Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Stoddart on Modern "Art"



To all the kind people who have sent me books recently, I am deeply grateful. I've been reading Scruton's "On Beauty" on the train lately, and it is a difficult choice between reading his beautiful ideas and looking out the window at the gorgeous Italian countryside. (We are in hay-mowing season, and as I said yesterday in a text to a friend, the sight of a newly mown hay field fills me with a sense of rightness and mysterious joy that no amount of serotonin-imbalance can touch.)

This, via Cusack, comes from another adherent to The Real and the Good, Beautiful and True in Art, Alexander Stoddart, a Scot who has retained his national ability to tell it straight:
Modern art is “rubbish”, narcissistic, snobby, devoid of skill, ignorant of taste, gripped by “nostalgia for the future”. But it goes deeper than that. It’s a difference of opinion about what art should do. Art, he says, has always been about “trying to alleviate the pain of existence”. Modern art “collaborates with misery as opposed to trying to oppose it”.

“A painting by Titian is like a Leningrad, holding out against the forces of the world. Even if they’re having to eat rats in there, they still will never surrender to it. Whereas the art of Tracey Emin is a complete capitulation to the world. Cutting a shark in half and putting it in a tank of piss is just art giving up. I find it very odd when they describe art as challenging, because I always thought art was meant to calm you like a lullaby, not challenge you like some skinhead in an underpass.”




~

What if you could get a job doing all those stupid things you wanted to do when you were ten?


You'd be a Mythbuster

Sunday, June 27, 2010

OK, now, I'm not really sure who (apart from a ten year old boy) really needs to know what sort of force it would take to smoosh a compact car into a pancake,


but if you really needed to know, these are the guys who would find out for you.

Did you check out the slow mo?

The car was vapourized.

Holy Crap! indeed!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Oh! OH!

It ...

it's...

it's like a dream...

A Belgian archdiocese may take legal action over police raids on church property during which Roman Catholic bishops were detained and a cathedral crypt searched, a spokesman said Saturday.



Oh, let me see that again...

"during which Roman Catholic bishops were detained"

The authorities also seized computer files at the home of Belgium's top cardinal for the last 20 years, Leonard's predecessor Godfried Danneels.

mmmm...

Sometimes it's a good day.

Sometimes.



~

Pro-Life 101 - "Yeah, but what about rape?"

Today's popular Abortion Slogan is a favourite of young men wanting to look good to the girls in the class.

I won't bother spending the time re-typing it all out. I'll just re-post:

~
Now, I know that the principles of rational thought are not popular these days, equally in schools as in parliaments, but one has to wonder at the willingness of so many to have their intelligence, whether real or imagined, so brazenly insulted, and their compassion manipulated, as it is by the abortion lobby in the case of the "rape exception".

The rape exception is the one argument that most irritates me. Not because of its inherent dishonesty - one expects only dishonesty from people conniving to murder helpless infants - but for the blind, drooling stupidity of the people who buy it, normally without the slightest examination. Or perhaps I should say the willing connivance of the marks. It is said that people who go to carnivals with a few shillings to spend on the ring-toss game, actually want to be swindled. Why else would one to go a carnival?

When I am talking to school groups about abortion, naturally after we have painstakingly gone through and demonstrated the existence of a human being in the womb (don't they tell these kids any more where babies come from? What are they doing in all those sex-education classes in kindergarten anyway?) someone in the back of the room will invariably put his (it is always a he) hand up and say "Yeah, but what about rape?"

He says this for two reasons: he has been taught that favouring abortion for rape is a mark of deep sensitivity and that "sensitivity" is a sure fire method of getting girls into bed, and that it is a stumper. He believes, in effect, that because the pro-life position is inherently flawed by its hatred of women and desire to oppress and subjugate them, that this is The Big One that will always end the discussion. This, he believes will establish his feminist political cred...which is also a sure fire method of getting girls into bed.

He expects me to have no answer, and sadly, this is the case with most of the people who consider themselves pro-life.

What is saddest, and most ironic, about the eagerness of most of our progressively-minded modern people, as well as many "pro-life" people, to defend the rape exception, is that they love it because it is held up as a model of compassion and toleration towards the victimised. This is especially tempting to pro-lifers who are possibly tired of being called EVIL FASCISTS. They long to be included in the ranks of the tolerant and compassionate. The same people will, with precisely the same earnest expressions, tell you all about the evils of capital punishment. They have such strong feeeeelings, you see, for the downtrodden, the oppressed, the victimised.

But who has told them that abortion is a requirement in cases of pregnancy due to rape? And what are their motives?

But these goodthinkful people will not question the motives or origin of the received wisdom. That's why we call it that. When you ask them why they support the death penalty for the children of criminals, they simply look at you with a fullwise goodthinkfully blank expression and you can almost see their grey cells desperately rushing to batten down the hatches and close the sea doors.


I once had a conversation with a Parliamentary Aid who had great ambitions. He was a member of the the-Canadian Alliance party and was clearly keen to Go Places. He had an idea, generally, that abortion should be curtailed, but of course, with his skinny under-dressed girlfriend on his arm, was very quick to say that the exceptions should include rape.

I asked him why he supported the death penalty.

He jumped like he had been stuck with a pin. "What?! I don't!"

"Oh good," I said. "For a second there, I thought you wanted to bring in the death penalty for the children of criminals."

Once again, the application of a few pieces of objective reality, connected together with the indestructible ties of rational thought, will create a Logic Grenade that will blow the feathery traces of the "rape exception" to smithereens.

In a discussion with someone who supports the death penalty for the innocent children of rapists, the following questions are often helpful:

Where do babies come from?

Who should be punished for the crime of rape? The woman? Her children?

Since abortion is a procedure that involves risk to the woman, and can be traumatic, wouldn't it be better to wait until the child is born and kill him then?

Maybe, in cases of pregnancy due to rape, we can keep a loaded gun in the delivery room, and if the sight of the child reminds her unpleasantly of the rape, we can give her the gun and she can shoot the baby right away.

Something to remember about the "rape exception" is that it is a red herring. It is not, in fact, an argument for legalised abortion in the exceedingly rare cases where pregnancy has been caused by rape. It is just a slogan, and a slogan is, as I've said before, neither an argument nor a reason. It is a claxon. A noise meant to end discussion and induce a powerful emotional reaction.

