Monday, June 29, 2009

"Preserving Our Past" at Saratoga Springs NMR

I'm crazy about museums, as you'll no doubt glean from my posts. Anyway, a very cool new exhibit opens in Saratoga Springs at the National Museum of Racing. It runs until the end of the year, but if you're headed to The Spa for the Shadwell Travers or any racing weekend, you'll want to take this in.

They've taken what is now becoming the usual approach to fundraising and brought it straight to the public. The exhibit, entitled "Preserving Our Past" is made up of items in the NMR's collection that are in need of conservation. Within each little exhibit is the cost of what it would take to properly save and conserve the object on display. Curator Beth Sheffer says that she was inspired in 2006 to mount this kind of display and it makes complete sense. Show the visitors what is in the collection, let them be inspired and sometimes saddened about the condition of an artifact, and hope they'll step up to help sponsor it. It really brings the issues front and center to visitors and asks for their help in conserving the various pieces.

Rachel settles in at The Spa

(ABOVE: A couple more photos from Belmont on Saturday. Calvin Borel up on one of his other mounts, Z Fortune, a lovely gray, as they head from the paddock to the track. Other photo is of Sam the bugler as he heads out to sound the call to the post for Rachel's big race.)

So a little to catch up on from the weekend. Like people who head upstate for cooler climes, Rachel Alexandra has decided to summer at The Spa. According to the article on, she's in Curlin's old stall and is happily ensconced among Steve Asmussen's other horses at Saratoga. She deserves nice cool morning workouts after all she's done this season so up North is the place for her to be. If you didn't see her triumph in The Mother Goose Stakes (G1) this.

While there's a lot of speculation on what her next race will be, it seems her connections are really focused on making sure she's a happy and healthy horse. Cheers to Mr. Jackson and all the co-owners for their genuine care about her welfare. We've seen that this is not always the case in horse racing, sadly, making it more impressive when the connections do things right.

As a small aside, if you've never been to Belmont or any of the NY tracks to hear Tom Durkin call the races live, he alone is worth the trip. You've no doubt heard him do the Kentucky Derby or any of the Triple Crown races, but even on a regular stakes day he is great to listen to. The guy loves horses, loves bettors and really gets into the races. He also has a great sense of humor. He was equally as excited as the other nearly 14,000 in attendance at Belmont on Saturday when Rachel romped to victory. He's a classic and I love hearing his voice come over the Tannoy at the racetrack.

Now all the way on the other side of the country, Zenyatta had her own big day, winning The Vanity Handicap (G1) for the second year in a row. Again, if you haven't seen her here.

And because it was all about the girls on Saturday, this post wouldn't be complete without some footage of the great Ruffian, from the Mother Goose Stakes in 1975. Interestingly, it was then held at Aqueduct not Belmont. Notice how Ann's Commander, the 7 horse, shakes her jockey almost immediately after exiting the gate. So scary...but the outrider does a courageous job of steering the horse away from the rest of the field. The move that Ruffian makes as she rounds the turn into the homestretch is gorgeous. She's pretty well with the pack for a good portion of the race, but once she hits that straightaway, she's gone. A great victory for one of the great racehorses--male or female.

One other small update from the weekend, Mine That Bird had a nice half-mile breeze at Churchill Downs this morning. With Calvin Borel up for the breeze it seems that MTB is pointed toward the West Virginia Derby (G2) on August 1. I was never really on the MTB bandwagon, but I think Calvin Borel deserves much success, so I'm happy to see he and the little gelding getting on so well together.

Big racing across the pond, too. The Irish Derby (sponsored somewhat oddly, I thought, by Dubai Duty Free) was one by Fame and Glory, and in style, too. His main rival, winner of the English Derby, Sea the Stars scratched from the race thus giving F&G a slightly easier go. He did face some competition from Golden Sword, but Fame and Glory garnered more of both, fame and glory. There seems to be a much more festive atmosphere at the meetings in the UK and Ireland than at US tracks. I'm not sure what that means attendance wise, but it looks like these race meetings are really festivals and fetes as much as horse races. Something here for US racing to learn from?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A feel-good story for Sunday night

A little busy today to do all I wanted to do, so I'm posting a story from the PioneerPress online, out of St. Paul, Minnesota, by Mary Divine.

