(This is a totally unserious post, nothing about China or Bush or Iraq or the Lancet article or World War II. So only click to see the rest if that is OK with you.)
I’ve been out of town for work. I got a letter from my very artistic and literate and brilliant ten year old kid, which included a remarkable drawing of a dragon with a spooky graveyard in the distance on side, and a castle in the distance on the other, and a wizard off in the corner and a pile of treasure guarded by what appear to be leprechauns, and other stuff. I was inspired by this masterpiece to respond, in pertinent part, as follows:
Thank you for the picture of the dragon with the many interesting details in the background. … I like the wizard, the graveyard and the castle, as well, which add a lot to the picture. The entire thing suggests a more complex story which can only be guessed at. Is the wizard an enemy or ally of the dragon? Is the castle bustling and full of the clatter and chatter of its busy inhabitants, or is it a ruin, long ago plundered by the dragon? And who lies buried in the cemetery? The charred remains of valiant knights who sought in vain to slay the dragon but were incinerated in their armor by his fiery breath? And do their ghosts prowl the countryside on dark and windy midnights, terrifying travelers on the deserted roads, vowing in spectral whispers never to rest until their malign and reptilian foe has been slain at last?: And what of the princess kidnapped so long ago by the dragon who, while still lovely, is no longer in the first blush of womanhood but has reached middle age, and whose hair is now streaked with gray, who has long-since accepted her fate as a captive and her role as knight-bait, and who lives cheerfully enough in the cave amidst the dragon’s treasure trove, having long ago neatened and straightened-up and arranged and decorated the interior of the cave in a very feminine style much to her own liking, and who is actually remarkably well cared-for by the dragon, and who in fact has her pick of the gowns and jewelry and mirrors and furniture of a dozen queens despoiled by the dragon (at her request, if you must know the sorry truth), and who smiles pleasantly at the knights who ride up so boldly to what they think will be her glorious rescue, but will only be their own sizzling doom — and among the last earthly thoughts of these ill-fated heroes is wonderment to see the captive damsel so oddly un-distressed, sitting idly on a golden bench at the mouth of the cave, twirling the fingers of her right hand in the long silken tassel which dangles from the tip of her cone-shaped princess hat, and chatting and laughing with the dragon, and scratching him behind his ear with a long silver backscratcher held in her left hand … . Perhaps you can add these details to a future picture.
(I have always wondered about the motivations of the major players in this traditional drama, and suspected that all was not as it seemed.)
I look forward eagerly to the lad’s artistic sequel.