Sunday, December 31, 2006

Starting the New Year off right

Well, I just had to go and do it, didn't I? I read Mrs. Schori's New Year's Message in the London Times today. Odd that this would appear in a British newspaper rather than the New York Times, though maybe it's because they're in an earlier time zone than the U.S., and it's already 2007 there. Either that, or she's operating on the Julian calendar or something.
As one year closes and another opens, many of us turn to the making of resolutions. Consider what might happen if all of us resolved to make 2007 the beginning of a new era in which the hungry are fed, the ill cured, the young educated and women and men treated equally.
Do let us know when you intend to launch the Tenth Crusade, because I don't anticipate that last goal, or the one before it as far as it concerns young girls, will take place as long as Islam is around.
What if all had access to clean water and adequate sanitation, basic healthcare and the promise of development that does not endanger the rest of creation?

Imagine there's no outhouse,
It's easy if you try.
No bush or rock before us,
Behind us, double-ply.
Imagine all the people
Putting down the seat...
You may say I'm a dreamer,
But it's what I have to do.
God wants low-flow flushing
When the world goes to the loo.

We understand this work as a visible sign of building the reign of God. A vision of that reign lies behind the ancient Hebrew concept of shalom, which means far more than simply peace. Shalom has to do with the restoration of all creation to right relationship with God, so that the hungry are fed, the grieving comforted, the ill are healed and prisoners set free.
I must be the only one who really hates all this "shalom" stuff. I must be, because I haven't read anyone else complain about it. And yet it gets right up my nose every time I read it. It's not that I don't like Judaism - on the contrary, I love it. I love it so much, I regard it as a free-standing religion with its own dignity and coherence, just like my own. I do NOT regard it as Christianity's storage basement, into which we can burrow to drag up sparkly little nuggets to ornament our own tradition whenever we get bored with it.

"Shalom" is a good word, I'm sure, but it isn't part of OUR tradition, any more than "Pax vobiscum" is part of the Jewish tradition, though I daresay there's nothing in the expression that would violate the tenets of Judaism. And I don't care that if you go way back into the mists of time, you can find Hebrew in Christian worship. That tradition didn't survive in our church, and to try to drag it in now feels like the ostentatious showiness of a pedant. Indeed, it's there in Mrs. Schori's over-eager lecture about the roots of the word and its real meaning. The same attitude was evident in her "explanation" of her "Mother Jesus" gaffe:
To those who accuse her of heresy for referring to a female Jesus, she responds with a typically learned disquisition on medieval mystics and saints who used similar language, including Julian of Norwich and St. Teresa of Avila. "I was trying to say that the work of the cross was in some ways like giving birth to a new creation," she said. "That is straight-down-the-middle orthodox theology."
So straightforward and down the middle that no one but some professors had ever heard of it. Just as I've never heard a sermon that uses her favourite word "shalom" in my 30+ years as a Christian. But it's not at all unusual for liberals to consider that the mass of people just don't really understand anything at all. Schori writes and preaches to people like her: people who get their religion out of books and journals, not out of life.

Friday, December 29, 2006

'Fall of Eagles'

I gave Dean the dvd set of the BBC's 1974 series 'Fall of Eagles', and we've been watching it over the past few evenings. My memories of it were pretty accurate, but I was surprised by how really artistically good it was. The sets are fabulous - I'm guessing they used a number of palaces to film in - and so are the costumes and the hairdos. This is really the definition of lavish. But you can also see that a lot of good, hard thinking went into the filming. They use interesting camera angles, much more than you'd expect from a TV dramatization, so sometimes we're looking down on a conference from the position of a chandelier hanging over the table, or else we're down low, looking up, as if we were dogs sitting beside a chair. It's great to see that sort of attention given to the mechanics of making a film. I remember a complaint about Peter Jackson's 'Lord of the Rings' was "Why, when you've spent millions of dollars creating Helms Deep in anorakish detail, can't you spend half an hour thinking of an original direction from which to point a camera at a horse?"

I loved the section on the Hohenzollerns; the actor who plays Wilhelm II really looks like him. I asked Dean if Wilhelm was really that annoying in real life, and he said he was probably a lot worse. The actor's terrific, though.

It's funny how one changes with time. When I first watched this, I was a teenager, very romantic and steeped in history, so all my sympathies were with the fallen royal families. I thought how awful it was that something so ancient and beautiful was replaced by the ugliness of modernity, especially Socialism and Communism. Now that I'm middle-aged and a mother, I watch these scenes of the impoverished workers in St. Petersburg, and I think how I would have felt if I were in their place, my children sick and starving, and things getting worse all the time. I realize I'd probably be bitterly wishing for strikes and anarchy - anything that might change the hopelessness.

