. He apparently doesn’t need the insurance card. I keep my wallet on the dashboard, and my hands where he can see them, on the steering wheel at ten and two o’clock. If it were night time I’d have the interior light on.

He asks me something like if I’m on my way anywhere in particular.

Now, I’ve thought about this quite a bit, actually, being stopped by the cops, and what to say and not say thereto. I have this general rule where one should say only three things to cops: (1) Yes, Officer (2) No, Officer and (3) I’m sorry, Officer. It’s called inmate sincerity. I mean, anything else is pretty much superfluous. I don’t think I’m going to argue my way out of anything. And I don’t especially want to admit guilt to anything either. Best is to just keep my mouth shut.

But he’s asked me this, and I don’t really know why he’s asking, except that he’s maybe trying to get me to like plead extenuating circumstances or something. I don’t get the sense that he’s being devious or anything, but I don’t get the sense either that anything I say is going to change things. So, what the hell, I tell him the truth.

“Just going to meet my mother for lunch, Officer.”

He’s nice enough after that, saying that he’s going to write me up for a ticket and try to get me on my way as soon as possible.

As we wait, I watch the other cops stop other cars. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. As soon as they’re done writing up a ticket, they grab the radar gun and point it at the first car coming, then flag them down to give them a ticket. This is some easy pickings, right here on this stretch of road.

I honestly had no idea how fast I was going, but I also didn’t much care either. I was running later than I wanted to be, so I probably was going faster than maybe I otherwise would have been. But if you’d have asked me, out of the blue, what the speed limit was on that stretch, I would have guessed forty-five rather than thirty-five.

Officer Kushener returns with his clipboard, on the back of which is a sticker, the word Whining surrounded by the international symbol for Not, the red circle with the line through it. It’s not so much a ticket as a couple pieces of paper. He explains, a little mumblingly, about signing not being an admission of guilt and the hearing date being listed and prepayment and the fifty-seven dollar processing fee.

That seems a bit dear to me, fifty-seven dollars. I was hoping the fine was going to be about that much. It may well be, actually, but whatever is the fine, it’s fifty-seven dollars on top of that just for kicks.

Dawn’s not pleased about this either.

Drill Press

After Carol’s yoga class, I head with Dawn to U Street, where lives one John P., who is selling a Ryobi DP101 10″ drill press.

The ten inches in the description refers to the drill press’s swing. The swing of a drill press refers to the diameter of the largest disk that can be drilled in the drill press. In this case, then, that disk can be up to ten inches in diameter. A normal person would just say that the quill is five inches from the shaft of the stand, but that’s not how drill presses are apparently described. It’s kinda dumb, if you ask me.

Mr. P. is a very nice guy. We meet at the back of his building and go into the storage area where his storage locker is. The drill press is taller and a lot heavier than I was expecting. We load it into the car and chat for a few minutes.

Later, at home, after I’ve hauled it into the shop, I discover the thirty-five dollars in my shirt pocket that I was supposed to give him in exchange for the drill press. I thought it was a steal at $35, but evidently I really did steal it. I call him right away to make arrangements to meet again.

Friday Electric

We lost track for a while of the electrician who had given us a bid to do some electrical work. He gave us a verbal quote which was fine, and but then a written quote of a hundred bucks more, which was a little fishy, but either way I called him and left a message asking him to call back to discuss a start date. Then waited and waited. Finally I called one Mr. Connor, who had the recommendation of Mr. Simon on the Hill East Listserv. Mr. Connor came out the next day, took a look around, said it’d be about a third of the cost of the first electrician’s quote, and he said that he could do it like the day after tomorrow at eight-thirty in the morning.

As in today, now, Friday. So I take this morning off from work and wait for him to show up. Roberto and Jose arrive at 8:35 a.m. They aren’t exactly sure what they’re supposed to do. Where is Mr. Connor himself? Roberto tells me that he’ll be along at some point soon. So I explain to the two of them what we want and what I assume Mr. Connor was going to do. I never did get Mr. Connor’s first name. I think it’s James, since Roberto keeps referring to him as “Mr. Jame.”

Roberto and Jose start by digging a big old channel up the living room wall from the breaker panel box. It’s really really loud, when they do this. Then they do the same in the upstairs front bedroom. Then the back bedroom. Then they lay shielded cable in the channels, and string it up through the ceiling/floor and attic. Takes about three hours. Then they fill the channel up with expanding foam, and then go to lunch while the foam dries. When they return they neatly slice the foam flush with the wall with hacksaw blades.

Neither of the cats is happy with the whole experience. Gwen hides under the bed in the guest room while they’re downstairs, and then when they go upstairs too she takes to the safety of the top of her litter box in the workshop. Louise is spared for a while longer, until they go into her bedroom as well. She parks herself unhappily halfway down the stairs. I sit around with Gwen mostly, reading Lord Hornblower.

I also have a good chat with Roberto for a few minutes while exploring inside the main box. I see where the main cable comes in, to the main breaker, then splits off to this like side line of connections. All the other breakers are connected to this as well. So I ask Roberto if this is where all the connections are, and if these metal tabls are just there to hold the breakers. I tap my index finger on one of the metal tabs as I ask him this. Roberto’s eyes get big and round as he tells me not to touch that, that there’s 220 volts running through there. I promised not to touch it again. But it was good to learn about what goes on in there.

Mr. Connor does put in a quick appearance at one point. I swear it lasts about sixty seconds. After he leaves I remember that I was supposed to ask him about some product that he had recommended for repairing the plaster. I run and catch him, and he says it’s “Easy Forty-Five.”

When Roberto and Jose and are all done and ready to leave, I start writing a check and ask how much it is, but Roberto says that Mr. Connor will send us a bill. I then try at least to give Roberto a twenty in cash, but he won’t take it. He says Mr. Connor will pay them. I tell him it’s a tip, but he still won’t take it.

Back to Ballet

Seems like I haven’t been to ballet in a long time. Seems like Jessica B. has taken my spot at the barre, after having taken over it for a while before the recital and then inexplicably relinquishing it for a while after that. Seems like I can’t frappe for shit. Seems like it’s really hot up here in the studio. Seems like a really colorful funky top that Anne is wearing. Seems like a long walk home.

An Irish Airman Foresees His Death

Oh, hey. I kinda screwed up.

I had been thinking about featuring a poem or two in this space. First, of course, so I can show off my vast knowledge of poetry. (Heh.) But also to share some of my faves with all of you, my loyal readers. (You two know who you are.)

This thinking had started somewhat earlier in the year, but then really coalesced when I had done the Memorial Day entry and mentioned Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est. I hadn’t included that poem then, saying it belonged for another day. Which was true. But also I thought that if I started throwing out poems, I should start with the one that I somewhat consider my first favorite poem, the first poem that really made me dig deeper and actually appreciate poetry.

But then one day, without thinking, in haste maybe, desperate for a blog entry, I just kinda coughed up Shakespeare Sonnet #30. Sure, it’s a favorite, it’s great and all, but it’s not the one I had decided to be the first poem featured here. That great honor was supposed to go to Yeats’s An Irish Airman Foresees His Death.

I KNOW that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public man, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.

