Friday, September 30, 2011

In which the best thing we have becomes more like MadLibs

I'm not sure what happened to me at the outset of book banning week but here is the post I researched, made notes on & actually started writing:

What with Banned Books Week right around the corner (or upon us & rolling away as the case may be), I thought I would take a look at a newly-not censored book:  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as newly translated (it sounds better than bowdlerized, also no one knows what that word means anymore) by Alan Bribben.

The short version is Mr. Bribben (Professor Bribben?)  went through & replaced the word "nigger" with the word "slave".  I understand the word "injun" was also removed, but I don't know what replaced it.  The word "slave" could work there too, I guess.  Unlike a lot of people, I actually have a more than passing familiarity with Mr. Twain's original work.  I adore it & I don't mean that in the knee-jerk literature major way.  To give you some perspective, I refer to Moby Dick as the G*d damned fish book & while I have been trying for almost 30 years & I still cannot think of anything more overrated.  Also, The Great Gatsby is puerile crap.  I do not love literature lightly or because someone told me I should.

& I actually think the word nigger is worth hanging on to, in Huck Finn & in general (yes even in rap music).  Nigger means something.  It isn't pretty, it isn't flattering but why oh why are we so anxious to paint over a word with  history (an ugly history but no less real).  Why isn't someone waging a war on "nice" or "like", which as far as I can tell are placeholders for "I don't really remember that person/place/thing" & "uhmmm" respectively?

I do not understand why the choice is Huck Finn without nigger or no Huck Finn at all.  I don't understand why we have room for Harlequin romances & holocaust deniers & The Surrendered Wife & Beatrix Potter rip-off board books & all kinds of copy-cat rehashed consumer driven word-putty, but nigger is two syllables too far.

I did not think for one moment Huck Finn could be improved by replacing nigger with slave but what the hell.  Here is one of the more or less nigger-rich passages:
They asked us considerable many questions; wanted to know what we covered up the raft that way for, and laid by in the daytime instead of running -- was Jim a runaway nigger? Says I:

"Goodness sakes! would a runaway nigger run south?"

No, they allowed he wouldn't. I had to account for things some way, so I says:

"My folks was living in Pike County, in Missouri, where I was born, and they all died off but me and pa and my brother Ike. Pa, he 'lowed he'd break up and go down and live with Uncle Ben, who's got a little one-horse place on the river, forty-four mile below Orleans. Pa was pretty poor, and had some debts; so when he'd squared up there warn't nothing left but sixteen dollars and our nigger, Jim..."
But why slave?  If we are going to rewrite history, Jim should be a ...patriot!  & let's face it, who calls their father Pa?  & those $16 really should be adjusted for inflation.  Because that's where this goes, it doesn't stop with one bad word, there is always tomorrow's bad word & "let's update the language to help the kids through" & so forth.

They asked us considerable many questions; wanted to know what we covered up the raft that way for, and laid by in the daytime instead of running -- was Jim a runaway patriot? Says I:

"Goodness sakes! would a runaway patriot run south?" 

hmmm.  Let's keep going.

No, they allowed he wouldn't. I had to account for things some way, so I says:

"My folks was living in Pike County, in Missouri, where I was born, and they all died off but me and daddy and my brother Ike. Daddy, he 'lowed he'd break up and go down and live with Uncle Ben, who's got a little one-horse place on the river, forty-four mile below Orleans. Daddy was pretty poor, and had some debts; so when he'd squared up there warn't nothing left but sixteen hundred dollars and our patriot, Jim...

