Tuesday, April 30, 2013

If it helps the planet, they are against it!

This is incredible, but not really surprising, I guess.

It seems that if a conservative is given a choice of buying one of two light bulbs at the same price and is told that one of the bulbs is "greener" and more environmentally friendly, he will inevitably purchase the other one!
A study out Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined attitudes about energy efficiency in liberals and conservatives, and found that promoting energy-efficient products and services on the basis of their environmental benefits actually turned conservatives off from picking them. The researchers first quizzed participants on how much they value various benefits of energy efficiency, including reducing carbon emissions, reducing foreign oil dependence, and reducing how much consumers pay for energy; cutting emissions appealed to conservatives the least.
The study then presented participants with a real-world choice: With a fixed amount of money in their wallet, respondents had to “buy” either an old-school lightbulb or an efficient compact florescent bulb (CFL), the same kind Bachmann railed against. Both bulbs were labeled with basic hard data on their energy use, but without a translation of that into climate pros and cons. When the bulbs cost the same, and even when the CFL cost more, conservatives and liberals were equally likely to buy the efficient bulb. But slap a message on the CFL’s packaging that says “Protect the Environment,” and “we saw a significant drop-off in more politically moderates and conservatives choosing that option,” said study author Dena Gromet, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
And that, I guess, tells you just about everything you need to know about conservative attitudes towards despoiling the planet through drilling for oil or digging for coal, or through allowing rampant heating up of the climate without raising a finger to stop it.  "If those damned liberals are for it, we're agin' it!" Even if that act is something as simple and innocuous as choosing which light bulb to buy.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Search the Dark by Charles Todd: A review

Search the Dark is the third in author Charles Todd's excellent Inspector Ian Rutledge series, and, in my view, it is the best so far. Several other entries have followed this one and I will be interested to read them later to see just where the series goes. 

But not for a while, I think. After reading the first three books in quick succession in a matter of weeks, it's time for me to move on to something else. First, though, let me tell you about this book.

Inspector Rutledge suffered terribly in the trenches in France in World War I and he is still suffering some years later once he has returned home, recovered physically, and returned to his job at Scotland Yard. He carries with him the psyche and the voice of a young Scotsman whom he had to have executed for insubordination in the war. Hamish is his alter ego and conscience. He carries, also, the memories of all that he saw and experienced. He is an introverted and complicated man.

His superior at Scotland Yard is envious of the inspector's skills as a detective and he takes the opportunity to send him out of town on cases whenever he can. This time he sends him to Dorset where a young woman has been battered to death and two young children are allegedly missing. 

The local coppers have latched onto an outsider, another tortured veteran of the trenches, as the murderer and have clapped him into a claustrophobic jail cell. Rutledge is sent to find the "missing" children.

Almost immediately upon arriving, the investigation and its findings do not smell right to Rutledge. He is an intuitive detective and his intuition is screaming that they've got it wrong. As he gets to know the locals and meets the man they have arrested, he becomes even more convinced.

The suspect is Bert Mowbray, an out-of-work, out-of-luck veteran who was on a train on his way to look for a job. Looking out the train window at one of the stations they pass through, he sees a woman and two children along with a man. He is convinced that the woman is his wife and the children are his son and daughter. 

But this is impossible because all three were killed in the bombing of London. He had been brought back from the front to attend their funeral years before. Nevertheless, he is sure that they are alive and that he's seen them. He creates a disturbance, trying to get the train to stop so he can get off. Eventually, he is put off at the next stop and he heads back to where he saw his "family."

He makes himself a nuisance around the village seeking the woman and children and he is heard uttering threats against his wife. When a young woman matching his wife's description is found battered to death on the edge of the field, the local police look no further. They lock up the outsider.

The question is, if the woman is dead, where are the children? Were they killed also? Are they out there somewhere alone and frightened? Have they been safely hidden? Rutledge must find out.