It's nice to read a little good news on Sunday night, especially after such a great day at the races yesterday. Enjoy the piece and here's looking forward to a great week.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Let's hear it for the girls!!

Above photos are Rachel Alexandra (with Calvin Borel up) as she comes out of the tunnel from the paddock to the track. Second photo is Rachel is after her dazzling win with the blanket of pink carnations trailing behind her.

It was a great day for racing, today, with Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta both adding to their already impressive records. I didn't get to see Zenyatta's race until I was home from Belmont, but she blew by her competitors with such style and grace. My proverbial hat is off to Zenyatta, she's undefeated and nearly unchallenged.

Rachel herself is something to see. I'll probably write more about my "day at Belmont" tomorrow, but just a little perspective on how good Rachel Alexandra is. And yes, she has been defeated, but not recently. And even though her victory today was only against two other fillies, she set a stakes record for the Mother Goose. How impressive is her time? The first 1/4 mile was in something insane like 22.55 seconds. The 1/2 split was an equally insane 44 seconds and change. Now I was standing by the finish line watching the backstretch on the jumbo-tron and worried that this pace was just too much for her. (I'll also say that as much as I adore Calvin Borel, and I do think the world of him, I was very glad to see that he had a couple of other mounts today which gave him a little more experience on those wide Belmont turns...but I digress) This is blistering speed here, folks, and it wasn't any too cool today, either. As the trio rounds the corner and heads down the home stretch, Calvin steered Rachel between the other two horses and that was it. You would have thought that he had a gear shift and just shifted down the way she moved. After that it was over. Rachel blew by them like they were standing still. And the crowd roared. There were over than 10,000 people at Belmont today, more than a usual summer weekend, and they cheered this lovely filly like a rockstar when she made her way from the paddock out to the track. Calvin, too. He was smiling and waving and you could just tell that both and Rachel were there to take care of business. And take care of it they did...and with style and grace, and they made it look easy. He eased her up before the finish line. So the final time? 1:46.33. In addition, the 19 1/4 lengths which she won by shattered the 13+ lengths record formerly held by the great Ruffian.

Rachel's in amazing company. Consider that the 9 furlong record for Belmont was set by none other than Big Red himself, the immortal Secretariat, at the Marlborough Handicap in 1973 where he ran a blistering 1:45.40.
This means she was a little less than a second away from Himself.

Other highlight of the afternoon? Walking over from the near the winner's circle I cross paths with Steve Asmussen (and a little girl I believe is his daughter) as he heads toward the winner's circle. He's a little past me and I turn and say "congratulations." He turns back and says, "thanks." Very cool :)

Other cool highlight was to see so many kids, especially little girls out for the race today with their parents. Most wearing pink (there was a lot of pink at the track today partly because the Jackson's are donating some of Rachel's winnings to The Susan G. Komen foundation) and one adorable little girl wearing a pink Rachel Alexandra hat and clutching her stuffed plush pony as she waited for Rachel to make her appearance.

It was a beautiful day in Queens and one certainly fit for a who wears the crown pretty easily, it seems. Drink a toast to Rachel on the the East Coast and one to Zenyatta on the West Coast--two classy dames who got it done today, and in splendid fashion.

Still wearing my Rachel Alexandra pink bracelet...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Cathy the stable cat in Steve Asmussen's barn loves Rachel, too. Adorable.

Paragallo cruelty case...plea deal???

The sheer numbers of horses that are involved in the Paragallo cruelty case are startling. This case seems to be dragging on forever in Upstate NY and has been postponed once again and incredibly there appears to be a plea deal in the works.

