Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Romanticizing suffering

This letter (from a teacher, no less) was published in yesterday's Ottawa Citizen.
Re: 'The age of scarcity,' April 25.

Thank you for making this story front-page news. I held it up for my high school students to see, and encouraged each student to keep a copy for their grandchildren, who will ask questions like: "What does a banana taste like?" and "What's a gas station?"

We are truly entering a new age. But I encouraged my students to see the bright side of this new age: our historically unprecedented comfort and consumerism have left us too independent, with equally unprecedented rates of depression, suicide and general societal malaise. Scarcity will force us to seek community, and that opens up the door to true happiness and fulfilment (and new challenges, too).

Dan Kaiser, Ottawa
This romanticizing the delights of mere subsistence is a common tone among enviromentalists. It comes exclusively from well-fed Westerners; you never hear immigrants (let alone refugees) from Third World countries speak nostalgically of the deprivation they left behind. And the virtues of living in scarcity never seem to translate into authority for those who are experiencing it right now: Westerners talk a good game about respecting Third World peoples, but that sympathy dries up pretty quickly when the conversation turns to sexual morals, about which the deprived have quite decided opinions.

This sort of flirting with disaster often comes couched in phony concern for human well-being, as we see here: "our historically unprecedented comfort and consumerism have left us too independent, with equally unprecedented rates of depression, suicide and general societal malaise." But dying of hunger or disease leaves one every bit as dead as dying by suicide, and the risk of THAT sort of mortality leaves these utopians unmoved. On the contrary, there's a definite anti-life impetus to their program, a "one is too many" approach to human existence.

I was reminded of something similar that I read about: Roland Huntford's two great books on Antarctic exploration, Scott and Amundsen and Shackleton wrote about not only the details of the polar expeditions, but about the social context in which they were placed. A similar sort of general mood seemed to be playing out in Britain in the last years of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th. Then, as now, a long era of peace and prosperity had left people feeling enervated and filled with self-doubt. The British seemed almost hysterically driven to prove their "manliness", and gnawed by fear that their pre-emininent position in the world was not only threatened, but perhaps not really merited. Part of the enthusiasm for WWI stemmed from this self-doubt; finally, people thought, a chance to prove to the world and to ourselves that we're NOT soft, effete and decadent!
In Britain, it was an age which saw struggle as an end in itself. In the background lurked a nagging sense of decline and a desire for national regeneration. Darwinism and the Imperialist sentiment each played its part. Darwin's theory of evolution was transferred from Nature to human institutions. The Survival of the Fittest was a suitable dogma for Empire. It justified war, for example, as a school for character. Lord General Wolseley, the commander in chief of the British Army, considered that
war with all its evils calls out...some of the highest and best qualities of man. [It] is an invigorating antidote against that luxury and effeminacy which destroys nations as well as individuals.
Self-sacrifice as such was praised as the highest human quality, especially by the Anglican Church. Thus Francis Paget, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford:
Surely war, like every other form of suffering and misery, has its redeeming element in the beauty and splendour of character men, by God's grace show i it...men rise themselves and raise others by sacrifice of the self, and in war the greatness of self-sacrifice is set before us.
In Polar exploration, this had its exact parallel:
How nobly those gallant seamen toiled...sent to travel upon snow and ice, each with 200 pounds to drag...No man flinched from his work; some of the gallant fellows really died at the drag rope...but not a murmur arose...as the weak fell out...there were always more than enough of volunteers to take their places.
Of course, things never happen exactly the same way twice. The 20th century has cured the utopians of the idea that war is a suitable field for moral proving. Instead, it is proposed to simply return to an earlier age, when life was nasty, brutish and short, in order to improve our moral fibre. Perhaps it's no surprise that such people can find common cause with the very similar ambition of today's Muslim conquistadors. Of course, in neither case do the nostalgists foresee a lowly, debased role for themselves; somehow they will always manage to fall on their feet. Mr. Kaiser surely isn't foreseeing the deaths of 60% of his own children, when North America returns to a living standard of, say, the year 1640, sans ambulances, sans electrical plants, sans hospitals, sans the infrastructure that has raised his own lifespan from 40 years to about 78.

It's easy to laugh now at those naive souls in the early 1900s, who though war was the answer, but they at least thought of it as a voluntary action on the part of those who would demonstrate their strength and self-sacrifice. That idea has been quite abandoned, and now environmentalists think nothing of forcing those around them to participate in their schemes for an ugly, uncomfortable subsistence.

