Friday, 29 November 2013

Odds and Sods...

America Today!

Because I live most of my 'real' life on-line I tend to live with my friends in many different countries but I have few blog readers, e-mailers and Facebook contacts who live in the UK.  As a result I know nothing about UK politics (upon which it was once my job to be an expert),  a tiny bit about politics in some other countries,  and lots about American politics.  But the problem with American politics is knowing what is real and what is just a joke.  OK, a sick joke.  Like this -

"To the Missouri State Senate, women aren't people. They aren't American citizens. Pharmacists in Missouri can refuse to sell them birth control pills. It's about belief. If your pharmacist believes you, a woman, shouldn't be using birth control, he can refuse to sell you the drugs. It's about his belief. He has a right in Missouri, according to the Senate, to see to it that you behave as he thinks you should. This is what it means to be a woman in America today? We're back to this?" - Anne Rice

 Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta

  Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta - 'Model Making Mischief' [c.1885]

The Goddess Wiki tells us "Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta (Rome 1841 – 1920) was a Spanish realist painter.  He was born in Rome, but after 1860 he lived mostly in Paris, where he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts under Léon Cogniet, and eventually established a studio. His remarkable technical ability made him a highly successful portrait and genre painter in a Salon style.  As an artist of international standing he commanded premium prices for his work. His $2,000 fee for painting Secretary Root from life moved the scale for official portraits beyond the traditional modest progressions and into 20th-century levels."

I like his style because so many of his portraits suggest the model has a sense of mischief.

Detail from a portrait of Aline Masson, 1876

Dama con sombrero

Helen, and other arachnophobes, don't read the rest....

 I follow Wirral Newsbeat on Facebook.  It's a really good site for keeping up-to-date with what is happening in my area.  But occasionally it posts some utter rubbish.  It has just posted a picture of a spider and said it is a False Widow Spider, that it has recently invaded The Wirral, and is dangerous.

What a load of rubbish. Firstly, they have been around over 100 years.  The false widow spiders that have been blamed for a small spate of bites in the UK are Steatoda nobilis, which arrived in the country from Madeira and the Canary Islands in some bananas in 1879.  (We know the exact year because they had their little passports stamped.)

Secondly,  the poor innocent chap pictured on the Facebook page is not a Steatoda species.  So it's a false false widow.  Wirral resident Sarah Ravenscroft commented "This poor innocent spider has now been wrongly accused, he'll have to go into hiding now or his life will be made a misery!"

Thirdly, they will only bite if threatened, and generally live in cracks or holes, for example within walls or garden sheds.

Fourthly, whilst the occasional widow has killed people...

no incy wincy spider has ever done so in this country.

This species does, however, carry a poison to which you may have a reaction if you are one of the few unlucky people to be allergic to it.  But then bees, wasps and peanuts also carry such a poison.

Fifthly, in the 1970s I was bitten by one that was hidden in some bananas and which felt threatened when I went to eat it!  The base of my thumb swelled up and it was painful for about twelve hours.  That was it.  No more than the sort of bite one can get from many other British invertebrates and certainly a lot less unpleasant than being bitten by a cleg or horse-fly.

Sarah Ravenscroft said "Wonder how many people will ring in sick with the excuse 'Sorry I can't come in I've been attacked by a false widow'".

P.S. If you do get stung by a bee (far more likely) treat the sting with baking soda, aloe vera, honey, cider vinegar, onions or egg yolk.


  1. The two close-ups of paintings are fantastic; the faces look like they belong to REAL people, not some stiffly posing model in a setting that has nothing to do with their real lives and their real characters.
    The spider story is typical for the forming of urban legends, I guess. And Anne Rice's comment makes me glad once more that I live where I do, and not in the US.

    1. I think that is what attracted me to the paintings, too, Meike.

    2. Hey Librarian - don't confuse Missouri with the US as a whole. I've lived in the US my entire life, and have been able to get birth control and anything else I've needed or wanted without any problems whatsoever. As it turns out, most people in the US don't want to live in Missouri, either! As with almost every country I've ever traveled to, the coastal cities are the most modern-minded, and the farthest inland are the most backward-thinking and resistant to change. Same applies here, but it doesn't make the entire country a bad place to live.

  2. One of my favorite childhood books is "Be Nice To Spiders." They truly are falsely accused too often, but not by me, as i like them and will rescue them and take them outdoors if i run across them in the house.

  3. Interesting post. I don't like to get involved with politics because I get too emotionally worked up. Most of the bloggers that I follow and adore do not share the same political views as I do. A lot of groups I'm involved with do not share the same either. I cannot stand President Obama. I think he is full of crap. But rather than constantly state my view, which only puts negative energy out in to the Universe, I immediately turn it into a postive thought by saying instead, I love my country. I do not even bring O into my thought conciousness until this comment. Ha!

