Friday, July 27, 2007

Today's produce update


These are the hot peppers I picked just this morning. Three types - jalapeno, yellow banana, and a round red one called "Cherry Bomb". I gave Dean these to take to the office to distribute. I have one more type that is just starting to get red - a long Portuguese red pepper, but the plant only has two on it at the moment. I discovered last year that picking them is the best way to keep the plant producing, and this is a lot more than I can use in one day.

We're now in a spell of dry, hot weather, so I think that next week it'll be Tomato Alley around here. My tomato plants are loaded with tomatoes, but they're all green, and have been for weeks, just getting bigger. Now I think they'll ripen, and then I'll have to get out the canning equipment to try and make use of them. The surplus will go with Dean to feed External Affairs, of course.

Fruitcake rules

I was out of commission yesterday - back spasms. Don't know where that came from, but we did bring home a new boxspring and mattress a few days ago, after laboriously strapping it to the roof of the van, so maybe that caused a delayed reaction. Anyway, I spent most of the day flopped over, watching Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. in "The Mark of Zorro" and "Don Q, Son of Zorro".

I must thank Dr. Alice for leading me to the Comics Curmudgeon. I don't know many of the comics spoofed there, except for "For Better or for Worse", but that one deserves everything they throw at it. Now I'm sorry I stopped reading it for about 10 years; I've missed out on a lot of saccharine storylines that are still being satirized.

However, in yesterday's edition, a "B.C." cartoon led to an extensive discussion of fruitcake. People say that the jokes about fruitcake refer exclusively to boughten fruitcake, not homemade. Not true. My mother made fruitcake every year, and it was every bit as indestructible as the stuff you can buy at the drugstore every Christmas. It would keep forever, wrapped in foil and stored inside a plastic container. I remember seeing the same fruitcake still in the fridge in the middle of August.

In fact, we had elaborate fruitcake rituals in our house. There was a very special tea we liked from Murchie's, the Vancouver tea merchant - it was called Orange Spice. It was scented with orange peel and cloves - very nice. Well, my mom established a rule that every time we drank Orange Spice tea, we HAD to have a piece of fruitcake with it. She maintained that they went together beautifully, but maybe it was just a way of getting us to eat up the fruitcake before it was time to make a new one.

There was another rule; no one was allowed to put MILK in Orange Spice tea. Sugar, yes, but milk was forbidden, because it masked the full flavour of the tea. It's funny how when you're young, you just accept that the way your parents do things is the way things have to be. It wasn't until I moved away from home that I realized that I could drink Orange Spice tea without fruitcake, because actually, I don't really like fruitcake that much. But I'd faithfully eaten it all those years at home, in order to get the tea.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Turkey, Islam and the modern world

David Warren has written a great column today, on the incompatibility of Islam and democracy. The example he uses is Turkey, which just voted in an "Islam-First" government. Turkey has always been the West's example of "good Islam" - a Muslim country that was able to assimilate to Western political ideas.

As Warren says, "there is every demographic and political indication that Turkey’s “secular” experiment is ending." It only got as far as it did because its democracy was imposed upon it by a strongman - Kemal Ataturk, who was willing to use force to defang Islam for the benefit of westernization. George W. Bush never had the intention or capability of doing the same to Iraq, trusting instead to pious maxims about freedom being the desire of every human heart. Like adding water to a packet of sea-monkey eggs, all one has to do is furnish a comfy environment, and Democratic Man will just automatically spring out, fully formed. This is why Iraq will never get even as far as Turkey did in becoming a rational democracy. Islam is the problem, and Islam was never combatted.

I have always wondered one thing about Ataturk. He was trying something that had never been done before - turning a Muslim tribal territory into a Western-style democracy. He had no precedents in the Muslim world to draw upon - his only precedents could have been the development of Church and State in the West, where a once-mighty ecclesiastical power was eventually subdued and withdrew from competition with the secular state. He must have thought that Islam could be tamed in the same way, and reduced to "companion" status with a secular state. I wonder, though, if he'd known that Islam would eventually regroup and regain its former strength, to ruin his modernizing project, would he have been more ruthless? Would he have destroyed Islam completely, instead of leaving it (as he thought) tamed and subordinate? Or would he have just acknowledged defeat from the start, and realized that there was no hope of westernizing his country?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

(Note: All quotes and references to Book 7 are from memory. Dean has the book now, and I can't get it away from him to look up anything. If I get something really wrong, I'll correct it when I've had a chance to check the text.)

My history with Harry Potter is divided into two sections: pre- and post-Order of the Phoenix. Book 5 broke the series for me. The first 4 books followed each other smoothly, and I enjoyed them enormously. OotP was a shocking break in tone and, I thought, in the author's skill. I really hated that book, and I haven't re-read it.

Half-Blood Prince was rather a return to earlier form, and I was relieved that I could enjoy it. It seemed that OotP was an unfortunate interlude, maybe necessary in order to set up the finale, but not indicative of a real dropping-off in quality.

Now, with Book 7, I'm afraid I have to return to my earlier conclusion. HBP was the interlude - a rally of spirits before expiration. The series really DID collapse in the final third.

First of all, a couple of my own predictions came true: I always thought there would be a Harry/Dudley rapprochement before the end. It didn't mean anything, but it was there.

My very elegant theory about the Horcrux in the cave was wrong, but I did get one thing right: Snape and Dumbledore did agree in advance that Snape was to kill him, so his pleading on the tower was for death, not for mercy.

A theme that was a staple of much bad fanfiction also turned out to be true: Snape's undying love for Lily. So all the theories about Snape's complex motives turned out to be wrong - he really wasn't a deep psychological study after all, just a guy whose whole life was based on his first 11-year old crush on a girl. As Oscar Wilde said, "a sphinx without a secret". He'll certainly be less interesting now when (or if) I reread the books.

Overall impression first of all: Rowling was rewriting OotP. So much stuff that I thought we'd left behind was dragged out again: Harry's eternally "prickling" scar; his squalls of bad temper (though she managed to unstick the caps lock key this time); seeing through Voldemort's eyes again; more of put-upon Harry, doubted by his closest friends; pages of nothing - all those months of camping and bickering. (My goodness, mushrooms for dinner AGAIN?!) It was as dull as the process of cleaning 12 Grimauld Place had been, or Hagrid's visit to the giants, and just about as pointless. I think the problem with the formula she adopted for these books was that each one had to cover the space of a year. This worked alright at the beginning, when they were really school stories, because the school year and its seasons provided a structure to fill in. By the end, though, it was less and less about school, so the year-long time period felt artificial. There was very little in the book that HAD to take a long time. The whole story could have been compressed into one month, and it would have been a lot tighter - as it is, there really was way too much time to fill, and nothing to fill it with.