Interesting, but "Ike" calls up images of Ike Turner, so unflattering to black people & "Uncle Ben", well I don't think I need to explain that one.  According to the baby name trends site I found, boy's names that were popular when Ike was popular are:  Dock, General , Gustave, Enoch, etc. So I'll just randomly grab another name from that era.  As for Uncle Ben, well there are other forms of the name Benjamin we can fall back on. So, let's try this:

"My folks was living in Pike County, in Missouri, where I was born, and they all died off but me and daddy and my brother Otho. Daddy, he 'lowed he'd break up and go down and live with Uncle Bentley, who's got a little one-horse place on the river, forty-four mile below Orleans. Daddy was pretty poor, and had some debts; so when he'd squared up there warn't nothing left but sixteen hundred dollars and our patriot, Jim..."
I think there is a future for the Madlibs version of The Great Works of American Literature, because that is what we are screwing with here.  Ernest Hemingway said "All American writing come from that (Huck Finn)".  Are we so sure whitewashing is always the best way to keep something clean?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

World Tourism Day

I am not the world's best world traveler.  In fact, I kind of hate it.  I share this with Richard Nixon who famously preferred Hilton Hotels because all the rooms were the same.  At least I think it was Hiltons.  Maybe it was Sheratons.  Maybe it wasn't quite so famously.

Anyhow, I am not much for leaving home even on trips I want to take which makes this year's World Tourism Day a natural good fit for me because this year's theme is Linking Cultures & this year's host is Egypt.  In light of Egypt's inability to link within it's own culture well, what can I say, I laughed.  

I laughed again when I went to the World Tourism Day Official Celebrations page & learned that "The official World Tourism Day celebrations will take place in Aswan, Egypt/Details coming soon".  Given that today is World Tourism Day & it is no longer today in Egypt, I don't think those details are going to come soon enough.

Nowadys, I live in a tourist destination myself.  In a broad sense, Fladidah being the Once-Upon-A-Time go to locale for snow-blind refugees & that was before the Temple of the Mouse was built just to the south east of here & then right-right here we get educational tourists who come for the university, college sports tourists who come for the football & stay for the basketball, as well as the healthcare tourists (one of the largest research hospitals in the country is right here as well as a distinct regional hospital that serves the surrounding counties). 

Besides the actual sunblock on the nose wearing (or more likely chemo cap wearing) tourists, on any given day, ten or more of the people I deal with are unlikely to be here in another two years.  This can be good & bad.  It is hard to convince a local who will not be local in five years to commit to a five year budget that involves sacrifice or investment.  In some ways they show up & expect things to just be here. 

On the other hand, there are things here (that their predecessors have helped pay for) that are way-way better then anything they have back home & I don't mean the reason they came.  Our local library has won national awards.  Life downtown, even in the smaller surrounding towns, is alive & well thanks in part to a population that would rather bicycle or walk than drive.  Live music, theatre, dance are all alive & well supported by the people who live here & the people who are stuck here & need something to do.

I don't think I could take living in a resort community.  Mouse-Mecca is one of the most crime ridden cites in the country & even Horse-Town, the county seat of the county just to the south, makes the Top 100 most dangerous cities in the US list (interesting tid-bit:  there are 50 states & 100 cities on this list & 18 of those cities are here in Fladidah, mostly centered around-you guessed it- tourist hot spots).

So Happy World Tourism Day.  Stay home, even the host wants you to.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Martin Van Buren-the encore

WOW.  I just reread that last post & what can I say, we are repainting ALL the public (not bedroom, not bathroom) parts of the house & apparently the fumes are taking their toll.  I did a report on Martin Van Buren at Laurel School & have been repressing ever since..?  I want you to know the draft of the book banning week post was about Huck Finn.  I don't know what happened.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Taking a break from book burning

It's that time of year again, Book Banning Remembrance Week.   Yea, yea books were challenged.  Some were banned, some were restored.  It was a same old, same old year book-banning-wise. 

So I thought why not take a look at what was not banned.  Yes, that is a lot of books but there are national groups (freedom of speech groups, the world is a funny place) that assist local groups with their book banning challenges.  They also recommend books these local groups might want to challenge.  I thought it might be fun to take a look at their recommended reading lists.  It's convoluted, I know; let me try to sum this up:  what books do book banning backers believe are books you better buy?

