Sunday, January 28, 2007

I've never seen this before

Metro Montréal - Laval
Issued at: 9.07 PM EST Sunday 28 January 2007
Smog warning in effect.
Tonight..Clear. Low minus 20.
Monday..Sunny. Wind becoming west 20 km/h late in the morning. High minus 12.
Monday night..Clear. Low minus 20.
That is the weather report for Montreal and surrounding areas. It's -20C, and they have smog. The reason is that many homes in rural Quebec are still heated with wood stoves. Does this happen in the U.S. - in winter? I've always thought that Canada is about one generation behind the U.S. in terms of material prosperity.

I remember watching the news back in the 90s, a big story about "Poverty in America!!!" To demonstrate the horrific, shameful poverty still existing in America, a TV crew managed to find a home somewhere in the backwoods of Mississippi that had (gasp) NO RUNNING WATER. I was indignant - what was the shame in that? My uncle's farm in Alberta never had running water, and they lived there until the 80s, when he retired, sold the whole place and the farmhouse was abandoned. And he was a respectable, stable farmer, not some tragic disaster story. There was water from a well, and an outhouse, and many, many rural homes were like that. It just seemed to me that what was normal to us in Canada in the 80s, was normal in the U.S. back in the 50s or so.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


MCJ has up a new post about an unsuccessful proposal at the Diocese of Washington's convention. The part that interested me the most was not so much the foot-stamping over Rowan Williams, but the hints that TEC is preparing to jump before they're pushed:
RESOLVED, that this Diocese calls upon the Presiding Bishop, the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, and the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, to form a commission to examine whether continued membership in the Anglican Communion is any longer beneficial to the core task of proclaiming the Gospel in this country.
I call this trying to have your cake and eat it, too, while declaring "I don't really like cake anyway." There are starting to be louder murmurings about cutting loose the tiresome old Anglican Communion, and reconstituting with the churches of Canada, Scotland, South Africa, New Zealand and a few other "progressive" branches. The incoherence is palpable: on the one hand, belonging to an international Communion is not important at all, and the Americans are ready to shake the dust off their feet and get on with their very important mission. On the other, they'll no sooner free themselves from the shackles of the AC, than they'll turn around and form a NEW "Communion", of more agreeable churches, presumably to help them get on with their very important mission.

But what makes me laugh is the naivete of the Americans, in thinking that this is going to be a more comfortable fit than the old situation. How long will it be before the other churches are chafing under the burden of American dominance and bossiness? Especially as the TEC leaders are exceptionally humorless, haughty authoritarians (most atypical of Americans, as far as my experience goes). Have these people learned NOTHING from the way the rest of the world acts? They're eager to castigate their own country for throwing its weight around when it comes to politics, but they think that somehow it'll all be different when they're playing big sister Susan to a collection of runty, discontented Edmunds.


A very informative page for everyone on the subject of unpleasant visitors here (and I don't mean mice). I particularly draw your attention to paragraph 3, and the standard protocol for dealing with such nuisances.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Another cartoon

Something about this just appealed to me - I think it's the earnestness of those little engines, doing their duty to the last.

This is the way it is at our house

I'm not the first, nor will I be the last to point out how things change between the first baby and the third. Standards tend to get a little haphazard, and all that sterilizing and measuring is a thing of the past. (I remember one day we changed Emma's diapers 26 times, we were so crazed with worry that she might be a little damp.) Now that we've got a dog, things have just gotten more confused, and I've taken to calling James "Yin". Well, my sister sent me this cartoon on my last birthday, and I thought it was so accurate I wanted to save it. But little pieces of paper don't have a long life in my house, so I'm putting it on the blog to preserve it.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The last of the winter marmalades

I made one more batch of marmalade today, my last for the season, I think. I saw some Meyer Lemons in the grocery store a few days ago; I'd never heard of them, they're said to be a cross between an orange and a lemon. I found a recipe for Meyer Lemon Marmalade at Wait-And-See Pudding, and tried it out today. It turned out BEAUTIFULLY! Attached is a picture - it looks just like the Kumquat Marmalade I made a few months ago, only that didn't set and this one worked perfectly. It has a delightfully sharp, tangy zing to it - very refreshing.

I also made the Blood Orange Marmalade I'd been talking about, and it also turned out very beautiful, only a bit sweet for my taste. Dean likes it, though. It's a lovely ruby colour. I discovered an interesting thing; when you cook blood orange peel, the red colour leaches out of it, and it looks just like ordinary orange peel. So my original plan of making a marmalade with orange jelly and red peel wouldn't have worked out, anyway.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Richard III