I first encountered this poem watching a movie, actually. My all-time favorite stripper Christina had recommended this movie Memphis Belle to me. I don’t remember if I then rented it or just found it on cable somewhere. I think maybe I just happened to catch it on cable. I do remember that I watched it at my mother’s house, upstairs in the loft, on that TV up there. Must have been 1996 or 1997.

The eponymous Memphis Belle is an aircraft in World War Two, a bomber. Maybe a B-17 or B-29, doesn’t really matter. The ensemble cast are crewmen on the plane, and one of them is Eric Stoltz. He plays like this sensitive guy, and the others are always teasing him about how he’s always writing stuff down in his notebook. At one point somebody snatches it away from him and starts reading it, and I think Eric Stoltz snatches it back. But anyway they make him read aloud from it. And he reads this poem.

And he reads it as if it were something that he himself wrote. But later in the movie he’s wounded, and unconscious, and then after that when he comes back to consciousness, even just as he’s coming back around, he’s saying, “I didn’t write that. W.B. Yeats wrote that.”

But I had liked it so much when he had read it, aloud. And it made so much sense in context, in the context of his situation. (Now I can look back and think that maybe it’s a little too apropos, but whatever, right?) And it was lovely and sad. And then when you read it on the page, you see that it’s nice and traditional, good rhyme and meter. So, again, like the Shakespeare sonnet, it’s satisfying in content in a traditional form. That sums up a lot of my poetry sensibility right there.

So, Eric Stoltz reads this lovely & poignant poem, and then later announces that it’s actually from Yeats. And I know that I’ve heard of Yeats, right? I remember getting Yeats and Keats mixed up when I was in high school, or maybe later. But I’ve at least heard of this Yeats guy. Like maybe he wrote that Ozymandias poem, or maybe that was Keats. (It’s actually Shelley.) But I know Yeats totally wrote that Second Coming poem. You know, “What rough beast … slouching toward Bethlehem to be born,” that one? In Stephen King’s The Stand, one character refers to this poem, and mispronounces Yeats’s name, using the long “e” and calling him Yeets.

But anyway, I had grabbed my old copy of The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, which I had owned for years but hardly glanced at ever, except maybe for trying to read Gerard Manley Hopkins one time, when my then-girlfriend Cathy had gotten into him. And the Norton had like fifty pages of Yeats, including The Second Coming and An Irish Airman Foresees His Death. And so I started reading some Yeats.

And some of them I liked and some of them I didn’t. But some of them I liked(!), which was great. And new to me as well. I had thought poetry to be pretty useless, like in high school, declaring that if somebody decided to write something in secret code, why the hell should I bother to try to figure it out. I even once wrote a poem, snarkily called Emily Dickinson Eats Worms, for a community college class. But then here I was, older, in my early thirties, not so full of myself now, with nothing to fear or prove, just reading and enjoying. I wasn’t being forced to read it either. Maybe that was part of it too. But whatever, here I had this amazingly great book of poetry, with annotations and explanations and short biographical sketches to fill in what otherwise I couldn’t figure out for myself.

And this particular poem, Irish Airman, I really like for a lot of reasons. First, as I said, I first heard it read aloud. And in that reading, I didn’t especially notice the rhyme or meter. It just sounded beautifully sad. But then looking at it, it does have a quite traditional scheme. And I love the contrast of the two lines about love and hate, that sort of bewilderment, that understanding but not understanding of where he is and why & whom he’s fighting for and against. I love of course his declaration of solidarity for Ireland, although he fights for England. And even more his declaration of solidarity for the poor of his county. And finally that weariness, that sadness, where the years behind and the years ahead are all even just a waste of breath.

Although it was featured in this Word War Two movie, it’s actually about a pilot in World War One, and he did actually die. Yeats wrote it for a friend, whose son is the airman in the poem. He did die.

It’s similar, the poem, to another poem, High Flight, by John Gillespie Magee. Contrast “this tumult in the clouds” in Yeats to Magee’s “tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds.” Except High Flight to me is really treacly, while Irish Airman is not. Not nearly so much, anyway. And the airman in Yeats is at least cognizant of why he flies and fights, and how unimportant he himself is in the scheme of things, whereas in Magee the pilot is all too self-absorbed, telling us how he has done things that we have never even dreamed of doing. And worst of all, Magee’s pilot declares that he has “touched the face of God.”

Number one, ew, as in it’s a bit gauche and grandiose, even for poetic metaphor. And but then number two, have you now, really? I’d figure the dead pilot of Yeats is a lot closer to God than Magee’s obnoxious braggart.

But, then, sadly, Magee did in fact die, at the tender age of nineteen, in a mid-air collision during a flight. Yeats lived to a ripe old age.

Finally, there’s one other little tidbit, regarding my love for Yeats. Having mentioned Wilfred Owen more than once now, you know that I’m a huge fan of the War Poets. But Yeats himself wasn’t, a fan, actually. Of Rupert Brooke’s poetic talent, Yeats once said that Brooke was “the handsomest young man in England.”

Router Table

One other thing I did over the weekend was begin building a router table. I had ordered and received the Veritas Base Plate/Table Insert from Lee Valley. It came with a host of accessory items for getting it attached to one’s router, in my case a Porter-Cable 690.

First there was a positioning template, which consisted of a sheet of letter-sized plastic transparency, on one half of which were printed instructions and rows of circles with cross-hairs, while the other half was blank with a 1/2″ hole in the middle. After cutting off the half with the instructions, the half with the hole slipped over a handily included alignment pin chucked into the router collet. From there I cut out circles that matched the screw holes in my router base, taping them on the transparent sheet over the holes. Then I used an awl to punch holes in the plastic sheet where the cross-hairs in the circles met. Then I transferred the plastic transparency, now with the hole marks, onto the new base plate. Now I knew where to drill the holes to attach the base plate to the router. They even included an 82° countersink bit to drill said holes.

I had some trouble punching with the awl into the hard phenolic of the base plate. And then I had some trouble drilling the holes, though, because I don’t have a drill press. I have an old Portalign with my old 3/8″ Sears drill attached to it. It’s pretty good actually for drilling straight holes, although the plastic base is all bent to hell. But the depth stop mechanism doesn’t work very well at all, so trying to get a countersink to an exact depth is a bit tricky. So I ended up doing it pretty much freehand, starting a little shy of the depth that I eventually wanted, then sneaking up on it.

So now the base plate is on the router. Easy.

Now comes the harder part, which is building some sort of table for the router and base plate to drop into. But, as a matter of fact, Lee Valley includes some instructions for doing just that. They include these instructions I guess because this is a round base plate but yet they still claim that you can install and remove it from below the table, so as not to have to thread the cord to the router. But imagine trying to get a manhole cover down into a manhole. How do you do that?

And bonus as well is a trammel bar that LV includes to help you cut the hole in the table top. And a washer that fits into the counterbore for the brass insert that goes into the base plate. So with the washer installed, with the alignment pin in the router, the trammel bar fits over the alignment pin. On the other end of the trammel bar are two holes which act as handy bushings for drilling two 3/16″ holes in the edge of the base plate. Sadly my crappy Black & Decker drill bit makes hardly a dent in the phenolic plate. I grind at it for like five minutes, smelling the plastic burning, before giving up and heading to Fragers to get a decent bit. That B&D set of drill bits was probably like ten bucks at Home Depot. A new single DeWalt cobalt 3/16″ bit at Fragers is five bucks, but it sails through the plate in less than a second.