The first half especially went over a lot of previously-covered ground. I felt that Rowling had a long list of details from previous books that she was methodically ticking off, so all sorts of things got mentioned about once, and then disappeared for good: thestrals, Blast-Ended Scroots, Pigwidgeon, Hermione's cat, Buckbeak, Mrs. Norris. And I'm half-convinced she was already thinking of all the cameo roles for the final movie, and writing them in: so Dolores Umbridge has a walk-on role, she's built up as a big threat, then she's easily knocked out and we never hear of her again. Nearly Headless Nick shows up once, as does Professor Trelawney. I guess Kenneth Branagh won't be available in 2009 - no sign of Gilderoy Lockhart.

I thought the story picked up at about the halfway point. Breaking into the Ministry, then getting caught out trying to impersonate people they don't know, was quite suspenseful. It felt as if the net was getting tighter every moment, and I wasn't sure they'd be able to con their way out again. Winding up at the Malfoy's was also good, and when Draco couldn't or wouldn't identify them, I thought things were getting good at last. Finally, we were going to see character development in Draco. But it all had disappeared by the finale, and he was back to his usual one-note mini-villain role.

I thought the most touching part was Dobby's death and burial. I actually got tearful; the little details didn't seem to be there just for cleverness, there was some real affection there. Breaking into Gringott's wasn't too bad - mostly I liked seeing the dragon struggle out of the vault and make it to freedom. But it was a little annoying that the difficulty in this episode was exactly the same as the difficulty during the Ministry break-in - not being able to successfully impersonate a person whose appearance you've taken on. Once again, I was thinking, "We've already seen this."

The "info-dump" methods got really crude this time around. Pages of prose out of Rita Skeeter's book; Aberforth's huge expository lecture; and of course, the Pensieve again. Voldemort was a bore, too - evil is boring and repetitious, but a book shouldn't be. I really couldn't care less about watching yet another torture scene, or another temper tantrum from the throne.

It would be boring to just enumerate all the little things that annoyed me, since some of them are style, and that's a matter of taste. But I thought there were some plot holes, and unlike the other books, I noticed them at the time I was reading. Usually, I don't think of these things until later.

The locket in the cave: how did the basin refill with potion TWICE? Maybe Regulus refilled it after switching lockets (can't remember, and I can't check right now), but I'm sure Dumbledore didn't after taking the locket, yet when Voldemort checked it, he found the basin full, but with no locket.

And we were told that all the exits from Hogwarts had been blocked, except for the one in the Room of Requirement, yet the tunnel from the Whomping Willow was still open?

Where was Snape's portrait among all the other headmasters? (Oh, and I guessed the silver doe was his Patronus right from the start - process of elimination. We'd seen everyone else's.)

And there was some cheating on the author's part, too. Losing the sword was a serious blow, because it was the one thing they could rely on to destroy a Horcrux. Finding one wasn't much use if they couldn't break it. But when they found the diadem, Crabbe conveniently let loose some super-fire, and guess what? That'll work, too. What a piece of luck! And who knew an idiot like Crabbe could produce magic that powerful?

And we've seen Harry's cloak since Book 1, but now we find out that it's not like any other Invisible Cloak in history. Anton Chekhov said, "If you hang a gun on the wall in Act I, you must use it in Act III." This is like taking down the gun in Act III and suddenly revealing that it's really a nuclear bomb. Not fair.

My main problem was with the finale, which I'm sure was what Rowling worked the hardest on. Sure, I got the "Christian" references, but I thought the way they were used was a cop-out. If you're going to mess around with themes like this, you have to have the guts to go all the way. Tolkien did, and so did C.S. Lewis. In the end, there's no happy ending in this world - the happy ending is on the other side. Rowling won't admit that. She wants Harry to have his reward HERE - so his dying isn't a permanent thing, it's just a temporary stunt, before normal life resumes. That's just so flat and unexciting, I don't even want to think about it. She even dodges the whole question of life after death, by making the whole meeting with Dumbledore something Harry invents in his own mind.

When you get into "destroying death" territory, sacrifice has to be REAL. Not just a physical unpleasantness. Not just upset feelings. It has to take you someplace from where there's no going back. Harry's wasn't like that. So in the end, I found the triumph rather cheap.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

There's a kind of hush, all over the world

Including our house, because..."Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" has just been delivered!

It will be silent on this blog for approximately 2 days, as I read this book, and when I come back I will provide a little review, filled with copious spoilers.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Another excellent BBC series

This time, it's North and South, from the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell. Don't mix it up with the miniseries of the same name, about the American Civil War. This is based on a novel set in England during the Industrial Revolution.

I thought the BBC had lost the knack of making these fabulous costume dramas, but this one is definitely a return to the old style. It's about a girl named Margaret Hale, who moves with her family from a comfortable life in the rural south of England, to a hardscrabble industrial milltown in the north. There she meets the stern mill owner, John Thornton, and their differences lead to clash of personalities and also romance. Meanwhile, there is industrial strife going on all around, the workers are desperate and on strike, and Margaret is shocked by the brutal poverty of their lives.

It's sort of like "Pride and Prejudice" with a social conscience.

The production values are great - the scenes in the cotton mill, with all the whirring looms and flying cotton, is quite amazing. But of course, the best thing about the whole program is Richard Armitage as Mr. Thornton. I thought nobody could play a better Darcy than Colin Firth, but this guy could do it, and throw in a good splash of Heathcliff-type dark brooding smoulder as well. He's really very good.

There's an interesting detail, in that the Hales have to leave their home because Mr. Hale, who is a clergyman, can't conscientiously swear allegiance to the Book of Common Prayer, as his bishop required. That would make him a Nonconformist. At first I didn't like him much - I thought he was rather a fool, and I sympathized with his poor wife who reproached him for dragging them away from everything they knew to languish in a godforsaken filthy cold grimy industrial town (Milton is said to be modelled on Manchester in the early to mid 1800s). But I gradually began to see some reason for what he'd done, beyond the obvious explanation that he didn't want to be a hypocrite.

Throughout the story, there is quite a lot of stress laid on how different the people in the north are - very independent and prickly. Mr. Hale has more in common with them than at first appears. He's his own man, after all - he's not a go-along type who'll just follow orders and agree to what the boss says. Even though he has much more refined manners, he's very like Thornton and even the rebellious workers; maybe that's why he likes Thornton, long before his daughter will see any good in him.

There's a scene where Margaret is quizzing Thornton on how he runs his mill, and how much he pays his workers. She then asks if he doesn't care what they do with their money, and he's almost a bit surprised that she could ask such a question. He replies that it's none of his business - he's just their employer. She thinks that morally, he should be involved in their "quality of life". But that reminds me that the rural society she came from operated on rather different rules.

