|From The Editor
On a beautiful warm Saturday, the parking lot at the Huntington Library has overflowed and a line of people are walking in the street towards the library entrance.
Joining them, I noticed that the curbs on both sides of the streets all around the library, except for those touching its grounds directly, are posted with "no-parking" signs on wood stakes jammed into the lawns at regular intervals.
The manicured lawns -- I mean they are perfect, mint green, not a blemish, freshly mowed -- are in front of palatial estates that are like ambassadorial residences, enormous, grand entrances, flagpoles, one oddly flying a Brazilian flag, and Romanesque facades to modern-day castles.
A friendly Huntington employee -- the library's volunteers and staff have been unfailingly pleasant so far -- is counting the number of people walking in.
I ask him about the signs and his open expression turns to a slight smile.
He says the signs are indeed official, put there by the City of San Marino, and they are indeed temporary, only there when the great unwashed or just the non-ridiculously wealthy want to take a stroll through the gardens on a sunny day.
The employee says in careful terms, but still with an amused expression, that the locals have a lot of money and so they have influence with the city. He adds that the local government has a lot of community meetings.
So streets that are public, owned by the public and paid for by the public of California and the nation, are nevertheless treated as the private property of those who live alongside them. Because the rich do not like the rest of us that much, especially our presence anywhere on public ways close to where they live.
The amazing thing, because I have seen it plenty of times, is that the city officials don't stand up to it. They serve their masters.
But of course we and a true flood of people are walking onto the grounds once owned by the family of a fabulously wealthy railroad tycoon. And the gardens are definitely open to the public which is all over the place, speaking Chinese, Korean, Russian and of course a smattering of English, walking through the rose gardens, snuggling on benches, playing with the carp.
I had been almost forced a couple weeks ago to visit the Huntington, which is just a few blocks from my apartment in Pasadena -- funny thing, I had avoided going for years because I heard you had to make a parking reservation and the whole thing just sounded so uptight.
But none of that was true and $120 got me a year-round pass for two.
On Saturday, I wanted to check out the current exhibition, which included a chest of drawers for a woman who was killed by French soldiers allied with local Indians. Nearby is the painting of a serious, busty woman who is known, we are told, for having been courted by Andrew Jackson before he "withdrew his attention."
Another painting depicts a snow sleigh turned on its side in front of a tavern, with a man and woman spilled out. On the ground in front of their out-stretched hands is a bottle and a newspaper, clearly titled the Pittsburgh Gazette.
The explanation on the wall says the painter despised the Gazette because of its editorial position advocating compromise with the South during the Civil War.
The true objective of the day trip is a little café in the Chinese Garden where we can have a beer next to a little lake. As the tables fall into shadow and the day wanes, a brightly colored male duck starts bobbing his head rapidly, all the way up and down, as though spring-loaded, while a dun-colored female does the same.
Quick as you please, he paddles around behind her and practically drowns her as he does a rapid and frenetic bit of business. Immediately afterwards, he stretches his full torso up out of the water and spreads his colorful wings wide. Another male paddles straight over and also spreads his wings, as the female demurely swims away.
On the way out, a fit, blonde woman walking in front of us explains to her early college-age son and his three friends that Henry Huntington first bought the grounds from a rancher, then built the enormous residence, and then built the library to house his books and artwork.
Leland Stanford, she continued, was also made rich through the railroads. He and his wife Jane established the university for the youth of California after their son died at a young age.
Jane was "very emancipated," she tells the boys, and as a result the university admitted women from the time it opened, which was very uncommon at the time. She added that the school was a pioneer in the development of moving pictures and it was at Stanford that it was proved that a horse does not touch the ground when in mid-gallop.
That was the only part where the boys seemed interested.
As we walked back along the street to our car, at the end of a beautiful, sunny day, I noticed that all the no-parking signs were gone. They were no longer needed, the public was leaving.
Don't Forget to Butter Your Beer
Call me a misunderstood patriot with cruel yet handsome eyes if you wish - so many people have - but I don't think it's right to expect buttered beer.
In a 1664 entry in his celebrated diary, Samuel Pepys criticized the king - of all people - for throwing an enormous banquet without buttered beer.
I'm going to have to side with King Charles II on this one.
Sure, maybe the king could have engraved the invitations "B.Y.O.B.B.," but still ...
That entry, I'm afraid, is not Pepys' only mention of buttered beer.
On June 22, 1662, Pepys wrote: "So meeting in my way W. Swan, I took him to a house thereabouts, and gave him a morning draft of buttered ale."
A morning draft of buttered ale? Then down to the Navy Office, hey, Sam'l? Yeesh.
But that's not all.
It is my unpleasant duty to report that in February 1665, Pepys wrote: "Thence home and to the office, and so home having a great cold, and so my wife and Mrs. Barbary have very great ones, we are at a loss how we all come by it together, so to bed, drinking butter-ale."
That's right. The renowned architect of the British Navy drank buttered beer all day long and into the night. Even in bed.
