The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Monday

On My First Son
By Ben Jonson

Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy;
  My sin was too much hope of thee, loved boy.
Seven years thou wert lent to me, and I thee pay,
  Exacted by thy fate, on the just day.
O, could I lose all father, now! For why
  Will man lament the state he should envy,
To have so soon 'scaped world's and flesh's rage,
  And, if no other misery, yet age!
Rest in soft peace; and, asked, say: Here doth lie
  Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry --
For whose sake, henceforth, all his vows be such,
  As what he loves may never like too much.


The above poem is "possibly the most moving use of a poet's own name in English poetry," writes Robert Pinsky in Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World. One's own name, he notes, "is so loaded with associations that it cannot be heard objectively. Jonson seems to associate his name with temporal and personal things: his work and reputation as a poet, even his role as father and his pleasure in the child -- all the personal attachments he vows to rise above, for some superior but unattained, impersonal form of love."

Warm, wet weather kept us indoors for most of the day, so we went to see National Treasure: Book of Secrets. The number of plot holes in this film exceeds even the number of holes in that ship under the ice that got blown up at the beginning of the first National Treasure, but did I care? The only thing that bothered me is that in all the times I've been at the University of Maryland, I never once saw Helen Mirren there teaching Pre-Columbian history, and believe me I would have gotten a PhD in the field if she had been. (I did teach a class in McKeldin Library, which can be seen in the film!) As Disney family values films go, I liked this one much better than Enchanted, despite the lack of music; it has a lot of the same paternalistic glorification but the women are grownups with their own jobs and lives, who are impressed by men who are smart rather than charming. And there are no cliched villains either in terms of the story or in terms of American history, unless that archetypal villain of history John Wilkes Booth counts.

I was never much of a Nicolas Cage fan -- okay, I really disliked some of his movies/performances -- but I loved him in the first movie, though I thought it might be proximity to Sean Bean. Proximity to Ed Harris has never been a turn-on for me, though, and I loved Cage in the sequel, thought he had better chemistry with Diane Kruger this time out and loved his scenes with Mirren, who looked like she was having a great time. Plus, you know, how much am I going to dislike a movie that goes from Paris to London to DC (which has looked really good in both these films) to Mount Rushmore? I'm completely lost on how a Spanish slave in Florida wound up discovering a Native American city of gold in the Black Hills, not to mention how come the Native American underground treasure trove architects appear to be the same people who worked for the Templars during the last film, but who cares -- I'd rather believe in that than the Disney Beauty & the Beast formula.

Although, as is always the case in Disney movies, Native Americans and their historical culture get totally ignored (Pocahontas is probably more accurate), I liked that neither the people of the Confederacy nor the man descended from a Southern general were portrayed as entirely villainous. It's always the moral of treasure hunt movies that people who want treasure out of greed for money or power are wicked -- look at Indiana Jones vs. his adversaries -- but Gates seems convinced that Wilkinson wants the treasure to bring glory to his own family just as much as Gates wants it to clear his great-grandfather's name. (It cracks me up that Queen Victoria must be characterized as an adversary of Abraham Lincoln to justify breaking into Buckingham Palace and stealing from the current Queen's desk!) And I love that the Yale-educated US president is such a history geek that he leaves his own birthday party to explore George Washington's secret tunnels at Mount Vernon. If there was a secret book of presidential secrets, Bush wouldn't be able to understand it.

The Church of Latter-Day Saints' Washington, DC temple surrounded by its Festival of Lights display.

The temple itself is closed to non-Mormon visitors. This is the outside of the public visitors center...

...where, inside, two women perform on the harp beside one of the many Christmas trees.

There are also nativity scenes from all over the world. This one is from the Ukraine.

Outside is a live nativity scene outdoors next to the visitors center.

Around the front, the gardens have lots of flowers. At this time of year they're all made of lights.

Pretty much every tree even in the parking lot is covered in lights.

It's very pretty and doesn't cost anything, unlike any comparable local light display, though those are far more secular.

The evening activity has been watching the Redskins take a big lead over the Vikings and then look for ways to squander it (with occasional visits outside to look at the moon and Mars, which are very close to one another, through our little telescope). I have noticed that the Redskins play much better when I am not paying any attention, so I did some writing and some reading to avoid watching too closely. Oh, in case any Doctor Who fans reading this don't already know, The Daily Telegraph published an illustrated Tenth Doctor Christmas story by series writer Paul Cornell -- it's here!

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