Remember in 'Pride and Prejudice', how Lady Catherine de Bourgh is constantly poking her nose into everyone's business? Right down to dictating the size of roast Charlotte should buy. She's an exaggeration, but it was considered that the aristocracy and the clergy had a right to supervise the lives of the lower classes, for their own good. It had its good and bad sides, of course. It could be officious, like Lady Catherine, or it could be genuinely concerned and helpful, like Emma Woodhouse in 'Emma', sending along a whole leg of pork to Miss Bates. But it came out of an older, more feudal social order. Milton society is quite different, and more independent. It also has its good and bad sides.

There's another little scene, where Margaret befriends a mill girl named Bessie. She offers to come visit with a basket, and Bessie rather sarcastically laughs, "A basket! What would we do with a basket? We have little enough to put in it!" At first I thought it was just a demonstration of her pride, though when Margaret does come, and DOES bring a basket of groceries, Bessie accepts it without fuss.

Then I remembered Jane Austen again, and what the role of a clergyman's daughter would have been. Charitable works to the poor would have been part of her job description. It was just expected that the clergyman's wife and daughters would go on regular rounds, visiting the poor parishioners and bringing them gifts. I think Bessie wasn't so much objecting to receiving some supplies, as being Margaret's "project" - bringing her things as a friend was one thing, but doing it because she was poor and this is what you're supposed to do with the poor wasn't acceptable.

Anyway, I'd heard of Elizabeth Gaskell, but only as a minor writer whose claim to fame was that she was Charlotte Bronte's friend, and wrote her biography. It's interesting that, despite her friendship with Bronte, her own style of fiction is more related to Jane Austen's - and Bronte didn't think much of Austen.

Now I'm going to read the book, and I highly recommend the series to anyone who's looking for a good period drama.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

George Bush, going mystical on us again

I liked George Bush for a long time, especially after 9/11. We were living in Boston when that happened, and even though we're Canadians, we felt very close to the Americans during that horror. We still do - I think Americans are the best people in the world.

I supported (and defended) Bush for a long time after 9/11, because he seemed, by his actions, to understand what was at stake, and have the nerve to face it. The "religion of peace" stuff I put down as typically good-hearted American fairness; of course you distinguish the innocent from the guilty, and don't start egging on people to scapegoat and and launch pogroms. Besides, my knowledge of Islam was pretty hazy; I've seen the Taj Mahal, I know Islam DID produce great art and culture once upon a time. Sure, that was almost 400 years ago, but still, I figured Islam must still have some credit in the bank. Six years have taught me a lot.

But even back then, I had a twinge of worry when it came to his variety of Christianity. It's not that he was too narrow - if anything, he seemed too broad in his beliefs. He had this assumption that ANY kind of faith was preferable to skepticism - that somehow, all of us "God-folk" were united in knowing something that unbelieving outsiders didn't know. I think this is why he could be bamboozled by a thug like Vladimir Putin - he figured that because the guy was some variety of Christian (apparently he wears a cross), that made him "one of us", and a natural ally.

This same kind of muddled camaraderie is extended to Muslims too, this conviction that "deep down, we're all the same", even if the other side is vociferously denying it. This has led to the famous "Imam Bush" lectures on "true Islam", which very conveniently sits neatly and tamely on the shelf alongside Christianity and Judaism. Muslims who don't cooperate with this healthy vision are simply not "real" Muslims - they don't understand their own religion the way Bush does.

But it was when he started "going mystical" on us that I began to feel repulsed. I'm all for praying for guidance; what I don't like is a President who goes from "God is in charge" to "therefore, what I'm doing is what God wants." I've read comments by Bush-fans who insist that he is "God's instrument", but I really get the creeps when I think that HE believes this too. If God is using American elections to get His will carried out, He seems to be reduced to rather blunt tools. And since I never got the engraved stone email from Mount Sinai saying otherwise, I guess I'll have to just assume that Bill Clinton was His instrument as well. This is just carrying us along to the rather passive Muslim idea that God is personally making everything happen, which I don't believe.

What got me started on this was reading bits of an article by David Brooks in the NYT (unfortunately, not the whole thing - it's behind a subscriber wall). Here's where it started. (Ross Douthat has written even more strongly on this interview.)
—The other debate is whether or not it is a hopeless venture to encourage the spread of liberty. Most of you all around this table are much better historians than I am. And people have said, you know, this is Wilsonian, it's hopelessly idealistic. One, it is idealistic, to this extent: It's idealistic to believe people long to be free. And nothing will change my belief. I come at it many different ways. Really not primarily from a political science perspective, frankly; it's more of a theological perspective. I do believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom. And I will tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn't exist.
Yes, this sounds like that "Messiah complex" people have talked about before, and it really bugs me. I don't think that "freedom" is a fundamental bedrock desire that all humans desire. What we call freedom today didn't even exist a few hundred years ago. But just as some Protestants think that Christianity never really got started properly until Luther, people like Bush think that history only began in 1776. I've read enough history to know that lots of cultures existed very well under different kinds of kings, emperors, chieftains and leaders, long before democracy was a form of government, and I expect big parts of the world will still function that way. This idea that God wants us all to have ballot boxes is just historically illiterate.

And the other thing that annoys me is that Bush is not even very energetic in his pursuit of his great ideal. For a man who thinks he's doing God's work, he's pretty lazy about it. Four years in Iraq, and suddenly, NOW, it's down to the wire, white-knuckle time, trying desperately to hold on until General Petraeus comes to the rescue in September, with the big report on the surge. And if that doesn't pay off...what? Oh, no backup plan. I guess God will have to do the heavy lifting on that one too. But this has always been his style. Mark Steyn identified it at the end of his book "The Face of the Tiger":
Anyone who followed George W. Bush during the 2000 Presidential campaign will recognise the pattern:

He stacked up more money and a bigger poll lead than anyone had ever seen in a competitive race - and then he didn't bother campaigning in New Hampshire. So he lost the primary.

But he clawed his way back and won the nomination - and then he pretty much disappeared from sight to spend the summer working on his new ranch house back in Texas. So by Labour Day Al Gore was ahead in the polls.

But he stirred himself and eked out a small lead in the run-up to November - and then, in the wake of a damaging last-minute leak about an old drunk-driving conviction, he flew back home and took the final weekend of the campaign off.

But he just about squeaked through on election day, even though his disinclination to rebut the drunk story almost certainly cost him the popular vote and a couple of close states.

