Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Flying over the moon

I don't like flying, so usually I try to fall asleep before or during takeoff and to stay that way if I can. It might have seemed even easier to do Saturday, when I returned to Chicago from San Antonio. I'd been up until after midnight, packing and digesting my niece's fifteenth birthday dinner (held at Chuy's), I'd woken up several times during the night, and I got up at 4:35 a.m. to catch my 6:50 a.m. flight (selected because it was the most cost effective). I hadn't slept well the night before, either, thanks to the pinched nerve and muscle spasms episode. And, as it turns out, I was also in the throes of late PMS, which drains me and my energy like a vampire. With all that going for me, you'd think I'd have passed out the moment I was seated.

You'd be wrong. I was fully alert during the entire takeoff process and couldn't even will my eyes closed.

As the Caribou Coffee slogan goes, "Life is short. Stay awake for it." I'm glad I did. Before I succumbed to exhaustion mid-flight, I experienced something magical—the sensation of flying in the dark over the moon.

The sun had not quite risen, and when I looked out my port window, the just-past-full moon was beside and below me, and soon behind me, among the clouds in the deep blue sky. For a moment, my heart felt as though it were within touching distance of its strongest desire. I was so moved that, after making sure he wasn't asleep, I tapped the shoulder of my seat mate, a stranger, and demanded that he "look at that." He did, and said, "That's pretty," before he returned to staring at the bulwark in front of us.

"Cold-hearted orb that rules the night . . ." And my heart.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I am not Borg, or growing older, part 46

Growing older is a learning experience if only because you have expanding opportunities to discover what can go wrong with the human body.

My latest learning experience occurred at my brother's house in San Antonio, Texas, toward midnight on Thanksgiving. I had feasted on a wonderful mix of American and Lebanese dishes sandwiched between two glasses of wine. We watched a DVD, and I felt good. Just before midnight, I became sleepy enough to go to bed, so I did. Somewhere between the couch and the bedroom, though, the left side of my torso imploded.

I tried to read myself to sleep, but was seized with spasmodic pain and couldn't find any position that didn't hurt. The pain seemed to be centered on my left shoulder blade and radiated to my rib cage and lower back. Even my left arm hurt.

I began to wonder if I was having a heart attack.

After 15 or 20 minutes of not getting any better, I used my mobile phone to call my brother, who gave me ibuprofen, a heating pad, and reassurance that I wasn't having a heart attack. An hour or so later, I felt well enough to try to sleep on my right side, and did—but not very well.

On Friday, I spent two hours with a massage therapist, who gave me a beating I still feel.

It's Monday, and I have muted pain, numbness in my arm, and an occasional spasm. What is it?

A pinched nerve. I didn't know that a pinched nerve can cause muscle spasms. Now I do. I'm here to tell you that you'll feel each one, even as they occur on top of one another.

I'm mystified by what caused or aggravated it, but I'll never know.

I'm thankful that it wasn't a heart attack. I'll be thankful if heals and never happens again. That is too much to ask for, I'm sure.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dream: The Delft cat and the silver man

I fell asleep around 11 o'clock, and by 11:30 had woken up twice, the second time in terror.

I was at my parents' new house, which seemed strange to me in some undefinable way. I saw the room I slept in only in the dark. As in many houses, the bedroom had only one window, and there appeared to be a storm going on. Finally I roused myself and looked with great effort at the strangest storm I had ever seen. Random flashes, but not of lightning, and wind. The setting and the storm seemed apocalyptic, and after noticing that I didn't like the flimsy curtains I wanted new ones to shut it out.

I found that the room was unusually large and that half was separated from my half by a large bench. There was a piano in the other half, which to my surprise I played expertly and beautifully. I found myself composing amazing works on it and marveled how. But I noticed the piano was also a fountain. While this was fascinating, I wondered where the many strong streams from it were going to and what damage they must be doing.

Later I found myself in this same half room with an older female relative. I learned that this was not part of my bedroom, but was a separate sitting room. A cat jumped upon a pile of yarn or material; the cat was blue and white in a distinctive Delft pattern. I remarked on the weirdness of this as I petted the cat and ruffled the pattern, but my female relative said that it's common. I was slightly afraid of it, although it seemed like a normal cat.

Perhaps it was the next night when a friend showed up with an entourage in my room. He wanted to take me somewhere with his group. I wanted to go with them, but inexplicably I closed my eyes and wished him and them away.