Monday, April 28, 2008

New devilry from James

James has invented a new game to drive us insane - we call it "soap scratching". It's just what it sounds like - taking a brand new bar of soap, ripping off the wrapper, and then standing near us and scratching it with his fingernails. I don't know why, but it's just maddening! All those little soap scrapings falling on the floor, and he's giggling like mad the whole time. Plus, you suddenly discover that 4 fresh bars of soap now have lost their wrappers, and they have to be put somewhere to keep them from getting tattered and dirty. I know - dirty soap sounds like an oxymoron, but it exists. And there's nothing worse than getting out a fresh bar of soap to wash your hands, and finding you have to scrub a layer of grubbiness off the soap before you can use it!

Hospital test today

Took Emma to the General Hospital for her EEG - it took a long time to get in to see our GP, but after telling him about the seizures, things started moving quite quickly. She did fine, except for getting lost on the way to the bathroom just before the test began. I finally went off in search of her, but someone had rescued her and brought her back, just as I was emerging from the ladies' room. The test looked pretty normal, except when they flashed lights at her. She was able to handle the lower frequency blinking, but when it got up to 16 flashes per second, her brainwaves began to go haywire, so they stopped. Now it'll be a few weeks before the results come in, and we're still waiting for a referral to a neurologist.

The garden is getting underway - we spent the weekend filling up bags of dead leaves and branches. Dean moved most of them to the front porch to await pickup next week, but I stupidly left 3 in the backyard, and James dumped them out in order to use the large paper bags for a game. Now I'll have to go get some more bags; meanwhile, it's started raining, so the leaves are wet and heavy right now - maybe in a few days they'll be dry enough to gather again.

I put down copious amounts of fertilizer for the perennials and the fruit trees. One of the apple trees has flower buds on it this year, but I'm not sure about the other one. It might be a year younger than the first tree. The only thing is, you need two different varieties to cross-pollinate, so if there are no flowers on the smaller tree, the bigger tree probably won't be able to produce any fruit. It's no big deal; in another year the small tree will be more mature, and they seem to be producing leaves at about the same rate, so I hope their flowers will emerge together, too. I spotted what looks like a gall on a small branch of the damson, so I cut it off, and sprayed all the trees with a dormant spray mixture; it kills off any overwintering pests and diseases, and gives the trees a good start in the spring. The damson is still too early along to be able to tell if it will have any flowers, but that should become clearer in a week or so. The cherry is loaded with flower buds. The currants are also doing well, and the black currant I damaged last year has even managed to put out a few flower buds. I'll be extra cautious around them this year.

Dean was in Vancouver for two days last week. I asked him to go to Murchie's the tea company, and bring me back some Orange Spice tea, and also some Lapsang Souchong, because it's hard to find. He said the salesman warned him that that tea, "is an acquired taste" - probably didn't want Dean stomping back to the store the next day, demanding a refund for this cat-piss tea! It's a smoky flavour tea; I don't drink it too much, but it's nice on a rainy afternoon when I'm by myself. I told Dean only to get me 1/4 lb of it, and half a pound of the Orange Spice. He called me to say, "I got to Murchie's, and I found the tea, but then I couldn't remember if you wanted loose tea or teabags. So I panicked, ran away and got liquored up." As it happens, he got me equal amounts of both kinds, in both loose and bagged tea; so now I have a lot more Lapsang Souchong than I had counted on. I'm drinking some right now, as a matter of fact.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The long winter finally ends

This long, dreadful winter is finally over. We've been having temperatures in the mid 20s this past week, and it was enough to get rid of the snow. I looked at last year's blog, to get some idea of how this year compares, and I'd say we're about 3 weeks behind. This was the state of things on April 2 last year. This year, the chives are at about the same stage, but they have ZOOMED into growth. Three days ago, they were still under snow. The same goes for the rhubarb. A week ago, the bleeding hearts were just a little fringe 1" above the ground; today they're 6" high, with panicles of unopened flowers drooping on the stems!

The sudden warmth is making things grow more than twice as fast as last year, when it was a slow, gradual warming through late March and early April. I have to hurry outside to scrape up the dead leaves, because the new growth underneath needs air. No real leaves on the trees yet, but every day you can see more and more yellowish/green haze on the branches. In another week, there will be actual leaves out!

It wasn't too cold this winter, and the heavy snow insulated most plants, so I think the only loss so far is one of my Benjamin Britten roses. The snow came so early, I didn't have time to put styrofoam cones over them, and the weight of the snow split off half the rosebush. I guess the shock was too much for it. The other two seem to have survived, even though I ran out of time to prune them last year. The two apple trees are getting leaves, and the damson plum survived the winter - it's later than the apples and the cherry, but I can see the little leaf buds starting to get green at their tips.

Slanted reporting

This little paragraph was printed in the "Newsbriefs" section of our paper yesterday. These are typically little one-paragraph summaries of stories around the country, so one doesn't expect in-depth reporting.