In pursuing his investigation, Rutledge finds that Bert Mowbray is not the only outsider who is despised and suspected by the villagers. 

The son of the most prominent family in the area came home from the war with a beautiful French bride, Aurore. She is hated by the local women who are sure that her sole aim in life is to take their men. In exploring the village's relationship with Aurore, Todd is able to say quite a lot about blind prejudice and its corrosive effects.

This is a complicated tale with many twists and turns and red herrings along the way, but it is deftly plotted, and the clues are there in plain view. The solution to the mystery, or mysteries, is available for the clever reader to find. 

These are dark stories which delve deep into the psychological pain of the characters, but the character of Ian Rutledge is one with whom we empathize and whom we hope to see prosper. When he solves another complicated mystery, we share in his triumph, and we look forward to the next adventure.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Poetry Sunday: The Obscenity Prayer

This poem, I think, expresses, with a kind of dark and twisted humor, the psychic pain or confusion which even the most devout may feel from time to time.

The Obscenity Prayer
by Mary Karr

Our falter, whose art is Heavy,
Halloween be thy name.
Your kingdom’s numb
your children dumb on earth
moldy bread unleavened.
Give us this day our
wayward dead.
And give us our
asses as we forgive those
who ass against us.
And speed us not
into wimp nation
nor bequiver us
with needles, for thine
is the flimflam and the sour,
and the same fucking
story in leather
for never and ever.
Ah: gin.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Meet Henri, the very French cat. He is the very epitome of ennui and angst. What a tortured life he leads!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz: A review

I've written before about how Sherlock Holmes was my first literary love. I fell in love with him when I was twelve years old and I've never fallen out. Obviously, then, I am a sucker for any story featuring the great consulting detective.

It's not just me. There is still an extensive audience for Sherlock Holmes stories, and so the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate, for the first time in its long history, authorized a new Holmes novel. 

To complete the task, they chose Anthony Horowitz, who I knew chiefly from his excellent work as screenwriter for the television series Midsomer Mysteries, certainly one of my all-time favorite television mystery series. 

Horowitz channeled Conan Doyle very successfully, I thought. He wrote very much in the style of the master and remained true to the spirit of the originals, particularly in the relationship between Holmes and Watson.

The story, of course, is told in the voice of Watson who is writing it twenty-five years after the events. He is recalling the year 1890 and a fine art dealer named Edmund Carstairs who begs Holmes' help in unraveling the mystery of a man in a flat cap who seems to be stalking him. 

In short order, Carstairs' home is burgled and his family threatened. Then, inexplicably, the man in the flat cap turns up as a murder victim himself. Is the threat, then, ended?

As always in Holmes stories, things are not quite what they seem. The detective, of course, realizes this from the first and allows himself to be drawn further and further into what at first appears to be some kind of international conspiracy stretching from Boston to London. 

Along the way, he begins to hear whispers of something called the House of Silk, but no one, not even brother Mycroft, seems to know just what it is. What soon becomes clear, though, is that this House of Silk has tentacles that reach all the way into the highest echelons of the country's seats of power in politics and business and every other walk of life.

The whole thing becomes personal for Holmes when one of his Baker Street Irregulars is murdered in a particularly brutal way. He throws all of his superhuman powers of analysis and deduction into unraveling the mystery of how all the disparate crimes are linked together and just what is at the bottom of them all. 

Most importantly, he dedicates himself at great personal risk to bringing to justice the perpetrators of particularly heinous crimes. At this point, the bad guys should have just given up! Of course, they never do. 

It was a pleasure to once again be in the company of my old friends. Time has not withered them nor custom staled their wit and their passion for justice. 

