Thursday, November 29, 2007

Knock. It. Off.

Good article on Dziekanski

Taser death a collective failure by Les Leyne, of the Victoria Times-Colonist.

I'm usually wary of terms like "collective failure", but in this case it fits.
It's hard to express what a monumental tragedy Dziekanski's death represents. It's not just the stupid, unnecessary death of a healthy young man. It's the fact that he came here to build a new life with his mother and in the space of a few hours all his hopes were snuffed out along with his life. Canada failed him callously and completely. There are very few times when I've been ashamed for my country. But watching the Taser video was one of those times...

But the clumsy brutal arrest is just what finished him off. It was the blind bureaucratic apparatus that treats everyone as cattle at best and as a suspect at worst that set him up for the kill...

It's haunting to think of all those functionaries standing watch over the crowd, and all those robot cameras watching from every corner. The whole operation is supposedly to keep us safe. But when one lone, frightened passenger gets a little off the grid, he dies a horrible death.
As someone said, it's the small details that get you. I read that Dziekanski carried 3 bags, two of which were full of geography books. It's one of those details I'll never forget.
Dziekanski's experience in Canada consists of several hours of being ignored, then a brief, brutal encounter with one of our national symbols that was characterized by hostility, aggression and paranoia. And now he's dead.

The other symbolic image from the video that sticks in my mind is the automatic glass door opening and closing repeatedly, as Dziekanski stands on the threshold. He'd been a landed immigrant for several hours by then. He could communicate with no one. The system was ignoring him completely. And the doors to what he thought was the land of opportunity just keep opening and closing mindlessly as he spends his last few moments on Earth driven to the brink of emotional collapse by a system that couldn't care less.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Nuts

Another entry in the ongoing "We can't have nice things" saga.

This summer I picked up a beautiful Christmas wreath at an auction, and as we've now had several days of snow, I thought it was time to hang it on the front door. In the past, I've tried and failed to put wreaths on the inner wooden door, but there isn't enough room - they get squashed by the storm door and fall down. So this year I got one of those double magnetic hooks for hanging wreaths on a glass door, and yesterday morning I proudly put it up. It was an elaborate creation, covered with pinecones, various kinds of nuts and 3 artificial birds.

When Emma and I got home from her karate practice at 9:00PM, she went in first, and I came a few moments later. I was shocked to find the wreath lying on the ground! Pieces of pinecones and nuts were scattered around, and two of the birds were gone. I came in fuming, and groused about how careless Emma was, slamming the door like that to make the wreath fall down, and not even picking up the mess! I had to go back outside and gather up the debris, which I then placed on a chair outside; I figured I'd buy some glue the next day and put it back together.

Today I went shopping in the morning and came back with glue. To my shock, I found pinecones lying around - could I have missed them in the dark last night? I thought I'd unpack my groceries first, then go back out for the wreath and start fixing it. When I opened the door again, there was a scurry of little feet, and a squirrel darted away. Then I realized the truth: SQUIRRELS had climbed onto the wreath, and their weight had pulled it onto the ground! Then they had proceeded to rip off and eat the pinecones and nuts! Now I don't know what to do; it hardly seems worthwhile to repair the wreath, because the squirrels will never leave it alone.

That's gratitude for you. I even bought a few bags of peanuts this fall and left them out for the squirrels, because it's so funny to see them come bounding over from all directions and sneak out the nuts to take away and hide somewhere. All the time I was preparing a serpent for my own bosom; now they obviously think that I'm putting out food for them when I hang the wreath!

Clueless Christians suck up to Imposter Religion

From the Khaleej Times:
Christian leaders ask for Muslim forgiveness
(Wam)

26 November 2007

ABU DHABI—Peaceful relations between Muslims and Christians stand as one of the central challenges of this century, according to leading Christian leaders.


Responding to an open letter in October signed by 138 leading Muslim scholars, clerics, and intellectuals from around the world, the Christian leaders also asked the Muslim world for forgiveness “We want to begin by acknowledging that in the past (e.g. in the Crusades) and in the present (e.g. in excesses of the “war on terror”) many Christians have been guilty of sinning against our Muslim neighbours. Before we “shake your hand” in responding to your letter, we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One and of the Muslim community around the world”, they said in the letter which was made available to the press here yesterday.
The signatories:
*Harold W. Attridge, Dean and Lillian Claus Professor of New Testament, Yale Divinity School *Joseph Cumming, Director of the Reconciliation Program, Yale Center for Faith and Culture, Yale Divinity School *Emilie M. Townes, Andrew Mellon Professor of African American Religion and Theology, Yale Divinity School, and President-elect of the American Academy of Religion *Miroslav Volf, Founder and Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology, Yale Divinity School Martin Accad, Academic Dean, Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (Lebanon) Scott C. Alexander, Director, Catholic-Muslim Studies, Catholic Theological Union Roger Allen, Chair, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Pennsylvania Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals Ray Bakke, Convening Chair, Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding Camillo Ballin, Bishop, Vicar Apostolic of Kuwait (Roman Catholic) Barry Beisner, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Northern California Federico Bertuzzi, President, PM Internacional, Latin America James A. Beverley, Tyndale Seminary, Canada Jonathan Bonk, Executive Director, Overseas Ministries Study Center Gerhard B?wering, Yale University Joseph Britton, Dean, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale John M. Buchanan, Editor/Publisher, The Christian Century Joe Goodwin Burnett, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska Samuel G. Candler, Dean, Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta Juan Carlos C?rdenas, Instituto Iberoamericano de Estudios Transculturales, Spain Joseph Castleberry, President, Northwest University Colin Chapman, Author David Yonggi Cho, Founder and Senior Pastor, Yoido Full Gospel Church, Seoul, Korea Richard Cizik, Vice President, National Association of Evangelicals Corneliu Constantineanu, Dean, Evangelical Theological Seminary, Croatia Robert E. Cooley, President Emeritus, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary Harvey Cox, Harvard Divinity School John D’Alton, President, Melbourne Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Australia Andr? Delbecq, University of Santa Clara Keith DeRose, Yale University Andr?s Alonso Duncan, CEO, Latinoamerica Global, A.C.

