Claude Monet, gardener
In Giverny, Monet created a spectacular garden (1883-1926) that in no way can be compared with the much smaller and above all more conventional garden in Argenteuil nor with the garden in Vétheuil.
In this very special autochrome photograph, the already 81-years old Monet is posing in front of his house (and studio) in Giverny.
Anonymous, Claude Monet in front of his House in Giverny, 1921. Autochrome, 18 x 24 cm. Musée d’Orsay, Paris
About six months ago, my husband and I decided we hadn't become insufferable enough. Sure, we had abandoned the east coast to find ourselves in Tucson, Arizona. We were living in an adobe house, taking daily shots of apple cider vinegar, and attending yoga workshops featuring the progress mantra music of Blue Spirit Wheel. When a coworker mentioned she needed to find a home for her four chickens, we thought our next logical step was urban chicken farming.
We have a love-hate relationship with our chickens. To put it bluntly, our chickens—Miley, Joan, Denise, and Kanya—are assholes. They have destroyed our backyard, their disgusting fly-magnet poops are everywhere, and they are so dumb that they have made me reconsider factories with caged chickens. Seriously, they would be perfectly happy in a cage. In spite of all this, we are also deeply in love with them and have spent hours watching them frolic in a bale of hay, which I plan to video one day and turn into the next YouTube phenomenon.
A few weeks ago, my husband noticed that Kanya was acting strange. She was crouched inside the coop, giving us the stink eye, and refusing to move. Typically, Kanya is the queen bitch of the chickens bullying Miley and plotting ways to escape their pen. Suddenly, she wasn't eating, drinking, or trying to shit on our back step. Clearly, something was amiss. Like neurotic parents, we turned to the internet, which promptly lead us down a spiral of potential deadly chicken conditions.
After a few terror inducing message boards with people advocating killing the chicken immediately lest she infect the flock with her mystery illness, we decided the most logical diagnosis was she had a bound egg, which meant she had an egg trapped inside her body. It sounded like the most hellish form of constipation, and as I read further I began to panic. If you try to remove the egg and it breaks, the remnants will likely cause a bacterial infection and the chicken will die. If you leave the egg inside she will almost certainly die within 24-48 hours because—this was incredibly shocking for me—chickens lay eggs, poop, pee, everything out of one hole! They have some kind of combination urethra-vagina-butt, called a cloaca. (This fact must have made women excessively confusing to pre sex-ed/internet farm boys.) If the egg stays bound everything just gets backed up, and they die.
The clock was ticking. Kanya had been holed up in the coop since that morning, so she had less than 40 hours to live unless we did something. Now. Since this was the Hollywood version of a chicken crisis, the stakes had to be raised. The next day was Easter so even if we had a vet for our chickens, which we do not, no one would be open. At that point, I screamed at my husband, "We have to save our chicken!" and then ran through our house in a Marmee-from-Little-Women-inspired mania, looking for towels and hot water. We found a list of home remedies which suggested we put our chicken in a warm bath and massage her abdomen to help her relax and pass the egg. The blogs featured pictures of serene chickens lounging in their baths. Of course, Kanya acted as if we were trying to deep fry her and threw a massive fit as my husband forced her into the water while I tried to massage her stomach and pull dried poop off her feathers. Obviously, the bath wasn't as relaxing as we hoped.
The next option, we read, was to use KY Jelly to lubricate the vent (chicken lingo for the all-in-one hole). A chicken's “vent” looks like a mix between an octopus sucker and a fish gulping for air. As my husband restrained Kanya, I started shoving KY Jelly up her butt. Right away, she started pushing it back out again to which I responded by yelling triumphantly, "It's working!" only to realize that the natural response to having two humans shove lube up your butt was to push it back out again. After 30 minutes of bathing, massaging, and lubricating, we decided to put her back in the pen. Immediately, Kanya dropped a massive turd. It was the most excited I've ever been to see something shit. It meant she didn't have a bound egg, but it also meant we had absolutely no idea what was wrong with her.
Later that evening, we found a poop chart on the internet that showed in intricate detail all the different types of possible chicken poops. Oddly, the normal range is ridiculously broad. Yellow running poops? Sure, happens about once a week. Green and white speckled poops? Just your run-of-the-mill daily poop. Armed with a colored print-out, we began running around the pen saying things like, does this one look like a normal cecal poop or does she have ringworm? Having deduced nothing from our attempt at poop diagnostics, we found a site that forced us to face the harsh truth. If something was seriously wrong with Kanya, she was probably going to die. Confronted with our chicken's mortality, we tried the last thing on the home remedies list, giving her olive oil in hope that it would help clear out a sour crop or any toxic plants. We gave her a bunch of raisins soaked in olive oil and put her to sleep.
