Monday, May 31, 2010

A good year for roses

... and other pretty, growing things.

Cranesbill, Asiatic lilies, and daisies in the background

Currently reading About Orchids: A Chat, by Frederick Boyle (1893), found at Project Gutenberg. He assures the reader how easy all those Odontoglossums and Cattleyas are to grow ....

Sunday, May 30, 2010

It's hate

So, now "we," the U.S.A., have decided to support a United Nations resolution demanding that there be a nuclear-weapons free Middle East -- how sweet -- and that Israel specifically should open up whatever facilities it has for inspection. No mention of Iran, which is thiscloseandgettingcloser to a nuclear bomb which it has in turn promised to use against Israel. All this, by the by, just before a meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. I guess maybe this time Netanyahu will get something to eat, and not be left alone to cool his heels in the White House while his host goes off and has dinner with his family.

All the smart people who write politics are working, right this minute, on proper, cool, yet properly anguished and deeply intellectual responses to this up-ending of a decades-old friendly American policy toward Israel. They'll have their articles up by tomorrow morning. I can save them a lot of trouble, and assure them the day is coming when they will have to simply admit: Barack Obama may not be a good old fashioned anti-Semite. After all, it seems he can put up with Rahm Emmanuel without throwing up in his mouth. But he is a good old left-wing American academic who loathes Israel and could very calmly see ... well. Let's just say the day is coming when an event will occur that will force the commentators to say: he's not naive. He's not inexperienced. He's not puzzlingly or foolishly fixated on a post-modern world where ideologies, like those of the mullahs eager to bring the Mahdi back via bombs on Tel Aviv, don't or shouldn't matter. I would venture to say, he's not even really "young."

He's a hater. Yes, maybe U.N. resolutions are toothless in themselves, and maybe there is some kind of pathetic comfort in that. But Obama has opted to change this one piece of American foreign policy specifically because he hates. I daresay in this case there is something personal in it. Benjamin Netanyahu has what Barack Obama doesn't have -- a biography. Good luck persuading him, in deeply intellectual and anguished tones, back from where he is and delights to be. Then again, maybe they won't bother trying. Maybe this is the event.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Today's garden

Monday, May 24, 2010

Rain, bugs, moon

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Friday, May 21, 2010

Where is "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day"?

I only learned about yesterday's being "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" on Facebook, just in time for Facebook to shut down the page. Once again, as with South Park, as with Yale University, as with the Metropolitan Museum of Art canceling an exhibit, as with all the newspapers in America that refused to publish "the Danish cartoons" -- once again, our elites capitulate to sharia on our behalf.

Facebook's "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" page was put up in a burst of enthusiasm by an artist named Molly Norris on April 20 of this year, partly in reaction to Comedy Central's censoring of the South Park episode in which, no, it seems Mohammed was not depicted in a bear suit. A character in a bear suit was referred to as Mohammed. Norris suggested May 20 -- yesterday -- should be the day that everybody draw something similarly idiotically random, like a teacup or a spool of thread, and call it "Mohammed." It was all about the fight for free speech. Her own cartoon, below, is excellent.

Image from wikipedia.

Her idea took off, the Facebook page grew, prominent bloggers and news sources approved of it, anti-"Draw Mohammed" Facebook pages started up and of course gained followers, and she got scared and backed off. Understandable, but very regrettable. Her original thought, a mere month ago, was that if millions of free people do this, Muslim terrorists won't be able to kill every one. Noble and rational -- until you get famous and it occurs to you that they may nevertheless be able to kill you. Also, her intention, which on second thoughts all good Westerners repeat endlessly, was "NEVER" to disrespect religion. The extensive Wikipedia article about her quotes her own website in late April:

"This was always a drawing about rights, never MEANT to disrespect religion. Alas -- if we don't have rights, we will not be able to practice the religion of our choice. [...] None of these little characters ARE the likeness of Mohammed, they are just CLAIMING to be!

