Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hectic week

It's been a busy week. Renovations on Bathroom #2 began on Tuesday, with a complete gutting of the room. Then we had to wait for two days for the walls to DRY OUT, because the insulation was so poor, and the shower so old, condensation had left the walls just BLACK. I set a fan going in there, to speed things up. As usual whenever one disturbs walls, a dozen or so very stupid flies appeared from somewhere. This always seems to happen - I guess they hibernate behind the walls somewhere, and then wake up when the warmth hits them, but the funny thing is that they're always STUPID. They don't fly away when you come after them with a fly swatter, they just continue to buzz dumbly at the window. I think they're last year's model of fly. They should have died with the others in the fall but accidentally got trapped in the house, and now they're only functioning on about 1/4 brain power.

James is getting wound up about this bathroom again - he calls it "Special Bathroom". The truth is, he's still holding out hope that we're constructing for him a sort of Water Tank, like Teller uses for his magic trick, and that he'll be able to fill it up ("Big Water") and float around inside it, looking out through glass sides. It's hard to explain that that's not what we have in mind, but you don't dare just flatly say "NO!" or he'll be infuriated and uncomprehending.

Speaking of James, I had a phone interview with his teacher (report cards are coming out), and there was mention under "behaviour" of an increase in "inappropriate touching" (of himself, not of the teachers). Well, you know teenage boys, and James has absolutely NO sense of shame, so this is something that we have to try to reduce through reminder, until it fades down a bit. Though when Dean and I were discussing it, Dean said, "I don't understand the problem. 'Inappropriate touching?' Why don't they just TELL him, 'James, stop picking your nose', and give him a Kleenex! I'm sure that'll stop the problem right there!"

Dean was sent by his department to take a 2-day St. John's Ambulance first-aid course, and it turned out to be much more complicated than we expected. I thought it would be just how to stop bleeding cuts and how to administer an epi-pen, but he came home after the first day, and said that they'd been learning about AMPUTATIONS! Now, I misunderstood, and thought that he meant they'd been teaching HIM how to amputate limbs, but in fact, they'd been learning how to cope with people who've somehow undergone an unexpected amputation (sliced off the fingers with the paper-cutter, that sort of thing). Even so, that's still pretty gross. I said that it sounds like Dean and his fellow-students are being trained to be "first responders" in the event of some sort of terrorist attack - of course, I was still imagining poor Dean having to amputate a leg while trying to extricate someone who's pinned down in a collapsed building. Dean had a nightmare that night, that he was trying to escape from a bomb-rigged unmanned car that terrorists had unleashed against him!

Oh, and at one point, the teacher was educating them on how to keep the patient calm and reassured at all times. You don't LIE to them, but keep saying that help is coming, it'll be alright, etc. Dean asked if "Do you have any last words?" would count as reassuring, and got a decided no. I told him that I would lump that along with "Do you want a priest?" as comments to avoid when trying to calm someone down.

In honour of Earth Hour

This evening from 8:00 to 9:00 is Earth Hour, when "the world" (otherwise known as 250,000 Deeply Concerned rich westerners) will be reducing power consumption. Magic Statistics has worked out the, well, statistics, and he's using the figure of 55,000 Canadians who've signed up for this charade; the article I read in the Citizen only mentioned 45,000. Nevertheless, it's about 0.17 percent of Canada's population who are planning to save the Earth this evening; the worldwide statistic would be even more embarrassing.

To honour Earth Hour, this evening in our house, every light will be blazing, three TVs will be operating, as well as two computers, a fridge and a deepfreeze. I may pick that hour to roast some coffee, too - it's my usual time. There's a good chance someone will take a shower during that hour, too. Since it's a special occasion, I might go around and replace a few burnt-out lightbulbs, too. Of course, that's pretty much the way it is EVERY evening at our house, where 5 people are simultaneously vying for entertainment, education, work and there's a little fraternal conflict thrown in, just to make it interesting.

UPDATE: We're halfway through Earth Hour, and as I predicted, lights are on and TVs are roaring away. Maybe I should go put on a load of laundry. I just remembered something - a month ago, Britain tried out "E-Day", a similar attempt to reduce energy consumption over 24 hours. Sinclair's Musings live-blogged it, and I couldn't stop laughing. By the end of the day, the British had managed to INCREASE energy consumption by 2% over the normal rate!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Creeping Sharia Watch: Muslims should be seen and not heard

That seems to be the opinion of The Citizen's religion writer, Jennifer Green, in this post on her blog (it was also printed in this morning's Citizen).
The Vatican has always had a sublime talent for getting its message across without saying a word. So what is Pope Benedict really communicating by baptizing a Muslim convert who mouthed off about his former faith?
Excuse me? Mouthed off? MOUTHED OFF???