Diana L. Eck, Harvard University Bertil Ekstrom, Executive Director, Mission Commission, World Evangelical Alliance Mark U. Edwards, Jr., Senior Advisor to the Dean, Harvard Divinity School John Esposito, Director Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University David Ford, Regius Professor of Divinity, Cambridge University Timothy George, Dean, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University Roberto S. Goizueta, Boston College Bruce Gordon, University of St. Andrews William A. Graham, Dean, Harvard Divinity School Lynn Green, International Chairman, YWAM Frank Griffel, Yale University Edwin F. Gulick, Jr., Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky David P. Gushee, President, Evangelicals for Human Rights Kim B. Gustafson, President, Common Ground Elie Haddad, Provost, Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, Lebanon L. Ann Hallisey, Hallisey Consulting and Counseling Paul D. Hanson, Harvard Divinity School Heidi Hadsell, President, Hartford Seminary David Heim, Executive Editor, The Christian Century Norman A. Hjelm, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, retired Carl R. Holladay, Candler School of Theology, Emory University Joseph Hough, President, Union Theological Seminary, NY Bill Hybels, Founder and Senior Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church Nabeel T. Jabbour, Consultant, Professor, Colorado Shannon Sherwood Johnston, Bishop Coadjutor, Episcopal Diocese of Virginia David Colin Jones, Bishop Suffragan, Episcopal Diocese of Virginia Stanton L. Jones, Provost, Wheaton College, IL Tony Jones, National Coordinator, Emergent Village Riad A. Kassis, Theologian, Author, Consultant Paul Knitter, Union Theological Seminary, NY Manfred W. Kohl, Vice President of Overseas Council International, USA James A. Kowalski, Dean, Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, NY Sharon Kugler, University Chaplain, Yale University Peter Kuzmic, President, Evangelical Theological Faculty Osijek, Croatia Peter J. Lee, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Virginia Linda LeSourd Lader, President, Renaissance Institute Tim Lewis, President, William Carey Int’l University John B.Lindner, Yale Divinity School Duane Litfin, President, Wheaton College Greg Livingstone, Founder, Frontiers Albert C. Lobe, Interim Executive Director, Mennonite Central Committee Rick Love, International Director, Frontiers Douglas Magnuson, Bethel University Peter Maiden, International Coordinator, OM Danut Manastireanu, World Vision International, Iasi, Romania Harold Masback, III, Senior Minister, The Congregational Church of New Canaan, New Canaan, CT Donald M. McCoid, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America C. Douglas McConnell, Dean, School of Intercultural Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary Don McCurry, President, Ministries to Muslims Brian D. McLaren, Author, Speaker, Activist Kathleen E. McVey, Princeton Theological Seminary Judith Mendelsohn Rood, Biola University Steve Moore, President and CEO, The Mission Exchange (formerly EFMA) Douglas Morgan, Director, Adventist Peace Fellowship Richard Mouw, President, Fuller Theological Seminary Salim J. Munayer, Academic Dean, Bethlehem Bible College, Jerusalem Rich Nathan, Senior Pastor, Vineyard Church of Columbus David Neff, Editor in Chief and Vice-President, Christianity Today Media Group Alexander Negrov, President, St. Petersburg Christian University, Russia Richard R. Osmer, Princeton Theological Seminary George E. Packard, Bishop Suffragan for Chaplaincies of the Episcopal Church Greg H. Parsons, General Director, U.S. Center for World Mission Doug Pennoyer, Dean, School of Intercultural Studies, Biola University Douglas Petersen, Vanguard University of Southern California Sally Promey, Yale Divinity School Thomas P. Rausch, S.J., Loyola Marymount University David A. Reed, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto Neil Rees, International Director, World Horizons Cecil M. Robeck, Jr., Fuller Theological Seminary Leonard Rogers, Executive Director, Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding William L. Sachs, Director, Center for Reconciliation and Mission, Richmond Lamin Sanneh, Yale Divinity School Andrew Saperstein, Yale Center for Faith and Culture Robert Schuller, Founder, Crystal Cathedral and Hour of Power Elizabeth Sch?ssler Fiorenza, Harvard Divinity School Francis Sch?ssler Fiorenza, Harvard Divinity School William Schweiker, University of Chicago Donald Senior, C.P., President, Catholic Theological Union, Chicago C. L. Seow, Princeton Theological Seminary Imad Nicola Shehadeh, President, Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary David W. and K. Grace Shenk, Eastern Mennonite Missions Marguerite Shuster, Fuller Theological Seminary John G. Stackhouse, Jr., Regent College, Vancouver Glen Stassen, Fuller Theological Seminary Andrea Zaki Stephanous, Vice President, Protestant Church in Egypt Wilbur P. Stone, Bethel University, MN John Stott, Rector Emeritus, All Souls Church, London Frederick J. Streets, Yeshiva University William Taylor, Global Ambassador, World Evangelical Alliance John Thomas, President and General Minister, United Church of Christ Iain Torrance, President, Princeton Theological Seminary Michael W. Treneer, International President, The Navigators, CO Geoff Tunnicliffe, International Director, World Evangelical Alliance George Verwer, Founder and former International Director, OM Harold Vogelaar, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago Berten A. Waggoner, National Director, Association of Vineyard Churches Jim Wallis, President, Sojourners Rick Warren, Founder and Senior Pastor, Saddleback Church, and The Purpose Driven Life, Lake Forest, CA J. Dudley Woodberry, Dean Emeritus, Fuller School of International Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary Christopher J.H. Wright, International Director, Langham Partnership, London Robert R. Wilson, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Yale Divinity School Nicholas Wolterstorff, University of Virginia Godfrey Yogarajah, General Secretary, Evangelical Fellowship in Asia Community Council of the Sisters of the Precious Blood, Dayton, OH.