Then out comes the alignment pin, to get stuck into a 1/2″ hole drilled in the center of the table for the router table, upside down now this time, so that the 3/16″ pin end is sticking up. And now the 3/16″ holes drilled into the edge of the base plate stip over the pin and act as centerings, around which the router rotates, with a 1/2″ router bit carving out the recess for the base plate. First the inner hole on the bottom of the table for the drop through, and then the outer hole on the top of the table for the recess into which the router plate fits.

Ingenious, huh?

There’s also two sort of wings, one on either side, routed into the recessed ledge, so that the base plate can turn sideways and fit down into the hole. I was especially pleased with myself for chiseling out fairly straight corners, after the routering had left such round areas.

Lastly there’s a way to keep the round plate from rotating in the recess, by inserting a screw with a bushing over it, into the outer 3/16″ hole in the base plate, to act as a kind of bumper that fits into a slot in the recess. Unfortunately I countersink the wrong side of the base plate. So I have to get out the trammel arm and drill another hole with the new DeWalt bit and then countersink it. Is a minor screwup, all in all, but a screwup nonetheless.

But after all this the big old handles on the PC690 router don’t really allow enough room to tilt to get the router in and out from underneath. Turns out to have to go through the top anyway. Oh well. It was still a fun project.

I still have to figure out some sort of fence system. I’ve got my eye on the the Rockler fence. But at this point I really should make it myself. I’ll go looking for plans on the Web.

Kennedy Center

In all the excitement of my life of late, I’ve neglected to mention here in this forum a couple of our cultural outings to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. A week ago Saturday it was with Mother Dillon to the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theatre to see Mame starring Christine Baranski.

I had the idea after talking to my mother that Mame was originally played by Rosalind Russell. This turns out to be true but also somewhat confusing. Apparently first there was a novel called Auntie Mame, by Patrick Dennis, published in 1955. Then there was a play in 1956, on Broadway, starring Rosalind Russell, who went on the star in the movie version in 1958. But then there was a musical version, called simply Mame, which ran on Broadway from 1966 to 1970, and was again revived in 1983, starring Angela Lansbury as Mame. Got all that?

So anyway, we get Christine Baranski in the musical version. And it seems like a Christine Baranski kind of role, actually. I’m a little underwhelmed in general by the whole thing, as it’s really to me such a threadbare plot, more like just a lot of songs stitched together by an afterthought of a story. I’m shocked to learn that there’s an actual novel as the basis for all this. But by the second act I’ve grown a little fonder of the thing, and I end up enjoying myself.

And it’s fun during intermission, in a Washington DC as both big city and small town kind of way, that we see and chat with a friend from St. Matt’s, on the Adult Formation Committee with me, Pat Durham. And sitting near us, whom we chat with briefly later, is Nancy Lutz, another St. Matt’s person. She’s on the Hospitality Committee.

Our seats are nominally terrible, up in the balcony, all the way up against the back wall, but the Eisenhower Theatre isn’t really all that big, so it’s not a problem. And at these prices, we aren’t going to pay the tons more to be much closer. And we can generally hear just fine, as the performers are miked, although there are a few audio dropouts here and there. And at one point, one of the actors, giving Christine Baranski/Mame a hug, speaks his line right into her lavalier, his voice hugely booming out so as to be heard I swear in the whole tri-state area.

And then just Saturday last Dawn and I go to see the Kirov production of Giselle in the Kennedy Center Opera House. I’ve seen Giselle before, and I’ve seen the Kirov before, but I’ve never seen the Kirov’s Giselle before. They’ve renamed Hilarion in their version as simply Hans.

I think Leonid Sarafanov as Count Albrecht is a tad girly, until the second act where his tour jete is spectacularly high, like his back leg practically brushes the Opera House chandelier. Viktoria Tereshkina as Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, (scary!), is the same, leaping ridiculously high. And those Wilis are awesome. There’re 27 of them, counting Queen Myrtha. Beautiful and haunting, and all of the dancers in amazingly exacting precision. Dawn says that Olesya Novikova as Giselle is praiseworthy for not hamming it all up during her mad scene.

And more small town-ness, we meet Dawn’s old dance St. Mark’s partner Francis during intermission. He apparently has just come from being in the first act, during the hunting scene, when the servants enter bearing the day’s kill hung upside down on poles. (The scene was noteworthy to me because the dead animals were so clearly stuffed animals. It was kind of funny but then also reminded me of the time we saw that man carrying his poor dead dog in his arms a month or two back. These stuffed animals’ heads didn’t hang down right, like that dog’s head did.) We hadn’t recognized Francis, sadly, during his star turn on stage.

And a quick word from the architecture critic in me, although I know really so little about architecture. The Kennedy Center itself is one of the few more modern buildings that I actually like, although I only like it to a certain extent. I think from far away it’s great, but I think that I think that because it’s somewhat deceptive as far as its scale. Far away it looks like a smaller building. Up close it’s just yet another modern example of huge expanses of way way too much plain façade. Or at least I think so.

And this coming weekend we’re going back to the Opera House to see the Royal Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty on Saturday. Then Sunday it’s the Washington Ballet at their studio theater.

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

The usher who hands me the music leaflet directs me to the center aisle where the Cardinal is greeting folks before Mass. I make sure to go and say hello, for any number of reasons. First, because the proper form of address for him is Eminence. How often do you get to say, “Good morning, your Eminence?” Second, I really honestly like him. Finally, he is the one after all who confirmed me, who made the sign of the cross on my forehead with oil with his thumb, and he washed my foot once, so I kinda know him, although he meets like a million people a day so he doesn’t especially remember me, but still. It’s nice to say hello and shake his hand. Monsignor is next to him, and I give Monsignor a big hug.

But since it’s the Cardinal, the Mass is in English, not Latin. Which normally would disappoint me a little bit, since we go to the Latin Mass because it’s the Latin Mass. But the new Archbishop is being installed on Thursday, so this is Cardinal McCarrick’s last Mass at the Cathedral, or rather at his Cathedral, from his seat, before it becomes someone else’s. So it’s nice and bittersweet and our chance to say goodbye to each other.

He doesn’t make any grand pronouncements or farewells during his homily. He talks about hunger and thirst, and spiritual hunger and thirst satisfied by the Lord. Good, basic stuff. But he does it from the way high up pulpit, rather than the normal ambo, so it’s something of a special occasion. I’ve only seen him up there once before.

(But it’s certainly not his last Mass ever or anything. He’ll still be a priest and a Cardinal.)

The readings are all blood and covenants. First is from Exodus, where Moses reads the covenant of the Lord and splashes the blood of the sacrificed animals over the altar and then over the people. Then Paul tells us, if the blood of goats and bulls can sanctify then how much more will the blood of Christ, and, “for this reason he is mediator of a new covenant.” In the Gospel, from St. Mark, Christ establishes this feast day: “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”

So in the Responsorial Psalm we sing, from Psalm 116, “I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.” I especially like one line that the choir sings: “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.”

It seems so primeval. But the Psalms are from like three thousand years ago, so, yeah, primeval.

