Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A child can do it

I get tired of hearing "Oh, you must be so talented, I can't draw a straight line..."

We have banned that phrase from this blog.

There is no such thing as "talent" if you mean by it some kind of Harry Potter gene that magically allows you to draw without lessons practice or effort. Leonardo da Vinci was apprenticed to the art studio at the age of 15. All the great masters started full time formal training early in their lives.

This belief that drawing is some kind of magical ability seems ridiculous if you apply the same idea to music. Yoyo Ma was indeed one of those young prodigies that became famous for being a wonderful interpreter of Bach while still in his 20s. But who would suggest, listening to him play, that he had just picked up the cello one day and started at that level? Who would say, "Gosh, he must have natural talent, I can't play the cello that well..." He started lessons when he was five.

If there is "talent" involved at all, I would rather call it love. Yoyo Ma loved the cello and loved music enough to pay very close attention, to want to become better, to examine problems in music and find solutions, to set higher and higher goals for himself. Love is essential of course, but so are a lot of other things that a person can't control. He was born into the right family; his father was his first instructor. He lived in a class and at a time when he was able to devote his time to study.

Ability in art has very little, if anything to do with "talent". I think, in fact, people talk about "talent" to give themselves an excuse not to try. "Oh, there's no point learning or practicing, I don't have the natural talent."

Until recently, instruction in drawing was routinely given to all children and anyone with an education past the primary level could at least render a scene recognisably in charcoal. I will say it again, it is a skill, like cooking or driving, that can, and very much should be taught.


The new tolerance

The University College of London students' union has just passed a motion making the campus officially "pro-choice".

Fortunately, the Union is sensitive to the needs of "anti-choice" students. The motion has a clause assuring such neanderthal troglodytes that they will not be forced or pressured by the university to have abortions themselves.

“An official pro-choice policy would not prevent students who disagree with termination on ethical or religious grounds from exercising their right not to seek a termination.”

I feel so much better, don't you?


Sunday, January 29, 2012

"Big Society" meets "Real World"

Ah Britain...

It's a long story, but in a nutshell...

For quite a long time, however many years it was, the Labour Party under Tony Blair tried to make Britain a different place from what our mums and dads had known.

Very different.

Now, David Cameron, who likes to make people think he's a "conservative," has made up this new plan to make things more like they way they were. It's called "Big Society," in which, he figures, regular people will start helping each other, without going to the government to fix all their problems.

Trouble is, this requires the kind of people who lived in our mums' and dads' Britain, not the kind of people that Tony Blair's Britain has produced.

Here's a little example of why this isn't going as well as hoped. One of Tony Blair's friends' little projects, that gets talked about rather too infrequently, was this new thing, Not-A-Cop. Called "police community support officers," PCSOs, Not-A-Cops function just about as well as you would imagine from the name.

Here's a headline typical of their great contribution to British society and policing...

"PCSOs trash penniless homeless guy's tent, bought by local charity"

"The tent was warm and it was out of people's way in woodland.

"It was secure my own private space where I could read a book with my torch."

The tent disappeared when Mr Hicks was out walking around the town during the day.

He returned back to the area behind Witney's Windrush Leisure Centre to find the tent gone.

Mr MacKenzie said: "I inquired in the leisure centre (about the tent) as to whether they had any information and was told that the manager authorised two Police Community Support Officers from Witney Police Station to clear Justin's home away.

"Also, if the police had dismantled it then it should have been treated with respect and taken back to the police station so that Justin could have claimed it back.

And here's a funny video about it, so you can have a laugh in case you were starting to worry about this too much...

(Watch out for language...)


Ocean very large; filled with water: study

Sometimes the temptation to climb up onto the top of the cupola at St. Peter's and yell "I TOLD YOU SO" down into the piazza is overwhelming.


Friday, January 27, 2012

You may now point and laugh

I am frequently, and lately more often, obliged to remind commboxers to read the commbox rules posted to the sidebar. I wrote them quite a few years ago when I decided that one thing I would never tolerate was rudeness. You can say whatever you like, that is, make whatever point you think relevant to a post either in agreement or not, but you may not use foul language, you may not use an unpleasant or unkind tone and you may not indulge your personal fetishes for anti-anything here. No idiotic anti-Christian insults, but also no unpleasant rants about atheists, Darwinians, or whomever the target of the day happens to be. You can, and are often encouraged to be sharp or pointy, but meanness, rudeness or bad language is not allowed.

I don't like it.

One of the things the commbox rules made clear that I am the boss, the sole arbiter of right and wrong, the judge of tone, the authority on offensiveness. I am also, more to the point, the person with her finger over the smite button and I have a deletion policy that people often, for some reason, think I will not employ in their case.

I try to encourage people to think of my blog as my sitting room. You are invited to tea and are encouraged to be interesting for as long as you stay. Disagreeing with me is part of being interesting. Coming into my house and insulting the other guests, sneering at the colour of the carpet or making unkind remarks, however, does not make you interesting. It makes you evicted.

One of the things that I have noticed in years of using the internet for my work is that some think they are not really addressing real people. It is widely commented upon that this is a medium that encourages the lower instincts in people, and this is, moreover, a time when genuine good manners (I don't mean just saying nasty things without swearing), are rarely taught to young people. How to disagree well is an art that is sadly being erased by decades of a culture that encourages everyone to express whatever vile thoughts happen to cross his mind at any time.

I once had to intervene in a bit of unpleasantness between a pair of unpleasant, and needless to say young, roommates. One had accused the other of stealing and was in a violent rage. I ordered him, with my best school-marm voice, to leave the room and come back when he was able to speak quietly. He rounded on me with the most extraordinary and memorable assertion that I had no right to try to stop him expressing his feelings. He was a young man, perhaps 19, who had been raised all his life to believe that as long as he "genuinely" felt something, it was acceptable, nay necessary, to blare it out to the world at large, and the "rudest" thing anyone could do was to tell him to shut it. It was a learning moment.

Younger people, I have since noticed, appear to be nearly all convinced that they have no reason whatever, in any venue at all, to modify their tone, their ideas, opinions or mouths. Or to listen to anything anyone else has to say. And brother, do they get indignant when someone tells them to behave. This observation has been borne out only too well by long experience with the internet. Perhaps I don't get outside my own bubble enough to observe how people interact. My friends are all grown-ups who know how to argue well and politely (for the most part) and are able to forgive each other their occasional slips and oddities.

I watched the "occupy" kids interacting on video several times with people who did not agree and in nearly every case the arrogance of the former was appalling, even when they were not outright shouting obscenities. Not only do these young people, (and often not so young) seem incapable of having an intelligent conversation with someone who does not agree, they are also apparently barely able to articulate their own ideas. It was quite a spectacle, especially coming at the same time as those "English riots" in which the few young looters who were interviewed were nearly sub-verbal.

One of the most important rules on this blog, in place to help us all avoid the temptation to let ourselves go and "express our real feelings" in the modern way, is the requirement to leave a real or plausible-sounding name. Anonymous posts, I reiterate, are not allowed. Neither is it allowed to use a moniker, obviously made-up pseudonym or adopt the name of an historical figure. If I think that you are not using a real name, (because I tend to be in a better mood in general in recent years) I will usually instruct the commenter to scroll down and read the commbox rules posted to the sidebar on the left".

I have found myself having to do this more often lately. I suspect it is because cancer makes you interesting, but for some reason the daily site stats have taken an enormous jump recently. In seven years of blogging, I have usually just carried on as if the only people reading were the ten or fifteen people who regularly toss out their ideas. I got a steady 300-350 a day and was quite happy. I hate large parties, and especially don't like a crowd. In the past, when I have seen a sudden jump in numbers, I have put it down to a link from someone more famous and have just battened down a bit and waited for them all to go chattering off somewhere else. But now I see that we are steadily attracting up to 1500 a day, so I suppose I must resign myself to having people here who do not understand the purpose of this blog.

I will make it easy. This blog is for me to write things I think about and it is addressed to my friends and long-time readers. Lately, I have been writing about what it is like to have cancer while living in a foreign country, and about art. But I often write about politics, religion and social and cultural issues.

If you are neither a friend nor a regular, you are still welcome and if you want to join either group it is very easy. Be polite. Say intelligent things related to the posts. Do not be a bore. Do not talk about professional sports. (Just a heads-up: I am inherently and always bored and annoyed by professional sports.) If you only have the urge to say, "Great post! Loved it!" please say it out loud in the privacy of your own home. If you are constitutionally incapable of being either interesting or polite, you will not last long here.