I don't know anything about the Sisters of the Precious Blood; they seem to be an uncloistered order of elderly religious - the picture of glass chalices and the mission statement on the homepage make me think there might be an element of flakiness there, but in reading their individual bios, they seem like well-meaning women. I'm hoping they're just naive in signing on to this letter. But a Roman Catholic bishop shouldn't be slumming with this lot.

Whitewash

The Canada Border Services Agency has released its report on the Dziekanski case. I'm really surprised that after 6 weeks, this what they came up with. There are no individuals named, even though 6 employees were interviewed for the report.

Considering that the report is supposed to be ABOUT Robert Dziekanski and how CBSA treated him, they avoid discussing him for about half the report. I did a word count on the document: 1263 words. Only 727 of them are devoted to Mr. Dziekanski. CBSA veers off whenever possible into generalities, such as the following:
It appears that he remained in the CBSA hall between the time of his arrival and his report to customs secondary. There are many reasons why passengers may not leave the CBSA hall immediately after their arrival at YVR. These include:

Waiting for delayed luggage that may be arriving on a subsequent flight.
Waiting for family members or friends who have been referred to immigration for further processing
Waiting for passengers on subsequent flights.
Waiting to have documents faxed or information confirmed from overseas embassies and/or offices.
Or, as in this case, because they're confused, can't ask for help, and are unimportant enough to ignore.
Further footage shows that for unknown reasons, Mr. Dziekanski did not enter the immigration area but proceeded to the carousel/baggage area. This area is the approximate size of two football fields. It may be filled with hundreds of people at any given time. Approximately 4,000 people went through this area during the time Mr. Dziekanski was there.
Well, let's see. Four thousand people over 10 hours. That works out to about 400 people per hour - maybe 1.5 planeloads. And knowing the way airports work, there are times when lots of planes take off, alternating with times when planes land. So at some point, there might have been next to no one in those two football fields. At no point was the place thronged with a huge crowd of 4,000 people, among whom no one could be expected to spot the figure of Mr. Dziekanski, which is the impression they are trying to create by throwing out that awe-inspiring number.

The sad story of Robert Dziekanski just sort of drops off a cliff before the end.
Having completed the secondary immigration processing, Mr. Dziekanski was told that he was free to leave. He remained in the area and sat on one of the chairs for approximately 30 minutes. He was subsequently approached by a CBSA officer who confirmed that he was free to go and escorted him to the exit.
Gee, what happened then? CBSA suddenly gets very busy with recommendations about interpreters and security cameras, and you have to go elsewhere to learn the end of this story.

The Vancouver Sun's report gives more information, which is omitted from the official report. Specifically, the way Dziekanski's mother and stepfather were brushed off when they made inquiries about their son. After a cursory glance around, they were told he wasn't there, and then sent back home - to Kamloops. This isn't a suburb of Vancouver, by the way. It's almost 4 hours away. When the mother called the airport at 2:00AM, CBSA bungled again, and told her Dziekanski was gone. I guess that's not exactly a lie - he was dead.

I haven't been able to open any of the videos of the press conferences yesterday, but I was very annoyed to read that Alain Jolicoeur, the President, started off by offering "our sincere and deepest sympathies to the family of Mr. Dziekanski" on behalf of the CBSA and its employees. "Offering sympathies"! Like some well-wisher or friend of the family! This, from the guy whose officers bungled a man to his death. People like me can "offer sympathies"; what's required from people like Jolicoeur is "apologies". But there was little of that in the report, which managed to vaguely blame the victim for not asking for help during his ordeal, even though they plainly state that they couldn't have understood him even if he had. But hey, "Mr. Dziekanski was given several glasses of water while he was in the secondary processing area", so what more do you want?

Fortunately, this isn't the end of the business, not by a long shot.
Solicitor-General John Les told reporters Monday in Victoria that the CBSA report confirms the need for a public inquiry, which would "be a more thorough airing of the facts" than individual agencies reporting on their particular areas of interest.

The province said last week it will hold a public inquiry; a commissioner is expected to be named within two weeks. The inquiry will look into the use of Tasers, the process of receiving foreign passengers in B.C., and the actions of the RCMP, the CBSA and the Vancouver Airport Authority. An inquest has also been scheduled.
This tight-lipped 3-page blur is the best proof of why "individual agencies reporting on their particular areas of interest" is not going to produce anything satisfactory.

CBSA deserves one cheer for at least coming up with a list of changes they will be making. At least they didn't say, "Yes, we did it, and we'd do it again," like the RCMP has done for the last few taser deaths.But still,
Jolicoeur said no one had been disciplined or reprimanded over the incident because CBSA officials at the airport followed normal operating procedures - the same procedures used to handle 96 million people a year who arrive at Canadian borders.
Just following orders. That pretty much says it all.

Set your VCRs

TCM is showing The Wrong Box tomorrow night - Wednesday, November 28, at 11:45 PM EST. Check your TV listings, and try to catch it if you can, especially as it seems that we'll have to wait a bit longer for the dvd to come out. The release date seems to have evaporated - I'm hoping that maybe it's because they've decided to simultaneously do a Region 1 release, but who knows.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Taser first, think later

More weirdness from the very appropriately named Vancouver Airport AUTHORITY related to the tasering death of Robert Dziekanski.

According to this story from the 'National Post' last week, an East European employee was present who could have communicated with Dziekanski, but he was never asked to help, or even told about the incident until Dziekanski was dead.