    Love the portraits. I have two mini victorian prints on thick canvas that I bought at an antique store about 17 years ago. I love them.

    I had a nightmare about a spider the other morning. It looks similar to the one you have pictured. When I repeated the dream to Justin I described it as a cross between a black widow and a daddy long leg. Only in my dream, it was much larger.

    I don't know if I thanked you for my birthday greetings and my lovely angel pin that you sent me. I adore it and will treasure it always. Thank you so much. Also for wishing Justin a happy birthday. I know yours was last month and I meant to send you a card but for the life of me I can't remember If I did.

    Have a fabulous day!

    1. You did send me a card, thanks JarieLyn. And you did thank me. When I saw that pin I instantly knew it was just you. I'm glad it's not just me that gets confused as to what I have and haven't done.

  4. I'm sorry that you get bombarded with so much stuff about US politics. Unfortunately, the US is kind of the elephant in the room. When I travel abroad, I try to be sensitive to the feelings of others, but people keep asking me to explain the more perplexing aspects of American life, and often, I can't. It's like those bad old jokes, "you had to be there."

    Alas, John, your quote about the availability of birth control is correct. Not only do several states still dictate who can -- and cannot -- buy birth control, there is a 49th (yes, you read that correctly --forty-ninth!) challenge to the Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obamacare, for just that reason. Some conservative right-wing (wing nut) Christian groups in the good ol' USA don't feel that they should be required by law to offer their employees health coverage if it includes a provision for birth control or abortion. I can understand the objections to abortion -- but birth control, which prevents pregnancy and makes abortion unnecessary? I don't get it myself.
    However, challenge # 49 goes before the US Supreme Court (the final say on the law of the land) in January, with a ruling expected by June.

    I am going to mail you a little map that was in our paper the other day which may help you understand the complexities -- and problems -- of governing this country. It's no wonder we can hardly ever agree on anything at all. Love to you xoxoxo, Carol

    1. Thanks in advance for the map, Carol. I usually rely on Richard to explain US politics to me. He has a better understanding of that than many Americans. He has always been interested in politics and in America so he knows a lot.

    2. It's interesting to read JarieLyn and Nonnie's comments about Obama. It's true that opinions of him vary widely -- even wildly. I personally like him, and voted for him twice. I also hope that Obamacare can withstand all the challenges and prevail. I've seen too many families bankrupted by runaway medical costs when the families couldn't afford private insurance. But as a very wise old Texas senator once said, "It all depends on whose ox is being gored." I will try to behave myself in future and keep my opinions to myself! (Probably not possible!!)

  5. whew, that''s a lot of info to try to fit in my brain! here in Indiana, the worst spider we have is the Brown Recluse, which is truly a poisonous spider.
    as for politics here, I only get mad and depressed when I read yet one more thing published about the deeds of President Obama.

  6. The last thing I want to do is set my blogging friends against each other over politics or religion but just occasionally something strikes me as so annoying that I just have to comment. Nevertheless, I recognise that everyone is entitled to their own views (and to express them). That is what living in a democracy is all about. And long may we continue to have those rights.

  7. What a fun post...politics aside! I have fairly strong opinions of what's happening in the US right now...especially with Obamacare...I do work in the health care field and believe me the changes are hurting us...but I choose to look at the positive side of things and I love my country. So who knows...tomorrow is another day after all! (just ask Scarlett O'Hara) I want to thank you for the sweet postcard I received today! That was so thoughtful and I love it! Have a wonderful weekend!

  8. I don't care for spiders but I feel sorry for the false widow.....being blamed wrongfully is nothing to laugh about.
    I'm not even going to get started on US is what it is.

  9. As far as spiders go, I don't care if they're widowed, married, or just dating - NOT IN MY HOUSE! And thanks for introducing me to that artist and those portraits - I absolutely adore them! Will have to keep an eye out for more. I think Aline Masson would have been a riot down the pub!

    1. How do you know if a spider is a widow? Kill it's mate!

  10. Politics in the USA is easy to understand once you accept the fact that the Democrats are wrong.

    Seriously, the US is a big place. The people tend to be divided into individualists and conformists. The individual (non-conformist) does not like being told what to do, which accounts for most of the strife between political parties and their supporters.

    The politicians are elected by winning a popularity contest, not by their qualifications to perform the duties the office demands. So, you see, there is every chance in the world that any given number of US Congressmen are unqualified to be Congressmen. The politicos, generally speaking, have re-election as their number one priority to the exclusion of all else, including the welfare of their constituents.

    The rest is noise.

  11. PLEASE NOTE - the subject of American politics is now most definitely closed! And I shall try very hard not to raise it again. I should have known better!!!!!!

  12. There was such a panic bout those spiders. Gosh why should one person have control over the pills!


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