However, even I was shocked at how much bias and slant was packed into a mere 112 words, starting with the title: "British Columbia: Breakaway Anglican leader to give talk". It looks like the writer was hellbent on getting the word "breakaway" in the headline, even though the way it's written makes no sense at all. It suggests that Archbishop Venables is some sort of Anglican equivalent to Archbishop LeFebvre, when he is a perfectly normal Anglican clergyman. If the writer meant "leader of breakaway Anglicans" even that is false - the parishes he has "adopted" are still Anglican, just not answerable to the same bureaucracy as before. Redistricting is a common occurrence when it comes to political boundaries; this is something similar, only the people involved have done it for themselves.
A South American archbishop who adamantly opposes homosexual relationships is coming to Vancouver on Friday despite being told to stay away by Canada's top Anglican. Archbishop Gregory Venables, who claims to represent 15 breakaway Anglican congregations in Canada, will speak at a gathering in a Vancouver suburb. Archbishop Venables is recruiting Anglican congregations in Canada and the U.S. that have opposed the ordination of homosexuals and the church blessing of their relationships. The primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Fred Hilz, wrote a public letter to Archbishop Venables yesterday urging him to stay home and saying that entering his North American jurisdiction "will further harm the strained relations" between Canadian Anglicans.
That's it - that's the whole story, and yet it manages to squeeze in a misleading headline and 3 separate attacks, and I would say 2 downright lies, in the course of one paragraph. It makes me wonder if Canwest New Services is just lazily relaying ACC head office propaganda as news whenever they have to report on anything Anglican-related.

(BTW, I note that the word "relationship" is undergoing deformation: it now means exclusively "sexual congress", and yet the writer is too coy to actually admit it.)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Tweaking

Mark Steyn zeroed in on a statement by Bernie Farber of the Canadian Jewish Congress, regarding the state of Canada's human rights commissions. After describing the limits the Supreme Court had (erroneously) assumed would be in place for any regulation of freedom of speech in Canada, he added,
So by all means, let's tweak the law to eliminate some of its discretionary elements.
I'm beginning to think that the word "tweak" has a different meaning in Canada, or maybe it's just in Ottawa, than it does in the rest of the world. Typically, it's a description of a minor adjustment of some sort. Your speakers are humming? Here, just move them one inch to the right, and voilà! Problem solved. There's a rattling sound on the right side of your car? Just tighten this little screw, and there you go - fixed.

Here in Ottawa, though, I've heard it used incessantly during this winter's disastrous hockey season. Actually, I've heard it over and over again for the past 3 YEARS whenever the Senators were asked why they have so much potential, yet always seem to fall down when it comes time to deliver.


"We put ourselves in a tough spot, but if they can win two at home, we can win two at home," Senators center Jason Spezza said. "We've just got to tweak a few things and get our crowd behind us. We feel we can win these two games." June 1, 2007

While Murray is undoubtedly be looking to tweak the Senator's lineup in the hopes of landing a skilled veteran to serve as an inspirational rallying point (à la Teemu, Bourque, Andreychuk...), giving up Fisher smacks of the short-term lunacy that has ruled the Leafs for decades. The Senators have a record of avoiding just this sort of short-term move. November 5, 2007

Instead of banishing Emery to the minors, waiving him, or just sending him home for the remainder of the year, Murray chose to tweak the cast around him. He moved Joe Corvo and Patrick Eaves to Carolina for Mike Commodore and Cory Stillman, and brought in veteran leader Martin Lapointe from Chicago at the trade deadline.
April 3, 2008

"We're still a pretty good young core of guys and we're gaining experience. We don't like to see ourselves in this position, and it's frustrating to all of us. I know myself, I feel like I'm still learning a bit on the job. Last year we had the great run and scored a lot of big goals and made clutch plays, and this year we haven't been able to do that. Maybe there's some things in my game I want to tweak. This maybe helps open up your eyes a little bit," he added. "The fortunate thing is you're still young still and can still learn from it. I think it would be a little drastic to blow up the core of guys we got. We're learning together here." (Jason Spezza, who got a royal total of one assist against Pittsburgh) April 15, 2008

That seems to be "tweaking", Canadian-style, and now it's being used (appropriately) to describe the Human Rights Commissions. It's a ritual lie, to describe something that's smashed beyond repair.

Like Monty Python's famous dead parrot: "'E's not dead! 'E just needs tweaking!"

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Episcopal Arachne

Ruth Gledhill's blog had a neat little tidbit about The Madwoman of Second Avenue:
Incidentally, a source tells me that at one of these recent committee meetings at St Andrew's House, one KJS whiled away the boring hours by doing her needle-point. I stand willing and hopeful of being corrected on this, because the thought that this source might just have been telling the truth is almost beyond bearing.
No correction has been posted so far. This rumour led to a flurry of evocations of Mme Defarge, the villainess of "A Tale of Two Cities". But Mme Defarge was a knitter, not an embroideress. Instead, I immediately thought of Mary, Queen of Scots, who was famous for her embroidery. It was said that she used to embroider during meetings with her council or cabinet. And she was also a woman who seemed to ricochet from disaster to disaster and botched every job she tried.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Quiz: What dog breed are you?