And the Vancouver Airport AUTHORITY didn't take kindly to its employee pointing out that it had screwed up:
Mr. Vrba spoke to the National Post yesterday because, almost exactly a month after Mr. Dziekanski died, he was fired. He believes it may be because he spoke out about the fact that he could have helped. The airport told him he was "unsuitable for the job," an employment mark he said will make it nearly impossible for him to find work as a firefighter, a profession he had been training for as part of his airport duties.
What does the AUTHORITY have to say about this seeming case of eradicating dissent in its ranks?
Michele Mawhinny, vice-president of human resources for the Vancouver Airport Authority, said yesterday she could not comment on Mr. Vrba's allegations.

"Under privacy laws it really does prevent us from commenting on an employment matter," she said.

Ms. Mawhinny noted that under the authority's collective agreement there is a grievance procedure that workers can follow if they are unhappy with any element of their employment.
I heard on the radio this morning that today we're supposed to get a statement from the bureaucracies involved about what happened on Oct. 14. I'll post it when it turns up.

(thanks to The Spade)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Canada's Cattle Car Moment

The death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver International Airport last month has raised a lot of anger in Canada, and it isn't subsiding as quickly as these things usually do. The incident actually happened a month ago, but it didn't hit the news bigtime until last week, when a video of the RCMP tasering Dziekanski became public.

Dziekanski was moving to Canada to join his mother, who lives in B.C. He arrived in Vancouver, then for some still unexplained reason, was unable to leave the secure area of the airport for 10 hours. He mother had come to meet him, but she was not allowed in the secure area, and didn't know what happened when he didn't come out. Asking for information several times, she was only told that if he hadn't come out of the secure area, it meant he wasn't on the flight, so she eventually went home. Meanwhile, Dziekanski, who couldn't speak English, became more and more agitated and no one would help him, until he began picking up furniture in frustration and tossing it around. Finally the RCMP arrived, and after about 10 seconds used tasers on him, causing him to collapse and die.

Now the public is outraged, the Poles are outraged, the RCMP is on the defensive, and everyone is clamouring for someone to do something. People in BC have been pelting RCMP cruisers with eggs and spitting on officers, which is really very rare for Canada, even in BC. All sorts of demands for action are floating around, but most of them seem to have sluiced down the easiest channel, which is to blame the tasers, and talk endlessly about voltage and amps and scientific studies. It doesn't help that there seems to be a rash of taser-related deaths appearing in the news right now, though for all I know, this could be the normal mortality rate for these devices, and it's only the publicity that makes it seem like a crisis.

Anyway, I think that the media are missing one of the key elements driving this wave of anger. We are in some way identifying with this man, and it's not in the way the intelligentsia wishes and assumes we would. It's not that we're concerned about police brutality, because we don't live in a police state, any more than Americans do. We know that, even though some people like to dress up their very safe lives with a little imaginary drama and pretend that they're up against a sinister wall of authoritarian brutality. Canadians aren't afraid that the police will storm their houses in the middle of the night, or drag them off to some torture chamber to beat information out of them.

But what we DO live in is a clumsy, stupid, arrogant bureaucracy. And what we respond to is the fact that Dziekanski was held in a corral for TEN HOURS without anyone helping him, communicating with him, explaining anything to him. It was nobody's job to link him up with his mother, so it was never done. It was nobody's job to explain to him what he should do next, so he was just abandoned there. THAT is what Canadians recognize. We all know that any day, for any reason, that could be us. We could find ourselves snared in some idiotic, incomprehensible bureaucratic limbo. And the rage comes from knowing that if we "make trouble", if we do anything but be submissive and docile, this bureaucracy has no hesitation in physically bludgeoning us into line.

I call this "the cattle car moment", because we know at some level that that is how our government treats us - like cattle, to be herded and forced and made to do things, not men and women who have to be treated honourably.

UPDATE: Wolfville Watch posted a link to this wonderful short by the Czech filmmaker Jiri Trnka - it's a reflection on the totalitarian spirit. Like one of the commenters here said, I've been thinking about Kafka too since this story became public.

So how's that new Pentecost thingy coming along?

Diogenes at Catholic World News has a good post about the failure that has been women's ordination in the Anglican Church. As the Telegraph story he discusses says, "Supporters of women priests predicted that the church would be transformed, and pews would overflow." But instead of a surge of young, vital women, the church has been inundated by a herd of grey-haired duds, while the laity who were supposed to be so thrilled to be ministered to by Reverend Grandma have been silently heading for the exits, taking their children with them.

This must be why the article writer thinks that "On the surface, few ceremonies could offer more hope to a Church of England fighting for survival than an ordination." Most people would think that a BAPTISM would be a real "sign of new life, at a time when Sunday attendance threatens to dip below a million," but the supply of those is shrivelling fast. Maybe because, as Diogenes says,
this is partly due to the fact that the churches that ordain women are pro-abortion, which means the whole spiritual dimension of maternity must be amputated. The glint of the new-sharpened knife is never far from their feminism.
This is very true, and seems to be a constant wherever feminism and religion come together. In the Catholic Church the infection fell upon its women religious. As Anne Roche Muggeridge wrote in 'The Desolate City'
Commenting on the transformation of religious orders in the United States, the American historian of the Catholic revolution, James Hitchcock, remarked that "a literal self-worship has now replaced the worship of God among nuns in the United States." Before Vatican II, nuns were totally committed to the traditional eschatological world view. I remember with awe from my several years as a novice in a religious order the intensity of their sublimation of natural maternal yearnings and the energy and passion it lent to the work of the church. The shock of the revolution was too much for many of them to bear. Their souls became like the empty house into which wandering devils enter and dwell. There is a real stink of brimstone at gatherings dominated by feminist nuns, especially at their liturgies, a creepy neo-paganism with strong suggestions of sexual perversion.
Bad as this was, though, the refusal to ordain women to the priesthood kept it from spreading throughout the entire Church. The infected limb could be treated with a tourniquet, and there are signs that the disease is retreating. No such luck for the Anglicans - letting this foulness into the sanctuary was like letting blood poisoning spread to the heart. Now the sickness has been pumped to every cell of the body.

