letters, Johnson & DeVos

Sep. 24th, 2017 08:25 am
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Dear Senator Johnson:

You have been saying terrible things about people with "pre-existing" conditions for all of 2017, comparing us to cars, saying that we should pay more for our healthcare, even though most "pre-existing" conditions are not caused by anything a person does or by bad choices they make. In fact, since pregnancy is a "pre-existing condition," you are actively punishing people for having families--which seems to run counter to the agenda the Republican Party has been pushing for years The Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson proposal, which callously strips all protections from people like me (and which makes it entirely possible that a premature baby will hit his or her lifetime cap before leaving the hospital for the first time), makes it clear that in fact you have no idea of what it's like not to be able to afford healthcare, or to have a chronic, incurable condition, and that you don't even have enough imagination to be able to empathize with the people whose lives you are destroying.

Moreover, given that there is astonishing unity among healthcare professionals, patients' interest groups, and major insurers (plus all fifty Medicaid administrators and a current count of eighteen governors), it is quite clear that you aren't doing this because it's a good idea. You don't care whether it will be good or bad for your constituents. All you care about--and more than one of your Republican colleagues have admitted as much--is repealing "Obamacare." You're doing this because you made a campaign promise, and you're too blindly self-centered to see that this is a promise that would be better honored in the breach than in the observance. You and your colleagues are behaving childishly, destroying something only because you hate the person who built it. The ACA is not failing, as you keep claiming it is, Senator. It is suffering mightily from obstructionism and deliberate sabotage from you and your colleagues, and, yes, it does need reform. But your proposal isn't reform. It's wanton demolition of legislation that is working, legislation that is succeeding in making the lives of Americans better, demolition which you are pushing without the slightest consideration of its effects on the people you claim you serve.

I'm not writing this letter because I expect you will change your mind--or, frankly, even read it. I'm writing this letter because I'm angry and scared and unbelievably frustrated with your deliberately cruel and blindly stupid determination to do something that no one in this country wants. You won't change your mind, but you can't say you didn't know there was opposition.

P.S. I'd still really like to see you denounce white supremacism, Senator. Because right now, I unwillingly believe you don't think there's anything wrong with it.

***

Dear Ms. DeVos:

I am appalled at your decision to roll back the protections given to sexual assault survivors by Title IX. I'm not surprised, because it's perfectly in line with the other cruel, short-sighted, and bigoted decisions you've made since being appointed Secretary of Education, but I honestly wonder (and I wonder this about a number of Trump appointees, so you needn't think you're alone) how you live with yourself. How do you justify, even if only to yourself, the damage you're doing? Do you believe the lies you tell?

I'm not going to quote statistics, because I'm sure they've been shown to you. I'm not going to try to change your mind with personal stories. I am going to ask, futilely, that you stop and truly think about the young women whose college careers, already catastrophically imperiled by the sexual assault they have survived, may be destroyed because of the policies you're implementing. And I'm going to ask how on earth you think this destruction is part of your mandate as Secretary of Education?

Everyone's civil rights need to be respected. I believe this strongly enough to belong to the ACLU. But victims' rights are historically ignored, trampled on, and outright broken, especially in cases of sexual assault, especially when the perpetrator is white and male. I also strongly believe that the purpose of government should be to ensure that privilege is not used to skew justice. It was already crushingly difficult for sexual assault survivors to report their assailants. You have made it that much harder, and that much more likely that they will simply remain silent. I cannot help thinking that that silence is your goal, and that, Ms. DeVos, is truly shameful.

Interesting Links for 24-09-2017

Sep. 24th, 2017 12:00 pm
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Sandy stroked the lovely back at present turned towards him, body out-flung in relaxation after pleasurable exertions. If Geoff was dog-like, Maurice Allard was more like a cat, and he never knew whether the claws would be out or whether it would be curling up and purring.

Maurice rolled over and looked at him. Is it not time you were leaving?

What, have I over-stayed my welcome?

Maurice glowered. All I may offer now is my company: even if you are not, I am by now entire done.

I am wont to consider myself a somewhat prickly fellow: but you are entire porcupine. Am I supposed to hurry into my clothes and pretend this did not happen?

Maurice sat up and clasped his arms around his knees. Why, are fellows enough will try to pretend 'tis not happening even when 'tis.

That cannot conduce to much felicity in the act. But might I not enjoy your company?

Maurice looked at him in astonishment. How could you so?

Why not?

Oh come, here you are a fellow of learning, that Chumbell will admit even did you never attend Oxford, and very widely accepted in Society, how could you find my company agreeable?

My dearest friend is a former courtesan that had no education but what she gleaned as a child of the theatre, and is quite the wisest person of either sex that I know. You are a fellow that appears entire accepted and respected at the club –

Maurice snorted. I first entered the club by that discreet back door that admits young fellows that will oblige members for a guinea or so –

Also, while I daresay ladies will go cry up your eye for style and fashion, 'tis also given out that you are a fine businessman, that you manage your money very prudent, have sound investments

How do you know all this?

Sandy sat up. Because, my dear fellow, I had your relatives coming to me, one by one, to inform me that indeed you were not one to fall into hysterical panic, that were you worried about some matter to do with your establishment there was surely something behind even did you not see clearly what it was, that I should not be put off by your manner, that is entire what is expected in your profession, that you have quite made something of yourself -

Maurice groaned.

My dear, said Sandy, taking him by the shoulders, I fancy that you will feel a deal better once you have dined – is there anywhere nearby we might go do so?

You cannot wish to be seen dining with me! He threw himself off the bed and began looking for the clothes he had quite recklessly discarded.

Do you suppose that must be quite obvious that we have been about committing a capital offence, do we go dine?

Why else would you be in my company?

I might wish to give Lady Bexbury some present – say a fine fan, or a decoration for her hair, or a bracelet – and wish to be assured that 'twill sort with her wardrobe; I might be going to write some piece in a newspaper or even a pamphlet, upon the business of fashion and the sufferings of needlewomen; or, since 'tis given out that I am very clandestine and under a false name a writer of novels, seeking information for some fine tale of the silver fork school now that the Gothic strain is no longer in fashion.

Maurice stared at him.

Sandy slid off the bed and began to gather up his own scattered garments and to remember where he had left his spectacles. He observed Maurice moving about the room and was reminded of Josh Ferraby describing a panther: Josh was wont to enact whatever animal he was talking of, in private conversation, if not when he addressed scientific meetings. Undoubtedly something feline.

Well, said Maurice, when they were both dressed, do you care to dine at a common chop-house there is one in the next street.

So they went around the corner and into the next street and found a comfortable booth in the chop-house and ordered beef-steak and ale, and while it might not be as finely-cooked as anything that came out of Euphemia’s kitchen, it was perfectly wholesome and very welcome. Even did they sit in entire silence.

Eventually, when hunger was satiated, Sandy pushed away his plate and said, why do you stare so at me?