The next day, she was walking around the pen (thrilling!), but still making these weird noises, puffing herself up and flapping her wings. I was convinced she was delirious from dehydration. We waited in agony until the next day when the local feed store would open. Our last hope was to buy a series of powders that might cure certain infections or worms.
I was at work when my husband called. It was the end, I just knew it. He calmly explained that he had a long talk with a woman at the feed store, and she thought she knew what was wrong. I waited for him to describe some kind of torturous terminal chicken disease. Instead he explained there was nothing physically wrong with Kanya. My blood started to boil. All the sympathy I had garnered for Kanya evaporated. She was just brooding. Brooding! For the non-chicken expert, brooding meant that our chicken had baby fever. Sometimes a chemical is released in a chicken's brain that makes them think their eggs have been fertilized and will hatch if they just sit on them long enough. If the eggs are just regular eggs, chickens can starve to death waiting for them to hatch, which sounded exactly like my little asshole Kanya. Your only option is to break the chicken.
First, we could isolate Kanya in her own pen with food and water until she forgot about her nonexistent babies. Or, we could try to dupe her by actually buying a baby chick, sticking it under her, and tricking her into believing it's her baby—the ultimate plan in chicken deception. That night, my husband chose the more reasonable option to make a wire teepee in a different part of the yard despite my instance on get a stuffed animal chick and play chirping noises to make her think it was real. We dragged Kanya out of the coop and she started squawking frantically. Once in the teepee she seemed to calm down. She fell asleep within a few minutes, mostly because it's physically impossible for chickens to stay awake when it's dark outside. We stood like proud parents watching our chicken sleep peacefully. The worst was over.
Five a.m. the next morning, we were jolted out of sleep by deranged squawking. Kanya had woken up the other chickens and they were squawking back and forth like the world's most obnoxious game of telephone. I wanted to murder her and half expected the neighbors to be showing up at our door with pitchforks. We put her back in her pen and she promptly marched back into the coop to sit on her nest. When we actually woke up, I decided the only open was to close the coop. It would piss off the other chickens who wouldn't have anywhere to lay their eggs, but it was the only option. We dragged her out one last time, and with the help of a giant rock and plywood, the coop was closed.
Kanya was back to normal. I, having lubed a chicken vagina-butt, would need a few more days to recover.
C. Maria McMillan is kind of an architect, kind of an archivist, and kind of lives in Tucson.8 Comments
La Coquille et le Clergyman (1928)
So there’s no way to write a post involving porn without oodles of double entredes, so let’s just agree to try to ignore them. But this story about the collision between the porn industry and the banking industry–at least the porn industry admits they’re fucking people–is disturbing (boldface mine):
This past Monday, porn star Teagan Presley arrived home in Las Vegas from yet another whirlwind strip club appearance tour and found a letter from her bank.
Chase was closing her account, which was listed under her legal name, as well as the account of her husband.
When Presley went to the bank in person to ask why, she was told it’s because she’s considered “high risk.”
“And then they told me that they canceled my husband’s account too, because our social security numbers are linked,” Presley told VICE News. “They told him that it was because I’m a notorious adult star. Which is funny, because I’m kind of a goody-goody in the business, and I’m not even doing porn anymore.”
…In May 2013, CNBC wrote about actress Chanel Preston’s sudden account termination at Los Angeles’ City National Bank, and porn studio head Marc Greenberg’s lawsuit against JP Morgan Chase for violation of fair lending laws. Greenberg wanted to refinance his longstanding home loan, and said a JP Morgan vice president told him he was being declined for moral issues.
A Chase representative told VICE News they have no comment.
Now, news is slowly surfacing that shows the US Department of Justice may be strong-arming banks into banning porn stars.
It’s called Operation Choke Point….
…it’s a targeted effort to shut down as many as 30 separate industries by making it impossible for them to access banking services.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed Thursday, American Bankers Association CEO Frank Keating wrote that the Justice Department is “telling bankers to behave like policemen and judges.”
“Operation Choke Point is asking banks to identify customers who may be breaking the law or simply doing something government officials don’t like,” Keating wrote. “Banks must then ‘choke off’ those customers’ access to financial services, shutting down their accounts.”