But few of us are likely to meet high-profile harridans like Susan Russell and The Swan of Newark. What about the average female clergyperson?
But women's ordained ministry, even on its own terms, has been an undeniable flop. Putting aside the fact, enunciated by Catholic doctrine, that sacramental priesthood is void for women, one might still expect that the opportunities provided by non-sacramental ministries would have thrown up someone of substance -- or at least lasting influence -- over the past couple decades. Yet we find no Margaret Thatchers and no Hannah Arendts and no Jeanne Kirkpatricks among the clergy but, in their place, a inordinately high number of women who are just plain daft.
That's something that surprises me, too. Why are they such duds? Where are the brilliant women whose talents have finally been liberated? (I mean REAL brilliant women, not the faux-"brilliance" of Mrs. Schori's cheerleaders.) Men write books - where are the great books by these unbound Prometheuses? Fifteen years is plenty of time, we should have seen SOMETHING by now. And though we can laugh at the grey hairs among so many new female ordinands, being old is not ALL bad. If they don't have the freshness and energy of youth, they should at least have the wisdom of age, yet the insights of these women are immature and shallow. As a middle-aged woman myself, I'm embarrassed by these representatives of my demographic. Their "contributions" amount to vapid touchy-feely greeting-card level sentimentality:
"I remember speaking to a woman who had had a stillborn baby," says Christina Rees. "Her vicar had suffered a series of late miscarriages. She went to her and just held her. Nothing could have been more comforting at that time. That kind of instinctive compassion is part of what they are bringing."
That's nice. Did she also hold the father of the stillborn baby? Is that what women's "ministry" amounts to? Floating about dispensing hugs? Most of us have mothers or sisters or friends who can do that, too. It's kind of natural. We don't think of it as something to put on a resume. (I don't know, though; for a while there was a fad for calling EVERYTHING a "ministry" - music ministry (choir), reading ministry (lector), greeting ministry (sidesman). Dean and I were feeling out, so I suggested our calling was in "attendance ministry".)

As I said, where are the great women, the brilliant women? As Chesterton wrote somewhere when talking about divorce, it was always sold as something that should be available for the real hard cases, like the man with a mad wife - the noble souls who suffered unjustly, who really were innocent and who everyone could agree deserved to be released from an impossible burden. The funny thing was, those noble souls were often too noble to take advantage of such an escape clause. They were the ones who persisted in sticking to their promise no matter the consequences. The ones who did flock to divorce were the shiftless, the frivolous, the careless and the downright stupid.

So it is with women's ordination. The brilliant women, the holy women, disdain the fraud of phony ordination. They stay away from the priesthood, leaving it to the flakes, the frustrated and the abnormal.

Casanova (1927)

I want to share another Mosjoukine film clip. This one is from his 1927 film Casanova. Mosjoukine plays the title role, of course. This is not his greatest film, though it is the last great one he made. Following 'Casanova', he went to Hollywood, made the not-good-at-all 'Surrender' with Mary Philbin, and then returned to Europe. But things were never the same, and the talkies came in almost immediately, which meant the end of his career.

But though it doesn't have the imaginative daring of some of his earlier, more serious movies, 'Casanova' is probably my favourite Mosjoukine film. 'Michel Strogoff' runs it a close second, but 'Casanova' has a lightness and charm that never fails. It's a comedy, for one thing, and Mosjoukine really was a fabulous comic actor. He was more known as the great romantic lead, but comedy was his true love.

The other thing that attracts me to 'Casanova' is the new score composed for it in 1980 by my favorite movie composer, Georges Delerue. 'Casanova' was one of the first silent movies to get the full restoration treatment (along with 'Napoleon'). It's interesting that the Germans have really taken over in silent film restoration, resulting in absolute gold-standard restorations like that on Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" and other great Weimar films, but it was the French who were the first in the field. Technology has improved a lot since the 80s, but this restoration is still quite good. I daydream about how wonderful it would look if it were redone with modern techniques, but meanwhile we at least have this.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

First real snow of the year

It snowed a little yesterday, an inch or two of very wet, heavy snow, but today we got the real thing. About 5 inches so far, and we may get a few more.

James was very excited when he saw the snow. "Wook! Wook! SNOW!" Then, displaying an ability to link ideas that far outpaced ours to counter them, "Snow! Christmas! Merry Christmas! Christmas TREE! Blues Clues Storytiiiiiime!!" (An out-of-print video that is now his current obsession.) I foresee 5 weeks of stalling and fending off demands for Christmas RIGHT NOW.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Where in the world is Rowan Williams?

A former Canadian bishop is leaving the ACC for the Southern Cone, and the current copyright holder is all in a tizzy.
We call upon the Archbishop of Canterbury to make clear that such actions are not a valid expression of Anglicanism and are in contravention of the ancient and continuing traditions of the Church.
Good luck, mate. Join the ever-growing queue of people waiting in vain for the Archbishop of Canterbury to "make clear" anything at all. As his church whirls about in a centrifuge, he's cowering under a bed somewhere in Lambeth Palace, trying to avoid being hit by flying debris.

Maybe the Anglicans could institute a new feast in the calendar: Episcopal Groundhog Day.
Anglicans from all over the world gather annually outside Lambeth Palace on this day. Everyone watches anxiously, to see if the Archbishop of Canterbury will poke his furry, bewhiskered face out from under the covers on this day. If he sees his shadow, he'll be frightened by it and dart back inside, and we'll have another 6 weeks of chaos.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Human Statue of Liberty


A friend sent Dean this cool old picture from WWI - 18,000 soldiers posed in order to form a giant picture of the Statue of Liberty. I looked it up, and it's not a fake, either; here is more information about it. It was done as part of a campaign to sell war bonds.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

James and the pink angora sweater



This is how James got himself ready for bed one day last week. He's wearing green pyjamas ("green zipper", as he calls them) with the pink sweater on top. Then on his head he's wearing a large yellow towel, sort of Arab-style, with a black tophat on top. Then he wound a maroon scarf around his neck. And you can't see it in the picture, but when I started pulling the layers off, I discovered that he was also wearing knitted mitts. It really is not that cold in the house, but he really wanted to bundle up, and he crawled into Thomas's bed with Tigger.