(And spelling counts. If you don't know the difference between "are" and "our," "your" and you're," or "there," they're" and "their," or think that "u" and "you" are interchangeable, you should turn the internet off right now and read a book. I am happy to supply a suggested reading list by email.)

One thing is always required: you must use a real or plausible-sounding name. If you make up a name, you may use one common to whatever culture you were raised in. If you use it consistently here, neither I nor anyone else will know the difference, and you will avoid the tiresome implication that you are a Person of Consequence with a Big Secret Identity to protect. If you are really a Person of Consequence who fears being fired or something for being seen here, you may apply privately and receive an authorised nickname that only you and I will know.

The idea is not to make sure everyone else knows who you are, but to make sure that I do. The first rule is always the most important. This blog is my universe; ultimately only my opinion matters.

Long-time readers will confirm that I have no qualms whatever about deleting you if you have annoyed me in any way. I control only two spaces in the universe: my apartment and this blog. And I control them absolutely.

I mention all this now because,


I seem to have accidentally erased the post with the commbox rules.

When I get around to it, I will reconstruct them. Until then, you may all talk quietly amongst yourselves.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Happy Birthday to Yoooooo

Dorothy's birthday is this weekend. She would like it to be known that her birthday is the whole weekend and not just a little part of it.

Go send her a nice note.

Hurrah for you, nice girly.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Now I know how you all feel

A dear friend and close colleague, the man without whom I would not have been able to make any headway in my work in Rome, has been taken to hospital and is having surgery for colon cancer this week.

I'm in shock and am completely taken aback.

Damn cancer!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Someone's mad at me

for being... well... me.

I have been saving this little gem for a rainy blog day. You remember the other day when I was musing briefly about isolation and what it does to you. The context, I believe, was the weird spectacle of the "official" mourning activities being filmed and enforced in the world's most isolated state, North Korea. I was thinking about it because I had also been musing on what sort of conditions one has to have to ensure that an entire nation of 33 million people have ex-ACT-ly the same opinions on the usual range of, shall we say, reproductive issues.

Canada, you will remember, has a press and broadcast media that is almost entirely state-run or state-vetted. The CRTC ensures that nothing in broadcasts from radio or TV comes with anything other than the officially approved editorial position. Nearly every newspaper in the country is owned by the same company, that is a heavy funder of the Canadian Liberal Party, and of course, we can count on academia and film to do its bit in making sure that everyone adheres in lock-step to the Frankfurt-school, feminist, neo-marxist, Planned Parenthood, Our Bodies Our Selves marching orders. There really is no place in Canada where you can get away from this, it is a self-contained media bubble, or was until the internet came in.

I pondered this once many years ago. Canada seems to have an ideal situation to be used as a guinea pig in a big experiment on how to change a deeply conservative country into a nation of whiney welfare-state addicted leftists. Part of it is the low population to land mass ratio. Canada has the second largest landmass in the world, but a tiny population. The population centres, moreover, are very far-flung indeed. If you grow up in, say the Gaspe, you will without a doubt have to move to somewhere larger and more densely populated like Montreal to get a job and start your life. This trend tends to isolate individuals, separating them often by thousands of miles from their family and their communities of origin.

By rigid control of the media, by creating an atomised population who have only the official state-controlled line for information and no other sources of moral or social stability but the state, you have a population that is ripe for brainwashing.

How do you shift an entire nation to the left? Look at what has been done in Canada.

I was thinking about all this because of an interesting email from a young man whose prodigious skills as a Classical Realist painter had caught my attention. You may recall that I linked to David Gluck's blog, Painting Stuff to Look Like Stuff.

Delighted that I had found more Classical Realists to play with, who moreover live in Duncan BC not an hour from my birth place, you can imagine that I wasted no time in giving them a little extra boost. It never would have occurred to me that I was not worthy in their eyes to dare to link to their page.

I received one friendly commbox note from Mr. Gluck and then, honestly, more or less forgot about him.

What with getting the news that I am much less likely to die of cancer, dealing with the long-term side effects of chemotherapy, recovering from major abdominal surgery, dealing with the emotional and physical stresses of surgically induced premature menopause and suddenly finding myself in contact with a father whom I had assumed had forgotten all about me and from whom I had not heard since the early 1980s, ... oh, and trying to get back to work...you can imagine that Mr. Gluck was not prominent in my mind.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I received the following little note by email.

From: David Gluck
To: quicustodiet66@yahoo.ca
Sent: Monday, January 16, 2012 12:20:52 PM
Subject: please remove our link

Please remove the link of my blog from your blog. I must say at first I was excited to find a fellow BC Canadian realist who was supportive of what my wife and I were doing, but quite frankly after reading your blog, I am turned off. I cannot accept intolerance of gays, transgender individuals, woman's rights, etc. I also found it in very poor taste you are trying to draw a parallel between abortion and the holocaust (especially since many of my family members were wiped out in it). You seem like a very angry individual, and we do not want your followers bringing that sort of hatred to our our blog. Thank you.

David Gluck

ps. You may also want to consider removing Sadie Valerie as well considering she is a huge supporter of gay rights and marriage. In addition, I am friends with most of the artists on your links section and I cannot say they would approve of your blog either.
(emphasis added)

A pariah in the Classical Realist world! Dear me. Having other things on my mind, I responded somewhat tersely,

I'll do whatever you like, but I'm disappointed that a fellow adherent to the Classical Realist revival is so narrow minded as to be unable to disagree on politics in a civil way.

I'm always shocked at the ingrained intolerance of the left.

Very disappointed.

H. White

He replied,
"On Mon, Jan 16, 2012 at 10:13 AM, David Gluck wrote:
Trust me when I say this is me being as civil as humanly possible. I sent you a personal message as opposed to posting anything on your blog that was negative and I was very polite in the manner in which I did it. By the way, I find it a stretch to call someone who is accepting of people for who they are "narrow-minded."

Yesterday, I found out that he must be lurking about here because I received the following, "I asked you very politely to take me off of your blog. Please take me off the links section immediately. Thank you."

I thought of all sorts of replies, (like, Good grief boy, I've really got other things to think about...) but then I thought I would put it to my readers what my response ought to be. (I also considered "friending" him on Facebook, but worried that his little head would explode.)

I have thought about writing back to explain that in the world of grown-ups it is possible not only to disagree civilly on political matters, but to remain close friends with people for many years who differ radically on such issues. It is often difficult, but with the application of charity, forbearance, kindness and forgiveness, and a habit of keeping one's own faults and failings firmly before one's eyes, (I realise these are rare traits in the lefty world, but I have met them there) it is possible greatly to benefit by maintaining contact with people outside one's own political bubble.

Faithful chorus, please discuss.

(I ask only that you do not bother the poor fellow at home. No emails please or commbox messages at his place please.)


Just had a little follow-up

appointment with the GP this evening, to see how things are going, adjust medication, complain about the weather etc. He called the gynaecologist and got the specifics for the blood tests I need for starting HRT. One of the things I need is a mammogram.

Mammogram huh?

Wouldn't it be funny if...


Monday, January 23, 2012

BBC knows ABSOLUTELY no shame

Who pushed the bill to outlaw the Atlantic slave trade through Parliament? Who forced the British ruling classes to look squarely at the gruesome realities of the slave trade? (Graphic images anyone?)

In 2007, the British held a national celebration commemorating the 1807 Act of Parliament that made the slave trade illegal. For its contribution in that celebration, the BBC produced a documentary smearing the man at the centre of that triumph of Christian virtue over barbarism, William Wilberforce.

According to the BBC, Wilberforce is no hero. According to the BBC doyenne Moira Stuart, he was nothing more than a political opportunist and (wait for it)...a Christian and therefore obviously a bigot who's real contribution was nothing more than to make the British feel better about themselves.

Moira, a 30-year veteran of BBC shenannigans, opens her "personal journey" into investigating the "true" history of abolition by saying she is "following the crusade of the man who is said to have abolished Britain's trade in human cargo" (emphasis in the original).

The introductory scenes show a scholarly type fellow in front of a wall of books saying, "If you want to look at a godly Christian nation, doing good things, look at us ending the slave trade."

I guess a challenge like that was too much for the secularist hounds at the BBC. A godly Christian nation? Christians doing good?! Hooo! We'll see about that!

Let the debunking begin! As our presenter Moira Stuart says, "I've discovered that many believe it's now time to re-examine this history". I'll bet you have.