Keating said the highly secretive operation was launched in early 2013. That’s when porn stars started to complain to the media that their bank accounts were being shut down without explanation….
Fattorosi told VICE News that bank account closures for sex industry workers are unfair.
“If I’m just a regular Joe that likes to purchase firearms or pornography, my account isn’t going to be closed,” he said. “What they’re basically doing is saying someone’s lifestyle choice is unacceptable. I don’t see where the account holders’ lifestyle choices have anything to do with banking policy.”
This is foolish for both policy and civil liberties reasons.
On the policy side, bankers have often made assessments about borrowers’ integrity (though it’s not clear that actually improves loan portfolios), but shutting down bank accounts will lead people in the porn industry to use riskier strategies, such as cash, offshore accounts and so on. This doesn’t seem to be a good thing. Like it or not, in a modern society, people need banks.
In terms of civil liberties, it’s really troubling. First, as Presley notes, she’s no longer in the pornography business, but she’s still shut out of the banking system, apparently forever. Second, I’m sure the list will never expand to include political dissidents. Third, here’s the list of businesses that are considered ‘high risk’:
Cable Box De-scramblers
Credit Card Schemes
Credit Repair Services
Debt Consolidation Scams
Get Rich Products
Mailing Lists/Personal Info
Money Transfer Networks
Yes, a lot of these are pretty scummy, if not outright illegal (shouldn’t the Justice Department be prosecuting Ponzi schemes anyway?). While porn makes a lot of people uncomfortable (or giggle), ask yourself this: do you want ammo and gun merchants to figure out how to operate (further) in a shadow economy? I can’t see how that ends well.
In the larger context, it’s absurd that the DOJ is cracking down on porn while doing nothing concrete against the bankers who looted and pillaged our economy. Not unexpected mind you, but still absurd.
if someone “fights like a girl” you should be absolutely terrified of them have ever seen a girl fight they’ll rip your fucking throat out with their hands while the guys are still doing that weird cobra posturing thing for five minutes
Never get behind me in line -- I have the worst line karma...
Someone dropped lime sherbet on the desert — and it's melting. Who's going to clean this up?
Nobody. Because this — believe it or not — is a plant. It may look like a glob of goo, but it's not at all gooey. It's solid to the touch, so solid that a man can lie on top of it and not sink in, not even a little.
What kind of plant is this? In Spanish it's called llareta, and it's a member of the Apiaceae family, which makes it a cousin to parsley, carrots and fennel. But being a desert plant, high up in Chile's extraordinarily dry Atacama, it grows very, very slowly — a little over a centimeter a year.
Think about that. If you asked one of these plants, "What did you do during the 20th century?" it would answer, "I grew a meter bigger." At that rate, plants rising to shoulder height (covering yards of ground, lump after lump) must be really, really old. In fact, some of them are older than the Giant Sequoias of California, older than towering coast redwoods. In Chile, many of them go back 3,000 years — well before the Golden Age of Greece.
They look like green gift-wrapping. One imagines that they are mold-like, wrapping themselves around boulders. But that's wrong. The truth is much weirder. That hard surface is actually a dense collection of tens of thousands of flowering buds at the ends of long stems, so densely packed, they create a compact surface. The plant is very, very dry, and makes for great kindling.
As the Bolivian guide explains in the video below (the plant can be found throughout the Andes), llareta is such good fuel that, even though it's very ancient, people regularly use it to start campfires and even, back in the day, to run locomotives. (That's 3, 000 to 4,000 years of captured sunshine thrown into a steam engine for a quick ride — I'm trying not to think about that.) It's also good for muscle pain.
The best thing about llareta is what it looks like. It's like nothing else. You climb 10,000 to 15,000 feet up into the Andes; there are boulders, loose rocks, jagged edges all about, and suddenly you come upon this soft-looking round thing that resembles a lime-green beach ball, and you think, "What is this?" When artist/photographer Rachel Sussman saw her first llareta, she apparently did a little happy dance. As she writes in her new book, "Every once in a while you see something so ludicrously beautiful that all you can do is laugh."
Artist/photographer Rachel Sussman has some pretty nice photos of llareta in her new book, The Oldest Living Things in the World. You can see and hear Rachel talking about her photos here. Our llareta photos come courtesy of the Terrace Lodge, in Putre, Chile, very near Lauca National Park where, due to melting ice and water vapor floating in, there's just enough moisture to keep the plants growing.
