Monday, September 29, 2008

Toothbrush trauma

Conversation last night, just before going to bed:

Me: Dean, which toothbrush are you using? The only one here is the orange one.
Dean: I'm using the one I've always used.
Me: But the orange one is MY toothbrush!
Dean: I haven't switched toothbrushes.
Me: You're supposed to be using the green one.
Dean: Right.
Me: But there is no green one!
Dean: Oh...
Me: So, have you been using MY toothbrush?
Dean: NO!!!
Me: Then what have you been using?
Dean: ....Uh...Nothing.
Me: Well, the only thing to be done is to throw away ALL the toothbrushes, and start over with some new ones.
Dean: But, I've just gotten used to the green one!
Me: THERE IS NO GREEN ONE!!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Disappointing documentary

Dean and I watched a strange documentary last night on the History channel. It was part of the "Lost Worlds" series, and was an investigation of the City of Amageddon - actually, the historic fortress of Megiddo. It was quite interesting to see how this site had figured in past battles; it was strategically very important, and had been fought over by the Egyptians, Hittites, Hebrews, Romans - pretty much everyone.

Where the show went a little wonky was when it touched on the visions of St. John in Revelation. It was the strangest thing, to watch people treat a religious text in a purely secular manner. You can see even in the little blurb on the show how they phrase it: "John selected this place" for the setting of the final battle between good and evil. Only a Christian can't think in those terms; they write as if John were writing some sort of futuristic novel. "Hmm, I need a good setting for this battle...I know - Megiddo! It's where, 700 years ago, King Josiah lost the battle that led to the destruction of the Temple and the exile of Israel! It'll be perfect - full of foreboding symbolism, every Jew will feel the nuances and know what I'm trying to get across."

If that's what John was doing, then what he had wasn't a "vision". It was just a poetic fancy. I believe that he wrote that the final battle would be at Armageddon because that's what the angel showed him. If it were to take place on the plains of Nebraska, John would have found some way of conveying that instead. Dean and I had some fun trying to think of how a 1st-century man would deal with a vision of a battle in Nebraska. It couldn't be harder than describing the scenes before God's throne, or the New Jerusalem, but he'd have still had to struggle with paraphrases and attempts to put into words something no one else had seen: "Across the seas, to a boring land of corn and icy northern winds..."

The whole show was spoiled for me by this inability to accept religion on its own terms, and to try to squeeze it into some safe, uncontroversial frame. To me, it's pointless. If you don't want to talk about supernatural interventions, then there's no point discussing religion at all. The program was fine as long as it was talking about history and archeology, but trying to tie down Revelation with the same rope just made the whole thing ridiculous.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Humorous signs

Great collection of signs at Rocketeer. My favourite:


(Hat tip to The Blog of Walker)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

If you ask nicely...

Christians are, what? Five percent of the population of the U.S.? Must be why Broward County Democrats are convinced that this stunt will convince millions to vote for Obama:
At the Broward Democratic Party's monthly meeting Tuesday night, it started right at the beginning — with the invocation, delivered by Mike Moskowitz, the state committeeman for the county.

He called for a "blessing on the elk and moose in Alaska who have been decimated by Sarah Barracuda" and included a prayer that Palin doesn't turn her sights on the squirrels in Washington, D.C.

"We pray that her journey takes her across the bridge to nowhere," he said.

Great plan - get the Almighty's attention, and then treat him to a comic monologue! (And if Sarah Palin has single-handedly "decimated" the elk and moose of Alaska, I think people should stop questioning her fitness to be "one heartbeat away from the Oval Office". She could wipe out Al-Quaeda by herself with a slingshot!)

I think Democrats should take lessons from the Muslims when it comes to this sort of thing. When they want Allah's help to destroy the "sons of pigs and monkeys", they come right out and ask for it. They don't waste his time with a simpering little "Oooh-aren't-I-naughty?" vaudeville routine.

We all know what the difference is, of course. The Muslims actually BELIEVE in the god they're praying to, and the Democrats don't. They have no connection with the belief that put the invocation at the beginning of every meeting; they're like illiterate squatters in a ruined laboratory, grabbing a tool made for a specific purpose by the purposeful men who went before, and wrenching it clumsily for whatever low expediency the moment requires.

Still, I think they might want to consider the scene at the end of C.S. Lewis's "The Last Battle", when the unbelieving Rishda Tarkaan, having used Tash as an excuse to invade Narnia, goes through the stable door and finds that invocations come with a cost.
He turned to look at Rishda Tarkaan, but Rishda was not looking at him. Rishda gave a great wail and pointed; then he put his hands before his face and fell flat, face downward on the ground. Tirian looked in the direction where the Tarkaan had pointed. And then he understood.

A terrible figure was coming toward them. It was far smaller than the shape they had seen from the tower, though still much bigger than a man, and it was the same. It had a vulture's head and four arms. Its beak was open and its eyes blazed. A croaking voice came from its beak.