When I was watching the early Romanov section (we're about halfway through the series at the moment) I had a strange feeling - Nicholas II reminded me a little of George Bush. Not in his tactics or policies - but in a sort of dreamy certainty that God has put him in charge of things and there's nothing more to be said. I've called it those times when Bush "goes all mystical on us", but I really liked Mark Shea's expression for it: "I, the President, do verily look upon the heart and judge not as man judgeth". I've sometimes gotten this creepy feeling when he's repeating the same old tired catchphrases again and again: "Stay the course", "It's hard work", etc. It's as if he feels all he has to do is BE the President, and that's enough. As if it shouldn't be necessary to argue and fight and protest; the glory of Being President should be evident to all, and if it isn't, he doesn't really know what to say.

I don't think it's really an Evangelical thing, though it seems very un-Catholic to me somehow. I think it's more a sort of American "aristocracy" thing, but filtered through a "God is in charge" kind of attitude. The Czars were pretty upfront about their authority - God appointed them king, and gave everything to them, and that's the way He wanted it, so don't even think of arguing or asking them to share. You can't do that sort of thing in America, but you can get a mild version of it when you think that God chose you to do a job, and He can't have made a mistake, so "everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds." I do get that vibe from Bush sometimes.

I know this is incoherent, because it's just an impression I get sometimes, and I don't know how else to describe it. I generally liked Bush in his early days, but it was when he seemed more decisive. Now I feel as if everything is drifting, and he's convinced himself that somehow God will fix it all. I remember reading about James II, and his hyper-Catholic court, when William of Orange was invading England from Holland. James sort of dithered and agonized over what to do, and couldn't even pull himself together to get his armies ready to fight. His advisors pleaded with him, but he turned to them triumphantly and said that all would be well - William's fleet had been turned back by an unfavourable wind, and it was no surprise, because the Host had been exposed for the past 2 days! The disgusted nobleman wrote of his failed attempts to persuade the king to act, "'Tis all nought; the Virgin Mary is to do all."

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A very nice Christmas

We had a nice Christmas this year. First of all, James didn't get up until 6:45 AM, which is very good for him - I remember past Christmasses when we were all up at 5:30. The opening of the presents was a bit more chaotic than usual - Thomas just grabbed them all and opened them before we knew what was happening. So it was a case of "What's this dvd of 'Fall of Eagles' doing here on the floor?" "Oh, that's your Christmas present." I think next year Dean and I will open ours the night before. Dean gave me a wonderful present of the only perfume I wear - Norma Kamali's incense perfume, and you can only get it from her shop in New York. It's been years since I've had it, so I've been wearing it since yesterday. Now Emma says the whole house smells of incense, which suits me fine.

Dean was right about not getting the puppy on Christmas Day; she would have been shortchanged by all the hubbub. As it is, we were even able to give her some presents, too - Emma got her a beanie chew toy, and I got her a bed.

It's been phenomenally warm here in Ottawa. A green Christmas for the first time since I moved here over 25 years ago. There has been much playing with the dog in the back yard - maybe that's why my back is sore today. Then again, maybe it's gout from all the tarts and Christmas pudding (which turned out beautifully).

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Medieval Quiz

From The Clam Rampant:
Link: The Who Would You Be in 1400 AD Test written by KnightlyKnave on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test
I turned out to be The Harlequin
The Harlequin
You scored 31% Cardinal, 41% Monk, 47% Lady, and 48% Knight!
You are a mystery, a jack-of-all-trades. You have the king's ear, but also listen to murmurings of the common folk. You believe in the value of force and also literature. Truly you are the puzzlement of the age.

Find the Lady

That's the cry of the confidence trickster, luring the unwary mark into a game of Three-card Monte. It's also become the theme song of the Episcopal Church, luring the suckers (aka "orthodox") into hanging on for one more try, one more round, one more chance to win.

Everyone's seen the game, even if they haven't played it. The dealer has 3 face-down cards in front of him, and quickly moves them about to confuse the mark. One of the cards is a Queen, and the challenge is to pick her out of the bunch once the "shuffling" is done. Of course, you have to pay to play, so the mark keeps ponying up money in the certainty that he can eventually win such an easy game.