Studies have found that rape frequently does not result in pregnancy. There are chemical changes that occur in a woman's body that tend to prevent it. But the rape exception has been extremely politically useful to the abortion movement. It has been used as an emotional wedge issue to force the door open to legalising abortion in all and any circumstances.

As Scott Klusendorf likes to say, "If I change my position to support legalised abortion in the 0.01 per cent of cases of pregnancy due to rape and incest, will you then drop your support for abortion on demand?"

Its effectiveness can be seen in the fact that even in countries that have retained some legal restrictions on abortion, many of them have not dared to cross the line of the "rape and incest" emotional button-pusher. The fact that the "rape exception" collapses on the application of the slightest logic and medical facts, deters politicians not in the least.

Politicians are mostly men. And, like our high-school friend above looking to use his sensitivity to lever down a girl's trousers, politicians cannot afford to risk the shrieking and hysteria opposition to the "rape exception" would cost them.



~

Ah, it's that time of year again!



Ever wonder about the modern world's total inability to think clearly? Ever wonder why five manifestly self-contradictory slogans were effective in convincing the majority of people in western democracies that it's a good idea to legalise infanticide? Ever wonder why we now think it's the ultimate act of love to kill our closest friends and relatives?

Ever read any of my posts about the Logical Principle of Non-Contradiction?

OK, I can see we have some new people here.

A little while ago, a friend on facebook approvingly posted a link to a liberal US talking head who was saying how dreadful it is that "gays" are precluded from giving blood. It's DISCRIMINATION I tell you!!! Because in the cloudy pink-tinged intellectual netherland of Homophilia there is absolutely no problem involved in the "gay lifestyle" that is not created by homophobia.

The desire felt by a man for another man is indicative of absolutely no psycho-social distortion of any sort. And their activities have absolutely no medical consequences whatever. Pay no attention to those websites behind the curtain!

There is no such thing as the Logical Principle of Non-Contradiction either! And there are absolutely no absolutes!

Gay men are just nice artistically-inclined chaps in turtlenecks who are funny, friendly and ironic, and who are inexplicably hated and persecuted by Catholics and people who watch Fox. They are, to a man, as respectable and salt-of-the-earth as Ward and June Cleaver. Picket fence! Apple pie!

Nothing to see here...

Move along...

I see that Kathy has been using her brain in an unauthorized manner again:

As Gay Pride revs up yet again, thoughtful people are asked to swallow, as it were, the same tiresome and illogical worldview held by so many professional homosexuals.

Somehow, they manage to believe and promote the following contradictory "facts" at the same time:

* Gays are marginalized victims who live in the shadows -- with their very own corporately sponsored parades and festivals that shut down major cities once a year.

* These pride parades have been going on for twenty years -- BUT gays still claim to be as misunderstood, hated and persecuted as they were before Stonewall. Are these parades therefore ineffective? If so, what purpose do they serve?

* There is a "gay gene" -- BUT "everyone is really bisexual" and "sexuality is fluid" -- BUT despite said "fluidity", gays cannot and do not "recruit" or "groom" straight young people, ever.

* All the great people who ever lived were "secretly gay", like Shakespeare. No bad people like Hitler were "secretly gay" -- unless the pent up pain caused by their "secret gayness" was what really made them crazy murderers!

* Religious "gay to straight" treatments are considered a sinister, existential threat to gay culture -- AND can't possibly "work." Anyone who turns "straight" after therapy was never "really" gay anyhow, even though sexuality is fluid etc. The half dozen "gay people" I've known in my life who later "turned" straight (none of whom underwent treatment of any kind, but just... grew up) were also "not really gay" during the years they were having sex with same sex partners, coming out to their parents with mixed reactions, marching in the Pride Parade, taking "queer studies" and so forth. They were just "going through a phase" -- even though a perennially popular queer t-shirt proclaims "It's Not Just a Phase!"

* Gays commit suicide at high rates because everybody is persecuting them. Yet Lithuanians have the world's highest suicide rate despite total non-existence of "Lithuan-ophobia." Russians also have a high suicide rate. Can we somehow blame "residual Cold War hatred"? Discuss.

Blacks, Jews and women experience what leftists would describe as persecution, yet don't have comparable suicide rates.

Only gays practically brag about their alleged suicide rates. (Are they neurotically and pathologically prone to romanticizing self-destructive behaviors? If so, why?)

* Gay activists claim domestic violence is no more common in gay relationships than in straight ones. If self-loathing caused by "homophobia" makes gays beat each other up, then what causes straight domestic violence again...?

* Movies like All About Eve and Johnny Guitar, which feature no gay characters, are all "really" about gays. However, overwhelming evidence of actual gay behaviour in real life (such as the sexual abuse of teenaged boys by Catholic priests and Buddhist monks) is NOT gay, even a little tiny bit.

* Does a movement based upon junk science, urban legends, romanticized non-history, a few sappy Hollywood films (in which, for some disturbing and mysterious reason, the gay characters all die, sometimes horribly...) and an (un)healthy dash of narcissism and neurosis really deserve so much respect?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ain't Democracy Grand?


Yep. Met this guy.

Over and over and over...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Medicobabble

Ok, now, here's why that show House, about a brilliant diganostician, wouldn't work if they used too much real life in it:

"...although most commonly only visual, have many other associated manifestations, such as hemihypesthesias, perioral anesthesia, vertigo, and transient aphasia. ...In the usual sequence of migraine with aura the sensory prodrome precedes the onset of the headache (in accord with the traditional concept of vasoconstriction followed by vasodilatation)..."

And we'd all be sitting there in front of our TVs going, "uhhhhh..."

Well, that was interesting...


Quick, what's this a picture of? It's a diagram of what you see when you're having a "scintillating scotoma".

Here's something new.

I just went blind.

Kind of.

Well, I could more or less see things generally, but not clearly enough to read or really see things directly in front of me. A kind of field of dark grey shadow right in the middle, with everything around it sort of muddled. Then a little kernel of sparkles, like light reflected off water started to one side of the dark bit. The sparkles grew into a kind of arc with dark in the middle that took up the whole field of vision in about five minutes.

After that, there was some freaking out...

then,

the sparkles started moving off to the upper left corner and the dark patch lifted. After about 1/2 an hour, the sparkles scampered off at the top left corner and things got back to normal.

