The God Abandons Antony
By Constantine Cavafy
Translated by Aliki Barnstone & Willis Barnstone
When suddenly at the midnight hour
you hear the invisible troupe passing by
with sublime music, with voices --
don't futilely mourn your luck giving out, your work
collapsing, the designs of your life
that have all proved to be illusions.
As if long prepared, as if full of courage,
say good-bye to her, the Alexandria who is leaving.
Above all don't fool yourself, don't say it was
a dream, how your ears tricked you.
Don't stoop to such empty hopes.
As if long prepared, as if full of courage,
as is right for you who are worthy of such a city,
go stand tall by the window
and listen with feeling, but not
with the pleas and whining of a coward,
hear the voices -- your last pleasure --
the exquisite instruments of that secret troupe,
and say good-bye to her, the Alexandria you are losing.
From Michael Dirda's review in last Sunday's Washington Post Book World of The Collected Poems of C.P. Cavafy, "an anthem of stoic hedonism." Dirda writes, "By instinct, Cavafy is primarily an elegist, capable of recalling with equal emotion the touch of a hand and the fall of an empire, of memorializing both the carnal favorites of ancient Antioch and the perfect limbs of a dirty young blacksmith down the street." He was Greek, living in Egypt, seeing ancient Alexandria superimposed over modern. "He was constantly winnowing out the sentimental: Of the 148 known poems written between 1891 and 1900, he kept only seven for his 'canon.' At its best, his mature work hardly seems poetry at all...Cavafy prefers nouns and avoids epithets, uses rhyme sparingly if at all, offers lots of historical or physical detail, and typically casts a poem as a dramatic monologue." Even when he avoids speaking in the first person, adds Dirda, "everything he writes sounds like a fragment from a great confession, melancholy, witty, refined, sexy."
Of course the big news of my day was Star Trek XI (which I will believe on the day the cameras roll, not before, no matter what Paramount is or is not saying now). Christian had it posted before I was even awake, so I just tried to keep up with how people were spinning it. StarTrek.com's director of production apparently has me on his e-mail list now because he sent me a link to the official site's article. It's funny...for all the years Paramount was in charge of Star Trek, I had trouble getting on all the mailing lists, and now that it's under the auspices of CBS, suddenly they have new publicists who have been extremely friendly and helpful. Someone got smart about courting the fans, I guess! I reviewed "A Piece of the Action", not a particularly inspired piece of writing as the episode is fantastic but not good exactly -- many large plot holes rendered irrelevant by Kirk inventing Fizzbin and Spock attempting to speak in faux Chicago gangster slang.
Otherwise, I had a pretty quiet day -- did some writing, did some laundry, had dinner with my parents and received the latest round of warnings that if we don't have every aspect of the Bar Mitzvah plans locked down by the end of this month, every single photographer, entertainment facility, musician and engraver in the greater Washington area will be booked and we'll have ruined our son's life. Oh, and my sister and her husband, who live a few minutes from the Clintons in Westchester, went to the movies with them! Not WITH them, but the Clintons were sitting two rows in front of them in a nearly empty theater and when the movie let out, they all ended up conversing. And now my Republican brother-in-law may be working on a fundraiser for Hillary, whom he likes very much, as he thinks she has represented New York very well. All I can say is, whatever it takes! My sister found them personable and unpretentious, which from my sister is saying something. I just think it's kind of neat that on a Thursday night, Bill and Hillary went to see Inside Man together...I don't really think of them as having date nights, given that it sounds like they're almost never in the same city, so maybe they actually have a good marriage beyond the need for appearances. *g*
fridayfiver: What it all comes down to...
1. When is the last time you were broke? When is the last time I was not broke? No, seriously, I have thankfully never not had money for food or gas, but I have not had money to throw around since my first year of college when my credit card bills still went to my father.
2. What makes you lose focus? SHINY! Um, just about any pleasant distraction.
3. How tall are you? 4'10". Too short for the US Naval Academy. I am very close to being legally a midget.
4. Are you brave or cowardly? Cowardly, though I am much braver when I am defending my kids.
5. What's in your pocket? I don't have one at the moment. If I did, if I was going somewhere, my cell phone would be in it.
thefridayfive: And more randomness...
1. How do you feel about people who commit suicide? Such as, do you feel that they are too lazy to deal with life, have depression, do you feel sorry for them, etc.? I certainly don't think anyone who would end their own life is "too lazy to deal." The people I have known who committed suicide suffered for years from clinical depression and had had various forms of professional help that wasn't enough. I've been angry at someone for committing suicide -- she blew her brains out all over the childhood bedroom she had shared with her older sister, on a weekend home from college, when she knew that the sister would find her because her parents were gone for the day, and although I know that she was not thinking clearly by any means, I also know that her entire family -- her sister in particular -- suffered tremendously because she chose to do it in this way and at this time. But it isn't like I "blame" her; I feel terribly sorry for her and everyone close to her.