Maurice shook his head. You – surprize me. He fell silent again.

Indeed, said Sandy, in order to do something that looked like making conversation, I fancy that 'twould be a pretty gesture to buy some present for Clorinda that would be somewhat unexpected. Sure I have given her a deal of books over the years –

Jade bracelet, said Maurice. She lately saw some lady wearing one and wondered would it suit her.

I have no experience whatsoever in buying jewellery for ladies –

Say you so! (Well, that had evoked a smile.) I have a fair notion of the kind of thing she meant, and know where I may acquire one: I am also well-acquainted with the dimensions of Her Ladyship’s wrist. I will be about the matter and send it to you.

Or, said Sandy, I might come and collect it.

So you might, had you no more pressing business.

They looked at one another. 'Tis exceeding good of you to take the trouble, said Sandy.

Sure I owe you some favour.

They fell silent again, drank up their ale, and left. The rain had stopped. I can walk from here, said Sandy. Shall, I daresay, see you at the club if not before.

Maurice nodded and turned in the other direction.

Sandy shrugged mentally, and walked off towards Clorinda’s house.

Where he found her, seated at her desk and scribbling away with great ardour.

My dear, surely you have not been all this while at that immense bore Linsleigh’s party for his painting, that I daresay includes a deal of fellows in dishabille.

No, had opportunity to pursue this investigation –

That minds me, I am a sad forgetful Clorinda when I have been burying myself with abbots and monks and priors &C – came a note for you from Geoffrey Merrett, the boy was hoping for a reply but we sent him away. But do you write a reply, we might send William.

Sandy looked up from the note. He writes that something very troubling has occurred and would desire dine with me at his club at my earliest convenience. But I think we may spare William until the morn: I will write something now and he can take it then.

Clorinda got up from the desk and waved him towards it. Be about the matter and we can give it to Hector. Sure I hope 'tis not that he has got the lady with child. And, now I am come back from the Middle Ages, I mind that there was another troubling matter I wished open to you.

After the note had been given to Hector with instruction that he need not dispatch it immediately, and he had brought in port and madeira, Clorinda pushed the book in which she had been writing into a drawer of the desk and went to sit down by the fire.

May be nothing at all, she said, but Lucy Lowndes came call, saying that she had been to call upon Gretchen Paffenrath, and found her in a very great taking, saying that she thinks she saw her husband lately while she was shopping in Oxford Street. But did not want to go too close and did not get a clear view, but ‘twas very like indeed.

Hmm, said Sandy, I am surprized that he did not immediately go call upon her.

He may not know that she was left so very well-provided by Mr Knowles: oh! I hope he tied up any settlement carefully against any claim by that dreadful fellow.

I fancy Sebastian Knowles might know somewhat of the matter: I will go call upon him as soon as maybe.

Sandy suddenly sneezed.

My dear! I hope you do not go take a chill. You had better go to bed at once, I will send Prue up with a warming pan.

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Posted by Jill Zeller

It all started with Aubrey Beardsley, (1872 – 1898, England) in early studies when I thought I wanted to be an artist. Pen and ink drawings were my oeuvre, so to speak. So, I endeavored to copy him—below (his, not mine) was my favorite accomplishment. The Narnia illustrations by Pauline Baynes seemed to reek of Beardsley, to my un-studied eyes.

Edmunc Dulac was born in 1882, in France. (d. 1953) His elaborate, colorful, dreamy paintings decorated the published tales of Hans Christian Anderson, Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat, and The Comedy of the Tempest by William Shakespeare.

Another Englishman, Arthur Rackham, (1867 – 1939) is best known for his fairy tale work, however he also illustrated The Tempest.

Born in 1870, in Philadelphia, an American broke into this esteemed clan of illustrators. Maxfield Parrish (d 1966) illustrated numerous books and magazine ads, and designed for Tiffany. One of his most well-known images was painted for a lamp company. One of his designs for a chocolate box was based on the Rubaiyat.

All of this male talent makes me wonder where the women were. Chicago-born Margaret Brundage (1900 – 1976) comes to mind, with her title “Queen of the Pulps”. In the 1930s she produced beautiful and of course, highly-sexualized illustrations for Weird Tales.

In researching tarot decks, I came across Pamela Coleman Smith (1878 – 1951), who not only illustrated the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot, but many books and magazines and produced 100s of images.

These two very talented female artists are, I am sure, only a tiny fraction of female illustrators working at the turn of the last century and beyond. My own lack of knowledge was partly from ignorance but also partly from the lack of female representation (except as subjects) in the reference books I had at the time. Beatrix Potter, Jesse Wilcox Smith, and many more appear in my research.

Who can name others for me? Women who drew for money, and preferably, for other than children’s stories?

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Posted by Brenda Clough

by Brenda W. Clough

 Ah, the medieval villages of France! We are staying in Severac-le-Chateau, in the central Averyon district on the central massif. It is almost unbelievably picturesque — the only American equivalent may be found (I regret to say) at Disney World. Behold, the portcullis over the portal in the ancient walls — we are staying in a gite (a modestly-price hostel) just around the corner inside this gate.

 We have a front terrace, and here is a view from it. The other photo is of my husband opening the door into our impossibly period suite. Many steep crazy steps, nothing is square or on the level, and some of the windows let into the eighteen-inch thick stone walls are but a foot square. I will see if I can get enough daylight to take a picture of the steps, which are original to the building and surely over 500 years old. But there is the WiFi of the gods, and a bathroom that could have been designed in Switzerland yesterday. Also a wood stove! Which (it is late September) we will need tonight. It’s not going to freeze but it’ll get pretty chilly.

It is rural here, nothing like the big cities. We are so high up it is utterly quiet. A few cars can trundle through these streets (believe it or not they can get through that gate — French cars have a button so that you can flip your side mirrors in, to squeeze through tight places) but there is no traffic really. And the main tourist season is over. It is (except for that magnificent shower) almost like it was in the 1400s. Well, and the WiFi.

 

 

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Sunday Secrets

Sep. 23rd, 2017 10:46 pm
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Posted by Frank

        

Dear Frank-
Years ago I started writing notes and putting them in random places like behind paintings in hotels, between the pages at book stores and in Sky Mall Magazines on airplanes. While browsing through a PostSecret book, I found one of my notes. That small ripped piece of paper is featured above. I attended your event last week at CMU. I’m thankful for your ability to speak to people in their broken places.
-JM

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I've been paying attention to the many attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)* and what's been really obvious in the last year is that the Republican majority don't actually want to repeal it.

There seem to be three different groups:
1) Republican Senators who can see that Obamacare is actually about as right-wing a way to have universal healthcare as you can get**, and don't actually want to get rid of it.
2) Republican Senators who may or may not be in favour of Obamacare, but can see that their constituents are now attached to their healthcare, will be furious if they lose it, and only have a slim majority which they are terrified of losing at the next election.
3) Republican Senators who really are against Obamacare.