But, then again, it doesn’t say that the Lord is pleased by the death of the faithful. It says that they, or their deaths, are precious.

Okay, whatever that means.

Surely it must be better to die as one of the faithful, rather than without faith. Surely the death of the unfaithful isn’t precious. And it doesn’t say that the life and the faith of the faithful isn’t precious, either.

But then it dawns on me that maybe I should go and read the whole Psalm itself, to see what this means in context. And darn it if the translation isn’t different at the USCCB website for the NAB. They’ve got it as “too costly” rather than “precious.” That’s a whole different thing.

“Too costly in the eyes of the LORD is the death of his

I feel like Emily Litella. “Never mind.”

And the recessional hymn is once again Alleluia! Sing to Jesus, again with the Hyfrydol tune. It’s clearly either one of the Cardinal’s favorites or at least Bill Culverhouse’s. (Bill’s the Cathedral’s Director of the Schola Cantorum.) As they’re marching out, the lectors and Eucharistic ministers and altar servers and Monsignor and Father Hurley and the Cardinal himself, some brave soul in the nave starts applauding for Cardinal McCarrick. And I’m so glad, as everyone starts applauding, as I join in applauding too and never would have had the guts to start by myself. And the Cardinal is clearly moved by our display, and then I’m very moved by it all as well, by him and us, that he’s so great, and that I’ll really miss him.

What is this thing?

When we moved into our house back in late 2003, there was this … thing. It was mounted on the wall at the top of the stairs, just outside our bedroom. It’s a little electronic device, white plastic box, about four inches tall by two and a half inches wide by three-quarters of an inch thick. A bottom compartment holds two AA batteries.

It’s maybe a motion detector or a carbon monoxide detector, some sort of sensor that goes with our alarm system.

On the back is a logo for a company perhaps, STAR, where the “A” is replaced by a star symbol. Next to that is what looks like a model number, D825W. Below that says, “USE 2 ‘AA’ (1.5 VOLT) BATTERIES.” Below that is “DOC 1537K683.” Next to all this is an FCC ID “IG8KWD-330R” and “Made in Taiwan.”

The Federal Communications Commission’s Office of Engineering and Technology has at their website a lookup for FCC IDs, so I try that. It gives me a little info. The FCC issued the Grant of Equipment Authorization in 1990 to a company named MVP Canada Industries Inc. at 815 Middlefield Road in Scarborough, Ontario. The specific person at the grantee is named Mary Hou. There’s mention of another company called Marstech Limited.

There’s not much in the way of detail on either the application or the grant. There’s a reference to an equipment class, which in this case is a superregenerative receiver, whatever that is.

Can’t find much by Googling MVP Canada Industries. I get the feeling that they’re not in business anymore. There’s a real estate investment trust, Summit REIT, that bought the property at 815 Middlefield Road, where they say “[m]ajor tenants include Canadian Clothing, Magnus Pen and The Carriage House.” No mention of MVP Canada Industries. Marstech looks to be a company that helps other companies faciliate things like FCC applications.

Wikipedia has info under an article about regenerative circuits, including something about a regenerative receiver and then also a superregenerative receiver. I don’t really understand much of what the article says. Best as I can figure out, this thing receives a signal, some kind of weak signal, which signal it regenerates so as to be able to receive said weak signal.

There’s an On/Off switch on the side. Nothing seems to happen when I flip it on.

Bishops Approve New English Translation

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have been meeting in Los Angeles this week, and they’ve now announced something big, a new English translation for the Mass. Apparently it’s at the behest of, but still subject to the approval of, the Holy See. Said approval could take years.

But it’s really weird to me at first to read the changes noted in the story, originally from the Associated Press, but I read it in the Washington Post. The response to the Greeting, “The Lord be with you,” is changed from “And also with you” to “And with your spirit.” The Act of Penitence changes the sinning from “through my own fault” to “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.” And the Breaking of the Bread response is changed from “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you” to “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.” They all sound so funny!

But, then again, I usually go to the Latin Mass, so I start to think about what we say in Latin, and these new responses start to make sense. To “The Lord be with you,” in Latin, Dominus Vobiscum, we respond, Et cum spiritu tuo. Sure sounds something like “And with your spirit.” It’s almost exactly that, actually. Maybe “And with spirit yours” as the more literal translation, but closer to “And with your spirit” than to “And also with you.” Same with “through my own fault.” In the Latin Mass we say mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. As in, “my fault, my fault, like way totally my fault.”

The Breaking of the Bread response is an interesting one as well. A lot of the Latin responses I’ve gotten pretty well memorized, but not that one: Domine, non sum dignus, ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbo et sanabitur anima mea. I’m always scrambling to find the page in the Novus Ordo book, right after the Agnus Dei. Because that’s right after the Sign of Peace, where I’ve put down the book to shake hands with folks.

And I didn’t know the Agnus Dei at our wedding, and I was embarrassed that nobody else sang it either, leaving poor Jenny our cantor singing all alone with her hand up. I asked her about it later, and she said that’s pretty much standard for weddings. Hardly anybody knows it nowadays. So that’s why I made sure to memorize it.

So but anyway, I never can remember the Domine, non sum dignus all the way through. I’ve got to use the book. Maybe it’s because I can’t translate it so well. But that ut intres sub tectum meum, that sounds something like “not enter under roof mine,” though, doesn’t it?

What’s also funny to me is how huge these changes seem, changes to words I first learned almost forty years ago. But all the poor people who had to like learn everything anew after Vatican II, this is like a tiny blip for them, compared to that. So, really, not so huge.

Shakespeare & Proust

I talk to Dawn. She says that she doesn’t like that Shakespeare sonnet. Just too much self pity. And she did indeed read Swann’s Way but didn’t like that either.

Marshall Crenshaw

Took the Blue Line to Springfield after work, where Gordon picked me up and drove us to Vienna VA. I haven’t lived in VA for a long time, apparently, since I couldn’t think of how one should go to get from Springfield to Vienna. I would have hopped on the Fairfax County Parkway for lack of a better idea.

Gordon wisely took 495 to 66 to Vienna. We would have been to the show in a little better time but for Maple Ave being completely shut down for a stretch of a few blocks. We had to detour and sit in traffic on the side streets for precious minutes. When we finally arrived at Jammin’ Java it was standing room only.

But as we stood there, me feeling sorry for us while Gordon was proactively putting together broken chairs sitting by the soundboard, I saw a man in the aisle gesturing to a woman sitting down. Looked to me like he’d found better seats and was trying to get her to come along with him to them. So when she stood up, I asked her, “Moving on to greener pastures?” She was indeed, so I grabbed the vacant seats. I looked around for Gordon, who seemed to have quite impressively built like a ziggurat of parts into some actual seating, and he abandoned his construction and came and sat down.

Gordon stayed and saved my seat for me while I went to rustle up dinner. The barmaid looked about fourteen. The guy at the register maybe seventeen. But they had turkey sandwiches and Sam Adams. I brought Gordon his beer while waiting for the sandwiches to be made. I finished my beer while waiting for the sandwiches to be made. I got another beer while waiting for the sandwiches to be made. They came out just as the lights were going down.