I was a big Peter Sellers fan when I was young - I first discovered him through The Goon Show on radio. The CBC used to play classic British radio comedy, and I listened to them all; Hancock's Halfhour (my favourite), the Goons, My Word and Lines From My Grandfather's Forehead were the ones I remember. Now people don't think so much of Sellers, and I've read comments that say he's dated, but I think it's really the material that's dated. I don't think Peter Sellers gets the credit he deserves as an actor, because people really only know the Pink Panther movies. He was very gifted though, especially in voice mimicry and parody. I'd never seen this 1960s piece until a few days ago, but it's brilliant. And as I was a big Olivier fan back then too, this just combines two of my youthful enthusiasms in one bizarre performance. Peter Sellers playing Laurence Olivier playing Richard III doing 'Hard Day's Night'. (With thanks to The Llama Butchers)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

They're doing it on purpose

I swear to God, the Episcopal Church in the USA must be trying to piss off the entire rest of the world with this latest dazzling, multicoloured display of snottiness. They appear to have hired Miss Emily Litella to explain it all to the Panel of Reference. Her letter wastes no time insulting its recipients, by drawing attention to their obvious ignorance in the very first line:
With great concern, I write to you to clarify apparent misconceptions regarding the polity of The Episcopal Church reflected in the content and recommendations in the panel's December, 2006 report.
Well, this sort of thing can happen when you let non-Americans get their hands on the keyboard.
Inherent to our shared call to follow Christ in mission and ministry together as members of the Anglican Communion is the need for mutual understanding of each other's polity and culture.
Everybody ready? Then here it comes, Remedial Anglicanism For Morons:
The General Convention of the Episcopal Church meets every three years in a bicameral legislative system. It consists of the House of Bishops composed of all our bishops, and the House of Deputies, composed of up to four clergy and four lay elected from each of our 111 dioceses. There are more than 800 members in the House of Deputies.
Did you write that down? Eight hundred! How many is 800? No, Khotsu, it's more than the number of bananas on a tree! No, no, Maurice, it's even more than the number of cows the village headman has! I'll tell you: it's like the stars in the sky, when big round fire go to sleep at night.
It appears that the panel has misunderstood our polity regarding the primacy of General Convention and our overall structure that requires nearly every major decision in The Episcopal Church to have the agreement of bishops, priests and lay persons. The House of Bishops cannot alone make decisions for The Episcopal Church.
We not like you. We civilized. We have many chiefs, big chief, little chief - much talk, many moons before signing peace treaty. Not like African Church, big chief bang! bang! with curly stick on heads and making medicine!
The interpretation of The Episcopal Church's Canons is the responsibility of our ecclesiastical trial courts when a clergy person is charged with a violation of them and of the General Convention in all other matters. The same is true for the question of whether or not the "Dallas Plan" complies with the Canons. Only our ecclesiastical courts or the General Convention are authorized to make those interpretations. In the polity of The Episcopal Church, only the General Convention or the ecclesiastical trial court interprets our Canons.
I have your exams here, and I have to say, I'm VERY disappointed. Question number three was "What is the final authority in the Episcopal Church?" The correct answer is "General Convention or the ecclesiastical trial courts." Everyone repeat that three times. The answers you wrote were completely unacceptable! "God." "Jesus Christ." "The Bible." Zero on that one.
Thirty years ago, through our representative legislative process, we voted affirmatively to allow the ordination of women. Generally at that time The Episcopal Church did not think the 1976 Canons were permissive or ambiguous. Nonetheless, to address any possible misunderstanding, in 1997 General Convention, with the concurrence of both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies adopted additional Canons intended to put to rest the question of whether a woman's gender could be used to disqualify her from ordination.
Sigh. I guess I'm going to have to start right at the beginning. OK, maybe THIS will make it clear to you

The panel appears to misunderstand the importance of the fact that our Church's ordination process is carried out at the diocesan level.
I don't care how you do it where you come from! It probably involves a lot of sweating and bodypaint and cutting each other with knives, but that's not the way we do things here!
If the percentage of people supporting or opposing the ordination of women is important to the panel's analysis, then the panel's incorrect inferences that a substantial number of people in the Church oppose the ordination of women should be corrected. If any of the panel's recommendations were influenced or based upon this misinformation then the panel should revisit those conclusions with the evidence that support for the ordination of women in The Episcopal Church is extremely widespread and strong and joyfully embraced.
Listen, we didn't teach you bunch to read just to have you turn around and start waving complaint letters from so-called "orthodox" Episcopalians at us. They don't exist! Do you hear me? They're all written by one guy in an attic in Fort Worth. Haven't you people ever heard of TV? Watch the film of Mrs. Schori's coronation consecration this summer, and that will tell you all you need to know about how happy we all are to have women priests.
In all these years no one, including Bishop Iker, has been brought up on disciplinary charges for the alleged violation of the Canons for refusing to ordain, license, accept into the diocese or approve women as rectors. We are clear that women are not to be denied access to ordination. We have been tolerant of Bishop Iker.
Yes, we are gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Why, even now, if Iker would return with all his heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning, rending his heart and not his garments, we may turn and have pity... What? Oh, I read it somewhere.
I further request that future bodies charged to make recommendations to the Archbishop of Canterbury on any topics that have to do directly with a particular province of the Anglican Communion, have adequate representation from the province directly affected by the recommendations of the panel.
Look, this is just too hard for you. You'll never be able to understand and appreciate our uniqueness, so why don't you leave it all to us? Just go outside and play, and we'll take care of everything. We'll just call it our burden.