As usual, this high quality smear job roams all over the world looking into the dark, dank and hideous corners of history. All the horrors are present (on a TV programme that children can see!)... tiny windowless stone rooms in a seaside fortress in Ghana that held hundreds of human beings...shackles, whips and torture implements, the famous diagrams showing the packing of people into the cargo holds of ships. All the usual trappings carefully placed with the correct music to engender a powerful emotional response in viewers.

Moira Stuart is careful to let her horror show on her face, and there are some eloquent moments when she is hugged and comforted by the people showing her around. After she has seen the dungeons, we are granted long shots of Moira, gazing soulfully out to sea, sharing her deepest fears, telling us, "I'm angry and I'm in pain..." This, we must understand at the start, is a deeply feeling person, a good woman who fights evil wherever she sees it. Someone who would never lie to us.

Then we get down to the meat of the matter. William Wilberforce has been turned into an icon of British history as the man who stopped this foul abomination, the single voice crying against it, forcing upper class ladies and gentlemen of government to look, and smell the nightmare of enslavement. He is a British hero, who selflessly fought a great evil and, as Moira points out in the first few minutes of the film, was moreover an example of the Christian man doing what he thought best for society.

They pull out all the rhetorical trickery they know to demonstrate that Wilberforce was no hero, but in reality a myopic religious fanatic (and probable racist) who took credit for the work of others. Let's examine a few of the techniques the BBC uses to manipulate a population who now no longer has enough historical knowledge to refute their assertions.

The first is a straw man, the two premises of the programme. A history professor is brought out for the thesis statement that "Britons have made Wilberforce into the national hero and pretended as if the slaves were freed entirely through the efforts of this one very benevolent man. And history didn't happen that way."

History Professor Adam Hochschild then points to an inscription on the plaque under Wilberforce's statue in Westminster Abbey that says, "He removed from the British nation the guilt of the African slave trade." (No, we don't get to see what the rest of it says; no context allowed.)

"That's the key," says Pet BBC Historian, "to why Wilberforce has become such a national hero. He made Britons feel good about it."

"It's comforting to imagine that the slave trade was stopped through the efforts of this one very nice, very benign, very philanthropic, very religious man ... see he's holding a bible in the statue..." (Emphasis in the original.)

Wait a second. Who ever said that? Who? Where? No one has ever said that one man alone ended the slave trade. Wilberforce didn't start the abolition movement, everyone knows that he joined it. No film or book no matter how adoring, would ever try to suggest that it was his efforts alone. This is probably the most glaring lie in the programme and they present it right at the start, obviously confident that the average British viewer is too stupid to catch it.

Moira tells us, "This is the story of my quest to find out why" Wilberforce has been remembered as a hero. She says she wants to examine the evidence and "make up my own mind".

But this is another blatant lie. From the opening sentences of this film, she has made it clear that her mind is already made up from the start, and the biases of the film make it obvious. It is really the story of her "quest to knock a great man off his heroic pedestal, to destroy another icon both of Traditional British culture and to defame the Christian virtues he embodied and, with the same convenient stone, to raze to the ground and sow salt on one of Christian civilisation's great historic claims..."

Remember the other opening quote? "If you want to look at a godly Christian nation, doing good things, look at us ending the slave trade."

Any doubt about where this is going?

She interviews a government official in Ghana (a majority Christina nation, by the way Moira; don't get their religious cooties on you) who tells her what everyone knows, that Wilberforce was part of a great movement manned by many people, including Africans, to stop the trade. But this is supposed to demonstrate that the British are wrong, and probably trapped in latent imperialist delusions, to hold up Wilberforce as a hero.

In Ghana, Moira "discovers" another great coverup by the Wilberforce lobby. He didn't end slavery. Slavery was made illegal in 1833. Wilberforce's achievement was "only" to make the trade illegal. Well! No one knew that! It's all obviously a giant Christian conspiracy to cover up the facts...

facts that anyone can find on Wikipedia...

Now she's armed. She's discovered a big lie. She heads back to England wanting to know "why Britain remembers him as the man who ended slavery when the 1807 bill only stopped the trade."

Having made the discovery of this nefarious conspiracy, Moira confronts a Wilberforce biographer at Wilberforce's house in Hull. All smiles as Kevin Belmonte reads her the legend at the base of the statue in the garden of the house that says, "England owes to him the reformation of manners; the world owes to him the abolition of slavery".

Moira jumps at the chance to call the lie. Gotcha!

"Is that so?" she says.


"Right, because I know that he was fundamental to the abolition of the slave trade but to slavery itself?"

The sadly unenlightened Mr. Belmonte explains patiently that you could not have made slavery illegal in 1833 without having made the trade illegal first. From the passage of the 1807 bill, it became clear that the next step was to take aim at slavery itself. From the first bill, the abolitionists were able to "lay deep foundations to take aim at slavery".

"It took far longer (26 years) than Wilberforce would have wanted, or indeed hoped."

Nevertheless, her response, in a voiceover so Mr. Belmonte could not hear, Moira comes back with "Despite the delay, such monuments reinforce the idea that Wilberforce ended slavery in 1807." Because obviously, people learn history entirely and exclusively from looking at monuments. Who reads books nowadays? (Or Wikipedia.)

But Moira's claws really come out when she addresses Wilberforce's religion. She tells us she wants to get "past the misconceptions" and get to know the real man. We hear that he was born into a well-to-do merchant family and became an MP for Hull at 21 and later for all of Yorkshire.

"But it's clear from his journal that he also believed in God and wanted to make a difference."

About the worst sin an MP can commit in the eyes of the BBC is to try to "impose his religious beliefs through legislation". I was wondering how the BBC would reconcile this axiom with the inescapable fact that the people who drove the abolition movement were Christians who were explicitly motivated by their religious beliefs.

Christians, according to the received wisdom of the publicly funded broadcaster, are to practice their religion privately at home. An MP who bases his work on his religious beliefs is trying to turn Britain into a theocracy. The solution? Demonstrate that the Wilberforce legend is fraudulent and that the man himself was probably a racist.

The real clincher is when Belmonte shows her in the Wilberforce family home in Hull, an embroidered rendition of the famous image of a black slave in chains, praying on one knee to be freed, "Am I not a man and a brother?" ... an image that caught the popular imagination at the time and significantly helped the movement.

Moira's delicate BBC-trained politically correct sensibilities recoil, however, at the image which she sees as evidence of the essential racism of the movement. "The Wedgewood cameo was probably the first campaign logo, found on everything from tea sets to women's brooches, it was popular amongst abolition supporters. But today, it's an awkward and difficult image."

She interrupts Belmonte's description of the contribution made by the image, saying, "What does that say to you?"

He says, "Britain still needs to be aware of the needs of the sons and daughters of Africa."

Getting a little tetchy, Moira jumps in, "It seems a travesty of the African, who has fought for his freedom to be seen in this as a mere supplicant." She ends the discussion, interrupting Belmonte's rebuttal.

After Hull, she returns to London to discover that with Wilberforce in Parliament, "It seems religion was his driving force." (Emphasis in the original.)

She interviews a painfully apologetic churchlady who explains away the kneeling black slave pictured in a stained glass window of Wilberforce in the church he worshipped in after his "evangelical conversion."

Looking at it, Moira says with a disapprovingly arched eyebrow, "No hint of repentance from the point of view of having caused the pain of enslavement in the first place..."

Aaaahhh, here is the crux of the matter. This is the real thesis of the programme. Wilberforce, and by extension all well-intended white Christians, can only redeem themselves of the sin of having been white, privileged and successful, by adopting grovelling white liberal guilt.

Pressing her point with this poor terrified little old churchlady, who is clearly desperate to please this woman (who is famous as the first "African-Carribean" to get a prominent place at the BBC), Moira continues, "It just bothers me that there is a deification..."

"Yes, I think that Wilberforce would have been quite unhappy to have been put in a stained glass window," the poor little mouse responds.

You can watch the rest on YouTube if you like. But I don't think there is any point. It has been admitted by the people who run the place that the BBC has hatred of Christianity, traditional morality and British history and culture written into its DNA.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

I imagine it'll be the only one,

So, I'll just enjoy it...

Second Leonardo copy framed and living free in North Carolina.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Missing the point

I hate to say it, but I find the arguments for Intelligent Design to be somewhat unconvincing. I'm afraid I just don't see why the fact that even fairly simple life forms are actually incredibly, amazingly complex, proves anything. I don't see why incredibly, amazingly complex life forms couldn't have developed their complexity through a kind of biological trial and error over a very long period of time. I just don't really see mere complexity as a sufficiently compelling argument for the existence of a designer.