Then I was washing dishes in a kitchen that overlooked the street directly; it was straight down from the window. A couple I knew in a convertible stopped at the red light and chatted with me. This put me into a great mood, so when a silver-gray man came out from under a manhole cover, looking up at me with expressionless eyes and face, I smiled at him at first. Then, as he came toward me, staring with dead but determined eyes, I sensed that he was evil and that I should never have smiled at him. I dreaded his relentless approach even as his features became seared into my memory. I closed the screen door and locked it with a hook, then panicked as I tried to find an inner door with a dead bolt. My terror grew.

I woke up at 11:30, frightened and freezing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fisher-Price #969 Ferris wheel

One of my favorite childhood toys is a Fisher-Price Ferris wheel, which must have been a Christmas present when I was five years old. Fisher-Price is based in East Aurora, New York, and was a source of local pride. I remember my parents and their friends talking about how thoughtfully made my Ferris wheel and other F-P toys were, and how engaging.

I must have taken good care of my Ferris wheel because it survived my childhood unbroken, with all the decals intact, and in perfect working order. I also held on to all four of the "Little People" who came with it; the dog even has his plastic ears (it seems that some children chewed or broke the ears off theirs).

It remained in near-perfect condition until 1987, when my dad moved from Hamburg, New York, to Bellwood, Pennsylvania. In my thoughtlessness and haste, I must have packed it carelessly, and the United States Postal Service took care of the rest. The box arrived in Chicago in a banged-up condition, and a large corner of the Ferris wheel base had broken off. Recently, I glued it back together, but it was a messy break and needs restoration to return it to a semblance of its former appearance. I could have cried. I probably did. Whenever anything like this happens, I hear my mother's voice saying, "You don't know how to take care of your things!"

I've since discovered that the wheel is broken next to one of the struts, which is an aesthetic issue more than a structural one. I don't know how or when that happened.

The Ferris wheel has been in my closet since it was shipped in 1987; when I moved a few years ago, I was much more careful with it. In fact, I may have carried it to The Flamingo to prevent any accidents or losses. It still makes me a little sad every time I see it; it reminds me of all the lost and broken connections to my childhood.

I was reminded of it in August when I stayed at the Ann Arbor Bed and Breakfast, a 1960s chalet. The dining and living rooms are full of vintage decorations and toys. While I was admiring them, it suddenly occurred to me—I don't know why it hadn't before—to look for my Ferris wheel on ebay. Perhaps the proprietor suggested it to me. So, with an interest in seeing other Fisher-Price Ferris wheels and perhaps even in acquiring a second one in what ebayers terms "played with" condition, I created an ebay search.

To my surprise, I have been finding a number of these Ferris wheels on there. This makes sense; probably thousands of these toys were produced 40+ years ago, with many ending up in the attic or cellar, at estate sales, and in antique stores as children grew up and moved out.

What surprises me even more is the variation among them. Of the dozens I've looked at, only two to date have matched mine. For example, there's what is known as the "mean kid" pushing a bar that appears to turn the wheel. Mine sports a blue shirt and yellow baseball cap turned fashionably sideways, but most of the "mean kids" wear different color combinations such as green and yellow or green and red.

My riders, three children and a black dog, are also different from most. Some Ferris wheels seem to have come with adults, even grandmothers complete with granny glasses and hair buns. A few sets, which seem to be more recent than my circa 1966 edition, include people of color. The sets vary in size, color, and design; I suppose these "Little People" were made to fit a variety of Fisher-Price toys.

Another difference is where the music movement was manufactured. Most seem to have come from Japan, while mine was made in Switzerland. Most likely mine is an early edition of this toy, which, along with other Fisher-Price toys, evolved.

This makes my carelessness even worse, as my combination (blue shirt, yellow cap, Swiss-made movement, the particular "Little People" set) seems to be the hardest to find.

Many of the Ferris wheels for sale on ebay are missing all or parts of the decals; mine are starting to come loose as the 40-year-old glue dries out. While some undoubtedly fell off on their own, I can imagine how tempting it was for four-, five-, and six-year-old children to peel off the stickers. Indeed, some of the wheels have no decals left, and some sellers do not seem to be aware that the wheel and ticket booth had them at one point.

I have no intention of selling my Ferris wheel as long as I can help it. They seem to sell for $20–$40, at which point I hear my dad's voice saying, "For that piece of junk?!" The other day, one that was similar to mine, from a seller in Lancaster, New York, sold for nearly $70—to a man in Switzerland who would have to pay more than $30 for shipping! For a moment I wondered if he'd designed the Swiss-made movement.

