Sunday, July 30, 2006

Content-free Episcopalianism

Titusonenine has posted an article from The Orlando Sentinel which paints an inadvertently hilarious portrait of the utter vacuity of the modern Episcopal church. The most telling part comes right at the beginning, in this quote from the leader of this group of Episcopalians who don't want their bishop to establish ties with an overseas primate.

"We take no position on Scripture or theology or morals," said Donna Bott, a leader of a group called Episcopal Voices of Central Florida, which sponsored the meeting. "We are just Episcopalians."
Now, you do have to be wary of stories like this. True, this is a quote, so I've no doubt the lady actually said it. But you have to bear in mind that a reporter chose this phrase out of who knows how many others, and news people don't always choose the most representative quote, especially if there's a more exciting one available. But there is nothing else in the article to hint that there is any deeper thinking going on, and one should be able to expect that a "former member of the diocesan board" should be able to articulate an intelligible position on a subject that, presumably, is of some importance to her.

This sort of nullity seems to me to be the natural result of decades of "non-judgmentalism". All these people want to do is be Episcopalian, without having to ever explain what an Episcopalian is. The answer, obviously, is "Whatever I am." Any attempt to establish a rule or even state a belief is frowned upon, because that implies some sort of "test", and wherever there is a test, there is "pass" or "fail" lurking.

Hence, we have people proudly announcing that they don't know and don't care what their church believes or is supposed to believe. Those who do are resented as meddlers and trouble-makers, needlessly upsetting people who just want to float along serenely doing what they like, and calling it "Episcopalianism".

I'm reminded of a passage from G.K. Chesterton's "The Thing: Why I Am A Catholic":
In other words, it is exactly as if somebody were to say about the science of medicine: "All I ask is Health; what could be simpler than the beautiful gift of Health? Why not be content to enjoy forever the glow of youth and the fresh enjoyment of being fit? Why study dry and dismal sciences of anatomy and physiology; why inquire about the whereabouts of obscure organs of the human body? Why pedantically distinguish between what is labelled a poison and what is labelled an antidote, when it is so simple to enjoy Health? Why worry with a minute exactitude about the number of drops of laudanum or the strength of a dose of chloral, when it is so nice to be healthy? Away with your priestly apparatus of stethoscopes and clinical thermometers; with your ritualistic mummery of feeling pulses, putting out tongues, examining teeth, and the rest!..."

The things that have been going wrong

We are having a bit of an infrastructure problem at home right now. The bathtub surround has given up the ghost. James pulled out the soap holder - along with several surrounding tiles and a section of the wall behind. I took one look and concluded that this was beyond my ability to fix - a few dabs of caulking were not going to do it. The bathtub was going to have to be replaced.

I decided to remove some tiles myself, just to see what was going on behind. They peeled off like stickers, and the drywall behind pulled apart like wet cardboard. Obviously, there's been extensive leaking for some time; not a surprise, as I'd realized 2 years ago that we were going to have to replace this bathtub. It's original to the house, so there's been no upgrade for at least 35 years, maybe 40. (Well, very little has been upgraded, let's face it.)

Anyway, half the wall on the long side pulled right off, and a couple rows of tiles at either end. Above that, they're still sticking firmly, and the drywall is sound, so that shows were the leakage was. We'll only know if there is damage to the joists underneath once the bathtub comes out, and I'll have to leave that to a professional. But taking the tiles off I can do, since it doesn't matter how much damage occurs to the drywall behind - it's all going to have to be replaced. It's always a bit fun taking something apart, though - it shows me how it was put together in the first place. I took an upholstery course a few years ago, and by far the most fun is stripping down the furniture. I enjoy it so much, that if we have to throw out a piece of furniture, I strip it down first, just to see what's inside.

That's assuming you NEED drywall behind one of those one-piece tubs with the surround that even covers the ceiling. I don't know - we'll have to wait until we consult someone. Maybe one of those things just fits in there against the joists.