"Thou has called me into Narnia, Rishda Tarkaan. Here I am. What hast thou to say?"

But the Tarkaan neither lifted his face from the ground nor said a word. He was shaking like a man with a bad hiccup. He was brave enough in battle, but half his courage had left him earlier that night when he first began to suspect that there might be a real Tash. The rest of it had left him now.

Morning glories


This has been such a dud summer, that the morning glories are about a month late! I took this picture two days ago - the vine is nice and tall, but we only got the first flower a week ago, and now I'm afraid we're coming up on overnight frost soon and that will kill the plant. So I figured I'd get a picture before it all suddenly comes to an end. You can see that they're all blue flowers; I've yet to see a single white one, though the vines are all growing, and there appear to be buds on all of them. Maybe Moonflowers take longer to mature; if things hadn't been so slow this year, we might have gotten some, but I've only a slender hope that any of the tiny buds I can see (which may be white flowers, you can't tell at that stage) will ever open.

I've been doing a bit of jam-making since the kids went back to school. With all the fresh produce off the farms in the stores came a new kind of grape I hadn't seen before: Coronation Grapes. They taste just like Concord grapes, but they're smaller and seedless. I took a picture of them just before stemming them and putting them in the pot:

There's something about bunches of grapes that just seems so biblical. And yes, that is the scale I use for cooking - at least for anything up to 4 lbs. It's very accurate, despite its age. The jam turned out well, too - Dean's been giving it away to people, so I may have to make another batch while the grapes are still in the stores.

Today I'm making some mango chutney - just a single batch, because I find that doubling batches doesn't always work perfectly. This is something you don't have to rush to make, because mangoes are available for quite a long time, and they keep pretty well, too, so I'll make about a 5-jar batch today, then another batch this week when the kids go back to school. It's actually easier than making jam; you just mix it all up then put it on to cook slowly for about an hour. Not nearly as much trouble as boiling fruit and sugar on high, and worrying about it burning.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Jackass, The Opera

More lunacy in the world of opera:
Take It Off, Brünnhilde: On Opera and Nudity
By ANTHONY TOMMASINI
Published: September 17, 2008

It had to happen. Nudity is coming to opera.

In recent years, with all the talk from general managers, stage directors and go-for-broke singers about making opera as dramatically visceral an art form as theater, film and modern dance, traditional boundaries of decorum have been broken. Opera productions have increasingly showcased risk-taking and good-looking singers in bold, sexy and explicit productions.

How explicit? On Tuesday the soprano Karita Mattila returns to the Metropolitan Opera to portray the title character in Strauss’s “Salome,” a revival of the modern-dress Jürgen Flimm production created for Ms. Mattila and introduced at the Met in 2004.

Ms. Mattila’s emotionally intense, vocally molten and psychologically exposed portrayal four years ago made her seem born to this daunting role. And yes, during her uninhibited and kinetically choreographed performance of the “Dance of the Seven Veils,” she shed item after item of a Marlene Dietrich-like white tuxedo costume until, in an exultant — and brief — final flourish, she twirled around half-crazed and totally naked. Expect the same this time.

Now, just think about this for a moment. Pavarotti...Joan Sutherland...Cornell MacNeil...in the nude. Do we really want to add another criterion for success in opera - not a beautiful voice, but a beautiful body? Why not just have attractive actors and actresses lip-synch the music, as they did in China for the Olympics?

I started getting a little crazed as I read the article, to the point where all sorts of bad thoughts began intruding upon my mind.
The question of exposing flesh in opera to make up for subpar music hovered over “The Fly.” At both its world premiere this summer in Paris and its recent production in Los Angeles, critics found Mr. Shore’s music ponderous and undistinguished. But most reviewers praised cast members for giving their all to the production, especially Mr. Okulitch, a sensitive singer and dynamic actor with a warm and appealing if modest-size voice. That he also has a handsome physique takes nothing away from the courage it took to strip bare for the telepod scene. If only the music had matched the moment. Still, the dramatic situation absolutely called for Brundle to be naked, and Mr. Okulitch complied.

Knock. It. Off. If I can't even READ about opera in the nude without being hit by a thousand flying double-entendres, WATCHING it would be entirely out of the question.

The discussion of nudity in film reminds me of a funny incident from my schooldays. Every year, we studied a Shakespeare play, and one year it was Macbeth. As an educational treat, we went on a field trip to local repertory theatre, to watch Roman Polanski's film of the Shakespeare play. As some may know, Lady Macbeth's plays her sleepwalking scene in the nude. It's tastefully done, of course - you can see everything from the back, but it's above-the-waist from the front. Still, this was pretty titillating stuff for 17-year olds in the 70s (especially the boys).

