Friday, July 30, 2010

And on that cheery note...

Talked to my Uncle Mike today. First time in way too long. Just to give him my flight times to Manchester. I can't tell you how good it was to hear a homey Manchester accent.

Here's something to cheer you up. Toffs on parade.

Gawd, but I miss England!

It was the latest suicide stats around the world


and it was per 100,000.

The thing that caught my eye was that the "developing" countries were not really even on the list.

Look at it again. A couple of things stand out.

The highest numbers are former Soviet bloc countries. In those countries, particularly Russia, the gap between male and female suicide is enormous, 70.6 to 11.9, which is comparatively high for the female side. The female suicide rate seems to stay more or less even between countries, whether 1st world countries like Canada or former Soviet countries. But the disparity between male and female, and former Soviet and 1st world countries in male suicide really jumps out.

I have a few ideas but nothing scientific to go with. But it is interesting to speculate why. Worth thinking about.

The list doesn't bear out the ex-Soviet thesis completely. Albania reported 2.4/100,000 male suicides in 2000 with 1.2 female.

There are other factors, of course, that might skew the numbers. Reporting may not be reliable. In some cases doctors will not report a death as a suicide, family members might cover up. I don't know how Muslims feel about suicide (or whether they would count the suicide bombers martyrs) so it is hard to guess what the reporting would be like from predominantly Islamic countries. And it is a sure bet the Chinese aren't telling us everything.

But overall, it seems like it is worth noting that the suicide rate for both men and women seems to be high in countries that have little or no religion. Or have lost their religion.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pop quiz: rates of what?

The first figure is for men, the second for women, then the year.

Guess what the stats are for.

AUSTRALIA 21.2 ... 5.1 (1999)

BELARUS 63.6 ... 9.5 (2000)

BELGIUM 29.4 ... 10.7 (1996)

and HERZEGOVINA 20.3 ... 3.3 (1991)

BULGARIA 25.2 ... 9.1 (2000)

CANADA 19.5 ... 5.1 (1998)

CROATIA 32.9 ... 10.3 (2000)

CUBA 24.5 ... 12.0

CZECH REPUBLIC 26.0 ... 6.7 (2000)

DENMARK 20.9 ... 8.1 (1998)

ESTONIA 45.8 ... 11.9 (2000)

FINLAND 34.6 ... 10.9 (2000)

FRANCE 26.1 ... 9.4 (1999)

GERMANY 20.2 ... 7.3 (1999)

HUNGARY 47.1 ... 13.0 (2001)

JAPAN 36.5 ... 14.1 (1999)

KAZAKHSTAN 46.4 ... 8.6 (1999)

LATVIA 56.6 ... 11.9 (2000)

LITHUANIA 75.6 ... 16.1 (2000)

LUXEMBOURG 23.9 ... 10.7 (2000)

NEW ZEALAND 23.7 ... 6.9 (1998)

RUSSIA 70.6 ... 11.9 (2000)

SLOVENIA 47.3 ... 13.4 (1999)

SRI LANKA 44.6 ... 16.8 (1991)

SWITZERLAND 26.5 ... 10.0 (1999)

UKRAINE 52.1 ... 10.0 (2000)

Hint 1: the figures come from the World Health Organisation.

Hint 2: the highest numbers are from former Soviet Bloc countries.

Doomed, I tell you!

I've just realised I'm in terrible danger.

If I figure out how to pay for things on Amazon with my new Paypal account,

I'm doomed.

Jokes only Canadians will get

Score one "I'm a real Canadian" point for each province for which you got the joke.

Be honest.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Going back over in a couple of weeks...

making a list of things to buy to bring back a little shred of civilisation

one of which will be all the back issues of the Chap and the Oldie that I can get.

And a bottle of Bovril. And a supply of lamb Oxo.

And I'm gonna hit the charity shops.


old stuff...


John Smeaton has posted some comments I emailed him the other day on why Catholicism and the pro-life movement go together.

He had to cut things short, since I tend to ramble on when not given a strictly enforced word-count limit.

But I thought it might be worth taking the points along to a conclusion that some in the pro-life world might find uncomfortable. While it is easy to see that the pro-life position must be held by Catholics, and it makes sense that being an atheist would give one some serious philosophical problems with holding the full, comprehensive pro-life position, there are problems that extend in another direction too.

I offer below the rest of my intolerant views on the subject:

Protestantism is uniquely disabled in its fundamentals in giving answers to the abortionist world. The fundamental Protestant principle is that an individual judges for himself what to believe. This is why there are thousands or even tens of thousands of Protestant sects.

Protestantism is a kind of religious entropy, in which the trend ultimately is towards total dissolution, a steady state in which each individual man stands alone with his unique, private interpretation of God. Because of this, a Protestant may take or leave the pro-life position as he wishes. There is no such thing in the Protestant world as a unified, authoritative voice that can say, ‘This and not this, is true.”