Winter gardening - seed catalogues

I just put in my order to Dominion Seed House. It's cold and snowy outside, but we have the seed catalogues, and can daydream about the wonderful things we can grow this summer. It makes the 4 months until spring seem a little shorter.

I'm placing much the same order as last year, only this time we're going to grow 3 different kinds of potatoes: Chaleur, an early white variety, Chieftain, a red-skinned mid-season type, and a new sort (ordered from Eagle Creek Seed Potatoes in Alberta, called All Red. It's a late variety, with red skin and pink flesh! Here's a picture:

Potatoes are pretty cheap to buy at the grocery store, so if we're going to grow our own, it might as well be something that you can't find everywhere.

For the rest, it'll be the same Swiss Chard as last year, and carrots, though I'll plant them in a different spot, so I hope they'll get more sun this year. I'll be planting two types - a Rainbow Mix, which produces carrots of all sorts of shades between white, yellow, pink and orange, and (ta-da!) Purple Haze carrots! They're dark purple, with an orange center:
I've got to be honest, though; it's not in honour of Mrs. Schori. I've grown these for 3 years now. They're just like the purple carrots we used to get in India. But when I got the catalogue last month, I realized that the name was the same as the nickname Chris Johnson came up with.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

This is Canada, after all

It's suddenly gotten very cold. It was -26C this morning when we got up - poor Yin could barely stand to put her paws on the ground when I took her out. I drove Emma to school, then when I got back home I was getting out of the van when I smelled gas! Out I go, to the other side of the wall where the gas meter is. Dean has piled sticks in front of it, so I have to push them away, and sure enough, there is a strong smell of natural gas out there. The hose does have white encrustation, but that could just as easily be snow. I thought I heard a hissing sound, too, but that also might have been the sound of snow sifting down. I went in, then went back out to check again, and I can still smell the gas, so I called the gas company emergency line. They're sending an inspector around. I suspect the severe cold damaged the line - hopefully just the rubber hose, not the metal pipe. Anyway, now I'm sitting here, too freaked out to do anything. I don't even dare turn on the iron! I've also turned off the furnace, which is a serious step in -24C temperatures, but why take a risk? At least it's warm in the house now, it should last a good several hours.

This might be a good time to try another batch of marmalade; I found some good blood oranges the other day, with nice red skins. Cutting them up should keep me busy for awhile.

Ooh, the inspector's just arrived! We'll see what he says.

UPDATE: Yup, we had a gas leak! Very quickly fixed, though - just the rubber hose had sprung a leak. Now I can put the heat back on.

Friday, January 12, 2007

And when He had given thanks, He took the Cabbage Roll

This time it's the Roman Catholics who are being idiots. The Waffling Anglican found this story, about the Bishop of Joliet in Illinois celebrating a "polka mass" at an old folks' home at the end of January. According to EWTN, polka masses are a relic of the freewheeling '70s, and are not encouraged. But as the Russians used to say, "Russia is great, and the Czar is far away," so the Vatican can issue directives, but it takes a LONG time for them to take effect.

To give us a taste of what the mass will be like, here are the Happy Wanderers, from SCTV - looks like it might be the same congregation Bishop Sartain will be bopping with.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Braxton's Lear - Io, Bacchae!

Until now, Braxton's Lear has been an individual, but today we have something different. I am bestowing the honour upon a Greek Chorus. Even more, a two-part Sophoclean-style Greek Chorus, performing antiphonally.

Enter the the First Chorus:
The Episcopal Women's Caucus receives with deep distress and dismay the decision of the Panel of Reference that, "while the Communion is in a process of reception, no diocese or parish should be compelled to accept the ministry of word or sacrament from an ordained woman."
Unfortunately, Mrs. Schori holds the copyright on the word "lament", and she's not too flexible when it comes to property rights, so we had to make do with "distress and dismay". It gets the point across, though; the audacity of these gentlemen! What next? Let them get away with this, and before you know it they'll be saying things like "There is no compulsion in religion"!

Right on cue, here comes the Second Chorus:
We are female human beings poised on the edge of the new millennium. We are the majority of our species, yet we have dwelt in the shadows. We are the invisible, the illiterate, the labourers, the refugees, the poor.

And we vow: "No more"
Look! Look! Dancers with streamers! Now a clash of cymbals, and
We are the women who hunger - for rice, home, freedom, each other, ourselves.
Can you spot the missing category? And yet we STILL manage to be the majority of our species!
We are the women who thirst - for clean water and laughter, literacy, love.

We have existed at all times, in every society. We have survived femicide. We have rebelled - and left clues.

We are continuity, weaving future from past, logic with lyric.
Genocide, femicide - same thing, right? Call in the CSIs! Just push that 51% of the population out of the way, they're stomping all over the crime site and messing up the clues that will reveal that women once existed.