"Find the lady! Find the lady!" How many rounds of this con game have been played since the summer? I've lost count - big meeting in New York, then another one at Camp Allen, then a secret meeting with some GS bishops, then the votes in Virginia... And every time the orthodox were sure that THIS time they had her for sure, only to have to dig into their pockets for another dollar for just one more game.

The latest con artist is the Archbishop of Canterbury, telling the suckers that they'll find the lady in Tanzania in February, this time FER SURE. And sadly, there are all too many who will think the price of playing one more game a better deal than admitting that they've already foolishly sunk too many dollars into this rigged confidence trick, and will never be able to win it back. Because of course, if by some miracle they don't win the pot of gold in February, well, Lambeth is ONLY one year away, and what harm will it do to wait, since they've waited this long already?

It's a mystery to me why any conservative would lean on a bending reed like Rowan Williams for support. The great cry after the General Convention was "Clarity!" Then along comes this little whiskered gnome with his letters and it's back to tortured interpreting and teased meanings from obscure hieroglyphics. And after those unnerving moments of clarity, the orthodox seem all too eager to slide back into the traditional comforts of obfuscation. Meanwhile, as Chris Johnson has said, time is not on their side, and every month of waiting for the next short-lived attack of "clarity" results in the loss of a few thousand more like me, who decided to cut our losses and turn our backs on the game.

Christmas bakeathon

The great rush of Christmas baking has hit our house! Yesterday I made TWELVE DOZEN tarts! Six dozen butter tarts, and six dozen mince tarts. Half went into the freezer, and we gave some away already, but that still leaves a lot. I was going to make shortbread today, but discovered that James had disposed of my cornstarch, so that will have to wait - probably just as well, since we already have so much other stuff. Of course, we'll be having the smallest Christmas pudding for dessert tomorrow night; I just have to look up a good brandy sauce to go with it.

I also found blood oranges at the store yesterday, so I know what I'll be doing this coming week - making marmalade. Unfortunately, they don't have mottled red skins - they just look like ordinary oranges, so I won't be able to make that cool effect of light orange gel with dark red peel suspended in it. I guess I'll be making dark red marmalade instead, but it should still be good.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Learning nothing and forgetting nothing

I read Mrs. Schori's comments on the Virginia situation in the Washington Post yesterday, and my first thought was "Dear God, she's dull!!!!" It's not that I expected any real NEWS in such a statement; this is public relations, after all, and there are going to be lawyers involved soon, so very little can actually be admitted. Hence the cagey distinctions between individuals and congregations, as if people change their essence once they fall under the spell of an Episcopal bishop.

But it was the utter banality of her response that appalled me.
We regret and grieve their departure, and pray that they may continue their journey as Christians in another home.
In the hope that some may decide to return, we intend to keep the door open and the light on.
Like it or hate it, the departure of thousands of souls from the care of their former protector is a wrenching prospect - it should at least produce the same anguish as the dissolution of a marriage. Instead, Schori dispenses trite, breezy cliches, like the host of a TV cooking show waving goodbye until next week's recipe for spinach soufflé.

It's embarrassing to see someone so entirely fail to rise to an occasion. She reminds me Louis XVI, who plodded along dully as the French monarchy collapsed on top of him. On the day the Bastille fell, in his diary he wrote "Nothing", which became almost an encapsulation of a clueless ruler not realizing what was happening around him.* Unlike Schori, Louis had no choice about finding himself in a job for which he was unfit; ECUSA deliberately chose to install a dullard at the head of their organization. Talleyrand said of the Bourbons that they had learned nothing and they had forgotten nothing, but even they would have been surprised to see the nothing that ECUSA has so eagerly embraced.

* I know that it was his hunting diary for the day, but the story has entered history as a parable of a king oblivious to the great events stirring the people, and carrying on business as usual without realizing that everything has changed.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Busy weekend

So much going on in the Episcopal Church, and I've only been able to read the quick-fire posts on other blogs, without talking about it myself. The reason is, that we had a busy weekend: I got a call from Santa, saying that he had a special present for us, but he didn't want to bring it next week, because it might get squashed in the sleigh. So he brought it by on Sunday evening, and here she is:
This is Yin, she's almost 3 months old, a spaniel-poodle cross, and she is the cutest ball of fluff in the whole world! Emma was just overwhelmed, and we let her name the puppy; she likes the Yin/Yang symbols, and since Yin is almost completely black with a little bit of white, plus she's a girl, Emma thought this would be a good name. (That's a little black and white stuffed whale in the basket next to her - her white fur is under her neck and on her nose.) Later in the evening, Emma said, "This is just like dreams I'd have about getting a puppy! Only you guys are too much in character, so I know it's not a dream." (Ha! I guess the dream involved getting renovated parents along with the dog!)