Or perhaps he, like me, is trying to recapture some of the wonder and sweetness of childhood, when a simple toy could bring joy that is still remembered.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Alone

Another poem, this time based on the words "dark," "fire," and "shudder": Alone.

Review: The Strange History of Suzanne LaFleshe {and Other Stories of Women and Fatness}

The Strange History of Suzanne LaFleshe {and Other Stories of Women and Fatness} edited by Susan Koppelman. Foreword by Alix Kates Shulman.

In this anthology about "women and fatness," fat women eat, exercise, laugh, cry, love, give birth, and are abused and exploited. In fact, they experience the joys and tribulations of women everywhere, but what defines them, or sets them apart, is their body size.

The American interest in fitness seems to have begun in the late 1800s, when urban sophisticate May Welland of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence was compared to the hunt goddess Diana and noted for her slimness and athleticism. By the 1920s, thinness was firmly established as the fashion, with characters such as F. Scott Fitzgerald's Jordan Baker (The Great Gatsby) representing the slender, athletic, almost boyish ideal. In Koppelman's collection, Octavia Thanet's "The Stout Miss Hopkins's Bicycle" (1897) is an early example of how women suffered socially for their weight and how they began trying to manage it through exercise—an unthinkable notion for ladies of previous generations. One hundred years later, 1997's "The Strange History of Suzanne LaFleshe" (Hollis Seamon) also pairs two woman who to the world appear to have eating disorders—Suzanne Brown, who prefers the fullness of flesh, and Theresa, a teenager with apparent anorexia.

Some stories, like "Fat" (Grace Sartwell Mason) play purposely to the popular stereotype. Mrs. Payton Tierney substitutes a constant supply of rich foods for the love that no longer exists between her and her husband. Food is the problem and the solution as "The prison of her flesh received her" and the story ends in a surprisingly predictable way.

Stories like "Good-Bye, Old Laura" (Lucile Vaughan Payne) and "Skanks" (Rennie Sparks) capture the respective times and experiences of their teenage protagonists. Laura and Janine are complex characters whose peers influence their feelings about themselves and their bodies, with disturbing results for both. "The Hershey Bar Queen" (Elena Diaz Bjorkquist) is a teenage revenge fantasy, although the protagonist's food obsession and child-like simplicity and gullibility make the supernatural ending disappointingly ineffective.

If Mrs. Tierney, with her bonbons and distaste for exertion, is the stereotypical fat woman, the husbands in "The Feeder" (Maria Bruno) are alpha males whose wives fight back by taking control of their food, their bodies, and their weights—the thin wife consciously, the fat one less so. This story stands out for the disturbing image of a trapped, dying bird, wings broken, that is not worth saving to the insensitive husband.

"Perfectly Normal" (Lesléa Newman) is about the fat hatred and other prejudices of an anorexic wife. After making her promise not to get fat like her active, happy, lesbian sister, her husband sends her to a sanitarium before she wastes away even more. The combination of the wife's first-person perspective and the extremities of her opinions ("The least she [sister] could do was rip out the labels [of her clothing] so she would not have to be embarrassed" [about her size]) puts this story at the border of two-dimensional for the sake of making a point.

That is part of the problem with any focused collection like this; the focus on food, fat, and fat attitudes casts a blinding glare on the issues rather than truly illuminating them. It's interesting to see attitudes over the past 100 or so years, but questions arise, such as: How do those attitudes compare to those toward fat men, or to those who are different physically in other ways? If, as is claimed, only 10 percent prefer a fat partner to a normal-sized one, can the bias against fat be so definitively said to be social and cultural? Are those influences that widespread and strong? If the claim is true, are fat women really powerful erotic symbols to any but a few? It's mentioned that Lillian Russell, at more than 200 pounds, was a sex symbol of her time—but is that because she was fat or despite the fact she became fat with age?

In her defensiveness about fat, Koppelman writes, "There is nothing in women's fiction to affirm the calamitous claims of health risks made by the bariatricians, the exercise gurus, and the weight reduction mavens." Koppelman cannot be so single-minded as to confuse what appears in fiction with what happens in reality. Obesity, like other extremes, not only comes with serious health risks (for example, diabetes and all its complications), but also can limit the fat person's activities in ways that have nothing to do with societal bias (for example, I am too heavy for horseback riding, which I would love to be able to do). Koppelman's logic seems to be that, until a woman writes fiction about obesity-induced illnesses, they are not an issue for women.