I finally took Yin to the groomer today - she'd missed 2 previous appointments, because we'd been snowed in, and her hair had grown so long we could no longer see her eyes. She now looks like a puppy again. In honour of the occasion, here's a VERY ACCURATE personality test (well, I liked the results I ended up with):
What dog breed are you? I'm a Jack Russell Terrier! Find out at Dogster.com

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Say it in pictures

Chris Johnson at MCJ has set up the Warman Store, with a number of pro-freedom of speech items for sale. Proceeds to go to Kathy Shaidle's legal fund. I ordered the yellow t-shirt for myself:
I think Warman lives here in Ottawa, so he might possibly see me wearing it around town one day. Especially as we all know by now that YELLOW is the colour most easily spotted by the human eye, thanks to a local optometrist and hockey fan. But I digress...

Blazing Cat Fur had a great graphic on her own site, which sums up perfectly how I feel about Canada pissing away its freedoms:


Reminds me of a particular scene from "The Monster Squad". I've heard it's going to be printed on a t-shirt soon. When they come out, I'm getting 3.

And since we're on the subject of t-shirts, I'll add one more that's not related to this Warman mess. My friend Nanette, who made the Angry Bee icon at the top, subscribes to a T-shirt shop called Threadless in Chicago, and she sent some pictures of the funny T-shirts they've come up with. The one I really liked was this one, the Loch Ness Imposter:


Every time I look at it, it reminds me of Mrs. Schori. I just visualize a little black oven mitt on that puppet's head.

Mental comfort food

This has been a bad news week; the Richard Warman lawsuits against Canadian bloggers got me very disturbed. It's not just the two I mentioned, Kathy Shaidle and Kate MacMillan, but also Ezra Levant and Free Dominion. Jay Currie's observations on Warman's manoeuvres to chop his way to the net and score 4 ugly goals are worth reading: he is suing for $50,000 (each, I suppose) because that's the maximum one can sue for and avoid the discovery phase of a trial.

Oddly enough, though, yesterday I started to feel better about all this, and reading Currie's comment this morning made me feel better still. I kept half-remembering some passage from Lord of the Rings that was relevant, so I got out my book, paged through it, and I think I found it. It's not one of the grand, emotional speeches about hope in the darkness and faith in the final victory of good. No, it was a plain, tactical comment:
In which no doubt you will see ourgood fortune and our hope. For imagining war he has let loose war, believing that he has no time to waste; for he that strikes the first blow, if he strikes it hard enough, may need to strike no more. So the forces that he has long been preparing he is now setting in motion, sooner than he intended. Wise fool. For if he had used all his power to guard Mordor, so that none could enter, and bent all his guile to the hunting of the Ring, then indeed hope would have faded: neither Ring nor bearer could long have eluded him.
Currie is right:
One key thing: Warman is betting all the marbles here. His credibility and the credibility of the CHRC are now in play. Warman was the CHRC’s creature and, I suspect the evidence will show, the CHRC became his creature as he casually crossed the line between investigator and complainant. By filing this litigation Warman is putting his reputation on the line but, more importantly, he is putting the reputation of the Canadian Human Rights Commission into issue.
But what is more, I believe that this is not the course of action Warman would have preferred. I don't believe that this is the final unfolding of a well-laid plan, as the (easily impressed) Warren Kinsella believes. I think this is an unwelcome hastening of the pace, before victory is out of reach.

I think he would have preferred to use his familiar tools, the HRCs, with all their built-in advantages. He's had a 100% success rate with them so far; who would willingly give up such favourable ground in a battle? But I suspect that the attention and pressure from the blogosphere in the past 3-4 months have weakened that weapon. No more will he be able to work in such peaceful obscurity: every case he brings from now to eternity will be hauled into public and shouted to the world. His targets are no longer isolated, uninformed and abandoned to the well-oiled money-gouging humiliation machine he so lovingly worked upon. That particular game will never be the same.