It took me almost no time to discover the 9/12 Project.  They are very upfront about books they don't like, & aren't skittish about being named in the complaints.  I am told they have a very helpful & easy to navigate website, but every jump off the main page requires signing up & I have no desire to be on their e-mail list.  It took me years to get the fruit basket of the month people to stop sending me messages; G*d only knows what these e-mails might bring me & for how long (does anyone seriously buy those $200 stacking tins of rare nuts?).

Right there on the front page, the 9/12 Project has a disclaimer where they make sure to repeat at length how they are "not owned by, operated by, or in any way affiliated with the Glenn Beck Program, Glenn Beck, Mercury Radio Arts, or any radio station, Cable TV Network, etc".  This parallels nicely with their Read These First list of ten books, four of which are authored or co-authored by Glenn Beck.   While not automatically ban-worthy, I wonder about the credibility of any organization that says that these books tell you how to think & we are in no way affiliated with the guy who wrote of more than a third of them any longer.  Imagine if Greenpeace said we would like you to ban all books that discuss how valuable whaling is & read instead these books coincidentally written by one of our founders who has since gone his own way.

From what I could see, most of the books the 9/12 Project object to have a strong sexual component.  I gather this from the titles, such as Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology a book they helped get banned from a library in New Jersey, although others they targeted were not "deviant" (their word) just plain old How-To primers.  The locals did not quite get into the spirit of banning though.  Only Revolutionary Voices was actually removed from the shelves & in response to that the group Revolutionary Readings was begun.  What used to sit between the covers of a book someone had to actively seek, open, etc. was now being performed/read aloud over&over&over again, with newspaper coverage & television coverage & a facebook page & twitter feed & so forth.  I am guessing that did not go quite as planned.

The books the 9/12 Project endorse have an entirely different theme (not a sex manual in the bunch, at least not that I could tell by their covers).  Aside from the four by Glenn Beck &/or Glenn Beck et al there were two co-written by two gentlemen named Stewart.  Both books have the word "miracle" in the title & one of them is more specific:  The Seven Miracles that Saved America.  I made a swift & incomplete search for a list of these miracles & if I had been willing to sign up on one or another website, I am sure they would have been at my fingertips, but again I am skittish (those fruit basket of the month people have really made me gunshy).  Also, I am suspicious of the word miracle, because it always turns out to be interpretive.  For example, I don't actually think looking out on a familiar vista & seeing a guy hanging in mid-air with life threatening gory wounds is a miracle; I think that is really really bad food poisoning.  Just to make sure christians don't feel singled out, I don't think all that much of  lamp oil that burns way past the laws of physics following the pillage of a people; wouldn't the miracle have been to prevent the massacre?  I am really not interested in reading about the miracle of the Reagan tax cuts or whatever.  I read the introduction (it was free on Amazon) & it did belittle certain celebrities as not being qualified to discuss the mater they were discussing.  Any list that includes Glenn Beck & belittles others for not being educated on their topic amuses me, but probably not for a whole book.

Two others are histories, secret & otherwise.  One of them seems (from the title anyhow) to be devoted to George Washington:  The Real George Washington.  That might be interesting, I like warts&all biographies.  I am not convinced he was the one & only individual that could have lead us out of the dark night of the British Empire as the blurb implies (Amazon again), but I am also fairly certain that even without Neil Armstrong there still would have been a moon landing & I don't think this view diminishes Neil Armstrong one bit.

According to a cookbook I have, George was quite fond of beefsteak & kidney pie which sounds unamerican from here, but it was probably just what he was used to, being born in a British colony & all.  The Must Read List does not include any biographies of Martin Van Buren, the first president actually born in the US of A (what with all previous presidents being born in the colonies that would become & so forth).  This is a shame really because I think I could argue that Martin was more American than his predecessors & not just because of his resident versus naturalized alien birth status.  He ditched the powdered wig for good (so had Jackson before him but let's face it, Jackson was a madman & maybe we shouldn't get too cozy with anything he did & well, yes the Adamses did too...Okay forget that part about the wig).  He did lots of  other American things & by American I mean not attempting to emulate Britain.  After being voted out of office, Martin ran again, on a slavery-opposition ticket.  Everyone goes bat-shit for Lincoln but no one remembers this about old MVB.