Let's try that sentiment again, transposed into a higher key:
So what is President Reagan really communicating by insituting a special day to honour Martin Luther King, Jr., a black leader who mouthed off about civil rights?
Or maybe
So what is Stephen Harper really communicating by urging China to "use restraint" in dealing with Tibetan monks who mouthed off about oppression in their homeland?
Just what is GREEN "really communicating" by her mealy-mouthed complaint that the Pope of Rome, IN ROME, should watch his step when carrying out his duties to his own flock?

Let me try to answer her question: He's communicating that we Catholics are VERY HAPPY that another person has become a Catholic. We are CELEBRATING. We think it is a GOOD THING to be a Christian.

This insinuation that if a person absolutely HAS TO convert from Islam to Christianity, he should at least do it in a shamefaced, hole-in-a-corner way, and keep it as secret as possible because otherwise the dogs will start snarling and baring their teeth, is offensive and outrageous. It's as offensive as insisting that a woman with a violent, jealous ex-husband should have to keep her remarriage a secret.

Becoming a Christian is a thing to rejoice over. There are places where such an act can't be done publicly, and it has to be done furtively: Saudi Arabia is one. But the bandit-law of sharia has no power in Rome, and Benedict XVI is not willing to let the dog in the manger rule in his house.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The rise of the declinist

There's an excellent opinion piece in today's Ottawa Citizen by Andrew Potter, commenting on the fashionable pessimism, not to say nihilism, abroad in the West today. It's been around for awhile, but the current fad for "global warming climate change" seems to have pulled all the threads together into one great theology of WOE AND DOOM.
Let us call these people "declinists," and their animating philosophy "declinism." What motivates declinism is an attitude so pessimistic that it is almost theological: not only are things worse than they used to be, but they're getting worse with every passing year. Furthermore, the declinist believes that the various strategies that are usually proposed for making things better -- the promotion of liberal democracy, technological development and economic growth -- cannot be the solution to our problems, since they are actually the cause. That is, it is the principles that underwrite modernity itself that are the problem.
As the writer says, this is a quasi-theological phenomenon, primarily among rich, de-Christianized westerns, and the Episcopal and Anglican churches provide a handy portrait of the kind of people who champion this new gospel. First, God is completely absent, except as a rhetorical device (he's the one who made us "stewards" of the earth, and now he can go). Secondly, everything we do is of overwhelming importance - the whole world trembles with every tin can we throw in the garbage. Thirdly, we are heroic, rare and unusual - the vast majority of the world is against us, but we battle on against great odds, carrying the Light of Truth. The drama concludes with a satisfying Götterdämmerung, where the evil perish and take the good down with them. A Christian wouldn't like this sort of ending, but these aren't Christians, they are deracinated pagans, and so they forego even the hope of Valhalla, and brood on the coming darkness that will envelop us all - they, of course, will face death nobly, and that will be their satisfaction. In fact, it proves their superiority, because they don't indulge in the weakness of after-life fantasies; they are Nietzschean supermen and women, who can gaze steadfastly into the abyss without flinching.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Snatching the human rights football away

Haroon Siddiqui had an indignant column in Sunday's Toronto Star on the subject of the Human Rights Commissions and their tendancy to trample free speech rights. His argument that Mark Steyn, Ezra Levant and Maclean's have no real case against the HRC's fascist tactics is a little circular; his "proof" of the legitimacy of the quashing of free speech in Canada consists of...a list of cases in which a HRC quashed free speech.
They argue that human rights commissions have no business limiting free speech.

But by law it is the business of several of these tribunals to assess and curb hate speech:

In 1996 and again in 1997, the B.C. Human Rights Commission ruled against the suburban weekly North Shore News for publishing anti-Semitic columns. The writer, Doug Collins, said the verdict was "a direct threat to the freedom of the press."

In 2002, the federal commission ruled against the notorious Ernst Zundel, ordering him to remove anti-Semitic material from a website. His lawyer, Doug Christie, characterized the ruling as a threat to freedom of speech.

In 2002, the Alberta Human Rights Commission ruled against the magazine Alberta Report for spreading prejudice against Jews. The magazine agreed to give adequate space for a rebuttal. Still, publisher Link Byfield complained about limits on free expression.

Last December, the Alberta commission ruled against a Christian pastor, Stephen Boissoin, for a letter published in the Red Deer Advocate, calling gays "immoral."
The federal commission is looking into a complaint against Catholic Insight magazine for publishing anti-gay articles. Its editors condemned "the nefarious role of human rights commissions in suppressing freedom of speech."