And so I see in this sudden explosion of lawsuits a cry of rage: They're getting away!!! It's an aggressive move to cut off the enemy before he can close the circle on a killing siege.
I feel from afar his haste and fear. He has begun sooner than he would. Something has happened to stir him.
"We must push Sauron to his last throw," as Aragorn said, and Gimli said that the hasty stroke often goes awry. It takes heroism to make oneself the bait, as Ezra, Kathy, Kate and Connie have - if we have their back, I think we'll win, and break this obscene oppression so it won't rise again.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Jackass: The Opera

It used to be, when someone mentioned Germans doing Italian opera, we thought of the grand and aloof Herbert von Karajan conducting the greatest singers in the world. Now it's withered Brechtian wannabes indulging in the musical equivalent of fecal smearing:
Giuseppe Verdi, one might think, is hard to mess up. But a theater in the eastern German city of Erfurt seems to be doing its best. In a re-interpretation of the opera "A Masked Ball," which opens on Saturday, director Johann Kresnik has hit upon a dramatic novelty: His staging has naked pensioners wearing Mickey Mouse masks, wandering around the ruins of New York's World Trade Center.
"Novelty." Well, I guess someone's got to be the first one to do the stupidest opera staging in the world, so you could call that a "novelty" if you like. I'm guessing that the rest of humanity isn't too envious of the man who holds that title.
In all, there are to be 30 aged nudists -- between 50 and 69 years old -- sharing the stage with a Ground Zero backdrop. In other scenes, actors wander the stage wearing US flags and burning Uncle Sam hats. Indeed, there is little subtlety in the message Kresnik intends to send.
"Aged" nudists - yeah, that'll have them breaking the doors down. Nude protests these days seem to be a speciality of the aged, the flabby, the saggy and the shrivelled. And it's usually old-timers who want to do this kind of thing, the sort of people who just can't let go of the 70s, when they might have been in shape not to look too ridiculous doing it. I'm guessing that the aged nudists in this production aren't singers - not many opera singers are still going at 69. They must be just props - mutes hired to shuffle around in the buff.
"It will be a different, a provocative masked ball on the ruins of the World Trade Center," Kresnik told the German news agency DPA. "The naked stand for people without means, the victims of capitalism, the underclass, who don't have anything any more," he says.
Well, that's certainly been my experience, living in that world leader in capitalism, the United States. I never could walk around Dupont Circle without encountering hundreds of nude men, though come to think of it, that might not have been entirely due to the predations of capitalism.
He also admits to wanting to call America's global position of leadership into question.
Yeah, I'm sure they had to beat that confession out of him.
By the time Kresnik is finished with his radical remodelling of "A Masked Ball," little will be left of Verdi's story of love, jealousy and reconciliation. This production, assures Kresnik, whose Marxist background is well known, is intended to be dramatic political commentary.

"One has to introduce new elements," he says. Otherwise it is difficult to attract new theatergoers.
Oh, yes, that sparkly new concept, Marxism. Do you dare introduce something so novel and unfamiliar? In East Germany, of all places? I came across something novel myself this morning: a search through Wikipedia, which told me that Karl Marx was born in 1818 and died in 1883, while Giuseppe Verdi was born in 1813 and died in 1901. By the time Verdi died, 'Das Kapital' was already grandpa's ground-breaking novelty.

It never fails to astonish me how time stands still for leftists. Darwinism and Marxism were born in an era when leeches and bleeding were still up-to-date medical practices, yet the old mutton legs still keep being warmed up and offered as spring lamb.

I get so mad when I read about frivolous assholes like this Kresnik. The Islamic fanatics are right when they say the West is weak and decadent, at least when this sort of garbage can rise to the top. With the incredible wealth of Western art and music at one's command, to ooze out an abortion like this is unforgivable. At times like this, I *want* the other side to win. I want fools like Kresnik to experience their own 9/11, to feel on their own hides what oppression and tyranny do. They've thrown away their birthright, so they deserve to starve and die in the desert outside the walls of the citadel - the walls they've gleefully helped tear down.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Canadian bloggers sued

Canada's biggest little nobody, Richard Warman, is once again using the legal system in Canada as his personal ATM machine. The cash infusion this time is intended to come out the hides of some of Canada's best bloggers, Kathy Shaidle and Kate MacMillan. Don't let it happen - go to their sites, and make a donation to their legal funds if you can.

And you might want to buy a copy of Shaidle's e-book "Acoustic Ladyland", which is a selection of many of her Toronto Star columns. Everyone will win - she'll get some money from the sale, and you'll get a good read. I just got it myself; my first laugh-out-loud experience came in the first essay, with the line, "My marching days were numbered when the Wymyn’s Caucus changed its name because “caucus has the word ‘cock’ in it.” Please do what you can.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa

Well, here we go - having crawled into the playoffs (they lost the last game, but had enough points to make it into the final 8), tonight Ottawa plays Pittsburgh here at home. (Correction: they're playing in Pittsburgh.) Last year, they swept Pittsburgh in the playoffs, but this year the teams are quite different. Pittsburgh has a younger team, and a lot of the Senators are injured and out of the lineup for these opening games.

Nevertheless, I can't entirely stifle a feeling of excitement and anticipation. I keep quietly humming to myself the theme song from the Bugs Bunny & Roadrunner Show: "Overture! Light the lights! This is it! The night of nights!" Actually, when I was a kid, I didn't know those words at all. I used to sing,

Oh, bonjour! Light the lights!
This is it! The Nile nights!
No more assing and looming apart,
We know every part by heart!