"I, the cartoonist, NEVER launched a draw Mohammed day. It is, in this FICTIONAL poster sponsored by this FICTIONAL GROUP," [referring to the 'Citizens Against Citizens Against Humor' wording in the cartoon]. "SATIRE about a CURRENT EVENT, people!!!"

Well, maybe. If she never launched "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day," if it was only a one-time phrase in a single cartoon's fantasy world, then why go to Facebook with it?

If the breath of Muslim supremacist terror, the breath of thirteen hundred years of sharia -- which lays down among other things that no, we can't choose our religion, and it is forbidden to criticize Islam -- can reach a lone Seattle cartoonist who was trying to do the right thing by free speech given the fate of people like Theo van Gogh, then we can begin to understand what courage it takes for artists, writers, and politicians to do the right thing who are far more in harm's way. Who are living in Muslim-dominated Europe, for example, and need security guards around them in order to give a classroom lecture on free speech. A Muslim killed Theo van Gogh. Nobody to my knowledge so much as threatened Molly Norris. It was just the idea -- and a very vivid one it is.

Not being a cartoonist, I have no drawing to offer as representing Mohammed. Although, given the point of the joke, any one would do. I'm more interested in literary images. Consider this, from Dante's Inferno, Canto XXVIII, on the Sowers of Discord in the eighth circle of hell:

A wine tun when a stave or cant bar starts
does not split open as wide as one I saw
split from his chin to the mouth with which man farts.

Between his legs all of his red guts hung
with the heart, the lungs, the liver, the gall bladder,
and the shriveled sac that passes shit to the bung.

I stood and stared at him from the stone shelf;
he noticed me and opening his own breast
with both hands cried, "See how I rip myself!

See how Mahomet's mangled and split open!
Ahead of me walks Ali in his tears,
his head cleft from the top-knot to the chin.

And all the other souls that bleed and mourn
along this ditch were sowers of scandal and schism;
as they tore others apart, so are they torn ...."

Translation by John Ciardi, 1954. The poem itself was written in the early 1300s. Seven hundred years before the Danish cartoons, why on earth would Dante have done this? Just a bigot? Or did he know something?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Glories of May

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Are you ready to write your congressman about this?

Mark Steyn writes, on National Review online:

Last week, the American Association of Pediatricians noted that certain, ahem, “immigrant communities” were shipping their daughters overseas to undergo “female genital mutilation.” So, in a spirit of multicultural compromise, they decided to amend their previous opposition to the practice: They’re not (for the moment) advocating full-scale clitoridectomies, but they are suggesting federal and state laws be changed to permit them to give a “ritual nick” to young girls.

Allahu akbar.

Pearls and Roses, Chapter 16

Pearls and Roses, Chapter 15

She got into the city archives not through explaining her assignment, nor through some preordained magic in her employer’s name, but by mentioning Trish Markham. “Oh yes!” a chic blonde woman exclaimed, “she called yesterday afternoon about someone’s coming down. I will help you,” and she led Alice along the corridors and into a beautiful little wood-paneled room, filled with sunlight, that smelled almost frighteningly of must and history, and ancient days when people could be killed for believing the wrong things. What a dumb thought. Though not so very ancient days, actually. So this was Europe.

The woman laid out an old folio volume on a table, and handed her a pair of white gloves. “Careful,” she said, and then left. Alice felt foolish. This could not be too valuable, if the lady left it with her, gloves or not. It must be all right to touch it, to open it. Obviously she was not doing any original research. How many tourists and how many film crews came to romantic rural France every year and asked for information on the same things, were shown the same things, were given appointments to be told the same things? She felt more as if she were renewing a driver’s license than hearing old whispers form a subtler, prouder, more interesting and frightening world.

She put on the gloves and reached out to touch the volume, feeling a little dizzy. She wondered where the really valuable things were, and who got to look at them. What more should she ask to see? Was this it? What if she reported back to Trish that she had found enough “visuals” to film, and it turned out that she had missed the most important documents in Chinon’s archives, documents that everybody else knew about? Suppose by her ignorance and oversights she lost them the Peabody they all so wanted? This was why Mr. Boyd said they should only film American projects, she fumed. If she was sitting in an American town’s archives right now she would know what to ask and how to behave. Here she was at the mercy of a nice foreign woman who knew her language while she knew nothing at all. It took very little to turn Alice morbid, bitter. Or was that a recent development?