The other thing is that the fridge is now making a scary sound whenever it starts up - sort of a grinding noise. I hope it's not the dreaded compressor - people always talk about having to replace that, and it's an expensive proposition.

Also, the kitchen sink is leaking underneath now. Oy. At least the air conditioning is still functioning - hope it lasts.

Altogether, it's been a stressful week, and we have the prospect of spending a lot of money soon. I guess it's just as well we didn't go ahead and get the new windows a couple months ago, even though we really need them.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Well, he certainly isn't using the profits from King Kong

Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh contribute $310,000 US to support embryonic stem cell research. No wonder the last third of the Lord of the Rings film saga died in utero. (With thanks to relapsed catholic)

'What's all this, then?"

Guns, jihad books found in Ottawa home of accused terrorist.

Police seized several books, he said, including: Terrorism and Self Sufficiency, Defence of The Muslim Lands, The Religion And Doctrine of Jihad, CIA Special Operations and Equipment, The Art of War, On Guerrilla Warfare and an unspecified military manual.

I'm sure he has a REAL good reason for having all this stuff on hand. It reminds me of the old Monty Python episode, where Elizabethan England was being flooded by Spanish pornography.

"What's all this, then?" asks the bluff English copper (in doublet and hose, of course) when he comes across a shifty Spaniard coming ashore in a rowboat filled with magazines with such titles as "Bum & Tits".

"Ees jus' some leeterature, senor," whines the Spaniard.

UPDATE: A friend reminds me of another passage from that same sketch:

"...and let's not forget 'Gay Boys in Bondage', William Shakespeare's new play about one man's great love for his fellow man!
(now wait...that sounds kinda like something ECUSA/TEC would really get into!)

TEC - It's the real thing!

The CEO Bishop Swing of California finally gets back from his 5-martini lunch, and what does he find? Depravity and debauchery! Sin and wickedness! Unauthorized reading of Prayer Books on company timeand trademark infringement!

In twenty-seven years of writing to you, I have spent little or no time covering breakaway groups in the Bay Area which use our prayer book and hymnals, which advertise in the yellow pages under our name, but which have no legitimate standing on the NYSE in the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion. My conviction has been that we as an historic people of God are on mission. So let’s be about that mission; let’s not devote energy to the folks who have set up shop nearby and who trade off our good name.

The Episcopal Church, Inc. (Nasdaq:TEC), a leading manufacturer of flash-based liturgy and custom and standard moral solutions, today announced that it has filed suit in California Superior Court against Reasserters, Inc. (Nasdaq:BAD). Trade libel, libel per se, interference with business opportunities, violation of the California Unfair Competition Act, and violation of the California Unfair Trade Practices Act are the causes of action listed in the complaint.

The old saying goes like this: “The dogs bark and bark, but the wagons moved on.” So I’ve tried to keep us moving ahead on the mission of Jesus Christ, not bogged down in intramural squabbles.


I’m a busy man, after all – the Holy Spirit is cranking out commandments like a Krispy Kreme franchise on opening day, and you know how fast those things go stale once they cool off, so I’m going to make this quick.


Nevertheless I want to share just a little sampling of my experience of these folks with you. Perhaps this might be of help to you in the future as you discern what the words “Episcopal”® and “Anglican”© mean when you drive by church signs.

…These are people whom I love individually

though I can’t actually name or describe any individuals to you, or give you a quote from any particular person, since they are really just faceless cogs in a vast corporate menace engaged in a hostile takeover.

but who bought into Senator Joseph McCarthy, Anita Bryant, etc., and the hunt for red October and pink conspiracies around every corner...Their constituency has few people of color, no women priests, and old 1928 prayer books,

so they’re not even ISO 2000 certified!

and the money pours in from Pittsburgh and Texas with the intent to bring an end to the Episcopal Church.

And just wait until we get that amendment to the RICO Statute! In addition to “any act or threat involving murder, kidnapping, gambling, arson, robbery, bribery, extortion, dealing in obscene matter, or dealing in a controlled substance or listed chemical (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act)”, we’re going to get “praying” added to the definition of “racketeering activity”.