The problem here is that all three groups need to pretend that they're in category (3), because they've spent the last decade telling their supporters how terrible Obamacare is, to the point where there are voters who support all of the individual parts of the bill, and even the "Affordable Care Act" but will be will be against Obamacare.

And the longer the ACA exists, and the more that voters understand about it (as is happening the more Republicans talk about it) the more popular it gets. To the point where a majority of the public are now in favour of it***. But the Republican Party now has a central point of belief that "Obamacare is bad".

Which means that in order to be against it, but not actually remove it, we're left with a few Republican Senators taking it in turns to vote against repeal, on various largely spurious grounds. Being very careful to say "Oh no, I hate Obamacare as much as the next person. But I can't vote to repeal it this time, because of a minor provision. Maybe next time." - and then the next time a _different_ Republican Senator can do exactly the same thing.

None of which means that Obamacare is safe. It's balanced on a bunch of senators believing that if they repeal it they'll lose their jobs. So every time a repeal bill is put forward they have to be persuaded _again_ that the public still cares. And I am very grateful for my US friends who are involved in getting people to phone their representatives every time it comes up.

But I am moderately hopeful that we'll make it through to the mid-terms without it being repealed. Because I don't think that a majority of the senate actually wants it to be.****


*There were over 50 of these between 2011 and 2014, goodness knows how many we're up to now
**Not surprising, as it's very similar to RomneyCare.
***But only 17% of registered Republicans. It's the swing voters who have moved.
****But don't trust me. This is just my impression from what I've read from, frankly, a long way away.

Review: A Crime to Remember

Sep. 23rd, 2017 08:46 am
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Not about books, but definitely a review.

Hulu has episodes from 3 seasons of A Crime to Remember, which is an Investigation Discovery show. In my ongoing love/hate relationship with true crime media, ID stands out for their high production values and for about as unexploitative an attitude as you can have. (I wonder, perhaps unworthily, if part of what makes ACtR seem thoughtful rather than vulture-like is that the executive producer and a bunch of the writers & directors are women.) I have also been very fond of Homicide Hunter, partly because the show does not try to sugarcoat Lt. Joe Kenda at all. He's very good at his job, and he is a ruthless avenging angel, but he is not a nice man. I kind of adore him. (I'm pretty sure he'd hate me, but that's okay.)

But ACtR. All the episodes are period pieces. (I joked to my therapist that they must have come up with the idea because they wanted everyone to be able to smoke on camera.) I'm not super fond of the gimmick, in which every episode has a narrator who is a minor fictional character in the real crime being portrayed, but most of the time it works okay. (It works extremely well--give credit where it's due--in "The 28th Floor" (2.4).) The actors--"character" actors all--are excellent, and most of the time they even get the accents matched up to the region. (There are exceptions.) And the producers have interview clips with true crime writers who have written about the cases; with people who investigated the cases (when those people are still alive); with Mary Ellen O'Toole and other experts in various fields; with friends and family of murderers and victims alike. They frequently featured Michelle MacNamara before her death in April 2016--pretty obviously because she was very good at conveying information clearly but without sounding scripted. And, again, because they seem to look for women. They also have gotten Catherine Pelonero more than once. (I actually haven't been able to bring myself to watch the episode about Kitty Genovese, but Pelonero does a great job in the other episodes I have watched her in.)

My true, serious beef with ACtR is its insistent trope of the loss of American innocence. Almost every case is framed as something that destroyed a piece of American innocence, and this is infuriating to me for several reasons:

1. America has never been innocent.

2. The idea of the Golden Age, the before time just out of reach in which everything was perfect, is a very, very old fallacy. (The Romans were all over it.) I think it is pernicious, because it validates reactionary attempts to return to "the good old days," which are "good" (in 20th century America) only if you are white, middle-class or above, and it helps if you're male. ACtR does deal with racism, sexism, and classism, but it doesn't seem to recognize the contradictory position it puts itself in thereby.

3. Casting these crimes as destroyers of American innocence erases crimes that went before. I can give one very specific example: "Baby Come Home" (2.8) about the 1953 kidnapping and murder of Bobby Greenlease, who was murdered before his kidnappers ever tried to extort ransom from his parents. Now I am not at all denying that what happened to Bobby Greenlease is vile and horrible and an expression of the worst part of human nature, but claiming that Carl Austin Hall and Bonnie Heady somehow invented kidnapping children for ransom--or even just the worst and most cruel of bad faith negotiations after the child was already dead--erases what happened to, for one example, Charles Lindbergh, Jr. Or, for another example, Charley Ross. If there was any innocence to be lost in this particular genre of crime, it was lost in 1874, 79 years before Bobby Greenlease's death.

So, yeah. That's the one thing that I really think they get wrong. Otherwise, they do a lovely job, and they have taught me about murders I'd never heard of but I think should not be forgotten: the terrible deaths of Judge Curtis Chillingworth and his wife Marjorie in West Palm Beach in 1955; Charles Whitman's sniper assault on the students, faculty, and staff of the University of Texas in 1966 (which I knew about, but knew kind of wrongly); the bizarre murder of Betty Williams in Odessa, Texas, in 1961; the murder of Veronica Gedeon in New York in 1937, and how the case was largely solved by the editors of the true crime magazines she was a cover model for; the murder of Roseann Quinn in New York in 1973, which was the inspiration for Looking for Mr. Goodbar, and I deeply appreciate the way ACtR questions the LfMG myth and suggests that Theresa Dunn is a cruel travesty of the real Roseann Quinn and the reality of her death. If you are interested in criminology or American history (because nothing tells you more about a culture than its cause celebre murders), I commend this series to your attention.

The World of Robin Hood at Age Eleven

Sep. 23rd, 2017 05:27 am
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Sometimes I really need to escape from the news, which seems more horrific every day. And my escape needs a dose of blithe fun.

So I trundle out photocopies of student papers, missing chapters from Robin Hood, as gleefully penned by eleven year olds.
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Maurice was in some puzzlement as to how, having courteously regretted he could not receive Lady Trembourne back into his establishment, he might bring her back without having to humble himself and ask her. The solution to the problem was, fortunately, put into his hands by her sister-in-law.

The Countess of Pockinford was a long-cherished patron: still a pretty little dumpling after a fruitful marriage bearing a fine thriving family. Alas, she still posed the problem of how to dress her in the crack of style without offending the Earl’s Evangelical strictures upon the necessity for womanly modesty in dress – that meant that she was more modestly dressed even than her sister, a clergyman’s wife: but the Reverend Mr Lucas did not think that a low-cut neckline in keeping with the dictates of fashion was the debauchery that led to the fall of the Roman Empire. But Maurice contrived, and no-one considered the Countess a dowd.

Maurice was busy about checking that her measurements were still the same when she said, nervously, O, Maurice, I know you must have a deal on hand, so many clients and coming up so near to the Season, but Lady Trembourne has been in a most exceeding taking over the shocking business with Madame Francine.

