Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Dutch comfort

In my 1811 "Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue", there is a list of uncomplimentary expressions referring to the Dutch.

Dutch Comfort - Thank God it is no worse.
Dutch Concert - Where ever one plays or sings a different tune.
Dutch Feast - Where the entertainer gets drunk before his guest.
Dutch Reckoning - A verbal or lump account, without particulars, as brought at spunging or bawdy houses.

They don't list "Dutch Courage", oddly enough, which comes out of the bottle (gin bottle, no doubt). But Christopher Hitchens in Slate has contributed another one: "Dutch F***" - to light one cigarette with another.

Few English probably realize that these expressions come from the 17th century, when Holland was a great power and for a time, a considerable inconvenience to the English. (I think they sailed up the Thames and burnt the English fleet at one time.) Then to add insult to injury, they ended up with Dutch William III as their king.

The Dutch today have lost the boldness of their 17th century ancestors, but they still do their best to live down to the abuse the English have traditionally allotted them.

As Mark Steyn said, the people of the Netherlands have finally found a Muslim they are willing to deport - Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a fully-assimilated Member of Parliament living under house arrest to protect her from the murdering maniacs of her former religion who want her dead for apostasy and for exposing the disgusting truth about Islam. After her neighbours sued successfully to have her evicted from her home, because her courage was inconveniencing them and intruding upon the fat little comforts of their lives, the Minister of Immigration decided to show how tough she was by stripping AHA of her citizenship because she lied to get into the country 15 years ago. That obscenity has, fortunately, been quashed, due to the outrage of the world at the sight of this high-tech lynching of a successful black woman. I strongly suspect that there was some personal spite in Minister Verdonk's eagerness to stick a spoke in AHA's wheel, when she was on the verge of leaving the country voluntarily for America. Stripping her of her passport would have nicely torpedoed that project - "No freedom for YOU." This would have left the woman stateless, and perhaps deported to the Muslim snakepit she had escaped from already - a certain death sentence.

Fortunately, Verdonk's sneaky attempt at judicial murder fizzled; AHA will be coming to America after all, and Europe is one warrior the poorer (not that they care).

Among all the discussion, I was disturbed by the churlishness of some Christian commenters, such as Gates of Vienna, because AHA is an atheist. I think such fastidiousness can wait until the common enemy is vanquished. This sort of blind prejudice to religion, has always annoyed me. George W. Bush has always seemed to have this blindness; for a long time, he has acted as though ANY religion is better than none. I think it took a lot of time after 9/11 to convince him, with great reluctance, that religion is not a universal antiseptic. It's naive to say, "We believe in God; THEY believe in (a) god; so we really must be alike, at least in the important things." Time and experience have show that, as Lady Bracknell said, "Nowadays, that is no guarantee of respectability." Atheist or not, I would prefer to have Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Christopher Hitchens on my side rather than Rowan Williams or Frank Griswold. Salt CAN lose its saltiness, and then you throw it out.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Mahabharata

Every Sunday afternoon is Mahabharata-time for us; Channel 14 is showing the entire 94- part series made in India in 1988. It's not because we lived in India for 3 years in the 90s; that period of our lives is still something we prefer not to think about, except when we're joking and recounting some of the more outrageous things that happened. I didn't learn to love Hinduism in India, that's for sure. But watching it now (and I also have Peter Brook's 1989 version on dvd) I keep realizing that Chesterton was correct when he said that, next to Christianity, the only serious religion in the world is Hinduism.

We're up to the part where Dhritarashtra has partitioned the kingdom, in an attempt to quell the civil war brewing within his family. Of course, it's not going to work, as Duryodhana, egged on by his Uncle Shakuni (we call him "Uncle Sneaky") can't be satisfied with anything less than absolute possession and power. So many times I'm struck by how superior the thinking is in Hinduism to Islam, especially in regards to women. There was one episode where a man was planning to sacrifice himself to a wood demon, in order to save his tribe. His wife didn't want him to go - she said she'd go instead, but he couldn't allow it, because it was his duty to protect her. Then their daughter offered to go, but the father refused again; "You are a life-bearer; to lose you is to lose countless generations." I thought how unlikely one would be to hear such a thought coming out of Islam; it would be taken as given that ALL women should be sacrificed before a man. Even when we lived in India, and we were always hearing terrible stories about bride-burnings, and the hardness of life for women; I could still see that, compared to Muslim women, the Hindus were FREE. There was nothing worse than being a female Muslim.