The big question here is, "What does fat mean?" To the 5'7" patient in "Perfectly Normal," it means weighing more than 100–115 pounds. "The Hershey Bar Queen" weighs more than 400 pounds, as must the sideshow attractions in "Noblesse" (Mary E. Wilkins Freeman) and "Even as You and I" (Fannie Hurst). Suzanne LaFleshe weighs a little over 200. It's an important question because an active, confident, 200-pound woman, while fat by medical and social standards, may fall within the realm of normal deviation, while a girl like "The Hershey Bar Queen," enormous and obsessed with food, is a clear case of pathology. People fear pathology, whether it's morbid obesity, autism, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The Strange History of Suzanne LaFleshe {and Other Stories of Women and Fatness} is hampered by the restrictions and biases of its focus. A few stories stand out, but many are slices of life that lack depth, context, and subtlety. Another issue is that the book copy was not proofread; there are numerous typographical errors throughout, sometimes several on a page, so that the trustworthiness of the texts is in doubt—an unfortunate problem in a work produced by an academic professional like Koppelman. Still, it's worth reading for the handful of gems.

Sunday, 11 November 2007.
© 2007 by Diane L. Schirf.

Like the river

Based on the words "old," "river," and "photograph," I came up with a poem, Like the river.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Co-op Markets

Letter to the editor to the Hyde Park Herald on November 8, about Co-op Markets:


Although it shouldn't have been a surprise, I read with dismay of the Co-op's bleak alternatives. While it's amazing when anything in this world lasts as long as 75 years, the Co-op's financial failure is distressing because it seems to have come about because of one bad decision—to expand and to lock into a long-term lease. In other words, it was utterly unnecessary. I've also been disappointed that someone would run for a board position, win it, and then figure out that they didn't have enough time for it.


I've followed the disparaging comments made by a vocal (or verbal) few in the Herald, including those written by people willing to call their neighbors "stupid" for shopping at the Co-op. Call me "stupid" all you like; I prefer the Co-op to any chain store that I have been in. If my preferences make me "stupid," so be it.


The comments and attitudes are unfortunate because the Co-op provides an alternative to the abundant chains, which not everyone loves. As an example, a friend in Ann Arbor, her daughter, and I went to Whole Foods to pick up a special order. She and her teenage daughter found the experience so miserable, and similar experiences at other chains likewise, that they agreed to find a way to do as much of their shopping at their local co-operative—a tiny store, more the size of a convenience store—so they could avoid the chain stores like Whole Foods and Kroger altogether.


Then there's my friend who lives in the south suburbs, within walking distance of Jewel and driving distance of numerous stores. He loves the Co-op and wants to stop there nearly every time he is in Hyde Park. If we're pressed for time, I have to drag him out.


Then there are the people I overheard one day, who apparently were in the area for wedding. Some were hanging around Bonjour when they were joined by a couple who told them, "There's a grocery store back there. It's really good, a little like Whole Foods but different. You should see it."


It's also disturbing how eager the university is to get rid of the Co-op and to bring in a chain. The university clearly has a poor understanding of why college towns like Ann Arbor are so charming and popular with parents and students alike—the small boutiques, the unique stores, and the standalone cafes like Cafe Verde and Sweetwater Cafe are all part of the effect. Even with its diverse student body, the university seems to want to suburbanize Hyde Park, with Borders, Starbucks, Hollywood, and other suburban comforts on every corner. Now they want a chain grocery store, because apparently a local co-operative just isn't mass market enough.


Under normal circumstances, I'm not so sure the Co-op's time would have come. There have been tremendous improvements in the past several years, and now it seems it's all for nothing for those of us who are "stupid" enough to keep up our memberships and to prefer shopping there and for the employees, too.


All good things must come to an end, but such an end affecting so many people, including the "stupid" like me—it's unfortunate and sad, moreso because it was avoidable.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The magic of Disney

I seem to be in a curmudgeonly mood, so now is as good a time as any to confess that I hate Disney.

I've seen very few Disney movies (intentionally, and I've never been to Disneyland or Disney World. Yet I hate Disney.

Of course, the contemporary American can't help being exposed to Disney. The movies, merchandise—lots of merchandise—and advertising are avoidable only if you live in a hermit's cave and can miss out on the highway billboards, shopping, television, radio, or the Internet 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even then, they'd probably find you via direct mail.

Given my exposure level—minimal for someone who lives in a major urban area where advertising assaults the senses constantly—my antipathy toward all things Disney feels entirely natural. It's not something I've developed over time. What is it that I find so abhorrent?