Henri Matisse in his studio in Paris, 1913, photo by Edward Steichen
Where else would you find Superman, Darth Vader, and Godzilla all together in one place except for artist Brian Reedy's work? This Miami-based art teacher is known for his creative woodblock renderings of super heroes and other pop culture references. He also dabbles in carving apocalyptic dystopian futures as well as mythic creatures and the gods and goddesses of Hinduism.
Reedy's work is a satiric commentary on current society. His style is an exaggeration and hyper-detailing of the comic book and cartoon genres. He often peppers humorous elements in his prints that range from hidden references to hilarious captions.
As you can see from the following woodblock prints, each of his works is incredibly detailed. They are filled with lush landscapes and imagery from the the genre, film, comic, or video game. If you are a fan of his style or the original inspirations for his pieces, you might want to check out his Etsy store.
Poor Johannes Kepler. One of the greatest astronomers ever, the man who figured out the laws of planetary motion, a genius, scholar and mathematician — in 1611, he needed a wife. The previous Mrs. Kepler had died of Hungarian spotted fever, so, with kids to raise and a household to manage, he decided to line up some candidates — but it wasn't going very well.
Being an orderly man, he decided to interview 11 women. As Alex Bellos describes it in his new book The Grapes of Math, Kepler kept notes as he wooed. It's a catalog of small disappointments. The first candidate, he wrote, had "stinking breath."
The second "had been brought up in luxury that was above her station" — she had expensive tastes. Not promising.
The third was engaged to a man — definitely a problem. Plus, that man had sired a child with a prostitute. So ... complicated.
The fourth woman was nice to look at — of "tall stature and athletic build" ...
... but Kepler wanted to check out the next one (the fifth), who, he'd been told, was "modest, thrifty, diligent and [said] to love her stepchildren," so he hesitated. He hesitated so long, that both No. 4 and No. 5 got impatient and took themselves out of the running (bummer), leaving him with No. 6, who scared him. She was a grand lady, and he "feared the expense of a sumptuous wedding ... "
The seventh was very fetching. He liked her. But he hadn't yet completed his list, so he kept her waiting, and she wasn't the waiting type. She rejected him.
The eighth he didn't much care for, though he thought her mother "was a mostly worthy person ... "
The ninth was sickly, the 10th had a shape not suitable "even for a man of simple tastes," and the last one, the 11th, was too young. What to do? Having run through all his candidates, totally wooed-out, he decided that maybe he'd done this all wrong.
"Was it Divine Providence or my own moral guilt," he wrote, "which, for two years or longer, tore me in so many different directions and made me consider the possibility of such different unions?"
What Kepler needed, Alex Bellos writes, was an optimal strategy — a way, not to guarantee success, but to maximize the likelihood of satisfaction. And, as it turns out, mathematicians think they have such a formula.
It works any time you have a list of potential wives, husbands, prom dates, job applicants, garage mechanics. The rules are simple: You start with a situation where you have a fixed number of options (if, say, you live in a small town and there aren't unlimited men to date, garages to go to), so you make a list — that's your final list — and you interview each candidate one by one. Again, what I'm about to describe doesn't always produce a happy result, but it does so more often than would occur randomly. For mathematicians, that's enough.
They even have a name for it. In the 1960s it was called (a la Kepler) "The Marriage Problem." Later, it was dubbed The Secretary Problem.
How To Do It
Alex writes: "Imagine that you are interviewing 20 people to be your secretary [or your spouse or your garage mechanic] with the rule that you must decide at the end of each interview whether or not to give that applicant the job." If you offer the job to somebody, game's up. You can't go on and meet the others. "If you haven't chosen anyone by the time you see the last candidate, you must offer the job to her," Alex writes (not assuming that all secretaries are female — he's just adapting the attitudes of the early '60s).
So remember: At the end of each interview, you either make an offer or you move on.
If you don't make an offer, no going back. Once you make an offer, the game stops.
According to Martin Gardner, who in 1960 described the formula (partly worked out earlier by others), the best way to proceed is to interview (or date) the first 36.8 percent of the candidates. Don't hire (or marry) any of them, but as soon as you meet a candidate who's better than the best of that first group — that's the one you choose! Yes, the Very Best Candidate might show up in that first 36.8 percent — in which case you'll be stuck with second best, but still, if you like favorable odds, this is the best way to go.