At the same time, I find the answers of the Darwinians equally unsatisfying. I think both groups are locked into a materialist mindset that cannot grasp certain metaphysical ideas. They are looking for proof of God in the wrong place. And they are giving answers that are, essentially, non sequiturs. Religious people understand that the proof for the existence of God has little to do with the question of the origins of the universe or of life. God doesn't live in the universe. The only way He could have created it is to have already existed before it. Physical reality and all the laws governing it were made by God; He therefore can't be part of it.

Darwinians especially seem locked into a silly argument with Protestant fundamentalists over the origins of the physical universe or of life in it. Because they don't know anything about religion or philosophy, (and can't seem to be bothered to look it up on Wikipedia) they they don't seem to understand that Protestant creationists are not only talking scientific nonsense, they are talking through their hats on religion too. I once had to laugh when some nasty little atheist tried to accuse me of being a Creationist because I believed that God made everything. He seemed incapable of understanding that one can believe God is the author of reality without trying to prove that the early verses of the book of Genesis is a literal historical, minute-by-minute account of the first week of existence.

They don't seem to understand that the dumb Proddies arguing this silly theory are just as irritating to intelligent Christians as they are to the scientists.

Creationism is not properly speaking a religious argument about the creation of the universe; it is a political argument for the literal interpretation of the Bible and for sola scriptura. It is, in origin, a fight not with science, but with the Catholic Church. It goes back to the 16th century and is, frankly, very boring and stupid. (Really? I'm supposed to believe that the earth is 4000 years old because of the genealogies? Seriously?) The problem these Proddies have is a basic misunderstanding of what kind of document the Bible is, what it is for, and the way in which it is inerrant. It's neither a history text nor a book about physics or geology.

But this brings me to Intelligent Design, which is not, as far as I can see, an offshoot of this ancient and tired Protestant fight. It really does seem to be a movement springing from scientists who had no previous association with Proddie fundamentalism. And yet, it is still hampered by the same mistakes that both the Creationists and the Darwinians are making. None of them seem able to think outside their materialist box.

God is not in the universe. He made everything and holds everything in existence moment to moment by a continuous, eternal act of His will. The problem everyone seems to have with this question is the difficulty of thinking of things that exist outside physical reality. Outside time and space.

Darwinians and atheists like to say that the universe was brought into being by a big explosion a long time ago. When you ask them what was there before that big explosion, they will say, variously, "nothing" or "another explosion". But these answers are not even addressing the real question. It does not answer, "Where did the explosion come from? What made it happen?" Saying, "It just happened" or things "just exist" is not only unsatisfactory to people like me, it's anti-scientific. It's an expression of belief.

Dawkins once answered the question about where the big bang came from in an interview by saying, "I don't know." Which is at least honest. But when he is saying, "God doesn't exist," and seems to expect people to believe it because he's a scientist, he is making a fool of himself in the same way a plumber would be foolish to make definitive statements about cosmology.

All these people are missing the point. The existence of God really cannot be either proven or disproven by the natural sciences. Dawkins' assertion that God does not exist is not based on evidence, it is not a scientific assertion, it is an expression of religious belief. And I think that the best the ID guys can say is that they believe that such complexity as can be found in the bacterial flagellum, seems likely to point to a designer.

Physical science is only capable of observing objects and systems within physical existence and God, the author of physical reality, does not live there, as an author does not live in the book he writes. When people are looking for evidence of the existence of God, you can't answer them from inside the box of physicality.

Unfortunately for us, natural scientists are no longer trained in philosophy so they don't seem to understand the limits of natural science, and don't seem to know that they can't answer all questions about reality. It's a pity, because it seems clear that the people asking them for proof or disproof of God don't know this either. Modern people have been conditioned to think that questions about what is and is not real can only be answered using empirical science. Philosophy has become so arcane and intellectually corrupt (thanks Descartes) that it would never cross their minds to look for concrete answers there. That there are other kinds of proofs is something that many people, and apparently most scientists, have forgotten or have never known.

Darwinians have failed to even address the real question and it is hard to escape the idea that they are refusing to address it because they know it is outside their competence. It is very difficult to listen to these people talk about religion without thinking them very arrogant, and quite frankly, ignorant. I have always wanted to hear what Dawkins would have to say in response to Aquinas' five proofs. But it seems likely that neither he nor most of his interlocutors have heard of them and none of them, on either side, seem to have any notion that there is any way to address the question without natural science.

They have no background whatever, it seems, in even elementary philosophy. The Darwinian answer, "It just happened," because it ignores the real issue, is trite and unsatisfying. Things do not "just happen". There's this thing in metaphysics called "causality," which is completely observable and which philosophers have called "the cement of the universe". In other words, you can't have physical reality without it.

I myself have been observing things not just happening all my life. Events inside physical reality, existence, are always caused by some other event. All of existence is linked together by this chain and everything that happens also causes other things to happen. This is something that everyone can observe and figure out.

This means that everything that happens and everything that exists is "contingent". Everything is reliant on the thing prior to it in the chain. In philosophy, the word contingent means, "neither impossible nor necessary". A contingent being, therefore, is something that really exists, but depends on something else for its existence. Contingent beings do not exist out of necessity. It is not their nature to exist. I am a contingent being, there was a time when I didn't exist, therefore it is not my nature to exist.

The trouble that both the Darwinians and the ID people are having is that they are trying to demonstrate the existence of God from observing things within that chain of causality, and all they can come up with are things that do not exist out of necessity. Things that are contingent, dependent upon something else in the chain for their existence.

What they seem incapable of doing, perhaps because their intellectual training has been too specialised, is thinking about something that exists out of necessity. What people are asking when they want to know where did the universe come from is not, when was the Big Bang. It is, where and when did the chain of causality start?

The only way to start this chain that is the "cement of the universe," the foundation of physical reality, is to be something whose nature it is to already exist, to exist outside time and space. It has to be something that is not subject to causality, whose existence is not contingent, or dependent on anything else to have started it.

There is only one thing, one being, whose nature it is to have always existed and which will always exist in the future, and this being by its nature cannot exist within the boundaries of the causal chain.

Next time you're discussing the existence of God or the origins of the universe, the thing to ask is not, when did it all start, but how. All things are dependent upon previous things. What, then, is the first thing?


Starting to forget

Ray Comfort who made this video said that one of the things he had to overcome in doing these interviews was his own shock and disgust that these people knew nothing about the history of Nazism and the War. He said that at first his involuntary reaction showed and it would put people off so much that they wouldn't talk to him any further. He learned to school his expression and to expect the level of ignorance he hadn't been prepared for.

As for the apologetics aspect of it, it's fine, but somewhat unrefined. The people he's talking to evidently have no intellectual capacity at all, and so their ideas are easy to refute and their minds are easy to change. But I wonder how fast they can be convinced right back again when confronted with the usual abortionism/feminist slogans.

I was taught pro-life apologetics by Scott Klusendorf and he has a much more rigorous approach that can be applied to people who are capable of rational thought. I don't fault Ray Comfort for his efforts, but I think he'd be in trouble with his somewhat sketchy method if he were up against someone of more substance.


Every man for himself

People are talking about the Concordia disaster. I noted it at first because it happened about 20 minutes train ride from where I sit.

The other thing I noted almost immediately is the news about the behaviour of the captain, Francesco Schettino, and the other men on board.

Rich Lowry comments in the National Review:

"“Every man for himself” is a phrase associated with the deadly Costa Concordia disaster, but not as a last-minute expedient. It appears to have been the natural order of things. In the words of one newspaper account, “An Australian mother and her young daughter have described being pushed aside by hysterical men as they tried to board lifeboats.” If the men of the Titanic had lived to read such a thing, they would have recoiled in shame. The Titanic’s crew surely would have thought the hysterics deserved to be shot on sight — and would have volunteered to perform the service.
Another woman passenger agreed, “There were big men, crew members, pushing their way past us to get into the lifeboats.” Yet another, a grandmother, complained, “I was standing by the lifeboats and men, big men, were banging into me and knocking the girls.”

I note that Michael is doing a series this week on the emasculation of men and the effects of feminism on the Church. Today he mentioned the type of men who are feminist-approved in today's media. Men are routinely depicted as weak, stupid and ineffectual and lorded over by strong, hip intelligent women. After watching today's offering, I sent him a note asking that he not forget to talk about feminism's vilification and demonisation of strong men. The flip side of feminism's hatred of men is to denounce them as violent, evil and terrifying. Monsters.