2. What do you think people say about you behind your back? I have no idea. This really isn't something I try to think about except when I have some specific evidence that some specific person has been saying things behind my back that I think are untrue or unfair.
3. If you could own and operate any major business, what would it be? Publishing books for children who can't afford them and adults who otherwise wouldn't read them.
4. Are you/would you be embarrassed to talk to your friends or family about sex? I talk to my friends about sex all the time. I talk to my kids about sex when they bring it up, which is often in the context of them revealing something patently false and sometimes very funny. I generally avoid the subject with my parents because they're much more conservative about it than I am, or at least so they've always told me and at this late date I don't really think I want to know if that's not the case!
5. In some cultures, young women are married and begin families as soon as they start a menstrual cycle. Do you believe this is right or wrong? Why? I don't think I can personally judge for entire cultures. As a general rule I think women that young must be coerced to want families at such a young age, but there tend to be other rigid expectations on young men, older women and men who are not part of the ruling group that I don't find particularly desirable either.
I am howling at the idea of the big-screen version of Dallas directed by Gurinder Chadha of Bride & Prejudice, starring John Travolta and Jennifer Lopez. Tonight was not my favorite Doctor Who, but it was enjoyable anyway, particularly since Anna Maxwell Martin aka Esther from Bleak House was playing one of the protagonists! I was wondering why Adam had stuck around from last week and I guess it was so we could get a demonstration of Rose's brand of meddling versus his, but he did come off awfully annoying and stupid after I rather liked him before...almost like they had to prove that he was an unworthy boy for Rose despite the Doctor persistently referring to him as her boyfriend ("Not anymore," she says when he faints at the sight of the space station). The Doctor is, in principle, taking them to the height of the human empire, but someone has meddled and messed up history and now everyone is controlled by a giant media conglomerate in which the role of Rupert Murdoch is played by an evil alien with big teeth. It's Big Brother meets The Matrix with the Saarlaac on the ceiling!
I desperately want the Doctor's toys: unlimited credit! A cell phone that works across time and space! Though I would not turn my brain into a giant computer interface as Adam so blithely does, I think because there's some nice S&M overtones of letting the woman from Medical strap him into a chair and talk him into the procedure. Cathica, the woman who first demonstrates how journalists transmit facts via implant chips, isn't impressed at first with the Doctor's study of the heating system on the station and doesn't get why he's not using his knowledge to play the stock market, but in the end she goes up to the top floor herself, hacks into the system and saves everyone. Yet again a girl saves the day, and not because she's deeply noble or anything; she's so resentful that Suki (the character played by Martin) got promoted ahead of her that she doesn't stop to think about how it might not be a good thing if promotion means no one ever sees you again. Plus it turns out that Suki was an anarchist, a member of a freedom group who's been trying to infiltrate the upper levels so she can kill the people controlling the media! And in the end, she does, holding the human liaison for the evil alien trapped in the room when he explodes.
I must admit to being kind of fond of the Murdoch (as I am going to call the Saarlaac), which may look like an evil scary monster guy but which runs Satellite Five and therefore the entire human race, as his minion the Editor explains. "I'll have to speak to the Editor in Chief," the Editor says ominously, and having worked for newspapers, I can completely identify with everyone's bug-eyed horror. "Create a climate of fear, it's easy to keep the borders closed," he observes. Rose asks if the people on Earth are slaves, and he ponders whether people can be slaves if they don't know they're enslaved...well, duh, the Doctor interrupts. I hesitate to watch through shipper eyes because I know Eccleston is not back next season and because the show is encouraging shipping just enough that it makes me nervous. The Doctor gets in all those boyfriend jokes with Rose, while Adam insists, "You'd rather be with him. It's gonna take a better man than me to get between you two" before sending Rose off with the Doctor while he goes to get brain surgery. (And, I mean, obviously most men would be an improvement on Adam this week, even Mickey who was afraid of time-and-space travel.) I don't want the Doctor to die or turn into someone else or whatever happens to get Tennant in the role!
Here, as above, you can see some of the gardens and buildings in the background. The top photo includes part of the mansion.
A chicken and a pig. There were also a rabbit, a swan and what appeared to be a Hindu goddess coming out of a cabbage.
The tureen in the front is based on a wooden-hulled battleship.