While all this is happening, I'm thinking...

well, what, exactly?

Not much that's printable.

Turns out that I have something that is clear enough to be written down in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. I tick all the boxes for Classic Migraine with Aura.

The sparkles and the going blind was the "aura" part, apparently. Too bad that while it's going on, you can't read the website that tells you not to worry about it, that it will go away after an hour or so, and that it won't do any permanent damage.

Cause, while it's happening, you're kind of going nuts.

"What?! What?! I can't read! I can't see! If I can't read, and can't see, I can't writeandifIcantwriteIcantworkandIllhavetogobacktoCanadaandliveonthedoleandIdratherdie!!!

Gahahahahaaaaaa!

While you're freaking out, your head has got bored with the sparkly light show and is doing something new. While your vision clears, you'd swear your skull is shrinking. Squeezey-squeezy...

It has something to do with serotonin, apparently. Which makes sense, really, since serotonin and it's whims has figured large in my daily life lately.

Well well. I thought neurologists were all idiots and charlatans.

So all that brain stuff is true.

Who knew.



~

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The end of a nation...

"Recent research from the United Kingdom finds that there the effect of children has been reversed; the presence of children, especially two or more children, raises the risk of divorce for recent marriage cohorts. The authors speculate that attitudes towards children may have changed; fathers may now be more likely to shirk their paternal responsibilities..."

Cheery.

Nulla dies sine linea



I must simply face up to the obvious fact that learning to draw in the academic style is difficult. It is something that will require time and attention and daily practice. I can't say I'm studying unless I'm doing it every day.

I got the expression above from Mr. Ruskin, and understand it is the motto of the Art Students' League in New York.

There is but one question ultimately to be asked respecting every line you draw, Is it right or wrong? If right, it most assuredly is not a "free" line, but an intensely continent, restrained and considered line; and the action of the hand in laying it is just as decisive, and just as "free" as the hand of a first-rate surgeon in a critical incision.
John Ruskin



~

Monday, June 21, 2010

Now, I thought I had a pretty good job


But these guys get to blow stuff up EVERY DAY!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Domestic Graces



What should people do with their spare time?

Watch TV?

Ah, no. I don't think so.

This is what Real People do.



These lovely things were made for my friend Hilary who lives in Rome. It gets cold there, who knew? It’s a trellis pattern around the cuff and up the front and a moss stitch across the palms.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Stan II


Oh...

The other day, I was waking up, as I do every day, to the birds yelling their heads off in the flowering oleander outside and the thought came into my mind...

"When all this is over, I'm going home."

Don't know how long that will be. But some day.

Stan


Sitting here in Italy getting homesick for the land of taxes, mosquitoes and freezing rain...weird.

The only part of it worth living in is the East. Nova Scotia.

Sing along...


Stompin' Tom.

"...The Maple Leaf Forever..."

Dominion Day party, Santa Marinella.

Meat-grilling to commence 3 pm sharp.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Science continues indescribably cool: Planet-size Fireball Hits Jupiter and Cnidarian Notes



So, y'all may have read that this week I had a go at a little Mediterranean hunter/gathering. My sea urchin experiment turned out pretty well, and while I was cooking the risotto, I had a good look at the mysterious insides of those beautiful little shells.

With shellfish, one is accustomed to things like oysters and clams. You open it up, and there's the little fleshy thing. The animal that occupies its little house.

But with urchins, I searched in vain for anything that resembled a body.

First you cut off most of the spines around the mouth opening on the bottom. Then you cut them in half along the "equator". A burst of water falls out, and inside there is really only this sort of brown membrane stuff. You swish all that away under the tap, and what's left, these five orange-coloured bits, is what you eat.


But, I reasoned, the thing eats, as we see above. So if it has, indeed, very active and complex mouth parts built into its shell, where's all the internal stuff that goes along with a digestive system? There just isn't anything in there.

A great mystery, and further proof that there is something funny about the radially symmetrical.

(Well, ok. A small mystery, but interesting.)

And...


Was Jupiter put in this solar system to run blockage for the earth?
A huge fireball was spotted on Jupiter in yet another collision from space caught on camera and video by amateur astronomers. This new impact on Jupiter comes less than a year after a spectacular crash on July 19, 2009, when what scientist now think was an asteroid about 1,600 feet wide slammed into the planet.

That collision created a massive bruise the size of the Pacific Ocean.The new Jupiter crash occurred on June 3 and was spotted by skywatcher Anthony Wesley in Australia and fellow amateur astronomer Christopher Go in the Philippines. Wesley's photos show the Jupiter fireball blazing in the atmosphere of the gas giant planet. So far, no visible scar in the clouds has been reported from the event.


"a massive bruise the size of the Pacific Ocean"

Holy crap! Are you serious?!

Here's some footage:

(Sorry about the sizing problem. There was no smaller version.)

"Since 1941 many astronomers have thought of Jupiter as a protective big brother for planet Earth -a celestial shield, deflecting asteroids and comets away from the inner Solar System. This long-standing belief ...has been challenged by the first in a series of studies evaluating the impact risk to the Earth posed by different groups of object."

I guess astronomers watch disaster movies too.

Also...


This just in on the cephalopod/cnidarian front: the world's only "immortal" animal.

Turritopsis nutricula, a small saltwater animal or hydrozoan related to jellyfish and corals.

Like most jellyfish, Turritopsis nutricula undergoes two distinct stages in its life cycle: The polypoid or immature stage, when it’s just a small stalk with feeding tentacles; and the medusa or mature stage when the only 1mm-long polyps asexually produce jellyfish.

Waddya mean "immortal"?

Well get this:
The adult "medusa, or jellyfish, form can revert to the polyp stage after becoming sexually mature. It is the only known case of a metazoan capable of reverting completely to a sexually immature, colonial stage after having reached sexual maturity as a solitary stage".


So, imagine you start getting to the stage in life where you're a bit tired most of the time, you've begun to resign yourself to the pot belly. The 30 year-old you work with is "too young" to consider dating...

so you just think hard enough, click those sensible heels together three times, and Voi-La! 18 again!

And this time, you know enough not to screw it up.


H/Ts to Binks and Stratford (you ass!)



~

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Asian Giant Hornet



I think it might have been one of these.

The Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia), including the subspecies Japanese giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia Japonica),[1] colloquially known as the yak-killer hornet,[2] is the world's largest hornet, native to temperate and tropical Eastern Asia. Its body length is approximately 50 mm (2 in), with a wingspan of about 76 mm (3 in).


It certainly looks like it.

An allergic human stung by the giant hornet may die from an allergic reaction to the venom, but the venom contains a neurotoxin called mandaratoxin[6] which can be lethal even to people who are not allergic if the dose is sufficient. Each year in Japan, the human death toll caused by Asian giant hornet stings exceeds that of all other venomous and non-venomous wild animals combined, including wild bears and venomous snakes.


Nasty. Doubly glad I didn't stick around in the sitting room to get a picture of it, and that I got Winnie out of its way.


~

Suh-WEET!

So, finally someone is getting the right idea.

Marie Stopes ads should indeed never have gone on air, but now that they have brought the subject into the public mind, this is the time to go in for the anti-kill.

and at least one outfit has figured it out:



I was really starting to worry that in all the clamour for the ads to be withdrawn, no one was going to take advantage of the situation.

H/T to Fr. Finigan, who I don't talk to enough lately.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Just stuff...


Went for a snorkel the other day and came home with a bag of sea urchins. I have eaten lots of them in Japanese restaurants, but never done them myself. My sea urchin risotto went pretty well, but the shelling and cleaning of these little pricklies made a mess the like of which I haven't seen in a kitchen since I dissected a frog at Grandma's house when I was ten. So, probably no more sea urchins are in danger from me.

Along with about 20 urchins, I also brought home what I had thought was this beautiful shell for my collection. Turned out to be occupied, and I took Mr. Hermit crab back to the sea, after what I'm sure was an uncomfortable night in the salad bowl.




Happy to report that Winnie, after initially being somewhat put out of sorts, has adjusted admirably to the new flat. I don't think she cares where we are, so long as her chair comes too.



I was doing a little drawing the other night, before I put up the mosquito netting (my flat is now a zanzare-proof fortress) and was suddenly visited by this monster who flew in through the open window about midnight. It was so huge I thought at first that it was a humming bird. When it started dive bombing my head in a fury, I realised what it was, grabbed the cat (who probably couldn't believe her luck...imagine, the birds just fly right into your house here!) and fled the room, shutting off the lights in hopes it might fly back out the window.

The next morning, I thought it was gone, but found it, having died of natural causes, presumably, behind the arm chair when I was dusting.

Yoiks! Never seen anything this big and mean looking anywhere!



~

How come people don't get this?

Throughout the two-and-a-half hour interview, he fluctuated wildly between being downright combative and hostile to being sweet and fatherly.”

The journalist also mentioned Kevorkian’s “crazed rants,” “often about the Ninth Amendment to the Constitution, complete with a defense of James Madison and trashing of Thomas Jefferson.”


"Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the journalist conducting the interview, confessed that the remark left him speechless"

Yes, this is because people who think euthanasia is a good idea are what we used to call "crazy".


~

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A thought experiment


"This is a protest against parading in a Muslim area. We love death the way you love life."

Hey, remember that whole thing about the Japanese in the US and Canada being interned during the war because they were thought to belong to a nation that we were at war with?

Remember how everyone was really embarrassed about it afterwards because the Japanese-Americans and Japanese-Canadians were actually law-abiding citizens who had businesses, sent their kids to the normal schools and generally had completely integrated (as best one could in the 1940s)? Remember how the Canadian govt' went through one of their periodic spasms of guilt and started offering pay-outs to the families, even though it was 60 years later and all the people who had actually done it and had it done to them were more or less dead?

We felt bad about it, and did all that apologising and paying-out because the ethnically Japanese in our midst (a bunch of whom fought for their country - ie: Canada and America) were not actually any threat. None whatever. They had been there for generations and had genuine patriotic loyalty to the US and Canada. They weren't enemies. They were us.

But just for a second, imagine if they weren't.

Imagine for a moment, if there really were a huge group of people living in your country, and I mean millions, who were from a country your country was at war with.

And what if these people really hated your country and everything it stood for and was about, even though they were living in it and enjoying its protections and a great deal of financial support. Who worked night and day to destroy it. Who protested every time your country won a victory over their place of origin. Who advocated and sometimes committed horrible acts of violence against your people.

And who, moreover, got into the newspapers as often as they could and told you that your country is no good. And who would show up at public events with placards that read "We will destroy you". And who have some extremely unsavoury family practices.

What if these people were well organised and being funded by some very rich foreign countries to do everything possible to overthrow your entire culture, your way of life, your way of thinking, your civilisation.

What if, in other words they really were a proven deadly threat?


~

Michael seems particularly chipper today.

I'm afraid he might be submitting to a little wishful thinking, however.

How many times have we all wished that Bennie understood that along with verbal condemnations, a few tall pyres are in order.

But I fear, along with many others, that he is just too nice.

Bit ironic, wot?


~

Did I mention I like Americans?


I laff.

I especially like George Washington doing ramming speed in a Dodge Challenger.

H/T to Kathy, another pro-American Canuckistani.



~

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dominion Day


is coming up.
(And I don't want to hear any mention of "Canada Day" from any of you heathens.)

And we're planning a party. All the traditional activities for the July 1st weekend will ensue: grilling meat out doors. Drinking beer. Griping about the GST/government/CBC...

I was just putting a list of Canadian music together for a friend who is putting it all on his computer for the party. I sent him the following email on Facebook:

Canadian Sound: or "McBreton"

The entire Canadian music scene is hugely dominated by the Celtic-Rock thing that comes out of the east, the epicentre of which is Cape Breton Island, where kids learn the fiddle like you and I learned to use a remote control. I met a ten year old boy once who had learned to fiddle from his dad. He used to come to the weekly public market in Halifax on Sunday mornings and he was amazing. I asked him how much money he made on Sundays, and he said about $300.

He was ten. Ten fricking years old. I wanted to break his fiddle over his head. Instead I gave him a loonie.

Almost all home grown Canadian music is McBreton-inspired or influenced.

Ashley McIsaac was the name of the celtic/rock guy with the distasteful sexual proclivities and the habit of admitting to them on tv. He's a pretty unsavoury guy personally, but the music is great.