Often the ethics of Hinduism come very, very close to equalling Christianity, but at the last moment, they sort of swing aside. There's something missing there. I think it has something to do with the absolute, inflexible ORDER of life for humans. In last night's episode, Balram is being tricked by Duryodhana and Dushassana. His brother Krishna knows it, because he knows everything, of course. But he doesn't interfere - "What can I do? He is older." The younger brother can't correct the elder, even if he is god incarnate. Even if he knows better and by doing so, can prevent mischief. And this happens time and time again. Of course, by the end, the rules are overturned, and by Krishna himself, so the answer isn't as simple as that. But it must take a native acquaintance with the religion to really understand how this order and disorder work together, and who is in charge of setting and breaking the rules. But in Islam, the questions wouldn't even occur - there is no life outside the rules.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

I've been linked!

At Christopher Johnson's Midwest Conservative Journal, one of the blogs I frequent several times a day. (I recommend his book, too.) Welcome to any visitors. And a few days ago, somebody left a comment! Ah, the heady brew of success. Now, if only I could figure out how to change the colour for links within the text, because they're so faint you can hardly see them. Maybe that HTML thingy up at the top...

Gardening in the rain

It's been raining continuously for almost 2 weeks, but the garden won't wait! I now have TWO gardens - the Old Garden, put in about 3 years ago, and the New Garden, beside it, which I am just creating now.

The Old Garden, having been worked and improved with compost for 3 years, this year is devoted to root crops. I've planted 2 different types of potatoes: Russian Blue and a creamy white variety. Last year we planted Russian Blue, but I was just fooling around - I didn't really take much care of them, didn't fertilize them or hill them as they grew, so it was just an experiment to see what would happen. I think they were planted too close together, also, so the potatoes that were produced were rather small. However, they DID taste better than store-bought (or as my mother would say, "boughten") potatoes. It's hard to believe that potatoes could have a more intense potato flavour, but so it was. Having had success with almost no effort, I resolved this year to see what would happen if I really TRIED to grow good potatoes.

Accordingly, I carefully checked the book and spaced the rows 3 ft. apart, while planting the potato pieces 1 ft from each other. When I'd finished planting, I discovered that I had almost no room for anything else! I also want to grow 2 varieties of carrot, but I was squeezed into a little square between the rhubarb in one corner, and the raspberries growing along the north side! I called Auntie May, and asked if she thought it might be possible to grow carrots BETWEEN the rows of potatoes. She thought it might work, if the potato plants are far enough away not to completely shade the carrots. I'm going to try it. Really, I have nothing to lose, and I've got a small section of carrots at the top of the garden, if all else fails.

The raspberries growing all along the north side are spreading madly, as usual. This year I was brutal, and tore out all the little shoots that were pushing up (and keep straying into the rest of the garden, as well as the lawn!) . Three currant bushes are growing beside them - a little too close, but there's nothing I can do about it now; just try to fence the raspberries so they don't fall all over the currants. Two of the currants (red and pink) had lots of blossoms, while the black one had very few - no idea why, maybe I pruned it too much last year. It looks healthy, though - perhaps we'll have better luck next year. At the very bottom of the garden is a forsaken blueberry plant. A different variety of raspberries had been planted in front of it, and always tumbled over it, making it impossible to develop, but it still survived year after year. This year, I was fed up with the raspberries, which never seemed to produce much fruit, so I pulled most of them out, restricting them to the far south-west corner - they have one more chance to prove themselves there. I've bought 2 more blueberries to plant in front of the old one, so maybe they can cross-pollinate each other and do better this year.

THE NEW GARDEN

This garden was born of my desire to grow more vegetables, and my total disgust with the pathetic lawn occupying the space. Every summer it gets bare and weedy, and this year the grubs were back, too. I should have dug it up last fall, but just ran out of time, so I did it this spring, with the old rototiller I got at the auction last year. As the ground is just turned-over turf, and hasn't had a chance to be improved or worked over (it's a bit clayey, and packs down a bit) I decided to grow above-ground crops here. I've planted 7 tomato plants so far; tomatoes really grew madly in the Old Garden, so I figured they had a better chance than most plants of managing in the New Garden, despite the less-than-ideal soil. I don't really need tomato plants that are taller than I am; if they are a little reduced in size, it's no big deal. I'm also going to plant kale and swiss chard, as well as zucchini (the garden monster) and cucumbers. Maybe a few herb plants, too, I haven't decided. The tomatoes are at the bottom, right in front of the swing set with the new hammock, so in the middle of summer, when the tomatoes are ripening, it should be very nice to lie out there and look at them.