I've never had a dog before; cats, yes, but not dogs. Dean suggested getting a puppy for Christmas a few weeks ago, and my first reaction was to say no, but as I thought about it, I came round to the idea, and so we started looking for an appropriate dog. Yin reminds me of a black spaniel named Cindy I knew when I was a kid, though I expect she'll stay rather small; they say this breed grows to about 14 lbs. But that's good, because we have a big yard which will be nice for her, whereas a big dog might find it a bit confining.

I'm SO happy we have this little ball of black curls; I think it was getting to me, being alone all the time, especially as the winter comes on. I was reading a ghost story last week, and one of the characters was described as "She talked to herself a great deal, as often happens with people who are alone," and I realized, "That's me! I talk to myself all the time!" I love having this little creature around, and she's so loving and eager, as if just being there is the greatest thing in the world we can do for her. I'll put up more pictures as she gets older.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Home is where you hang your... self

I don't know just who said that - James Thurber, maybe.

I've been going through absolute Hell trying to arrange a FedEx shipment online. I sold a nice prie-dieu to a lady in Louisiana, and figured I'd ship it to her using FedEx's Ground Service. It's supposed to be easy, right? No way. I've set up 3 different accounts with FedEx since Wednesday, for regular shipping, ground shipping, and customs brokerage. Then came the last phase, filling out a waybill online. I started Thursday night, got all the way to the end, and then got an impenetrable "Error" message. I've redone the forms 20 times, and today I got a technician online to fill them out with me, and the same thing kept happening. I've eliminated every cookie and temporary file, I even enabled that remote-distance thingy where someone else can look in on your computer, and it STILL didn't work! I was on the phone a whole hour this morning in this futile attempt. By now, I could have put the damn box in my van and DRIVEN it to Louisiana.

Their senior technicians can look at the problem on Monday - thanks a lot. I don't know if this will succeed or not, but I tell you, I don't think I'll be using FedEx again, even if I have to ship a Kleenex. I'm fit to be tied, let me tell you...

UPDATE: I DID IT! Yes, the prie-dieu is on its way to Louisiana, and it only took me 5 days to figure out the online form. It's what I call NOT user-friendly; the reason it kept aborting was because I typed a "1" before the 800-number of the brokerage firm I'm using. Well, that's the way the number is given on their website; the stupid form NEVER said how many digits I was supposed to type, so I had no clue this was a problem. Grrrrr... The only advantage of going through the same form about 30 times before finally getting it right is that by now I think the procedure has been driven into my mind so firmly, I can practically do it from memory now. I'd better send something else quickly, before I forget how to do it!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Drywall repair

James put another hole in the wall, right next to the previous one I'd already repaired. I think this has weakened the wall so much, a patch won't do it - I have to take out a square of drywall and replace it. So now I have to teach myself how to do drywall repair. Does anyone have any advice, and can you recommend any books (with pictures) that will give me clear, easy-to-understand instructions on how to do this? I'm sure I can do it, I just need to learn quickly. I'll start with fixing a hole in the basement wall. It's not James-related; we had to open the wall one winter when the pipes froze, and since it was in the laundry room and nobody would see it I just never bothered to fix it. Now I'll do it as a practice piece, before I do the repair job in the front hall.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas cards

I'll admit from the beginning, that I am a terrible Christmas card writer. I'm lazy and reluctant, and I usually think of it way too late, so my Christmas cards (the few I get around to sending) always arrive after Christmas. But today I wanted a card to send to my aunts along with the jar of homemade mincemeat I cooked up a few days ago, so I went to the drugstore to get a box. I looked through all the boxes of cards, and I was stunned to find that, out of about 50 designs, there was only ONE explicitly religious design available. And it was a sort of childlike picture of chubby-cheeked children looking over the baby in the manger, with animals around. Nothing else - no pictures of Mary and Joseph, no reproductions of classic Nativity paintings, no Three Wise Men travelling across the desert, no Star - nothing. Just Santas and Christmas trees and birds and ornaments.