I think it is also worth commenting on the effects on men in the real world of feminism, and her strumpet child, the Sexual Revolution. Feminism has killed the cultural priority of men protecting and being responsible for women. A male who has overcome adversity and grown from a child protected by women into a man, an adult who protects women and children. Our feminist-inspired anti-culture, coupled with a soul-deadening consumerist materialism, has tossed these concepts out and by telling women they don't need men, by demonising the strength of masculinity, it has at the same time told men that they never need to grow up.

If feminism has taught women they can sleep around "like men," it is to be remembered that this means it has also given men permission to do the same. Instead of insisting that men behave responsibly, marry a woman and protect and care for her and his children, it has offered men women as toys and offered women the Pill and abortion as the back-up plan.

I read an interesting, though deeply frightening, website that claimed to be in support of men against the feminist world. One of the points that the clearly angry men made was that they were often held to a grossly unjust double standard. The legal system, now held firmly in the feminist claw, holds them financially responsible for the children they father. The article on the site pointed out however, logically enough, that since effective contraception was available for free, and women are now allowed to use men sexually as easily as men use them, no man should ever be held responsible for fatherhood. The argument was even more chilling as it addressed abortion. Why should any man ever be financially ruined by family courts when abortion is legal, a lot cheaper and easy to get?

Why indeed? Feminism, because it is essentially dishonest, childish and self-serving, will never own up to the logical conclusions of its premises.

The culture-wreckers made divorce easy to get in the 1970s but it took a few decades for feminism, having now gained monstrous political strength, to catch up. It was not until about ten or twenty years ago that they realised that easy divorce and "free sex" left women and children without protection. When my parents divorced in 1971 or so, there were no laws protecting women from total abandonment. It is true that at that time, many, if not most post-divorce women were left in desperate poverty, often relying on welfare handouts, when the man ignored court orders for child support.

But in the last 20 years, feminism has caught up and now a man who divorces or leaves his family is often completely wiped out. Feminist family lawyers are known actively to discourage reconciliations in favour of totally ruining the man. In Canada, with the stereotype of the despicable "deadbeat dad" conveniently kept alive by the media, family court judges think nothing of ordering a man to turn over nearly his entire income. One man I know of, who had lost his job and was facing eviction from his apartment, was told by a judge, "I don't care if you don't have the money. If you don't pay, you go to jail." Canadian family law has revived the Victorian institution of debtor's prison.

Recently, the popes have written against the kind of feminism that promotes abortion and contraception, for hammering a wedge of hostility between men and women. Universal promiscuity, contraception, legal abortion, easy divorce, together with a youth-worshipping, madly consumerist culture, they have said, has created the perfect storm. A cultural disaster that tells women they don't need men, and men they can remain happy, care-free adolescents their whole lives.

This message seems to have come through especially loud and clear in Italy where it is only too easy to find men who are the embodiment of the self-indulgent man-child stereotype. Feminised men are a plague in Italy: vain, self-important, shallow and self-seeking mamma's boys who think nothing is wrong with living in their parents' house in their thirties and forties. One of the things I have written about recently is the drop in marriage rates in Italy. I think one of the best reasons for it is the terrible dearth of grown-up men. (Not forgetting that their skinny, shrieking, tarted-up, painted-claw, artificially endowed females are not anyone's warm ideal of wife and motherhood either.)

I'm happy to say that I am not the only one to have noticed this. It is a common cultural self-criticism of Italians.

Rosaria Sgueglia writes in the Huffington Post (somewhat ironically) that the master of the Concordia is one of those Italian men who match the stereotype point for point.
The average Italian man is said to be narcissist, egomaniac, coward, selfish, unable to follow basic procedures and unable to follow the rules. True or not, it's a stereotype, a stereotype which is strongly proved by the latest, tragic events in Italy.

But I'm also happy to say that I've liked and admired most of the Italian men I've met. The cultural stereotype is easy to observe in Rome, but it is not universal. I've certainly been the recipient of a great deal of careful assistance from a lot of good Italian men lately. (I've also observed that the grown-up Italian men I've met are also almost always Catholics who take their faith seriously.)

These would be men like the Coast Guard Captain Gregorio De Falco who repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, ordered Schetino back on board after the creep had fled the ship and abandoned his charges.

Sgueglia voices the frustration of Italians at the common shortcomings of their own post-Catholic culture, "Today Captain De Falco is the voice of Italian People; an angry voice, angry as every single Italian is."
Yes, today we are furious and we are because a human accident, a stupid accident, caused the death of people who didn't deserve to end their life in such a horrible way. We are because a five-year-old girl was left on board and is still missing; as are more than 20 people. We are because it took Mr. Schettino an hour to call the Mayday. We are because pregnant women, elderly and people who needed assistance were left without any coordination from their captain.

And we are because someone who was clearly incapable of doing his job was made responsible of more than 4,000 people. And, yes, we also are because people like Mr. Schettino do nothing but compromise the already damaged image the rest of the world has of Italian people.



[T]he rise of the extreme right through elections has become an issue that cannot be countered.” Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Well, the solution is obvious isn't it?

It's those damned elections we've got to get rid of...

Never fear Jihadis, the EU stands behind you in that noble effort.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Matt's making another video

And I missed my chance...Dang!

I was signed up to get the email telling me when he was going to be in Rome and it came a few weeks ago telling all his Rome fans that he was going to be in Piazza del Popolo on October 23rd. Just as bad luck would have it though, that was the weekend Vicky and I went to Florence. Florence was awesome, but I was really sorry to have missed him.

Cause, I'm a giddy fan...


Here he is doing his thing in Talinn, Estonia.

Aaaand in Zürich

A fun thing to do when he makes his clips is to do your own personal mini Matt video. I totally would have loved to do this. Oh well...




The only way to really go as crazy as it's possible for 24 million people to collectively go is isolation. No one and nothing, no new idea, gets in and certainly no one gets out. I don't know if isolation is enough to make you nuts by itself, but I think it is clearly a requirement to really let it go as far as it will go.

I've had a few Thoughts about the subject of philosophical isolation in the last few hours, and I will share them shortly.

Meantime, I'd like to thank Binky the Webelf for the plug.

Say a prayer for our Nova Scotian Anglican friend if you please. He's not been well.

(Really Binks, I think you would find blogging much easier just to do a bit at a time like the rest of us do. It's no wonder you find it exhausting with these huge posts. Just put up one or two little things every now and then. You will find it much easier and the rest of us won't miss you so much.)


Monday, January 16, 2012

Antonio Guzmán Capel

Hate the cutsie-wootsy figures. Hoo boy! Really hate them quite a lot.

and really, cat paintings? Seriously?

But lawks a' mercy! Those still lifes!

He's got that 17th century Dutch glow.

How do you make fruit look like this?

Must... try... harder...



A little over a year ago, I copied this

Leonardo drawing

I decided to use this as a sort of measuring stick to see how I'm getting on. Thought I'd do a copy a year.

So, I did another one about a month or so ago.

Seems like it's working.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

A parade of naked emperors

Why do I have no interest in the "mainstream" art world?

Well, this:

Walking publicity stunt tapped as "Professor of Drawing" by Royal Academy.

Tracey Emin, someone I think of as a human sneer aimed at everything good, true and beautiful, has been appointed to the job by the General Assembly of Royal Academicians.

Painter Anthony Green said, "She draws at the speed of thought, which is a very rare ability."

Yes indeed, behold, this miraculous "natural talent".

Miss Emin herself comments on her amazing ability: "Some of my favourite drawings I have done with my eyes closed - or so drunk I do not remember making them."

Never would have guessed.

“...Being an artist isn’t just about making nice things, or people patting you on the back; it’s some kind of communication, a message.”

James Abbott,
another angry art blogger I've recently discovered, responds: "I believe, in her heart of hearts (deep down where one may still reside), Emin’s message to the world is: 'sucker!'"

Apparently there are still about 60 students actually studying "art" at the Academy to whom she is now obliged to give lectures and workshops in drawing.

Many of the classical realists I've become interested in studied "fine arts" or "studio art" in university or at some accredited school and they uniformly say the same thing about it. That it was time wasted and they learned nothing of any use whatever.

Is it any wonder?


Give 'em the old one-two

"I saw Santa punching Arius..."
"'Tis the season to be cranky, fa la la la la, la la la laaaaa..."

Jolly Old St. Nicholas — oh yes, he was a bishop — wasn’t having any of it. He tried to listen patiently, he really did, but Arius’ speech was just so wrong, that he was compelled to get up in the midst of it and, yep, punch him in the face.