I apologize in advance for what I am about to do. Here is a recipe for buttered beer, taken from Robert May's 1660 book, "The Accomplisht Cook."
Please don't blame me. I'm just the reporter.
"Boil beer or ale and scum it, then have six eggs, whites and all, and beat them in a flaggon or quart pot with the shells, some butter, sugar, and nutmeg, put them together, and being well brewed, drink it when you go to bed."
Drink it when you go to bed?
The subtitle of May's book was: "The art & mystery of cookery. Wherein the whole art is revealed in a more easie and perfect method, than hath been publisht in any language."
I hope so.
So Karl Marx was right when he said that history repeats, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
But we cannot blame Robert May whole and entire, as we used to say. He swiped his recipe from an even earlier cookbook, "The Good Huswife's Handmaide for the Kitchen," of 1594, by Thomas Dawson.
Huswives were not allowed to write their own cookbooks back then. Their buttered-beer-drinking husbands had to do it.
Dawson's book is a gold mine of information for people who want to be glad they did not live in the 1500s.
His recipes include "To boyle a Conie with a Pudding in his bellie" and "How to make Farts of Portingale."
Dawson's recipe, "To make Buttered Beere," I am sorry to say, appears in the section: "All necessaries appertaining to a Banquet." (King Charles II, take note.)
It's pretty much the same recipe as May's: a lot of beer, half a pound of sugar, nutmeg, eggs and ... I'm sorry. I have to lie down.
Fortunately for all of us, immediately after the Buttered Beere recipe, Dawson gives us a recipe for "A Purgation."
He suggests: "In the morning drinke it earlie. Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces: these three be the best signes to take purgations in."
Thanks for the astrological tip, Thomas!
Can't wait until June rolls around!
All these recipes, I am sorry to say (why do I keep apologizing?) can be found on the website FoodsofEngland.co.uk.
I shall end my comments here. Our country's international relations are bad enough already.
|From The Courts
At last someone has had the courage to expose the glaring lack of diversity on the nation's highest court.
There is not a single nonjudge on the U S. Supreme Court.
I have to admit that even I, sensitive as I am to social injustice, had not been aware of this sad state of affairs.
Fortunately, a law professor (who is not a judge) has pointed this out in the current issue of "The Atlantic" in a piece called "Clones on the Court."
I was hoping this was going to be about some unfair legal proceeding against Han Solo, but it turned out that the author wanted to point out that all the current Supreme Court justices are former lower court judges.
Clearly a case of institutional bias.
Why is this a bad thing?
Well, for one thing, according to the author, there's all that reliance by judges on precedent, which "can be dead wrong. And lower-court judges, who daily slice and eat this doctrinal baloney, may be ill-equipped to see it for what it is."
So, naturally, an all-judge Supreme Court would never reverse decades of gun control or voting rights rulings.
The Atlantic author seemed to think that appointing former senators and high-level executive branch appointees to the court would be a good thing, because we all know how thoughtful, intellectual and selfless those people are.
OK, he didn't say that last part, but he did say the first part.
There's a really odd paragraph in the piece that says "a president can turn a single Supreme Court vacancy into three judicial appointments," by appointing just one new judge for the ideological team that he/she likes. I'd advise anyone against hiring this guy as a scorekeeper.
But I'm quibbling (one of my favorite pastimes). Diversity, after all, is usually a good thing. If you're going to diversify, though, do it for real. There are lots of other types of people who could add perspective to the Supreme Court.
Naturally, I have suggestions:
Some kid: Supreme Court rulings are too long and tedious for most Americans to read and understand. We need representation by someone who understands Twitter and YouTube. Important rulings should go viral.
A guy who works for a living: Who better to understand the rights of workers than a worker?
That guy's boss: Corporate persons need empathy too.
A winner of Project Runway: Those robes! Need I say more?
A Muppet: I don't have a reason for this. I'd just like to see a Muppet on the Supreme Court. One with the dignity of Big Bird and the gravitas of Oscar. You'd get children interested in the court system. So I guess I do have a reason.
An insane person: I know some of you are thinking that the insane already have representation on the court, but do those guys hear voices in their heads and have phantom enemies tapping their phones and stealing their socks? OK, maybe they do, but we don't know that. We need someone who's been officially designated insane by a real mental health expert. This will force the rest of the court to act as sanely as possible so as not to be compared with the freak.
An insult comic: Litigants need to know their place.
A weekly columnist: That's obvious, isn't it?
More diversity. The National Law Journal last week also weighed in on diversity, in an article called "Study: Law Faculties Short on White Christians, Republicans."
Who knew there could be a shortage of those things?
It seems that a Northwestern University law professor has done a study that shows that the percentages of whites and Republicans on law faculties are smaller than their percentages in the legal profession and society.
The professor, assuming his thoughts weren't taken out of context, seemed to be saying this was not a good thing and that law faculties ought to somehow reflect society.
I'm thinking maybe what this really shows is that minorities on faculties aren't doing much to change society. White guys and Republicans shouldn't complain.
A lot of those professors probably couldn't get jobs with law firms.