This is the way George W. Bush does things and his rendezvous with history on September 11th - the day that "changed the world" - did not, in the end, change the Bush modus operandi.
And in the 6 years that followed, we've seen him do it again and again. Maybe that's how he got through Yale - goofing off most of the time, then pulling an all-nighter to get through the exam. I've seen the pattern before, but it always catches up with you in the end. It's nothing to do with intelligence; indeed, it's only the intelligent who can manage to pull it off at all. But you can't get through life that way; eventually the luck runs out, and the slipshod methods fail. That's how he dealt with the Katrina disaster, and more recently immigration bill debacle. Do nothing, do nothing, then a frenzy of activity. I think that's how he's run this war. He lolled about as if he had all the time in the world, tinkering with constitutions and elections and "winning hearts and minds", and now time's running out and the alarm bells are sounding.

But he isn't worried. Like the Paul Simon song goes, "These are the days of miracles and wonders." I think George Bush wakes up every day thinking, "Maybe the miracle will happen today." I never think that. I never count on miracles for anything. But it's like we've all been cast as extras in a giant remake of 'The Ten Commandments', with George Bush as Moses. Our job is to huddle on the ground, bigeyed with awe, while he stands above us thundering, "The Lord of Hosts will do battle for us! Behold his mighty hand!" And triumph, like salvation, comes unearned to those with faith.

Another tale from the nether regions

One more, and then I promise, this will be a no-hinder zone. But Chris, this one's for you...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Just silliness - colonoscopies

I don't know how old this is - I'm always the last to get jokes, so maybe everyone else has read this. But a friend sent it to Dean today, and I thought it was really funny, so here it is:

Colonoscopies are no joke, but these comments during the exam were quite humorous.... A physician claimed that the following are actual comments made by his patients (predominately male) while he was performing their colonoscopies:

1. "Take it easy, Doc. You're boldly going where no man has gone before!

2. "Find Amelia Earhart yet?"

3. "Can you hear me NOW?"

4. "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"

5. "You know, in Arkansas , we're now legally married."

6. "Any sign of the trapped miners, Chief?"

7. "You put your left hand in, you take your left hand out..."

8. "Hey! Now I know how a Muppet feels!"

9. "If your hand doesn't fit, you must quit!

10. "Hey Doc, let me know if you find my dignity."

11. "You used to be an executive at Enron, didn't you?"

12. "God, now I know why I am not gay."

And the best one of all..

13. "Could you write a note for my wife saying that my head is not up there?"

Flower extravaganza

Some pictures of the flowers blooming in the garden this morning:

This is the Winchester Cathedral rose. You'll notice it's white, but there is a pink bloom on the same plant! This may be what is called a "sport", but my book on David Austin roses says that Winchester Cathedral is descended from a pink rose called "Mary Rose". I think this pink one is a genetic throwback to its original parent. These are nice to look at, but I don't like the smell very much.


The next rose is a real beauty: it's called Benjamin Britten, and it's the most stunning shade of cerise with hints of gold. Usually I go for fragrance as much as for appearance, but this rose is SO beautiful, I don't really care that it doesn't have much fragrance. I bought 3 of them, and planted them in a group, so that they'll grow into one very big, impressive bush. The big one in front was bought last year, and I transplanted it to this location when I needed to make room for the damson plum tree. As you can see, it recovered from the transplanting very nicely.




Daylilies:

The final rose is Eglantyne, another David Austin rose. This one has everything - a beautiful, tender pink and white colour, and a lovely scent. These pictures don't do justice to it. Once again, I've put 3 in a group by the front entrance. Two I bought this year, and one is a transplant from the back. It was in a bad spot - crowded by the Joe Pye Weed that would get so tall by the end of the summer. And right in front of the deck, so James's toys would get pushed over on top of it; it was always been knocked over. However, it's about 4 years old, so moving it was difficult, and the shock was pretty bad. It lost a lot of leaves, but now I see fresh growth starting up again, so it's survived. Hopefully next year it will be very strong, and the two younger ones will catch up with it.




I must have inherited the gardening gene from my mother, who was a great gardener. But when I was young, I HATED the garden! It was so boring! All she grew were shrubs and groundcovers. I couldn't see the point of that - you couldn't smell it, put it in a vase or eat it. So helping out in the garden was always an ordeal. I think she finally gave up expecting to make us do anything more than mow the grass. But this year I think I'm finally getting the garden that I always wanted to have.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Does he get it?

Who knows. But this address today by the Bishop of Newark does resonate strongly, considering the ruckus that's arisen in his diocese during the past week. Depending on where you're standing, you could read these words as an admonition to either side (or both). But it strikes me that he must have at least heard some of the protests, and might have had them on his mind when he wrote this:
But verbal violence is a different matter. If someone has done something to me, I think of what I can (and should) say about them. I don’t know if I have ever verbally trashed anyone, but I have filleted a few people over the years. I have done it because other people do it. I have done it because, for a moment or two, it made me feel good. Verbal violence has become a kind of cultural sport – and we play it because – in the short run anyway, putting someone down gives the illusion of lifting oneself up. If we sacrifice someone else, then we will be spared. One of the unwritten rules of this cultural sport seems to be that it is best played if the offending person is not around, but a lot of other people are. All of which creates another illusion -- the verbally assaulted person doesn’t hear what is said about them, and the speaker gets to let off a little steam and perhaps showcase some linguistic flourish. No harm, no foul.

Yet no matter how we arrange or gerrymander these scenarios, they still involve violence. Fear and frustration bubble up in toxic ways – and while the direct or indirect verbal assaults don’t leave physical scars, they nonetheless create lasting wounds.
Anyway, I found it interesting. I don't know if this is a hint of things to come, or if he'll content himself with a gormless "Why can't we all just get along?" and let the whole thing slide. No doubt time will tell.

Painting

We are getting ready to paint inside the house again. I last painted 2 years ago, and it's time to do it again. Partly I want to cover up James's scribbles, but I also want to fix the colour. The living room is fine - a bright gold, and so I'm just going to repaint in the same colour. Of course, they've discontinued the colour I used last time (Burmese Gold), so I have to find the closest match available and go for that. It won't be too difficult, though.

The big change is going to be the front hall and the upstairs hall. Last time, I'd visualized a lovely soft green, like leaves on a warm, rainy summer day. What I ended up with was disappointing. Too much solid green everywhere; it was like walking into a giant peapod. This time I'm going to go for a sort of pale peach, with a slightly darker shade on the wall going up the stairs to the second floor. It just seemed that all that green, on all four sides, was too much of the same thing. You can do it with something really neutral, like white or beige, because then you don't really see the walls at all. But when you use a colour, it sort of closes in the space, and then you realize just how overpowering a colour can be. Live and learn; this time it should be lighter and less overpowering.