It's not that I was particularly WANTING a religious card (I ended up getting a 50s-style retro Christmas tree design), but I've never seen such a complete obliteration of the traditional designs in a collection of cards for sale. Yes, I know it was the drugstore, not a Hallmark card shop, but still - in the past, the designs were always about 50/50. I found this energetic secularism really quite unnerving.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Oh come, all ye unfaithful

Titusonenine draws attention to this message from Grace Church in Newark, NJ:
A Message to Disaffected Roman Catholics

From the Clergy and People of

Grace Church in Newark (Episcopal)

Some Roman Catholics whose spiritual lives are grounded in the Mass and in the sacraments are, nevertheless, unable to concur with the Vatican’s position on issues such as the role of women in the church, contraception, remarriage of divorced person, homosexual relationships, or abortion. They have become increasingly disaffected as the hierarchy’s response to dissent has grown more strident and authoritarian.

If you are among them, you may find a comfortable spiritual home at Grace Church in Newark. The church is located in downtown Newark, at 950 Broad Street, one block south of City Hall, just north of the Federal Building. We urge you to visit our Web site,,, and—better still—to visit the church in person. Sunday Masses are celebrated at 8 an 10 a.m. Weekday Masses are celebrated at 12:10 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Now, will this inspire Fr. Jake to fresh fulminations against sheep-stealing?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hybrid cars and hillbilly music

Nasty Brutish and Short has this great picture of the distilled essence of liberal Episcopalianism - on a hybrid car. As I mentioned there, a further irony is that hybrid cars run on nickel batteries, and this article from the Daily Mail describes the environmental damage involved, complete with gruesome photograph of the arid landscape around Sudbury, Ontario.

ANYWAY - this is all a roundabout excuse for posting this old video of Stompin' Tom Connors, singing "Sudbury Saturday Night." This was in contention for the title of All-Time Great Canadian Song, because you can't get much more Canadian than the lyrics of the refrain:
Oh, the girls are out to bingo,
And the boys are getting stinko,
And we'll think no more of Inco
On a Sudbury Saturday Night!

My mom hated Stompin' Tom, and I was brought up to disdain this sort of hillbilly culture. But now that I'm older myself, and my country's culture is dissolving into a multicultural soup, I've discovered a downright fondness for it. It's not just the voices - look at the faces! That backup guitarist - you couldn't find a more Canadian face than that, but those people never get to run things anymore, and I miss them.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Plastered saint

I can't help it, but I find this story on VirtueOnline about the Bishop of Southwark getting drunk ("tired and emotional", in the classic British euphemism) absolutely hilarious. This is a compilation of a bunch of articles on the subject, and I laugh every time I read it. I don't care that the guy is a super-liberal, it's just the whole scenario is comic from beginning to end. From him getting loud and boisterous when he hit the Portuguese wine at the Irish Ambassador's house, to the moment when he's tossing stuffed toys out of somebody else's silver Mercedes, right up to the sheepish admission that he couldn't put his miter on the next day at church because of the big bump on his head. It's like something out of a Benny Hill sketch.

I hope he doesn't lose his job because of this. As one commenter said, "the liberal establishment will tolerate non-believing bishops, homosexual bishops, stupid bishops, dishonest bishops, cruel bishops and profligate bishops, but not drunk ones." I was rather touched by the fact that the bishop tottered away from the party in order to take public transit to get home - he should get some credit for not driving drunk. Even when he got into a car, it was the back seat, not behind the wheel.

Big smile, everybody's happy

I always loved that line from 'The Simpsons', where Smithers is holding a gun to Tom Jones's back, and ordering him to wave and act normal. It's how I felt when reading this article in the Calgary Herald. It's a pure puff piece on how Anglicans are "celebrating" 30 years of female priests. No downside at all, just a little nod in the first line about some piffling "tempest" at the time. You'd never know from this article that the church has been haemorrhaging souls since then, to the point where it's about half the size it was in the 60s. Or that the warnings of those who said this would just start the downhill tumble to more and more fanciful inventions in the church turned out to be right.

The women interviewed are all happy because they've been able to fulfill themselves doing something they wanted to do, and that's nice for them, but it hasn't benefited anyone else nearly as much. And problems with relating to other churches? Huh? ARE there other churches? Who knew?

One quote just has to be highlighted, because it's so weird:
Debate raged within the Anglican community, ranging from theological principles to what Tucker calls the "intuition" of that mid-1970s timeframe in North American society.
I can't speak to how much "debate" went on; this was just before my time, but people who were there still complain that there was very little "debate". And this quote seems to illustrate it - a theological objection is joined to an unthinking prejudice, as if one is as spurious as the other, and there's no indication of just how the "debate" ever resolved the matter. All we know is that there are women priests now. Were the opponents convinced? What was the clinching argument that proved to them that their theological objections were groundless? Or were they just trampled down, as would be fitting for prejudiced bigots?