Oh?

Could you fit her – o, and Lady Sarah – I should be most exceeding grateful.

Well – Maurice began, and saw the famed trembling of the Countess’s lower lip and the air of impending tearfulness, that could cause the most disagreeable of ladies in the philanthropic set – if not her sister-in-law – to fall in with her wishes. Do you ask it, Lady Pockinford, I will see can I make a little time when I might undertake the two of 'em. I daresay I shall be able to find enough hands - sure the seamstresses at Madame Francine’s found themselves cast out and, I hear, wages unpaid.

O, 'tis quite shocking! cried Lady Pockinford. Is not the lot of a seamstress hard enough already? Lady Bexbury and I were discussing the matter only lately. I am sure you treat your needlewomen well, but I daresay that you are obliged to turn the majority of them off for a good part of the year?

Indeed 'tis so – worked to rags during the Season, alas, and then having to make do on piece-work at home –

Or indeed, said Lady Pockinford, falling into vice.

So 'tis given out. If you would just turn around a little and raise your arms?

So we are thinking about a plan, for there is a matter about making clothes for the orphans, and ladies say, would it not be a fine thing to have a working-party? but then there is ever some reason why they may not come work, and Lady Bexbury said, sure there are women that need such employment, did we get up a fund for a work-room, where they might come and be in good conditions and be paid, and mayhap get a meal, and their moral character would be preserved –

Why, 'tis a most excellent plan, and I daresay Lady Bexbury is already about writing some pamphlet upon the matter, I will certainly take a few to lay about the receiving-room so that the ladies that come here may learn of this enterprize.

O, cried Lady Pockinford with her pretty dimpling smile, O, that is so very kind.

He smiled and shook his head after she had left. One would say she deserved better than a husband with such narrow views, but 'twas entirely known within Society that they doated upon one another.

He made the final notes for her gowns, including the need to make some alterations to her mannequin, tidied everything away, looked about the room, put on his hat and coat and picked up his cane, and with a slight sigh departed for Basil’s studio.

For Basil had been most pressing among their set for a party to come see the unveiling of his latest large painting – the Theban Band at the Battle of Chaeronea – and seemed in a somewhat touchy mood at present. Mayhap – if there was no re-opening of this foolish suggestion that he should come act as Basil’s factotum – he might even remain behind when the company had departed.

Or maybe he would not, he thought, when he observed Basil making up to Tom Tressillian, even if 'twas only so that Tom would commission a painting of himself in some telling character. And – good heavens – was that young Orlando Richardson? Sure he bore a considerable resemblance to his late great-uncle Elias Winch. Had his doting mama not complained to Maurice at her fittings that in spite of being educated up a gentleman by her doting all-but-husband Danvers Dalrymple, nothing would do for her son but to go on stage? – in the tones of one that felt she should make some complaint but was rather pleased than otherwise.

Maurice went over to desire an introduction and discovered that the person obscured behind an easel with a half-finished canvas upon it was MacDonald. They exchanged civil nods. Do you know Mr Richardson? Permit me to introduce you.

O, indeed I have heard of you! said the young man. Mama will ever sing your praises.

I see, said MacDonald, that our host neglects his duties. Let me get you a glass of wine.

Maurice took the wine and wondered, could it be that Basil was deliberately snubbing him, rather than merely momentarily dazzled by the handsome young actor?

Indeed, Basil’s manner to him seemed unwonted brusque, compared to his attentions to the rest of the company. If he was going to behave thus, Maurice was not going to linger. He took his outer garments from Basil’s man, and went out into an evening that had turned to pelting sleety rain.

Here – a hand grabbed his arm – I have just managed to wave down a hansom, get in before you are drenched.

Maurice allowed himself to be thrust into the cab and sat down. He relished the prospect of getting thoroughly soaked even less than sharing the narrow space with MacDonald.

MacDonald remarked that he now apprehended why Lady Bexbury called Linsleigh that great bore - while he will never rival Mr Nixon of the Home Office, he is still a very tedious fellow. But, he went on, I fancy he is a friend of yours – perchance he may show better in different company?

Instead of saying in waspish tones that doubtless Basil was not up to Mr MacDonald’s most exceeding exacting standards, Maurice replied that indeed, Basil was wont to run on without noting whether his listeners were interested or not.

(Damn. He did not want to find himself agreeing with MacDonald over such a matter.)

Where should you like to be dropped?

Maurice gave the direction for his lodgings – I hope 'tis not out of your way?

Not in the least. But – since we are met thus – I mind that there was a matter I have been commissioned to investigate, that you may have some intelligence concerning. He looked about for a moment and said, I do not suppose the cab-driver goes spy, but yet I had rather it were a little more private. Is there some time we might –

Maurice, who was already feeling those sensations that he had become accustomed to experience in close proximity to MacDonald, bit his lip and then said, why do you not step up to my lodgings, have you no engagement to be at –

Why, should only take a moment or so, but is very gracious of you.

Of course he was only going to ask whatever question it was, and then go away again. He would not stay.

They ascended the stairs in silence, and Maurice unlocked the door. Latching it behind him, he turned to where MacDonald was looking about him with interest, entirely intending – no, only that – to ask what his investigation was, and found himself going lean up against him.

A hand stroked down his back and then MacDonald said thoughtfully, we are both standing here with our hats still on in rain-splashed coats that we should take off. That is, if you have any desire for me to linger beyond the five minutes I think my question like to take.

You must know I do. Do you wish to stay?

In answer, MacDonald began to remove his coat.

Maurice swallowed. I will just go and light the fire, he said.

He was still kneeling by the hearth when MacDonald came in. He stood up and said, I only have gin, would you care for anything to drink.

Not in particular, but do you do as you would like.

Maurice went and poured himself a glass of gin. So, he said, what did you wish to ask me?

Firstly, do you dress Lady Sarah Channery?

Maurice turned around. I used to, she then followed Lady Trembourne to Madame Francine’s, and I have been beguiled into saying I will go dress the two of 'em again. Why?

Did she ever make use of your discreet chamber?

Maurice snorted. Lady Sarah? Why do you ask? – O, I apprehend what this is about. Sir Stockwell thinks she has took a lover: if she has, must be very recent.

Oh, she has, I have it on the very best authority. But I thought it possibly material to discover whether she was in the habit.

I confide not. But has she admitted to you - ?

Not she; the gentleman that has been enjoying her favours.

There is some fellow going around boasting upon the matter?

Not in the least, I am sure he is entire discreet and would not at all desire to have a crim. con action brought against him: but is a good friend of mine, and disclosed it to me because the lady had received a note demanding recompense for silence. The danger is probably passed, now Mrs Fanny has disappeared, but I wonder if ‘twas an accustomed practice with Lady Sarah to enter upon such liaisons; also whether any ladies that have returned to you have said aught of similar demands?