So today will be TSP day, when we wash the walls. I've got a problem here and there - in a few spots there is some residue from tape - Thomas loves to post pictures on the walls. It's really difficult to get it off. I've even tried sanding it, but paradoxically, that makes it worse, because the friction HEATS the sticky residue, and makes it soft enough to smear a bit; it doesn't lift it off. I wonder if it's possible to paint over it with a primer/sealer, or if it will peel off and create more problems. So far, I've had some success softening it with Goo Gone, then basically scraping it off with my fingernails, but that's a slow job, and I could end up doing this for days, and getting no closer to actually painting. And I want to get the painting done by the end of the month, because in August the boys will be home all the time, and you can't have cans of paint sitting around when they're present - it's just asking for trouble.

'Great Expectations' - update

We watched Part II of the BBC series last weekend. I have to agree with a reviewer who said that the second part was weaker than the first, although to be fair, Dean preferred the second half over the earlier part.

I found it very rushed and a bit superficial in its attempt to include as much of the story as possible. As someone said, they couldn't bear to leave anything out, so they ended up putting in just a dash of everything, so we never got to experience anything in depth. I liked Herbert Pocket, but he was barely there before he was dashing off to Egypt. I'd have liked to see more of his little romance with Clara, to have seen more of his relationship with his father or the rest of his family. I don't know if we even see them together except in an early scene where Mr. Pocket is tutoring Pip and the other students. It seemed we should have known him better, so that we could appreciate his role as advisor to Pip - as it is, he scarcely seems more intimate with Pip than anyone else, so we can hardly see why Pip relies on him so much. The same thing goes for Wemmick - he's someone Pip trusts, but we see him so rarely, it's hard to understand why.

Also, when you don't build up all the elaborate surrounding structure of detail that Dickens provides, and just provide the bare girders of the plot, you start to realize how flimsy and far-fetched it really is. Jaggers is Miss Havisham's lawyer - oh, and he's also Magwich's lawyer...AND Molly's...AND Estella's...and Pip's. Guess there weren't too many lawyers in London in the 19th century, eh? And along with all these coincidences, we get a few more, but they're so abruptly introduced, with no explanation, it becomes incredible. So Magwich is Estella's father - OK, it's a coincidence, but you expect that in a novel. But wait...MOLLY, Jaggers's servant, is her mother! That revelation is the first time we even hear that Magwich and Molly even knew each other, and it's just matter-of-factly dropped into the story, then we're whirling away to something else. It'd be nice to know a little more; were they married? Were they a husband-and-wife criminal team? Was he cheating on her with the woman she ended up murdering? Just who are these people?

Now, I know that all these coincidences come straight out of Dickens himself, but he was able to take the time to make it less startling. With everything compressed the way it is in this second half of the TV series, it all becomes a little silly. And since they were dislocating the Long Arm of Coincidence so much, why did they leave out the detail that Magwich's enemy Compeyson was ALSO the man who jilted Miss Havisham and ruined her life? I know it could have been one more "Oh, brother!" moment, but at this point, who's counting? Leaving it out made Compeyson just a meaningless threat. Who was he? Why was he persecuting Magwich? Why does some nobody in a boat suddenly become powerful enough to derail Pip and Herbert's careful plan of escape? And then, poof! He's gone.

Speaking of Miss Havisham, I had an irreverent thought - she writes a cheque to Pip, to help pay to get Herbert established in business. A few moments later, she catches fire and is mortally burned. She doesn't die quite immediately though - it's a few days later. All I could think of was, "I hope Pip remembers to go to the bank quickly, and that cheque clears before she dies!"

I did like Bernard Hill's Magwich, but they made his death a bit unsatisfying. He's basically comatose as Pip tells the guard (but really him) that his daughter is a fine lady - leaving out the line that he loves her. It should have been Magwich's moment of redemption, when he finds peace and can die, but since he's unconscious, I don't know if he even heard Pip's words or not. You certainly can't tell by any reaction. I guess we just have to trust that he must have heard him.

Another loose end left only half tied up is what happens to Orlick. I can't remember what happened to him in the book. But he did murder Pip's sister, and all that seems to happen here is that he gets to beat the tar out of Pip, tell him that his sister's death was HIS fault, then go his way, feeling much manlier. Not that I care much; by his last scene, I would have been happy to see a magistrate condemn him to keep his hair combed.

The ending is also ambiguous. I know Dickens played with two endings, and wasn't quite sure how to finish the story. But I'm not quite sure just how this story was finished in this version. We have Estella back at Satis House, seemingly preparing to take over Miss Havisham's role. But Pip's words touch her, and she seems to be capable of loving him after all - a happy ending. Fair enough, but it's not to be. In the book, Estella was a widow by the end; if she now loves Pip, then they could marry and be together. But since the writers didn't want to commit to THAT happy an ending, they keep her husband alive, and arrange for her to be simply separated from him. So Estella finally finds love, only to be thwarted by her marital status, which seems rather a conventional way of resolving the Pip-Estella relationship. The story ends with her and Pip resolving to see each other as friends, even if they can't be lovers, and they are playing cards the way they did as children. I guess that's OK, but it still left me wondering just what life was going to hold for them. I guess that's a bittersweet ending, though it doesn't quite feel like an ending at all.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Plant cemetery

Nicholodeon has a very funny blog, called DOGma reVIEW, that I just got around to visiting. His view of the Anglican Communion as a dog-centered world is delightfully skewed (particularly the bulletins from "Lambone Palace"). Dean and I started a similar game as we watched The Mahabharata on TV - creating a dog-version called "The Mahabarkata", which revolved around the dogs of all the main characters. Yin was Krishna's dog, of course.

The part I laughed at the most was his sidebar story (which unfortunately doesn't have it's own link) about a new Plant Cemetery in California, because it tied in so nicely with my own gardening craze. It's the special burial plot for weeds that I enjoyed the most. I just hope I don't get prosecuted for desecrating a dandelion.
Plant cemetery opens in Los Angeles

'I am the Vine' facility bursts into bloom


Los Angeles, USA--Never far from cutting edge far-left religious thought, the Los Angeles ecclesial jurisdiction today authorized opening a cemetery for departed house plants and all defunct vegetation.

Spokseman Kinki Bitschin, Rectrix of St. Rotweiler's, said, 'This concept is, like, totally so California! The burial grounds lie next to our sanctuary building. We will conduct burial services using the new rites developed for this purpose.'

Miss Bitschen further explained that gay houseplants are welcome to rest in the spacious grounds of the new facility. 'And where same sex plants have been matrimonially linked, we are able to accommodate side by side burial, too. Our jurisdiction is just so totally up to speed on current trends and developments!'