Well, the scene progressed with the Doctor and the Gentlewoman watching and commenting on her actions. Until the moment when the Doctor said "What a sigh is there!" And of course the whole class burst into laughter, having misheard "sigh is" as "size". The teacher afterwards was very flummoxed and asked why everyone laughed, and a boy helpfully explained, "Well, she's washing her hands, and the Doctor says, 'Ooooh, big ones!'" Good, old-fashioned, straight to the point boys.

Mr. Dressup Takes a Holiday

The Daily Mail reports that Rowan Williams is leading some members of the Pantomime Church on a little trip to Lourdes.
He will be part of a historic pilgrimage of ten Church of England bishops, 60 Anglican priests and 400 Anglican lay worshippers.

The event shows how church leaders are committed to closer ties. Dr Williams will preach, take part in a number of Catholic celebrations and pray at a grotto where St Bernadette said the Virgin appeared to her 150 years ago.

His visit, at the personal invitation of the Catholic Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, Jacques Perrier, indicates that Anglican and Catholic leaders remain committed to closer relations in spite of differences over the ordination of women and sexually-active gay men as priests and bishops.

Yes, I'm sure that's just what's going to happen - closer relations are right around the corner, no matter what Cardinal Kasper has said. It's just a matter of getting on a plane and putting bodies in the same room; after all, it worked so well at Lambeth!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Taking it one step further

Ghost of a Flea makes an excellent point in her discussion of that funny SNL piece about Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton:
Clinton: I believe diplomacy should be the cornerstone of any foreign policy.
Palin: And I can see Russia from my house
.

In SNL land the second answer is meant to sound stupid. In the real world, the second answer is the better one.
That's so exact - when I saw the sketch, I didn't immediately get the joke. Or at least, I thought I got it, but I got it inverted. I thought it was Palin who had the zinger; then I realized, "Oh, no - they think that she's the one making a dumb remark, not that Clinton's vacuous hot air balloon was just punctured by sharp, down-to-earth reality."

When I thought about it more, though, I found one more level of inversion. Hillary's statement "I believe diplomacy should be the cornerstone of any foreign policy" sounds sage and magisterial, but it's totally false. It's partly due to the use of what Orwell called a "dead metaphor". Who really thinks anymore of what a "cornerstone" actually is? I don't wonder that SNL writers no longer hear the echo a Christian hears at that word: "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone", but it doesn't matter, because 'cornerstone' is a perfectly good word on its own, used in construction, and means "a stone forming a part of a corner or angle in a wall". The point is, it's an important stone set right down at the foundation, sometimes below the soil level, where it can't be seen, and the building rises on top of it. Obviously, it's got to be very strong to support the weight it holds up, and that's why "diplomacy" can NEVER be a 'cornerstone' of anything important.

Diplomacy is just talk, and talk is never strong enough to support a country or a country's relations with other countries. If it is, the structure on top of it will either collapse, or will have to be so light and flimsy that it isn't even worth bothering about. This is a forgotten truth in Canada, where we've indulged ourselves in the illusion that we can be important in the world with only "soft power" - a metaphor for bumptious moralism and pious self-regard, all expressed through nothing but talk, of course. We no longer keep much of an army or navy, and have persuaded ourselves that our ability to keep up appearances in the world is a result of the marvellous moral example we set, which all people acknowledge, admire and voluntarily defer to. In reality, like the Europeans, we rely entirely on the United States, and its willingness to maintain military and emergency forces, for anything remotely important. THAT is a genuine cornerstone, and we expend a lot of effort forcing ourselves to forget it.

So a cliché like the SNL one is just that - a windy, important-sounding piece of nonsense, that too many people take for reality.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tuesday nights are Fringy

There's a new show I'm following: Fringe, Tuesday nights at 9:00. It's a paranormal/scifi/conspiracy show, and the pilot aired last week. I only wanted to see it because it has John Noble in it, but the first episode was rather intriguing, so now I want to see where it goes.

People say that it's a ripoff of the X-Files, and I see a bit of a resemblance to Threshold, which I discovered last year when it was being shown on the Space channel. I didn't see the X-Files, but I recognize the conspiracy theory theme, only this time it's some giant corporation which is the siniser manipulator - of what, I expect we'll get to know over succeeding episodes. I hope this doesn't go the same way as Threshold, which was cancelled and just ended without any resolution to the threat of aliens infecting humans and transforming them into super-strong maniacs.

This time, there's a mad scientist who's been confined in a mental asylum for 16 years, and he worked with another scientist who went on to become the head of Massive Dynamics, the mysterious research conglomerate that's connected to the government, and is somehow linked to a spate of "fringe science" incidents erupting around the world. Last week, it was a synthetic virus that got loose on an airplane heading for Logan Airport. In a matter of minutes, everyone on board dissolved into a mass of bones and melted flesh - very creepy, especially as it happened during a wild thunderstorm! (But my experience of watching 'Mayday' has taught me that in real life, no pilot would fly into such violent weather, so that slightly spoiled the scene for me.) By the end, one of the FBI guys turned out to be on the wrong side, and was somehow connected to Massive Dynamics, so we don't know if they are trying to cause all these incidents for their own sinister ends, or if people inside are diverting their research and the horrible incidents are a result of losing control of experiments.