Arius would have made the nativity a non-event (woop-de-freakin-doo everyone, God made something else). He, majestically prefiguring the various sects of Happy-Holiday-ers, Winter Solstice-ers, and it’s-actually-a-pagan-holiday-ers (that’s the point, you muppets!) denied that Christmas need be a celebration of substance at all. So when the modern world promotes the consumerist image of Santa Claus over the image of Christ, it is not so much the wrath of Christ they should fear as it is the wrath of Santa Claus.

A little late in the season for this, but it is fun to be reminded that I and my friends are not the only cranky Catholics in the history of the Church to lose our patience with idiotic liberal sophistry.

So, sing along with us...
"He sees when you’re dissenting
he knows when you’ve blasphemed
he knows your schismatic doctrines
and so he’s gonna punch your face
Oh, you better not doubt
You better not divide
You better not bring scandal to the Holy Roman Catholic Church
I’m telling you why
Saaaanta Claus is smacking you down,”

Happy Second Sunday after Epiphany, everyone.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Couldn't have done it without y'all

All art and work plans going forward

I just got the call from the doctor at the Gemelli. He said the histology report came back clean. I had a microscopic tumour on the uterus, but the margins were clean. No more cancer. It's over.

I'm still more or less flat on my back from surgery two weeks ago, but now I can just recover and get on with things.

It looks like the rest of my life will now happen.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Wait, what?!

We're supposed to think the 60s were great?!

Hang on, no one seriously believes that, right?

I mean,



Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Canis latrans

In which the Road Runner finally gets what he deserves.



There's something important about the culture of the West, about Christendom, that often gets overlooked. We have enough room, extra space in our cultural machinery for fooling around. For fun and for doing things just for the joy of it. It may be this that makes Western society superior to everything that has come before it. If we keep this alive, we may yet survive the current assaults.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The invisible rendered visible, wrought with love

Why have I got such a bee in my bonnet about painting and drawing? "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Art is an essentially religious activity for me. Used properly, it makes visible what we all hope for.

Frank Mason is another Classical Realist painter who knows this.

This movement is what I want to climb into, and help to move forward.


Hopes and dreams

So, about the future...

Y'all know that the cancer business has led me to seriously re-assess my life and work. The conclusions I've come to are pretty positive. For the first time in my life I have no questions at all about whether I am doing the right things or going in the right direction. The question that cancer really raises though, is what next. The answer seems to be not a change, but more. More work. More art. More learning. More getting to know people and the world and understanding them. And doing this through art and writing.

Even before cancer, just having moved to Italy raised many of these kinds of questions. Every morning I still wake up and spend a minute or so remembering where I am and being amazed. A place this beautiful and important just makes it imperative that you live a life worthy of being here.

Just last night we said farewell to my lovely friend Vicky who came here in October to look after me (we thought the surgery would be way sooner) and is on her way home now to Vancouver to start a fabulous career as a film maker. I have more or less achieved basic physical functioning, can get in and out of bed by myself, dress, make tea and walk around the apartment. I'm not allowed to lift anything heavier than the tea pot for the first two months and can't do my own shopping at all. But I can take little walks down to the seaside and can certainly sit up at the computer and at the easel for a few hours at a time, so I think the time is near, barring further bad news from the oncologists, to get back into a regular pattern of work, at least a bit.

I am going to get the staples (!!) taken out this week, and they will tell me the results of the histological examination of the tissue some time in the next ten days or so. If the news is not what we hope for, I suppose we will have to carry on with more chemotherapy or something. I asked a couple of times "what if" and each time the answer was ambiguous. "I don't know" was the clearest I got, but someone did mention possible chemo.

I think the next histology report is going to be the crucial thing. If it shows no sign of cancer in the margins, the supposedly "clean" area around the tainted organs, then I'll probably be OK.

But if there are more cancer cells in the place where there shouldn't be then I think the long-term prognosis won't be very good. Individual cells eventually form tumours but until they do you can't detect them with scans. Right now they have already taken out more or less all the organs that I can survive without, so after this there won't be any more surgery possible. The cancer has already shown itself to be "chemo-resistant" so I think the idea is that more chemo will only stave it off for a while. How long is anyone's guess.

For myself, I am still hopeful, but there is still the issue of my intuition. I just can't shake the feeling, that seems to be turning into a certainty in my mind, that I will die of this disease. So, though I know that I will be utterly crushed if the news is bad, I will not be at all surprised, as I was not surprised at all by the initial diagnosis all the way back in March.

With all this Doom n' Gloom worst-case-scenario in mind, however, I wanted to run an idea past y'all. Vicky told me about this website that people use to raise funds for their various arty-farty projects and ideas called Kickstarter. You do a sort of pitch video and tell people what your brilliant idea is and you just plainly ask for money. You give a target goal and there is a time limit for people to donate. People have asked for start-up funds to do everything from making traditional tomato chutney to building a giant animatronic snake. One project that impressed me was this one to create a rolling photostudio to revive the use of traditional film photography.

And you can really get a lot of dosh out of it. This guy, for example, was one of the big lotto winners. He asked for 500 bucks and ended up with over $77,000. Though of course, there is no telling which project will strike the fancy of readers.

I've been all over the site and it seems that there is very little there about doing anything remotely "traditional" in art in the sense that I mean it. In fact, it seems geared towards more of the "innovative" modernist stuff that I've spent my life fighting. But there is certainly a sense in which a return to Classical Realism in art is at the very cutting edge of avant garde these days, as being interested in the Trditional Mass is in the Church. So long-lost and forgotten is the skill of realist drawing that it seems like a rediscovery of ancient alchemy or magic. Besides, nearly anything goes in our weird times, and I think perhaps if it were pitched that way my idea would get some attention.

My idea simply is, as soon as my health will allow, to start studying as close to full time as I can manage, which, given work commitments, probably means a 3-hour class a day, five days a week. This will cost about $10,000 (Cn) per year. I hope to divide my time evenly between the studio and work. That's the first part anyway. In the long run, like a couple of years from now, stage two is to teach and help Andrea expand the Rome school. In the long-long-long run, the third stage, should I ever get there, is to buy a place in the country in Umbria and open a live-in school. If I were to die having done all or most of this, I'll be pretty content.

Studying art for me is part and parcel of the work I've been doing for the last decade or more: to rescue Western Civilisation from the barbarians who have nearly destroyed it. To be a traditionalist painter, to start saying in painting what I've been saying in words, is a goal I think I can achieve (assuming there's time) and will, I hope, be the "other half" of the work I've been doing to advance the cause of The Real in the face of a universal capitulation to an evil and disordered Fantasy. I have said before that I greatly value the chance to do the work I do and to get better at it, but that it seems incomplete to me. (It could be worse, I could have a bee in my bonnet about studying poetry! I shudder.)

In the second phase, my hope is to teach other people what I've learned. I can't tell you how annoying it is when someone says, "Wow, that's amazing! I can't draw a straight line. You must have natural talent." The idea that drawing is some kind of magic trick that only people with the special Harry-Potter drawing gene can do is as widespread as it is irritating. (I can't draw a straight line either. No one can because there is no such thing in nature. In fact, I'm hereby banning the expression from the blog.) Back before they abolished education drawing was a normal part of everyone's upbringing. It is about as magical as learning to read Latin and was tossed out of the curriculum for more or less the same reasons.

When Andrea was studying at the Florence Academy she was recruited as a drawing instructor while still studying. She also worked at normal joe-jobs most of her time in training. She really does embody the kind of discipline to which I aspire.

I have no desire whatever to pick up stakes and move to Florence, mostly because I'm not interested in tearing apart my happy little life. I intend to keep doing what I am doing, but to do a lot more of it all. To continue to write out against the evils of our times on LSN. For those who worry that I am thinking of quitting, it is very far from my mind. The thing that cancer has taught me is that I really want to live, completely and fully, and for me, life simply can't be lived without writing. But it is like trying to live on only one kind of food. Eventually the craving for more protein or potassium or vitamin C becomes overwhelming.

If the cancer news is good, we are nearing the end of the ordeal. I think the time has come to make some plans for the possible future.


Many thanks

to reader Katherine Altham who writes on the little note accompanying my new book,

"Dear Miss White, Your blog has on several occasions been to me a light in the darkness. With wishes for a peaceful Advent and a Christmas of "comfort and joy".

The note was on the paperwork accompanying my shiny new copy of

Lessons in Classical Drawing
; Essential techniques from inside the atelier

Really, I can't say enough how much I appreciate the kindness of my readers who send me nice things and say helpful stuff.