Some of it is, of course, Disney's ubiquity and popularity. Far from being "magical," Disney is crassly commercial, catered to small children and to the parents who indulge them—and so ingrained in American culture that each generation passes on their love for what is essentially a mass commercial enterprise as though it were an unmatched, irreplaceable family heirloom.

There's more to my distaste, I suspect. When I think of Disney, the first words that come to mind are "conformity" and "control." Disney is as much part of the suburban American childhood experience as day-care, cars, and pumped-up self-esteem.

Most parents I've known have faced a moment when they think their head will explode if they have to watch The Little Mermaid one more time. Those with money will surely find themselves at Disney World in the near future. For a while, even athletes shilled for Disney, saying after winning a championship, "I'm going to Disney World!"

There's no doubt that something about the world of Disney appeals deeply to something in the American people. Perhaps it is that need for control. Beyond the character cuteness and cleverness and the carefully managed visitor experience lies a vise of control in which nothing is left to chance. It is the control of the alcoholic, who needs to be in charge and to keep reality at bay. The "magic" is not magic at all; it is control.

In this planned world, managed to the smallest detail, horrifying folk and fairy tales become watered-down, predictable, affirming stories of good and evil. They are just scary enough for a slight thrill of slight uncertainty and danger, but the handsome boy and the beautiful girl go on to live the American dream—invisibly, because Disney is about youth, not age. The villains suffer some form of punishment, but nothing like the punishment inflicted in real fairy tales. In one tale, the wicked woman is placed into a barrel of inward-facing spikes, which is rolled down a hill—a sort of rolling iron maiden that you won't find in a carefully sanitized Disney version.

Magic acts are based on control; the magician and assistant control the audience's perception of what they think they see. Disney is an elaborate magic act without equal. Small children don't see workers with plastic heads, and even jaded teens can become immersed in the more sophisticated rides and attractions. Giving up control means losing yourself in the magic—all of it an act, a pretense.

With Disney, the illusion, the appeal to the senses, and feeling of wonder are so complete that the critical brain is not engaged. Disney children grow into Disney adults who, not surprisingly, want to pass on that same feeling, which they remember as "magical," to their own children. No doubt Disney struggles to compete with all the sophisticated diversions that are available today, but its entertainment empire thrives.

People seem to go along with magic acts as long as the illusion is seamless. We don't really believe that a woman is being cut in two (and put back together) on stage. The better the illusion, however, and the more elusive the trickery, the more awed we are. "How does he do that?" Interestingly, there are always a few who seem disappointed when magic acts prove to be trickery. They say, "It's a trick! He didn't really saw the woman in half!" as though they think the act of illusion should be reality, as though they confuse the two.

That's the problem. Magic, not illusion, should be reality. Magic is something greater than ourselves, and therefore magic is spiritual. The parting of the Red Sea and the miracles of the New Testament are magic—great, inexplicable events that, whatever your beliefs, are recounted as though they had really happened, as though they were reality. Magic is real, magic is powerful, and magic is dangerous. Magic, no matter how benevolently used, even to feed the five thousand, is frightening because it is greater than ourselves, and we cannot understand it or its powers.

There's no room in our world left for magic. Our science has explained nearly everything, and we have faith that someday it will explain everything that remains uncertain. If someone parted a sea or brought the dead back to life, we would be determined to figure out the illusion or to find a rational explanation. We will not be satisfied until we prove that there is nothing greater than ourselves.

Disney is an illusion designed to prolong the illusion of childhood. But Disney is not magic. Instead of believing in the potential of magic and all its possibilities, we'd rather pay for a well-crafted facsimile because we are sure that that is all there is. Instead of seeking the magic—and power—of the imagination, we, like other animals, rely on stimulation of our senses. The popularity of the theme parks, the movies, and the products prove there must be a real thrill in this, and perhaps a yearning for more.

That "more" is magic, and it cannot be bought or sold—by Disney or anyone else.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Dream: Encouragement from Wayne C. Booth

I suddenly knew that I was in another class with Wayne C. Booth and that I was a failure in it, as I had been before (in this dream). As I was about to leave for home, which (in this dream) was Yonkers, New York, I found out that I knew nothing and had no credit.