Tonight's episode has to do with a girl who suddenly experiences an entire pregnancy in about half an hour, and the trailer showed her giving birth to something that caused the hospital staff to scream and faint, so it's going to be interesting to see what creepy effect is let loose on the world tonight.

UPDATE: Well, that was creepy, but thankfully not as gross as I feared. The monstrous childbirth scene was unnerving, but everything was suggested, and nothing shown, which is the best way of getting the maximum effect without making people sick. The sound effects were the worst - there was a ghastly ripping sound and the mother suddenly died on the table, and all the doctors and nurses were just stunned into silence, which was very effective - you just knew that that was something that was NOT supposed to happen, but you never knew just what it was. And then everyone started screaming at the sight of the newborn, but we never saw that, either, so we could imagine the worst.

The rest of the episode didn't match up with that opening scene for sheer visceral punch, but it was still pretty good. John Noble is very good in his role of Dr. Bishop; I was afraid that once they took him out of the mental institution, he'd lapse into a mildly-eccentric, humorously avuncular role, but he gave a flash of really nasty venom in one scene, to remind us that he probably IS mentally ill, and it's not a cute and funny condition.

Columbo Journalism

Everyone remembers Lieutenant Columbo - his rumpled raincoat, his battered car, and especially his infuriating habit of getting halfway out the door then turning and saying, "Just one more thing..." when you think you've finally gotten rid of him. The continuing insanity of the press over Sarah Palin is taking the same form - they just can't stop themselves from trying to get the last word.

Media people are very sensitive to trends - how many of my favourite TV shows have been cancelled after half a season, because the ratings didn't meet expectations? When it comes to commercial TV, the media have the sensitivity of a spider, feeling the slightest tremor on the edge of the web and responding. But in this case, their professional acuity has failed them. It's been two weeks of negative coverage on Palin, and by now the numbers are in: McCain/Palin have pulled into the lead over Obama/Biden in the polls. Since September 1 their positions have practically reversed - if this were a sitcom, a bunch of new writers would have been drafted by now, but the media can't or won't stop running the same loser articles that have stalled their hero's rise.

Some of them have recovered their wits enough to recognize that sneering hit-pieces on Palin's children, husband, church and small-town origins are counterproductive, but this thin veneer of rationality isn't enough to hold back the torrent of rage that keeps erupting, even when they try to control it.

The New York Times devoted an entire article to pedantically listing all the gripes of the losing team in Alaska, and lecturing their readers on why people who like Sarah Palin haven't got one good argument in their favour.

Bob Herbert helpfully points out that she's as "dimwitted" as the hockey moms who like her.

Frank Rich wrote a piece incandescent with hatred for the vitriolic, anti-Semitic, gay-hating, atavistic Republican Party, and the "woebegone, frightened opponents of change, sworn enemies of race-based college-admission initiatives", the credulous dupes of lying "flashy flim-flam". (And that's just from the first page of his 2-page primal scream.)

And the NYT finished off with a nice editorial harrumphing that Mrs. Palin wasn't obsequious enough when speaking of the advantages of spending "decades and decades in that Washington establishment". I know the Times thinks that "we were all supposed to think of Joe Biden", but I thought of pretty well everyone in Washington. And most people think the same way - term limits was a solution to a general problem, not one restricted to the guy who happens to be running for VP for the Democrats.

Now, those weren't special and unusual articles about Palin and the Republicans - there are lots more. The point about them is that they were all published within the last 3 days; in other words, long after the overnight ratings on the smashmouth show against Palin have come in. And yet the Times still can't resist trying to flog this dead horse some more.

The Times isn't the only example, of course, but it is the most powerful voice shouting a losing message to people who are rapidly refusing to listen at all. But like a nagging shrew, they keep reiterating it again and again, somehow thinking that if they badger people enough, they'll get the last word, and somehow that counts as winning the argument.

The "just one more thing" impulse is infecting everything the pro-Obama liberal press writes. Today's big story is the ongoing Wall Street meltdown. E.J. Dionne couldn't manage to write an article on that without throwing in another nag about Sarah Palin.
Over the weekend, the moneyed class became much more vulnerable. The foolishness of our financial geniuses now threatens to bring economic sorrow to Main Street. Franklin Roosevelt's 1936 attack on "the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties" never sounded so up to date.

Americans don't mind wealthy and even rapacious capitalists as long as they deliver the goods to everyone else. But when the big boys drag everyone else down, Americans rise up in righteous anger. The New Deal political alignment endured for decades because the financial elites were so profoundly discredited by the Great Depression. The New Deal coalition dissolved only when prosperity began to seem durable and only after the GOP discovered the joys of baiting Hollywood, the media and the academy.