I started going to the Anglican church in about 1976 - I didn't know what I was joining an illusion. It LOOKED real enough, but it was just about to dissipate. Chesterton has a nice quote about what happens to a church when it loses its soul; for a while, it looks just the same, but it's like an animal lying in the road that's just been killed. Soon it starts to change, because it can't help it.
There is one historical human fact which now seems to me so plain and solid, that I think that even if I were to lose the Faith, I could not lose sight of the fact. It has rather the character of a fact of chemistry or geology; though from another side it is mysterious enough, like many other manifest and unmistakable facts. It is this: that at the moment when Religion lost touch with Rome, it changed instantly and internally, from top to bottom, in its very substance and the stuff of which it was made. It changed in substance; it did not necessarily change in form or features or externals. It might do the same things; but it could not be the same thing. It might go on saying the same things; but it was not the same thing that was saying them. At the very beginning, indeed, the situation was almost exactly like that. Henry VIII was a Catholic in everything except that he was not a Catholic. He observed everything down to the last bead and candle; he accepted everything down to the last deduction from a definition; he accepted everything except Rome. And in that instant of refusal, his religion became a different religion; a different sort of religion; a different sort of thing. In that instant it began to change; and it has not stopped changing yet. We are all somewhat wearily aware that some Modern Churchmen call such continuous change progress; as when we remark that a corpse crawling with worms has an increased vitality; or that a snow-man, slowly turning into a puddle, is purifying itself of its accretions. But I am not concerned with this argument here. The point is that a dead man may look like a sleeping man a moment after he is dead; but decomposition has actually begun.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Why bother?

Min asked me a question in an earlier post:
If you left the Anglican/Episcopal church, why are you still so obsessed with it?

I mean, there is plenty of scandal, un-Godly behavior, malfeasance, and sexual deviance in certain areas of your beloved Catholic church to keep you busy and posting for years, right? So, if you left the other church, why are you still pining away for it?
I think this is a fair question, and it's nicely asked, so I thought I'd think it out and post an honest answer.

First of all, it's something I know about. I was an Anglican for almost 30 years, and I converted myself to Anglicanism at 16 from the religious nothing in which I was brought up. I spent a lot of time reading and thinking about it. So even though I'm now a Roman Catholic, I still have all this knowledge sitting around, and I can't help using it. I know the lingo and the history, and a lot of the personalities and controversies on the stage right now. And quite by chance, I've been following this story, not from the *beginning*, but long enough to be able to understand where the arguments come from and where they lead. This isn't quite the case with the Roman Catholic Church - that's a much bigger field, with many more people and stories involved, and I'm comparatively ignorant. (I mean, I'd never even HEARD of Archbishop Milingo until a month or so ago.) My interests there have to be more parochial, because I don't really know much more beyond my own experience, although sometimes I'll branch out and mention some Catholic controvery. It's not that I don't know ANYTHING, but I feel inadequate to talk about issues I haven't really studied from the beginning - other people do it better, so I just go and read their stuff.

Secondly, I find what's going on in the Western Division of the Anglican Communion very entertaining. If you'll look at my blogroll, you'll see that I favour humorous writers, and I tend to write in that vein myself. I take great delight in collecting examples of absurdity, and TEC is a rich vein to mine. Hardly a day goes by without some overwrought declamation or illogical argument; it's getting better all the time. I remember a line from M*A*S*H* - "But Frank invites abuse. It would be rude not to provide it." To be sure, there's garbage going on in the Catholic Church, and if it's something like liturgical stupidity, I'm glad to laugh at it too. But when it comes to ugly crimes and horror stories - I really don't have anything to say about those except "Isn't it awful?" just like everyone else.

(I'll point out, just in passing, that I'm an equal-opportunity offender. I was living in Boston when the whole scandal about predatory Catholic priests broke, and, like pretty much everyone else in the whole world, I was quite free with my comments about it, even though I didn't belong to that church then, either.)