Two months into Van Buren's first & only term, the US entered its first great depression (I know, they start to pile up) & most of his time was spent dealing with that.  Jackson had left behind some rather conflicted policies, including but not limited to the decision to require all purchasers of federal land to pay with precious metals.  In other words the US government would not accept US currency.  In retrospect, it is easy to see how this might go badly.  What can I say, I would rather read about Martin Van Buren than George Washington; I think he is more relevant in the way that paying the electric bill is more relevant than knowing the guy who invented the latest lighting technology.  Sure, the later might be more fun at parties, but not if we all have to stand around in the dark.

For whatever reason, I cannot see that 9/12 Project endorses any Martin Van Buren biographies, but they also don't appear to oppose them either.  This might change though if they learned he opposed the annexation of Texas (it might be a good idea for some future date, but it just wasn't a good idea right then), he declined to go to war with the British even when Canadian loyalists killed a US citizen for illegally selling weapons to Canadian separatists.  In fact, Martin went so far as to say that the government "would not countenance Adventuresome Americans attacking the British" & stated that the US would remain neutral in this dispute on the northern border.  Later disputes were resolved diplomatically.

In happier news, the only biography of the man I could find is actually Martin Van Buren's autobiography.  & for reasons I can only speculate on, his wife is nowhere in that book, so there hopefully isn't any sex to object to anyhow.  I can tell you according to the aforementioned cookbook, he was widely criticized for his love of French cuisine.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Going going gone to the dogs

I should have caught this earlier, but alas I have been wrestling the kitchen demons.  So, way late & not one iota less for it:  September is National Guide Dog Month.

A long, Long, LONG time ago, I worked oh-so-briefly for a company with offices on the green in Morristown, NJ.  Morristown, NJ for those who do not know, is the home of The Seeing Eye, where the whole seeing eye dog moniker originated.  Funnily enough, I still hear people calling all kinds of service dogs seeing eye dogs, even the dogs helping people who can see just fine.

Anyhow, every day, rain or shine, the dogs in training would do convoluted laps around the green, encountering people, crosswalks, hotdog wagon, etc.  the green was a hopping place in those days & may still be, I have not set foot in Morristown since April 1994.

On an entirely (OKay not really) I have been following a story that is happening locally, in the great football mecca just east of me.  First you should know that there is a better-treated-than-average homeless population in that city.  I think liberal politics, moderate climate & high population turn-over what with the average citizen graduating in five short years (URP!).  A large homeless shelter & soup kitchen has finally gotten their dream legislation, specifically there is no longer a cap on how many meals they can serve in a day but instead a beginning & end to the hours they can serve.  This really is a good thing, even for people who think the homeless should be beat to death in the street (a favorite local pastime in that great cartoon mouse mecca to the south).  Instead of people always asking if there are any left, the giant clock on Century Tower will tell you whether or not you should hang around.

For a few years now, adjacent to the people facility, there has been a pet clinic.  & before you get in a twist about homeless people having pets, it turns out to have been a good idea.  It turns out a person who has no home, no family except a transitory, cobbled community, a person who has intermittent access to the prescriptions etc. that keep them from believing someone is out to get them, such a person is more likely to remain peaceful if they can share their lives with someone who does not care that they are homeless.  It turns out that someone is often a pet.

Not surprisingly, it also turns out to be better for the rest of us if those pets gets neutered/spayed, vaccinated, flea & tic treatment & general veterinary care.  & while they don't have the paperwork or the training to prove it, after watching homeless people & their pets, it is impossible not to see that each companion is a bona fide service animal.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Late with the cut glass dish block

I am running late.  I mean really super-bad late.  I should have put the Cut Glass Dish Block info up weeks ago & I do mean WEEKS.  My excuse is I had no kitchen; even as I type this I still have not counters or table, so no surfaces.  Life without surfaces is challenging.  If I cannot hold it in my hand, whatever IT is, I cannot deal with it.  Multitasking is just not possible.