There is a little church a few blocks from our home that calls itself an Anglican church. Obviously it is not recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury® and has no more right to be called Anglican™ than Mary’s pocketbook has the right to be called Prada.

Or this watch I bought on my last trip to Times Square to be called Rolex.

But there it is in all of its counterfeit splendor. It takes advantage of our “noble army of martyrs” who gave their lives quietly translating manuscripts or fighting against injustices or facing the political dynamics of their day or praying us through ordeals.

After all, I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Nasdaq.

The counterfeiters freeze-dry us in time, usually 1954, then thaw out our labors on Sundays. In their boutique fake Anglican churches, devoid of the mess of history or the blood of Incarnation, they show antiseptic reruns of us.

Without even paying us residuals!

As a tee shirt in the Bahamas says, “Nobody move, nobody get hurt."

And that peddler didn’t even have a valid vendor’s license to sell that shirt, either. I had him closed down before the end of the day.

A couple of churches in the Bay Area don’t even bother to switch labels. They use our prayer book and hymnal, sometimes even invite one of our clergy to officiate, and run an Episcopal-type church without carrying the responsibility of commitment to a larger vision of the Body of Christ. They chose neutral titles for themselves such as the Church on the Hill or in the Forest.

And we're going to sue them for having steeples and stained glass windows, too. WE own all the rights to those.

These are like couples who live together but don’t want the accountability of a marriage commitment. No ties. No big picture. Just cul de sac religion. Or rather just enough ties to figure out how to usurp the work of others and skim off enough cream to serve a rich local liturgical dish to unsuspecting attendees. A parody by parasites.

When everyone should be eating the same good, nourishing gruel that we've always supplied to the workhouses.

Catholics

Every time there is trauma in the Episcopal Church (Plc), there is an effort by some of the counterfeiters and the Communist fixators to join forces but nothing – nothing – ever comes of it.

Because we’ve got the best consigliere family money can buy.

Those who cannot tolerate the catholic, universal nature of the Church®, with the strain of holding everything and everyone together, certainly cannot live with the idiosyncrasies of each other. Once a church group learns to say, “I don’t need you all any more,” then they are on the road to exponential isolation.

And unfair market share.

The opposite of Catholicism©. What truly is worth striving for is to make the Church® more catholic©, or more catholic© than it was when we inherited it. Paul inherited a one-race Church. When he died, the Church was multiracial. There is the model. Move outward; embrace more of the human predicament in the Name of Jesus Christ (pat. pending).

No one has cornered the market on being catholic™. No one has ever seen the catholic nature of the Church™ in toto. It exists only in the mind of God®. We do see miniatures of it occasionally, and we lurch toward it blindly in our deepest yearnings (that's why we removed all those railings from the front of the church). The Roman Catholics (Plc, Ltd. Inc.) do not exhaust the catholic nature of the Church, nor do the Orthodox or the Protestants. We all carry its seed in our fragmented groupings. Truly catholic means all of the above and more. Lots more, as the Holy Spirit™ leads us into the Truth of the One.

Therefore, as a bishop I spend most of my time strengthening and expanding the Church’s infrastructure and institutions so that we can make the long, hard pilgrimage toward the catholicism that Christ intends for us, the wholeness He holds in His heart. All of it is important – the seminaries, the social services, the retreat centers, the congregations, the worship, the ever-expanding ethnic constituencies.

TEC – innovation, research - building the future, today!

We must be on our way toward a catholic destiny where God is all in all. We aren’t communists or counterfeiters. We are the real thing, catholic Episcopalians who pray that the Holy Spirit will lead us ever deeper, ever deeper into the full revelation of the Body of Christ.

Now, everyone! “I’d like to teach the world to sing, In perfect harmoneeeee…”

Friday, July 14, 2006

Ruddy clematis

That clematis at the back - as usual, the MOMENT I touched it, a foot of it died! I'm the Typhoid Mary of the clematis world, I tell you, the woman with the Touch Of Death.