She opened the old volume and found herself, with the passing of another minute, absorbed, obliterated. There was square, hooked writing – what, French or Latin, she could not tell – and a few cartoons that someone centuries ago appeared to have doodled in the margins. Who was this, and how did he dare? Another meandering soul, like herself. There were beautifully decorated capital letters on every page. There were ladies in wimples, looking as they always used to look, drawn there, and there living, forever. How could the artist have imagined that fashion would ever change? And there were the drawings of animals, so odd, all looking the same, pigs and horses and dragons all equally long-snouted below wide human eyes.

She crossed her legs, swinging one ankle past the other. When she turned each page it made a thick crackling sound. Lists and lists in a square hooked hand fell beneath her eye. A shaft of sunlight came in the window of the room, lighting up the contrast between her reddish hair and her purple knit dress. The morning ticked by. Already she had been there close to forty minutes.

Peter was padding down these halls he knew well when that movement, a swinging ankle in what was usually an empty room, caught his eye. He stopped, backed, and edged curiously to the door. Alice was completely oblivious of him and he was normally the most reticent of men. He could have stood there staring as long as he liked; he could have turned and walked on, and no one would have ever known. When she straightened up to turn a page, he thought he was about to be found out. He knocked on the doorjamb as if this was her room and walked one step in, saying “Pardon,” in case she was French.

She was not. “Oh! Hello.”

“Sorry. Did I startle you?”

“Oh, that’s all right. I think I’ve been forgotten.”

“By whom?”

“The nice lady who gave me this book.” She was in fact startled out of her wits and was already struggling to close the giant book. This man was evidently permitted to wander the place at will and she felt a fool. “I’m afraid I don’t know a thing about what belongs in archives. The nice lady who brought me here seems to have moved on to other things.”

“Can I help?”

“Do you work here?” she said and then wanted to die of embarrassment. What was this, a shopping mall?

“Sort of,” he smiled. “At least I’m here enough that they almost give me free run of the place. What are you researching?”

“I’m not sure. I mean I’d be embarrassed to tell you how little – “ she stopped stammering and laughed. “Visuals. I’m looking for pretty documents to take pictures of and put in a documentary film about this area.”

“I’m sorry you’ve been forgotten. Who was the lady who brought you here? Perhaps I can find her for you.”

“Oh no, don’t do that. Don’t bother her. Heaven knows I’m no scholar who has to see or do anything. I thought I would give her ten more minutes and then leave and get back to my real job. It’s just that I did get a little absorbed in this. It’s the oldest book I’ve ever seen, I know that.”

He cocked his head and looked over her shoulder. After some observation he said, “It’s a copy of the necrology from Fontevrault. Since eleven hundred and something. A list of deaths, in other words. Important ones.”

“Good Lord, you’re hired,” she exclaimed, and he laughed. “Can you read that?”

“I’ve been here before.”

“More than I can do.”

“And will that give you a nice visual?”

“Actually I think it will. How do you pronounce that name again? With an F?” He said it. “That’s why we’re here,” she nodded. “I’m with a film company that’s filming a restoration project on that abbey. We make documentaries and we always need visuals to fill up some time.”
Boyd, he thought, and remembered the afternoon in Texas years before, and the vanished Mrs. Nathan, and his phone conversation in the wee hours with Trish last summer. So they had arrived. “Visuals?”

“You know, outdoor shots during pieces of narration and that kind of thing. My boss asked me to come here and find what I could, documents or whatever.” She laughed. “I’m afraid we’re true barbarians. We don’t need to read them, just show them. My specific instructions were to find something pretty. Isn’t that awful?”

“Not at all,” he smiled. “And I’m sure Marguerite can help you find things with a bit more color, too.”

She thought she had bored him already and that he was on the point of taking his leave. “Really? But I’m surprised she even left me here with this. What’s to prevent me from being a thief or a psycho or something? Suppose I make off with this priceless document?”