Ah well, it will get better.  Also barring a few small jobs (putting in lights!), work stops for the next ten days or so, which means I can at least go to the bathroom without someone (dog, contractor) looking for me.

Which brings me FINALLY to the October 2011 swap block.  It is one component of the Cut Glass Dish block.  We will be making (are making, have made, yes some have already arrived) the 4 square of 1/2-square triangles. 

The completed Cut Glass Dish block would take six of these, a perfect number for our swap as you send five blocks, get five back & if you keep one block for yourself that means each swap set has all the 4 square 1/2-square triangle blocks you would need.

You would also need three solid blocks (not solid fabric, necessarily, just not pieced) for each complete Cu Glass Dish block & yes, we are casual-swapping those.  Some people asked & I could not see a reason not to.  If you would like, you can send five (5) 6.5" squares of any fabric you used in any of your blocks.  Or something completely different so long as it meets the block requirements (either o novelty OR bright print OR reads-as-solid) & you will get five (5) back.  This will leave you with two more than you need but we are quilters; I am confident you can find something to do with any extra.

The directions for making the block we are swapping are detailed here, the size is 6.5" unfinished/6" finished, the blocks are DUE the last Saturday in October which means you should mail them first class within the US no later than the Friday before the Saturday before the due date.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What would Freddy do?

I have been rereading that manifesto where the pigs walk upright, dress like people & generally consider themselves smarter than the rest of the farm animals & by&large the rest of the farm animals accept it.  No, not that manifesto; I mean the Freddy books. 

Freddy the pig is in two book before he really emerges as a force of his own.  In the third farm book by Walter Brooks, Freddy starts solving mysteries around the farm after reading & assimilating the techniques of Sherlock Holmes.  Freddy is such a force the publisher turns around & releases the first two books (which were farm animals adventures generally) & re-releases them under the titles Freddy Goes to Florida & Freddy Goes to the North Pole

In the first book, the farm animals are unhappy with the state of the farm & generally feel put upon by the farmer.  At the outset of one cold winter, they decide to strike out for Florida & have adventures there & back again: robbers, kidnappers (farm animals nappers?), & US Senators.  In the spring, the animals return to the farm, renegotiate their contracts with the farmer.  Everyone makes a few concessions & then all settle back down to a quiet life. 

In the second book, some of the animals are getting itchy feet & they are ready to go a-wandering again.  Some smaller trips are organized (& they incorporate), but it isn't long before Freddy realizes that through judicious management, those animals that want to can be away for a longer journey & a trip to see Santa is planned.  The bulk of the book, though is not about this trip but about the rescue mission when the trip goes awry.  I think the descriptions of what they find at Santa's workshops are my favorite.  A ship of well intentioned but unqualified whalers (yes, people who hunt whales) have taken over the toy-making operation.  As a result, all the toys are the same as all other toys of their kind, all dolls have one pony tail, not some with braids & some with bangs  & so forth, so that an assembly line can be used.  Santa's labor force, which consisted primarily of people who were too sick or too old to work conventional jobs are now being forced to work the long o ours they couldn't before.  These & other decisions, as well as the new board always losing the daily snow ball fight to exactly the same military maneuver make it clear:  these men are just not cut out for this life.  In fact, they are going to run a small but very successful old family operation into the ground with their greed. 

Well, I don't want to give too much away, but I can tell you the cows learn to ski & the cat may or may not have taken up trapeze work (he lies, so it can be hard to be sure).  & Freddy the pig does start wearing clothes, eating at a table, sleeping in a bed, etc. but does not...well I don't want to ruin anything.   It turns out you can embrace some changes & still maintain your principles. 