Why 36.8 percent? The answer involves a number mathematicians call "e" – which, reduced to a fraction 1/e = 0.368 or 36.8 percent. For the specific details, check here, or Alex's book, but apparently this formula has proved itself over and over in all kinds of controlled situations. While it doesn't guarantee happiness or satisfaction, it does give you a 36.8 percent chance — which, in a field of 11 possible wives — is a pretty good success rate.
Try It, Johannes ...
What would have happened if Johannes Kepler had used this formula? Well, he would have interviewed but made no offers to the first 36.8 percent of his sample, which in a group of 11 ladies means he'd skip past the first four candidates. But the moment he'd met somebody (starting with lady No. 5) that he liked better than anyone in the first group, he'd have said, "Will you marry me?"
In real life, after a period of reflection, Johannes Kepler re-wooed and then married the fifth woman.
The way Alex figures it, if Kepler had known about this formula (which today is an example of what mathematicians call optimal stopping), he could have skipped the last batch of ladies — the sickly one, the unshapely one, the too-young one, the lung-disease one — and, all in all, "Kepler would have saved himself six bad dates."
Instead, he just followed his heart (which, of course, is another tolerable option, even for great mathematicians). His marriage to No. 5, by the way, turned out to be a very happy one.
you know what if my tax dollars are paying for this then I demand a turn
David Bowie and Iman | Mr. and Mrs. Jones
They met on October 1990 on a blind date set up by a mutual friend, Teddy Antolin, who was also their hairdresser.
Bowie fell in love with her at first sight,
“I was naming the children the night we met … it was absolutely immediate.” However, Iman was reluctant to a date a rock star. In an interview she shared, “I did not want to get involved with a rock star. No way. It is not a sane thing to do, but David changed my mind. He wooed me.”
"I remember once we went out to dinner and the laces on my trainers came undone, and David was down on his knees in the middle of the street, tying them for me. I thought to myself, ‘This one’s a keeper.’"
“His actions spoke louder [than words],” she said. “We were dating for two weeks and I was coming from Paris and I got to L.A. at the airport and the doors open to the plane and I come out and I see all these people taking a picture of somebody. And he was standing there, flowers in hand, no security. That was when I knew he was a keeper. He didn’t care if anyone saw.”
They have been together ever since.
“My marriage is exactly as fabulous as you all would think.” She grinned.
”We have dates, you know - we’ll go to a museum, then we’ll have a long lunch. That’s what’s interesting, that’s what’s exciting.”
”First, you fancy each other - that doesn’t go. It might take different forms, but he’s good company. He’s funny, he’s engaging, he’s whip-smart, he’s interested in diverse things. It keeps on evolving - it doesn’t stay sedentary.”
He still ties her shoelaces at times, and still buys Iman her favourite flowers on the 14th of every month: the anniversary of the day they met.
As for their relationship at home: “David doesn’t fight, He is English, so he just stays quiet. I’m the screamer. Then he always makes me laugh. It’s like cabaret. I keep him entertained too.”
"I still fancy him, totally, after all these years."
“He has managed, somehow I don’t know, miraculously, to have my heart flutter when he walks into the room still. So, yes he’s definitely the one, he’s definitely my one.”
"‘I am not married to David Bowie — I am married to David Jones. They are two totally different people.’
"It was so lucky that we were to meet at that time in our lives, when we were both yearning for each other," says Bowie. "She is an incredibly beautiful woman, but that’s just one thing. It’s what’s in there that counts."
What’s “in there”, Iman confesses, is “the wonderful realisation that I have found my soul mate, with whom sexual compatibility is just the tip of the iceberg. We have so much in common, and are totally alike in a lot of things”. It’s not a love of music, or fashion, or the fact that “like David has his feminine side, I have a masculine side”, she insists, but the more old-fashioned values: romance, family, commitment.
Bowie on their relationship says, ”I don’t have that sense of loneliness that I had before, which was very, very strong. It became a subtext for a lot of things I wrote.”
"We work hard at keeping the relationship alive. We talk to each other continuously. We have complete and absolute faith in each other."
look at these two dorks
This guy wins all the awards for best costume. Don’t even try to argue with me. This is awesome.
May the colleagues that you badmouth the most have nothing but kind things to say about you when you’re not around, leading everyone in the office to conclude that you are a fundamentally disagreeable person.
May you be like Guy Fieri: may the things you love the most be considered ridiculous by the world at large.