The pattern is clear.
Yes, the pattern is clear, to anyone who can think logically: these kangaroo courts corrupt everything they touch, and cannot control themselves. But Siddiqui can only see the big, seemingly concrete-like existence of the status quo, and to him, that proves his case. Censorship exists, and so it MUST exist. The whole idea of correcting an abuse does not seem even to occur to him.

Ezra Levant is generous, granting that Siddiqui has a point when he complains
There was little or no hue and cry when human rights commissions were ruling on complaints by various groups, but there is when the complainants are Muslim.
Siddiqui thinks that all the rest of us were having a great time playing "Whack a Bigot", until the Muslims showed up to play, too. Then we all heard our moms calling, and had to go home for dinner.

In fact, as Levant points out, this abuse WAS going on, low-key and unremarked, purely because the human rights racketeers had cannily confined themselves to far-out and generally disliked targets for their brutal little bloodsport. The Muslims, displaying the strategic genius that has so distinguished them in their wars against the Israelis, blew the game by picking high-profile, mainstream Canadians for their targets. Suddenly, it's no longer a case of torturing a squirrel in a corner - the HRC now has a full-blown battle with an armoured bear on its hands.

Had the Muslims followed the example of Richard Warman, and gone hunting for pigeons among the unemployed, unlikeable and unsuccessful, they'd have been able play the game as effectively as he has. But this sort of small deer isn't very satisfying for people who have the sort of grandiose fantasies encouraged by Islam. They want the grand theatrical thrill that comes from humbling giants, not swatting bugs. And so they launched themselves on their little legal jihad, only to find that they have a genuine fight on their hands.

Siddiqui also doesn't seem to recognize the phenomenon of the cause célèbre. He's like an American in 1955, saying indignantly, "But blacks have sat at the back of the bus for YEARS! And nobody raised a fuss at all! Suddenly this Rosa Parks comes along, and people start insisting that we change the rules! What about me? What about MY right to degrade a black person? You've had your fun, equality means that I should have a chance too!"

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Swan of Newark - I wants to make your flesh creep

It's been some time since we've visited the famed Victorian Lady Novelist, the Swan of Newark. But society is abuzz with the scandalous news: it turns out she is a heartless FLIRT! It was only two weeks ago that she plighted her troth, in the most affecting terms, to the dashing Hillary Clinton.
Okay, so shoot me. If it isn't already abundantly clear, I'm for Ms. Hillary as the Democratic Candidate for the next President of these United States.
It's so cute to listen to people talk about that other special person when they're in the first flush of enthusiasm. All that extravagant emotion and bubbling excitement.
She's highly intelligent, politically savvy, experienced, seasoned and tested.

And, yes. She's a Bitch.

Put a 'capitol B' on that word, please. Because of all of the adjectives above.

But, alas! How fickle is the heart of a novelist!

Only two weeks later, and she's about to run away with a travelling man, the well-known and captivating Mr. Barack O'Jingle.

"Tell me these rumours are not true, Elizabeth!" exclaimed Hillary, her voice gruff with emotion.

"I'm sorry, Hillary, but Mr. O'Jingle has won my heart!"

"But we have been destined for each other since the cradle! Pray, pray reflect. Think of our many years of patient waiting for this day - will you throw it all aside for the sake of a...a...mountebank?"

"Have a care, Hillary - you speak of things you cannot know. Of a love that is pure and sensitive! Of a love that dare not..."

"Yes, yes, I know," snapped Hillary, a frown creasing her stern features. "But I tell you this - you will never know happiness with Mr. O'Jingle. He is a bounder, I tell you! Why, it's already known that he keeps a pastor in Chicago, and who knows where else? He will toss you aside on November 5, 2008."

"Enough, Hillary!" cried the Lady Novelist, rising to her feet and sweeping proudly across the room. "You forget yourself. I will listen to no more slanders!"

At that moment, the door opened and the graceful figure of Mr. O'Jingle surged into the room.

"Loud talk--voices raised--forces of divisiveness--very."

"I won't let them take me away from you!" wailed the Lady Novelist, hurling herself into the arms of Mr. O'Jingle.

"Believe the change--wait to hope--believe to wait--hope the change--we's the wheeze we's waiting for..."

"Don't be a fool, Elizabeth!" snarled Hillary, whose virile features were contorted with jealousy and rage. "He promises you a grand white house, where I can only offer you a humble cottage in Westchester, but he only wants you for your vote! Come back to me, and all will be forgiven."

"Never!" cried the Lady Novelist. "I can no longer endure the burdens of an arranged marriage. I hearby break our engagement! I will follow my heart, out into the wilderness if need be, but never alone. Mr. O'Jingle and I will live on eloquence and reparations payments if need be, and I will face the future with him...unafraid!"