The First Chorus is back:
This decision provides a basis for the reason that a "foreign curia" is antithetical to the Spirit of Anglicanism in general and the Episcopal Church in particular.
Now here comes a jolly old Kick The Pope band, playing "The Old Orange Flute"! Oh, shhh, it's drowning out the Second Chorus.
We are each precious, unique, necessary. We are strengthened and blessed and relieved at not having to be all the same. We are the daughters of longing. We are the mothers in labour to birth the politics of the 21st century.
We are the women men warned us about.
Psst, hey, what page are you on? We're on page THREE. Mother Jesus is in labour to birth a...what? Where are you...?
We are the women who know that all issues are ours, who will reclaim our wisdom, reinvent our tomorrow, question and redefine everything, including power.

We have worked now for decades to name the details of our need, rage, hope, vision.
And we're NOT going to let some so-called "Dallas Plan" get in the way of decades of work when we're so close to supreme power we can almost taste it! 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it', yeah right! Betcha it was a MAN who thought up that expression! First Chorus:
What "appears to have worked successfully for ten years" to the distant perspective of an uninvolved few brings a harsh reality more painfully into focus for those Americans who will continue to be denied the sacramental, liturgical, pastoral and prophetic fullness of the ministry of women which is enjoyed in 108 of 111 dioceses.
Why does everyone always take the side of the poor man with the one ewe lamb, instead of the rich man with many flocks? What, you expect him to go backward and lose one of his own sheep? Of course he's going to take the poor man's sheep! Who wouldn't? It's called "having a complete set", dear. Here comes the Second Chorus, waving their thyrsi:
We have broken our silence, exhausted our patience. We are weary of listing our suffering - to entertain or be simply ignored.

We are done with vague words and real waiting; famishing for action, dignity, joy. We intend to do more than merely endure and survive.

They have tried to deny us, define us, denounce us; to jail, enslave, exile, gas, rape, beat, burn, bury - and bore us. Yet nothing, not even the offer to save their failed system, can grasp us.
It's there in the UN Declaration of Human Rights: "The right not to be bored or ignored."
For thousands of years, women have had responsibility without power - while men have had power without responsibility. We offer those men who risk being brothers a balance, a future, a hand. But with or without them, we will go on.
And the First Chorus thunders back
Even more deeply troubling, the clear recommendation of the Panel of Reference that "it is legitimate for a diocese to ask of candidates that they abide by the particular policy of the diocese in relation to the ministry of women, and that theological views on the ordination or consecration of women should not be ground on which consent might be withheld by the Province/House of Bishops" not only calls for flagrant disobedience of the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church, but also preserves and promotes a system of institutional sexism and misogyny.
PENTHEUS: This Dionysian arrogance, like fire,
keeps flaring up close by—a great insult
to all the Greeks. We must not hesitate.

[To one of his armed attendants]

Go to the Electra Gates. Call out the troops,
the heavy infantry, all fast cavalry.
Tell them to muster, along with all those
who carry shields—all the archers, too,
the men who pull the bowstring back by hand.
We'll march out against these Bacchae.
In this whole business we will lose control,
if we have to put up with what we've suffered
from these women.*

(What the hell?? Who let HIM in here???)
For we are the Old Ones, The New Breed, the Natives who came first but lasted, indigenous to an utterly different dimension. We are the girl child in Zambia, the grandmother in Burma, the women in El Salvador and Afghanistan, Finland and Fiji. We are whale-song and rainforest; the depth-wave rising huge to shatter the glass power on the shore; the lost and despised who, weeping, stagger into the light.
Uh, can we go home now?
All this we are. We are intensity, energy, the people speaking - who no longer will wait and who cannot be stopped.
Hey, Suzy, can you give me a lift? My car's in the shop.
We are poised on the edge of the millennium - ruin behind us, no map before us, the taste of fear sharp on our tongues.
Yet we will leap.
Yeah, Ted drove me here. Could you drop me off at the Olive Garden? I'm meeting him for dinner, then we're going to a movie.
The exercise of imagining is an act of creation.

The act of creation is an exercise of will.

All this is political. And possible.
He said he wants to see Superman again. I said I don't care.
Bread. A Clean Sky. Active peace. A woman's voice singing somewhere, melody drifting like smoke from the cook fires. The army disbanded, the harvest abundant. The wound healed, the child wanted, the prisoner freed, the body's integrity honoured, the lover returned.

The magical skill that reads marks into meaning. The labour equal, fair, and valued. Delight in the challenge for consensus to solve problems.

No hand raised in any gesture but greeting.

Secure interiors - of heart, home, land - so firm as to make secure borders irrelevant at last.

And everywhere laughter, care, celebration, dancing, contentment. A humble, early paradise, in the now.

We will make it real, make it our own, make policy, history, peace, make it available, make mischief, a difference, love, the connection, the miracle, ready.

Believe it.

We are the women who will transform the world.
Are you ladies done? Can I turn off the lights now?