He had his 13th birthday a few days ago - it's hard to believe he's a real teenager now. To me, he's still just a baby.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Laughing My Heart Off

This thread at the Comics Curmudgeon is too funny not to share. It started with a stupid Family Circus comic strip, where little Jeffy apparently thinks his heart is located in his ass. It took a little while to get going, but at about comment #80 people began thinking up song titles, book titles, etc. that contain the word "heart" and substituting "ass". It's rather like the pants game, but more restricted. If you have a few minutes to spare, and nobody around who'll be annoyed by the sound of your laughing, go check it out.

Myself, I quite liked "Your Cheatin' Ass" and "The Ass Is A Lonely Hunter." I think country & western titles would be a gold mine for a game like this.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A good Regehr film

Lest anyone think that all of Duncan Regehr's movies are terrible, I want to recommend one very good one: The Monster Squad from 1987. It was just released to dvd for the first time this summer, as it's the 20th anniversary, and in the intervening years it has attained a cult status. I never saw or even heard of this movie when it came out; I think I was just in the wrong demographic, and I'd have figured it to be a kids' movie. WEll, strictly speaking it IS a kids' movie, as it revolves around a bunch of kids saving the world from monsters, but it's a lot of fun for adults too. It was made with a lot of care, with beautiful colour in the photography, and the special effects still stand up well even after all these years. The script is funny and witty, too, and the kids are quite believable (especially when it comes to some swearing and decidedly non-PC dialogue).

Regehr plays Dracula, and he's a very VERY good Dracula. Not at all silly or cheesy; yeah, the role's a bit campy, it has to be with such a history, and it's played strictly according to the book - long cape (red on the inside), high collar, smooth black hair - but he can still do it without being a caricature. This IS Dracula; if other people haven't realized until now how very serious long black capes and high collars are, well, that's their problem, not his!

The story is completely silly, but lots of fun - all the Universal Studios monsters have been summoned by Dracula to help him destroy this magic amulet which keeps the powers of evil at bay. Frankenstein, The Wolfman, The Mummy and the Gill Man (Creature from the Black Lagoon) all join forces on this project. The makeup and costumes are really great, and the monsters all look slightly different from their originals, but still clearly the same. Tom Noonan plays a very tender-hearted Frankenstein who ends up helping the kids. I won't tell you any more of the plot, because it will just sound so silly you won't want to watch it. But I really recommend it; and if you have kids, I'll bet they'd like it too. Emma watched it with me and laughed at all the right places, and she's never even seen the original monster movies it's paying tribute to. It doesn't matter, though; she KNOWS who they are just because they're such cultural icons.

Oh, and Wolfman's got nards.

Baby saw a bad, bad movie

Killer Buzz (aka "Flying Virus"). I had one reason for watching this movie, and it wasn't a good enough one: Duncan Regehr was in it. (My sister said, "Oooh, now you're collecting Duncan Regehr movies?" "Yeah, well, I don't think I'll go broke doing it.")

You know things are going to be bad when the first line of the film contains the words "Kyoto Agreement". The (hehe) plot concerns a spunky journalist (Gabrielle Anwar) who is covering a story in the Amazon rainforest about tensions between Brazilian tribesmen who object to Americans polluting their land to get oil. Did you know that Brazil is an oil-producing country? Neither did I, but never mind. I guess they couldn't get permission to film in Venezuela, so the story is set in Brazil, but by golly, it's OIL that's the root of all evil (at least when there are Americans in the story), so Brazil is going to have vast oil reserves.

It starts off with intrepid reporter Anne Bauer on location with her cameraman Raka. The cleancut State Department guy who's overseeing this oil project is named Scotty, and just as he asks her out to dinner in Brasilia the project is attacked by a gang of loincloth-clad bushmen armed with spears, bows and arrows and blowpipes. Wave after wave of machinegun-toting American commandos are mowed down by flying spears and flaming arrows before they can manage to get off a single shot. Of course, they obligingly stand upright and go running across clearings even though they are surrounded on all sides by bushes and buildings, so it makes it a bit easier for the natives to take aim. And boy, can they aim! Every dart kills a soldier, and every flaming arrow hits a can of gasoline, causing an explosion which kills a few more Americans. Heck, a flaming arrow only has to hit the GROUND to cause an explosion; this is sort of the Jed Clampett method of getting oil - just shoot at the ground and it comes gurgling up. I guess in basic training, these guys were told that if their clothes catch fire, they should go flailing across country, until they find another barrel of gasoline to catch hold of for support. It's like watching 6 Denethors charging across the screen at one time.

Finally someone figures out how to take off the safety catch, and the Americans start shooting back. Eventually the natives are driven back. The next scene shows Raka filming the carnage at evening, while elegiac Samuel Barber-style music softly mourns. Funny, despite the ass-kicking the Americans took at the outset, the only bodies to be seen are natives, looking pathetically defenseless and unarmed on the ground. For some reason, Anne decides that there is a secret in the woods that both sides are after, so she drags Raka back into the woods after dark. A pattern is set: Anne makes Raka help her in some dangerous mission, then she greets every suggestion and comment he offers with arch skepticism, as if SHE's the one who needs convincing! It gets really annoying, but I think it's so we can admire Gabrielle Anwar's pouting overbite.