And casting a little cloak about her shoulders, she took Mr. O'Jingle's hand, and together they went out to brave the harshness of a Democratic Convention.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Oh, just hurry up and give him the Order of Canada and get it over with!

The Ottawa Citizen is making a meal of Robert Latimer's release from prison and arrival in Ottawa. We've been treated to stories about him every day since Saturday, and no end in sight. This reminds me of last year's Maher Arararama - they all but created a separate section of the newspaper to hymn the praises of Maher Arar, whose distinction was to be refused entry to the U.S., and obliged to sojourn among his Muslim brethren, who treated him like shit.

Now we've got the endless Latimer sob-story going on in our midst, with the usual letters to the editor complaining about what a hard-hearted society we are, because he was convicted and sent to jail for killing his handicapped daughter.

Latimer himself strikes me as a Canadian version of Cindy Sheehan - dim as a post, and impelled by vague emotions which he fluthers out in public. He's not even campaigning on behalf of euthanasia or a "right to die" law, which would at least give some meaning to his media coverage.
After serving seven years in prison, he said his sole focus is to clear his name. His main hope is that Justice Minister Rob Nicholson will order a new jury trial. "It's the only thing that can set me free. No judge would ever have done it."
Hello? Latimer? YOU DID THE DEED. No one snuck into your house and killed your daughter; you were convicted because killing someone is a crime, and you did it. Your name is as "clear" as it's ever going to be. What you want is to collect a jury that will lie in your favour.
"Obviously a jury should be able to consider whether what I did was right or wrong," he said. "And I've never had a jury like that.
"Obviously", you are an idiot. A jury's job is to consider the facts, and decide what happened. They're like scientists in that way. If there's a law against something, all the deciding over whether something is right or wrong has been done already - it's wrong. If you want to explore the matter further, the place to go is called "a church". And judging by the answer you're hunting for, I recommend you avoid the Catholics. Try the Anglicans.

UPDATE: I'm gonna hate myself for this, but...

Bathroom reno, part I - finished!

At last! The main bathroom upstairs is fully functional! The walk-in shower is beautiful, the floor drain works well, the sink looks lovely (even though we haven't installed the shroud yet). The only thing to be done now is wait for the glass door to be made for the shower, and figure out where to put a few towel bars and shelves. Oh, and we're waiting for a new door to the room - I want a solid wood one, not the usual cheap hollow ones that we have throughout the house.

James is thrilled to pieces - he must have taken a dozen showers over the weekend, just to experience it. Thomas took a little longer (he doesn't like new things), but eventually came round, and now he likes it too.

They were supposed to start working on the second bathroom this week, but some other job was running overtime, so we postponed it for one week. Just as well; OUR job took 4 weeks instead of 3 (from an initial estimate of 2!) and I was really getting worn out with all the workmen in the house every day. I need a week to decompress.

While things are becoming more beautiful upstairs, James continues his criminal career DOWNSTAIRS. On Sunday, he managed to rip the door off the downstairs bathroom! We didn't hear a thing - he pulled the hinges right out of the doorframe, and the next thing we knew, Thomas was fluttering over saying "Oh, no!", and there was James, carrying the door. The hinges must have been loose, but still - he's very adept at finding a way to lever things, and he must have popped out the top hinge, then just pushed it at an angle to get the other hinge off. This is why I'm planning to replace ALL the doors inside.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Life imitates SCTV


SCTV fans will surely remember Tex and Edna Boil's Prairie Warehouse and Curio Emporium. This is very much along the same lines, though I think Edna was a better saleswoman than the lady here.

There's one thing I noted at the end - there's a phone number with the area code 250. That's the same area code as my aunts in Victoria! And they're singing a song about the Ogopogo at the end, and then a little Ogopogo graphic crawls across the screen. The Ogopogo is a sea monster said to live in Okanagan Lake, where we spent our summers as kids.

This commercial is...is...CANADIAN!!!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Casanova (1927) - two more clips

I uploaded 2 more clips from "Casanova" (1927) - basically the last 9 minutes of the movie. I wish they were a little less blurry, but this is an old movie, and it hasn't been restored the way the German Expressionist films have been, so the picture is already a little soft to begin with.

The first one shows Casanova escaping from The Leads - the terrible prison in Venice, just as Carnival gets into full swing. The 3 guys who are picked up at sea and come running to the prison with the warning were the officers who were responsible for delivering the death sentence; Casanova's friends abducted them, then impersonated them to get into the prison and pass him a file to saw through the bars.