Finally, it's true that I've left the Anglican Church, but there are different ways of leaving something, which can affect one's later attitude. A woman fleeing from a violent marriage, or a refugee escaping his homeland to save his life, are both naturally eager to put the terrible experience behind them. We'd think it was unhealthy if a person in that situation kept returning to what had been so dangerous. But I'm not in that situation. I wasn't chased out of Anglicanism, I have no traumatic past to recall or scars that won't heal. I thought and studied my way out of Anglicanism, through a kind of slow, growing dismay and finally a contempt for what it had become. Newman writes:
Thus it is that students of the Fathers, antiquaries, and poets, begin by assuming that the body to which they belong is that of which they read in times past, and then proceed to decorate it with that majesty and beauty of which history tells, or which their genius creates. Nor is it by an easy process or a light effort that their minds are disabused of this error. It is an error for many reasons too dear to them to be readily relinquished. But at length, either the force of circumstances or some unexpected accident dissipates it; and, as in fairy tales, the magic castle vanishes when the spell is broken, and nothing is seen but the wild heath, the barren rock, and the forlorn sheep-walk, so is it with us as regards the Church of England, when we look in amazement on that we thought so unearthly, and find so commonplace or worthless.

It was like that for me. And I'm sorry to say that it's even spoiled my memories of the years when I was happy in the Anglican Church - I can think of the people I knew with the same affection as ever, but I can't go back and re-experience what I felt for the ceremonies that used to mean so much.

This leaves me where I am today, and I don't think it's so unusual that I should still be watching and talking about Anglicanism. After all, everyone knows of former smokers and reformed drinkers who become the most stringent crusaders against their old indulgences. In a way, I feel like someone who's seen through a con (Penn and Teller have left their mark!) and I am determined that the con artists aren't going to get away with their fraud. I can't stop them, but I can laugh at them, and I hope I make other people laugh at them too.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Canadian Gaffes and Practical Amusements

As SCTV demonstrated, most Canadian "gaffes" are on the lame side, but this one actually is funny. This is the leader of the NDP addressing the Prime Minister in Question Period yesterday. (I'll bet you Mr. Bush doesn't often have to put up with unscripted moments like this.)


I could only keep half an eye on all the interesting things happening yesterday, following the big meeting in San Joaquin, because I was caught up in a new favourite pastime: making marmalade. Since I discovered how little cooking goes into making marmalade, I've been keen to try out new recipes. Of course, the build-up to the cooking is backbreakingly labour-intensive, but I can't resist making the stuff, because it's so attractive when it's done.

Last month I started off with some Seville oranges, and made a nice orange marmalade (with one lemon thrown in), following the recipe in the Betty Crocker cookbook. A few weeks ago, I found an English cookbook for jams and marmalades - the English really are big marmalade fans, and have lots of recipes. I wanted to try kumquat marmalade, but the kumquat season is only a week or so, and they disappeared from the stores before I had a chance to buy any. However, limes are quite cheap right now, so I made lime marmalade. I used the recipe in the English book for the quantities of fruit and sugar, but then I followed the Betty Crocker recipe, because it uses Certo pectin. The other one is very traditional, and tells you to make your own pectin, by putting the seeds and the pith into a muslin bag and boiling it then squeezing it, etc. Forget that. If I'm going to spend hours scraping the pith off the peels, I'm going to save a little extra effort where I can (besides, these limes didn't even HAVE any seeds - go figure).

It turned out BEAUTIFULLY, a lovely pale green colour with darker peel. I wish it had been a little more vivid, closer to a mint jelly, but this is very nice. And it tastes wonderful, with a really sharp tang of lime.

What I really want to make now is a blood orange marmalade, but blood oranges only come around in December, and we haven't seen any yet. I could either make the marmalade entirely from blood oranges, which would make it a sort of cranberry colour, because of the juice. OR, I could make a regular light orange marmalade from Seville oranges, and throw in two blood oranges PEELS - that would give me a light orange jelly with pieces of dark red peel mixed in and suspended, which would be even prettier. It all depends on finding the blood oranges, though.

Meanwhile, here is a picture of my jam-making efforts so far: a jar each of orange marmalade, lime marmalade, currant jelly and damson plum jam. I made some applesauce in the fall, too, but it's not a photogenic. So we're all set for winter; my family will not starve.

Holiday Quiz

Kasia at The Clam Rampant tagged me for this holiday Q&A, so here are my answers, dredged up from the most distant memories:

Getting To Know You - Holiday Edition

1. Eggnog or hot chocolate? - Hot chocolate. I always think I want eggnog, but it never ends up being as good as I imagine it will be, mostly because I try the stuff you just buy in a carton at the grocery store. (But one year I DID make a very nice recipe, quite frothy with a lot of bourbon in it, and it was good, but that was the only time it exceeded my expectations.)

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? - He wraps them, but they only appear under the tree on Christmas Eve, after the kids have gone to bed, because otherwise they'd never make it to Christmas Day. This means Santa does a LOT of wrapping at the last minute.