Things are going to develop with me and the Art Thing. I've got a plan, and I'm going to need help from y'all. I know I can count on a lot of intelligent input from my chorus.


Monday, January 09, 2012

I often worry that I will pay a heavy price for all the time wasted


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
W. H. Davies


Senior National Gallery Curator Admits Modern Abstract Art is Crap

Well, almost...
Mark Leidhauser has held in his hands more great works of art than any king of pope or Medici ever did. A senior curator at the National Gallery, he oversees the framing of the paintings...

"Let's say I took one of our more abstract masterpieces, say an Ellsworth Kelly, and removed it from its frame, marched it down the 52 steps that people walk up to get to the National Gallery, past the giant columns, and brought it into a restaurant. It's a $5 million painting. And it's one of those restaurants where there are pieces of original art for sale, by some industrious kids from the Corcoran School, and I hang that Kelly on the wall with a price tag of $150. No one is going to notice it. An art curator might look up and say: 'Hey, that looks a little like an Ellsworth Kelly. Please pass the salt.'"


This really happened

That young man is Joshua Bell, one of the foremost musicians of the day. The place is the metro in Washington DC.

It was a social experiment set up by the Washington Post to see what would happen. How ordinary passers by would react to the kind of music people pay top dollar to hear in concert halls.

Well, this:
The people scurry by in comical little hops and starts, cups of coffee in their hands, cellphones at their ears, ID tags slapping at their bellies, a grim danse macabre to indifference, inertia and the dingy, gray rush of modernity.

H/T to Carriere.


Sunday, January 08, 2012

Planning for the future

This guy has joined a website called Kickstarter with this video in which he asked people, just people out there in Internet Land for funding to help him make his 2-D art into a pretty cool and interesting 3-D reality. With this and a couple of other videos and Kickstarter website, he acquired 955 donors and accumulated over $75,000 US.

Vicky has suggested that I make a similar video and get onto Kickstarter to ask people for money to fund my own long-term art-dreams. She makes videos and movies (and is going back to BC on Tuesday to go do a prestigious film internship at Banff) and her sister is a professional artist, so she knows about funding and professional stuff.

I have just been watching the stats at this blog slowly rising. I think the combination of cancer and art, as well as already having something of a public profile on LSN and living in this interesting place, has been a source of great interest to people. I spent years blogging here more or less assuming that I was writing for my little group of friends and regular commenters. And this is still pretty much how I approach it. But we've grown here from 350 a day to somewhere between 650 and 800 a day in the last few months. Not a huge leap by any means, but a lot more on a regular basis than I've ever had, and all for what is essentially still just a personal blog.

About money (no, I'm not putting the Paypal button back up; I'm fine, thanks) I was mightily impressed that the last time I made a plea. It took only a couple of weeks to accumulate enough dough to fund three return airfares, one all the way from the West Coast, as well as pay back people who had covered expenses and pay for a lot of drugs, private doctor's appointments, scans, tests and ancillary things like transport and communications. And that was just from you lot.

So I thought I would share a few ideas and see what my loyal chorus thinks. It's about the art thing and the book, and about having cancer and living in Rome and Italy.

All together, just with the 400 or so people who came here every day at the time, I think we ended up with a total close to 9000 dollars Canadian. Which seems like a hell of a lot of money to me!

As you might think I've had time to think about things, what things are important to me, what things I still hope for and hope to have a chance to do.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Planning for the future

This guy has joined a website called Kickstarter with this video in which he asked people, just people out there in Internet Land for funding to help him make his 2-D art into a pretty cool and interesting 3-D reality. With this and a couple of other videos and Kickstarter website, he acquired 955 donors and accumulated over $75,000 US.

Vicky has suggested that I make a similar video and get onto Kickstarter to ask people for money to fund my own long-term art-dreams. She makes videos and movies (and is going back to BC on Tuesday to go do a prestigious film internship at Banff) and her sister is a professional artist, so she knows about funding and professional stuff.

I have just been watching the stats at this blog slowly rising. I think the combination of cancer and art, as well as already having something of a public profile on LSN and living in this interesting place, has been a source of great interest to people. I spent years blogging here more or less assuming that I was writing for my little group of friends and regular commenters. And this is still pretty much how I approach it. But we've grown here from 350 a day to around 650 a day in the last few months. Not a huge leap by any means, but a lot more on a regular basis than I've ever had, and all for what is essentially still just a personal blog.

About money (no, I'm not putting the Paypal button back up; I'm fine, thanks) I was mightily impressed that the last time I made a plea. It took only a few weeks to accumulate enough dough to fund three return airfares, one all the way from the West Coast, as well as pay back people who had covered expenses and pay for a lot of drugs, private doctor's appointments, scans, tests and ancillary things like transport and communications. And that was just from you lot.

So I thought I would share a few ideas and see what the chorus thinks. It's about the art thing. And cancer and stuff...

Hair update: Jan 7

Well, it was finally getting untidy, so I got Vicky to roll me down to the local parucchiere who gave me a quick wash and trim. First haircut in a year.

It's the guy who claims to have been the one who did Elizabeth Taylor's hair when she used to come and vacation in Santa Marinella.

(Note Christmas decorations. Vicky made the snowflakes and we collected the greenery in the park.)


Had a go

I tried it.

It really doesn't look very much like the original, does it. I'll try again.

My excuse is that I did it on the train, the contour on the 1 hour long trip in, and the values on the 35 minute trip home.

Took the wheelchair and ventured into the city yesterday to see a movie. In a movie theatre! In English! I'll say now that though I had really expected the Robert Downey Jr. and Jude I-can-barely-stand-to-type-his-name-so-much-do-I-loathe-him Law versions to be intollerably awful, I think they do fairly well as a kind of sub-Holmes genre of their own. Holmes as superhero. I will ever remain loyal to Jeremy Brett, of course, but I like explosions, so I do!

But Rome. Dear me! I go there so infrequently now for anything other than strictly medical reasons that I had forgotten many of the things that drive me nuts about it.

Rome is probably the most un-cosmopolitan city I've ever lived in or been to.

There is exactly ONE cinema left in this miserable city that shows lingua originale films.

All the "Chinese" restaurants are this weird thing; "Roman Chinese" where all the menus of every place in the city are exactly the same. Roman-Chinese cuisine: what we do out of desperation when we just can't face another carbonara/pizza-Margherita Sunday lunch. Not only is there almost no presence of any other country here, they don't even do anything from any othe part of Italy. I think I know of exactly one Tuscan place.

It also has cobbles.

Oh dear me! Let me give all the soon-to-have-major-surgery a piece of advice. A wheelchair and the Roman cobbles are not a good mix. Even using mostly taxis it was an uncomfortable ride.

Pretty tired today, and pretty achey, but I was SO glad to have got out of the house!


Friday, January 06, 2012

How not to be a great painter

Someone really needs to sit down with this guy and tell him, "Dude, there can be only one."

Do something different.


Hands are hard

I've been looking around for things to help with correcting my anatomy studies. Of course, the old masters are the best, but good reproductions can be hard to find in a size suitable for copying (calendars!, but they only come out once a year). This drawing by Leonardo is, in my opinion, the greatest hand study ever done by anyone ever, ever, and his hands are famous for their beauty and the subtlety of the rendering. So much so, that I'm kind of scared to try it, but of course, I'm going to anyway.

I remember having an epiphany (heh) over the value of fashion magazines. Bought a couple once with the idea that there would be lots of body parts in them, and drapery that I could practise on. But as I flipped through them, for the first time paying close attention, I saw that in every single photo, the hands of the impossibly whispy models were doing nothing. No one was holding anything. No one was doing anything. They all just stood there with their hands as empty as their expressions. It really put me off fashion magazines for good. Take a look some time, it's interesting.


Shiny still life



Here's another one by the same guy.


Thursday, January 05, 2012

Pushing through

As I've said, Andrea told me before I started having surgeries that if I am on my feet then, I can start the cast drawing segment of the course when she gets back from Australia in April. Cast drawing in charcoal is the last step before actually starting painting in this painstaking and strictly laid-out formal course of study I've been doing at her studio. After that, I will do a grisaille painting of a cast, which is the last transition between drawing and painting, and then dive into colour.

Watch the video above for a minute. As you can see, it is a lot harder than it looks to draw or paint even something simple like an egg and make it come out looking like a real egg...let alone a beautiful egg.