* (Source)


Monday, January 08, 2007

Sly propaganda from the CBC

This won't mean anything to non-Canadians, but if there are any hosers out there, let me know if you heard this as well. I was cleaning the toaster this afternoon, and had the radio on in the kitchen - CBC Radio Two, because I like the classical music. The news came on, and you know how it is when you're working on something, you're not really listening carefully, but at some level your brain is sort of processing what you're hearing.

A story came on, about how Esso is planning to change the name of their Quebec gas stations from Marché Express to On The Run. This had the language commissars up in arms, because they didn't like the French name being changed to an English one. So far, so good, until the newsreader mentioned that the patriotic organization the St. Jean Baptiste Society was also protesting. My mind sort of casually strung these words together: Quebec...patriotic organization...protesting... and I thought "Ah, yes, some organization of Quebec veterans, good, good - something to do with our last veterans from WWI, no doubt...wait a minute...ST. JEAN BAPTISTE SOCIETY???"

Since when has the St. Jean Baptiste Society been classified as a "patriotic organization"? And if it is, one has to ask "Patriotic - to which country?" It's like saying "Sinn Fein is a patriotic organization." Sure, but when you have some debate over where a country begins and ends, it becomes a rather ambiguous statement. This is why I thought it was foolish for Harper to wade into this business of "Quebeckers are a nation", because it never ends. No sooner have we all been lectured silly about the delicate nuances of the French word "la nation", than we have to turn to more discussions of the meaning of "la patrie". And of course "mon pays" means something in French that "my country" doesn't mean in English, and so on. Anyway, it bugged me that this little bit of propaganda was slipped in on an English CBC broadcast.

Yin's first trip to the vet

Off to the vet today, for regular shots and a general checkup. Poor Yin was shaking like a leaf when I reached into the crate to carry her into the office! This was her first time away from home since we'd gotten her, and she must have thought I was going to feed her to a lion. She calmed down eventually, though I had to fill out the information form with her perched on my shoulder - she couldn't climb any higher. The shots went well, I think she hardly noticed them. We were thinking of getting a microchip ID put into her, but the doctor showed me the needle, which is HUGE, especially for a little dog. He said it hurts a LOT, and the best time to do it is when they're being spayed, and are already anaesthetized. We'll have to look into that; she's still a little young for spaying, he said it's best done when they're 5-6 months old, and she's just 3.5 months. If it's not too expensive, I think we might do both. She came home and immediately went to sleep - exhausted by all the stress. We have another appointment in February, then she should be set for shots for a while to come.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Random Books - Fanny Price Goes to Florence

"Perella", by William J. Locke (1925)

You'll remember my earlier post on reading the odd books that come my way, specifically early 20th-century novels. "Perella" is the latest to add to the list.

I knew early on that I'd enjoy this book when I read a certain sentence on page 3. Here's the setup: Perella Annaway, 23, is in her room in a dingy pension in Florence. She's been out for a walk in the rain, and her stockings are wet.
Should she reattire herself in dry clothes and descend to tea among the old trouts who worried her because she was a painter, questioned her curiously because she was the daughter of a well-known journalist, and criticized her clammily because she was young and possibly good-looking, or should she sacrifice the tea which she wanted, and frankly go to bed and stay there in warmth until the hour came for the farinaceous and oleaginous evening meal?
That is all one sentence. I'm sure you want to know the outcome of this gripping inner debate, so here it is:
She decided on bed. After all, for the moment, she was mistress of her destiny.
That's almost worthy of a Braxton's Lear award right there.

Perella is an aspiring artist, the daughter of a boozy Bohemian journalist named John Annaway. She's left home because "the hairy and joyous pagan that was her father" (there are a lot of references to his hairiness) has installed a mistress to take care of the cleaning and keep him from drinking himself to death. Bohemianism is all very well when it's just a matter of smoking pipes, drinking whisky, eating bread and cheese and cold ham and talking, but this is beyond the pale for a sensitive soul like Perella, so she's off.

Locke, the author, had a big hit in 1906 with his novel "The Beloved Vagabond", which popularized this "Bohemian" type - the unconventional, untidy, lawless, free spirited artist. Twenty years later, though, the bloom has faded from this character - he's actually a bit pathetic, letting people down, accomplishing little, and sort of petering out in futility.

John Annaway doesn't have a very big role in this novel, but he serves as a sort of prefiguring of the hero, Anthony Blake, young, handsome, charming, and an artist like Perella herself. He's a modified Bohemian - he can't stand conventional work, but he dresses nicely and enjoys the fine things in life.

Anthony and Perella are set to be The Great Romance of the book. Unfortunately, neither of them is really very interesting. Perella is supposed to be a sort of ethereal sprite, small, delicate, and easily overlooked by the boorish and undiscerning. But as C.S. Lewis wrote, there is a problem with trying to create this sort of character:
One of the most dangerous of literary ventures is the little, shy, unimportant heroine whom none of the other characters value. The danger is that your readers may agree with the other characters.
Locke goes on exhaustively about her littleness and fragility
Why he should ever have given a second thought to so insignificant a speck on his horizon as herself, she was at a loss to imagine.