Oh, bonjour! Light the lights!
This is it! We'll hit the heights!
And oh, what heights we'll hit -
On with the show, this is it!


It's infectious, even if you don't know the words.

Star Wars

Over the past week, Spike TV was showing the new Star Wars movies - I date myself with that expression, but it's how I keep track of pop culture reincarnations. There was the REAL Twilight Zone, and there was the NEW Twilight Zone. Similarly there was the REAL Star Wars, that I saw in the movie theatre back in the 80s, then there was the NEW Star Wars. I liked the original movies fine, but by the time the second wave came along, I was less interested, and I never really wanted to pay money to see them, having read less-than-glowing reviews. However, this was on TV, and they said it was the premiere of the third movie, so I thought why not? I'd already seen parts of The Phantom Menace on TV (and found it boring), but I figured I'd give the other two movies a look.

I was actually...boulversée by how bad they were. I'm not going to write a detailed review, because these aren't new movies, and thousands of people have already written opinions. But...man! There was hardly anything I liked about them. The CGI was relentless, and while I was watching I was thinking, "Ah yes, this is what the boys would love, and they'd give this movie 10 stars just for all the zooms and crashes." I didn't like any of the performances, except Christopher Lee. Obi-Wan Kenobi didn't look otherworldly enough - he looked like a Vermont community college professor, with his neat beard and unbleached linen costume. Anakin Skywalker - oh, just hopeless. His idea of menacing evil was some sort of white-eyeball glower.

But the writing was absolutely the worst thing about the movies, particularly 'Revenge of the Sith', which is the one I watched most of. I'm sure a lot of the actors would have done better if they'd had something worthwhile to work with. Here's one example of why George Lucas has a tin ear for language: Obi-Wan goes to Padme to tell her that Anakin has turned evil, and chokes out the line, "I saw him kill...younglings." Lucas is so stupid, he doesn't even realize what language is FOR. He doesn't understand that any human being would respond emotionally to a statement like "I saw him kill children." But instead of using the language to produce emotion, as he should, he throws it away in order to show off some gimcrack invention. "Younglings" - see? They're from a galaxy far, far away, so they have a different word. Isn't that fascinating and novel? No, it's not - it just takes away the word that resonates and replaces it with a phony invented word that means nothing. He keeps the common words when he has Padme say "I'm going to have a baby," and the listener can supply an emotional content, based on our own experience of what babies are like, and what it means when a couple is going to have one (forget for the moment the petrified acting of Natalie Portman and Christian Whatsisname). Imagine if she'd said, "I'm going to have a nurslet" or "I'm going to have a babeling": the natural emotional reaction is short-circuited, because you've intruded on it with this artificial word. Invented words are fine for invented things: wookies, jedi, sith, ewok, whatever. But there's no point to inventing new words for things we already know. It's counterproductive.

I think the main problem was that Lucas was overcome by the same disease J.K. Rowling was - the urge to produce a SAGA. It wasn't enough to create 3 good, entertaining movies that continued to exert an influence ever 40 years after they were made. He wanted to construct some outer space retelling of The Fall, and he just didn't have the talent. Just as Rowling couldn't be satisfied with merely producing some entertaining books for children that also appealed to adults because of their creativity; no, no, she had to re-write the story of salvation. Neither of them had the ability to create an artificial mythos; very few can. Tolkien succeeded, but it took him decades, and he wasn't writing for the movies, either.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Don't say you weren't warned

That's to all the Episcopal "moderates" who keep insisting that it would be a lost opportunity not to attend Lambeth this summer. They were told it would be a three-ring circus, but they keep deluding themselves that something worthwhile could come of voluntarily loading themselves with chains and dragging Gene Robinson's Victory Chariot through the streets.

As predicted, the circus is already booking acts, and it looks like it's going to be boffo:
Never one to shy away from controversy, Sir Ian McKellen is secretly plotting to launch a campaign to shame the Anglican Church over its refusal to give equal rights to homosexual clergy.

In an act of solidarity with the Rt Rev Gene Robinson, the Church's first openly homosexual bishop, the celebrated actor intends to read out a sermon written by the prelate, who has been barred from the landmark Lambeth Conference this summer that is seeking to prevent a schism over the issue.

Standing alongside the bishop, who will remain silent throughout, the star of The Lord of the Rings will deliver a broadside against the Church's attitude to homosexuals with the kind of passion and force normally reserved for his performances on the stage.
Funny that they don't bother to mention that McKellan is an atheist, so his views on what homosexuals should be doing in the church are bound to be considerably alien to those of the people who actually believe in Christianity. But it wouldn't be the first time the Episcopalians have found themselves allied with crass opportunists.