I had been to Jammin’ Java once before, to see Peter Case. For that show there were tables set up, so there were like thirty or so people there tops. And some young dude opened the show, and seemed like there were a lot of groupie chicks there just to see him, so it even emptied out a bit before Peter Case played. For Marshall Crenshaw there weren’t any tables, just rows of chairs. And Marshall himself came out right away. No opening act, although he did announce a few minutes later that management had asked him to split the show into two parts. So there would be an intermission anyway.

He opened with There She Goes Again, saying it was from way back, “back from day one,” he said. I don’t remember the rest of the setlists, but he also at some point played Something’s Gonna Happen, Fantastic Planet of Love, Mary Anne, Someday Someway, Cynical Girl, and You’re My Favorite Waste of Time. Whenever You’re on My Mind, too, maybe. Some covers as well: Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown, a Buddy Holly song something like Annie is Working the Midnight Shift, two Gene Pitney songs – Love My Life Away (Marshall said that used to close his shows with this, back when he played with his brother at CBGBs) and Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa (apparently written by Burt Bacharach). Some newer stuff I didn’t know: Sunday Blues and a sweet song, about moving into a new place, called Twenty-Five Forty-One. Maybe Gordon will remember if I’ve missed anything.

The crowd was old, like us, although they started trickling out before the show was over, while we toughed it out. We started worming our way up closer as people bailed on their seats. We had started out in the 8th row, towards the side wall, but ended up like in the 3rd row on the aisle for the last song. We could only see his head from way in back, but up close we could see that he was playing a beautiful old hollow-body Gibson, itself patched into a little Fender amp, which amp had a microphone in front of it. He sang into a mic as well, of course, but there was another one down by his foot, to amplify his foot tapping for percussion I guess. It was his left foot, I noticed, because the shoe on his right foot for some reason didn’t have any laces.

Shakespeare Sonnet 30

This is one of my favorite poems. I can recite it from memory, although Dawn tells me that I do it in an especially annoying way. I think maybe I do it in some sort of stylized performance. Or as an acting audition, more likely, probably how my first wife would have. Or how she maybe actually even did, although I seem to remember that she used sonnet number twenty-nine as an audition piece.

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste;
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancelled woe,
And moan th’expense of many a vanished sight.
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored, and sorrows end.

I remember, not being an especially literate dude, and not speaking French either, being taken a little aback by the phrase in the second line, “remembrance of things past,” when I first read it. Hey, that’s Proust, I said. Only later would I learn that À la recherche du temps perdu is in fact more literally translated, and is more accepted as the English title nowadays as, In Search of Lost Time. I’ve never even tried to read Proust, though. I think Dawn’s said that she’s read Swann’s Way. Anybody else out there Proust fans?

What I love about this poem though is that it’s honest and true in content but also delicious in form. It’s so utterly grandly over-dramatic, describing the mere act of thinking of the past in so tragic of terms. Just remembering is heart-wrenching drama. But that way the present dear friend can then be so greatly contrasted, I guess. But still, I love that “which I new pay as if not paid before,” that totally reliving whatever pain that still lingers.

But then all of this is couched in the beautiful language that Shakespeare could rattle off endlessly, apparently effortlessly. This poem is like candy in the mouth when reciting out loud. It just makes the mouth feel good to recite these words.

Try it.

Blah blah Ginger

Once again I’m surprised by my brother, swooping in yet again to drop a stinky pile of corn-infested dung. Last time it was my use of the word “meddle” with respect to US and Mexico. This time, however, he accuses me of saying a lot of ugly things, which things I in fact never actually said. This really saddens me, for some reason, how I say one thing but he hears another. But, for the record, although it even depresses me just to do this much, I will respond.

Rob: So, this guy would rather kill you than look at you, but he’s not “the enemy” because Bush said he was?

I most certainly did not say that because the President declared Zarqawi to be my enemy, therefore I must think that Zarqawi cannot be my enemy. What I did say is that Zarqawi did not necessarily become my enemy simply by mere virtue of the fact that the President declared him to be so. I deliberately chose not to say that he either was or was not my enemy. I got in enough trouble in April when I said that Pancho Villa was my pal, so I’m a little more careful than that.

(And Rob even trots out some quote where Zarqawi declares me to be his enemy. I may very well be Zarqawi’s enemy, but I didn’t say that he was (or wasn’t) mine.)

Rob: I’m glad you admitted that you would rather the war went bad[ly], that you would rather Americans die than have the President do well.

I most certainly did not say that I wished the war would go badly. I wrote about Iraq in this space in January, saying that I didn’t support “the wholesale withdrawal of American troops.” If fact, I said, “If anything, we need more troops.” This time, however, in the Zarqawi post in question, I offered no opinion as to how I want the war to proceed. But, frankly, the war has gone quite badly all by itself, independent of my small opinions on its conduct, on its wisdom in the first place. Americans have been dying anyway.

I only said that I regretted that Zarqawi’s death would reflect well on the President, lamenting the fact that the President might be viewed as having done something well, anything at all, since I see him as having done so many things poorly.

But, regarding those Americans who have been dying anyway, I honestly do have so much more sympathy for the poor Iraqi civilians caught in the middle of all this. I always have more sympathy for the victims of war, rather than the combatants. When the combatants themselves are conscripts, I sympathize with them, too, of course. But our troops are all volunteers.

(Now, I realize that this is very much closer to Markos’s “screw them” philosophy than is comfortable for you. But I don’t think Paul shares this view. I don’t even know if he knows what you’re talking about, so leave him alone about Kos.)

I do of course recognize that Saddam Hussein was a terrible despot, that he killed a lot of civilians his own self. But I still don’t have to believe that this war was the answer to that problem.

Rob: Most of those with BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome) can’t admit as much.

Rob hated President Clinton and his administration just as much as anybody hates President Bush now. I specifically remember his view on the tragic raid on David Koresh’s compound in Waco, when he said, as if quoting Attorney General Reno, giving the order to attack, “They’re hurting the children. Kill them all.” Whether he truly believed that the Clinton administration deliberately massacred those people, I don’t know. But that’s what he said.

Moreover, Rob declared that Clinton wasn’t even legitimately elected, having received only a plurality of the vote, rather than a majority. Funny, that, just a couple years later.

Rob: I guess if it makes Chimpy look bad, then our troops should all come home draped in Old Glory, huh?

Sigh. Do I really have to go through all of this?

I did not call anyone Chimpy.

Criticism of Clinton or Carter was and is always fair game. But, oddly, whenever it’s a Republican president in question, criticism of said president is somehow equated with criticism of the United States itself, with being unpatriotic. When Natalie Maines said that she was ashamed that the President was from Texas, Rob took to calling them the “Vichy Chicks,” labeling them traitors to their country for criticizing a person or a government policy.

Rob: And you, Paul; do you object strongly to Zarqawi’s video of Nick Berg’s beheading? Or the video of the 4 dead American contractors hanging from the bridge (You know, your buddy Kos’ “screw ’em” guys)?Or is shit like that only UNacceptable when BushCo does it? (See BDS above)

I’m really getting sick of this. But let’s try to finish. Criticism of one’s own government simply does not imply the endorsement of barbarism by anyone else. Paul is right to label this attack as absurd.