Whenever you want to watch either Working Girl or 9 To 5, may the other one always be the only one streaming on Netflix Instant.
May none of your friends take your food allergy seriously; may they always pretend to forget just before serving you something you’ve told them you can’t possibly eat.
May you be labeled “difficult” after you have left the room. May your colleagues stonewall you without ever explaining why they don’t want to help. May “I don’t know what you’re talking about” become the sentence you hear most often, and the sentence you dread the most.
May all of your closest friends receive book deals for ridiculous and overly-topical premises; may your obvious disdain for their undeserved good fortune put such a strain on your relationship that you both remove one another from your gchat list.
May your life’s passion be met with global indifference.
May your incompetence never recognize itself as such; may you remain forever in the dark when it comes to the limits of your abilities. May you never quite understand why you never get the job you believed you were perfect for, but were in fact ludicrously underqualified for.
May the fears about yourself that wake you in the middle of the night all be the truest things you ever think about yourself.
May you be seen crying at work.
May your social media presence be so off-putting that it causes your real-life friends to distance themselves from you.
May the most substantive emotional support you can offer a grieving friend be the febrile sentiment “Sending good thoughts your way” in a Facebook comment.
May everyone you lend books to return them unread or keep them forever.
May your partner never be awake when you whisper “Are you awake?” because you desperately need a sign that someone or something cares about the anguish of your heart, that connection is possible. May your partner feign sleep in order to avoid intimacy with you.
May you become the emotional burden you sometimes fear yourself to be.
May your children think of you the way you think of your own mother.
May you never be understood in the comments.
Yasuzo Nojima - Nude Torso, 1930
Kintsugi—the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold. The idea behind it is that the piece becomes more beautiful and more valuable because it has been broken and has a history.
Sapphirina copepod, a.k.a. "sea sapphire" is a tiny shrimp like crustacean that makes up the bottom of the food chain. The microscopic layers of crystal plates inside their cells catch light and reflect back different hues, from bright gold to deep blue that resembles like a gem.
When they’re abundant near the water’s surface the sea shimmers like diamonds falling from the sky. Japanese name this kind of water, “tama-mizu”, jeweled water. Combine this nifty trick with the sea sapphire’s impressively transparent body, and you have an animal as radiant as a star in one moment, and invisible in the next.
A group that lost its U.S. Supreme Court case over prayer at public meetings said recent comments by a Virginia elected official illustrate the risk of allowing such sectarian invocations.
“The freedom of religion doesn’t mean that every religion has to be heard,” said Al Bedrosian, who sits on the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors. “If we allow everything, where do you draw the line?”
The Republican said Monday, after the high court ruled 5-4 that legislative prayer did not violate the constitutional prohibition on government establishment of religion, that he would not vote to allow non-Christians to deliver invocations.
“I think America, pretty much from Founding Fathers on, I think we have to say more or less that we’re a Christian nation with Christian ideology,” Bedrosian said. “If we’re a Christian nation, then I would say that we need to move toward our Christian heritage.”
Those remarks echoed statements he made several years ago in an editorial published in the Roanoke Times, where he described freedom of religion as a “hoax” and claimed “the global warming crowd worships the environment as god, the abortionist has the death of unborn babies as their god, and the homosexuals have sexual freedom as their god.”
“The real battle is keeping the name of Jesus as Lord,” Bedrosian wrote in 2007. “The name Jesus is what makes us a Christian people and a Christian nation. This is why we must continue our heritage as a Christian nation and remove all other gods.”
That’s what Bedrosian intends to do in his position as county supervisor, saying he would reject any request by any non-Christian adherent to deliver a religious or secular invocation.
“I would say no,” Bedrosian said. “That does not infringe on their freedom of religion. The truth is you’re trying to infringe on my right, because I don’t believe that.”
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the plaintiffs in the recent Supreme Court case on public prayer, sent a letter to Roanoke County Attorney Paul Mahoney warning that the county risked a legal challenge if it implemented the policy proposed by Bedrosian.
“Although upholding the challenged prayer policy, the Court also made clear that the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits legislative bodies from excluding non-Christian prayer givers or otherwise discriminating in selection,” the group said.
Mahoney said Friday he was still digesting the letter and would forward it to other members of the Board of Supervisors – some of whom have already said they would not go along with Bedrosian’s plan.
“It ain’t going to happen,” said Supervisor Jason Peters. “There’s no reason for this to be brought up and reoccur. I hate it for the county.”