Of course, I must add my caveat. I do not say that there aren’t any Protestant pro-life advocates, or that Protestant pro-life advocates are somehow inferior to Catholics as individuals. Indeed, even a brief acquaintance with the pro-life world will quickly disprove such prejudices. But there is no necessity, either logical or juridical, for a Protestant to hold the pro-life position, and no coherent, authoritative voice within Protestantism that tells the individual whether his private judgment on the life issues is correct.

The point is that it can only be as an individual that a Protestant becomes dedicated to the pro-life cause. He has chosen it based on his private judgment that it is a good and worthy thing. No one would ever say, “Protestantism teaches…” in the same way as one would say, “The Catholic Church teaches…”

A Protestant who holds pro-life positions holds Catholic positions. But, because of his Protestant principle of private judgment, he must necessarily hold back on the fullness of the pro-life position when it clashes with his Protestantism. (This is why so many Protestant pro-life groups refuse to answer questions, for example, about contraception. Though we have seen this wall coming down in recent years.)

Catholic teaching on life and family is inextricably connected with its teaching on the Trinity, on the Eucharist, on Mary and the cult of the saints. Nothing can be removed and taken in isolation. This is why its doctrine cannot be changed, as can Protestant doctrine, by committee meetings such as the Lambeth Conference or the Southern Baptist Conventions. Catholicism does not vote on the truth any more than mathematicians vote on axioms.

The pro-life position is one that is based on observation of external moral and physical phenomena. Outside reality, not personal opinion or preference or feelings, must guide, and the Catholic Church’s magisterial authority concerns itself exclusively with this external reality. It does not care what the world says, what its angry, disinformed members say, what the scientific community says. The truth is what it is.


No comment


Four headlines caught my eye today on an English language German news site:

"Gay German Theologian Lashes Catholic Church"

"Flat Rate Sex Brothel Owners Jailed for Fraud"

"Politicians Call for Secure Homes for Child Criminals"

"Depression and Schizophrenia Filling German Hospital Beds"

I have no comment, other than to say that these triggered a strange response in me.


I want to go home.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tech burnout

I just signed up for a Paypal account to use for various freelance thingies, and I'm totally burned out with technology for the night.

I didn't know enough of my bank info, so I looked up the phone number of the branch I used to deal with in Toronto, cut and pasted the phone number from the website into the thingy for Skype, and talked on the computer to the bank lady, who gave me the numbers I needed. I emailed them to myself so I wouldn't lose them again. Then I cut those into the Paypal sign-up thingy, including my account numbers that I got directly from my secure internet bank page thingy. Then I emailed the editor I'm going to be writing for and told him the login name for my account, so he can direct-deposit money into my Canadian bank account that I can (get) access (to) from Italian bank machines.

I think all this has upset my stomach.

I remember when you had to actually go to the bank, during opening hours, and take this thing they used to give you, called a "passbook" that had your account transactions written into it. When you wanted money, you took this passbook into your branch, and only your branch, and got money out by talking to the guy at the counter and signing a little bit of paper. If the bank was closed, you had to wait until tomorrow.

When you paid bills, you wrote a thing called a "cheque" and put it in an envelope and into the post box and then subtracted the amount of the cheque from your cheque book. This was called "balancing your chequebook".

But that was in the days when money was a Real thing.

It was also when people watched this big box thing they had called a "TV set". You had to change the channel on the "TV Set," using a kind of dial thingy on the front. You had to get up off the sofa and walk over to the TV set to do this.

It all seemed pretty high tech at the time.


The Oecumenical Spirit


As we all know, it's not "a liturgy" without

Creepy Giant Puppets!

While the purpose of the meso-American theme in the procession in the video above remains obscure (it was a meeting of Presbyterians in Minneapolis) it reminded me of a comment some years ago by an homosexualist activist who had come to a talk in Toronto by Peter Kreeft to confront him on his dastardly intolerance.

The good doctor had told us of the peaceful animist religious beliefs blood sacrifices of the ancient Mexicans, in which hundreds of thousands were killed by having their hearts ripped out and their heads cut off.

Our young friend in the pink feather boa responded,

"Well, that could be a beautiful ritual too..."

Those wicked Conquistadors!


Monday, July 26, 2010

Hey Journalists, Take the Vatican Literacy Quiz


John Allen, (who writes for National Catholic Reporter, so is hardly in a position to complain) is fed up with "Catholic media experts" who don't know a "discastery from a deacom".

Oh, aren't we all, John. Aren't we all!

In recent weeks, the air has been filled with competing opinions on various Vatican matters: Whether or not it was appropriate for the Vatican to treat the sexual abuse of minors and the attempted ordination of women in the same legal document, for example, or whether Pope Benedict XVI's record on handling sex abuse cases while he was at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith passes muster. People who've done their homework can reach very different conclusions on such subjects, and informed perspectives are always worth hearing.