The one at the front had its 4 little flowers, from the buds that it came with, but since then, nothing. A little piece of that one died, too. You know, I just don't "get" clematis; I don't understand why they do what they do. This happened with the first one, too. They seem to grow nicely, you get these exciting-looking buds and you think that this is just the beginning of horticultural bliss. Then the flower opens...and the whole plant stops dead in its tracks. Not only does it not produce any more flowers, it won't produce one single additional LEAF. It seems frozen with shock at what it's just done - like an old lady who unexpectedly farts and then is covered with embarrassment and confusion. I'll leave the two I have, but they're on their own now - I've got no time for recalcitrant climbers who aren't even grateful for the nice compost I lavished on them.

It worked!

The jelly GELLED! Waiting a week did the trick. And it's a nice jelly, too - soft and delicate, not hard like rubber. (Auntie says that nothing can rescue jelly that's over-gelled.) It might harden up a little more over the coming weeks, but I'm very pleased; the first jelly experiment was a success!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Another James day

James started out the day in a foul temper, yelling orders and hitting everything in sight. Finally, he put his fist through the drywall in the hall! I heard the bang, but I thought it was just another hit on the wall; only later did I notice the hole. Then he dumped a bowl of melted icecream on the floor. Maniac. This made Thomas laugh like a crazed hyena, which put James in a good mood, and he started tittering too, while Mom the Slave came over with a wet rag and wiped up the mess while muttering imprecations.

Then I noticed the hole. I called him over and very sternly asked "What's this?" to which he answered "Ouch!" and showed me his hand. Hmph. You've come to the wrong place for sympathy, kid. When I started lecturing him on how he must NOT hit things, he decided that a change of subject was the best strategy, so he gave me a flirtatious smile and said "Giggles?" (tickles) Oh well - we flopped over and I tickled him for 5 minutes or so. He used to love tickles all day long, but now he's such a big boy (11) and with all the grouchiness of approaching puberty, we haven't had that sort of fun for awhile.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Pretty sick

That's about the nicest thing one can say about Deborah Frisch, one-time psychology professor at the University of Arizona. Blackfive has a good summary of her online vendetta against Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom. I give the link to Goldstein's site, even though the site is currently down, the target of several DoS (Denial of Service) attacks, probably from Ms Frisch's psycho supporters on the loony left.

I don't want to type out all her frothing rants and sexual fantasies about killing and violating Goldstein's two-year old son. It makes me feel dirty even to read them. This woman is clearly insane. Little Green Footballs has an extensive thread on this subject, and mentions that Frisch claims that has been obliged to resign her position at the University of Arizona. Considering her mental instability, I would wait to see if this is true, or if there is some other explanation, like a pre-planned sabbatical or an expiring contract that can be trotted out as a supposed "surrender" to get the heat off her. Like a typical leftist, she immediately tries to use this to paint herself as a victim.

Vicious, sex-obsessed, anti-Semitic, self-pitying and vindictive - even in today's degraded academic climate, it might be difficult for her to find another professorship. On the other hand, maybe she should consider the job of bishop; I hear the Church of England is hiring.

UPDATE: What did I tell you?
The point of resigning is that it is something I was thinking of doing anyway. I want to stay in Eugene, OR where moonbats rule instead of living in Tucson, AZ where moonbats are in the minority. So my point is not that you should feel sorry for me but rather you should lay off the stalking like the emails to the head of the psych department at the University of Arizona, the nasty, threatening comments at the various rightwingnut blogs that have jumped on this "story."
Here's the link. Enter the site at your own risk.

Bad news about the jelly

I checked this morning, and it didn't gel. So off I went after mass to Canadian Tire, to pick up some more pectin, plus some proper canning tongs and a jelly bag. I also got a booklet on canning, and it does say that sometimes it can take more than 24 hours for jelly to set. They recommend waiting a week, and if it hasn't jelled in that time, then recook it and try again. I think I'll do that; it's gotten so hot now, I'm not too anxious to fill up pans with boiling water for the afternoon, and maybe it won't even be necessary.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Darwin triumphs again! A new species of Anglican has evolved!