Cut to the chase: bad commandos come after them in a jeep, and Anne runs madly through the woods waving her flashlight. Way to go, girl, and they'll NEVER find you! As she goes, she LITERALLY stumbles over the main plot point: sinister buzzing boxes of nefarious killer bees. She takes a bullet in the shoulder, bees start buzzing around her, then she loses consciousness and turns up in a hospital room where Dr. Creepy...oops, I mean Dr. North (David Naughton) is babbling to nobody at all that the beestings that should have killed her appear instead to have produced rapid tissue regeneration and accelerated healing. He sneaks out when her estranged husband Martin (Craig Sheffer) appears. They launch into about 8 minutes of bickering, while Dr. North heads off to the jungle and manages to find and abscond with a box of bees, which he then loads onto a plane to New York, where he plans to make a fortune with Wonderbee Serum. Martin is on the same plane, having been thrown out of the hospital room by Anne - the only time I really liked her.

Then it's back to the adventures of Anne and Raka. Oh, I forgot to mention, when she leaves the hospital, she's greeted on the street by Raka and a "Happy Bar Mitzvah" sign that he's strung up on the wall to celebrate. He said they didn't have anything more appropriate to the situation, but Dean and I both thought it was typical that some Hollywood type would think that THIS is a plausible gag in a place like Brazil. I think you'd be more likely to find a sign that reads "Happy Diwali" than "Happy Bar Mitzvah" out there, if you could even find one in English.

Back to the jungle they go, in search of the mysterious "Shadow People" - the Amazon warriors who are causing such headaches for the State Department. Incidentally, you'd never know that Brazil has a government at all, or that the U.S. maintains an Embassy in that country. Nope, the whole place is run by one solitary State Department guy in a office that doesn't even have a secretary. And the Americans are allowed to just have all the oil, too; the Brazilians don't seem to care about it at all.

Now another character appears - a wombat-crazy militia guy named Ezekiel, who seems to have unlimited men, helicopters and firepower at his disposal. Believe it or not, he's played by Rutger Hauer, but he looks uncannily like Michael Moore. I expect to see him flinging a few grenades into the head offices of GM at every moment. We don't know just why, but he's also hunting for the Shadow People, and is not very dainty in his methods. Brazil has the most inflammable grass huts in the world, and we also discover that he's in charge of the nefarious Operation Hunny Pot. The deadly bees are unleashed on helpless native villages, and kill everyone, then they promptly drop dead themselves, making them a perfect weapon. Ezekiel is often seen with a revolver in one hand, and a little black book in the other; somehow, I don't think it's the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Finally, Anne and Raka are found by the Shadow People, who are led by a mysterious white man named (I kid you not) Saviour (Duncan Regehr). This is quite a cliche of Western literature and cinema - native people are well-meaning but disorganized. It takes a white man to turn them into a potent force. And sure enough, the Shadow People have been upsetting American plans to plough through the jungle to get that oil. Dear Mr. Regehr is a strikingly handsome man and a fine actor, but he's singularly ill-served by scriptwriters. He has to deliver what must be the most idiotic speech in the entire movie:
I'm trying to save a region that's being systematically destroyed by your kind. Pollution from your factories is KILLING our people. Poisoning our river, driving us from our land; you're killing us for your precious oil. This is one small example of your government's policy of sacrificing the environment for corporate greed.
Frankly, I think the writers should be commended for their restraint. This movie is over 90 minutes long, and they managed to get through the whole thing without ONCE saying "Bush".

But the bees...oh, yeah! The bees! On the plane. Well, the bees get loose and sting a number of people, including Dr. North, and Martin takes control of the situation in the cabin by getting everyone into First Class and sealing the bees into Coach by means of blankets and duct tape. No wonder they're pissed off. Millions of bees, and just one toilet. The other passengers include a nerdy kid with glasses and a laptop computer, two California surfing babes, and a caustic Bill Maher wannabe who is not only selfish and rude, but makes some RACIST remarks to the attractive black flight attendant, who promptly grabs him by the nuts and drags him back to his seat while delivering a lecture on appropriate airplane behaviour, then sends him into blessed oblivion by hammering him in the head with the seat tray. The only thing missing was the entire cabin erupting in cheers - maybe they had to cut that because it was running long.

Now, to tie these disparate themes together: Ezekiel and the commandos raid the village and capture Saviour, Raka and Anne. Raka is mysteriously knocked out by a blowgun dart just as Ezekiel is about to kill him. The big boss of the operation shows up and is none other than...tada! Scotty! The one-man State Department dictator of the Brazilian Amazon. It's all for the oil, of course. And no, he's NOT running a rogue operation here, this is all one of those covert U.S. government dealies. The bees are part of the master plan to clear the troublemakers out of the area so the oil interests can have their way with the land. Scotty orders the bee-bearing plane to be shot down, and Ezekiel passes the order along to one of his men who launches a MISSILE at the stricken passenger plane. Scotty and Co. then suit up as they prepare to unleash the deadly bees on the survivors, when Saviour reveals that he's discovered an antidote to the bee venom, and they've all been innoculated with it (that was the blow dart that hit Raka). It's the ANTIDOTE that causes the tissue regeneration, not the beestings. Then he rips open Scott's protective clothing, warriors hiding in the bushes blow darts that do the same to the other Americans' suits, the bees are released and it's Sayonara, Uncle Sam.

Now we just have to save the plane. Nerdy Kid uses his laptop computer to create multiple ID signals for the plane, which confuses the missile and it blows up just to the right of the plane. But the fuel tanks are now leaking and they have to land as soon as they're clear of the mountains. Martin charges down the plane and fastens a rope around his waist to a handrail; he opens the rear door so the bees will be sucked out, but he's sucked out too and is dangling by a rope out the side of the plane. Nerdy Kid drags him back in, then a flight attendant casually stands in the doorway and pulls the door shut again. Meanwhile, the pilot has been stung by a bee, and so Martin has to land the plane out in a field. He does it without even losing a wheel, even though they're running over several trees along the way.