Thus it was a Personage, that, in the guise of a tiny scrap of humanity, slipped along the side of the table and out of the room.

But for the happiness racing through her veins and going to her head like wine, she would have felt the most frightened insignificant atom on earth.

But the more he talked in his young magniloquence, the less significant of atoms did she feel.

That was where her modest little soul felt the hurt. She counted for nothing.
Of course, the poor little thing is wilting away for love, but by the time Locke is finished with her, she's flatter than Professor Higgins' squashed cabbage leaf. Even her great artistic talent isn't very convincing; she's not an original artist, she's a copyist. That is, she copies Florentine grand masters for people who want to be able to look at a rare painting in their own homes. A perfectly respectable job, and one that takes skill, but it doesn't mark her as a rare talent. And halfway through the book she shatters her painting arm anyway, so all her artistic aspirations come to nothing.

As for Anthony, he's the type who goes about saying things like "Tonight I feel the Lord of the Earth!" and
"No one can be a painter who doesn't know everything from Cimabue to Canaletto. My address for the next hundred years will be 'care of Luck, Chance & Co., Earth, Cosmos. Please forward.'"
Well, there are our heroes, or as Locke would put it, "Thus Anthony and Perella." Two more main characters soon make their appearance: Silvester Gayton, an old friend of Perella's father, and the world's foremost living expert on Italian art; and Beatrice Ellison, a rich widow of a certain age, and a great patron of the arts. These four are to form two overlapping love triangles: Perella loves Anthony, and is also loved by Silvester. Meanwhile, Anthony loves Perella, and is also loved by Beatrice. Typically, they all end up with the wrong person.

Beatrice is introduced in a rather ambiguous way:
Not only was she a beautiful woman, but also one of those aristocratic ladies to whom Americans, secretly hating their self-condemnation to Main Street democracy, point with pride and unquestioned justification as the finest product of modern civilization. With the ripe experience of the world which a woman has gathered by her early forties, she was at the height of her influence and charm. Like most women of her class, she devoted certain pains to the preservation of her youth, whereby she remained young in health and looks and enjoyment of life. She reigned somewhat as a queen in Florence, holding a position in the social world analogous to that of Silvester Gayton in the world of Art and Letters.
When all that money and Oil of Olay meets up with Anthony's good looks and taste for fancy dinners, the inevitable occurs: Anthony graduates from protégé to semi-gigolo status in about 30 pages. Of course, he tells himself he's doing it all for Perella, going off to the U.S. to make a name for himself so he can come back and buy her a peacock-bedecked palace. But along the way he sort of forgets about her, and she finally breaks their secret engagement, round about the same time she breaks her arm. This leaves Anthony free to marry Beatrice, who has unbeknownst to herself bought him with her fostering of his career, making him offers he can't refuse. All perfectly innocent, of course - they spend a long time agonizing over how it will look, and then finally keep their marriage a secret so that he can genuinely succeed on his own.

Meanwhile, Perella on the rebound has married Silvester, who is only about 30 years older than she is, but he appreciates her delicate, artistic spirit, and they seem to be happy. Naturally, the 4 reunite in Florence after a year or two, and the sparks begin to fly between Perella and Anthony. But, heroic people that they are, they decide never to see each other again; unfortunately, Silvester and Beatrice happen around the corner just as they are passionately kissing goodbye. Naturally, they reach the wrong conclusion, and then the novel really takes off in a weird direction, as the two oldsters decide to fake an adulterous elopement, in order to give the youngsters an opportunity of divorcing them and being together.
There never was such an elopement since the world began.
I'll say. It brings about my favourite chapter in the book. Beatrice and Silvester flee from Florence to London and thence to - Leeds, where they are to fictionally consummate their supposed liaison. The description of Leeds is so obviously taken from life, it stands out in the novel with a rare sense of reality.
Leeds is a great city. It has a Lord Mayor who looks after the comfort of nearly half a million citizens. It has many noble buildings, which, if washed and put out somewhere to air, would command the admiration of mankind. But it is given up to the making of material things, earthenware and machinery and leather, and Heaven knows what utilities; and these things cannot be made without factories, and factories must have chimneys, and chimneys, in spite of all kinds of legislation, must smoke, and smoke must affect stone; so that the buildings of the great city are inky black, as though they were composed of tired and corroded coal hating its second time on earth. It is a great city, but not a stately one; for the noble buildings are perforce separated one from the other by unstately gaps. The half a million inhabitants, mostly engaged in the making of things, must go backwards and forwards from homes to factories; from homes too exiguous for the broader joyousness to lurid amusements in dreadful palaces whose entrances are vaulted with glaring light. And so, to convey this crowded mass of humanity to its myriad avocations of work or pleasure, great high-decked trams, fantastically illuminated after dark, like ocean-liners on rails, clatter and scream endlessly, indistinguishably, remorselessly all day long, and seemingly all night long, up and down and round about all the thoroughfares, broad and narrow, of the great city.
You just KNOW that this writer spent a really stinky weekend in Leeds once.