Chris Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal found this screed by a certain Wayne Besen, and it's a doozy. I've read arrogance and condescension from liberal Episcopalians before, but this is the first one to venture into Star Trek territory. I suppose I shouldn't waste time fisking the whole thing, but I'm anxious not to look like I'm pruning the text to make the author look bad. This is the entire essay, in all its gaudy incoherence.

Is size all that matters to the Anglican Church?
Well, to certain segments of the Anglican Church, yes.
It appears that the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury , is willing to steamroll gays to prevent a seismic schism that would decrease membership rolls.
“Seismic”? The Episcopal Church accounts for a scrawny 3% of the Anglican Communion. And the Churches of Africa are growing so fast, they’d probably make up that number in a year. If it’s “membership rolls” the Archbishop of Canterbury is worried about, logic would dictate ditching TEC at the earliest possibility. The Episcopal Church has lost 38% of its own membership since 1965, yet the progressives whose clever ideas led to this hemorrhage nonchalantly consider it the acceptable price of doing business. And they are today urging more discontented catholics and evangelicals to just leave. The schism is “seismic” when it’s the progressives who find themselves standing outside the door. When it’s those irritating people who refuse to agree with them, then as Lear’s Fool said, “Truth's a dog must to kennel; he must be whipped out, when Lady the brach may stand by the fire and stink.”
In a document titled “theological reflection,” Williams asked all 38 regional churches in the worldwide Communion to agree to a “covenant” that could stymie a church’s ability to elect openly gay bishops. Those churches that did not adhere would have their status downgraded and become second-class affiliates. This plan would create an ecclesiastical caste system, with conservatives playing the role of Brahmins, while GLBT affirming churches would become the new untouchables. Yet, it would still allow the demoted denominations to share in Communion.
Well, that’s one step up from what untouchables get under a REAL caste system. Nobody’s suggested that Gene Robinson and Katherine Schori should get used to scrubbing toilets for a living. It might be worthwhile acquiring a little information about other religions before using them as cheap punchlines.
Not surprisingly, such a convoluted compromise pleased neither faction. Six right wing dioceses declared they would bolt the Episcopal Church, while the Diocese of Newark named an openly gay priest as a candidate for Bishop.
The author seems to have omitted the necessary adjective to describe the Diocese of Newark. We have “right wing” on the one hand, and on the other…what? Are we to suppose that the Diocese of Newark is so mainstream vanilla that there’s no word in the English language that can clarify just what their “orientation” might be? How about “left wing”? “Radical”? Or does political labeling only work when it goes in one direction?
What disturbs me about this debate is that Williams is known for his supposedly liberal views. So, if he sees gay people as equals before God’s eyes, how can he so easily relegate them to the back pews with an admonition to behave and be quiet?
“We thought he was one of OURS!” As for being told to behave and be quiet, that’s pretty much what everyone is expected to do in church. It isn’t a place to agitate and protest. Why are homosexuals a special class? And what’s this stuff about relegating them “to the back pews”? I’ll bet Rosa Parks wouldn’t have made a scene about sitting at the back of her own church, but Besan seems to think that a bus and a church are pretty much the same thing, since they both have chairs. Well, maybe where he attends, they are.