(Hat tip: VirtueOnline)

Creeping through the week

Finally, we have some warm weather! Today and tomorrow are supposed to be 13C, with some rain, so that will really melt a lot of the snow. In fact, they're now worried about flooding, and I saw today that the river is just over the bank down by the RA Center. There may be some roads underwater by Thursday.

Dean is off on his trip to Durham. He emailed me that the flight over way very comfortable, but he got to London just as a BLIZZARD hit! I doubt the English are altogether prepared for that sort of thing, and his rail and bus connections got very tangled up. He'll be back on Thursday, and I wrote that he may be surprised by how much snow has melted by his return.

I wrenched my left shoulder on Saturday; I think it came from smashing the ice on the driveway with a flat-bladed spade. It was like whacking stone, and I must have jarred a muscle. Anyway, this means that since Dean left on Saturday afternoon, I have LITERALLY been running this house single-handed.

Today I took Thomas for a dental cleaning, and they discovered that he has a big, ugly cavity in one of his back molars. There was the option of putting him completely to sleep for oral surgery, but that would have meant waiting until May. He's never had a cavity before (he's 16), and I think he can handle getting a filling in the chair, with local anaesthetic. It will be one of those things where the whole lower jaw is frozen (I had it myself last week - broke a tooth), but Thomas is very stoic. He's probably feeling pain from that tooth, but he never says a thing. Here's hoping it goes well; we have an appointment for next Thursday.

Something more serious happened to Emma this weekend; she had a seizure on Friday night. We woke up because we heard a big crash in her room, followed by some weeping - actually, I thought James had fallen out of bed. But we discovered that she had no muscle control at all - she tried to reach for something on her nighttable, and would knock it 4 feet across the room. We caught her twice from falling. She says she didn't fall down, but I think she must have fallen against her furniture, because the next day she had big bruises.

She'd told me before about these things, but I didn't understand until I saw it myself just how serious it was. I thought she was talking about little twitches of the muscles in her feet at night; this looked like a full-scale epileptic fit, no motor control at all. I think it's connected to some sort of sensory overload from watching the computer screen; it only seems to happen at night, the way nightmares are a kind of mental release of tension or stress that's accumulated during the day. I asked if it ever happened in the daytime, and she said only rarely, if she'd been staring at a computer screen. She once had some sort of little spasm at a school dance, when they used lasers. Anyway, we've got an appointment to see her GP on Monday, and I'm sure he'll refer her to a neurologist right away.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

It's supposed to matter

Diogenes at On The Record (Catholic World News) had an interesting essay on his blog a few weeks ago. Of course, he was talking about the Catholic Church, but it seemed to me to apply even more starkly to the strife-torn branches of the Anglican Church.

He was appalled by the very relaxed attitude Catholic bishops take towards the risks that their flock are running.
Bad churchmen are a vexation, but an understandable and probably unavoidable vexation. Harder to explain -- and progressively harder to deny -- was The Void at the center of the Church's activity: the absence of concern for souls in jeopardy.
Diogenes is rightly concerned that bishops and priests seem to spend no time rescuing their charges from danger, and likens them to a mother who allows her children to play with chemicals:
More disquieting than the bishops' silence, however, is their "performative" repudiation of a salvific component to their ministry. Whatever their personal opinions may be, they don't act as if it were possible for a man to lose his soul by making a spiritually lethal choice.

Imagine a mother whose toddlers crawl past her legs under the kitchen sink, open various bottles marked with the skull-and-crossbones, pour the contents into sippy-cups, and then trot off drinking the contents while she shakes her head in bemused resignation. Either the woman is criminally negligent, or she doesn't believe the marked bottles really contain poison. There is no third possibility.
In the Episcopal Church, you can see a third possibility: the unloving mother who can't wait for the brats to die so she can go back to dating, partying and the fun life. I don't know how else to explain the actual haste of liberals to get rid of the conservatives who won't tamely submit to their experimentation.

No longer do the leftists even hide their loathing for conservatives. Episcopal Life journal is running an ad coaxing Anglicans to leave their church and join the Roman Catholics. Blogs like this one make a ritual protest that "This is not a time to "get rid" of troublemakers", then proceed in the next sentence to "Here's your hat and what's your hurry?" The purges of recalcitrant bishops and priests gathers pace.

In all this, I find a disquieting lack of any sense of seriousness. There was a time when Anglicans really thought that being an Anglican was important. That the salvation of one's soul could depend on it, and making a wrong choice could have eternal consequences. Now, there's no sense that a person runs any risk at all by leaving the Anglican Church. There's no concern that the people being swept away by the new broom could wind up going to hell. Even to write out the phrase seems faintly ridiculous. No one in TEC or ACC takes their actions seriously in a spiritual manner at all. They remind me of Mr. and Mrs. John Dashwood in "Sense and Sensibility", busily calculating how long it will be before their widowed mother and half-sisters will get out and leave the estate for them to enjoy. There are a few half-hearted expressions of regret, and even faint wishes that they could help, but the bereaved and disinherited are not fooled, and know that the minute their carriage drives out of sight they will be forgotten.