The Conan Doyle Estate did well in selecting Anthony Horowitz to carry the torch. He has done them proud in this new addition to the Holmes canon. This was a fun read. Dare we hope for more?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson: A review

Case Histories is certainly not your typical mystery. It is more of a literary fiction/mystery hybrid, perhaps weighted on the side of literary fiction. Still, it contains all the elements and many of the stock characters of the mystery formula, including exploited teenage runaways, innocent female murder victims, blowsy and outrageous middle-aged actresses, strait-laced and uptight spinsters, pathetic and hapless males, and wives with secrets. Moreover, it has the world-weary detective, existing in his own world of pain, who feels driven to try to protect, or occasionally avenge, all of these characters.

The book begins with the telling of three case histories, any one of which could have been the backbone and beginning of a literary fiction novel.

First, we have the story of Olivia Land, the youngest and favorite of four Land daughters. The child disappears one hot summer night when she is three years old and she is never seen or heard from again. Thirty years later, two of the sisters find a troubling clue regarding her disappearance which makes them look for a detective to reopen the investigation of the case. 

Second, we meet Theo, a man with two daughters, Jennifer and Laura. Laura is the younger and more beloved daughter. Theo delights in her beauty and intelligence. She is perfect in every way in his eyes. Then she goes to work as an intern in her father's law offices and, on her first day there, the unspeakable happens, turning poor Theo's world upside down. The perpetrator of the unspeakable crime is never found and many years later, Theo seeks the truth and closure.

Third, Michelle is a young wife and mother who is stressed out, probably suffering from postpartum depression. Her husband is not understanding. One day she snaps and her world as well as her family's - including her sister's - is shattered. Years later, the sister, too, looks for a detective who will bring her closure. But is the story that she tells true? 

After reading these three case histories, we meet the detective who will take on all three. Jackson Brodie is a bit of a down-and-outer whose private detective agency is not going very well. Mostly, he is engaged to investigate domestic disputes. He's presently following an airline attendant whose husband thinks she is cheating on him. In fact, following her is extremely boring because she doesn't seem to be doing anything.

Then, in rapid succession, Brodie is presented with these three new cases, long cold cases for which his clients need resolution, much as he needs resolution in his own sloppy personal life.

Brodie has an ex-wife who seems a bit of a bitch and an eight-year-old daughter who seems to be slipping out of his control and yet whom he adores. He has an old client, whom he has never billed, a cat lady who hires him to locate her missing cats! She will loom large in the development of one of his new cases.

Jackson Brodie certainly fulfills the formula of the former policeman, world-weary private detective with a heart of gold. He is an engaging and empathetic character who is also full of humor and gets off some good one-liners throughout the book.

In fact, a big part of Atkinson's talent is her humor. She is able to write about very sad and troubling events with a light touch which makes them bearable to read about. Indeed, as one reviewer that I read wrote, she is "able to see the way happiness and sadness can emerge from the same situation." That seems a rare gift for a writer and it made reading this book a joy.

In the end, the reader gets some resolution of all the case histories. Brodie's clients are not all necessarily as lucky. But then, as we learn, they don't all necessarily deserve such resolution. As I said at the beginning, this is not your typical mystery.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day

She's a beautiful planet, the only home we have. Respect her. Do something nice for her today, and every day.

Happy Earth Day!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Poetry Sunday: Swallowtails

Tiger (right) and Giant Swallowtail (left) butterflies on Duranta erecta blossoms.


The Emperor thought of his heart as a water wheel
flooding the rice fields of all creation
and bloodied the water for a better harvest.
His warriors hoped for a life with wings.
His swallowtails wrote him the same lines
—the secret of life is a resurrected worm—
He told them eventually time would run backwards
in their hands, now empty where a crossbow went.
A theory works if it answers the exceptions.
The writing in the air of swallowtails,
from here to where the time changes at Mexico Beach,
is like writing all the armies of the afterlife
waiting underground in China.
We are attuned to shadows. They strafe the shore.
An osprey spins above the trees.
But when a large one stops suddenly above the house,
all the laws have been broken.
A theory that a moment is a warehouse where armies are stacked
to the ceiling, then one falls, is the last exception.
The osprey’s underside is streaked like a zebra swallowtail.
It misses the fish that dove out of the reach of shadows
as the lovers jumped into theirs from the Bay Bridge to Fort Walton.
If any should meet hovering over a milkweed or reflection,
they might say didn’t I know you in another life,
the kind of thing said often in Fort Walton or the Orient
and didn’t plum blossoms freeze in the Emperor’s courtyard.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Your taxes at work

This is the week that our income taxes were due and it was a week when we got a vivid example of our taxes at work. 