I love the camerawork in this bit - very adventurous for the time, as was typical of the Russians. Watch the way the camera starts to move with the crowd - fast pans to the left and right, as the crowd surges in the opposite direction. And then it's right down at eye level, looking up at someone on stilts, with faces and masks pushing right up against the lens. It gives a real sense of action and excitement. And of course, there's Mosjoukine, who escapes from his cell, then runs madly to freedom. It's too blurred in this clip, so you can't see it well, but at about 3:00 you see a wonderful shot of Casanova running right along the roofrail on top of the palace, and even jumping with joy at being free again.

The second clip follows right on this one, and shows Casanova's final escape from the soldiers and from Venice. He says goodbye to Thérèse in a very emotional scene - Mosjoukine was famous for being able to cry on cue, and he had the most extraordinary clear eyes. Myself, I've always loved his hands - very expressive. Look at the way he approaches the girl, then instead of embracing her as you expect, just cups her face in his hands. So romantic.

Of course, the music by Georges Delerue is wonderful, especially the closing theme, which only appears in this scene, and nowhere else in the movie.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Braxton's Lear - Danger, Gene Robinson! Warning! Warning!

Gene Robinson has garnered a well-deserved Braxton's Lear for his 5-hanky blub to the House of Bishops on being told that he's the ONLY ONE not invited to Sheri's birthday party Lambeth.

Not since Dr. Zachary Smith skulked aboard the Jupiter 2 has there been so much pain (on the part of the performer, that is. That of the audience exceeds it by several magnitudes.)
I want to be clear than I am not here to whine. I learned of the result of this negotiation on Friday evening. I have been in considerable pain every since. (The pain!)

But I want to acknowledge that I am not the first or last person to be in pain at a House of Bishops meeting. (Oh, William!)

My own pain was sufficient enough that for 36 hours I felt the compelling urge to run, to flee.
The offer to be hosted at the Marketplace is a non-offer. That is already available to me. One workshop on one afternoon and being interviewed by the secular press was not anything I was seeking. I wasn't going to Lambeth to have another interview with the secular press. If interviewed at all, I want to talk with a theologian. I want to talk about the love of Christ. I want to talk about the God who saved me and redeemed me and continues to live in my life. I want to talk about the Jesus I know in my life.
Management knows that this offer is unacceptable! We have negotiated in good faith, and we will not settle for one satellite minute less than what we are entitled to! If management does not return to the table with a SERIOUS offer, the shop stewards bishops will have no alternative but to call out the workers.
But my mind boggles at the misperception that this is just about gay rights. It might be in another context, but in this context it is about God's love of all of God's children.
Because your invitations are handwritten by God, and I didn't get one, so it means that God doesn't love me.
It's a theological discussion, it's not a media show. I have been most disappointed in that my desire was to participate in Bible study and small groups, and that is not being offered. It makes me wonder: if we can't sit around a table and study the Bible together, what kind of communion do we have and what are we trying to save?
Because I have important ideas to share, valuable insights to bestow upon the world! Don't they realize what a travesty it is to discuss the Bible without my unique viewpoint to consider?
It has been a very difficult 48 hours sitting here and hearing your plans for Lambeth.
Not that I'm jealous or anything.
Some of you have indicated that if I am not invited, you won't go either. I want to say loud and clear - you must go. You must find your voice. And somehow you have to find my voice and the voices of all the gay and lesbian people in your diocese who, for now, don't have a voice in this setting. I'd much rather be talked to than talked about. But you must go and tell the stories of your people, faithful members of your flock who happen to be lesbian and gay.
Like I said, if they'd had the decency to invite ME, I'd have talked about Jesus and all that stuff. As I won't be there, you'll just have to hold the fort with talk about homosexuality. I know you can do it.
Maybe this is what God has in mind. I had hoped to focus on the community of bishops at Lambeth, making my own contribution to its deliberations. But now, I think I will go to Lambeth thinking about gay and lesbian people around the world who will be watching what happens there.
Yup, it'll be a strain, but I'll just have to shift gears and do something I really never thought I'd have to do - think about homosexuals.
I have nothing but respect and sympathy for the Archbishop of Canterbury and the difficult place he is in. I was trying to help him, and it just didn't work.
That prancing, prurient pile of perfidious prolixity! That hideous, hirsute heap of hypocrisy! That creeping, croaking, clunking clod of conservative capitulation! Oh, the pain, the pain...

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Archbishop disdains doubletalk

Naturally, I'm talking about a Catholic archbishop, not an Anglican one, still less the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Ottawa's Archbishop Prendergast has announced that pro-abortion politicians will be barred from communion. About time. Archbishop Gervais muttered the right sounds on the subject, but never did anything about it - too accustomed to his cozy friendships with the important people in Ottawa. Sometimes an impudent priest or bishop back in the constituency would preach a stern sermon, but nothing ever disturbed the complacency of pro-abortion politicians when they are at home in Ottawa.