& just in case anyone gets the idea Brooks was trying to water down/wash away the impact of Animal Farm, the first book in the series was published almost 20 years earlier.  Do yourself a favor & read the first two Freddy books instead.  Your local library probably has several copies.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Why you don't want me anywhere near your wedding

A friend of mine was recently in a wedding.  She was The Maid of Honor & it was marginally less fun than anyone would have predicted.  Let me give you the highlights:

The Bride wanted to have a destination shower.  I had never heard of this, but I gather from the trailer of Bridesmaids that it is a thing.  Her location of choice was rather pricey being some distance away & in a generally more expensive part of the country.  What it wasn't was someplace any rational person would want to go.  Her reasons for choosing it had to do with the entertainer who would be there the week-end that had been set aside for the shower.  This same entertainer is actually from the state where the wedding was later held, the home state of The Bride, The Maid of Honor & many others of the bridal party.  He does shows less than 100 miles from the blessed event frequently, just not on demand. 

Ultimately it was a destination (to a different, more convenient, but no less inexplicable locale) shower & it unfortunately coincided with the very day The Maid of Honor lost her job.  This was, of course, not The Bride's fault; it wasn't even The Maid of Honor's fault, as her employer had been circling the bowl for a while.  The Bride gave The Maid of Honor a stirring & uplifting speech about how she better not be a bummer on this oh-so-important of weekends, second only to the importance of the blessed event itself, just because she didn't have a job.  Also, she had better not try to play it cheap.

& finally: at the time of the initial wedding planning The Maid of Honor was dating a guy, lets call him The Snake.  Introductions of The Snake to the happy couple were made, as it was expected The Snake would be the The Maid of Honor's date to the wedding.  After The Maid of Honor & The Snake broke up & he started openly dating the reason for the break-up, The Bride invited him &  his "new" girlfriend to the wedding as guests despite no other previous contact except through The Maid of Honor.  Then the Bride began nagging The Maid of Honor to get another date.

Which brings us to today's story.  The Maid of Honor had a few drinks at my dining room table & we started brainstorming about who she could bring to this wedding.  Previous suggestions included a friend who offered to appear costumed as a butch lesbian, but I knew we could do better.  By the end of the evening on the date-table were:

  • A give the groom a lapdance right after the ceremony.  She should also be encouraged to make as much extra cash as possible performing private dances for guests & wedding party alike throughout the reception. 
  • A drag queen-they are surprisingly pricey
  • A mime-they are surprisingly cheap, OKay maybe not "surprisingly" but still a most excellent bargain
By the end of the week we had expanded to include:

  • An Elvis impersonator-not as easy to find as you might think, outside of their native Vegas anyhow
  • An accordion player-hey, I like accordion music better than the next person.  I even still have Gérard Blanchard on vinyl (dude!), but lets face it not everyone wants to hear accordion music with their dried-out chicken entree.
  • A clown-which I ended up expanding to include a bride clown & groom clown & their entire wedding party all crammed into a clown car.  This made no difference, as the only clowns we could find were strictly of the birthday party/balloon animal variety & if we were going to spend that kind of cash we would definitely go with a stripper.

A few weeks later, it was suggested she order a pizza during the ceremony & ask the delivery guy to stay for the reception.  When it was pointed out that the delivery guy probably could not stay, we thought maybe we could get someone to pose as a pizza delivery guy. In the end, there was a kinda-sorta actual offer to pose as a pizza delivery driver but it would have required interstate travel at rather too short notice to board his dog.

The day before the wedding, I texted the suggestion that she dial 911 during the ceremony & ask the firemen to stay.  Somehow, I doubt she did.

//nothing to do with this wedding exactly, but I have spent way too much time with brides & I think I might have an idea how bridezillas happen:  in order to get a bride to pay exorbitant amounts of money for food she will not eat, a dress she will not wear again, etc. wedding vendors spend a lot of time blowing smoke up the bride's ass.  As a general rule, it is never a good idea to take fashion advice from the person who makes a commission off of what you spend on your wardrobe; as a bridal rule it is probably just about as stoopid to take lifestyle advice from people who make money the more extravagant your lifestyle is.  I'm just saying.

& about accordion players.  I actually briefly dated one in high school, although in those days he was a mere clarinet player.  He is a very nice guy & if he lived locally he would absolutely not have attended this wedding with his accordion because he is so nice he would never force accordion music on anyone no matter how egregious their sins.  You can see why we didn't last long as a couple.