As a society, we like to complain about our taxes, but the truth is that the U.S. has some of the lowest taxes in the industrialized world.

Personally, I've never begrudged paying taxes. I see them as a part of the social contract that binds us together, as the price of all the goods and services I receive from the government, and paying them is part of my patriotic duty as a citizen.

If you feel disposed to grouse about your taxes, just keep this image in mind. Perhaps it may make you think twice.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Wings of Fire by Charles Todd: A review

Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard is a psychological mess. He fought in the trenches of France in World War I and was grievously injured. Now physically recovered (more or less), he has returned to work and has already managed to crack one difficult case in A Test of Wills

Before the war, Rutledge was a rising star at the Yard and that engendered envy from some of his cohorts and from his superior, Bowles. Bowles takes every opportunity to send the Inspector on out-of-town cases. He particularly wants to get him out of town now because of a recent Ripper-style killing spree in London and the likelihood that the detective who cracks the case will become a celebrity. Bowles is determined that it won't be Rutledge.

His chance comes when three members of an influential family in a small Cornwall village die within a short span of time. Two are ruled suicides and one an accident. But a member of the family has her doubts and she prevails upon the Home Office to send someone from Scotland Yard to investigate. Guess who Bowles chooses?

In the village, Rutledge learns that one of the dead is "O.A. Manning," nom de plume of a reclusive writer whose poetry helped to sustain him during the war. He is surprised to learn that the poet was a woman. She and her brother, who lived with her, are the suicides. Another brother, who had lost part of his foot in the war, fell down the stairs while the family was clearing out the house. His death was the accident.

Rutledge is a highly intuitive investigator and he intuits almost immediately that there are many family secrets here and that there is more to these deaths than the inquests determined, but will he ever be able to prove it? Will he ever be able to dig up long-hidden secrets and reveal the truth, not just about these three deaths but several others that have haunted the family over the years? 

One of the more interesting aspects of these Rutledge mysteries is his own psychological state. He carries with him the memory and the voice of a young Scot named Hamish whom he was forced to have executed on the battlefield. Hamish now haunts his every waking hour. He serves as something of a voice of conscience to the Inspector. It is a tormenting voice that forces Rutledge to face truths that he would perhaps rather not face. 

Rutledge is further haunted by the memory of the fiancee who deserted him after he came home from the war a changed man. She was the love of his life - at least he thought she was - and that love was another thing which kept him going and helped him face his wounds and recover. But the fiancee proved lacking in courage and in love and she could not face a life with a wounded man who was not the perfect specimen she had sent off to battle. Still, Rutledge finds it hard to get her out of his heart and out of his mind. As I said, he's a mess.

The mother and son writing team that writes under the name "Charles Todd" has created an interesting and complicated character in Ian Rutledge. This is the second book in their series featuring him and the reader feels that there are depths still to be explored in the several books that follow this one.

Incidentally, I can't help drawing comparisons between this series and Jacqueline Winspear's "Maisie Dobbs" series. They take place in the same time frame and place and explore some of the same issues - the state of English society after the war and the psychological damage done both to those who fought the war and those who waited on the home front. They are both well-done series and worth reading for anyone interested in that period or anyone interested in the history of understanding and treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or shell shock as the post-World War I society knew it.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Shame, shame! Everybody knows your name.