She added, 'Cremation is available. There's even a plot of unhallowed ground for weed enterment. We are, like, so totally ecumenical, too. For the same fee, we will conduct burial services for house plants of any denomination, cult or creed!'

Readers will note that front-runner theological thinkers will be able to rationalize anything, providing the price is right.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Anniversary today

Today was Dean's and my wedding anniversary! Twenty-one years. Last year was the BIG anniversary, so this year I told him not to get a present for me, as I had in mind something suitable for both of us. I got us the Mr. Moto dvd collection, volume 1 and volume 2. We saw a single Mr. Moto film last year, "Mr. Moto's Last Warning", and very much enjoyed it. Peter Lorre was, after all, a fine actor, and it was really quite a nicely plotted film. I wasn't expecting it to be so good, since we've seen so many lame Charlie Chan movies. Don't get me wrong, some of them are good too, but the later ones...

An old cartoon

Mark Steyn has been writing about the Conrad Black trial, which now seems to be stuck in endless jury deliberations over the verdict. Dean says he hopes Black is convicted, because he's a rich, arrogant bastard. I hope he's acquitted, because the whole thing sounds like a rigged case with the government buying testimony. I've always had a soft spot for Barbara Amiel too, and Steyn thinks highly of them, so I'm inclined to think that Black isn't the villain he's painted to be. But it's been a complicated case, and I can't say that I've followed it too closely.

Anyway, I remembered an old cartoon I'd saved in a scrapbook - maybe THIS is why the jury is taking so long!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Religious pecking order

There's been a lot of ruckus about the Vatican'sstatement on the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church. Why people are surprised, hurt, outraged, or whatever, I don't know. What would people expect the Pope to say? "Jesus is our vehicle to the divine" or something?

Well, of course this has stirred up many old stories and jokes (not least of which is the Monty Python Spanish Inquisition sketch) about Catholics and their attitudes to other faiths. I thought I'd add one more. This apocryphal tale is from David McCullough's "The Johnstown Flood", which describes the terrible flood of May 31, 1889 at Johnstown, PA. When the floodwaters hit the town, some survivors made it to the biggest building in town, Alma Hall, where they gathered in the dark and the cold as the torrent passed by outside.
But Alma Hall stood through the night, as did the Presbyterian Church and its parsonage, Dr. Lowman's house, where a small crowd had gathered in the top floor, and the Methodist parsonage, where the Chapmans and their assorted guests huddled together in the numbing cold praying for morning. The buildings survived because they were on the lee side of the big, stone Methodist Church. Standing as it did, at the corner of Franklin and Locust, on the northeastern corner of the park, the church was one of the first sizable buildings in town to be struck by the wave. Not only had it held, but it had split the wave and so served as a shield for buildings directly in line behind it. (One tale to come out of Alma Hall later on told of a voice in the dark saying, "We've been saved by the Methodist Church," whereupon another voice answered back, "Only the Catholic Church can save!")

Al-Qaeda's new secret weapon

Desperate menopausal women.
A British woman has married a son of Osama bin Laden after a holiday romance and is to apply for a visa so that he can visit Britain, The Times has learnt.

Jane Felix-Browne, a 51-year-old grandmother and parish councillor from Cheshire, has until now kept her marriage to Omar Ossama bin Laden, 27, secret from everyone apart from her immediate family and close friends. But she has now agreed to speak about her relationship with bin Laden’s fourth eldest son.
I'm praying...I'm praying that when they say "parish", they're referring to some municipal jurisdiction, like they have in Louisiana. NOT a Church of England parish. I'd like to salvage SOME respect for the CoE.
“I just married the man I met and fell in love with – to me he is just Omar,” she said. “I hope that people will take a step back and think what it was like when they fell in love. He is the most beautiful person I have ever met. His heart is pure, he is pious, quiet, a true gentleman, and he is my best friend.”
She forgot to mention that he's "soft-spoken" - that's always included in the typical Islamist resume. But as Omar is husband number 6 for Jane, perhaps she's starting to mix them up.
Omar bin Laden left Saudi Arabia as a child when his father was expelled for his extremist beliefs, his wife said. Living in exile in Sudan and then Afghanistan, he saw at first hand the creation of al-Qaeda and its techniques. Mrs Felix-Browne said: “I never had any problem with his past. Omar did not do anything wrong. He was a child when he was in Afghanistan.”

She said that her husband left Afghanistan before the attacks on the US on September 11, 2001. However, some reports claim that he split from his father only after the attack on New York and an argument about tactics.

Mrs Felix-Browne insisted: “He last saw his father in 2000 when they were both in Afghanistan. He left his father because he did not feel it was right to fight or to be in an army. Omar was training to be a soldier and he was only 19.
A nineteen-year old child. Well, when you're 51, I guess 19 DOES seem a bit like a child.
“He told me he has had no contact with his father since the day he left him. He misses his father. Omar doesn’t know if it was his father who was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. I don’t think we will ever know.”
At least she's too old to reproduce. We don't need any more stupid genes floating around than we already have.
Now she hopes that Mr bin Laden will come to Britain. “He would like to spend quite a bit of time here,” she said. (I'll bet he would.)“There is no reason why he should not come to live, but I don’t think he would like the weather.”

Mrs Felix-Browne said that the couple hoped to use their position to help to heal the wounds caused by her father-in-law. “All we want is peace in this world and I will do all I can to promote it.”
I've got an idea - how about we give him a visa, but get rid of YOU. I wonder, does England still have Bills of Attainder?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Toxicity

I thought I'd plumbed the depths when I discovered the Luther Burger, but here's something even more poisonous. I wish The Swan of Newark would go back to writing romantic novels and leave the murder mysteries to Chris Johnson.

The particulars of this incident are being discussed on StandFirm and MCJ, and probably other blogs too. I'll just note in passing that her scorn for the Kennedys and their fast-growing brood of children contrasts curiously with her own autobiography. In this post last year, she related some of the history of the women of HER family. To wit, her own mother, with 6 pregnancies, and her much-loved and admired grandmother, pregnant TWENTY times. Somehow she doesn't get around to mentioning that detail when describing the great feminist odyssey of her grandmother's departure from Portugal and life in the New World, though I suspect that some of that "liberation of the human spirit" her grandmother was seeking involved having babies. LOTS of babies.

Some of the posters on StandFirm are speculating that this all stems from the modern feminist/leftist/homosexual disdain for having children, but I don't think that's quite right. Kaeton has had children herself, after all. I think there are two main strains in her disgust.