We don’t vote for Zarqawi. We don’t vote for al Qaida. They don’t represent us. We do vote for (or against) the President. He does represent us. He is responsible for us as we are responsible for him. As citizens we are empowered, we are even required by our civic duty, to speak up when we think that what he does, what our government does, on our behalf, is wrong.

I personally stopped reading Rob’s blog for a long time after he posted the picture of Zarqawi brandishing poor Mr. Berg’s severed head. It was tastelessly using the horrifying image for cheap gain. It was using it as pornography. And that’s exactly what Paul was complaining about, the picture of Zarqawi, matted and gold-framed no less. Or the pictures of Qusay and Uday Hussein, splayed and dead, when they were killed.

Beheading innocent people is a priori barbaric and wrong. Unless someone says otherwise, I’m going to assume that they’re against it. But displaying pictures of the dead, it isn’t necessarily wrong. But it might just be a bad idea.

Museum Monday

Dawn and I both take the day off from work and visit museums with Sarah. We go to two of the Smithsonian museums, first American Indian and then American History. Apparently I haven’t been to a history museum in a while, as I find myself pretty much overwhelmed by the overstimulation. It’s just all too much.

The docent at the NMAI directs us to the fourth floor, where there’s an introductory film that plays every twenty minutes in the Lelawi Theater. We get up there about halfway through the eleven o’clock showing, sow we wait ten minutes or so for the next one. Inside the theater there are no seats proper, just risers for seating, with the screen in the middle, ampitheatre style. The screen is a triangular wooden structure with three blankets, one on each side, on which is projected the film that we watch, called Who We Are. There’s a boulder beneath the screen structure on which images are projected as well. And there’s a domed ceiling above us, again with images. There’s a lot to look at.

The film itself is rather shapeless, just sort of meandering from cliches about respecting the land and losing & refinding ancient practices. There’s one montage that I like, showing the immense diversity of this group of peoples: people dancing around a fire, then like someone bowling, then an astronaut, that sort of thing.

We exit from the theater and are led immediately to the Our Universes exhibition. I try to find some structure here, but I fail. There’s a sign at the beginning saying that the stars on the ceiling and the equinoxes & solstices on the floor will help guide us. I see stars, but nothing on the floor. I do eventually come to recognize that there are eight galleries in the exhibition, four groups of two, each group probably representing a season or one of the equinoxes or solstices, but it’s pretty vague. I’m looking for more signage.

Each gallery is presented to us by a particular “community,” e.g. Pueblo or Quechua. Here again we’re faced with the remarkable diversity of the subject of the museum, the peoples themselves stretching from Point Barrow to Cape Horn. That’s a lot of territory to cover. A lot of people.

There are no straight paths anywhere in the museum. All of the wall curve one way or the other. At times the glass of the exhibit cases throw off weird reflections of the light, so I have to sort of dodge back and forth to try to see whatever is in the case. The galleries are all shaped differently, so I lose my way and double back at times when I’m trying to go a different way. It’s all part of the experience, I guess, a deliberate anti-linear-ness. A different way of thinking.

We eat in the Mitsitam Native Foods Café. It’s a cafeteria setup with different stations representing different regions. Dawn & I both grab from the South American foods, where apparently tamales is the plural of tamal & I have one. Dawn has the quinoa. Sarah goes for a wild rice salad.

There’s more overstimulation at American History, where we tour the America on the Move exhibition. It’s all more like the American Nostalgia Museum to me. Like for instance, you’d figure that a history of American transportation exhibit would include the automobile, and you’d be right. But do they really need the 1948 Tucker and the 1950 Studebaker and the 1953 Glasspar and the 1954 Buick and the 1965 Ford LTD and the 1965 Mustang and the 1967 Pontiac Grand Prix and the 1972 VW Beetle and the 1977 Honda Civic and …

Well, you get the idea.

I do actually have a hootin’ good time at the American Maritime Enterprise exhibit. There’re lots of models of sailing ships of all scales. Good Horatio fun, although they do have a lot of stupid stuff from before and after the Napoleonic Wars, like anybody’d be interested in that. I go through the hall twice, and then we go through again when we leave.

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

We have special guest star Mother Dillon coming to Mass with us today. Always a treat. Mother Dillon is not in fact Catholic, so it’s a treat as well that today is Trinity Sunday, which is an especially Catholic day, although Anglicans, Lutherans, and Methodists celebrate it too.

It’s a big thing to try to wrap my mind around, the Trinity. Father Caulfield in his homily tries to explain a bit, noting first that we call it a mystery. Not so much, he says, mystery in the sense that it is not understood or even understandable, but rather more coming from the Latin mysterium, which means secret, as in something being revealed to us.

Although I’m generally okay with not understanding anyway. Part of becoming Catholic boy these last few years has been my acceptance of not having the answers myself, of knowing that there’s just a lot of stuff that I’m never going to figure out. I’m asking around to see if someone else has figured some of these things out. I’m listening and learning more now.

Father Caulfield tells us that there is a school of thought that explains the concept of “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” with a more vague “the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier.” He warns us that this emphasis of attributes to individual persons in the Trinity comes at something of the expense of the union. If God is Father and Son, then both Father and Son have always existed, and both are creator and both are redeemer. And the Holy Spirit is also creator and redeemer, and the Son is sanctifier, etc. etc.

It’s not an especially unique concept, not unique to Catholicism, the Trinity, actually. There’s also the Hindu Trimurti of Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (the Preserver), and Shiva (the Transformer). Or perhaps even the entire Hindu pantheon can all be seen as simply different aspects of the Brahman.

The Gospel reading is from the ending of St. Matthew, where the Resurrection is recounted lickety-split, the risen Christ saying all of five sentences, most of them imperatives, the most important of them establishing the Trinity:

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

St. John has it more explicit, where Christ specifically talks about the Holy Spirit as something separate and distinct: “For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” But here in St. Matthew he puts it all together, all three of ’em.

Mother Dillon

We took yoga yesterday, because Dawn’s mother is visiting us this weekend and arrives today. We get to the airport about half an hour before her flight is due. And, see, this is the great thing about National Airport: we park in the B terminal hourly lot, and get a space next to the walkway to the terminal. It’s about a two minute walk into the terminal proper, and National’s so small that it’s about thirty seconds to walk to the B gates. Sarah’s plane lands a few minutes early, so we’re in and out and on our way after 33 minutes, so says our parking chit.

On the way back to our house we stop at the VW dealer where we bought the Jetta for some windshield wiper fluid. Damn thing’s been beeping at us and scaring the shit out of me every time it does. The salesman who sold us the car had said that it was vitally important that we use this special stuff, available only thru VW, and not use the cheap blue stuff found everywhere. I discuss this with the guy at the parts counter, and he laughs at such a silly notion. But we buy the VW potion anyway. I mean, what’s four dollars per year versus ninety-nine cents?

Says it’s methanol on the container. Should we be spewing this from our car?

We stop at the Safeway on our way home as well, to pick up more things for the retirement party we’re (now not so) secretly throwing for Sarah tomorrow. While looking for cat food I walk by the toys and junk aisle and spot a selection of kites. It’s somewhat breezy today, so I grab one for all of $3.99.

After lunch we go for a walk in Congressional Cemetary. I spend over an hour and a half trying to get the nasty little thing aloft, suffering humiliating defeat at every attempt.