Beatrice and Silvester register in the same room at the hotel, which is enough to prove their guilt, then he falls asleep in a chair while she goes to bed. Not before taking one more swipe at their romantic hideaway:
In spite of double windows hidden by heavy curtains, the cold air vibrated with the hell-sabbath of shrieking and shattering trams outside. Beatrice peeped through the murky panes, and found that this suite of honour was situated at a noble architectural corner of the hotel, in front of which met all the points of all the trams of the restless city....
She questioned the kneeling chambermaid.

"How long does this noise go on?"

She gathered that there was a long interval of comparative quiet between two and five.
Oh, yeah, that's taken from life, alright.

At this point in the novel I started to feel really sorry for Beatrice. I hadn't liked her that much until now; who really DOES like a woman who has everything? And she'd managed to lure away Perella's swain without even breaking a sweat. But now, Locke takes his revenge on her for daring not to realize her proper station in life as an old woman.
"I can't bear you to reproach me. Perhaps I deserve it. But I've tried--God knows how I've tried--to keep young; not only in my poor face and figure and so on--the physical side of life--but in mind and outlook and freshness of enthusiasm...everything that could blind him to the gap of nearly twenty years between us...and it has been no good...I've seen things coming...and now..."

She broke off suddenly and, stiff in her chair, stared in front of her as at instantaneously evoked ghosts of memories; memories that should have been so radiant in beauty--now stricken and withered, haggardly reproachful.

They showed the clutching fingers of the woman who, never having known love, desperately resolved to grasp it before it should be for ever beyond her reach. They showed her the imperious wiles which she had exercised with the command of her wealth and her influence and her lingering beauty. It was she who had willed, and he who had obeyed. She had held out lures of increasing intensity which he could not resist. Had she been syren of the syrens, leading youth to destruction, she could not have used her sex with more diabolical subtlety.... It was she who had dragged a first unwilling yet fascinated boy away from his young love.... She had never been honest with herself. From the first she had spread the snare that had eventually drawn him where she had craved him to be, within the hungering and foolish clasp of her arms.... And all the memories of their lives together stalked before her like unhallowed spectres.

"You wouldn't have suggested this--what it is as yet I don't know--but, whatever it is, you wouldn't have suggested it if--if we were the same age as they--if we weren't old--old---"
So now that Beatrice has been completely abased, never to rise again, we can hurry on to the windup.

Perella and Anthony take things at face value, and start divorce proceedings, with a view to marrying each other. They move to London, and Anthony stays with his sister while Perella goes to Caroline, the now-"widowed" former hussy who'd taken care of her father. She's really very nice, and has set up a teashop in partnership with another lady. And now, as James Lileks has said, let us bow our heads in respect for a time when the following lines were considered a single entendre:
Christmas arrangements were made. Caroline and her partner, Miss Pritchard, for the past two years had given a private mid-day revel at the tea-shop, to which they invited some of their artist customers stranded in Chelsea over the gay season. It was a Christmas Dinner in fact, with champagne and pelting balls and false noses and dancing, and all the fun of the fair. To this mild orgy were Anthony and Perella invited.
Perella and Anthony finally discover the truth, that Silvester and Beatrice had acted out of a grand sense of self-sacrifice to give them their freedom so they'd be happy. Perella goes to find Silvester, a broken man by now, to tell him that she won't accept this sacrifice, and they end up back together. Anthony misses his chance to make it up with Beatrice, and, clueless to the last, still doesn't see why he shouldn't just get the girl he wants.
Anthony was young, with his man's career before him. Other women, strange, unknown women would yield to his fascination. There would come one especial woman whom he loved. The vague, inevitable shadow passed before her eyes, and she winced in pain. But it must come to that. And Beatrice, great-hearted, would give him his freedom whenever he might ask for it. Her pity went from him to Beatrice. He was young. He could grapple with life.... Beatrice, Silvester, from the point of view of youth, lay away remote from Anthony. That was where women differed essentially from men. All the fibres of her soul closed round Silvester. Beatrice stood before her tragic, heroic, beautiful, facing life with courage in acceptance of inexorable verdict.
So Perella is going to sacrifice the rest of her life to taking care of Silvester, Anthony will go on to be a portrait artist, and Beatrice, her reputation ruined, serves one last time as a warning of the dire consequences of mutton dressing as lamb before the curtain comes down.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Movie meme

Thanks to The Clam Rampant, who tagged me for TWO memes today! Here's the first one:

Favorite movie - Hmmm, this is a tough one. I think "Spies" by Fritz Lang (1928). I guess I should say "Metropolis", because it's a bigger, grander film, but "Spies" always draws me in, and I think I enjoy it more.

Favorite movie with a religious theme - "Quo Vadis" (1951) - it's just so spectacular and the characters are so strong.