No wonder these people cannot evangelize - they have no reason for being Anglicans themselves, other than it's where they've found rich pickings. The Catholics know that salvation is found in the Church; likewise the Orthodox. What do the Anglicans know? Except, "Oh, well, it's nice and comfortable here, and it'll be even better when there are fewer of us to share."

Richard Warman strikes again!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Who's afraid of the "vast majority"?

I think it's in one of Malcolm Muggeridge's autobiographical works, that he mentions a game he used to play with friends in his journalist days: taking a word that is likely to appear in a headline or news story, and filling in its obligatory accompanying cliché word. So a word like "crisis" would inevitably be accompanied by "looming". A "milestone" has been reached; what kind of milestone? Why, a "grim milestone", of course! Which brings us to the modern day, and the "majority" of Muslims. What sort of majority? Why, the "vast majority", you silly!

This vast majority is always even-tempered, good-humoured and tranquil; the press says so, even as they busily stuff rags into their own mouths to keep from uttering anything unobliging about Islam. The Danish cartoons were a good example; the more the press protested their belief in the pacifism of the "vast majority" of Muslims, the more their behaviour screamed the exact opposite. There are fewer Muslims in Canada than Native Indians, who also have their belligerant crazies. Yet I'd like to see the journalist who feels the need to hired a bodyguard and wear a bulletproof vest after exposing a corrupt band council, or a dysfunctional reserve culture, or armed squatting and defiance of the police, or even infatuation with a disgraced fool and bigot. All these things are written about without fear, because the "vast majority" of this minority really IS trusted to behave intelligently, even if provoked.

That other "vast majority", however, gets all the ink about peace and respect, but the behaviour demonstrates the exact opposite, and people read behaviour much more easily than they read words.

Which brings us to Ezra Levant and his publishing of the Danish Cartoons of Blasphemy. At a time when the rest of the press in Canada was cringing in fear while madly waving flags reading "RESPECT" and "SENSITIVITY", Levant actually put the "vast majority" trope to the test. And what do you know? It turned out to be true. Canada was NOT convulsed by riots and standoffs by demented Muslims. People did not pour out of mosques on Fridays to go looting and killing in the streets of Canada. People were annoyed, but peaceful.

You'd think this would be a matter of pride for Canadian Muslims, but I have not heard one Muslim "leader" (real or self-styled) boast about the lack of violence on the part of their people. On the contrary, groups like CAIR seem to want to play it both ways - go on enjoying the flattery of the media and the politicians about how precious and valued a part of the Canadian mosaic they are, and at the same time, keep cultivating an air of menace. They want us to behave as if we fully trust them and see them as "one of us", and yet also tiptoe around them, because you never know - violence can always erupt if the moment is right.

I come from a violent culture myself - I'm half Serb. My grandparents both came from the Krajina area of what was Yugoslavia (I don't think there are any Serbs left there anymore). But when they came to this country, they made a point of not only not bringing ancient grudges with them, they frequently expressed their scorn for the tribal hate-culture they left behind. They'd left to find something better, and they were smart enough to know that Canada WAS better.

I seldom hear this from Muslims. The Danish cartoons were an opportunity for them to say, "Hey, don't lump us in with those idiots in Assholeistan, screaming and burning crap on the news every night. We're not like them; we left because we couldn't stand their stinking barbarism." Instead, we got sullenness and shifty evasions. I didn't read that as a declaration of allegiance to Canada; I read it as a "Just you wait"; a suggestion that the violence is only temporarily suspended, until the day when the group is strong enough to make it count.

The cowardly behaviour of the press, who couldn't steel themselves to take a stand now, when the risk is low, has ensured that the day when the risk will be too high is going to come all the sooner.

That it should come to this

The Ottawa Senators are scrambling to claw their way past the Washington Capitols to secure the LAST SPOT in the Eastern Division and a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs. You remember the Ottawa Senators - the 2007 Stanley Cup finalists??? Now, a year later, they're not even sure they can keep a toe in the basement.

They lost to Montreal last night, and have 2 games left, as do the Capitols. But the Capitols won last night, and the Sens don't seem to know where to look for a win anymore. Even if they DO make it into the playoffs, how long will they last, playing like this?

Yesterday's paper quoted one of the players as saying "We're not thinking about that"; as the writer said, they have 2 more games to not think about it, because if it happens, nobody's going to let them forget about it. EVER.

I think I'm going to award a Braxton's Lear to myself. Hell, the whole city of Ottawa deserves one - we're all staggering about clutching our foreheads in anguish.