Quoting from Paul Post's article on Thoroughbred Times...

Paragallo, free on bail, faces 22 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty following the highly publicized April 8 raid of his Center Brook Farm in upstate New York. Authorities seized 177 starving, neglected Thoroughbreds. Three horses had to be euthanized.

Greene County District Attorney Terry Wilhelm is seeking a plea bargain rather than taking the case directly to trial, but terms have not been disclosed.

"We are in the middle of negotiating," Assistant District Attorney Sara Leggio said. "We’re waiting to hear back from him [Paragallo] and his attorney about what they’re willing to do and not do."

Paragallo made a personal appearance in Coxsackie Town Court on Monday. Proceedings were postponed by mutual consent between prosecutors and Paragallo’s attorney, Michael Howard of Hudson, New York.

Paragallo already has surrendered 76 horses that have been placed in new homes from Kentucky to Canada. Scores of other horses are still at the farm as they are nursed back to health.

"I’d like to see those animals moved off the farm to reputable places," said Ron Perez, president of Columbia-Greene Humane Society, which is monitoring the farm."

Boston's Mounted Unit Disbands

I'd heard rumblings of this happening a few months ago, but here is another equine victim of the economy. The mounted unit of the BPD has disbanded.

Here's a sad video of the horses and their last ride. The horses are apparently headed to various places, including to the NYPD. One older woman, who laments this loss, remarks that the horses don't want to go to NY. A fantastically Bostonian remark. I loved seeing this unit as I'd walk through the Public Garden or the Common and they will be sorely missed. One of the members of the crowd notes that for some kids, these are the only "live/in person" horses they get to see, and that's even sadder.

There's a nice article on WBZ that includes links to a petition if anyone out there is inclined to sign on as well as an organization called that is actively fundraising for the BP Mounted Unit.

Footloose & Fancy-Free-For-All Friday

Sorry about the header, once I got going with the alliteration I couldn't stop.

Since it is Friday (and honestly, doesn't it seem like it's been kind of a tough week?) I thought I'd just mix it up a little. What follows will be a potpourri, a veritable grab-bag, if you will, of some random thoughts.

So late last night while I was NOT sleeping, I was reading book reviews from the Boston Globe. One review, by Joseph Rosenbloom, was a critique of Charles Pierce's Idiot America. A kind of funny review overall, but one line from the book leapt off the page..."Nominating Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as the Republican vice-presidential candidate was 'an insult on a par with the elevation of Caligula’s horse.'" Whoa...back up...Caligula's horse?? After four years of high school Latin (sorry to disappoint, Mr. Jewison) and countless years spent reading books about the ancient world, how did I not know the deal with Caligula and his horse, Incitatus? (see image at top--and I'm guessing they mean a jeweled bridle, not collar, but I won't quibble...)

For those of you who know the story...BRAVO. Here, is what I learned from a clever website called The Straight Dope:
"Several of the ancient sources make mention of Caligula's favorite horse, Incitatus, and how the emperor pampered it with a marble stable, an ivory manger, a jeweled collar, and invitations to banquets. Though not mentioned in the 1979 film, there is a persistent belief that Caligula made the horse a consul. Even the Encyclopedia Britannica once repeated this claim as fact, but has since retracted it. There is no basis in the sources to support the idea that the horse was ever actually elevated to the position. Dio and Suetonius do claim he promised to make the horse consul but died before he could fulfill his plan. Among the modern fictional works surveyed, only The Robe has Caligula actually elevating the horse to a consulship. I, Claudius has him make the horse a senator and nominate him for the consulship. If there is anything more than baseless rumor behind the idea that he promised to make the horse a consul, modern historians are inclined to treat it as a joke on Caligula's part rather than a serious vow."

An historical fun-fact for Footloose & Fancy-Free-For-All Friday!