The painful nature of this debate brings up existential questions that leaders such as William seem unprepared to face. For example, is the more successful church the one brimming with members based on bigotry or is it the smaller institution walking in righteousness?
“Based on bigotry.” Really, you itchy-eared Teccers must try to get over yourselves. You think that all those millions of people in Africa crowd into Anglican churches every week just to indulge in bigotry against the lily-white apostles of sodomy across the sea? Do you really think you matter THAT much? Their religious faith seems to be based on Jesus Christ and the Bible; and not surprisingly, it’s thriving. Your dessicated faith in bodily fluids, on the other hand, is shriveling up like an orchid in the desert. If you’re “walking in righteousness”, then why does the path of righteousness lead right off a cliff?
While keeping the Communion together is a worthy goal, the price that conservatives are asking is too high for Anglicans of conscience to pay.
Oh, I see – this is making up for the lopsided adjectives above. Now we have just bald “conservatives” vs. “Anglicans of conscience”. And once again, the self-pity of the rootless cosmopolitan Episcopalian is never far from the surface. It’s conservatives who are asking, nay DEMANDING this price from the harmless, innocent liberals. Ah, the burdens they bear, and yet with such uncomplaining patience!
Those who have embraced full inclusion of gay and lesbian leaders have embarked on a journey and have been enlightened. Once they see homosexuals as spiritual soul mates, it is impossible to go back into the darkness.
Cue the theremin and the panpipes. Gnosticism has certainly lost none of its old arrogance and superciliousness. Now 2,000 years of faith are “the darkness” from which true enlightenment has at last emerged, vouchsafed to a handful of effete Americans. No wonder they resent being dislodged from the Brahmin berth.
What Williams is essentially asking is that liberals subjugate wisdom and undermine understanding for the greater good. But in their hearts, liberals know that something so bad can’t truly be for the greater good. They are being asked to reconcile the irreconcilable and it will never work.
No, the Archbishop is saying to you, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.” You’re the ones who are claiming infallibility, and that all argument is an insult.
The Archbishop of Canterbury cannot expect progressive Episcopalians to look their gay friends in the eyes and then treat them as inferior. Gay people are either equal and deserve full inclusion, or they are not equals and deserve castigation. The search for middle ground in this equation is futile. If the church thinks Equal-lite is the solution, it is headed for a schism.
This one made me laugh. “Treat them as inferior?” How? By not making them bishops? I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t have any diocesan sees in my gift, so I don’t see just how I can “treat” anyone in a way that has the slightest influence on the question under discussion. And nobody is “included” in everything. Only ordained ministers are considered for the position of bishop; doesn’t that exclude all laymen and lay women? One man out of thousands is made bishop, yet I don’t hear all the parishioners in my church muttering about how unfair it is to them, and how it’s an attack on their “equality”. You know what they say, Non omnia possumus omnes, eh?
In a sense, this skirmish is no longer about gay people in the Anglican Communion. It is about whether the church is still a conduit for spiritual integrity and intellectual honesty.
I thought that’s what online diaries were for. A church is a conduit for grace and divine aid.
If members can no longer be true to their beliefs, then the institution will have lost much of its power and meaning. Is a church that dictates one’s conscience rather than allowing one to live as his conscience dictates worth saving?
Hmm, maybe ask the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox; they don’t seem to have a problem with directing consciences, and they’re not looking around for someone to “save” them, either.
Liberal Episcopalians should take comfort in the fact that history does not look kindly on splinter church groups that broke away because of intolerance towards minorities.
If the current state of the Episcopal Church is any indication, history does not look kindly on splinter church groups of ANY kind.
The Southern Baptist Church will always have the stain and stench of slavery hanging over its biography. I can’t think of an instance where a religious group that chose the side of discrimination turned out to be right in history’s judgment. In recent years, for example, the Vatican apologized for its treatment of women and Jews. Although there is little hope that the current Pope will change his archaic views, his embarrassing actions will cause a future Pontiff to grovel over today’s abusive treatment of gays.
In your dreams, buddy. But if ever wants to, I’m sure he knows where to go to get some authoritative instruction on the most elegant way to grovel.
As a practical matter, most church-goers won’t even notice the missing malcontents if the Anglican Church splits. The New York Times reported that a Connecticut priest asked his flock how many of them had even heard of the Anglican Communion before the war over homosexuality erupted in 2003, and only a third raised their hands. Given this tenuous connection, it is hard to see how leaving the backward churches behind will cause significant trauma.
So it’s NOT a “seismic schism” after all, then? I thought not.
I’m not a marriage counselor, but my untrained eye sees a pretty good case for divorce.
An Anglican who stays true to form, I see. As Malcolm Muggeridge put it, “In this case, the vomit returned to the dog.”
Many in the Episcopal Church have evolved into a new spiritual species and it will only be stalled by the Neanderthals that remain stuck in another era.
And judging by the sort of people who will be left in it, this newly evolved species will have to propagate itself by cloning, since there isn’t going to be any of the old-fashioned way of producing new generations going on.
Yes, bigger can be better, but the Anglican Church may soon learn that the size of ideas matter more than the size of membership lists.
A lesson that the Episcopal Church has learned all too well over the past 4 decades.