He is a key figure in the whole Cape Breton Celtic/Rock sound.

Barra McNeils: more traditionally Celtic. not rock-synthesis, and very very Cape Breton.


Natalie McMaster: Also a Cape Breton icon, daughter of the great (but less mainstreamy) Buddy McMaster. Another big name in the Celtic-Rock thing, but does more traditional stuff.

Also, a practising pro-life Catholic who comes to play at Pro-Life events for free. A good egg.

The Great Stan Rogers: Stan was actually born in Ontario, but to a Cape Breton family and both did traditional Nova Scotia sea songs and wrote a huge pile of fabulous folk songs about the life of all sorts of ordinary Canadians. Songs about being a farmer in Alberta, and about a kid who had to leave Nova Scotia to take a job in the Alberta oil fields...great great great stuff. Stan is a massive Canadian folk hero. He died in a plane fire (in the 80s some time, I think) and there is an annual music festival in Nova Scotia named after him


He's the man with the really big voice

Mary Jane Lamond:

one of the more recent additions to the canon. I think she was discovered by Ashley McIsaac, and has become more mainstreamy and less Cape Bretony. But she is famous for doing that weird traditional Irish gaelic singing style. You'll see what I mean; it's very distinctive.

That should get you started. More later.


But really, no collection of Celtic-themed music can be complete without

Angus McGonagle, the gargling gargoyle, gargling Gershwin.


~

Friday, June 11, 2010

Matt learns to dance


sort of.

Culturist me

Well, I've learned a lot about myself since coming to Rome. (Not a lot of it very good, I might add.) One of which is that I am a confirmed culturist.



Since coming here, I've got to know Canadians, Brits, Australians, Paraguayans, Costa Ricans, Italians and Germans. I have found something that really should not come as a shock. I get on best, am understood best, by people who come from cultures that are closely related to mine: Anglos (Brits, Irish, Anglo-Canucks) and Germans. They are the ones who get my sense of humour, who follow the line of conversations without giving me blank looks of incomprehension. They are the ones with whom I can communicate easily and meaningfully. Who get the cultural nuances.

I know we're all supposed to be all 'worldbeat' and multiculti and all that, but I just can't find it in me. I resonate (good grief! where did that word come from?!) best with Brits but something that I really didn't expect: I like Americans best.

Feeling kind of low, I was just revisiting the Dancing Matt videos that everyone liked a couple of years ago. I notice something in this one about all the nice happy people who came out and danced with Matt for his video.

None of them thought of doing it.

The idea of going around the world in a happy dream of global brotherhood and altrusim, innocent fun and good will, came from an American.

I think there's a reason for that.

I think they're the good guys.


~

Gaffe-Prone

Here we go again!

Yep, more gaffes per square inch than ever before in the Pope's homily today at the closing Mass for the Year for Priests.

As always with these things, one has to have a carefully trained ear to find the subtle nuances of offensiveness. You've got to keep a sharp eye and a finely-tuned sense of outrage. In this case, a lot of the "political missteps" are more in what he didn't say than in the actual content.

Let's see if we can do a little reading between the lines.

His very first sentences are calculated to exclude women. Of course.
The priest is not a mere office-holder, like those which every society needs in order to carry out certain functions.


Right here in the first lines, we have here a slam against the women who are working from within the institution to bring about equality. This "not an office-holder" stuff is the crux of the whole "priest-as-alter-Christus" thing that the old white guys say makes it impossible for women to be ordained.

Instead, he does something which no human being can do of his own power: in Christ’s name he speaks the words which absolve us of our sins and in this way he changes, starting with God, our entire life. Over the offerings of bread and wine he speaks Christ’s words of thanksgiving, which are words of transubstantiation – words which make Christ himself present, the Risen One, his Body and Blood – words which thus transform the elements of the world, which open the world to God and unite it to him.


Sacraments. Transubstantiation. Absolution. Yep. It's all just a bunch of hocus pocus. Note the total absence of any mention of the priestly role of the laity. Of the participation of the congregation in the priestly acts on the altar. And of course, nothing whatever on the role of the priest as community leader in the fight against injustices like poverty and global economic hegemony and the rape of the environment.

The priesthood, then, is not simply "office" but sacrament: God makes use of us poor men in order to be, through us, present to all men and women, and to act on their behalf.


Yes. Here it is in a nutshell. A priest is first and only a sacramental minister. And note the careful use of the words "men" and "men and women". Very clear slam against women there. Priests are men. Laity are both. Got it.

This audacity of God who entrusts himself to human beings – who, conscious of our weaknesses, nonetheless considers men capable of acting and being present in his stead – this audacity of God is the true grandeur concealed in the word "priesthood". That God thinks that we are capable of this; that in this way he calls men to his service and thus from within binds himself to them: this is what we wanted to reflect upon and appreciate anew over the course of the past year.


Men. Men. Men.


~

But it's the Pope who's responsible for the "deaths of millions" in Africa...

...Actually...

...


So, let me see if I've got this straight, weird screwy Newfangled people...

You love the brown people soooo much, you want to exterminate them.

But it's all for their own good, of course.

Maybe we should come up with a neologism for this. Waddya think?

Maybe something that invokes positive images: health and cleanliness for example. Maybe "hygiene" or "cleansing". And "race" should come in there too of course. But maybe "ethnic" is better than "racial" these days...

Or perhaps something in the Greek.

Yeah... this will work.

...

Some days the news just makes my head stop working properly and get all jiggly.


~

I bet my anchor can beat up your global telecommunications network



So, in a fight between low tech and high, who do you think will win?
Considering how much people freak out when a single big site goes down (everyone remember the Great Gmail Outage of '09?) it's clear that most of us think of the Internet in general as pretty much invincible. If an asteroid smashed into the Earth tomorrow, millions of us would immediately pull out our phones to try to get Twitter updates from the affected area.


"It must be pretty bad. Ashton Kutcher hasn't tweeted in days."

But the truth is, the Internet travels from continent to continent by way of a network of trans-oceanic cables, each thousands of miles long and only as thick around as a thumb. If enough of these high-pressure porn hoses were compromised, international Internet communication could collapse entirely.

Since these cables are the backbone of a huge portion of the global economy, they must be pretty well protected, right? Guards in armored diving suits, badass nuclear submarines inexplicably captained by Scotsmen, Kraken...