I'll try to take some pictures while I'm at Belmont tomorrow, assuming I still remember how to use the Twitpic function on my BlackBerry. (How embarrassing would it be to not be able to use Twitpic...wouldn't it make you a real twit?) It's also likely that I'll be tweeting, so you can stop by and see what's up on my Twitter feed, too. It's ThePaperTyger (all one word, no spaces) and as I say, barring technical difficulties, I'll hope to have some fun photos. Lower those expectations, though, it's a BlackBerry, not a real camera.

All that said, I'm looking forward to being at the racetrack tomorrow. I don't know what the race schedule is like for Hollywood Park tomorrow so no idea of when Zenyatta's race will be, but I'll have to watch the replay of it when I get home as I don't spend much time inside by the simulcast televisions. I hope both girls have great race and that all tomorrow's competitors (and their brave jockeys) make it across the finish line safely.

In case Caligula wasn't enough history for y'all's Maira Kalman's wonderful essay Time Wastes Too Fast complete with her whimsical artwork and images of Jefferson's Monticello, one of my favorite places anywhere. Enjoy!

And a final thought, Requiescat in Pacem to Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Ed McMahon.

Happy Friday, wherever you are!!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Yes, the usual ps...

I missed this as I was off the grid most of the day today, but a very sobering article about the future of the Kentucky Derby by Gregory A. Hall of the Courier-Journal in Louisville.


Take me out to the racetrack...

There's been a lot of talk (maybe too much talk as Bono would say) the last few days about many aspects of the horse racing industry. I'm educating myself as I go here, trying to see all sides and understand why the opponents oppose, etc.

As I've said, I'm not ever going to be the one going to a racetrack to play video poker, or the slot machines. I'm there for the horses, the people, the characters, the atmosphere. I do, however, understand the need to add slot machines or other gaming devices to help make tracks more profitable. The "Racino" as I've seen these called isn't an inherently bad idea. I'm not a prude when it comes to wagering, obviously, and I regularly wager with my boyfriend on just about anything, so clearly I'm not the choir that the anti-slot/Racino lot is preaching to. It seems in many states, Minnesota and Kentucky are the ones I've read most about, it is a partisan issue as opposed to an economic issue. I've got to dig a little deeper to see what the horse industry brings in cash flow-wise, but at some point don't you want to keep this industry and it's workers employed? Don't you want to keep breeders breeding, trainers training, etc? How is this not just as important as keeping studios or other industries in your state? There are seemingly endless tax incentives for other industries (coal, tobacco, film, big-pharma) to stay afloat in their states, why is it different for the horse and racing industry?

Certainly part of the issue is that America has changed and going to the races isn't a part of many people's lives. Where I grew up there were no racetracks to visit, in fact, my first actual race was at a harness track in Montreal (by the way, I won enough on my wagers to buy an adorable stuffed squirrel that I still have...) when I was about 9 years old. Granted, I'd already been utterly infected by horses at that point, but still to be at the racetrack and watch it all happen was wonderful.

I didn't attend any horse races again until I was in my early thirties. I'd just moved to New York City and my boyfriend had scored tickets to the Belmont Stakes. We arrived at Belmont Park and it was magic. Even with the sea of people and the less than perfect weather, it was a great day. After that I often took the Belmont Special out to Jamaica and frequented Suffolk Downs in Boston. Racing had become part of my life again.

It amazed me the first time I went to Belmont Park on a slow day with no big stakes races to see how few people were there. Sure, it was nice not to have a line for the restroom, but it was a rude awakening. How then, to get more people out to the races?

I wish I knew. I think exciting horses and compelling stories like Mine That Bird or Rachel Alexandra certainly help. It's human nature to cheer for underdogs and those who have humble roots like our own, perhaps. We need and want heroes and distractions, as I've said before. I'm not a marketing guru (obviously) but I have to think that there are viable ways to get people out to the track, and I'm hoping I'll see a good crowd out at Belmont on Saturday. The NYRA has stepped up their marketing for the (G1) Mother Goose Stakes and we'll see if it pays off. And night racing at Churchill Downs had a successful first effort, so maybe that's a good option.