He had turned aside a little and gazed down at her obliquely, in a pose like an old statue. “You’d be caught on that priceless video camera up there,” he nodded toward the little gray boxed eye up at the corner of the ceiling. “And then the flics would come running and there would be horrible sirens. And then your company would never set foot in France again. That’s just for a start.”

“Ah-hah,” she nodded, as if with a new respect for French ferocity. She sensed also that this was about the right time to ask him about his work, but for all her potty little lectures she had probably never asked an adult man a personal question in her life. She took their occasional compliments with enchanting modesty, but reciprocated nothing. Now was the time for something new. She took a breath. I’ll never see him again, she thought, and besides, he interrupted me.

“And what do you do?”

“Soils engineer. I serve on the commission that’s helping restore Fontevrault.”

“Oh.” Something about what he had just said seemed familiar, but she had gotten distracted looking at his face. “Then perhaps – “

Footsteps sounded outside. He glanced to the doorway. “I think your guardian angel has returned,” he said. He held out his hand and said goodbye. “Yes, I hope so,” she said foggily.

He nodded to Marguerite and departed. Alice bent earnestly over the other volume she brought in, looking at old medieval things in an even more respectful spirit than before.

She returned to the hotel in plenty of time – almost forgetting to give back the gloves; Marguerite had to remind her – for the staff meeting at one that afternoon, arranged to be held at a table in the hostellerie’s restaurant. Their jolly habits died very hard. Alice debated whether or not to point out that this was hardly proper use if the foundation’s money. She decided against it. Baby steps, she told herself. Be compassionate.

During lunch she was able to give a detailed review of all the visuals she had found in the city archives. The word ‘necrology’ came back to her and she used it without acknowledging where it came from or what it meant. Pat, Trish, and Mill were impressed. After they had heard each other out, they divvied up assignments for the afternoon. “Alice, could you handle a camera on your own?” Trish asked.

“Of course,” she answered. “What do you want me to do?”

“I talked to Peter Shepstone this morning, and he told me he’ll be at some meeting of the planning committee today at three-thirty. I thought if you could get some of that on film, maybe just a few minutes, it would serve for a voice-over later explaining what these people are doing and how it all starts. The drudgery of it, you know, decision-making, problems. Bureaucracy. The meeting will be at the city archives so you’ll already know where that is.”

“Okay, that’s easy enough. You know, I wonder if I ran into him today. At the archives. Some man came up to me and introduced himself – no, come to think of it, he didn’t – but he said he served on the commission about Fontevrault. I wonder if that was him.”

Trish kept her balance. “Oh. Really? What was he like?”

“Very nice. We hardly spoke five seconds.”

“English?” Mill asked.

“Yes ... yes.”

“Oh. Okay, well, it was probably him. Well, that does make your job easier,” Trish broke out her bell-like laugh. “I got permission for you to sit in on the committee’s meeting and very discreetly film what goes on, film everybody. Just be sure and get him on camera quite a bit. He told me he’ll be easy to spot because he’s usually the only one wearing interpreter’s headphones. He can’t speak French.”

“That’s weird,” Alice said. “He can certainly read it. He deciphered for me what I was looking at today. Unless that was Latin,” she added.

“It may be that understanding a language is not the same skill as reading it at your own pace,” Pat drawled, as usual hastening to declaim.

“That’s true,” Alice replied. She was too pleased with life to ruffle at Pat’s old habits.

Three-fifteen found her back at the archives, this time in a small lower-level room all paneled in rich dark wood, with a furnished gallery running all around the perimeter where spectators might look at whatever was happening about the plush seats and fine desks and little lamps a bit below them. She was permitted into the meeting room once again on the strength of Trish’s name and borrowed business card, and directed to an unobtrusive seat close to the railing. A group of about fifteen men sat in the small room. Quietly and slowly she unlatched her gear and laid her hands on her equipment. Too slowly, evidently, for without preliminaries, someone began to speak and she was hardly ready. She caught up her camera. For a moment she marveled inwardly at the memory of herself at nineteen, just applying for a job as a secretary at Monique-Boyd, not knowing a thing about it, only thankful to have gotten a job anywhere. Who would have thought where it would lead?