We're pretty sure AT&T has at least one of these at their disposal.

Actually...

As it turns out, the cables aren't protected at all.

And it's not like they're impervious to damage either. The largest of them, hilariously named "SEA-ME-WE-3" was severed by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake, and in December of 2008 a boat anchor sliced it and three other cables in half. The disaster cut communications capacity between Europe, the Middle East and India by around 75 percent.

Hundreds of millions of people spent weeks without reliable (or, in some cases, any) Internet access.

Because of an anchor.


An anchor. A big hunk of metal the most important and sophisticated quality of which is that weighs a lot.

All this Internetland stuff gone. In the blink of an eye.

Yep.

But hey, at least I still remember how to bake bread and decorate cakes.

As I was just noting to a colleague, it seems weird to do for a living something so ephemeral. It really rubs against my grain, actually. I used to do something real for a living.

I wrote:
"When you get old, time seems to get sort of truncated
I sat down and figured it out and I've worked for LifeSite for about six years, and for Campaign Life for four years before that.

Then I did the math and realised that means I haven't had a normal job in TEN YEARS!!!!

Six plus four is TEN!!!

P_____ says:
lol...Well, that's something to be proud of, I'd say.

Hilary says:
I dunno. I used to go home from work thinking, "OK, I've made 10 dozen loaves of bread and made 20 birthday cakes" that's a concrete accomplishment. I've fed people and made little kids happy.

What we do could disappear forever in the time it takes solar radiation to hit the internet cables. One flare, and we're out of a job and all my work goes poof.


I was thinking about my many years of desire to be in the religious life. (It's gone poof, btw, along with most of my religious inclinations). One of the things that really appealed about it was that it was life in The Real. No falsity, nothing artificial. Just daily focused attention on Real things.

Truth is, I live such a weird life that it is sometimes hard to keep a grip. It seems artificial and precarious and hopelessly unreal. And I don't really know what to do about this now.

...

Dang. Caught me sharing...



~

It really is!


So, I came into the City today to work, but only because someone made me. I love the internet. I get to go to work and loaf around in my pjs all day at the SAME TIME!

I've got a better idea

Y'all remember that thing last week when the greatest living philosopher sickening freakjob Peter Singer suggested that the solution to human misery is to sterilise the whole race?

He was responding to a book by David Benatar, another tenured psychopath head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Cape Town, "Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence".

Yeah. Not making it up.

Benatar's schtick is that existence is bad no matter how happy you might be in life, so it is always morally wrong to create more sentient beings. Benatar says that the solution to human misery is to have absolutely no humans at all.

Ah, right.

Of course, the first thing that is popping into your head right now is the same thing that I thought: "You go first, Indy. We'll be right behind yez."

But if we are into making ridiculous suggestions to increase human happiness, I've got one that will be even easier to execute (haw!) than mass sterilisations or building global death camps.

How about we give both Singer and Benatar a deal. In exchange for a promise that they will never EVER publish anything ever again, they get a free lifetime supply of Prozac.

...and transport to a secure island in the middle of the Atlantic.

Heck, we can throw in a box set of all the Calvin and Hobbes comics too, just to show how nice we are.

H/T to Zach

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Balcony Garden


I haven't got the big garden any more, but this is pretty nice too. The mint always reminds me of Grandma's. She did that Enlgish thing and put them in the water when she was boiling new potatoes. She always asked me to go get some from the garden.


When I first got this hibiscus, the first thing it did was drop all its leaves and refuse to bloom.


Funny that it is producing different sorts of flowers all on one bush.


Started the poppies myself from seed.

Just for laffs

So, did everyone else already know that the "Bueller-Bueller" guy in Ferris Bueller's Day Off was actually an important American conservative political writer?

He was a speechwriter for Nixon and Ford (those are US presidents of the 60s and 70s, for the too-young-to-remember-Star-Wars crowd). Was as an adjunct professor on the political and social content of mass culture at American University in Washington. Writes for the American Spectator, Newsmax, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the New York Magazine.

Then he became an actor, comedian, and game show host (?!).

"I've said to my wife repeatedly, I just want on my gravestone, 'He loved dogs' and 'Bueller, Bueller.'” - Ben Stein


Apparently, this speech was ad-libbed from his own economics lectures.

Turns out real life is weirder than fiction.

Get it together people...

Ok, hands up everyone who didn't think the Pope's visit to Britain was going to be a total fiasco.

Anyone...?

Bueller...?

(...sound of crickets chirping...)

(...sound of paint drying...)

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Training the Naive Eye

Yesterday, I completed stage one of my art course. I finished my first Bargue drawing.

Remember this?



Here it is done.


Better pic.

Of course, having spent 30 hours on this, all I can see now when I look at it is all the flaws. Nevertheless, I learned a great deal from it, and am now ready for another one.

If you look closely at the first pic, you can see for example, that the "bowling pin" shape that forms the light shape on the left side bum is slightly more pointy at the bottom and longer in mine than in the original Bargue drawing. I saw this as I was doing my last look before taking it down, but decided that I'd had enough. But the fact that I saw it is more or less the point of the exercise. This kind of drawing exercise, called "sight size", is supposed to train not your hand, but your eyes. Or, I should say, your brain.

As I have written before, and as Ruskin and all those other clever Old School artists have said, the work of learning to draw is not training your fingers, but re-training your brain to actually see things as they really are. Ruskin called it learning to see with the "naive eye".

You learn from infancy to interpret the sensory data coming in. You have to, or the world remains just a jumble of meaningless shapes. But in learning to label and organise the objects, colours, shadows and relationships we see, we tend to become visually lazy. We tend to substitute an idea, a phantasm, of the thing for the thing itself. It is why children learn to draw people, trees and flowers as symbolic icons instead of drawing the thing they are looking at.

Learning to draw, then, is learning to turn off the interpretive function. When I was drawing this, I was not thinking "shoulder blade," I was thinking, (if you could call it thinking) "this shadow-shape is just slightly too evenly curved here," "this is a straight line edge from here to here," "this shadow is deeper here". And as I worked, I found I saw more and more clearly these shapes and relationships. I was acquiring the skill that my instructor Andrea has to a finely tuned degree. She could look at the picture across the room, glance at it, and say, "that half-tone needs to be angled slightly more". Once she had pointed it out, I could see it immediately.