3. Colored light on tree/house or white? - Coloured, all the way. When we lived in Wellesley, there was an unofficial policy that only white lights were tasteful enough for such an upscale neighbourhood. As we were the White Trash Of Wellesley, I bitterly resented that policy, and splurged on many coloured lights as soon as we moved back to Ottawa.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? - Never. We'd have been embarrassed to do all that silly kissing stuff in my house when we were kids; I don't think I'd even recognize it if I saw it.

5. When do you put your decorations up? - Usually about 2 weeks before Christmas, because I just keep forgetting to do it any earlier. Except the outdoor lights, which stay up all year long, because I'll be damned if I'll climb up on that ladder more than once.

6. What is your favourite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? - We never really do anything special in the main meal; I suppose turkey, though we sometimes have roast beef too.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child - Sitting underneath the tree, finding little hollows in the branches which could be illuminated by the coloured lights, and setting my toys in them. I'd make up all sorts of stories of adventures in the woods.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? - When I was in Grade 3, walking to school with a friend who just matter-of-factly told me. I pretended that I'd known all along, just like her, but I was crushed inside.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? - No. My mother was a sadist, who not only made us wait until Christmas morning, but AFTER we'd had breakfast, and AFTER she'd poured her coffee! We were allowed to open our stocking (we both shared ONE), but that was all.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? - Lots of lights, and unbreakable ornaments, many of them brought back from our time in India. I particularly like the stuffed elephants and the Rajasthani horsemen on their stuffed horses (some of them two-headed, like a pushme-pullyou). They look very dashing with their turbans and curling moustaches.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it? - I love it when it's coming down. I dread having to shovel it or drive in it. But it's better than freezing rain.

12. Can you ice skate? - Nope. Never learned - too afraid of falling down and getting hurt. Can't ski or ride a bike, either.

13. Do you remember your favourite gift? - I think it was 'The Complete Sherlock Holmes' in hardcover I'd been coveting for ages. I was about 14, and I'd practically worn out the library copy.

14. What's the most important thing about the holidays for you? - Family, even though I now live too far away to visit anymore, we still talk by phone.

15. What is your favourite holiday dessert? - Butter tarts. They're not really specific to the holiday, but we always used to have a special batch of them for Christmas.

16. What is your favourite holiday tradition? - Watching the Alistair Sim version of "A Christmas Carol".

17. What tops your tree? - An angel I got while we lived in Washington, DC. It's a reproduction of one from the Reagans' tree, and I got it from the Smithsonian.

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? - I think I like giving more now, though when I was younger it was receiving.

19. What is your favourite Christmas song? - Hmm, that's a hard one. I think "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen", though I also like "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" because it's so nice the way it switches to the minor key in the middle.

20. Candy Canes, yuck or yum? - Yuck. They're just nice to look at.

21. Favourite Christmas movie? - As per #16, "A Christmas Carol", with Alistair Sim.

22. What do you leave for Santa? - Nothing anymore, but when we were young we used to leave out milk and cookies, and a carrot for his reindeer.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Newsflash! Turkish imam prays like a Christian in the presence of the Pope!

Proof positive. Here is a picture of Pope Benedict XVI praying at Auschwitz:

And now here's a picture of him standing next to a Muslim cleric in the Blue Mosque:

I rest my case.

This reminds me of the story of Lord Macartney, England's first ambassador to China, who refused to perform the ritual kowtow before the Emperor. Macartney knew it was more than just a meaningless polite gesture; it was an acknowledgement of the supremacy of the Chinese emperor over all the "lesser" kingdoms of the earth. In the end, Macartney met the Emperor, and, just as happened in Turkey yesterday, each side interpreted the event to fit into its own worldview:
In the end, history provides ambiguous and conflicting reports of what Macartney actually did in the presence of the Qianlong emperor.

English witnesses record the one knee, no kiss salutation. Chinese sources of the time suggest that in the presence of the Son of Heaven, Macartney was ''so overcome with awe and nervousness, his legs gave out from under him, so that he groveled abjectly on the ground,'' according to the account in ''The Immobile Empire'' by Alain Peyrefitte.

Both sides claimed the encounter legitimized the sovereignty they sought to preserve...

(From The Fletcher School, Tufts)

Stripping the Altar, revisionist style

"Now watch, as I hurl this crucifix a distance of 125 feet, straight down the nave and through the rose window!"

(thanks to The Cafeteria is Closed)