Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Poetry: Robert Burns

(I can't figure out how to indent in html. If someone knows, please teach me. I've done a few poems a disservice on this blog because of that lack of knowledge, including the one below.)

I first read this in sixth grade, after we read the novel named for its famous line. I still can't understand a great number of the words without footnotes. I love the poem because that doesn't matter.

Robert Burns
To a Mouse, On Turning Up Her Nest with the Plough, November, 1785

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, timorous beastie,
O what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na starta awa sae hasty,
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee
Wi' murdering pattle!

I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor earth-born companion
An' fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
'S a sma' request;
I'll get a blessin' wi' the lave,
And never miss 't!

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
Its sill wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's winds ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare and waste,
An' weary winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thouh thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out through thy cell.

That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
Now thou's turned out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld!

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain
For promised joy.

Still thou art blest compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee;
But och! I backward cast my e'e
On prospects drear!
An' forward though I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Passage

Is it strange that I am really mourning Heath Ledger? Because I am.

It's not just that he was very close to my own age, and while I can imagine the plight of Michelle Williams and having to explain this to a two-year-old, what I'm mostly feeling is a loss to the profession. Which may be even stranger. The man was a really wonderful actor, and seemed really to love acting, and to try to create a world for himself and build a world for others in which his work really mattered, really changed things. I found it, and still find it it, admirable and impressive. As an audience member incredibly distanced from who the gentleman really was to those who knew him personally, I'll miss him. I think I miss him already.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday Poetry: Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay
First Fig

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Don't Miss the World Premiere of Blindside!

Stockyards Theatre Project and Helen Balasny Present:
Written by Gemma Cooper-Novack
Directed by Laura Blegen

Sasha's husband and sister are relieved she's come home, but echoes of the war still seem to be with her. Kevin and Dani, hosts of a radio program, prepare to address questions about violence in modern society. When an unexpected revelation about Sasha's experience throws them all off balance, the characters in Blindside must confront their assumptions about the limits of moral behavior and of their own relationships.

Blindside explores the homefront ramifications of war, examining what United States citizens are capable of under duress and the unforeseen repercussions of their actions.

Location: The Raven Theatre Complex in the West Theatre
6157 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60660

Dates: Performances January 13-February 17
Thursdays-Saturdays at 8:30 pm; Sundays at 4:00 pm
Previews January 11 and 12, 8:30 pm

Tickets: $18; $12 students/seniors
$15 Sunday matinees
Reservations and group rates available via or (773) 572-1530

Photograph © 2007 Ryan Ward Thompson,

Friday Poetry: James Tate

James Tate
The Wild Cheese

A head of cheese raised by wolves
or mushrooms
recently rolled into
the village, it
could neither talk nor
walk upright.

Small snarling boys ran
circles around it;
and just as they began
throwing stones, the Mayor
appeared and dispersed them.

He took the poor ignorant
head of cheese home,
and his wife scrubbed it
all afternoon before
cutting it with a knife
and serving it after dinner.

The guests were delighted
and exclaimed far into the night,
"That certainly was a wild cheese!"

Sunday, January 06, 2008


There are days when I wake up, or am walking, and I really want to spend money. The impulse is not a craving for anything in particular, not a craving or a desire for things. It is seriously a desire to spend money on something. It doesn't matter how much or what for.

I'm not sure how to feel about this. It's something I'd like to stop, in a technical sense, especially given that my financial pragmatism is limited from the get-go. But I wonder about this as an effect of capitalism—it seems to go further, and be a little weirder, than the ones we tend to worry about in general. It is the act of spending itself that will reassure me. I often go out and buy a bottle of juice or the like when this hits me, because it's not the standard American problem of "I need a new toy to comfort me in my time of need." I need to have less money in my wallet.

Considering it, it's sometimes a need for human contact. It's a need I usually have when I've been alone all day, or too busy to think about anything else, but I don't get into conversations with salespeople as a result—quite the contrary, usually. It's a rapid in-and-out procedure. The source of the desire may be loneliness, but the relief comes in getting the money out of my hand.

I'm not excited about anything this might say about me, but I'm really unclear on what it says in the first place. It says that in spite of being generally somewhat skeptical about capitalism, it still exercises a pull over me, but it's a strange pull. I've managed for the most part to excise the Need For Objects—not completely, obviously, and I'm not living off-grid or anything else so ambitious, but I don't love shopping as an act or feel that all my gifts need to be material the way I used to. Still there is a relief that comes with spending small amounts of money, and a craving to do so. What *is* that all about?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Enterntainment: Dedicated to My Grandmother

This is another RMPN excerpt. I spent the week before last staying with my grandmother (and many other members of my visiting family) in Miami and was reminded of her inherent awesomeness. As such, I dedicate this list that I made with her about four years ago to her. Lacking interweb access, she'll never read the post, but nevertheless it's awesome.

A New Grocery Store
1 lb. of condoleezza rice
A quart of harvey milk
A bag of fiona apples
A side of francis bacon, sliced thin (or possibly kevin bacon)
A package of felix frankfurters, or alternatively barney franks
A container of darryl strawberries
Some albert broccoli
A donna tartt
A barbara hershey bar
A claude pepper
Some jack lemmons
A bottle of olive oyl
A bag of orson beans
A hock of mia hamm
A box of halle berries
Two jugs of ethel waters
A box of jennifer salt

Friday, January 04, 2008

Friday Poetry: Marge Piercy

I coulda chosen a more uplifting poem for my first post of 2008, I suppose. But I and friends have both been reading novels by Ms. Piercy that have caught our attention, and I was just visiting my childhood bedroom in New York, where this poem holds a prominent place on the poetry-decorated door of my closet (yes, my high school closet door is covered with poems). There will be more uplifting posts coming in the next month. Also non-uplifting ones. Word.

Marge Piercy
The friend

We sat across the table.
he said, cut off your hands.
they are always poking at things.
they might touch me.
I said yes.

Food grew cold on the table.
he said, burn your body.
it is not clean and smells like sex.
it rubs my mind sore.
I said yes.

I love you, I said.
That's very nice, he said.
I like to be loved,
that makes me happy.
Have you cut off your hands yet?