I try standing there and playing out the string slowly. I try tossing it up. I try running with it. I stand on a mound on top of a crypt. I play out fifty feet of string and get Dawn to toss it up. Sarah holds it fifty feet away and runs with me as I try to get it to launch.

I try adjusting the crossbars. I try attaching the string higher and lower and on the other side even. Sarah and I spend a good deal of time turning every which way, stretching the kite between us, yours truly holding the string while Sarah holds the tail.

Every so often the kite will dance out the end of the string about five feet away from me, just above my head, tantalizingly close to actual flying, before plummeting back down and crashing. One time while running it actually gets out and up maybe fifteen feet up before crapping out.

Still, it’s grand fun, at least for me. Sarah is super patient with the whole process, while Dawn has taken the opportunity to go wandering off by herself through the cemetary for a while. Finally we regroup and head for home.

On the way out we walk by an older couple on their way into the cemetary. I stop them and ask if either of them is an aeronautical engineer. Sadly, neither is, and they kindly sympathize with my lack of flight. And by this time I’ve recognized the man. “You’re Robert Prosky,” I say. “Have you ever played an aeronautical engineer?” He says he never has but that he has done Thomas Edison. This makes me think of Benjamin Franklin. I tell him he should play Benjamin Franklin, because he really knew how to fly a kite.


I wonder how much I’ve written here, in this thing, this blog. Then I think of a quick way to count the words, thanks to Microsoft Word.

Over there to the right, Blogger automatically aggregates posts into the archives. You can set it daily or weekly or whatever, but Blogger defaults to monthly and that’s what I use. So I go to each of the monthly archive pages and do a CTRL-A (Select All). Then I switch over to Word and do an ALT-E-S (Paste Special). I choose Unformatted Unicode Text and click OK. So nowI’ve got an entire month of blog entries in a Word document, without pictures or formatting or tables or extraneous stuff like that.

Then I need to delete a few things. After the Paste Special, the cursor is down at the end of the document, so I start there. I go up a few lines until I find “About Me.” That’s where the blog entries end and the right-hand side profile, links, previous posts, and archives listings are. I delete from “About Me” to the end of the document. I go up to the top of the document and delete from the beginning “Notify Blogger about objectionable content” down through the name (EBOHLS) and description (the Tony Kushner quote) of the blog. So now all that’s left are actual blog entries.

But still need to delete a couple more things. There’s a line for the date of each entry at the beginning of each post, as well as a line noting the poster, time, comments and links at the end of each post. So I do a global search and replace in Word, CTRL-H, first finding “, 2006^p” and replacing that, clicking Replace All, but not with other text but with header formatting. I arbitrarily chose Heading 5. And then finding “Posted by Edward at” and replacing that with the same header formatting. Finally, finding “^p^p” and replacing that with “^p” as many times as Replace All needs until the replaced count is zero.

Then I choose Styles and Formatting from the Format menu. I click anywhere in the document in a Heading 5 formatted paragraph and choose Select All from the formatting pane. Then I hit Delete. All the extra stuff is gone. All that’s left is the meat of the blog entries themselves. When I choose Word Count from the Tools menu, Word tells me how many pages, words, characters, paragraphs, and lines are in the document.

Here are the word counts, by month:

January – 8,059
February – 8,210
March – 12,940
April – 23,614
May – 20,583

I’m pretty wordy, ain’t I?

The Sword

That phrase, “He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword,” I wonder about that. Is it Biblical? I go searching. And I find that it is indeed.

In St. Matthew, in Chapter 26, when Jesus is arrested at Gethsemane, someone draws their sword and cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Jesus says, “Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (St. John has it slightly differently, naming the sword wielder as St. Peter and the victim as Malchus).

But in my search I find another quote from Jesus, again from St. Matthew, about swords, but this time he wields the sword, or he is the sword maybe. Not the lamb, not the peacemaker. What is this?

Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
For I have come to set a man ‘against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s enemies will be those of his household.’
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.

He is paraphrasing older Scripture here, from Micah 7:6. It’s a little scary, actually. I don’t quite comprehend it all, or maybe I’m just scared of having to face it.

But at least for now I’ll note that it doesn’t necessarily contradict his later saying, about living and dying by the sword. And, similar to elsewhere in St. Matthew, the Beatitudes, what Christ asks of us is really hard.


We awake to the news of the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Dawn and I both are immediately pleased by his death. Then we both have second thoughts. Dawn regrets her enthusiasm at the death of a fellow human being, no matter how repugnant that human being may have been. She’s a good person. I regret that Zarqawi’s death will in any way reflect well on the President and the conduct of the war. I’m not such a good person.

I actually don’t know much about Zarqawi, except that the President has said that he’s a bad man, that he’s my enemy. I usually don’t believe people when they tell me that someone is my enemy. I’ve heard the name, heard that he’s the man behind the bombings in Jordan, and understand that he’s behind the kidnappings and beheadings of Westerners in Iraq. So, I don’t know about enemy. But repugnant? Without a doubt.

As it happens, the Atlantic Monthly just went up yesterday with a feature story about Zarqawi, so I read that today. Pretty much sums him up as a street-level thug made big. No grand visionary like Osama Bin Laden. And apparently they met and absolutely loathed each other just about right away. Zarqawi’s views on Shi’as were apparently too extreme even for Bin Laden.

So Zarqawi lived by the sword. Violently by the sword. Viciously by the sword. Disgustingly by the sword. And then he died by the sword.

I won’t miss him. Can’t think of anyone who should.

Flying Colours

I finish yet another Horatio book. I’m going through them too fast, and soon I’ll be through them all. What will I do then?

I guess I can go back and re-read them. I’ve ended up buying all of them so far, except for the first one, Mr. Midshipman Hornblower. I can probably spring for that one as well. And one of the things I’d like to do is get the Nelson’s Navy: Its Ships, Men, and Organization, 1793-1815 book that I’ve seen at Second Story Books. It’s a beautiful hardcover from the Naval Institute Press, and they describe it thus:

First published in 1990, this encyclopedic yet highly readable work gives an indepth description of the Royal Navy in Lord Nelson’s time. Filled with over four hundred illustrations, the book is divided into fourteen sections that deal with the design and construction of ships, the navy’s administration, and life at sea. Other topics include shiphandling and navigation, gunnery techniques and fighting tactics, and a discussion of foreign navies of the day. Nelson’s Navy is an important source book for the naval historian, a valuable reference for the enthusiast, and a revelation to the general reader.

The hardback is thirty dollars at Second Story Books, but I see a trade paperback available from Amazon for twenty-three and change. Interesting that the average customer review on Amazon is five out of five stars.

Anyway, I just kind of gloss over a lot of stuff in the Horatio books, mizzenmasts & quarterdecks and bomb-vessels & cutters and linstocks & bosun’s mates. I’d probably get a lot more out of it all if I knew more about what they were saying and doing. Although that’s not to say that Forester doesn’t explain so much of it to the modern civilian reader. A real navy hand might find the books ridiculously dumbed down, maybe. I don’t know. But I’m often just taking things in context as I go along.