There is always something slightly phony about anti-elitist politics. Plenty of investment bankers are Democrats, and Republican politicians who claim to speak for devoutly religious cultural conservatives are usually far removed from the world (and the values) of those whose votes they court and whose resentments they stoke.
So far, so good; there is certainly a lot of theatre in politics, and rich men are to be found in bother parties. But "just one more thing"...
For good measure, McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. A religious and proudly gun-toting mom, Palin has turned expertise itself into a badge of elitism, proclaiming pleasure in her lack of a "big fat resume" that "shows decades and decades in that Washington establishment."
And this connects to the crossover among elites how, exactly?
But anti-Washington politics is itself rooted in the interests of the financial elite. When the private economy goes haywire, it is always the federal government that has to step in.
Except this time. But never mind - the real point is that even when you're an outsider, you're an insider. Even when you're middle-class, you're rich. Even when you're down-to-earth, you're elite. And just one more thing:
For some time, McCain's strategists figured they could deflect attention from the big issues by turning Palin into a country-and-western celebrity and launching so many ill-founded attacks on Obama that the truth would never catch up. The approach of the McCain strategists reflected a low opinion of average voters and some Obama supporters began worrying they might be right.
It's not hard to find examples; the hard part is stopping. "Sarah Palin's Retrograde Gender Politics" by Courtney Martin, tells us that "What should irritate women voters and certainly enrage former Hillary supporters the most is that Palin consistently downplays her own ambition and intelligence." But damn those so-called "women"; they're not enraging on cue they way they're supposed to!

As I said, this is another up-to-date white-knuckle shriek of rage dating from...yesterday. Any thought that the press was simply caught off-guard two weeks ago, and their smears and slanders "just slipped out" should be dispelled by now. They know every one of these rants loses Obama some votes and cements others for McCain, but they don't care. As Mark Shea says, They. Can't. Stop. Themselves.

Monday, September 15, 2008

BBC quarantine - fears outbreak of 'Jesus Cooties'

A best-selling British author is accusing the BBC of blackballing him after discovering that he is a Christian.
The Rev G P Taylor, who has sold millions of books worldwide, claims that a producer at the corporation told him they couldn't be "seen to be promoting Jesus".

The author of Shadowmancer, which spent 15 weeks at the top of the British book sales charts in 2003, says that he has been the victim of political correctness that favours minority religions at the expense of Christianity, a claim the BBC denies.

He says that once his present series of books is complete, he will write under another name and employ an actor to do any public appearances, in an attempt to stop his work being "discriminated" against. Taylor, who gave up life as a parish priest after signing a £3.5 million publishing deal with Faber in 2004, believes the BBC began to shun him after he was described as the new C S Lewis – the Christian author who wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. "I had good relations with them until they realised that there were religious allegories in my stories," he said.

"Once they had decided that I was promoting Christianity in my books I found the door firmly shut."

The BBC denies it, of course, and one can understand their confusion: Taylor was a CoE clergyman, after all. What are the odds on finding one in the news who actually believes all that Jesus stuff? But once The Awful Truth was revealed, they were swift to do their duty.
"I'm an Anglican priest and sadly while it's OK to be the next Philip Pullman, it's not all right to be a Christian writer."

His second novel, Wormwood, sold 22,000 copies on one day, yet he says that the makers of Blue Peter told him that he was not welcome. "A BBC producer told me 'off the record' that it was a matter of my faith and the fact that I was an Anglican priest. 'We can't be seen to be promoting Jesus', he said with a laugh."



(Hat tip: Kathy Shaidle)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Can't help myself

This is so funny, I have to post it even though it's not brand-new and probably a lot of you Americans have already seen it. It was a Tide commercial that aired during the Superbowl, but since I never watch the Superbowl, I only saw it a few weeks ago when it appeared on TV here in Canada. I can't help it - I laugh EVERY TIME I watch this!

Why women are leaving the Anglican Church

Jonathan Wynne Jones says it's because they're too powerful to put up with the stingy thimblefulls of boss-juice being doled out by the Anglicans.

"It ain't no place for women, gal. But pretty men go thar."

(thanks to Jackie Bruchi)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Dark hours

...I hereby commend you, and I counsel you by way of caution to forbear from crossing the moor in those dark hours when the powers of evil are exalted.
I've been following with fascination the turn the American federal election has taken since John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his VP candidate. The first interesting thing was the big surge of enthusiasm among conservatives for this hitherto unknown woman from Alaska, and the more I read about her, the more I shared that enthusiasm, especially when I read that she and her husband have 5 children, and the youngest has Down Syndrome.