I'm going to cut off some of the lower branches of the tree near the fence, to allow more sun in, and perhaps get that tree from the wasteland on the other side of the fence at the bottom of the yard lopped off. It's the main trunk, I think, but it's growing at about a 50 degree angle right into our yard. I'm sure I'm within my rights to have it taken off, and it might even give the rest of the tree a chance of growing straight. Dean and I are considering planting a couple apple trees down there, and it will be impossible unless that part of the overhanging tree is gone. So this means a call to the tree guys this year. It shouldn't be too expensive, though - just branch removal. At the moment the garden is just dirt, but as it progresses, I'll post pictures.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Belgian Catholic bishops surrendering to Islam

"There is a thing, Harry, which thou hast often heard of, and it is known to many in our land by the name of pitch: this pitch, as ancient writers do report, doth defile; so doth the company thou keepest..." (King Henry IV, Part I, Act II, scene IV)

Well, this really frosted me. Catholic bishops in Belgium are so sympathetic to illegal (Mohammedan) immigrants, they've allowed them to squat in their churches. With the result that these churches are now a place of Mohammedan prayer. Banners proclaiming the name of Allah are now proudly hanging in these churches; "The Muslim squatters hold Islamic prayer services in the church. The altar has been moved and the statue of Our Lady covered by a cloth to hide her from the eyes of the Muslim believers. " All to prove how very pure and non-judgmental these supposed leaders of Christianity are.

I can't agree with Gerald Augustinus at The Cafeteria is Closed (one of my favourite blogs) that this current fad among Catholic bishops of lionizing aliens and outsiders is so harmless. I think there's far more going on here than a mere "defending the weak and disenfranchised". I think this is the old ghost of Liberation Theology trying to crawl back from where Pope John Paul II banished it. The fact that these people are illegal immigrants seems almost to lend them a cachet to their Catholic enablers. I think we're seeing a resurgence of the old idea that "victors write the history", and by extension, the law. And since the "victim" is privileged over the victor, this means that "victor's justice" is no justice at all, and may be disregarded. Indeed, SHOULD be disregarded, to give one that delightful frisson of virtuous transgression by means of proxy lawlessness.

Chesterton in his time witnessed the Anglican Church cave in on matters of faith and principle. His words are still true: "But my concern is not with open and direct opponents like Mr. Huxley; but with all to whom I might once have looked to defend the country of the Christian altars. They ought surely to know that the foe now on the frontiers offers no terms of compromise; but threatens a complete destruction. And they have sold the pass."

"I'm back, baby"

I daresay that line is from many movies, but in this case I was thinking of MST3K's 'The Thing That Wouldn't Die', when the satanic villain is unblindfolded. Anyway, I'm back from 4 days in Las Vegas, doing the annual reunion with Nanette and Anne. I think the hot weather is getting to be too much for me; as Mom used to say, "I'm damn near 50 years old!" And it wasn't even really that hot, for Vegas. But I would flame up as red as a beet as soon as I stepped outside - I guess I should get my blood pressure checked, but then, I've always had an inclination that way. I remember turning purple in the heat when we lived in New Delhi, though 40C is enough to kill anybody.

We went to see Penn and Teller on Monday night - a very enjoyable show, with no problems at all that I could see. There was a new piece on "misdirection" involving a duck that was quite funny, with Penn pointing out how risky a strategy of misdirecting the audience would be, since you can't rely on EVERYONE looking in the correct direction at any particular moment, when the magician is planning to do his tricky stuff. And of course, just then, there's a wild clashing of cymbals and a stage light over to the side, where a screaming Georgie Bernasek appears, being chased by a gorilla, who proceeds to rip off her dress and leave her in a bra and panties! Well, how can you not look? Meanwhile, I was vaguely aware of Penn sort of lunging over the box containing the duck, but the misdirection worked in my case, because I didn't actually see what he was doing. Next time, though.

We went backstage with Teller after the show and had a very nice conversation with him and Mike Jones, mostly about movies. We all agreed on how wonderful the Criterion collection is, and now I have to look up a very interesting-sounding movie about 4 Japanese ghost stories. I told Teller about 'Running Scared', and Penn happened in at that moment, so I did my best to create good word of mouth for it, though of course it's out of the theaters now. But the dvd is coming out soon, and I think it will become a cult movie very shortly. We discussed 'Phantom of the Opera', and how it's really just not a very good story, though the film has some impressive moments.

Other highlights of Vegas: we went to see Mac King, whose show is always delightful. There was a new piece involving a camping tent and hand shadows. I even got a t-shirt this time; Mac in the Cloak of Invisibility is one of my favourite parts of the show, and this has a picture of him floating invisibly. We went on a behind-the-scenes tour of the aquarium tanks at Caesar's Palace, which was most interesting. They have a tank of live coral, which is unbelievably bright and exciting. The cleaner shrimp didn't want to feed off my hands, though - maybe some sunscreen was still on them, and turned them off. We got an informative look at the mating habits of sharks, too - the male has been removed from the tank because he was so obsessed with mating he refused to eat, and he was exhausting the females.

This year we stayed at the MGM, which has a very lovely pool complex, including a long lazy river; we went several times, it was so enjoyable.