One keeps thinking that the U.S. Senate cannot disgrace itself any further. Then it goes and defeats consideration of a very mild background check bill for people who are attempting to purchase guns. Even though a clear majority of senators voted for the bill, even though poll after poll show 90% of Americans want this to become law, a cowardly forty-five who are deep in the pockets of the National Rifle Association refused to let the bill proceed and so, under the arcane filibuster rules of the Senate, the bill was defeated.

Since the massacre of school children at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14, 2012, at least 3513 other Americans have died as a result of gun violence. Some 80 more will die today! But those forty-five senators don't give a damn, as long as the NRA continues to fill their coffers.

Here are the names of the disreputable forty-five, along with their Twitter handles, should you wish to send them a message regarding this vote. I certainly intend to.

  • Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) -- @SenAlexander
  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) -- @KellyAyotte
  • Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) -- @SenJohnBarrasso
  • Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) -- @MaxBaucus
  • Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) -- @SenatorBegich
  • Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) -- @RoyBlunt
  • Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) -- @JohnBoozeman
  • Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) -- @SenatorBurr
  • Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) -- @SaxbyChambliss
  • Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) -- @SenDanCoats
  • Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) -- @TomCoburn
  • Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) -- @SenThadCochran
  • Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) -- @SenBobCorker
  • Sen. Jon Cornyn (R-Texas) -- @JohnCornyn
  • Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) -- @MikeCrapo
  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) -- @SenTedCruz
  • Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) -- @SenatorEnzi
  • Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) -- @SenatorFischer
  • Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) -- @JeffFlake
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) -- @GrahamBlog
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) -- @ChuckGrassley
  • Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) -- @SenOrrinHatch
  • Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) -- @SenatorHeitkamp
  • Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) -- @SenDeanHeller
  • Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) -- @SenJohnHoeven
  • Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) -- @jiminhofe
  • Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) -- @SenatorIsakson
  • Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) -- @Mike_Johanns
  • Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) -- @SenRonJohnson
  • Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) -- @SenMikeLee
  • Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) -- @McConnellPress
  • Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) -- @JerryMoran
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) -- @lisamurkowski
  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) -- @SenRandPaul
  • Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) -- @robportman
  • Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) -- @SenMarkPryor
  • Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) -- @SenatorRisch
  • Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) -- @SenPatRoberts
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) -- @marcorubio
  • Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) -- @SenatorTimScott
  • Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) -- @SenatorSessions
  • Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) -- @SenShelbyPress
  • Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) -- @SenJohnThune
  • Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) -- @DavidVitter
  • Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) -- @SenatorWicker  
  • Wednesday, April 17, 2013

    Responses from the Commonwealth

    The cowardly and senseless bombing of the Boston Marathon continues to dominate our thoughts - the innocents killed, the many more innocents injured, the courageous response of the people of Boston and Massachusetts and of their government.

    One of the best known residents of Massachusetts who is no longer in government, Barney Frank, responded like this:

    "Let's be very grateful that we had a well-funded, functioning government...It is very fashionable in America and has been for some time to criticize government, belittle public employees, talk about their pensions, talk about what people think is their excessive health care, here we saw government in two ways perform very well...You know, I never was as a member of Congress, one of the cheerleaders for less government, lower taxes. No tax cut would have helped us deal with this — or will help us recover. This is very expensive."

    "We're not asking people, 'Do you have have private health insurance or not? Can you afford this or not?' Maybe the government is going to have to pay for it. And this is an example of why we need — if we want to be a civilized people — to put some of our resources into a common pool so we are able to deal with this. And to deal with it, you can't simply be responsive once it happens...this is a terrible day for our society, but a day when I hope people will understand the centrality of having a government in place with the resources...At a time like this, no one thinks about saving pennies. But going forward, I hope people aren't going to think, you spent these tens and tens of millions of dollars — that would probably be a low estimate — let's just take that out of everything we have going forward. This is an example of why we need to provide the resources for our common good."