This was quickly supplanted, however, by the increasingly weird and dark turn taken by the attacks of some of the leftist Obama supporters in the media and the blogosphere. Mark Shea has been compiling many of these attacks, under the headings "Sin Makes You Stupid", and "Freakish Enemies of the Normal", and I have quickly come to share his uneasy feeling that there is something seriously wrong with the people who have come so unhinged over the sight of this very normal, very American family.

The simplest things aroused a tide of rage and hatred that have left me stunned. I really feel that there is something dark and evil walking abroad in the world today, and that it hasn't invaded by force: people have opened the gates and invited it in.

There's something so wonderfully true in old legends, and one of the oldest is that evil doesn't invade like a conquering enemy; it has to have accomplices before it can do its work. Pandora had to open the box before evil could sweep into the world; Faust called Mephistopheles; when Jonathan Harker arrived at Dracula's castle, the first words he heard were "Welcome to my house! Enter freely and of your own free will!" The Bible speaks several times of people "giving themselves to" evil, and I have that uneasy feeling that today we are witnessing many people "giving themselves to" the powers of evil. We've seen it before: the worst evils of the 20th century were released by people who willingly and enthusiastically surrendered themselves to forces that seemed strong, unstoppable, and capable of tearing up the old rule book.

There is a real stink of brimstone in the hatred I'm reading (warning - the link is to an extremely vile blog)- a sense of people who have surrendered themselves to forces that should have remained subdued. Obama himself started out by trying to control his raging supporters, but they will not listen to him; they are like people who have tasted an unaccustomed, unexpected pleasure, and want to experience it again and again. Journalists talked of the tide of fury "unleashed" against Palin, and once again, language tells us the truth. It tells us that there are things that SHOULD be "leashed" - held back, restrained, suppressed - that "leashing" such impulses is the normal state, and when that ceases to be, then something has gone wrong. It's like watching that moment on 9/11 when the steel spine of the Twin Towers failed; something really catastrophically unnatural had happened, and then we saw the inevitable, irreversable slide to destruction.

There seems to be almost a relief among the people raging and hurling insults that finally they are free. Free to hate - mothers, children, the "abortion-worthy", normality - and the restraints that have held their hatred back for so long have finally been cast aside. I once read that a person who murders an adult does a terrible thing, an attack on humanity. But a person who kills a child is defiantly throwing his act in the face of God himself. It is such a reversal of all that is normal and decent, it can only come from someone who has sundered himself from the very source of being itself.

I don't feel that this is just an uncharacteristic blowing off of steam of a few people who've had a bad day; I feel that this hatred is a permanent, fixed state of many more people than we have realized until now. I have that same desolate feeling that I had when the Twin Towers fell; that something terribly evil is abroad in the world, that people have let it loose, and that this isn't just like a one-night drunken binge that will have evaporated tomorrow, or on November 5. It's a moment "when the powers of evil are exalted".

Monday, September 08, 2008

How to construct an "emerging consensus"

Mike S. Adams in TownHall.com gives a nifty snapshot of how activists produce the soothing, peaceful sound of blessed "consensus".
Last Thursday, at 1:58 p.m. EST, I received an email message from a bi-sexual reverend from West Virginia. In the text following the subject, “You're a con man,” the queer preacher had this to say:

Your recent "Fat Lesbians on Crack" piece is an example of grossly irresponsible rhetoric that serves ideology, not mental health. It is appalling to me that someone with your lack of intelligence and indifference to professional consensus is actively employed in a teaching role.

I am always delighted when I get moral advice – especially on human sexual relationships - from people who reside in West Virginia. As a native of Mississippi, I find it best to climb up the moral latter one rung at a time. If I move up too quickly my fear of heights could be enough to make me forget all about my fear of queer preachers from West Virginia.

(Author’s Note: When I called the bi-sexual reverend from West Virginia, he said he was not gay but “queer” – specifically a bi-sexual who rejects “essentialist notions of gayness.”)

And I’m also glad whenever I’m lectured about “professional consensus” by queer preachers from West Virginia. Those who actually read my “Fat Lesbians on Crack” piece remember that it was about a counselor who was fired from her job because of her objections to homosexuality. That is exactly how this “consensus” that homosexuality is not a mental illness is emerging in the counseling profession. Radical homosexual activists are simply having all the people who hold a contrary view fired.

This was very much the approach taken by Adams's correspondent. In Canada, he'd have a Human Rights Commission to do the dirty work for him, and all for the cost of a postage stamp. But as he lives in the U.S., Mr. Stewart had to exert himself to get Adams silenced and reduced to penury:
Of course, the queer preacher from West Virginia was not going to confine himself to just writing me one nasty little missive. He had to write all of the professors in my department as well as everyone in the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences to suggest that I should be fired from UNCW. Here’s the full text of his email – written under the subject line “Mike Adams’ hate speech insults UNC”:

I trust you are aware of the egregiously misinformed hate speech of Mike S. Adams, a UNC faculty member in Criminology. Is this the sort of university representative you take pride in? I hope this dinosaur hasn't got tenure--it's a shame he's teaching at all.