She scanned the room through her unblinking late-twentieth century eye, this medieval room full of people in tortures over a medieval structure and its medieval problems, but could not find Peter Shepstone – whoever he was. “They’ve all got nameplates,” Trish had said, “you can’t miss him. Look for those.” He’ll be the only one wearing headphones. Maybe Trish was wrong about that. She had never met him. Alice panned and panned, back and forth, wasting God knew how much film. She put the camera aside for a moment and looked with the naked eye, then put it back and used it as a kind of telescope. Maybe he was not there. Maybe she would not be able to remember his looks even from this morning – if that was even him – she thought she had behaved easily, but his sudden appearance was quite a shock. The more fool her. She was about to shut off when, inexplicably, he appeared under the camera’s glass as if under a microscope, in profile in a near seat, listening steadily from under heavy brows to the man talking. He was wearing small headphones. Yes, that was him. From the archives, the necrology this morning. Sweat misted her shoulder blades. He was the one who had called Trish from bed or something.

No wonder she had not recognized him. He looked utterly at work. He looked like a man who could command armies without ever thinking about a woman. He looked twenty years younger. She dwelt on his face long enough, she assured herself, to provide a visual for a long voice-over about his name and maybe his titles and career and who knew? Something personal. Was he married? Do married men normally introduce themselves to strange women in medieval cities’ record offices? She shut off the camera when she thought she had covered more than enough, not forgetting the elderly ordinary folk all around him, but sat through the rest of the meeting anyway, watching, packing, not understanding a word. When it was obviously breaking up, she left without speaking to him and returned to the hotel. That evening all the staff ate dinner very companionably, and laughed and compared notes, and went to bed early in preparation for a full day tomorrow.

Thank you for reading this far. If you care to finish the novel, you may go to the page "Pearls and Roses (the rest of it)." You'll find the link at the top right of the home page, along with the choices "Home" and "Slush." November 8, 2010.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pearls and Roses, chapter 15

Pearls and Roses, chapter 14

What a shame they could not afford the Concorde, Trish thought, as the plane raced down O’Hare’s runway and rumbled into the black December sky, on Sunday the 10th, carrying its freight of passengers and ten employees from Monique-Boyd, off to have a look at some crumbling medievalism. What a shame the Concorde did not fly from Chicago.

There was so much to think about. A business trip of even a week would terribly complicate her daughters’ Girl Scout troop schedule, not to mention volleyball practice and piano. She had had a go-round with Naperville’s village board secretary just last night on the telephone, but luckily they had patched things up this morning before she left. “Did you have a meltdown or something?” Grace asked, laughing, and Trish had laughed too and explained everything, and had been able to change the date of the mayor’s winter banquet so that the troop could serve as color guard after all. And then there was Dan, and the mortgage and the business, and her fortieth birthday coming up. Once again Dan had broached the subject of another baby. She had been sympathetic but non-committal, which she realized now was a mistake. Don’t string him along. Be honest. “The last thing I need right now ...” Somehow in the grand technological privacy of an airplane, she could look out at clouds and sky and decide what she needed. Now, or ever.

Pat relaxed in the seat beside her but for the moment she was silent, too, occupied with her own thoughts. Her husband wanted to adopt and the idea simply left her cold. Joe wanted a son. After much difficulty they had had their daughters, but now he was not satisfied. He wanted a “son,” and was willing to adopt somebody else’s to get one. Some of Pat’s friends had experience in the adoption field. Their stories made her shudder. Waiting and waiting for a baby, and the birth mother changing her mind at the last minute – sometimes the grandmother insisting she change her mind at the last minute – leaving a ridiculously decorated nursery empty, ready for a stranger, at the top of the stairs. Well of course the birth mother could change her mind, within a day or three days or a month. She was the real mother. She had given birth. Any pretense that adoption equated to parenthood was thus negated, legally, right at the start. Pat knew that prospective (“perspective,” Trish would have said, and Pat smiled) adoptive parents had to attend all sorts of seminars and workshops to be lectured on adoptive parenthood. “If you’re not ready to think totally of this child as your child, to be in love totally with this child, then you’re not ready to adopt.” And then you had your home inspected. Real parents were not subject to this. Real parents simply gave birth and went home, as she had already done. Pat was not at all sure she wanted to jump on this emotional roller-coaster. She hated duplicity, and she would not have officialdom bestowed on her from on high. She would not be sanctioned, she would not be told she measured up.

