Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Unfortunately, in real life, the heart is fragile as well. My husband has to have a valve replacement. He's lived with a faulty valve all his life, actually. Born with a severe heart murmur, the doctors said he should avoid strenuous activities, and they told him he'd never be an athlete.
Well, never say never to my husband. He (typical bull-headed Taurus) decided he'd play polo, no matter what. And he did. He and his brother were the best polo players in France, and among the top five players in Europe. But the strain took its toll, and his aortic valve, never very strong, began to fail. The first signs were fatigue and snappishness. Totally unlike him. Then he fainted. An electrocardiogram turned up nothing, but he still felt awful, and when, finally, his doctor put a stethescope against his chest, he knew something was very wrong. (Sometimes a simple examination beats a high-tech exam!)
He's in the hospital now, waiting for his operation ( Scheduled for Monday). He hates being sick. He's always been incredibly healthy. Never cold, never ill, never complaining ( ladies, if you like the strong silent type, find yourselves a Taurus man!).
But he'll be fine after the operation, and he'll finally have a heart valve that works 100%, instead of just half that. He's looking forward to feeling better than ever. I'm looking forward to having my husband back home!
For information on hearts, I went to the American Heart Association website, and the British Heart assocation website had pdf files you can download and read like booklets explaining the different pathologies. Nothing beats talking to your own doctor though, and the wesbite couldn't pat me on the shoulder and tell me my husband will be feeling better than he's ever felt in a matter of weeks.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
An inside look at the inexorable march of Britain and the United States toward World War II.
By Mark Kurlansky March 9, 2008
Human SmokeThe Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization
Nicholson BakerSimon & Schuster: 576 pp., $30
"Not long ago, because there is no winter baseball in this country, I was channel surfing in search of amusement and ended up watching a debate of Republican presidential candidates. Sen. John McCain was attacking Rep. Ron Paul for opposing the Iraq war. He called Paul an "isolationist" and said it was that kind of thinking that had caused World War II. How old, I asked myself, is John McCain, that he is keeping alive this ancient World War II canard? Is it going to pass down to subsequent generations?
All wars have to be sold, but World War II, within the memory of the pointless carnage that then became known as World War I, was a particularly hard sell. Roosevelt and Churchill did it well, and their lies have been with us ever since.
Nicholson Baker's "Human Smoke" is a meticulously researched and well-constructed book demonstrating that World War II was one of the biggest, most carefully plotted lies in modern history.
According to the myth, British and American statesmen naively thought they could reason with such brutal fascists as Germany's Hitler and Japan's Tojo. Faced with this weakness, Hitler and Tojo tried to take over the world, and the United States and Britain were forced to use military might to stop them.
Because Baker is primarily a novelist, it might be expected that, having taken on this weighty subject, he would write about it with great flare and drama. Readers may initially be disappointed, yet one of this book's great strengths is that it avoids flourishes in favor of the kind of lean prose employed by journalists. "Human Smoke" is a series of well-written, brilliantly ordered snapshots, the length of news dispatches. Baker states that he wanted to raise these questions about World War II: "Was it a 'good war'? Did waging it help anyone who needed help?" His very effective style is to offer the facts and leave readers to draw their own conclusions.
The facts are powerful. Baker shows, step by step, how an alliance dominated by leaders who were bigoted, far more opposed to communism than to fascism, obsessed with arms sales and itching for a fight coerced the world into war.
Anti-Semitism was rife among the Allies. Of Franklin Roosevelt, Baker notes that in 1922, when he was a New York attorney, he "noticed that Jews made up one-third of the freshman class at Harvard" and used his influence to establish a Jewish quota there. For years he obstructed help for European Jewry, and as late as 1939 he discouraged passage of the Wagner-Rogers bill, an attempt by Congress to save Jewish children. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain said in 1939 of German treatment of Jews that "no doubt Jews aren't a lovable people. I don't care about them myself." Once the war began, Winston Churchill wanted to imprison German Jewish refugees because they were Germans.
What a comfort such leadership must have been to the Nazis, who, according to the New York Times of Dec. 3, 1931, were trying to figure out a way to rid Germany of Jews without "arousing foreign opinion."
Churchill is a dominant figure in "Human Smoke," depicted as a bloodthirsty warmonger who, in 1922, was still bemoaning the fact that World War I hadn't lasted a little longer so that Britain could have had its air force in place to bomb Berlin and "the heart of Germany." But no, he whined, it had to stop, "owing to our having run short of Germans and enemies."