And I’m going along because these are exciting adventure stories. I feel a little guilty at times, like when I’m sharing Horatio’s excitement as he’s going into battle, not wanting some ship to get away, wanting him to get around again for another broadside, while men are being maimed and killed all around. These are war stories. Awfully gritty stuff. Lots of shit blowing up, as my brother might say. And I’m usually Mr. Pacifist Anti-war Boy, but here I am all caught up in the excitement of these war stories. Oh, who knows why we like the things we do?

So I’m reading these now for the narrative, for the atmosphere, for the adventure. I can go back later and fill in more of the details, appreciate the aracana more then. But for now, it’s fun to live in Horatio’s world and find out what happens.

And in that vein, I finish Flying Colours. I am most definitely not happy about poor Maria. And I’ve been annoyed at Horatio and his pathetic mooning over Lady Barbara and his scandalous behavior with the Vicomtesse de Graçay. But I go trucking over to Borders Books on 14th Street to get the next book, Commodore Hornblower, because I’m dying to know what happens next anyway. The Borders website says that the store also has in stock the next book after that, Lord Hornblower, but it’s not on the shelf.

Around the House

We hear today from Mr. Dyson, an electrician, about doing some work on the house.

Seems like the house has had a couple of different eras regarding electricity. Built in 1923, it originally had knob & tube wiring, most likely. At some point in the fifties or sixties, this was replaced, as we can see conduit running along the walls in the living room and bedrooms. Sometime later, when the kitchen was re-done, the plaster walls were replaced with drywall, and wiring was installed inside the drywall. The addition on the back, my workshop, is basic framing and drywall, with wiring inside, as well. The main panel, in the living room, has circuit breakers, not fuses, so that was added later. It’s also 200 amps, and I think the house would have originally been only one-hundred. The washer/dryer unit that we have is 220 volts; that circuit is definitely newer rather than older.

We have some issues with the way the house is wired sometimes. Seems like too much of the house is on just this one circuit. The upstairs, for example. We’ll blow the circuit if we have on the window air conditioner in our bedroom as well as the big one in the guest bedroom window. Or sometimes it’s the vacuum cleaner. I think Dawn tripped it once with her hair dryer. It’s always the same breaker in the panel box, the 15 amp one on the top right. But the lights go out in the workshop, both bedrooms upstairs, as well as the lights in the living room and kitchen.

On Sunday we took an hour or so and completely mapped the whole circuitry of the house. That pretty much entailed turning on all the lights and fans that we could and then checking to see what went off when we flipped a circuit breaker from ON to OFF. Oh, I also used a receptacle tester to test the outlets, certainly easier than like plugging a lamp into it or anything like that.

More than half the house is indeed on that one 15 amp circuit, whereas there’s one GFCI outlet in the kitchen that’s one its own circuit. We weren’t too sure about the furnace and the water heater, since we didn’t know how to turn those on and off or check when they were on or off, but there were two circuits we couldn’t determine that worked anything, so maybe they were on one or both of those.

We decided that we need somebody to come rewire some of this. I don’t feel at all qualified to do it, and, heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m not allowed to do it, if local law requires it to be done by a licensed electrician. So best to go with a pro on this one. I had called Bill, an electrician that I know in VA, to ask if he knew anyone, but I never heard back from him. But it just so happened that the house next door, currently under renovation, was, at that very same moment that we were mapping the circuits, being worked on by an electrician. We had met him out front while he was installing a new meter at the front of the house. So we asked him to take a look and bid on the job.

And just as Dawn brought him into the house through the back where he had been by his truck, Robin the owner of the house came walking up the front steps to drop off a gift basket for us, for being such patient neighbors during the construction. So we get his opinion of the house and wiring while we get her opinion of him. She adores him, so that’s good. And he takes a look at things and tells us he’ll get back to us Tuesday with an estimate.

So today we see him next door when we get home from work, but he doesn’t have the estimate paperwork with him. He says he’ll call us when he gets back to the office. Just a little later he calls and gives us a quote. It’s more than we were hoping to hear but less than my worst-case estimate. I think we’re going to go with him.

Candy Wrappers

We get a lot of trash on our street. I think our block is maybe at some sort of critical distance from the local high school where the kids get out for the day, hit the convenience store for junk food, and then finish their snacks on our block on the walk home. There are no municipal trash receptacles on our block, so the kids just discard the wrappers and packaging wherever they are on the block.

It may also be the drug dealers. I think since they’re working a certain section of the neighborhood, they don’t have lot of time to go from one trash can to the next to discard whatever packaging they’ve got. Sometimes it’s like a styrofoam container of a whole meal, maybe. It gets dumped on the curb or in the storm drain across the street.

We’re also on a modest-sized thoroughfare for traffic heading out of city, both morning and afternoon drive times. But it’s probably not that so much, although I’m sure stuff gets thrown out of cars then too. Mostly the stuff tossed from cars seems like beer or wine bottles, probably not rush hour trash.

Dawn and I sometimes do a trash run, picking up the block, on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. We don gloves and drag a trash bag up and down the street, picking up all the trash. Some days we fill up the trash bag pretty full. Mostly the trash doesn’t bother me, except for broken bottles. That really annoys me. Like, it’s almost okay to discard something on my street, but why do you have to break the bottle when you do it?

And then there’s this one type of candy wrapper that we see all the time. It’s some sort of Tootsie Roll product, but not like the fake chocolate of a Tootsie Roll proper. Rather it’s a related or spin-off product called Frooties. Somebody on the block or somebody who goes through a lot sure does love those, since I’m almost guaranteed to find at least one discarded wrapper every time we pick up the trash.

I think this bothers me more than the broken glass, even, as if everything else is just a one-time thing that someone has dropped, someone who never has littered before and may never litter again, like they’ve just dropped this one thing just this one time. But the Frooties wrappers I always think it’s the same person. I want to stay home every day and guard vigilantly and set up video surveillance and helicopters and whatever, and find the person who’s dropping the Frooties wrappers and just say, hey, cut it out, willya.

Pentecost Sunday

“Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?”

Again this week with a question about the men of Galilee. This time, though, they’re not staring up at the sky like dolts. They’re receiving the Holy Spirit. And then they speaking in tongues.

It’s an interesting reversal of the Old Testament Tower of Babel, where everyone who spoke the same language suddenly couldn’t understand each other. Here now, as is often the case with the New Testament, the new covenant, things are different, completely turned around. Here suddenly the Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, and everybody else, everybody speaking different languages, can understand the good news, the “mighty acts of God.”

And funny enough, St. Paul backs me up from last week, where I wrote that some of us are apostles, some of us are prophets, and some of us are database managers. He writes:

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spiritis given for some benefit.

And concelebrating with Monsignor this morning is Archbishop Morales from the Philippines. (And this makes me wonder if the Philippines are named after some St. Philip, but alas, later research reveals that they were originally Las Islas Filipinas, named after a King of Spain named Philip.)

And Deacon Reilly is leaving us, moving down to North Carolina. He explains that he and especially his wife have been experiencing health problems and need to be closer to their children now. Replacing him is a new deacon, Deacon Bart Merella, who says a few words about himself. He worked with Monsignor before, when they were both on the liturgy committee for Pope John Paul II’s visit to Washington.

So we’ve got a new deacon and in a couple of weeks we’ll all of us, the whole archdiocese, be getting a new archbishop.