I'd welcome comments or a guest blogger to share their thoughts, too, as to how we can make horse racing more viable and more vital in the US. Or if you are one of the opponents of "Racinos" drop me a line and we can have a point/counterpoint discussion. I think good things can come from any productive discussions and ideas cost nothing, right?

In the meantime, I'm headed to NYRA's website to look at the undercard races for Saturday so I can start to plan my little wagers. (And I do mean little...)

And here for a transcript of Thursday's press conference with Jess Jackson and Calvin Borel. (Is there a better grin anywhere than that of Calvin Borel??? I think not!)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Kentucky Rally Update

The horse industry in Kentucky isn't ready to go down without a fight!! A snippet from tonight's packed rally at Keeneland from and Tom LaMarra:

Kentucky Rally: 'Revolution Starts Tonight'

It turned into a raucous bipartisan political rally with more than 25 legislators who support the horse industry in attendance. Keeneland lobbyist Judy Taylor said she simply dropped off invitations at their offices, and they showed up in force only hours after a special session of the General Assembly had concluded.

The legislation to authorize video lottery terminals at the state’s racetracks died June 22 in a Republican-heavy Senate committee. Sen. Tom Buford, the only Republican that voted to send the measure to the Senate floor, received a standing ovation during the rally.

The bill had bipartisan support in the House, which it passed on a 52-45 vote. Legislators and racing industry officials said the measure had the votes—Republican and Democrat—in the Senate, but never had a chance to get there.

“This is not a partisan issue,” said Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, who attended the rally with his wife, Jane. “In the Senate, it’s not a partisan issue, but it takes on a partisan twinge. We won’t know (the outcome) because they were afraid to vote. I believe it would have passed the Kentucky Senate.

“There is one of two things you can do. You can change the senators’ minds, or you can change some of the senators. Let’s get this done.”

And further...

Democratic Sen. Ed Worley, who supported the bill, blasted the Senate as it wrapped up business during the special session. In a video shown during the rally, Worley said the Senate used a “smokescreen”—an alternative plan to generate purse money by taxing the lottery and pari-mutuel wagers—to blame failure of the bill on the governor.

The VLT bill, Worley said, was “killed and declared dead before it arrived. The majority of the members in the Senate would have liked to vote.”

During the rally, Worley said the sale of Thoroughbred horses in Kentucky’s number one cash crop, and the industry deserves legislative attention. “If they vote against the horse industry, you need to remember them on Election Day,” he said.

KEEP executive director Patrick Neely said each member of the Senate received about 5,000 e-mails over the weekend urging them to vote on the VLT bill. KEEP also collected about 12,000 signatures on a petition.

Neely said in the next few months, town hall meetings will be held around the state to lobby support for the gaming plan and the horse industry. Overall, he said the special session was a major success even though the bill failed to get a full Senate vote.

“They have heard our voice in Frankfort,” Neely said.

Another inevitable ps

From Tom LaMarra's comment on, an excellent query as to whether KY's lawmakers really understand what is at stake. And as added value, here's another of LaMarra's articles on the seemingly partisan nature of this issue.

*discuss amongst yourselves...*

Saving the Kentucky Horse Industry

There's a rally today in Kentucky at the Keeneland Sales Pavilion to show support for keeping a strong and vital horse industry alive in the state. I'm there in spirit, which is the best I can do today, but I'm hoping they have a great turn out. Imagining Kentucky without horses and racing is like imagining Paris without baguettes and brie--it's just not right. So many people (and horses!!) are dependent on the jobs and ancillary dollars that are critical to the horse industry.

This shouldn't be a partisan issue, though from the reporting I've read it seems to be something that the Republican controlled KY Senate is thoroughly against.