Christopher B. Stewart, PhD


Indeed, the "enemies list" grows longer and longer.
Read the next line of the queer preacher’s email for a good example:

A counselor who objects to homosexuality per se is an unqualified counselor, one dominated by irrational biases and certain to cause greater harm.

So, what did the queer preacher mean when he said it is “appalling” that one with such “indifference to professional consensus” is “actively employed in a teaching role”? He meant that after the gays fire all of the counselors who do not agree with homosexuality they should commence to fire all the teachers who do not recognize as legitimate the “consensus” they created by firing people.


I noticed the same urge to make a wasteland and call it peace in regards to the recent drive to force Ontario doctors to "stand and deliver" controversial services (i.e. abortion) even if it violates their conscience. A letter from the president of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario blandly reassures us that "the College does not expect physicians to provide medical services that are against their moral or religious beliefs." The average dozy Ontarian is probably happy to accept this statement at face value and turn the page, contented that good will has prevailed and everyone is a winner. But not so fast. In the event of conflict, Dr. Zuliani trails off into rather vague territory:
If physicians feel they cannot provide a service for these reasons, the draft policy does expect physicians to communicate clearly, treat patients with respect and provide information about accessing care.

Let's set aside the irrelevant smokescreen thrown up: the problem isn't with doctors stammering, blushing and running out of the room if something they find morally wrong comes up ("communicate clearly"). Nor is it a question of good manners ("treat patients with respect"). It's that if they feel outraged at the idea of aborting a baby or disfiguring a patient, or any other objectionable practice, they can't decide for themselves to have nothing to do with it. They must be forced to pimp for those doctors who WILL play ball and do those things, and effectively escort the patient to the abortion mill. Anything less will leave the patient demanding the service possibly feeling slighted, or her decisions disrespected, and we can't have that.

Behind this pretence at reasonableness is a steely, silent determination to obliterate any defiance - doctors who won't go along to get along will be stripped of their license to practice medicine. And so, Dr. Zuliani's reassurance will come true: doctors won't be providing services that go against their conscience, because those with inconvenient consciences will be erased from the workforce. Voilà! No man, no problem.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Chesterton on Lambeth '09

He wasn't writing about last month's Lambeth Conference, of course; he was writing a hundred years ago about the decay of English institutions, particularly of Parliament. He traced this decay to something built in at the root: the English tendency to accept and even nourish paradoxes and "anomalies", thinking that somehow their own native genius will permit them to square circles, fit square pegs into round holes, have their cake and eat it too - name your favourite cliché, it all comes down to making something inherently unworkable work.

Chesterton was right to see that the old fiddles and fudges were no longer working, but an interesting question was why they ever worked in the first place. I think they worked for awhile because they didn't really matter - they worked because the people using them were united and devoted to something outside themselves. They could use any tool and make it work. That was no longer the case by the early 20th century, and the same decline is now visible in the Anglican Church and it's offshoots.

One shouldn't be surprised, as the Anglican Church exported the roots that would eventually destroy it along with the plant when it spread abroad. And now the same tendency to try to "get away with" incoherent, contradictory ideas is as visible in the Church as it was in Parliament in Chesterton's day.

This was the paragraph I came across that inspired these little reflections; he was talking about the sly little manoeuvres that those adept at parliamentary procedures could implement to block their opponents from acting on or even discussing uncomfortable subjects:
This intellectually lawless element in our Constitution has recently been growing more and more dangerous; it has the danger of every lawless thing, that at last it becomes mean. Men are no longer careless of their irrational system because it enables them to do the right thing. They are now very careful of their irrational system because (when deeply studied and dexterously applied) it enables them to do the wrong thing. A strong case of this is the increasing use of the quite absurd and atrocious fiction commonly called the blocking motion. Jones wants to move something; Brown does not want to move anything. But Brown can stop Jones from saying what he wants to say by the power and importance of the thing which he, Brown, does not want to say. This is indecent in its folly; it would not be endured for an instant in any meeting of ordinary Zulus. (Interesting turn of phrase! - ed.)

I think it's pretty obvious that this is the state of play in the COE, as witness by the Herculean labours of Rowan Williams to deploy his authority to deliberately thwart any attempt to deal with the problems that more than 2/3 of his church wanted alleviated. And it's also obvious, and will become more obvious, in TEC, as was made evident by the shameless attempt to bulldoze punitive sanctions against Bishop Schofield of San Joaquin. The mere fact that the CYA campaign that immediately started in the wake of this ham-fisted exercise in brutalism relied heavily on the opinion of "The Parliamentarian" shows how degenerate the church government has become. The name of the game now is to get one's own way at all costs; in such an atmosphere, weasels who can squeeze through little holes and bendy tunnels are highly prized and relied upon, and we can expect to see them further magnified into persons of importance at the upcoming House of Bishops meeting later in September.