The writer of the article rushes to the bulging stable of Catholic crackpots and malcontents to update the archbishop of Catholic teaching:
Rosemary Ganley, co-ordinator of Catholics for a Free Choice Canada, said Archbishop Prendergast's position is wrong in canon law, and wrong in a country like Canada where church and state are separate.

"This is disappointing in the extreme, and there are many other church leaders in this country who wouldn't go as far as he did on this because they know this position isn't supportable," she said.
Yeah, why can't he be like those nice, tame Anglicans? It only took a few years to housebreak them, and now they can even do tricks!
She said canon law gives church officials the right to deny sacraments or even excommunicate if people procure or provide abortions, but it is silent on people who support the right to choose.

"There's nothing in there saying he could deny communion to people who are pro-choice," she said. "So even within the church's own terms, he's on very, very shaky ground."
He's in good company, then:
Responding to an Italian journalist who asked if politicians in Mexico City [who voted to permit first-trimester abortion] should be considered excommunicated, the pope replied: "Yes."

"The excommunication was not something arbitrary," the pope said. "It is part of the Code (of Canon Law). It is based simply on the principle that the killing of an innocent human child is incompatible with receiving communion, which is receiving the body of Christ. Thus, (the bishops) didn't do anything new or anything surprising or arbitrary."
Notice the abortion propagandist's weaselly shift, from politicians who, by an exercise of will, actively do something that will produce abortions, to the barely-present "people who support the right to choose". The Archbishop is not talking about "people" and what they "support" - he's talking about a politicians and what they DO. The Church is not grabbing Joe Catholic and flinging him up against the wall as he walks to the altar rail, in order to beat out of him his opinion on abortion and then punish him for it.
Furthermore, she said Archbishop Prendergast should realize he's in a country with a charter of rights that has been interpreted to protect a woman's right to choose, and that politicians are sworn to uphold the Constitution, which contains the charter.
So? What politician is not "upholding the Constitution" here? What does that mean? Politicians are allowed to vote against proposed laws - that's their job. Opposing things IS "upholding the Constitution". The Archbishop is being strict with Catholic politicians who help enact disgusting abortion laws, not politicians who tried and failed to stop them. These pro-abortion types seem to think that our abortion "laws" resulted from some sort of miraculous virgin birth. They're like any other law. Someone said "I think we should do this," and somebody else said, "No, we shouldn't" and the argument went on from there. The laws are passed by a combination of people who are strongly motivated, and other people who really couldn't care less. It's like the laws on banking, immigration, the environment - everything. That's how things are done. And when one side loses the argument, it doesn't mean that they must publicly recant their former ideas and become propagandists for the new status quo, and anything less is a failure to "uphold the Constitution". That sort of mental rape only happens in dictatorships and Canadian Human Rights Commissions.

Here's hoping Archbishop Prendergast will do more than just talk about barring the self-defined Catholics who bear responsibility for the abortion laws in this country. He can start with the McGuinty gang.

We're screwed, we're so screwed

That was a line from 'Galaxy Quest' - Guy as the voice of doom. It applies to us right now, in the brief moment of rest between storm waves. They've been predicting a big storm for us for two days now, but the estimates of snowfall have varied. My email alerts from The Weather Network have been lowballing it, estimating around 20cm, while the newscasters have been shamelessly catastrophizing about 40+cm, and even warning that we could be closing in on a new yearly snowfall record!

Until this morning, I was hoping that this would turn out to be a lot of hype, and the reality would be more modest, but this morning I got my email from The Weather Network and hope is gone. About 8cm fell last night, and right now nothing's happening except the wind is building. But they are predicting about 10cm will fall this afternoon, and another 20cm this evening.

We're doomed.

I didn't even post about the big snowstorm we had on Wednesday, which resulted in another snowday for the kids and pretty much paralyzed the city. I'm starting to get dizzy, trying to remember how much snow we've had this week, but I do know that there is nowhere left to put it now. The hills at the foot of the driveway are over 5' again, and another foot just falling on top will make it impossible to see out into the street. And that's not even counting what will happen when the snow ploughs come by and we have to dig out the driveway again. I think our 2-lane highway will be reduced to one, as the snow can't be lifted off the road, just pushed to the side, and one lane has already half disappeared.

Lucky me, the digital camera has gone missing right now (thanks, James!) so I can't even post photos unless it shows up again. I hope it didn't drop out of my pocket while I was shovelling on Wednesday, or else we won't see it for another two months.

