Archive for December, 2009


December 31, 2009

chrys’s nurse takes him for a walk using the quarantine hood. on the other side of the street he sees a young woman on rollerskates, and a couple holding hands. he wants that freedom, and that contact. when he gets home he attempts to touch the nurse while moving from the hood to the tent. she quits. the next nurse assigned is a male who doesn’t talk to him at all, treats him as a piece of machinery to be tended, oiled and adjusted. chrys refuses to take medicine or eat until the nurse is replaced. he agrees to modify his behavior and to new logistics for his previous nurse to return. meanwhile it strikes him that there must be others like him out there – perhaps figure and ground can be reversed and people like him can live in the open while others live behind protection. if he can find others he can build a movement and a nation. but his communications are monitored, he must develope an encrypted technique of finding and communicating.


saint bertha

December 30, 2009

Another from British history:

Bertha, princess of Paris, shared her confessor with her half-sisters, borne by her father Charibert’s concubines. Bertha felt sorry for her mother to be so shabbily treated by her father, but she felt more deeply for her half-sisters Berteflede and Clothilde and their two mothers – who were sisters themselves. Their confessor, Liudhard, was a great comfort to them all, and held up their father as a negative example for them to avoid. Inspired by his counsel both Berteflede and Clothilde decided to become nuns. Bertha was ready to take the same step, but Luidhard told her she had another calling.

Within the church there had always ben consternation that the Britis sles had fallen back to paganism after the usurpation of Vortigern. After conferring through correspondence with the church fathers in Rome,he suggested to king Charibert that what he needed to strengthen his hand against his brothers was an alliance with another country – for example, the Anglo-Saxons across the channel. As a result, Bertha was given to king Aethelbert of Kent. Luidhard accompanied her to England.

treachery of the long kinves

December 29, 2009

From British history:

Three ships sail from the east. Vortigern’s messenger to the Jutes has returned, and has brought Horsa with him. Horsa introduces his brother, Hengist, to his old friend Vortigern. They have brought with them three boatloads of warriors to help Vortigern to battle his neighbors. Vortigern promises them a monthly payment for their services during the wars.

The wars last several years. Hengist and Horsa build houses near the coast. They send for some of their women so that they don’t have to harrass the local Briton women. Makes sense to Vortigern. the women come over with some additional family and soon enough they have a little colony of a couple hundred Anglo-Saxons.

Horsa, Vortigern’s friend, is killed in battle. Hengist comes and demands an increase in their monthly payments. Vortigern can’t afford it. Hengist looks angry, but accepts his answer. Hengist’s daughter, Rowena, later visits Vortigern and convinces him to come to a funeral feast in honor of Horsa, and to bring the Briton chieftans.

At the feast the rest of the Britons are killed, but Hengist keeps Vortigern alive. He forces Vortigern to grant him Vortigern’s kindgom and gives him Rowena for a wife, in order to gain some legitimacy with the neighboring chieftans and head off challenges to his claim.

Nicholas in Cordoba

December 28, 2009

In 949 the Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus sent a gift to Abd-ar-Rahman III, Caliph of Cordoba (in the Iberian peninsula). It was a copy of Dioscorides De Materia Medica, a guide to medicinal plants. Unfortunately no one in the Caliph’s court knew Greek. Two years later Constantine sends a monk, Nicholas, to help translate it.

Nicholas arrives in Cordoba and is immediately introduced to Hasdai ibn Shaprut, the Caliph’s court physician. He’s a Jew. He knows Latin, and he is to assist in the translation. Nicholas quickly understands that Shaprut is effectively going to be supervising his work. Shaprut shows him to his quarters, makes sure he is comfortable, and offers him all kinds of creature comforts the first week. Then the work began. Soon Nicholas began to see that Shaprut was much more than just the court physician – he was in effect the minister of foreign affairs. He began to press Nicholas for details on Constantine’s court, and what role Constantine’s son, Romanos II, actually had. Soon enough Nicholas is visited by messengers from Byzantium. The court back home wanted to know if the Caliph had expressed any opinion on the actions against the Arab corsairs in Crete – could the empire expect any help from the Caliph? Nicholas tries to stay out of politics and concentrates on finishing the translation, though he is occasionally distracted by arguing with Arian Christians who in the local eateries.


December 27, 2009

An aid worker has to go to great lengths to convince the leadership of a village to allow the inoculation of the children. He returns a couple of years later on a follow-up visit. All of the children are healthy, but many adults are dead of the disease. The vaccination as made the children carriers.

The vaccination project was privately funded and administered with a lot of corporate backing. This man now battles accusations in the press and from activist groups that this outcome was intentional. He begins to doubt it himself and even confronts several executives, but eventually obtains proof that it was unintentional. One of the biologists who developed the vaccine hangs himself. Now the challenge is to correct the mistake and to see if they can carry the treatment back to the affected villages.