Oh no

The jelly is cooling, but it doesn't seem to be jelling! It's just liquid. This is odd, because the bit that was on the spoon when I was cooking it jelled quickly when it cooled. Could it have been overcooked in the water bath? Dean says to put it in the basement where it can really cool down, and see what it's like tomorrow...

Lost post

Last night I wrote a brilliant essay on the U.S. Constitution, only to hit "publish" and have the whole system crash. This happens to me a lot, especially in the evenings, when Blogger seems to be worn out from the labours of the day. Unfortunately, the evening is when I can best afford the time to write. I'll try to reconstruct my thoughts later on.

Meanwhile, a momentous event is happening in our house; I have harvested the first ever crop of currants, and I am attempting to make jelly. This has never happened before. For the past 2 years, the currant bushes were too small to produce much of anything, and we let the birds have their way with them. This year, I invested in plastic netting to protect the bushes, and lo and behold! We ended up with 2 quarts of pink (i.e. white) currants, and 3 cups of red ones! No black currants, unfortunately. I think it's because all 3 bushes break dormancy at different times, and the black currant bush is the earliest. I suspect the blossoms were caught by a hard frost, and we lost all the fruit. Oh, well, better luck next year.

Right now the currants are crushed and simmering in the kettle. I've rigged up a cheesecloth jelly bag to strain the juice, and in a few hours we'll see what the result it.

UPDATE: After about an hour and a half, I have 5 cups of juice. That's short of the 6 cups the recipe promised, but not bad. I can manage with 5 cups; it'll just make about 8 jars instead of ten. I'll wait another hour, but I'm pretty sure there's no getting another cup out of these dregs. I don't want to squeeze the bag because that will cloud the jelly.

UPDATE: WE HAVE JELLY! It made 9 1-cup jars. Getting those jars in and out of the boiling water turned out to be a challenge, as I don't have the proper rubber-ended tongs to pick them up. I ended up bailing half the water out of the roasting pan, when I remembered that I'd picked up a big perforated flat spoon at last week's auction. It worked - I was able to slide it under each jar, and pick it up, as the water drained away. Now they're resting, and we'll just have to hope they set. I tasted a little - it's quite tart.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Big Brother in England

A very creepy article in the Daily Mail (UK) about just how insatiable for control and power over its citizens a government can become. This is the part that gives a parent nightmares:

Mr Ternouth's thriller flooded back to me this week when I read of the Government's plan to spend £224million of your money and mine on setting up a database, recording details of the lives of all 12 million children in England and Wales.

Among other things, the Children's Index will record whether a child's parents are providing a 'positive role model', how the child is performing at school — and even whether youngsters are eating the daily five portions of fruit and vegetables recommended by the Government.

Presumably, children will be questioned at school each morning on what their parents fed them the night before.

The database, we are told, will be made available to social workers, teachers and doctors, who will have the power to flag up 'concerns' when they think that children are not meeting the criteria laid down by the state.

The writer's mind flies back to a period when one of his children refused to eat anything but chips, licorice and peanut-butter and honey sandwiches. I think of the same thing: James who only wants to eat pizza and spaghetti, with ice cream and apples thrown in. Thomas who will only eat barbecued ribs, chicken wings, Kraft Dinner and plain pasta. I, too, start mentally rehearsing the pleas with the court not to take them away - it's not that I don't cook good food, they just WON'T EAT IT.