UPDATE: It was BAD. They say 41cm of snow fell over the last 48 hours; in places where there was a corner, like at the side of our garage, it was drifted up to 4 feet! We shovelled out this morning; now our driveway is a narrow channel through 6' high snowwalls. Six feet! You can lie down on the ground next to the wall of snow and imagine what it's like at the bottom of a grave. There are hardly any cars driving by - I saw a lady cross-country skiing at the side of the road, and someone else riding a bicycle. I think the driveways are so clogged, people can't get their cars out, and are turning to other transportation, if they can find it. We did see some ambulances driving up and down the road - I said maybe they're just looking to pick up people who've collapsed while trying to shovel out their driveways.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Philistines

If I'd needed a reminder of how out of date I am, I found it in this morning's newspaper. This article frankly shocked me. It's about how the fashion in home decor has swung away from original artworks and over to cheap, mass-produced art.
Consumers' attitudes to artwork and wall hangings have changed big time.

That shift is driving an explosion in retail sales of inexpensive artwork and wall hangings, at least among retailers who give these things wall space.

And it's underscoring a generalized move away from buying goods that last to buying things that are inexpensive, disposable and vulnerable to the latest whims of fashion.
The article goes on to say that more retailers are carrying this sort of mass-produced art, which brings it to a wider public. In other words, it's no longer just the rich who can afford art, everyone can have it. On the face of it, this is a good thing. But it's not strictly true that hitherto the only place you could get art was at an art gallery. We've had prints and posters for generations now - people of modest means have been able to decorate their homes with this sort of popular art since the 19th century.

What's different in this article is the whole attitude to art. The people buying this stuff are no longer even vaguely conscious of it as having any inner significance. It's just something to create an effect, like curtains, and when you're tired of one effect, you switch to another.
Now, she said, spend money on home décor, and buy the art to blend in.

"That's the really big change," she said.

And because people now like to change their décor often, they don't want to be stuck with a high-priced piece of artwork in last year's colours. So they buy inexpensive stuff.

"With us being so fashion-forward, you don't want to invest a lot in art," she said. "If you decide you don't like the piece, you haven't invested a lot of money, so it's easy to change."
I've bought art in all kinds of places - galleries, auction houses, thrift stores, antique malls. One or two are genuinely worth some money - most are just amateur works that'll never be valuable. But I never buy anything unless it stops me in my tracks, and I can't stop looking at it. I'm not trained in art history or appreciation at all, but when I look at all the pictures I've chosen myself, I can see some sort of common atmosphere in them. They often have stormy skies, for example. And water, and moving trees. Certain colours come up again and again, and there are other colours that turn me off a painting, no matter what the subject. I'll bet someone who really understands art and psychology could gain insight into someone's personality, just by looking at the art that attracts them.

But the kind of art-buying described in the article could give no insight into a person's real nature. How could it? It's there for a year, then discarded. The ironic thing is that this is being touted as a way for people without lots of money to have good art. But as I said, people without much money had art before now - they couldn't buy a real Matisse, but they'd go to the art gallery to see the real thing, and then put up an exhibition poster to remind them of it afterwards, because they wanted to look at that particular piece of art. The posters were often framed and hung in the same place for years; if they'd had the money THAT is what they'd have bought, because the sense of beauty it conveyed never changed. Now, the art changes because the fashion changes; it's completely separated from anything innate to the owner.

Just a few days ago I read an interesting article by Anthony Daniels (aka Theodore Dalrymple) where he touches on this new philistinism. The buyers of Chinese inkjet-on-canvas paintings aren't as vicious as the destructive philistines he describes at the beginning, but they do sound like the portrait drawn by Joseé Ortega y Gasset of what he calls "mass man":
The picture Ortega draws of the mass man is not an attractive or flattering one, but Ortega is not a snob who simply excoriates the appalling habits and tastes of those below him in the social scale. For him, mass man is the man who has no transcendent purpose in life, who lives in an eternal present moment which he wants to make pleasurable in a gross and sensual way, who thinks that ever-increasing consumption is the end of life, who goes from distraction to distraction, who is prey to absurd fashions, who never thinks deeply and who, above all, has a venomous dislike of any other way of living but his own, which he instinctively feels as a reproach. He will not recognize his betters; he is perfectly satisfied to be as he is.

Mass man accepts no fundamental limits on his own life. Any limits that he may encounter are purely technical, to be removed by future advance. He believes that life is and ought to be a kind of existential supermarket, that an infinitude of choices is always before him, in which no choice restricts or ought ever to restrict what is possible in the future. Life for mass man is not a biography, but a series of moments, each unconnected with the next, and all deprived of larger meaning or purpose.
Daniels uses as an example from his own experience the story of a colleague at Cambridge, who teaches medical students - obviously well-educated, affluent people, or they wouldn't be there. In twenty years of teaching, only two of his students have ever heard of Chekhov.