Not so far. But – at least, as he has given it out – Sir Stockwell is not in any jealous passion in the matter, merely wishes ascertain whether there will be any scandal –

But does Lady Sarah apprehend that?

Perchance not! I fancy 'tis not such a case as the Zellens, where they have come to a mutual understanding.

He gulped down the last of the gin and walked across the room to where MacDonald was sitting. I should say that now these questions are asked and answered, you should go.

Yes, of course you should. And do you ask me to, I will.

Maurice straddled the outstretched legs and stooped to kiss that mouth that was so very lovely when it smiled as it was doing now.

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Posted by Sherwood Smith

Some days I need a little silly.

During my time as a sixth grade teacher at a private school, Howard Pyle’s Robin Hood was one of our texts. Its faux-medieval Victorian prose was actually a fairly easy way to accustom the students to some medieval vocabulary, preparing them for selections from Malory the next year, and Shakespeare the year after.

As school-assigned books go, Robin Hood was pretty popular, though some of the girls sighed that the females were few. But they were used to that in a literature program that depended so heavily on classics.

But there came a day when I had to be absent from school, and I knew that few subs would be up on this book. So I left behind instructions that the students could either get a head start on their vocabulary sheets, or . . . they could write a Missing Chapter, which I would read aloud the next day.

I knew I had a couple of creative writers, but I had no idea how enthusiastic the class would be until I got back to discover that not only had Sixth Grade English been quiet as the tomb during my absence, but many had taken their stories home to finish as homework, unasked: they loved being read to, but no poet or author, be they ever so famous, was in any way as thrilling as hearing their own words read out loud, with suitable drama.

So this fill-in became a regular staple of my curriculum.

Many years this or that class was reluctant to tackle the archaic verb conjugations. I always demonstrated, but didn’t hammer it too hard; I wanted these verb forms familiar, not memorized when they were still trying to deal with the vagaries of modern English.

So the kids usually got wot, wottest, wotteth, but the modal auxiliaries seem to trip up some. Doth became a universal, but no one ever seemed to remember dost–and then there were some who couldn’t grasp that -est = second person singular familiar, -eth  = third p. blah blah.

In fact, some were still shaky on the concept of verb conjugations at all,  despite the fact that I had a collection jar and required a nickel penalty* for every uttered “I laid in bed yesterday” or “The dog was laying down,” after I had thoroughly drilled all tenses and forms of lay and lie.

Anyway, over the years that I gave this assignment, the young writers happily slapped est and eth onto adjectives, adverbs, and nouns left and right, figuring it sounded good’n’Plantagenetoid. Either that or adding ‘eth’ suffixes would sufficiently age a word they weren’t sure they could get away with. Thus Robin could kick the Sheriff’s butteth.

As for the stories, one particular year the class had two alpha girls, their posses dividing the female half of the class right down the middle, with plenty of attendant social drama. One alpha decided to write her particular lieutenants into her story, inspiring a flurry of Mackynzi and McKyli and Logan and Ryli appearances throughout her story, heroically raiding the castle where her rival and her gang were all sniveling Sheriff’s weasels, cheating Normans, or Prince John’s spies.

Naturally, this story electrified half the class and outraged the other half with as much intensity as if those girls really had gone and shot up a castle with arrows, and poisoned Prince John’s dinners for his gathered villains and spies.

But the Sheriff also had feisty, heroic daughters in other stories, all of whom ran away to join Robin’s band.

In one of these chapters, a sheriff’s doughty daughter fell in love with Robin at first sight, and he with her, so by the time the two had finished walking into Sherwood, they were engaged to be married.

The merry men promptly decorated the forest for a wedding, which was carried out–presumably they had the beautiful white gown with the spangles among their disguise kits. (The merry men turned out to have warehouses full of disguise kits in the greenwood.)

After the wedding later that afternoon, the Sheriff appeared, demanding his daughter from Robin and the men, who were busy celebrating by having a shooting match. Where was the new wife? In a cave baking her wedding cake, of course, what else would she be doing?

Anyway the story ends with her emerging from her newlywed cookery to yell at her father and demand pardons all around, which of course the abashed Sheriff instantly provided, and all lived happily ever after.

Except for the Sheriff, who had to get a new cook.

In another, Robin and the Sheriff decide to besiege one another, which resolved into a dare. My inventive young student obviously thought that writing was far more arduous than drawing, and so his second page was taken up with the drawings of the castles the arch-enemies built in this deadly competition.

Robin was by far the better builder–his castle not only possessed towers but crenelations. The Sheriff’s offering was a mean little brick and stone hut that looked suspiciously like an outhouse.

And of course all these were built in a day.

In another story, two daughters of one of the Butchers of the Butchers’ Guild went off to the forest looking for adventure, instead of doing their shopping. They spent a delightful day with the merry outlaws, and went home at dark, as you do.

Even so, their dad got angry until they told him that Robin Hood was so impressed with their shooting and quarterstaff skills that he invited them into the band, whereupon Father promptly gave his permission, because he knew the girls would be helping good Saxons by robbing the rich and giving to the poor.

One student, whose dad only let him read fiction if it was assigned in school (otherwise his strictly supervised reading was entirely science based),  had little concept of telling a story, and so turned in several solid paragraph-indentation-free pages of description, working hard to be poetic. This story featured long adjective-loaded (perhaps the kind word would be lyrical) descriptions of the countryside, featuring crinkling bushes and birds that hale.

Altogether, the Sheriff had a terrible temper if anyone called him a loser or stole his lunch, Prince John seemed to spend a lot of time lurking and spying in the forest, just to get coconuts dropped on his head, or fall into mud, and the Merry Men were respectful of curfew and cheered on any eleven-year-old who challenged the Sheriff and all his guards to a duel.

Because the kid always won.

Finally, if the Sheriff wanted to lure Robin to another shooting match, all he had to do is send a mysterious lady to the Blue Boar inn to proclamatize it, dressed in fledged feathers and plooms.

 

 

*the penalties provided a surprise donut morning whenever I had accrued enough cash.

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Jane and I went up to Nethy Bridge, near Aviemore, and stayed at the Lazy Duck in one of their Eco-Lodges. Which is a cabin built for two, with electricity, gas cooking, and (distant, wobbly) wifi, right next to a large duck pond full of a variety of different species of ducks.
Loads of photos and four videos )

New Worlds: Rites of Passage

Sep. 22nd, 2017 02:00 pm
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Posted by Marie Brennan

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

You start out a child, you wind up an elder; in between, there are rites of passage.

These are the ceremonies that mark a transition from one social status to another. The iconic example is the transformation of a child to an adult, as seen in the Jewish bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah, or the Latin American fiesta de quinceañera. That particular threshold has more or less fallen by the wayside in modern white Protestant American society, but that doesn’t mean we entirely lack rites of passage; graduation is one, and a wedding is another.