I 'm not a huge fan of slots, but I can see how they could be very beneficial for racetracks all over the country, including at places like Suffolk Downs, in Boston, and surely in KY. It just seems such a common sense solution.

Ohio seems to be having slightly better fortunes when it comes to getting their slots bill enacted--it would allow the machines at both racing and harness racing tracks throughout the state. Maybe the effort was more well-planned in Ohio or the people there are just generally more interested. In any event, this is a crucial time for horse racing and all the people who not only love it, but the people who work so hard in it every day.

She Runs Like a Girl!

It looks as though the rain is going to leave the Eastern Seaboard for a while, so that means that it's going to be a perfect weekend out in Elmont, New York, home to Belmont Park. I didn't attend Belmont Stakes day this year, but I'm not going to miss getting to see this gorgeous filly in person, so I'll make the short drive down to to the track. Free admission AND jewelry? (okay, a pink bracelet, but still) I'm there.

I've often lamented to a few of my horse-minded friends that I didn't live in the era of match races like Seabiscuit vs War Admiral. It was a different time, I know, but I still think it would've been a great thrill to see those head to head races in person. Not unlike watching a great pitching duel or this season's Stanley Cup made more memorable by the cast of characters.

Now it appears that there is an equally interesting cast of characters coming onto the main stage: the connections of both Rachel Alexandra (owned by Jess Jackson and his wife, Barbara Banke, of Kendall-Jackson winery fame) and Zenyatta (owned Jerry and Ann Moss of A&M record fame) are not only appealing in their own right, but their respective horses seem to be headed for history. And they're girls. (Okay, I'm a little biased being female myself.)

(As an aside, I love both of these ladies, but if this were a movie, Zenyatta would be the Margo Channing character--the older, more mature and seasoned part, played to perfection by Bette Davis in All About Eve--and Rachel Alexandra would be the Eve Harrington character--played with a touch of malice by Anne Baxter--the up and coming young beauty. I'll end my flawed analogy here as there's no malice or envy between these two horses--at least none that I'm aware of--only two stories of extraordinarily talented athletes.)

In a press conference from earlier today Mr. Jackson responded to future plan questions for Rachel Alexandra and where/when/if she and Zenyatta might meet up. It won't be the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita in November (due to the polytrack racing surface, it was noted) but he didn't rule out the two meeting at another point, or even in a match race. I can honestly say that I squealed a little at the thought of (a) the two great ladies meeting in a race and (b) a match race. There was even a nice little bit of posturing, I thought, when Jackson said that Zenyatta would have to come East or meet on neutral ground, in any event. Fantastic.

Bill Finley, in a great comment for ESPN on 10 June gives an idea of just how important an event like this, a head to head showdown for Rachel and Zenyatta, might be for horse racing. And honestly, what could be more uplifting than seeing these two great horses--and any others who would take them on, even--dueling it out on the racetrack. Horse racing--hell, America--needs more heroes and heroines and these two graceful athletes might be just the ones to fill the bill.

The NYRA is doing a good job of getting Rachel's Saturday race some publicity. That they're making it a sort of "Ladies' Day at Belmont Park " should bring out some more fans and I can promise you there are horse crazy little girls out there who will be begging their parents to take them to see Rachel run. We girls have to stick together! Check out the Rachel's Sandbox feature on NYRA's website...complete with coloring pages for kiddies of all ages.

Just the fact that there is discussion of a race between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta is a good thing. It's not enough, though, we fans need to be vocal and tell the racing establishment how much we want to see this happen. I'm going to start, and do my little part, by heading to the track on Saturday to cheer on Rachel and all the other equine athletes that will be racing. And most of all I'll be praying they all make it across the finish line safely to race another day.

Head to a racetrack near you, if there is one. I'm betting that once you've'll want to go again.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Taking your marbles and going home?