This skill of seeing with the naive eye, she says, can be taught to anyone. It is really just a matter of pointing out things that our busy Talking Brain tends to gloss over as unimportant. It is almost entirely a matter of learning the skill of extremely minute observation.

All real artists know this, and until recently, all artists were trained in this technique, most of them using the Bargue prints, a series of instructional lithographs done in the 19th century by Charles Bargue.

It is no longer widely understood that you have to learn this before you can go madly off breaking the rules. Even the abstract painters were taught in this way.


Here's Picasso's version of the same Bargue lithograph.

But of course, this is part of The Before that was tossed out willy nilly when the Asteroid hit Western Civilisation. The fact that it is being brought back, in little schools, is a good sign. The dinosaurs are starting to die off; maybe the mammals will have a chance.


The instructor is away for a few weeks, (teaching landscape painting in a castle in Tuscany...must be nice) so I've got some homework to do to fill the time. I thought I would work on this lovely statue that I photographed at the Barberini Palace a few weeks ago.

Of course, there is no way I can finish all this Argy-Barguery without doing

the Belvedere Torso at least once.

Thoughtcrime of the Day: a woman doesn't have a "right to choose"


because there is no such thing.

Here's a new series.

Pro-Life 101: abortion slogans debunked.

"She had not a thought in her head that was not a slogan, and there was no imbecility, absolutely none, that she was not capable of swallowing if the Party handed it out to her."
Orwell, 1984.


For a brief time a few years ago, I gave talks to students in Catholic schools about the life issues. It was fun, sometimes. One of the things I did was to ask them to tell me what they heard in the media or wherever, about abortion. What is the first, the very first thing that pops into people's heads when they hear about abortion in the news or in movies or TV?

It was always interesting to see that, like everyone else, they had heard all the slogans and more or less accepted them, but never actually thought about what they meant. Very often, the kids would have their eyes opened after we had taken a closer look. I think it helped them think more clearly about other things too.

The first one they invariably came up with was the old "right to choose" chestnut, which while being the most pervasive, is probably the easiest one to knock down.

I used to explain this to students: it's simple grammar. You don't even have to get into discussing rights or medicine or law. The slogan itself doesn't make sense grammatically.

"Choose" is a transitive verb, which (...I then invariably had to explain...) means it requires an object. There are two kinds of verbs; transitive and intransitive.

You can't just "choose" in the same way you can just run, or work or cook. You have to choose a particular thing. There has to be an object. You choose a career. You choose a husband. You choose a colour for your bathroom. You choose things all the time. But you don't, and can't, just choose.

So whether you have a "right" to choose something, depends entirely upon what the thing, the missing object of the slogan, is.

The sloganeers were pretty clever with this one because it sounds good. Of course you have a right to choose which university to attend. You have a right to vote (unfortunately). You have all kinds of natural rights to choose things. What the Newspeakers have done with this slogan, by knocking the object off the sentence, is to imply that anyone who opposes them is trying to take all rights of choice away from women.

Gramatically, "A woman has a right to choose," means that she has a right to choose absolutely anything. It is a statement of total solipsistic license and as such, is more or less the operating principle of The New Society we, or I should say our parents and grandparents, launched in the 1960s.

This little manifesto of the New World came from the website of an artist and more or less sums up the whole package:
The “right to choose’ means women control our own bodies. We will decide to have a baby or not–even if we’re young, single, or poor! To really “choose” we need abortion services, health care, and child care! Many states have Parental Notification laws. They try to stop teens from having abortions by making us tell our parents first. What’s up with that? Teen sex is healthy and natural. We need birth control and safe sex information. We demand health care and child care for teen moms. Abortion must be safe, legal, and affordable for women of all ages. Fight to keep abortion legal! Not all women think abortion is cool for themselves, but all women have the right to make their own choice.

Do your own thing, man. Groovy.

And more to the point, shout down, bully, and silence anyone who tries to tell you different.

We have been so programmed in the last 50 years to think only of our rights and freedoms (licenses) that the idea of someone opposing the total liberty to do anything and everything one wants all the time is utterly anathema. In the all-or-nothing new world any restriction on any action is an affront. Anyone making a such a suggestion must simply be beyond the realm of rationality and can be instantly dismissed as either a crank with severe mental problems or as an evil megalomaniac bent on destroying everyone's fun.

I recommended to the kids that any time they heard anyone repeating this slogan they should ask "choose what?"

Orwell taught us that slogans work not by giving information but by taking it away. A slogan is not an expression of an idea but a noise meant, with a certain amount of training, to elicit a powerful emotional response either of outrage or shame. A response strong enough to overwhelm rational thought. A person who opposes the sloganeer is supposed to be cowed with shame at his opposition, as many people were who did not agree with the legalisation of abortion.

Believe it or not, I have heard a lot of pro-life people (or perhaps simply people who are generally afraid of rocking the boat in either direction,) say "How can we oppose women's rights?" This is the response of shame that prompts the weasel position, "I don't like abortion but I wouldn't impose my opinion on anyone else." (This, btw, leads directly to the Stockholm Syndrome Pro-lifer of which I have written extensively elsewhere. It turns you into a turncoat, but more on that later.)

An effective slogan is not meant to arouse discussion, but to squash it. It is not meant to be analysed or discussed. It is meant for one thing alone: to whip up a mob. And on abortion, (as well as so many other things) the mob won.

Purcell Wednesday: Passacaglia from King Arthur

Well, I've got the internet stick charged up for another month, have packed, moved, unpacked, cleaned, organised, dusted, mopped, had a party, cleaned up after the party, gone to another party, got the kitchen fully functional, figured out where the mail box is, hung mostquito netting so I can sleep at night, shopped, gone swimming/snorkeling in the Med twice and my flowers are blooming on the balcony. Even the cat has stopped looking freaked out. So I guess it's safe to say that I'm all settled in to my new place. (Now if only I can get the hot water heater up and running...but anyway, it's June in Italy, so, as Steve said, taking hot showers is a sign of an unbalanced mind.)

All of which means that I anticipate a return to regularly scheduled blogging.

To that end, and by request, O's P is happy to present

the Passacaglia from Purcell's opera King Arthur.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Trolls


There's something I've been wondering for some time.