Something like getting your driver’s license or the right to vote, however, is not — at least not according to the definition anthropologists use (laid out by a guy named Arnold van Gennep). A rite of passage, at its core, consists of three stages: separation, liminality, and incorporation. The first divides the individual from the social status they used to have; you were X, but now you are not-X. That puts you in a liminal zone, a term that indicates you are standing on a metaphorical threshold, neither fish nor fowl. Finally, incorporation removes you from your liminal state and makes you a member of the new group.

How is separation achieved? In a relatively stripped-down version like high school or college graduation, clothing is a major component. See somebody in a cap and gown? You know exactly what’s going on. Same thing with a bride in a white wedding dress. Other ceremonies, especially in other parts of the world, may incorporate other elements, ranging from body paint to an all-night vigil to the use of hallucinogens to induce an altered state of mind. The passage to adulthood in a hunter-gatherer society could be a multi-day affair, with tests of skill or religious ceremonies not permitted to be seen by people of the opposite sex. Basically, the more obviously an individual is marked out and divided from the normal world around them, the easier it is to tell that you’re looking at a rite of passage.

This puts you into a liminal state . . . and I have to say that, as a writer, this is the part that makes me sit up and take notice. Folklorically speaking, liminal things are powerful, and they are dangerous. Societies depend on organization for their stability, and so anything that slips free of the usual categories is at a minimum charged with psychological power. Past the minimum? Being liminal is literally magic. For example, women undergoing Shinto weddings wear a white hood over their hair to conceal the demon horns they supposedly grow. And if you’re writing fantasy . . . yeah. You can run with that “liminality is magic” idea as far as you like. Especially if the person undergoing the rite of passage gets separated from society, but never reincorporated (e.g. because something interrupts the ceremony).

But it would be a pity if they never got reincorporated, because that’s where the parties happen! There are probably rites of passage that don’t involve a big feast afterward, but it’s such a standard element of reincorporation that I just tend to take it as a given. More ceremonial stuff can happen, too, like the individual being formally welcomed by their new peers, or given their first chance to exercise the rights they’ve just gained.

Reincorporation especially matters if the separation and liminal stages were traumatic. Our modern rites of passage are usually pretty tame, but anthropologists have documented some pretty severe practices, with the person undergoing trials for which the word “torture” wouldn’t be exaggeration. Is this done out of cruelty? No — at least not in general, though it’s always possible that the individual in charge of the whole show is cruel and abusing their power. Rather, the idea is that the more you go through as a part of your rite of passage, the stronger a bond you feel to your new group when you join them.

I can attest to this, at least on a minor level. In college, our marching band had what we called “freshman cuts,” which was the point at which freshman who failed to measure up to a certain standard would (theoretically) be cut from the band. We all knew this wasn’t true — they wanted as many warm bodies on the field as they could get — and the college had rules against hazing anyway, so the various activities around freshman cuts were 100% optional, and everybody knew it. If you didn’t want to go through with them, nobody would say boo. Me? I was majoring in anthropology and folklore. Of course I went through it. And I came out the other side with the story of what the “Brown punch” was like my year, a story that got shared with the band members both senior and junior to me, just as they shared their own tales. I’ll spare you all the details, saying only that every component of the punch was perfectly potable or edible and utterly revolting when combined with all the other ingredients . . . and that drinking it, though in no way a “fun” experience, is one I don’t regret in the least. Because it did what it was supposed to: it created a bond, a sense that I had gone through a trial that had made me kin to everyone else who had done the same thing.

Because rites of passage are a two-edged sword. Colleges outlaw hazing rituals because they make people who don’t go through them feel excluded, and there have been excesses that leave people traumatized or outright injured. But such rituals also promote bonding and group identity, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And while having a rite of passage to mark the transition from one life state to another may result in you being thrust into a new role before you truly feel ready for it, it also makes it crystal clear what your role is. Do you have the rights, responsibilities, freedoms, and privileges of a child, or those of an adult? A single person, or a married one? A civilian, or a member of a military group? Muddying the waters between those things may cause difficulty.

What things have you gone through that you would consider a rite of passage?

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Posted by Tim Harford

Undercover Economist

As visual metaphors go, it wasn’t bad: Donald Trump ignoring expert advice and risking calamity by staring up at the sun as the moon’s shadow passed across America. Self-destructiveness has become a habit for this president — and for his advisers. A recent example: former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon called Robert Kuttner, a prominent progressive journalist, to declare that his internal foes in the administration were “wetting themselves”. Shortly after Mr Kuttner wrote about the conversation, Mr Bannon was out.

But the truly harmful temptation here is not eclipse-gazing or indiscreet interviews. It’s another idea that Mr Bannon proposed to Mr Kuttner: that the US was in “an economic war with China”. It seems intuitive; many ordinary Americans feel that they cannot win unless China loses. But the world economy is not like a game of football. Everyone can win, at least in principle. Or everyone can lose. Falling for Mr Bannon’s idea of economic war makes the grimmer outcome far more likely.

Like many dangerous ideas there is some truth in it. The American middle class has been suffering while China has been booming. Branko Milanovic, author of Global Inequality (UK) (US), has produced a striking elephant-shaped graph showing how, since the late 1980s, the rich have been doing well, as have many other groups, including the Asian middle class. But earnings near though not at the top of the global income ladder have stagnated. That does not demonstrate harm from China: there is the fall of the Soviet Union to consider, and the struggles of Japan.

However, another study, from David Autor, David Dorn and Gordon Hanson, has shown the lasting impact of the “China shock”. It was no surprise that competition from China put some Americans out of work, but Mr Autor and his colleagues showed that the effects were more locally concentrated, deeper and more enduring than expected. These are important and worrying findings.

But Mr Bannon’s “economic war” is a cure far worse than the disease, and a misdiagnosis of how the world economy works. America has still benefited from trade with Asia and attacking China — even metaphorically — will do nothing for the American middle class. This is because it is surprisingly hard to find a zero-sum game in the real world.

Most commercial transactions offer benefits to both sides, otherwise why would they take place at all? A trip to a restaurant provides good food and a pleasant evening for me, gainful employment for the waiting staff and the chef, and a lively environment for the neighbourhood. Everyone can gain. There are zero-sum elements to the affair: every penny I hand over is a loss to me and a gain to the restaurant staff or owner. But it is best all round not to obsess too much on such matters.

Zero-sum thinking apparently makes for good politics but bad policy. The UK government has shown an unnerving tendency to treat its EU negotiations as a zero-sum affair, in which the Europeans can “go whistle”, in the words of foreign secretary Boris Johnson.

In the Brexit referendum the Vote Leave campaign turned on a zero-sum claim: we send money to the EU, we should spend it on ourselves. The form of the argument was as powerfully misleading as the details: the focus on membership fees pulled the attention of voters away from the idea of the EU as a club of co-operating nations.

Populists of all stripes focus on zero-sum arguments because they’re easy to explain and emotionally appealing. Any toddler understands the idea of grabbing what someone else has; most adults prefer a situation where everyone gains.