Lastly, I might be wrong about why The Maid of Honor & The Snake broke up.  It is possible this is the reason, it is even possible she told me the reason & this was or was not it & I just don't remember.  For the purposes of this blog post, however, The Snake was a semi-discreet man-whore who got caught.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Beige-quest twenty eleven

I know you are all just sick of hearing about my kitchen remodel.  I know this because I am almost, but not quite, sick of talking about it. 

We are at the stage of choosing paint for the kitchen dining room space.  This is easy because A pretty much only likes cream.  This is hard because there are A LOT of creams out there. We went thru this same rigamarole  when we painted the family room/tv room/sunroom/whatever you want to call that room at the back of the house.  Three times I had to go back for more paint cards; none of them were quite creamy-beige-white enough.  Since these rooms connect in  large open doorway I had thought we would just paint the kitchen&diningroom the same color but alas either they have discontinued that color or I wrote it down wrong.

& so this weekend is Beige Quest: The Next Generation.  Compounded of course by the reality that the room we are painting gets way-less light than the room AKA The Sunroom.  Or maybe not compounded, maybe the dramatic change in the light will smooth any weird transition in the doorway.  As for the rest of the space, it will pretty much be covered by cabinets & tile.  

Thursday, September 1, 2011

In the garden

You know how you lose time in a garden?  Well, today's saint, the patron of gardeners, has some feast-day time-loss.  Fiacre is lauded August 18th,  except in Ireland where his day is September 1.  Maybe it isn't losing track of time in a garden, maybe it is losing track of time in Ireland.  Nope, another source lists the Feast Day of Saint Fiacre as August 30.  If it were the 31st I would say well they just got confused with that whole feasts begin at sunset thing, but August has 31 days....right? 

One of the things I like best about the saints, all of the saints, is the chaining that happens when it comes to patronage.  We start with Fiacre (& we will get back to him, I promise) & then we go to Paris where we have a hotel named for him, which is conveniently located for temporary hired transport (today we would say a cab, the French word for which is still fiacre or fiaker) to gather & so he becomes the patron of cabs & cabdrivers.  What do cabbies suffer from?  Why hemorrhoids of course.  Guess who is invoked when you have them!  I am anxiously awaiting the next link in this chain.  I am banking on Fiacre becoming the patron of sheetrockers & drywallers.  Little window into my post-adolescence:  I was never so admonished not to play with fire as I was to never ever under any circumstances ever sit in sheetrock or drywall directly. I will let you all figure out why. 

Like the cabs that were once named for him, you see Fiacre in the background more often than you might think.  His most frequent role is pretending to be Francis of Assisi.  I have lost track of how many little garden chachkahs I have seen labeled Francis of Assisi that are really Fiacre.  Let me help you out here:  if there are no animals but instead Saint Francis is holding a bucket & spade...he is really Saint Fiacre.

Back to the man:  Fiacre was, well, difficult.  I know, I know a medieval misogynist who would be considered hard to get along with by today's standards: what a shock!  But Fiacre was hard to get along with by his day's standards. His first miracle involved clearing land by dragging a shovel across it (the bishop said he could have whatever land he could establish for farming in one day).  A local woman claimed Fiacre was a sorcerer but the bishop decided he was favored by the lord & so continues his relations with the local women until he eventually banished all women from his monastery.  I cannot help but notice how much his area of expertise (herbalism) might overlap with women's work & that might be the root of the problem right there.  It is certainly the beginning of his patronages.  Fiacre was first patron saint of herbalists; growers of food, general gardeners & florists came later, probably around the same time as potters  While never the patron of healERS, Fiacre is often prayed to for healING (that herbalism thing again).  He is also invoked against venereal diseases (a happy marriage of healing & misongeny), sterility/barrenness (ditto), & as I mentioned earlier hemorrhoids (whatever).  He oversees the occupations above (cabbie, gardener) as well as boxmakers & needlemakers, two professions I had never thought much about but are thriving even today.  I guess that is another humming-along-in-the-background quality of old Fiacre himself.