Churchill was not driven by anti-fascism. In his 1937 book "Great Contemporaries," he described Hitler as "a highly competent, cool, well-informed functionary with an agreeable manner." The same book savagely attacked Leon Trotsky. (What was wrong with Trotsky? "He was still a Jew. Nothing could get over that.") Churchill repeatedly praised Mussolini for his "gentle and simple bearing." In 1927, he told a Roman audience, "If I had been an Italian, I am sure that I should have been entirely with you from the beginning to the end of your victorious struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism." Churchill considered fascism "a necessary antidote to the Russian virus," Baker writes. In 1938, he remarked to the press that if England were ever defeated in war, he hoped "we should find a Hitler to lead us back to our rightful position among nations."
As Baker's book makes clear, between the two World Wars communism, not fascism, was the enemy. David Lloyd George, who had been Britain's prime minister during World War I, cautioned in 1933, the year Hitler came to power, that if the Allies managed to overthrow Nazism, "what would take its place? Extreme communism. Surely that cannot be our objective." But even more than the communists, Churchill's enemy No. 1 in the 1920s and early '30s was Mohandas Gandhi and his doctrine of nonviolence, which Churchill warned "will, sooner or later, have to be grappled with and finally crushed."
In the 1930s, U.S. industry was free to sell the Germans and the Japanese whatever they'd buy, including weapons. Not to lose out, the British and French sold tanks and bombers to Hitler. Calls by Joseph Tenenbaum of the American Jewish Congress to boycott Germany were ignored. There was no attempt to contain, isolate, hinder or overthrow Hitler -- not because of naiveté but because of commerce. It was the Depression. There were Germans trying to overthrow Hitler, but the U.S. and Britain and their industries were obstructing that effort.
Baker shows that the Japanese, as early as 1934, were complaining that Roosevelt was deliberately provoking them. In January 1941, Japan protested the U.S. military buildup in Hawaii. Joseph Grew, our ambassador to Japan, reported rumors that the Japanese response would be a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Yet according to World War II mythology, America was blissfully sleeping, unprepared for war, when caught by surprise by the dastardly "sneak attack." (Isn't it curious that Asians carry out "sneak attacks," whereas Westerners launch "preemptive strikes"?) A year earlier, Baker shows, Roosevelt began planning the bombing of Japan -- which had invaded China, but with which we were not at war -- from Chinese air bases with American planes and, when necessary, American pilots.
Pearl Harbor was a purely military target, but Roosevelt wanted to bomb Japanese cities with incendiary bombs; he'd been assured that their cities would burn fast, being made largely of wood and paper.
Roosevelt evinced no desire to negotiate. In fact, Baker writes, in October he "began leaking the news of his new war plan," with $100 billion earmarked for airplanes alone. Grew again warned Roosevelt that he was pushing Japan toward armed conflict with the United States, but the president continued his war preparations. Finally, the night before the Japanese attack, Roosevelt sent a message to Emperor Hirohito calling for talks. He read it to the Chinese ambassador, remarking that he thought the message would "be fine for the record."
People are going to get really angry at Baker for criticizing their favorite war. But he hasn't fashioned his tale from gossip. It is documented, with copious notes and attributions. The grace of these well-ordered snapshots is that there is no diatribe; you are left to put things together yourself. Read "Human Smoke." It may be one of the most important books you will ever read. It could help the world to understand that there is no Just War, there is just war -- and that wars are not caused by isolationists and peaceniks but by the promoters of warfare."
*Mark Kurlansky is a journalist and the author, most recently, of "Nonviolence: 25 Lessons From the History of a Dangerous Idea."
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Sunday, April 20, 2008
The stones you see date from around 1013. It's limestone, carved from the quarries near the Seine, which in turn are the result of layer upon layer of ancient shellfish and sea-creatures which lived in the Parisian Basin in the The Lutetian Era, which is a stage of the Eocene Epoch. It spanned the time between 48.6 ± 0.2 Ma and 40.4 ± 0.2 Ma (million years ago). The Lutetian Epoch was named after Lutetia, Latin for Paris. There are fossilized shells in the stone, and I sometimes wonder what the stone cutters thought of that, as they cut and carved.
Looking out from the courtyard toward the village square.
Her comments: "Ever since I've been a mother I feel better about myself and my body, and I'm perfectly comfortable showing it."
The French journalist who wrote the article added this:
"It depends how you look at it."
Well, he's right. But it surprised me. For years the French have had a laissez-faire attitude towards nudity. After all, the beaches are, for the most part, topless and even nudist, there is nothing unusual about a nude statue or paintings, or photos of nudes in public places on billboards, in fact, the French are almost as much at home with nudity as the Scandinavians, who have long held the opinion that your skin is ample covering for any occasion. My husband used to tease me about how prudish and Puritan the Americans are. There really is a completely different mind-set about nudity, accidental or otherwise. If Janet Jackson's whole shirt had fallen off here in France during that live Telecast, no one would have thought it a crime.