And there was Alice in seat 10J, thinking her own thoughts. She looked out at the American clouds, thinking that soon they would be Atlantic and then European clouds. French clouds.

The plane flew, over Newfoundland, over the ocean, into France. There was a short night inside the plane, and then that eerie aerial dawn, when you still wear yesterday morning’s clothes and still think in yesterday’s time. Alice and Pat and Trish thought, and chatted a little with the others, and ate a couple of the airplane meals. Tense, glint-eyed Denise drank vodka with hers – “Stoli, on the rocks,” she requested, and Alice who overheard her wondered what on earth Stoli was, while Pat also listening bristled at Denise’s assuming that the august and willowy French flight attendants would know such expressions. But they seemed to. The plane landed and taxied and everyone left, Alice dazed at the idea that this was actually Paris, or close to it. They found their bags just where the sign said ‘baggage,’ and then rented cars for the drive to the same adorable little hotel in Chinon where Peter Shepstone often stayed. Charlie drove one car and Mill the other; she had been to France before and in any case, feared absolutely nothing. Nothing bad ever happened to her. She was one of those people who flies cheerily and ignorantly through life, who never listens except when it suits her, and double-parks and advises everyone else to do the same, and then stands amazed when they get a ticket. “There are never any cops here, except maybe Tuesdays at around one. Oh! You went on Tuesday? Oh.” The world seemed to her full of churchmice. She found Chinon for them with only one hand on the wheel, all the while talking and laughing and saying, “Oh, do they drive on the right here? That’s easy. God, I’m toast. I could fall asleep right now.”

By the time they checked into the Hostellerie Gargantua, it was a Monday noon and Alice had had only surreal glimpses of this medieval town whose well, in the main square, happened still to be the very one at which Joan of Arc used to mount her horse. They were all famished and some of them, Mill and Denise especially, were already looking about for any signs of nightlife. They ate in the inn’s restaurant, and then almost all the others went out in search of the abbey, the archives, Dr. Spellman’s home, even though they had been up and travelling sine the previous, American morning twenty-four hours ago. Or was it thirty-six? Alice was too tired for that. She stayed behind in one of the rooms that first afternoon and night, as did Pat in another. Pat had brought some papers about adoption with her. Alice had brought her copy of the bylaws, squirreling it down among her clothes as if it were contraband, or a photograph of a forbidden lover. She caught up on some official bookkeeping and then ate some crackers and drank a coke and went to bed. The group out exploring returned at about midnight. She did not think she had been asleep but perhaps she was, for it seemed suddenly odd and rude that they did not lower their voices for her sake. Then it was quiet. She must have slept again. She woke the next morning to find that despite their late night, all three of her roommates were up already. It seemed they could control anything, even their own bodies.

Tuesday work began. Trish gave herself the assignment of interviewing Dr. Spellman. Pat was going with a small crew to film some sights around the town, Charlie and another crew planned to speak to the town fathers about the history of the abbey and its current problems. Out of the kindness of her heart, which was very real, Trish gave Alice an assignment which she knew would appeal to her and which she would have enjoyed herself: to go to the city’s archives and find some pretty manuscripts or other records which they could film, as background to voice-overs and music and the like. Alice, already feeling freakishly homesick, was happy with the assignment, and thanked Trish warmly. Perhaps this was the turning over of a new leaf. Maybe they were all quite decent people who would now get along and be good friends. Maybe that was why they had clashed – maybe they were too much alike. Why shouldn’t all this be the basis of a lovely friendship?