Oh, and the parents have to be able to withstand the scrutiny of social workers over whether they're "positive role models" for their kids. Well, Mom's a Catholic - depending on who gets your case, that could be a plus or a minus, but these days, probably a minus. We don't take them to outings at the museum because they have the attention span of a gnat, want to climb into the displays and end up fighting in the car, so it's too exhausting - what kind of rating would we get? I think most parents can sympathize with this feeling of insecurity, but people like us - parents of handicapped kids - are hag-ridden by it.

David Warren's June 14 essay, which I commented on 2 weeks ago, again comes to mind. He wrote,

By comparison, such apparently indifferent things as the legal attacks on the right to smoke in a bar, are of larger social significance. Apart from destroying the businesses of independent publicans, the proliferation of petty and unreasonable by-laws help to reduce the citizen to a condition of puerility, constantly looking around to see what the governing puritans will and won’t permit. Smoking was, after all, a universal symbol of freedom. Moreover, the enforcement of these and so many other arbitrary restrictions distracts the police from their traditional function of preventing crime.

A generation ago, or a little more by now, it was broadly assumed that the whole of society had an interest in preventing crime. This is no longer true. The Left has “evolved” to a position where it now realizes crime itself, in its most direct forms -- murder, mayhem, violent robbery, for instance -- also help to reduce the honest citizen’s sense of control. Too much of it, and even the state would lose its purchase; the problem is to arrange for “just enough”. With the right amount, it is possible -- as we have seen in Canada -- to push through things like the gun registry, thus clawing away at the citizen’s ability, as well as right, to defend himself in an emergency

I do feel that this quest to "control" people is a malevolent appetite that grows the more it is fed. This British database may purport to be for the sake of protecting children, but its real effect is to paralyze citizens. To keep them in a constant, low-level state of fear. Too much will lead to panic or violent reaction, but "just enough" keeps people quiescent, like an injured animal that doesn't know how to help itself, but knows that keeping still will prevent the pain from getting worse.

How do you know it's Canadian?

Relapsed Catholic has a spot-on piece on crappy Canadian filmmaking. She's absolutely right - there's just something about a Canadian-made film that tips you off immediately. I'm not sure just what it is, either, but her correspondents make some good suggestions.

I tend to notice the visual style first, though I'm aware of something weird going on in the audio, too. The colour palette is "off", somehow; outdoor scenes seem washed-out and pale. Someone once suggested to me that it might be because we're further north, and the angle of the sun has something to do with it; less intense outdoor light, perhaps. But Hollywood studios film up in Canada all the time, and their films don't have that problem. If it's there, then it seems that with sufficient money for good filmstock, cameras and post-production adjustment, it can be compensated for. Canadian filmmakers don't spend the money to correct these natural defects, so we're stuck with this sort of raw, unpolished look.

Interiors look funny to me, too - very unnatural and "built" somehow. I always feel that the rooms are too shallow; I don't know enough about cameras to tell if this is the result of equipment with poor depth-of-field capabilities, or if the cameras are just honestly delivering the poor product that the set designers came up with. You'd think that *space* is one thing that we're not short of in Canada.

Then there's the sound; Kathy Shaidle writes, "I still think I "hear" a hollow void of "ambient silence", though. Because I'm very very strange." She's not completely strange, though; I hear it, too. I too can hear the silence BEHIND the words, and it doesn't sound right. Flatter than in a Hollywood film - I don't know how to describe it, but it's there. It's a silence that just sounds unfamiliar, somehow; if you encountered it in real life, you'd notice it, but it doesn't exist anywhere except in a Canadian film.

I remember lots of these productions from watching Canadian TV growing up (now that I'm an adult, I can watch more interesting things), but MST3K also spoofed a lot of Canadian movies, so I've had lots of opportunities to study them. "Overdrawn at the Memory Bank" (available on the vol. 4 of the MST3K dvd collection from Rhino) is a beautiful example. But they also did a hilarious movie called "Space Mutiny" that fooled me (and them, for awhile) into thinking it was Canadian - in fact, it was filmed in South Africa. So perhaps lack of money really is the main problem.