But is that changing? Carla Sarkozy's nude photo in the English newspapers went practically unmentioned here. The French press were strangley silent, and only a brief mention was ever made. Before, in the 70's or 80's, it would have been cause for national celebration. "Our first lady has a body to die for - and here's the proof!" Now it's an embarrassment.
The "You've gone a long way baby" has turned into "You've arrived, so stop making so much noise, get dressed, sit down, and shut up." And we did. And now we're going to regret it. For me, the first sign of things to come is that the French are turning into prudes.
Friday, April 18, 2008
So maybe Friday ISn't my favorite day of the week.
Flowers are springing up all over. Violets and forget-me-nots cover the ground. I mentined that to my husband as we took out the garbage this morning. His reply "Hmph." I guess men aren't into flowers. If I'd pointed out a wild boar in the garden, the enthusiasm would have been higher.
That's not the only difference I've found between men and women. :-)
I got home from work yesterday (it seems odd to say that - I haven't officially worked since the twins were born) and dishes were piled in the sink, and there were dust bunnies the size of tricerotops in the corners. Hubby (a neat freak) was walking around with a martyred expression. He did the dishes this morning, which is an indication of how bad things are. He Never does the dishes. (He irons, which saves him from any criticism.) I had to catch up on my work, so I was up until nearly midnight loading books into a database. Then, this morning, I discovered that nothing I did yesterday was showing up on the site & I have to start all over. I banged my head a few times on the keyboard and then decided to go to the pool.
Swim out the kinks.
Drown my sorrows.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I'm getting antsy.
I put wayyyyy too much garlic on my chicken.
On the plus side, my comment on the CIF was deleted by the editor! I'm officially an iconoclast!
Go me! I can't decide if it was because of my disparaging remarks about the prophet Mohammad's many wives not really being fodder for a mini series (that was the topic - a mini series about Mohammad.) Or my comment that the role was made for Tom Cruise?
On TV there is a documentary about mothers taking strip tease classes.
I'm not sure if I'm tickled or horrified.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Bush's legacy: ince Bush took office, five million more Americans live in poverty, three million more have lost their pensions, seven million more have lost their health insurance and median household income is now $2,000 less. In America, 18% of our children live in poverty, in Scandinavia it's 3 or 4 %.
Death penalty: Nearly 70 crimes can carry the death penalty in China, including tax fraud, stealing VAT receipts, damaging electric power facilities, selling counterfeit medicine, embezzlement, accepting bribes and drugs offences.
In total, today's league table showed there were 1,250 people executed worldwide last year, down from 1,591 over the previous 12 months.
There was a large rise in the number of executions in Iran - at least 317 people, up from 177 - and Saudi Arabia, where the total rose from 39 to at least 143.
Cases in Iran included the stoning to death of a man for adultery, and the execution of three teenagers who were aged between 13 and 16 at the time of their arrests.
In Saudi Arabia, a child offender aged 15 or 16 at the time of his detention was among those executed, and a man was beheaded for "sorcery" and adultery.
Last year Albania, Rwanda and the Cook Islands abolished the death penalty, bringing the total number of countries to have done so to 135.
Executions in the United States, usually among the world's most frequent users of the death penalty, dropped to 42 in 2007.
And why I love it:
"Three first novelists remain in contention for this year's Orange prize for fiction, in a shortlist announced this morning that pits them against three others with a total of 24 novels behind them.
Chair of the judges Kirsty Lang said she was "extremely pleased" to see Sadie Jones's The Outcast, Heather O'Neill's Lullabies for Little Criminals and Patricia Wood's Lottery make the shortlist alongside some very established authors "on a list that reflects the scope, variety and international breadth of the Orange prize."
The churchbells are ringing - it's noon. Otherwise, all is very quiet here. It is raining again, and my garden is soaked.
Another day in Montchauvet...
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Friday, April 11, 2008
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
I love Europe, and living in France is wonderful. But I miss my family. (Maybe I get along so well with them and miss them because I rarely see them...LOL. This might be true. )
Anyway, not much to blog about today. I'm off for another job interview this afternoon - I've been looking for work, and I already found one job working on a newsletter for a cosmetic research database, and now I'm off to see about sorting mail and writing letters in English for a scientist/researcher in the next village. I have No idea what this job entails, except that it's in English, requires someone who knows their way around the internet and can work on computers. I'll try to write more when I find out more. Until then, I'm imagining all sorts of things. A mad scientist. A dark and gloomy mansion. A labyrinth of echoing hallways. Tall trees leaning over the gravel drive. Crows cawing incessently in the yew, a room full of stacks of paper, reams of work to be shelved and sorted, and huge, leather-bound books with strange symbols on them...
OK, let's put a lid on the imagination and wait 'til we get there.
No mad scientist, just a very charming scientist-slash-researcher!