First of all, there's the sheer fecundity of it all. Why, the woman is working on her fourth child! And she's still young! Just THINK how many she could have if something isn't done to stop her! Liberals can just tolerate one child, or maybe even two. After all, "The world must be peopled," as Benedict said (Benedict in 'Much Ado About Nothing', that is - not POPE Benedict. He'd never say something that ridiculous.) But like the Manichees, liberals really aren't into Life. Death is more their thing. And so disgust and contempt for large families, especially Catholic ones, has always been the mark of the shrivelled, sterile cult of the Left.

The other thing about large families is that everyone knows that they entail sacrifice. There's less money, there's less time, there's less of everything for ME, because it has to be given to THEM. And selfish people can't enjoy their selfishness when they have to witness other people making sacrifices. It feels like a personal reproach, somehow. And when this self-sacrifice is done in the spirit and in the name of Jesus, it's even more intolerable, because it's a reminder to the selfish of the example that they're pretending but failing to follow.

That brings us to the second thread; the explicitly Christian aspect of all this life-making. What really arouses her fury is not the method of birth control this family is using, but the involvement of God: 'letting "God decide" on how many children they will be blessed with and resigning themselves to gladly take whatever God gives them, giving God the praise and glory for "his plan for their life".'

Yes, we talk a lot about trusting God and all that, but when it comes right down to it, we don't really mean it. We want to hedge our bets, because we don't want to risk what might happen if God is the one making the decisions. It's too unpredictable - there could be a disagreement between me and God, and then what will I do? I'd have to surrender (and wouldn't THAT be a blow to my pride!) or outright tell God to get lost, and I can't quite hide from myself the fact that that would be wrong. So, I'll just evade the whole problem. I just won't involve God in the decision-making process at all. I'll keep all the control in my own hands, and give God a little nod from time to time, to let Him know I'm thinking of him. And when my decisions turn out particularly well, I'll even go through the little ritual dance of thanking and praising Him. After all, doesn't He deserve some acknowledgement for creating such a brilliant decider and chooser as myself?
Well, there's an ancient expression known among those who live and work in the desert: "Trust in God, and tie your camel tight."
What about that OTHER ancient expression, known among those who live and work in the desert:
THE LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Good Heavens. Can this be for real?



Never in all my travels through hundreds of cookbooks have I encountered something as impossibly unhealthy and disgusting as The Luther Burger. No, not even in White Trash Cooking.

Friday, July 06, 2007

'Great Expectations'

Dean and I are in the middle of watching a BBC dramatization of "Great Expectations", filmed in 1999. Part 1 was broadcast on TVO last Sunday night, from 8:00PM to 10:00PM, and the second half will be shown this Sunday. I highly recommend it, at least based on what we've seen so far. There have been many adaptations, but I don't think I've seen many of them - the 1946 David Lean version is the only one that I really remember, and I'm sure I only watched that because it had Alec Guinness in it.

One of the problems with film versions of Dickens is that they so often bring out the part of his writing that I dislike the most - the goody-goody characters, the sentimentality, the implausible deus ex machina happy endings. That's always there, of course, but what I remember the most from Dickens is the weird, nightmarish, horror aspects. The vignettes that stick in my mind are always the dark ones - Bill Sykes climbing over the roofs, trying to escape, then accidentally hanging himself. And his dog leaping up to his body, and falling down to its death. With 'Dombey and Son', what I remember most is James Carker's desperate flight across France, pursued by Dombey. It's a perfect description of an ongoing nervous breakdown, and it ends with him cornered and struck down by a train. Who cares about silly Florence and her tepid romance with Walter? Or saintly John Carker and long-suffering Harriet? Ugh.

Anyway, THIS version of 'Great Expectations' really plays up the dark, nightmarish side of the story. Those moors where Pip lives LOOK like a suitable place for a murder. London is no better - crowded, chaotic, blood from slaughtered livestock all over the place. And Miss Havisham is great - able to keep up a veneer of "normality", but the sinister vibes just roll off of her. We first see her face reflected in an old dusty mirror, rather distorted as she looks with surprise at Pip. "I sometimes have sick fancies," she murmurs, and I immediately wondered what sort of ghosts she regularly sees, that she might have mistaken him for an apparition. The whole story FEELS like a ghost story without the ghost - all these tales of murders and attacks and betrayals in the past, and all that's missing is an actual spook to come walking through the walls.

I've only just seen Estella as a grownup - she appeared at the very end of part 1. The little actress who played her as a child was wonderful, though. Darkly beautiful and sullen - reminded me a little of Louise Brooks. And she had very much the air of a child who's already been corrupted and ruined, without really knowing how or why. Great stuff.

The actor who plays Pip as a grownup is Ioan Gruffudd. TVO had previously shown all the Hornblower series in this same time slot. I'm thinking that maybe they're just going to turn this section of their schedule into a Gruffudd shrine, and show everything he's ever been in! I like him fine, but I find some of his head-bobbing mannerisms a little annoying after awhile.

Anyway, if this available where you are, I highly recommend it. I hope the second part is equal to the first.

A tale of three jellies

Big news this week - the currant harvest was successful! We got twice as many white (pink) currants as last year, and the red currant crop was about equal to last year's white, if you can follow that. Altogether, it came to about 3 times what we gathered last year. As a result, I made 3 different batches of currant jelly.

Here is the preparation underway; first, the white currants I picked on the first day, followed by the juice they produced after several hours draining in the jelly bag.




Now, this batch of currant jelly I made in the old-fashioned way, without adding Certo pectin. It involved LONG cooking, until it reached the jelling point. It's a tricky process, because you have to spot the precise moment when it's jelling and then take it off the heat. I wasn't too sure (being the first time I'd tried it this way), and as a result, my jelly turned out rather stiff. The other thing is, it tends to really reduce the product; this only produced 3.5 1-cup jars, which seemed to me a lot of trouble for very little. Don't get me wrong - it TASTES great, but it's still a very small amount of jelly. It also darkened in cooking, because it became so concentrated, so it doesn't look as clear as you'd expect from jelly.

The second batch was also from white currants, but I had to add a little red juice, because I didn't have quite enough to make the recipe. This time, I used Certo. I also did what they say you SHOULDN'T do - I squeezed the jelly bag when straining the juice. I just needed all the juice I could get. This allows some solids to get into the juice, so the jelly ends up cloudy, but I didn't care. The first jelly was cloudy too, and I never touched the bag! This one turned a very pretty colour - sort of like pink lemonade.

The last batch, which I made this morning, was all red currants, and it turned out the classic brilliant red, crystal-clear jelly. The last two were made with Certo, so they each produced about 9 cups each, but they're sweeter than the first jelly. It's unavoidable; you have to use more sugar when you use Certo.