What is it about these baby-killing heretics anti-nuns? Why do they all dress like they get their clothes from the no-sale pile at Goodwill? The men's side, that is.

I mean, look at this pic. Guess, without looking, which one is Sr. Margaret McBride, RSM, the head of a Phoenix Catholic hospital that did an abortion recently?

Didja guess the one on the right? Is it because the one on the left looks kind of like a normal person? The lady in red not unpleasant enough? Doesn't have that special something that says "angry feminist with agenda"?

I scared a priest friend of mine once when I did my anti-nun impression. He had been through the sem with one of these trolls as gatekeeper. Seminarians learn fast, if they get through, to make the right noises with these "pastoral associate" fembots.

They all talk the same way; they're trained to do it in their hugging-your-inner-tree workshops. It's a kind of schizophrenically even-toned, low pitched drone, just above a whisper, executed leaning forward on the elbows, chin tilted slightly down while making constant eye-contact. I did it in the pub, and Fr. D____ actually physically jerked back in his seat away from me.

Anyway, what I wonder is why all these...um...women, look like that. It's not the age. I realise they are all of a particular generation, but I've seen good looking 60 year-olds. Lots.

I wonder if it's something to do with the peculiar nunnish version of femmo-fascism, that seems particularly averse to femininity in appearance and manner. The look is unmistakable.

There's a thing in Rome with the nuns. There are a lot of nuns running around. A lot of them wear habits (or at least those kind of polyester cleaning-lady outfits). But you can always tell the habitless angry American anti-nuns on the buses and in the piazza, even if they don't open their mouths. It could be that no woman in real life would ever dress so badly. The doubleknit blazer and skirt, white polyester blouse worn with sneakers...Yi!

But it's the air of them that is really the distinctive thing, whatever it is. It's so strong that you can spot it 50 yards away. They just radiate something bad.

A kind of petty, small-minded evil.



Sorry. I just realised that wasn't very nice. Maybe I'm just in a bad mood.



~

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Only a thousand

So, that bloodthirsty witch feminist in Milan thought the whole support-for-women-thinking-about-abortion thing was pointless right?

Cinzia Sasso, a feminist writer in Milan, said that the move was propaganda, and the sum set aside was risible because it would allow only just over 1,000 women to avoid abortions.


Yeah, just a thousand or so lives being saved. I mean, what's that really? A thousand. Huh. Pointless. Risible.

Yeah.


~

There's just no pleasing some people

"You pro-lifers are just a bunch of hypocrites! All you care about is imposing your evil will on women. You only care about foetuses. Well, what about the women? I don't see you helping out women who are too poor to care for another child... huh? What about them apples, hey?"

Well, actually...
"Sr Roseanne says that when pregnant women are living in poverty we should be working to get rid of the poverty, not the baby."


"All you people care about is using poor women to further your hateful conservative political agenda."

Cinzia Sasso, a feminist writer in Milan, said that the move was propaganda, and the sum set aside was risible because it would allow only just over 1,000 women to avoid abortions."


...sssso, you'd prefer we didn't offer any help to poor women then?

I'm confused.

Where did I leave that Secret Lefty Decoder Ring?


~

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

School of Journalism

Articles from Mainstreamia can be confusing. In Mainstreamia, words do not always mean what they mean to Normal People. I thought I would help with an analysis of some Mainstreamian vocabulary with which our readers may not be familiar:

"gaffe-prone" (with or without hyphen), as in
"Gaffe-prone Pope Benedict XVI will be tested on delicate trip to divided island of Cyprus. Pope Benedict XVI, often under fire for political missteps on foreign trips, is heading into a potential diplomatic storm when he visits Cyprus this week, a pilgrimage to a divided island that could anger Turkey and the rest of the Muslim world.

The article helps by helpfully giving examples which we will analyse to produce a working definition:

1) Regensburg address = gaffe *.

At that time Benedict said that God, in order to be the actual real God, had to be logically consistent: rational. Therefore, a being who claimed to be God but contradicted himself, couldn't really be God. This "logically consistent" idea is a concept that Mainstreamians don't have, a trait they share with Muslims, who also have difficulty with "irony," (see posts labeled "The Laws of Rational Thought" on the sidebar). So, when Muslims reacted with violence to Benedict's admonition that they should not be violent, Mainstreamians said it was Benedict's fault, because he had produced this "gaffe".

2) Condoms make the problem of AIDS worse = gaffe.

On the plane on the way to Africa last year, Benedict made everyone in the world Mainstreamia who was already mad at him for being the pope even madder by saying their pet project to exterminate sterilise free the Africans from the oppressive shackles of sexual and moral self-control is a bad thing.

It sounds confusing at first, but try to see it from the point of view of Mainstreamian thought. In Mainstreamian thought, it is not sexual contact with infected persons that spreads sexually transmitted diseases. It is something they call "unsafe sex", which means sex without a condom. Therefore, you aren't allowed to say that it is a bad thing to give Africa (and other uncomfortable places with bad air conditioning) container vessels full of condoms and to tell them to be like the cool kids North Americans/Europeans, and have a lot of sex outside of marriage.

Remember, sex does not spread AIDS; unsafe sex spreads AIDS. Saying it is a good idea to only ever have sex with someone you are already married to, is Bad.

It makes people have sex without condoms, which is what gives you AIDS.

From these helpful examples, we can deduce that in Mainstreamian, the word "gaffe" means "When the pope says something true that we don't like".

Hope this helps.

* Also referred to as a "political misstep," in case anyone were still foggy on "gaffe".

My country, tis of thee

The latest comments on life in Ol' Blighty from Inspector Gadget

Bank Holiday weekend coming up...
A significant proportion of the population (significant if only in that they soak up most of the emergency services budgets) simply do not seem to know how to spend leisure time, without getting drunk and abusing other people.

But then I suppose if your whole life is state sponsored leisure time, you wouldn’t see a bank holiday coming!

Gadget Note: Ruraltown job centre currently has over 60 vacancies for unskilled work available in the town, and 120 semi skilled/ administration/ social care vacancies. The manager informed me on Tuesday that once again, they were having to advertise for EU workers to fill them.

Ooo! I have a question!

Pick me! Pick me!


"Well, when I said debate, I didn't mean debate!