The theory of zero-sum games was developed by the mathematician John von Neumann and the economist Oskar Morgenstern in their famous book published in 1944. It works fine for analysing chess and poker, but by itself zero-sum thinking is not much use to an economist who analyses a world full of win-win situations, of gains from trade.

Zero-sum thinking is not even that helpful to a military strategist. Von Neumann was a cold war hawk: “If you say bomb the Soviets tomorrow, I say why not today?”, Life magazine quoted him as saying. “If you say bomb them at five o’clock, I say why not one o’clock?” He was a genius, but it does not take a genius to see the blind spot in his thinking.

The populists may lack the genius but they have the same blind spot. Not coincidentally, the focus on zero-sum rhetoric has drawn attention away from more plausible solutions, many of which are purely domestic: higher quality education, publicly funded infrastructure investment, antitrust action to keep markets functioning competitively, and a more constructive welfare state which supports and encourages work rather than stigmatises and punishes idleness.

The biggest risk is that zero-sum thinking becomes self-fulfilling. Given oxygen by years of slow growth, it will lower growth further. By emphasising conflict it will intensify it. The US is not in an economic war with China, but could start one. That might help Mr Trump. It would not help those he claims to defend.

 
Written for and first published in the Financial Times on 25 August 2017.

My new book is “Fifty Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy”. Grab yourself a copy in the US or in the UK (slightly different title) or through your local bookshop.

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Interesting Links for 22-09-2017

Sep. 22nd, 2017 12:00 pm
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Posted by Brenda Clough

by Brenda W. Clough

 The tradition in Rome was to bury the dead outside the city. Christians developed the notion of burial in ‘sacred ground,’ which is to say in or around a church. This rapidly became impossible in cities, and led to creative solutions like the Catacombs of Paris. The great cemeteries of the 19th century, Highgate and other cemeteries around London and Pere Lachaise in Paris, were originally built outside the city. The expansions of the 20th century engulfed them.

So east of the great Roman regional capital of Arles was their Necropolis, the city of the dead. It was nearly as large and crowded as the city of the living. All the fine carvings and grand statues are safely socked away in the museum. All that can be seen today in the Necropolis (which, like all the other out-of-town cemeteries is now practically in the center of town) are rows and rows of stone coffins, some lidded and some not. In one space they are left as they originally were — set into the ground side by side so that the earth is a solid vista of stone lids. Vincent van Gogh famously did a painting of the space showing it very much as it is today. The students in this photo are a high school class, dispiritedly emulating the great painter.

 We had time before lunch to go see the Flavian bridge. This is notable for being one of the few that survive with the arches, on either side of the span. The old via Domitia is still visible, with its ruts worn by Roman wagon wheels, passing over the bridge. The arches are adorned with lions, who are not couched as in front of libraries, but posed with their butts in the air — clearly visible in the first shot. Which means that as you cross the bridge you always get a good view of a lion about to attack, and then the next lion’s rear.

 

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Sir Stockwell had indicated to Sandy that he would be extremely grateful for some private discourse at a time when fewer fellows were about the club, so early one afternoon Sandy made his way there, was admitted, and shown to a sanctum where Sir Stockwell was smoking a pipe over some papers.

MacDonald! he rose to shake hands. Good of you to come. He gathered together the papers on his desk, placed them in a drawer, and locked it. 'Tis a quieter place to study over complicated matters than the Admiralty, he said by way of explanation.

He offered Sandy sherry, but was entirely equable when he suggested a preference for coffee, that was brought hot and strong, if not quite as good as Euphemia’s.

Sandy said somewhat of what a fine club it was, excellent set of fellows, greatly gratified to be admitted to membership, as Sir Stockwell relit his pipe and seemed somewhat self-conscious.

'Tis given out, he said at length, that you have a particular talent for finding out hidden matters with extreme discretion.

Sure I think repute somewhat exaggerates my capacities, but I have a great fondness for delving into mysteries: there are those have said I am as curious as a mongoose.

Only, said Sir Stockwell, there is a certain private matter I should desire discover, but indeed it is a matter demanding very great discretion, and I minded that, could you not come at it, you might open it to the wisdom of Lady Bexbury, for 'tis a matter of women -

Sandy lifted his eyebrows and looked sympathetic.

- in short, 'tis my wife, that I am in some suspicion takes a lover. Have no firm evidence, does not give scandal, but should like to know what she is about, who the fellow is. For indeed, there are fellows will go make up to wives, when they wish to come at the husband and his affairs –

Sandy let out a suitable groan and confided that alas, 'twas so, keeping his face exceeding straight. For he was in no inclination to betray Geoffrey Merrett’s confidences without he at least consulted Clorinda as to the wisdom of doing so; and perchance he should let Geoff know what was afoot. It disposed him to think that the extortionist had been very much making a shot at venture: though presumably Lady Sarah was not apprized of her husband’s complaisance - ? but also to consider further the notion that it might have been one sally in a wider campaign to milk adulterous wives.

Why, he said, will go see what I may find in the matter. Does your wife have any confidantes?

Goes about with that harridan Lady Trembourne: but she is a fool does she disclose any secrets to her.

Sandy grimaced and agreed that secrets would not be safe, and like to be used to as much damage as possible, in that lady’s hands. But, he went on, the matter may be one that is in constant discourse over tea-tables, so I would purpose an initial sounding of whether Lady Bexbury has heard aught.

'Tis wise, and she is given out extreme discreet.

Entirely so.

Sandy rose to go, they shook hands once more, and he left, with the most urgent desire to communicate the entire imbroglio to Clorinda.

However, when he arrived back at her house, when Hector let him he sighed and said, we have company - family company –

Indeed Sandy could hear an agitated voice within the parlour, quite loud enough to be heard in the hall. He raised his eyebrows in query.

Lady Ollifaunt, said Hector, in a considerable taking.

Sandy sighed. He had left Clorinda in a happy anticipation of an afternoon scribbling at her new tale, being given out not at home, but there were ever those to whom that could not be said, and the Ferrabys were of that number.

He was in some inclination to go hide in the library until Bess might be gone, but perchance that was not the most manly course of action. He entered the parlour, and saw Clorinda’s glance of relief.

Bess Ollifaunt was storming up and down in a fury. But is it not entirely beyond everything, dear Aunty Clorinda, that Harry should go talk to some fellow at the Admiralty about the provision of iron and not tell me beforehand? Am I not entire partner in the ironworks? Was it some matter of engineering, mayhap somewhat to do with steam, I could understand it. But no, 'tis some question of iron, and very particular specifications, and he goes think he may deal entire by himself on the matter, does not need to inform me –

Dear Bess, said Clorinda, with the air of one who had been hearing the same complaint reiterated several times over, sit down and take some tea and try calm yourself. Sure I think 'twas a little ill-advized in Harry not to open the matter to you well beforehand, but I daresay the Admiralty are in somewhat of a habit of dealing with gentlemen rather than ladies. Calm yourself and tell me the story in a little better order, and also, show civil and greet Mr MacDonald.