What's ironic is that this trend toward cheap McPaintings comes now, in a society that by most standards is very wealthy. People with multiple cars and up-to-date bigscreen TVs are not so poor that they NEED to resort to generic mass-produced "art". Sure, they can't buy Old Masters, but original art is not the preserve of only millionaires. Unless, of course, these people really don't know what sort of art appeals to them, because they haven't cultivated any inner personality.

The last thing about this article that really bugs me is that it ignores another reason for buying original art: to support the artists who produce it. We all know the stories about the Renaissance, how rich noblemen and clerics were the patrons who enables the great artists to create their works. We no longer have aristocratic patrons like that, but in exchange, we have a large population that's pretty well-to-do. Now it's up to US to be the patrons.

My mother and aunts, although they weren't well-off in the 70s (they were house-poor - everything went into buying their houses) adopted this ethos, within their means. They sort of "adopted" a Vancouver/Victoria painter named Ernest Marza, partly because he was a Slav, like themselves, and his painting style really resonated with them. Between them, they must have bought about a dozen of his paintings over the years - I inherited my mother's collection. It didn't cost millions - a few hundred dollars per picture, though at a time when that was more serious money than it is now. But everyone benefitted - they had and still own art that reminded them of their Yugoslav roots, and he kept on painting (and still does today, I believe).

Obviously, if no one buys original art, fewer artists will produce it. And no one will make art if it comes to be regarded as something you put on the wall, then throw away when a prettier pattern comes along.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Arrgghhh

More news of fresh disasters: last night and this morning we were treated to a long spell of freezing rain, so the roads are coated with ice. As a result the kids' schoolbusses were cancelled for the day, so Thomas and James are home - and I have to keep them corralled downstairs while the plastering is going on in the bathroom upstairs. (Yes, that's still going on...we're up to Day uhhhh...9 or 10 I think.) And the city appears to be sold out of salt or icemelt - I went looking yesterday (knowing this ice was coming) and couldn't find any. Today I was reduced to my homemade invention - wood ashes on the ice. They don't do anything to dissolve the ice, but they DO provide terrific traction. You can walk on them like walking on earth. They're also environmentally friendly, if that matters to you - they just wash into the soil with the rain. They make a fearful mess, though.

It's been very noisy here - James and Thomas are playing duelling movies on the computer and the TV. I got on the computer for a few minutes, and turned on a cd for myself, only to have Thomas come over and rather prissily turn down the volume. Oh, what was I listening to that was so loud and annoying? "Solitudes" - sound effects of birds chirping and rain falling on a lake in the wilderness. SO disturbing. I should be ashamed of myself.

We've been watching the last of the special features on the Charlie Chan movies - the last ones were the voice commentaries by a Charlie Chan expert and one of the guys who put together the dvd collection. I didn't think they could find enough to talk about on the subject, but they were really quite interesting and informative. They said that, in our PC era, people complained that Charlie Chan was a stereotype, but they point out that in these movies, EVERYONE is a stereotype. The matriarch, the comic butler, the skeptical police superiors, the winsome innocent heroine, etc. They pointed out that one character, a young man, is wearing a hat - that immediately marks him as a newspaper man. And it's true - all reporters wear hats. You never see a young lawyer - they're always older men, with mustaches. And for all that you can find stereotypical features in the Chan character, they're balanced by rather original ones. A Chinese character as a detective WAS a new idea; prior to Chan, the typical Chinese stereotype would have been the laundryman (a convention they took advantage of and skewered in 'Charlie Chan at the Racetrack') or the sinister Fu Manchu type, in silk gown and long fingernails. People should not focus so much on minor stylistic details, and lose sight of the bigger picture (no pun intended) - Charlie Chan was a very positive portrayal of an Asian character, at a time when that was rare.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

In like a lion

Today's forecast: light flurries, high of -1C.

Yes, I'm tired. Tired of waking up to 5" of snow every morning, tired of trying to hack away compacted ice at the foot of the driveway, tired of threading my way through a 1-foot wide channel up the stairs to the front door. But just when it seems the darkest, there is this:

This is a moonflower - a white variety of morning glory that opens in the afternoon and stays open at night. For years I've tried to grow them, and never had a single success. Morning glories can usually be planted directly outside, but for some reason, these never would come up. I was in the hardware store, and saw the packets of seeds for sale, and felt so starved for some gardening, I bought one and decided to try starting it inside. It was just an experiment, because it's far too early to be starting seeds. But I wanted to see if I could just get ONE moonflower to poke above the soil. Out of 4 seeds, this one sprouted (though I think another one may be starting). Now I know it can be done. Sometime in April, I'll do this again, and then, perhaps, I can transplant a moonflower to the garden, and we'll finally get to see a flower.