Update: Bedrosian said Monday during a news conference that non-Christians would still be permitted to pray elsewhere under his proposal, and he said other supervisors could invite anyone they wanted to pray at public meetings.
Watch Bedrosian discuss his views during a campaign speech posted online by 2ndTCG:
Not exactly a pleasant read...
This piece was brought to you by A Male Reader.
The history of cats in Europe and North America is not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach. Really, no history is. The story of the cat is one of violence, black magic, fire, and cruelty.
Few animals have garnered such enduring cultural hatred; perhaps their only peers are snakes, insects, toads, and rodents. Over time, humanity’s beliefs about the sentience of animals and the value of life in general, as well as our sense of empathy have changed drastically for the better. It should come as no surprise that the generations who brought us astonishingly horrific inventions such as the thumbscrews and the rack should have occasionally turned their attention to persecuting nonhuman creatures as well.
The cat síth (“cat shee”), meaning “fairy cat,” was a legendary dog-sized cat, black with a white blaze on its chest, known to haunt the British isles. It enjoyed three things: milk, catnip, and stealing away the souls of the dead before they reached the afterlife. To prevent this, relatives of the deceased were appointed to stay up with the body to make sure no cats came near. They avoided heating the room where the body lay, as heat would attract the cat síth, and filled the other rooms of the house with catnip as a distraction. Also, as a “distraction,” there were bonfires, riddles, music, and games.
In the highlands of Scotland, there was a rite called the taghairm, which roughly translates to “the calling of spirits from the vasty deep.” It was believed throughout Europe that the Devil hated to see a cat suffer and you could conjure the Devil (or a demon, or a cat síth, depending on who you asked) by roasting a live cat on a spit. Drawn by the horrible yowls of the cat on the spit, other cats would gather until finally a giant cat appeared and beseeched you to stop torturing his kin. In exchange for putting the tortured cat out of its misery, you would be granted a favor or knowledge of the future.
Muslims revered cats for their fastidiousness and consider them ritually clean animals, unlike dogs. Cats were allowed inside homes and even mosques and are believed to seek out those who are praying. Many hadiths forbid the torture or killing of cats and Muhammad is quoted as saying that “a love of cats is an aspect of faith.” There also stories of the prophet allowing a cat to give birth on his cloak and cutting off the sleeve of his prayer robe where his beloved cat Meuezza was sleeping rather than wake her. This admiration alone made the cat a villain to medieval Christians who were suspicious of both Muslims and cleanliness.
The medieval writer Walter Map accused the Cathars, a gnostic Catholic sect, of worshiping a black cat “of marvelous size.” During ceremonies, he wrote, it would come down from the ceiling on a rope and the worshipers would kiss the cat’s “most private parts.” The Knights Templar were also later accused of worshiping cats, because no conspiracy is complete without the Knights Templar. Both of these groups were later massacred by the church.
In 1233 came the Vox in Rama, a decree by Pope Gregory IX, which marked the beginning of the Inquisition and church-sanctioned witch hunts. The papal bull encouraged bishops to collaborate with inquisitors in search of dangerous heretics that were said to worship the devil in the form of a demonic black cat. In great detail the Pope described the ceremonies where the heretic cultists would kiss the giant cat’s buttocks before falling into an indiscriminate, orgiastic frenzy which usually included homosexuality and incest.
In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII excommunicated all cats, and declared any cats found living with witches were to be burned alongside their owners. It became practice across Europe to kill cats whenever possible, leaving rats and mice without predators. These rodents brought fleaswhich carried the plague. It was believed, of course, that cats and dogs were spreading the sickness and hundreds of thousands of these animals were exterminated, exacerbating the problem. There are stories of hysterical people attacking cats in the street, believing that they carried the “miasma” that spread the plague.
Cats, in addition to being familiars to “witches,” were also used as spell ingredients. Their blood was used for healing, their bile for seeing the unseeable. The ashes of a black cat’s heart were said to provide powers. Spells called for cat’s hair, eyes, brains, and fat. For domestic luck, live cats were interred beneath the last floorboard of a newly built home.
In Mules and Men, Zora Neale Hurston recounts performing the hoodoo ceremony to acquire the most famous cat-derived talisman, a black cat bone. This special bone, taken from a black cat boiled alive in a pot at midnight, held magic and could grant you good luck, protection, invisibility, and love. There were various ways to identify the magic bone. Sometimes it was the one that floated to the top of the pot or floated upstream when dumped in a river. Sometimes it was the one that tasted bitter or that had a dark reflection in a mirror. You can still purchase chicken bones sold as “black cat bones” today from hoodoo shops and online.