This is a bit off my usual topics, but I'm a former member of the wacky and unusual world of museum employees. It was great fun and many of my closest friends are still in the museum world as curators and interpreters. And in the interest of full disclosure, I am a museum junkie. When I go to a new city or country, the first places I'm likely to check out are the local museums. You learn a great deal about the culture walking through these halls of history, science or art. So I am understandably a bit torn when it comes to the issue of The Marbles (Elgin/Pathenon) and where they should live.

On my first trip to London I literally ran to the British Museum. All the wonders! I spent the entire day there, though I could easily have spent the week. Of all the exhibits and objects on display, The Elgin Marbles or The Parthenon Marbles, moved me most. While I didn't know then the entire story of Lord Elgin and how he got those amazing pieces to the UK, I did realize that it wasn't an ideal situation in any case. (Small understatement, there, I think...) I was awestruck. The reliefs and friezes were beautiful, of course, but it was the age and history behind them that made them even more important and impressive. I left the museum feeling as though I'd been let in on some age old secret.

A few years later I was lucky enough to find myself in Athens, just before the 2004 Olympics. No trip to Athens, or Greece in general, would have been complete without visiting the Acropolis. Even in the state it was in and with tourists milling everywhere, it wasn't hard to imagine the entire site as it must have been. The ubiquitous stray cats must have milled around when the original workers and masons were building the Parthenon as well. It was a privilege and a pleasure to spend an afternoon absorbed in antiquity.

I'd never given much thought to the controversy over where these objects should be on display. Surely when I saw them at the British Museum I had no second thoughts over whether they ought to be there. I was merely thrilled to be able to see the various friezes. And after my trip to Greece, and my afternoon on the Acropolis, I could surely understand why the Greek people felt The Marbles should be in Greece. They were national treasures and an integral part of their great history.

So fast forward to present day Athens, post Olympics and now, with a fantastic new museum for the various bits and bobs from the Acropolis. The bits and bobs other than The Elgin Marbles. And herein lies the conflict. The British government and museum establishment has always maintained that so long as Athens didn't have a real place for The Marbles, they were better off in the British Museum. Not a bad argument, all in all. But now the Greeks have their own fantastic and state of the art (at least so it appears and seems to be from the recent articles by Christopher Hitchens, et al) museum that could easily and happily house the treasures. Problem solved, right? Yeah, not so fast. As any museum will attest, the arguments for repatriation (even for NAGPRA--Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) represent a slippery slope. The worry boils down to this: If you give one thing back to the country/site where it came from, every museum, everywhere, will have to give everything back to the country it came from. So Winged Victory has to leave the Louvre, the Temple of Dendur has to leave the Met. See why museums get a little nervous about repatriating?

I can see both sides of this issue and I know if I were a Greek citizen I'd be quite vocal about advocating for the return of The Marbles. And if I worked for the British Museum I'd be equally as opposed to returning the pieces. It's a difficult subject but one many museums will be mulling over to see what it could mean to them and their collections.

I've put in a link to the really well-researched article that the NYT did on the new museum (The Elgin Marbles) that probably discusses this better than I could, so check out their piece and decide for yourself. Where should The Marbles be?

The inevitable PS

Further to the blog entry below...The Horse Slaughter Issue in detail.

All The Pretty Horses

Since I'm still in the midst of sorting out what's next, I thought I'd follow Merlin's advice to Wart (Arthur, in T.H. White's amazing The Once and Future King): when you are sad, learn something. And while I wouldn't say I'm exactly sad, I certainly am a bit rudderless, so learning can't be a bad thing.

As a life long horse lover (and animal lover in general) the whole issue of horse slaughter is one that is fairly new to me and utterly heartbreaking. The past two Triple Crown seasons I was glued to NYT reporter Joe Drape's blog, The Rail. He had a few guest bloggers and all of them were insightful or interesting and they each shed new light on different angles of the horse industry. One of the best was Alex Brown who writes and operates Alex Brown Racing in addition to galloping horses for Steve Asmussen at Woodbine in Canada. In addition to his coverage of Barbaro and his brothers, Nicanor and Lentenor, Mr. Brown is one of the most well-spoken and passionate advocates for horses and against horse slaughter.