Alice who had once been an idiotically well-read pre-pubescent walked out into the delicious air, French air below the French clouds which had lain spread out at her feet only yesterday, or was it the day before yesterday, in that sleek, ordinary American plane. She walked over the cobblestones and below the shop signs and, blinking, tried to imagine medieval people tramping across these very streets in their dresses and hose and pointed shoes, or in their filthy plague-ridden rags, to be honest she supposed. It was such a freakish idea that her spirits alternately rose and fell and then seemed to leave her altogether, as if she had become another person. The first sight of, the first walk in a European town is like that. ...or who else had been here? Romans, of course, this town might have existed then, and so people might have come to market or to the temple here in their togas and drapery. Or even Greeks, now. That is what makes French history so wonderful, she thought, it begins even with the Greek traders who found their way here, founded Marseilles, didn’t they, and met Celts and Gauls and before anyone knew it, all the flamboyance and delicacy of French civilization was underway. How curiously unafraid she felt when she thought of it in those terms.

And how strange it all looked. It was a “perfectly preserved” medieval town, or so it appeared, no jarring McDonald’s anywhere, but it looked so quiet and freakish anyway. The people in modern clothes were both right and wrong. It was a living town. But would medieval people in their own proper clothes have looked so small? Even the buildings were, in a strange way, too small around the corners, the ground too close to her eyes, the sun too small and far away. We expect a historic place to be suffused with the light of history, the sun low down and comfortable as it is in story-book drawings, when in fact the place is just a place at the same latitude and longitude it ever was. We expect the storied clash of arms. In fact it just rains, or shines, and little European cars turn corners at stoplights as usual. To be whisked up in an airplane and transported across the ocean to a living town where, for most of history, the local people could never have dreamed such things, was an experience too bizarre to enjoy. Joan of Arc mounted her horse at that well, but Joan of Arc never knew America existed. Was that pleasing or unpleasing? Did it make the heroine seem more one’s possession, or less? She could not decide who seemed more real as a result, herself, or the grave shadows in long gowns and pointed shoes whom she tried very hard to fancy at every corner. And yet here were her roots, too, in a way, hers, Alice’s, the idiotically well-read. She was not French, alas, how nice it must be, but here was a place where the girls did once get married at seventeen, as she had. Here was a place where people joined orders, where a woman five hundred years ago was very likely a grandmother at thirty-five, as she might be too if Hunter and Catherine were not being careful.

Pearls and Roses, chapter 16

Saturday, May 8, 2010

I have the answer

Yes, I have the answer to everyone's health care problems -- insurance, "reform," Obamacare, you name it. I do believe it would make a great phone call to Rush Limbaugh's Open Line Friday, but alas and thank goodness, I have a job and I can't make phone calls during his airtime.

Every man must simply go, for his health care needs, to his local veterinarian. Animals and people can't be all that different physically, and think what will be obviated. Think of the health care you get for your cat or dog, successfully and unthinkingly. You go when your pet is sick or injured, you get him taken care of, you pay your bill, and that is all. No insurance, no co-pays, no nonsense about your employer somehow having to pay a share of it all beforehand. No mandated coverage for everybody's molting costs or nail trims or heartworm pills, therefore no mysteriously and constantly rising premiums. No liberals screaming about how American pets are "the sickest in the world," no gleefully contradictory and dutifully circulated myths about how uninsured cats and dogs have no access to care, but also overuse emergency rooms and so rack up charges that burden all the other cats and dogs. No panting (pardon the pun) after the wonderful health care system that French and Cuban pets enjoy.

Veterinarians who go into the business of treating people could make a killing at it. "Black market" doesn't begin to describe what could go on. I picture underground hospitals, massive complexes full of all the beeping machines and competent staff and blinking lights of a hospital, but hidden, speakeasy style, behind peephole doors behind secret entrances. That may be in our future anyway, but if vets are running the show they can at least hang out a shingle that looks like this -- and of course they could still see the other kind of animals, thus giving the whole thing the appearance of legality. Now that guv'mint is in charge, I look forward to accessing care as good as Martha's.