Favorite movie priest - Rex Harrison as Pope Julius II in "The Agony and the Ecstasy" (1965). I also like Charlton Heston as Cardinal Richelieu in "The Three Musketeers" (1973), but Harrison's role shows a greater range.

Favorite movie nun - Mother Superior in "The Sound of Music". She was just so strong and calm; not one of these neurotic nuns that are so typical in the movies.

I'll tag Nasty, Brutish and Short for this one.

Now, for the second one (for Catholics only!):

Favorite devotion or prayer to Jesus = "Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and bring all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need of thy mercy."

Favorite Marian devotion or prayer - The rosary

Do you wear a scapular or medal? - Actually, I have a number of medals, but the one I wear all the time is a medal of St. Anne, the patron saint of (among others) mothers, grandmothers, housewives, lace makers, embroideresses, seamstresses, and old-clothes dealers.

Do you have holy water in your home? - No, the kids would probably dump it out.

Do you "offer up" your sufferings? - Sometimes, when I remember to. Lots of times, I just get mad, though.

Do you observe First Fridays and First Saturdays? - No, but I will one of these days.

Do you go to Eucharistic Adoration? - I've been once.

Are you a Saturday evening Mass person or a Sunday morning Mass person? - I used to go early on Sundays, but I've switched to Saturday evenings.

Do you say prayers at mealtimes? - No, I'm afraid not.

Favorite saints - St. Anne, St. Michael the Archangel, St. Martha, Saint Pius X

Can you recite the Apostles Creed by heart? - Yup. The Nicene Creed, too.

Do you usually say short prayers (aspirations) during the course of the day? - Not usually, but I do say the Rosary whenever I get a chance, even if it's just a decade.

Bonus Question: When you pass by an automobile accident or other serious mishap, do you say a quick prayer for the folks involved? I do, in a vague way, but I don't know any particular prayers for such an occasion.

Added Bonus Question: Have you named your Guardian Angel? - They never mentioned that in RCIA!

Musical Quiz

Which Vocal Range suits your personality?

Haha! Just as I hoped...
You scored as Baritone. As a Baritone, you are a background character. However, just because people don't notice you doesn't mean you don't notice them. You have strong passions for single things. You are stealthy and in the know, and when you want something, you know how to get it. Just take care not to get too obsessive!













Which Vocal Range Suits Your Personality?
created with

Thursday, January 04, 2007

But do they have snozzberry?

Interesting article in the Edmonton Journal, about a man who was inspired by Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to invent Peel 'n Taste strips - similar to scent sample strips, only these dissolve in your mouth to give you a sample taste of a product.
Peel 'n Taste strips are ideal for products where taste, not texture, is the major characteristic, he says. Beverages are "a real sweet spot" for First Flavor, Aziz says, but the taste strip he's most excited about is one that offers an apple flavour followed by a burst of cinnamon, finishing with the grainy goodness of oatmeal.
Sounds very cool - that last one reminds me of Violet and the 3-course dinner in a stick of gum.

I did a websearch on this guy, and turned up an ABC story from November.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Serious satire

It's one thing for a scruffy little blogger to make fun of the Anglican Church, but when Anglican stupidity reaches the notice of the great Mark Steyn, it's game over.

Hitting Bottom is brilliantly funny, and if you have to register to read it, go and do it. It's worth the trouble just to be able to read Steyn. He deals with that article from a few months ago in the Niagara Anglican by Canon Tim Smart, which so memorably lauded the joys of pooping: "Next to having sex, a good bowel movement rates pretty high on most people's scale of things that satisfy. In fact, as you grow older, a good poop can be as rewarding as a good romp under the covers. You know the relief that comes after having been frustrated for so many days to finally stand proudly before your accomplishment floating in the toilet bowl and congratulate yourself on a job well done." As Steyn says,
Er, well, even if we can't all enjoy that sense of accomplishment every day of the week, evidently Canon Smart's satisfaction at completing his article and standing proudly before it watching it float across page six of The Niagara Anglican is a pretty close approximation of thereof.
There's more:
"Did Jesus have sex? Again, like crapping, the gospels are silent on the subject of Jesus' sex life." But hey, why let that stop you? Canon Smart's "personal opinion" is that "maybe later in life, as popular teacher and preacher, he did have sex with some of his women admirers. But I'm just guessing, basing my theory not on anything biblical or scholarly, but on what I know about guys."

I would wager Canon Smart knows as little about "guys" as he does about "anything biblical or scholarly". What does he mean by "women admirers"? That Christ was some sort of Clintonian lounge act taking advantage of the more nubile groupies?
And of course, the humour all builds to a very sharp point:
There are those throughout the West who sense the emptiness of contemporary secularist individualism, seek something bigger, and turn to Buddhism, environmentalism and, of course, Islam. But why would such people choose a faith exemplified by the likes of the present Anglican leadership? A faith that does no more than license your appetites and provide a little pseudo-spiritual cover for modish pathologies.
I (really) couldn't have said it better myself.