Mr. Booth was kind and told me that if I went into an online folder (or something like that), it would make a difference. I also got it into my head that I needed to get a certain history textbook. But I had to leave by 4 o'clock or I would never get to Yonkers(?). As I wandered hopelessly looking for the right place to buy the right history book, I found myself in what looked like a club, an area of neighborhood stores, and the like. I realized that I would have to leave straightaway if I were to be able to go home to Yonkers, with no luggage, no clothes, no toiletries, perhaps not even a purse with money.

Confused, lost, and panicking on every level, even as I went from store to store, place to place, and finding myself at what could have been a regional airport, Mr. Booth was somehow there, reassuring me over and over again of his confidence in me as mine failed utterly.

I did not want to wake up until I had lived up to it, unlikely as it seemed.

Early November at Promontory Point


DCP_2474
Originally uploaded by dschirf
I am out of tune with the seasons—I thought most trees were bare by early November, but the colors seem to be around peak here. Enjoy.

Wadsworth horses

Slide show of the Wadsworth horses recovering at the Carney farm. (Scroll down.)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Week of October 28, 2007

To my knowledge, nothing this week flooded, leaked, crumbled, broke, or collapsed—not even me. I did have odd dreams, although I didn't remember much of them when I woke up. Also, thanks to PMS, I fell asleep soundly on the bus, even missing my stop one evening, and sometimes started to doze at lunch. I felt myself drifting off during a couple of department meetings, which may have been noticed because I had so little control. There were a few times when I felt overcome, almost sick with sleepiness. Then, at 10:00 or 10:30 p.m., when I tried to sleep, it wouldn't come. I wasn't exhausted, and it would take me unusually long to get to sleep. Then I would wake up two or three times during the night. Once or twice I overslept. All that should be relieved soon, but it's an odd feeling to have so little say over one's body and functioning.

On Monday, October 29, J. T. and I met after a Lyric Opera dress rehearsal and went to Red Light (Jackie Shen). At some point early on, perhaps during the small plates, J. T. started peering past me at something by the entrance. "I really can't see very well and can't be sure, but that looks like Mayor Daley and Bill Kurtis." I turned around to look, although I did not have a good angle and could not see well through the plants, but I did spot a forehead that strongly resembled that of one of Da Mare's family members, a niece with whom I had worked 10 years ago. "Looks like Daley to me," I said. I'm not from Chicago, and I'm not fond of the Daleys in general or Richard the Younger in particular.

J. T. remained uncertain. "There's no security," she pointed out. "This isn't a power place. And the mayor wouldn't stand at the bar like that." (Why not? I thought.)

A few minutes later, I looked to my left, and there could be no doubt now. Daley and Kurtis had moved to the center of the room and had been joined by Kurtis's producer-girlfriend, Donna LaPietra, whom J. T. recognized from a ZooBall dinner. They spoke to Jackie Shen, then were taken to a private room, which I could just see into. J. T. was beside herself that there was no security. I noted that three or four men had gone in shortly afterward, but she said, "Those are suits." Maggie Daley arrived some time later.

I'm recording this as this is the first time, I am sure, that Da Mare and I have dined at the same restaurant at the same time, perhaps even in the same restaurant. Most likely it will be the last.

Monday morning I read about the accident in Wadsworth, Illinois, that killed or injured 59 draft horses, many young, many Belgian. Every time I looked at the drooped eyes of the horses pictured, clearly in shock, I saw an inexpressible world of suffering and betrayed loyalty and trust. I cried every day at work. For many, including me, it did bring to light the use of horses in the pharmaceutical industry, the slaughter of horses in Canada and Mexico for French and Japanese markets, and, if that were not bad enough, the inhumane conditions under which horses are transported and killed. Like dogs, in our culture horses are working and companion animals. Their slaughter should be as repellent to us as it would be if it were poodles or Pomeranians.

Later in the week, I read about a fire in a foie gras company building that killed 15,000 ducks. 15,000! I imagine how those ducks must have felt, trapped, unable to flee, suffering unspeakably, and all for human greed. I also read about the slaughter of a dolphin pod, including babies, by the Japanese; the story was accompanied by a graphic, disturbing photo of the bloodied bodies these intelligent, sentient animals. All for human greed.

I cried for the horses, the ducks, and the dolphins partly because I cannot save them, I cannot comfort them, and I cannot reassure them that not all of my kind are hellish, heartless monsters. And because I know that what happened to them is the proverbial tip of the proverbial iceberg, that human cruelty is pervasive and unstoppable, that even now, at this moment, any moment, unthinkable cruelties are being committed without thought other than money and sadism against those with no voice, committed without conscience, committed without end.