Gardenella, Queen of the Potato Patch

Now that Labour Day is over, the gardening season is winding down, albeit slowly - summer is still lingering an extra week, and today the temperature is predicted to go up to 30C. However, the early cool weather in June and July slowed things down so far, we'll never make up the growing season. We've had some successes, but this wasn't a huge gardening year by any means.


Dean has been digging up the potatoes, and we got a pretty good haul, though they weren't as large as in past seasons. The Purple Vikings I tried (just a few plants) turned out really well, and I think I'll plant several rows next year. The Chaleurs turned out nice, though a bit smaller than 2 years ago, when we tried them for the first time. The Russian Blues are small, but with a a REALLY deep purple colour this time. The All Reds turned out well, mostly because they were in the Old Garden, and the soil hadn't been stomped down hard by James - it made it difficult for the potatoes to grow freely, as there is a bit of clay in our soil, and it can pack down hard.



The raspberries are prolific, but the question is, will we have enough sun and heat for them to ripen? Usually we're picking full baskets of raspberries by the last week of August; this year we're already into September, and are just collecting a handful of ripe berries a day. If the weather holds, we should get lots, but we could also end up with a lot of green ones that never make it.



The tomatoes are doing pretty well, but again, no great bumper crop. In past years, Dean has had to lug them to the office to give them away, but this year we are not overwhelmed with quantity. I'm going to try canning a small batch of tomatoes, just to see if I can do it.

The one thing I'm really worrying about is the morning glories. The vine has finally grown to full height, and there are tiny buds, but so far we've had just ONE flower. These plants are so tender, they'll die at the first frost, and I'm concerned that the weather may not last long enough for the flowers to open. That would be a great disappointment, especially as I finally managed this year to get 3 Moonflowers to grow; I would like to see one flower before the fall closes everything down.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Welcome the new guy!

Our friend Toral has a new blog, called Not Weighing Our Merits, and I advise everyone interested in Canadian and American politics to bookmark it. He's the only person I know who was not taken by surprise by McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as VP running mate, and that betokens a certain greatness of mind! He's also very up-to-date on the travails of the Anglican Church of Canada, and knows a lot more about the personalities involved than I do. Go check it out!

Let's hope this is true

From today's Citizen:
Members of the religious right seeking to recriminalize abortion are putting pressure on MPs to support a bill making it a crime to kill an unborn child while attacking its mother, says Bloc Québécois MP Rev. Raymond Gravel. He said other Catholic MPs have confided in him that their priests have refused to give them communion because they voted against Bill C-484, which would make it a separate offence to kill an unborn child while committing a crime. Father Gravel revealed he wouldn't be running in the election expected this fall after a complaint from anti-abortion advocates led the Vatican to force him to choose between politics and the priesthood.
Putting aside the alarmist reference to "members of the religious right", as if there's some putsch-in-waiting being run from the Vatican, I really do hope that Catholic priests are taking their responsibilities seriously and closing the "personally opposed but..." bolthole that politicians have used for years. And the rule against priests running for office dates back to the very first days of JPII, starting with Robert Drinan - it's not as if he's being singled out.

The headline for this little paragraph is weird, though; it reads "Priesthood before politics for Tory MP", when the story clearly states that Gravel is a member of the Bloc Quebecois.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Fall routine begins again

All 3 kids are finally back to school today, and I'm the one with an upset stomach and an anxiety attack! It's always tense at the beginning of the year, as we wait to see if James can adjust back to school routine. (Dean and I get a bit nervous when we drive past his school and see a police cruiser parked outside.) I hope he settles in quickly; he was very happy with the "big school" when he went on his orientation trip last year, and he's been asking to go for over a week now.

Now I've got some projects ahead of me, as I get busy cleaning and repairing all the things the kids did to the house over the summer. James damaged some walls again, including a few that I've ALREADY repaired! However, some of the repairs I wasn't happy with anyway, they looked a bit amateurish, and so this time I'm going to do a better job and reinforce the drywall behind. There's one wall, though - it's not my fault, it's the way the builders did it - one of the joists behind the drywall, near the edge, is 1/8" further out than the rest of the wall! It might have been a later addition, when a small closet/pantry was put in the kitchen, because the joist is a different size from the 2x4s holding up the rest of the walls (yeah, I know they would be below code now, but this house was built back in the 70s, and not with the greatest materials). So I've been debating how to get a level, even wall when the beams behind aren't in a straight line. I think I'll have to use 1/2" drywall over most of the wall, with a 3/8" strip over the jutting out beam. I'm really not sure just how the original wall covered up that problem, though I think they used extra plaster on the surface to thicken the wall at the point furthest away from the larger beam, and it probably just wasn't visible to the naked eye that the wall was actually not perfectly level. Now I have to try to work around this stupid little flaw.