Oh! cried Bess, I am indeed sorry, I did not see you come in, delighted to see you.

She sat down and accepted a cup of tea and Sandy did likewise.

Why, she said, Harry came to me the morn and said he had lately been asked to go see Sir Stockwell Channery – Sandy lifted his head and then looked down into his teacup – at the Admiralty, that is in charge, he supposes, of improving steamships &C, and he dares says that it is a matter of boilers and degrees of tolerance, for he was asking might we be able to provide iron to such and such specifications, and really, 'twas most out of the common, one would need go talk to Mr Dalgleish about the practicalities of the matter, and sure, 'twould do us no harm whatsoever to have an Admiralty contract, but I think Harry should have spoke to me first.

La, said Clorinda, but he did come tell you quite immediate afterwards.

Indeed not so, Bess said fretfully, waited until he might convoke with me face to face in private, would not put the matter in a letter. But, she conceded, did so quite as soon as he was able to contrive that. But it put me in a great fret that he might go commit us to something we might not be able to fulfil – or would mean putting back other orders, a thing I can never like – and I said he should show me the papers. And he said, that there were no papers, 'twas entire a verbal matter so far, so I hope the notes he made in his memorandum book most immediate afterwards are accurate.

Why, I think you may trust Harry for that – Bess gave a little reluctant nod – And I daresay what is ado is that the Admiralty go about to consult various fellows in the iron business, to find out can the thing be done, and what time it might take, and what 'twould cost, and ‘tis all very informal at present.

Do you think so?

Why, I think Lady Bexbury has the right of it, said Sandy. But I have some little acquaintance with Sir Stockwell and do I have any occasion to talk to him about his work at the Admiralty – though he is extreme close on the matter – will see can I sound the matter out. But I daresay 'tis indeed as ‘twere a matter of taking preliminary soundings.

At length Bess was soothed into a quieter state of mind, encouraged to say a little of how her husband and children did, and was in entire better mood by the time she left.

Clorinda leaned back in her chair and fanned herself. Dear Bess, she said. I wonder shall I have Harry coming about saying Bess is quite unreasonable – or mayhap Lou, saying, Harry is very upset, is not Bess being rather unreasonable? She sighed. But, my dear, I did not know you knew Sir Stockwell Channery.

Sandy got up to look out of the window and ascertain that Bess’s carriage had left. You do not anticipate any further company? She shook her head.

I feel I may therefore disclose to you, most extreme discreet –

Silence to the death!

- that Sir Stockwell is a leading figure in the club I lately joined.

Say you so!

And has, indeed, commissioned me to an enquiry concerning his lady.

That poor dispirited creature Lady Sarah, that is the Unfair Rosamund’s hanger-on?

It seems, says Sandy, that she has shown enough spirit to enter upon a liaison with – my dear Clorinda, sure I should have told you before, but I was not sure the secret was mine to disclose - but there are matters about it that I find I need open to your acuity.

She sat up and smacked him lightly with her fan. With who?

The Honble Geoffrey Merrett.

Clorinda laughed quite immoderately, and then said, sure I am somewhat surprized, but indeed, he is just the sort would find himself entangled with some poor neglected creature like her, would be entire moved to pity –

Sandy laughed and said, I think you hit it off very precise. But, dear sibyl, he was wont to enjoy her favours in the discreet chamber at Madame Francine’s establishment – Oho! – and she received a letter demanding recompense for silence. Geoff is sanguine that her concerns are now over, since that lady has been exposed, but I am like to wonder was Lady Sarah the only one subjected to such a demand. Have you heard aught of such a matter?

Not yet, but I will be about it. Mrs Nixon is but lately returned from Harrogate, and I will put her to the business.

And besides that, Sir Stockwell is now in some suspicion that his wife has a lover – is not jealous, I confide, but in some concern over the discretion in the matter and whether 'tis some sad rogue of a seducer. I know not what to say.

Indeed the matter is somewhat delicate! I will go consider over all this tangle. By the way, is Mr Merrett a member of this club?

It seems not. Sure there are fellows there that are married or have mistresses set up but my impression is that 'tis all entire masquerade. You would know better than I, but I think Geoff truly enjoys the other sex.

Oh yes, said Clorinda with a reminiscent smile. Indeed has no distaste at all for womanly parts, sure his tastes are exceeding catholic.

Literal and Figurative Forest Bathing

Sep. 21st, 2017 02:00 pm
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Posted by Nancy Jane Moore

Point Reyes

The point at Point Reyes

 

Forest bathing is supposed to be about the health benefits of walking in forests. The “bathing” is the soaking up of the sights and smells all around you.

But if you do your forest bathing on a foggy day at Point Reyes National Seashore, you can get a literal bath along with your figurative one. Fir trees soak up a lot of fog, but when it’s as thick as it was on Monday morning, it will drip down on you. (And when the fog is even thicker, which it was on Wednesday, it turns to drizzle and drips on you even when you’re not under the trees.)

We went out to Point Reyes to get out of the city, and set up camp at our favorite site at Sky Camp, which is about 1,000 feet above sea level and a couple of miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. That gave us a great view of the ocean when it wasn’t foggy, while surrounding us with trees instead of sand. (You can also camp near the beach at Point Reyes.)

This wasn’t quite a backpacking expedition. We had to backpack in from the parking area, but once we set up camp, we went day hiking. I had the illusion that we’d be able to hike all over the park if we didn’t have our heavy backpacks.

But the seven or so miles we did on Monday nearly did us in. I don’t know if it was the morning fog (it lifted about midday) or just the steep downhill of one trail we took, but we were both ready to drop by the time we got back to camp.

Which was just as well, because a stiff wind started to blow in the early evening. We added all our layers, but once the sun went down we decided that the only place where we’d really be warm was in our sleeping bags. Given how tired we were, collapsing into them solved two problems at once.

We did a more restrained hike the second day, which was sunny and delightful. Maybe next outing we’ll do the short hike the first day and try the more ambitious one on the second, when we’re warmed up.

The extent of fog on Wednesday morning meant that we packed up a lot of wet items for the trip home. But despite all that, we had a lovely time. And despite all the fog episodes, we saw the Milky Way every night — pretty amazing at a place just 40 miles from Oakland.

We also saw coyotes, bunnies, a skunk (who wanted to join us at our campsite), fence lizards, a garter snake, at least a hundred quail, hawks, crows, assorted other birds, squirrels, the nests of wood rats, butterflies, spiders, and banana slugs.

And trees, of course. Lots of Douglas firs. Some pine trees. Oaks. Redwoods, alas, do not grow at Point Reyes, though we went through some on the route out there.

And despite all the fog, we got a most excellent sunset on Monday night.

Sunset

Sunset over Point Reyes

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