I love all aspects of equestrian sport, from racing, to steeplechasing and eventing, but now as I am learning more about the industry--and yes, it seems it is an industry--that is horse slaughter, it is beyond disturbing. That we humans treat these regal creatures with so little respect is shameful. We love the sheer beauty of watching them run and compete, and seeing them give their all, but what happens after their career is done? It's not so much different from rescuing greyhounds after their racing days are over, but after reading a few of Mr. Brown's pieces it is difficult to imagine ever being at a racetrack without wondering what is to become of the gelding who came in last, or the filly who just never found her stride.

I'm off to read more of Mr. Brown's work, there are great links on his website (click on Alex Brown above) to some of the guest commentaries he's written and more about what we can all do. Take a few minutes and look around and see if you aren't moved to write a few letters in support of anti-slaughter legislation or to assist with retraining racehorses to be dressage or jumping horses.

Surely it seems naive to worry so much about horses when people don't treat each other very well in many cases. But how we treat animals, says a good deal about us as humans, too. I know that I won't be able to plead ignorance on this issue any longer, and hopefully, the more of people who are made aware by Mr. Brown's efforts, the more will want to take action. I'm late to this party, but I hope I can make up for lost time.

For all the beauty, grace, and strength that horses share with us, seeing that they live out their lives comfortably and happily--whether they are a Triple Crown winner or a colt who never won a race--seems a small effort on our part.

Monday, June 22, 2009

What the seeds of loss can sow

It seems like the last week or so has really been about losses of various kinds. Whether it's a tragic loss, like the young Iranian woman, Neda, or the loss of a job or the loss of hope, it means it is time to stop and take a look around, reassess.

If the recent events in Iran don't remind us all how important one person's voice can be, then we aren't paying enough attention. For all the noise and disagreement about who should say what and whom we should be validating, the bottom line is that the Iranian people now have it in their power to enact real change. They cannot do it alone, but when the time comes, the world is ready to step forward and offer whatever support is requested and/or needed. Twitter and all the social networking sites have supplied some unique insights into Iran and the usual suspects (The New Yorker, The Atlantic) have provided fascinating background and context for those who are willing to take a few minutes to read the pieces by Jon Lee Anderson, Laura Secor, or Andrew Sullivan.

On the other end of the spectrum is Christian Lacroix who is mourning the loss of his name, his design empire. (Okay, maybe empire is an overstatement.) But his comment about losing, in a certain specific sense, his family name really did hit home. Once you've lost that quintessential nugget of identity, it can't be revived in any simple way, no magic wand can be waved. It is gone, and someone can buy it--yes purchase it--to do with as they please and thereby destroy what it once meant. Not that I've never been a big fan of his work, a little too OTT for this girl, but I always loved the goofy explosions of color he brought to Eddie's wardrobe on AbFab. That aside, he's fighting mad...and that's probably a good thing. It seems to have renewed his creativity and sense of purpose.

Now somewhere in the middle of these two extremes is a personal loss of a part of my employment. And while to me it is all consuming, I know, deep down, that it is something millions across the country are dealing with. This is the second time in 18 months where my world has been, if not shattered, at least shaken, by a change in employment. What to do? Get angry, yes. Burn bridges, no, that's not really me. Take action? Sure, but what action?

The common ground for all this? How we react to loss. The Iranian people are galvanized and united by their tragic loss; Christian Lacroix is, to paraphrase a little, mad as hell and not going to take it anymore; and me...I'm mad, sure, but I'm still a little too freshly wounded to know what I am going to do. Redefine, retool, reconnect and revitalize. A few words that spring to mind that might be the start of my own personal renaissance. Stay tuned...