Anyway, here's a picture of all 3 jellies in order, from left to right.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Shared snobbery

CBC announcers annoy me a lot, but every now and then their snobbishness coincides with my own, and I enjoy their comments. Yesterday, I was listening to Radio 2, and turned on the radio just to catch the tail end of some live performance recording of a Brahms concerto. As the piece ended, the announcer came on and said, "And that was Brahms' _______ concerto, in a live performance. Even with the cellphone going off at the beginning! Did you hear that? I've never heard that before, though it must happen all the time - you can't prevent it. At least it was a regular phone ring, and not..."Fernando"!" I actually laughed out loud at that. Yes, I can imagine the enormous irritation of being in a concert hall, and suddenly someone's telephone starts playing a sappy pop song.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

What's wrong with some people?

I haven't been paying too much attention to the awful story about the wrestler Chris Benoit, who last week killed his wife and child and then committed suicide, even though the autism connection was obvious. Sadly, I've heard of many such cases, where an overwhelmed parent kills the child and then him or herself. It's less common when you have an intact family, because the burden can be shared, and it's even more unusual among the well-to-do. You always think that someone who's famous and rich would be able to afford the best treatment and help, so they wouldn't be crushed by trying to cope all by themselves, but obviously everyone has a breaking point.

But today, I was struck by a really odious letter on this subject in The Citizen. By now I should be used to the hive mentality of liberals, where nobody ever can act as an individual, and some big nebulous collective is responsible for everything, but this really got to me.
Many to blame for death of wrestler, family
The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Re: Calculated violence or 'roid rage?, June 28.
Having autistic kids myself, I'm a little sympathetic to this "many to blame" theme - more than I could have believed possible in my Ayn Rand-addled youth. It's not that "it takes a village" to raise my kids, but it does take a lot of work and money. I'm grateful for the handicapped dependents tax break we get that allows us to pay for respite, and I'm grateful for the special classes the Ottawa-Carleton school board provides for my kids. In other places, there AREN'T such supports, and people really do get overwhelmed trying to do it all themselves. So if it's a case of a family that's been abandoned to try to cope all alone, I can sympathize with the argument that something more should have been done to help them. So, how were the "many" to blame in THIS case?
There have been inflammatory remarks made about WWE superstar Chris Benoit, and while he obviously had a tragic end to his career and died with his family, I can't help wondering why.
"Tragic end to his career"?? Yeah, it sure sucks, that sudden early retirement of his. As for "died with his family", for God's sake, the man MURDERED them, and then killed himself! That's like saying that Mohammed Atta "died with his fellow passengers" on 9/11.
Yes, it's true the public is very fickle about its heroes: One minute they love a wrestler or baseball player, the next minute, it's someone bigger or younger and a rising star. But why would we push a man -- who told kids to stay away from drugs and entertained the troops in Baghdad at Christmas -- to start using steroids?
DID we? Did we "push" him to shoot himself up with steroids, if that's what happened? Were people signing petitions, sending him letters pleading with him to drug himself? Or did HE refuse to accept the consequences of staying clean, even if it was something as heinous as being surpassed by "a bigger or younger" athlete?
And why would the media forget to interview the CEOs and boards of directors of the pharmaceutical giants that manufacture and sell the pills to bodybuilders, weightlifters, track stars and professional athletes?

Why are the CEOs not being grilled on 60 Minutes or by Larry King or Nancy Grace? Why are the newspapers not filled with demands for the prosecution of the corporations for wrongful death?
Maybe because THEY'RE NOT TO BLAME that Benoit might have taken drugs in order to cheat reality?
As much as I am saddened by the death of Mr. Benoit, I can't help feeling that he must have been driven to his end by the chemicals made by yet another huge corporation in Switzerland or the United States that only wants more money and to dominate the market.
So, somehow this wouldn't be so bad if he'd killed his wife and child after drinking a couple gallons of homemade hooch?
Did we not learn from thalidomide? Did we not learn from Love Canal and from the Ben Johnson scandal?
I'm sure we learned lots of things - I just don't quite see how any of them connect with this particular crime. What SHOULD we have learned? That nobody should take any drugs, ever? That companies can't be allowed to make them? That they should be handed out for free, so nobody earns a living from them? If it's that drugs can create problems, we've known that for a long time - much longer than there have been pharmaceutical companies around.
I feel awful about the deaths of Nancy and Daniel Benoit, but surely we must see the big picture: that someone must be made to pay for what they have done to Mr. Benoit. They turned a decent, caring man of skill and charisma into a murderer.
I'm not even going to comment on the repulsive way this writer has managed to turn the killer into the victim. It's his offhand nod in the direction of the dead wife and child on his way to "the big picture" that really disgusts me. A mother and a little child are dead, at the hands of the person they trusted, and who should have protected them. This IS the big picture. There's nothing more important than that, and I don't know what is wrong with someone who tramples over their bodies in his eagerness to chase the bigger, sexier, dollar-encrusted quarry of pharmaceutical companies.

Mark Steyn wrote about the liberals who, following 9/11, couldn't wait to brush aside the dead victims in order to frolic in the abstract fields of "root causes".
Why do some people look at a smoking ruin and see the lives lost - the secretary standing by the photocopier - and others see only confirmation of their thesis on Kyoto?
Why do some people look at a crime scene and see a strangled wife and mother, and a helpless child crushed to death - and others see only Pfizer's fourth-quarter earnings? I can't be the only one who finds this dehumanizing and degrading.

Quiet week

As I mentioned, this past week was a quiet one - the kids were at the computer a lot, so I didn't have much time to post. Not much going on, anyway.

I found a wasps' nest cunningly built into the stone wall on the right of the garden (the one on the other side of the stairs, opposite the one we rebuilt). The grey, papery bulge looked just like a piece of stone; only when I noticed wasps coming and going did I realize what it was. I went to Canadian Tire to buy a can of wasp-killer, but I couldn't use it right away. The instructions say wait until evening or early morning, when the wasps are in the nest and quiet. Since I had to wait, of course I then forgot all about the nest, and did the stupid thing of trying to pull up some weeds right in front of it. Zing! Wasp sting just above my wrist. It's still swollen and itchy, two days later.

Well, retribution came the next morning. I crept out at 5:00AM and blasted the nest with killer foam. Then I used the little straw attached to the can to spray some more poison into the nest. Some wasps tried to break out, but I covered them up with more spray. Half a dozen were already outside the nest, and tried to get in, but they were overcome by the poison too. Later on, we found a big pile of dead wasps lying at the bottom of the wall, and Dean scraped out the nest so they wouldn't be tempted to come back some day and rebuild.

Emma and I picked the cherries from the tree. We got about 3 cups, and I had to supplement them with some canned sour cherries to make a pie. It turned out very nice, though.
The next project will be the currants. I think they're ripe, and probably tomorrow I'll pick them and start the jelly-making process.