I got the gravel drive right - and there were lots of trees (but no crows).
Nothing gloomy - very bright and modern office. I showed him my website as I left, and he followed the links to my blog and read about my wild imagination, sent me an e-mail, and (thankfully) has a good sense of humor.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
But how is China's taking over Tibet any different than the US in Iraq?
Just so that you know - the Chinese claim the Tibetians are terrorists and anarchists, determined to cause trouble...
From the Guardian:
"A confidential draft agreement covering the future of US forces in Iraq, passed to the Guardian, shows that provision is being made for an open-ended military presence in the country.
The draft strategic framework agreement between the US and Iraqi governments, dated March 7 and marked "secret" and "sensitive", is intended to replace the existing UN mandate and authorises the US to "conduct military operations in Iraq and to detain individuals when necessary for imperative reasons of security" without time limit.
The authorisation is described as "temporary" and the agreement says the US "does not desire permanent bases or a permanent military presence in Iraq". But the absence of a time limit or restrictions on the US and other coalition forces - including the British - in the country means it is likely to be strongly opposed in Iraq and the US.
Iraqi critics point out that the agreement contains no limits on numbers of US forces, the weapons they are able to deploy, their legal status or powers over Iraqi citizens, going far beyond long-term US security agreements with other countries. The agreement is intended to govern the status of the US military and other members of the multinational force..."
That's what China is to Tibet - a military occupation, with the power to "...detain individuals when necessary for imperative reasons of security" without time limit."
So, how can we, as Americans, even start to mention boycotting the Olympics (Hilary) or plan to disrupt the torch bearing ceremony (in San Franscisco - for example, they are already planning a protest.)
Is this a case of calling the kettle black?
Or are all countries the same?
Is it time for a revolution yet?
Monday, April 07, 2008
I ran outside and took pictures of the snow falling. I took pictures of my pot of pansies with snow on them. I took pictures of my handprint in the snow, with August's paw prints next to them (and his nose print, as he licked at the snow).
I took a walk while it snowed last night (it was so wet it was like walking in the rain, and it was cold and miserable out, so I didn't walk for long.) But I had my snow! I had been missing it! I guess it must be from growing up in the tropics. I really think snow is something special. Of course, I don't live in upstate NY, where snow is something to be suffered...We don't get drifts, we get frosting.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
What have I learned in the three years I've been blogging?
That you keep your blogging friends (Hi Wynn! - my first reader!) That you meet lots of interesting people. That you can voyage from one side of the world to the next. That bloggers are incredibly generous, witty, and kind. That it's hard to think of a new blog each day, but sometimes the words just flow. That it's fun to look over your own archives to see where you were on a certain day. That I hope I'll be blogging in years to come.
Saturday, April 05, 2008
Of course, no matter how great your convictions are about something, when your good friend (and ride, I might add, to the pool) contradicts you, you back-pedal. At least I do.
Me - "Oh, but that was just wash-out streaks, wasn't it?"
Isobel - "No, I got the permanant kind."
Me - "Oh. Well. I'm sure it was very cute. I bet your daughter was pleased."
Isobel - thoughtfully - "Yes, but the hairdresser said not to do it again, because it burned her hair. Chemicals aren't good for young children's hair."
Me, trying to find the right pedal - "You're so right. That's what I thought when I read that article."
Isobel - "Now she wants streaks all the time. I think next time I'll get the kind you spray on. You gave me a good idea."
Me - sinking under water.
I suppose there are some things that you can back-pedal on. The streaks in the kids hair didn't seem so bad when Isobel confessed to giving in to her daughters wishes. After all, next time she's just getting the spray on kind.
Other convictions are harder to give up. I mentioned that I despised our new president for being a hypocrite to a guy in my gym. He'd been asking me what I thought of "Sarko". I said, "He's a hypocrite. Here he is saying he wants to help the lower income levels, and he doesn't do a thing about social housing. He promised to build new housing, and so far, nothing."
The man said to me, "It's hard to get the towns to agree - I wouldn't want a social housing development to be built near my house."
Me -" Why not? Just because someone can't afford an expensive house doesn't mean he's a bad person! I wouldn't mind a bit. As a matter of fact, I'd be right there when the people moved in to see if they needed anything."
Man in gym - "Yes, but they're trouble makers. Look at the ghettos and the problems they had last year."
Me - If I had to live in a ghetto, I would probably make trouble too."
Well, that conversation got nowhere, but I wasn't backing down from that conviction - that everyone deserves a place to live, near good transporation, free education, and job opportunities. What they do with that, after it's offered, is up to them. But most people, I'm sure, would make the most of their opportunities. I just don't think most people realize that.
And it's much more important than kids getting streaks intheir hair. I wonder if my daughter wants streaks? (the spray in kind...)