December 26, 2009

Page sat on her meditation pillow getting high and wondered what coated the intestines of the shameless people, like Simon. Any sign of friendship or deference on her part brought from him only an air of superiority. His laugh was somewhere between a yelp and a click. He had called her frivolous, but compared to her he was the frivolous one, always talking about abstractions and far-away places. She was down to earth, her concerns were real. She knew she didn’t like him – so why did she catch herself thinking about him all the time.

That night she dreamt about hunters killing antelopes. They were all trying to shoot the antelopes in the head, rather than in the torso – which even during the dream didn’t make sense to her. When she woke up she decided to conduct a thorough investigation of Simon. Maybe she would uncover something that would solidify her dislike of him, though some part of her knew that she was an elaborate scheme to trick herself into accepting positive feelings for him. Either way she wanted to set some project for herself that would solidify her feelings toward him either way.


December 25, 2009

For Christmas, I’m inspired by a story about toys on npr’s weekend edition sunday:

In 1904 the American Marble & Toy Manurfacturing Company of Akron, Ohio. Burned to the ground. The next day every boy in Akron was rummaging through the rubble stuffing his pockets full of marbles. The owner was out of town. The mayor sent the police to keep the children away, and the city council soon declared the site a nuisance and ordered it buried.

I’m interested in how the children started their rummaging. Was it a discovery of the next day, which traveled through the word of mouth network? Or was the fire big news while it was still burning – and were the boys waiting impatiently at the edge of the property for the fire to die down enough for them to start scavenging? Once they were shooed off, what was the effect on the local marble economy? I can’t help thinking of the part in From Here to Eternity that describes the poker games on the army base after payday. I wonder if it had any impact or notoriety among children in other cities.

incomprehensible desire

December 24, 2009

petra looked up into the sky and wondered how much water total was in the rain that had been coming down all day. how much water? kiloliters? megaliters? teraliters? and if we are drops in an ocean of humanity, how many teraliters of human souls have flowed through the drain of history?

the rain was getting er sketches dirty. she volunteered at sanitarium holding art sessions – she couldn’t call it teaching a class. but she used it as an excuse to sketch them, or even photograph them if she could do so discreetly to aid in more detailed studies back at her studio.

She had discovered during her senior year in high school that she found the incomprehensible very erotic. in college her boyfriends all studied sciences she did not understand, but she was annoyed at the extra maintenance most of them required. then she thought she could find the image of incomprehensibility reflected in the uncomprehending. she dated a few boys she judged to be stupid, but didn’t see what she wanted there.

Then she happened to see Herzog’s film The Land of Silence and Darkness, about deaf mutes. She watched the footage of the twenty-year old young man, deaf and blind from birth, sitting on the floor playing with a ball and making spitting noises. He could not walk simply because he never learned – he was never able to see an example, and no one eer took him by the hand. For the same reason he could not eat solid foodL he was fed a paste. Petra felt ice freeze her heart and move out through the vessels of her body, followed by a new heat blossoming in her chest and flowing outward, staining her interior a new color.

Now she volunteers at the sanitarium. She does not have any designs on the inmates themselves, her desire is purer or at least other than that. She lives inside this internal excitement, but knows it is untamed. She decides as a general might to mount a campaign to court one of the doctors there. He might have some key to these people and their state that would temper, even channel, her fascination. But once he learns of her true interest would he approve?

wash out

December 23, 2009

Inspired by Shannon Faulkner and the Citadel. The first female to be admitted to the all-male miliatry academy, who then washed out after one week. Four hours of training and then one week in the infirmary. The first time off the grounds of the place where she has a chance to stop and think back is at the airport, waiting to board her outbound flight. She buys an orange and delights in its sensations: cutting through the skin with her fingernail, the look of the tiny tubules that hold the juice. the squirt inside her mouth, and the rush of vitamin c in the middle of her head. She thought about her new label, “wash out.” She did feel cleansed, cleansed of responsibility, for which she felt both guilt and relief; and cleansed of fame, for which she felt a new joy in her privacy, her own thoughts. She was no longer an actor on the world stage – at most like a kuroku from the Japanese theater, a black-clad stagehand rearranging the props on stage and ignored by the actors.

extended term

December 22, 2009

After obtaining a loan at the prayer tower she stops at a sweets stall to buy a 10 centigram bag of dried bees – the more expensive kind, with extra pollen on their legs. Then back to the hospital to see her current term-husband, who is laid up with a swollen leg. Woodsmen are always stepping in something that gives them a rash – at least that’s what the doctor told him. The loan should pay for the hospital stay and keep them in funds for a while after that. Their marriage is set to end soon and the term completion payout will be enough to pay off the loan. The two of them will have to figure out ad-hoc jobs right away though: they won’t be able to rely on the payout to keep them budgeted until their next term assignments.

That’s the plan. But unfortunately, the swollen leg turns out to be a much more serious infection, and the man’s leg is amputated. Obligation laws kick in, and the marriage is not allowed to end.