The return home was straightforward, except that it took 45 minutes to get through the Customs line at Dorval. I ended up apologizing to an American standing in front of me! It was just so embarrassing - typical government slovenliness. We might as well have been in the Third World. Altogether, it was an hour and a half after landing that I finally was able to leave the airport.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Pre-emptive disassociation?

Bishops speak out against Nigerian laws on homosexuality. According to the Anglican Journal, the Nigerian bishops are being "called to account" for their support of their government's new laws on homosexuality. I really don't remember so much interest in things Nigerian before the bishops of that far-off land started making pointed observations on the decrepit state of Anglicanism in North America.

"In unusually strong language, the bishops said they "disassociate" themselves from the actions of the Church of Nigeria and called upon Anglicans around the world to listen to and respect the human rights of gay people."
With the General Convention in the U.S. just a month away, could this be a bit of pre-emptive disassociation? There's much anxiety building about whether ECUSA will or can "repent" its consacration of a gay bishop, and the bishops of the Global South (Nigeria prominent among them) are seen as threatening to kick the Americans (and subsequently the Canadians) out of the communion if they don't shape up. Maybe this is their way of saying "You can't fire us, we quit!"

Monday, May 01, 2006

The auction in Huntingdon

On Saturday, I went to a country auction in Huntingdon, QC. That's a bit further than I've gone before for an auction, but it looked quite interesting, with lots of tschotchkas and miscellaneous stuff. I left at 6:00 AM, and drove to Cornwall, then over the bridge to NY State, in order to make a little dash through the U.S. to get to that part of Quebec south of the St. Lawrence but just north of the border. I must say, that toll bridge in Cornwall is a disgrace - I've never seen anything so patched and shabby, not even in India. Some impression this must make on visitors from the U.S., driving up to Canada!

While in the U.S., I couldn't resist stopping at a grocery store, and stocking up on some of the stuff we've missed since leaving Boston:

Cocoa Puffs for Emma (she hates the Canadian ones - says they're not as chocolatey as the American ones.
Pistachio-flavoured instant fat free, sugar free Jello pudding mix - we have the other flavours, but NOT THIS ONE! (also ff tapico and rice pudding mixes)
Low fat English muffins
Fat free potato chips cooked in Olene
Libby's pumpkin pie mix - it's not that we can't get the stuff in Canada, it's just that it's half the price in the U.S.!

I looked but could not find honey-flavoured Robitussin cough syrup; I'll have to try to find that in Las Vegas next week. And I forgot to look for the decaffeinated sugar-free Nestea instant tea mix.

Anyway, on to the auction. It was run by Dean Hooker, who will also be doing an auction in St. Jacques-le-mineur in 2 weeks' time that I want to go to. I didn't find any melamine or aluminum stuff, such as I like to collect, or any weird lamps. But I got a box of old books for $15, because there was one book in it I thought Dean would like "Turkey and the Armenian Atrocities" from 1896. I also got a lot that I wanted because it had 4 umbrellas in it - unfortunately, it also contained 5 large corsets! Maybe someone on ebay will buy them - I used to know a girl who collected them, because she designed and made theater costumes. Maybe there's someone else like that out there. Also got a nice box of handkerchiefs for $5, most from the 40s; a box of huck towels and various linens for $14; four feather pillows for $10, and for $5 an old wooden crate covered with genuine art nouveau fabric - quite soiled, of course, but I'll wash it and see what can be salvaged. The box was lined inside with old wallpaper, which I'm scraping off as much as possible. I'm sure it was used to store clothes or blankets; now it's come down in the world, because I'm going to use it to store potatoes in the cold cellar in the fall. I need to fill and seal all cracks and holes to keep the mice out. There's a box with some quilting scraps and sewing notions, and also a very old, very solid office chair for use at the computer. It has solid aluminum legs, and is very heavy. James can't even tip it over - he's taken to just pushing it into the corner when he wants it out of the way. Altogether I spent $75, and nearly half of that was the box of books and the umbrellas/corsets.

I so enjoy getting out of Ottawa and going to these auctions. It's a relief to get away from the city; out in the country, you can see the old Ontario, before the place was overrun with immigrants and progressive-minded eggheads who placed no value on the province's past. Out in country, people know how to do things - if I have to disassemble a table, or fit something into the van, there are always people there who can figure out how. It's reassuring to be around people who obviously have learned how to do things for themselves; that sort of self-reliance isn't so easily found in the city. And the accents are very broad, traditional country accents - it's great fun to listen to people talking, as they mostly all know each other.

There is almost always a chamber pot up for sale at one of these sales, which never fails to raise comments and laughter. I keep learning different terms for it - "the thundermug" is one I heard last month. This time there was a new one: "the gazunder"..."Gazunder the bed, gazunder the bed, dont'cha see!"