    Barney never pulled his punches even when he was in Congress. No reason he should start now.

    Meanwhile, Charles Pierce of Esquire wrote a proud defense of the people and the government in this most liberal of states in The Politics Blog:
    I can speak for a great number of people up here when I tell you that we're just a little tired of being used as a heavy-bag workout for every third-rate radio gasbag, every shoeless Bible-banging preacher, and every pecker-wood politician from hell to breakfast just because we have good public schools, decent public parks, and places we all can walk for free in the woods or by the sea, and a semblance of a decent health-care system. (Thanks again, Mitt!)  We are tired of apologizing for having public servants and first-responders who make a decent wage and who work for us, and not for Fire Departments, Inc. in Tennessee. Not only that, but Michael Dukakis is a good and decent man and the country would be better off if it listened to him about high-speed rail.
    We will not be embarrassed that we share these things in common just because, elsewhere, governors let children starve, and the sick get sicker, and preach of self-reliance while cashing checks from faceless millionaires. We will not be shamed by the yahoo creationism of the Louisiana public schools, or the cruel neglect of health-care in Texas, or the corporate chop-shop that is being created out of the state of Wisconsin these days. We will not feel slighted that there are more sweatshops elsewhere than there may be here. We will not join your race to the bottom. It has to stop somewhere. It might as well be here.
    We mourn now, because what happened Monday is still too close in time. We grieve, because it was only yesterday that we learned the names of the dead. We grieve and we mourn and we do all these things because that is what citizens of a political commonwealth do at times like this. But there are limits to grief and there are limits to mourning. We will go back to being what we were before. We will return to our good public schools and our decent public parks. We will walk again for free in the woods and along the sea. We will place ourselves in the care of our decent health-care system. (Thanks again, Mitt!) We will pay again for our public servants and our first-responders, and some of them will game our systems, and we'll raise a great howl, and mock the suckers who got caught, but we will not be conned by the grifters who are trying to make a Mississippi of us all.
    We are not what they think we are. We are not the myths they've made of us. We are what we are, the Commonwealth Of Massachusetts, God save it, goddammit.
    Yeah, what Barney and Charlie said. God save the Commonwealth. It provides a bright and shining example which the rest of us can only hope to follow and some day, in a more enlightened time, emulate.

    Tuesday, April 16, 2013


    You may have already seen this, but it's worth repeating. Somebody posted it on Twitter after the tragedy in Boston yesterday - words of comfort from Fred Rogers, the beloved Mister Rogers of my children's childhood.

    Blessings on the helpers, both those whose job it is to help in such events and those ordinary citizens who ran to help, instead of running for cover. They are our heroes. They are what gives us hope that the human race may actually survive, may actually be worth saving.

    Monday, April 15, 2013

    Midnight at Marble Arch by Anne Perry: A review

    You always know what you are going to get with one of Anne Perry's Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mysteries: an exploration of the dark underbelly of Victorian society, the secrets that are hidden so well by the glitter and glamour and the stiff upper lips of that high society. The story will be told competently and with empathy for the helpless victims, and, somehow, in the end, justice will be served. All of that is true of Midnight at Marble Arch. While it is not her best work, it is a workmanlike effort that held my interest throughout. 

    In this 28th entry to the Pitt series, Perry takes on the subject of rape, something that she hasn't dealt with much before. She expresses outrage through the voices of her main characters that the women victims of rape are themselves blamed by society for the crime. They are seen as having invited it, of having brought it on themselves. Indeed, it often seems that little has changed in 150 years. 

    It won't be revealing too much to say that the perpetrator here turns out to be a particularly vicious serial rapist and that the police and Thomas Pitt as head of the Special Branch despair of ever catching him and bringing him to justice because of the shame and humiliation visited on the women victims and their families and of the secrecy which society imposes surrounding the subject of sex and sex crimes.