I remember when I was little, my Grandma used to let me paint with her and she tried to teach me, though I was a rather unwilling student. She tried to instill in me the importance of starting from the beginning and started me on simple solid objects like flower vases (without flowers) and oranges and things. I was always unsatisfied with the results both because it was always much harder than it seemed it ought to be and because of the lack of glamour of painting such "simple" plain things. I complained bitterly that they were "boring" and that I wanted to do the sort of things that she did, arbutus trees and landscapes, maybe a sparkly seascape.

Knowing how enthusiastic I was about spreading things all over my clothes, she never let me do much with her oil pastels but charcoal washed out and off easily so I was allowed to muddle about with it. She really did try to teach me, but I was terribly intractable and so learned almost nothing.

I've since learned a very important lesson in drawing, that you have to keep pushing through. Many times I've started something and not liked the way it has gone. It could easily have frustrated me enough to make me stop trying after the first few passes, but I've learned that if you keep scrubbing away at a drawing, it will get better. The trick is to push past the first unsatisfactory bit and give it sufficient time. Push through the bad bits, keep pushing until you get there.

After a while you get used to having your drawing look odd or wrong for the first parts and it is almost fun to watch it grow more solid and "real looking" as you continue to jiggle it about and spot and solve the problems. Once you start looking at a drawing as a kind of puzzle to be solved, you are half way to the mindset that will succeed.

Most of my early efforts at copying, I now realise, could have been much more successful if I'd given them more time. But, like most people, I would find it wasn't working right away and assume that I just couldn't do it. That I didn't have "natural talent" (what a terrible toll that stupid phrase has taken on the world!). The one thing I can't do, even now, is draw fast, but as Ruskin says in his Elements of Drawing we are really totally unconcerned with time in drawing.
"What is usually so much sought after under the term "freedom: is the character of the drawing of a great master in a hurry, whose hand is so thoroughly disciplined that when pressed for time he can let it fly as it will, and it will not go far wrong. But the hand of a great master at real work is never free: its swiftest dash is under perfect government. Paul Veronese or Tintoret[to] could pause within a hair's-breadth of any appointed mark in their fastest touches and follow within a hair's- breadth the previously intended curve. You must never, therefore, aim at freedom. It is not required of your drawing that it should be free, but that it should be right; in time you will be able to do it right easily, and then your work will be free in the best sense. But there is no merit in doing wrong easily."
Emphases in the original.

Probably the hardest thing we modern grown-ups have to face when learning to draw is the fact that it is difficult. It really is. It is very hard to learn as an adult how to do the mental acrobatics of "detranslating," learning to actually see the thing you are looking at as it really is, visually, without imposing labels on it. This labelling thing that we have spent our whole lives perfecting and using to understand the world that comes through our vision, has to be completely undone, and you have to learn to turn it on and off at will. An object you are looking at, say an armchair, to our eyes alone is really not an armchair at all. It is an integrated system of relationships of darks and lights and colour. Shadows and light grading down from shiny highlights to dark shade, little nubbly parts where the shade and light are close together in little bits, big patches of dark next to a section of complicated shadows that make up drapery. It is hard to explain, but what our eyes see really, really is only this. Darks and lights and colour. Not even depth...especially not depth.

The label, "armchair" has all kinds of implications. It has to be soft and curvy and to sit with it's cushion horizontal in relation to the floor. It has to be a certain kind of object and to fulfill a certain kind of function. It has to sit cradled in three-dimensional space. All of this kind of labeling, that we have done since learning it in infancy, has to be shut off if you are going to draw an armchair that looks like an armchair. The three-Dness of the thing is most especially important to turn off. Flatten it, look at it as a system of darks and lights and colours, and you will be able to draw it.

This trick is the hardest thing to learn in drawing. Really, it has nothing at all to do with how you hold a pencil. And it is so difficult, and so rarely taught, that most people assume that drawing is some kind of magic trick that requires "natural talent" (faugh!). The frustration of not getting it (and there are a lot of pages in my sketchbooks that don't get onto the blog, believe me!) is the thing you have to push through. The fact that it is difficult, and that we live in a culture that insists everything has to be easy, painless and instant, is our biggest problem. It is why I think drawing is so important to teach young people. Teach them that this hard thing is worth struggling over, and spending time on, pushing through the many obstacles and set-backs.

Here is something that can be learned about life in general from learning this difficult thing, drawing; that the rule of "pushing through" applies to everything you want to do in life. I remember when I was out there in the world, more or less raising myself after I was 15, I assumed that nearly everyone knew more about how to get on in life than I did. That there was some secret to doing things right that I didn't know and thought I could never learn on my own. I was, and still am, quite frightened about "doing things wrong" and so a great deal of my difficulties in life have surrounded fears of trying things.

If I'd been raised by grown-ups, I might have been taught that when you start something, you will have to be bad at it at first. You have to push through that part to get good, to learn how to live. I suppose I have pushed through now and finally figured it out. I do hope it's not too late to enjoy the fruits of this discovery.

* ~ * ~ *

I've been fearsomely tested lately in my ability to keep pushing through, and of course, have had a lot of help. At the moment, I'm mostly resting of course, but still pushing through and the obstacle is a most unexpected one. Right now, I'm struggling over what to write to my father. I have his email address. He has sent me a couple of emails showing an obvious desire to mend things, but what do you say? It's been a lifetime, and we might discover in the next week or so that it has in fact been my whole life and there is now no more time. How do you figure out what to say? Or even whether it is worth saying.


Toffs on a Train

What do the British upper classes get up to in these dark times?

Why, the same thing they've always got up to. Keeping entertained.


Wednesday, January 04, 2012

I've been asked

what's with all this art stuff?



Dorothy explains

why we need the Anglicans in the Church
The Anglicans got their liturgical English in Shakespeare's day. We got ours in the Beatles'. Lucky old us went from "In ipso vita erat, et vita erat lux hominem" to "He loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah."

She stops short at saying outright that the NO sucks.

So I will. It sucks. An absurd, politically motivated mishmash of Proddy theology and Judaic ritual, scrubbed clean of all specifically Catholic content, cobbled together by a committee of Lutherans, Anglicans, freemasons and traitors and deliberately foisted onto the world with the malicious intention of destroying the faith and threatening the souls of millions.

I do wish people would stop telling me to go to it. I realise they're trying to help by saying, "Well, the Mass is the Mass..."

No. The Holy Eucharist is the Holy Eucharist and the proper reception of it is indeed THE source of sanctifying grace...if I were blind and deaf. Grace can only be received by a person with correct dispositions, which in me are utterly destroyed by the horrific anti-liturgy of the Novusordoist world. As they are with everyone who is ever exposed to it.

The wonder of the modern Church is that there are still people in it who believe, a testament not to the new liturgies, but to the incomprehensible power of the Holy Spirit.


Not been entirely idle

In the last couple of months, it seems from reading here that I've been totally preoccupied with health-related things, and I suppose it's mostly true, but while thinking about the big Life and Death issues, there is plenty of time to do things when energy permits. (Albeit, mostly things involving a lot of sitting down.)

We had been called in to the Gemelli to have a consultation appointment when the histology report came back positive for cancer in the margins. We had to wait quite a while in the rather stark hallway outside the oncology office and I was going to go mad if I didn't do something with my hands and brain.

Fortunately, having been to the Lateran recently to get the feast-day plenary indulgence, we stopped in the bookshop and I bought postcards of the 12 magnificent Borromini statues of the Apostles, and even more fortunately, had brought one along to the appointment. I had intended only to do a little study of the hand and surrounding drapery, but well...

The paper is very toothy in the leather-covered sketchbook I just bought which is often good, but presents challenges.

A great place to buy beautiful leather-bound sketch and writing books (with refillable paper inserts) is a cartoleria just behind the Pantheon, I think it's just called "Cartoleria Pantheon" but the brand name of their gorgeous stuff is "Manufactus". (Anyone who ever wants to buy me presents can start and end there.)

I had been meaning to do another copy of this Leonardo drawing since I had done

this one a year ago and had intended to do them periodically as a way to measure my progress.

A friend of ours came to visit and I wanted to give her a present so it seemed like a good time for another try.

Getting better, I think, though infuriatingly slowly with all these interruptions.

Started the next Bargue drawing in class, this one is the first I've done in charcoal. Delayed by surgery and by Andrea's stay in Australia until April. But getting the knack of the charcoal technique and could immediately see how much closer to painting it is than graphite.

Andrea said that when she comes back and resumes classes, I am ready to do the cast drawing segment. Should be more or less functional by then, (should the test results come back as we hope).