Every year, on the second Wednesday of Lent, the people of Ypres, Belgium celebrated Kattenstoet, the Cat Festival. Cats that had spent the winter inside the town’s Cloth Hall hunting mice were thrown from the 23-story belfry. The number of cats killed depended on how well the city was doing. In a prosperous year, perhaps only three cats would be hurled from the tower. The first festival was some time in the thirteenth century, and the last involving live cats was in 1817. Supposedly the last living cat ever thrown from the Cloth Hall belfry survived the plunge and according to the 19th -century Ypres archivist Jean Jacques Lambin “scampered [away] as fast as it could, not ready to be caught once more for the same purpose.” Today, the festival is held every three years, and a jester throws toy cats from the tower into the eager, grasping hands of the crowd. Later, there is a mock witch-burning.
For hundred of years in various cities and villages, cats were trapped in bags and wicker cages and thrown into bonfires on religious holidays as part of the celebration. Sometimes they were hung from a pole over the fire and roasted alive for entertainment. Of course it wasn’t just peasants and sorcerers who enjoyed cat-torturing. In 1563, Elizabeth I had cats stuffed into an effigy of the pope and burned at her coronation.
When William of Orange and the Duke of Anjou arrived in Bruges in 1582 they were welcomed with banners and parades. The most spectacular decoration was a huge pyre in the form of a ship, which was filled with fireworks. It was also filled with dozens of cats. The lords were treated to a firework show, and according to a German account of the festivities, “the screams of the hapless creatures on the ignition of each firework produced further cheers and merriment among the happy throng.” Once the fireworks had all been detonated, the ship itself was set aflame, immolating the cats.
Every year at the Midsummer festival in Paris, a sixty-foot pyre was erected, lavished with crowns and flowers and surrounded by hundreds soldiers employed for crowd control. In the center of the pyre hung dozens of cats tied in bags. Officially beginning in 1471 with Louis XI and followed by generations of subsequent monarchs, the king set the pyre aflame with a white taper decorated with red velvet before retiring to specially-erected seating to watch the spectacle. The cats dying cries were drowned out by the celebratory music and there was a public feast funded by the crown. Later, the remains of the fire were collected as good-luck charms. In 1648, just before moving the French court to Versailles, Louis XVI himself ignited the blaze while crowned with garlands of roses before moving on to the dancing and feasting. After the departure of the court from Paris, the bonfire lost its splendor and the tradition died out.
Surprisingly, it was two dogs who were killed during the Salem Witch trials.
It wasn’t until the Enlightenment, with its emphasis on science and reason, that belief in witches and the diabolical power of cats began to disappear. Cats were recast as symbols of cleanliness, which was suddenly becoming a valued thing, but it wasn’t until later that a combination of Orientalism, Egyptmania, and fear of contagion brought the cat back into vogue in Europe. As science advanced, germ theory was recognized and people began to worry about the diseases their animals might be carrying. Cats, with their impeccable hygiene were clean in a way that dogs and horses were not. Surrounded by ancient depictions of cats from the newly “discovered” Egyptian tombs, and as travelers brought back exotic cats from countries like Persia and Siam, cats were soon elevated from barely-tolerated ratters to household companions. By the Victorian era, they were seen as beloved pets and “cat fancy” organizations began to appear.
Worldwide, cats are the most popular pet. In 2012, Americans alone spent fifty-two billion dollars on their felines. Few modern cats receive the treatment that their ancestors faced, and their widespread persecution is no longer culturally sanctioned. There are no federal laws on cruelty to domestic animals, instead discretion is left to the state. There are currently twenty-three states where cruelty to animals is a felony, punishable by a minimum year in prison.
It is nearly impossible to imagine the kind of spectacle described by historian Norman Davies happening today, where “the spectators, including kings and queens, shrieked with laughter as the [cats], howling with pain, were singed, roasted, and finally carbonized.” The equivalent would be if, at President Obama’s 2012 inauguration, part of the festivities had included burning live cats in a wicker effigy of Mitt Romney.
It was once believed that placing a bean in a dead cat’s heart before burying it would imbue the beans that sprouted from it the ability to make one invisible. The animals we once hated and treated like monsters have found their way into our breast; the seed has only just begun to grow.