    Nevertheless, Thomas doggedly pursues the rapist. He is haunted by the fact that some of the victims are teenage girls not much older than his beloved daughter Jemima, and one of the victims is a respectable married woman who reminds him of his own wife, Charlotte. If this despicable crime can touch such women, could it not also touch the women in his life? Although he knows pretty certainly early in the investigation who the perpetrator is, that man is protected by wealth and power. How can Thomas break through those protections and prove the man's guilt?

    Pitt is usually aided in his cases by the intrepid Charlotte, but not so much in this instance. However, his former superior at Special Branch and now his friend, Victor Narraway, and Charlotte's Aunt Vespasia are on his team, so he is not without resources.

    Vespasia has always been an intriguing character and she seems to be playing stronger roles in the latter books of this series, never more so than in this one. One feels that she is Anne Perry's alter ego. She is always described as beautiful and elegantly dressed. She is worldly and has had a fascinating life involved in the politics and history of England and Europe. Moreover, she knows everyone in society who is worth knowing and understands how to manipulate the levers of power. She is still very attractive to men in spite of having reached an advanced age. She is, in short, everything that an older woman would want to be!

    Vespasia's relationship with Victor Narraway continues to deepen. He is completely entranced by her and they have a very companionable way of interacting with each other. They are both passionate about justice and willing to do whatever it takes to bring it about. They put their considerable talents into the battle against the serial rapist, and, from that point, one senses that the man is doomed.

    I could easily see another series with Victor and Vespasia as the main characters - private detectives righting wrongs when the police are stymied. But Perry already has at least three separate series going. Maybe she doesn't have time to add another. Too bad really. These two deserve top billing in a series of their own.

    Sunday, April 14, 2013

    Poetry Sunday: A Lizard in Spanish Valley

    A Lizard in Spanish Valley

    A lizard does not make a sound,
    it has no song,
    it does not share my love affairs
    with flannel sheets,
    bearded men, interlocking
    silver rings, the moon,
    the sea, or ink.

    But sitting here the afternoon,
    I’ve come to believe
    we do share a love affair
    and a belief —
    in wink, blink, stone,
    and heat.
    Also, air.

    This is not a fable,
    nor is it bliss.

    remember this.


    Yes, I've come to believe that my garden's green anoles and I do share a love affair. Well, I admit it may be a little one-sided, but I do love them. They bring me joy and I am happy to share my space, my heat, and my air, not to mention my trees and rocks, with them.

    Saturday, April 13, 2013


    It's been a while since we checked on Maru, the famous Scottish Fold cat from Japan who has been a YouTube sensation for a few years now. So let's just look at some of Maru's greatest hits.

    You gotta love that cat!

    Friday, April 12, 2013

    This is "rebranding"? Sounds a lot like the old brand to me

    The Republican National Committee is in its "spring meeting" the avowed purpose of which is to further the party's efforts at rebranding itself and reaching out to Asian-Americans, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, women, and young people. So, what was the first thing they did?
    The Republican National Committee voted unanimously Friday to reaffirm the party’s commitment to upholding the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, upending party efforts to grow support among younger voters. 
    A resolution introduced Wednesday by Michigan committeeman Dave Agema, who came under fire last month for posting an article describing gays as “filthy” on his Facebook page, passed the full RNC by a voice vote and without debate. A second resolution reaffirming “core values” of the party — including opposition to same-sex marriage — was also passed.
    This just reaffirms the party's wildly successful platform from last year's presidential campaign. In coming days, we can expect them to pass resolutions to outlaw abortion, regardless of its reason; to deny any path to citizenship for immigrants who are in the country illegally, regardless of how they came to be here; outlawing any kind of affirmative action for underrepresented minorities; abolishing any government assistance for educational loans; oh, and just for good measure, mandating vaginal ultrasounds for any woman who tries to vote, because these guys just love mandatory vaginal ultrasounds for any reason.

    That's some rebranding they've got there!