Saviour, Anne and Raka arrive with the antidote for everyone who's been stung, and so the ranch was saved.

If you don't believe me, here is the trailer:

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bums 1, Decent Folk 0

We had another Mountie killed yesterday - just a 20-year old kid, on his first assignment. All alone on duty up in a village in Nunavut; with no backup, he was sent to investigate a drunk driver who'd crashed his car into his own house. When he got there, the drunk shot and killed him.

Here's the story.
Pingoatuk Kolola - known as "Ping" to everyone in Kimmirut - was charged Wednesday in Iqaluit, about 120 kilometres north of Kimmirut, where he remains in custody accused of shooting the rookie Mountie.

Kolola is a maintenance worker with the Kimmirut Housing Association. He lived with his pregnant girlfriend, Olittua Judea, and their nine-month-old son, Adam, in a new neighbourhood of homes on a windswept hill overlooking the main village on the southern shore of Baffin Island.
Let's see what else we know about this fine, upstanding citizen. At the moment, his girlfriend is working on illegitimate child Number 6. He's got 4 other kids by some other girlfriend he never married. He'd had one earlier brush with the law 5 years ago: "He pleaded guilty to one count of assault for an attack on his girlfriend and was sentenced to 45 days in jail and one year of probation."
Alcohol was a factor in that incident, the court heard.
You don't say? And this time around?
"Ping is a quiet guy," said Pitsiulala Padluq, a woman who works at the village's Co-op store, "but that night he was drunk and he and his girlfriend were fighting and arguing."

So. He's living in a dry community, but he's out getting drunk and fighting with his pregnant girlfriend. Then he's caught driving drunk with the nine-month old baby in the car (we found that out in a later story) and ends up crashing the vehicle when he reaches home. Where was the mother, by the way? Was she left at home during all this? Did he get drunk, ditch the mother somewhere and drive home alone with the baby? Did they go out together with the baby in tow, drinking and fighting and then drive home? Is the baby OK? Was the mother sober and let a drunk drive off with her child, or was she drunk too?

I don't know what they do up in Nunavut, but we have a name for people like this down here:

BUMS


But do you suppose we're going to hear anything that "judgmental" in this case? Whenever you read that this happened in "a very small community, very tight-knit community," (pop. 400) and the accused is related to half the town, you know that there will be a brief outbreak of pious sympathy for the dead, then a closing of ranks to protect one of "ours" against the outsiders.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Braxton's Lear - Blessed Are The Chic

StandFirm yesterday linked to this rollicking piece on the downfall of evangelicals, the Right, the Republican Party, and people who go to Applebee's on Mother's Day.
Even in Kansas, the right-wing so-called Christians are falling into disarray. The old religious right leaders like Falwell and Kennedy are dead.
And it's a judgment on them! You see what happens when you put yourself on the wrong side of progress? You get old and you die! It's a special fate only reserved for the benighted.
Terry Fox, one of the most powerful preachers in the Southern Baptist Convention, finally got asked to leave his church after people hung their heads and muttered, “Oh no, there he goes again, 52 straight weeks about abortion.”

The guy’s now preaching in a lonesome Best Western.

A Psalm of Josh

O Lord, why do you afflict me?
Why do you send so-called "prophets" like Nathan
To harsh my mellow when I'm getting jiggy?
Lo, he doth flap his gums from everlasting to everlasting
And is a very buzzkill.
The Lord hath seen my carbon footprint and rejoiced;
The Lord hath struck down the Republicans in the wall-to-wall carpet of their chain hotels;
And I will dwell amid polished hardwood and stained-glass windows and bitchin silk and metallic thread on unbleached linen vestments all the days of my life.
Rudolph Giuliani, the apparent Republican front-runner for president in an extremely weak field, has been known to wear dresses and camp it up; after his then-wife threw him out of Gracie Mansion, the New York mayor’s official residence, he took up with a Gay couple and lived with them for a few months.

He's also been known to publicly keep a mistress, but who cares about that? "He took up with a Gay couple"! (Interesting capitalization; I guess "Gay" is a nationality now.) Most of us would say, "After his wife threw him out, he moved in with friends," But I guess it's different if your friends are homosexual. Then, you don't turn to them for sympathy and a welcoming place to live instead of going to an anonymous hotel. You "take up with them".

It's odd that I'm so familiar with Rudy Giuliani's personal life, since I don't even live in New York. But I read all this stuff while it was happening because I was following another little story that was going on at the same time - something called 9/11. But at least Josh has HIS priorities straight (no pun intended) and remembers the important stuff.
If he wins the GOP nomination, the religious right will never have been less relevant.

He's counting on your vote, Josh.
The Times article notes that evangelicals split with mainline Protestants a hundred years ago over that awful evolution.
And NOW they're paying for it! Who says we liberal Protestants don't believe in original sin?
Meanwhile the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion go through incredible contortions trying to figure out how to appease homophobic bigots and Gay people—first one group, then the other. It’s pointless.

It's so nice the way Nature neatly divides humanity into two groups - "Gay people" and "homophobic bigots". So much easier to keep track that way. That's Evolution at work right there - everything evolves into simpler and simpler life forms.
We don’t take that gorgeous Hebrew meditation (Genesis 1) on God as Creator and the supremacy of the weekly Sabbath—the finest PowerPoint ever written—as if it were somehow a scientific statement. It was never intended that way—and the writer would laugh at people who think God can be confined to ink-smudges on paper.

That's because we're the REAL Original Intent people! We go right back to what the author intended. Except when it comes to Bible passages regarding homosexuality - then those Stone Age, pre-science morons just have to be ignored.
Episcopalians know God as the pulsing, breathing, intimate and personal life-force epitomized in the self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
A pulsing, throbbing life-force... intimate...breathing...gasping... Oh, oh, it's...it's getting a little hot in here... Excuse me, I think I'm going to go lie down for awhile.