What's tougher to take, however, are polemics (whether intended to praise the Vatican or to bury it) from commentators who obviously don't know a motu proprio from a miter, or a dicastery from a deacon.

So, he would like to offer the world of journalism a
ten-point Vatican literacy test, designed to establish someone's bona fides. These questions test entry-level material, the kind of stuff that people paying attention would know, as opposed to being arcane points that only real devotees could summon.

If you can imagine yourself being sucked into an unwanted debate about papal policy, I suggest you clip this column and shove it in your wallet, so you can produce it at the just-right moment. Faced with someone who insists on voicing strong opinions, but who can't go at least eight-for-ten off the top of their head, you might suggest they take a pledge of abstinence for a year from posting blog entries, writing letters to the editor or op/ed pieces, or otherwise holding forth on any Vatican subject, while they go on retreat and bone up.


1) Which of the following is not the last name of a 20th century pope?
A. Roncalli
B. Sodano
C. Montini
D. Luciani

2) Which of the following is not a traditional term for a Vatican department?
A. Congregation
B. Committee
C. Council
D. Commission

3) Roughly how many bishops participate in a Synod of Bishops?
A. 10
B. 100
C. 250
D. 2,000

4) What's the term for the central government of the Catholic Church as a sovereign entity in international law?
A. Apostolic Camera
B. Holy See
C. Vatican City-State
D. Sala Stampa

5) Which Vatican department oversees foreign relations?
A. Congregation for Bishops
B. Secretariat of State
C. Council for Justice and Peace
D. Prefecture of the Papal Household

6) What's the name of the Vatican newspaper?

7) Which of the following is not a kind of papal document?
A. Apostolic summons
B. Apostolic exhortation
C. Apostolic constitution
D. Apostolic letter

8) Which Pontifical Council is the youngest?
A. Laity
B. Family
C. Migrants and Refugees
D. New Evangelization

9) True or False: There is no provision in church law for a pope to resign.

10) Which of the following is not presently headed by an American?
A. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
B. Basilica of St. Mary Major
C. Council for Justice and Peace
D. Prefecture of the Papal Household


Friday, July 23, 2010

Ineffective marketing


You'd think that an homosexualist lobby group would be alive to the negative connotations of a name like "Outhouse".

I'll spare you the link.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Oh yeah? Tolerate this!


This just in:
Augusta State ordered Keeton to undergo a re-education plan, in which she must attend “diversity sensitivity training,” complete additional remedial reading, and write papers to describe their impact on her beliefs. If she does not change her beliefs or agree to the plan, the university says it will expel her from the Counselor Education Program.

There must be something wrong with me. Something genetic that triggers that fight response before the rest of my brain has a chance to say "flee".

I saw this and the first thing I thought was, "Papers on their impact?" A golden opportunity to cut them to ribbons.

Or maybe, I'd cut a deal with them. You take the Catholic apologetics courses offered at somewhere like, say, Christendom or TAC, and I'll take your diversity training, and we'll see who survives with their beliefs intact.

So many opportunities wasted on righteous indignation.


Palate cleanser


Ok, this is what it's actually supposed to sound like.

To help you get the bad notes out of your head.


There's something wrong with Italy


I don't speak or read enough Italian to be able to tell you anything more concrete, but there is something seriously wrong with this country.

And while it does not manifest itself in quite the same ways as That Thing That is Wrong with Britain, it is every bit as serious.

What do I mean?

Some time ago, I wrote a somewhat muddled post about how the British are forgetting who they are. I compared it to a novel by Ursula le Guin in which an evil wizard had torn a hole in the fabric of the universe in an attempt to live forever. All the cultural memories of all the people of Earthsea was draining out through the hole, and the people had forgotten their history and how to raise their kids. They had become bestialised by this terrible spell, and it was all so that one man could cheat nature.

What is happening in Italy seems to be different, on the outside, but there is something about it that smells like that.

Nothing, of course, can ever stop the Italians from being Italian, and the rot has not gone so far as it has elsewhere because the time when Italy was still a mainly agrarian, Catholic society is still within living memory.

Last winter I went with a group of friends down to visit Monte Cassino, and we stopped by Fossanova on the way home.

And I keep having the same thought: What happened to the Italians?

We drove through some towns down there that looked like they were sets for a Mad Max post-apocalyptic movie. I've lived in buildings put up by Italians in the last ten years, and they fail even to perform the basic function of shelter from the elements. The extreme crappiness of current Italian construction is legendary. How did they get from Fossanova to the apartment that fails to keep out the rain?

And what's with the 1.3 birth rate? I'm told by people with kids that the Italians are still nuts about them. That you can't push the pram down the street without getting mobbed. So why aren't they having any?

But there really is one thing above all others that creeps me out. That gives me chills in July.

It's that...

this man is the most popular "opera singer" in the country.

Aren't the Italians supposed to know when a man can't hold a note?

I mean, heavens. It's embarrassing.


The Terrence Higgins Trust Guy


says gay men are dumb.
"Many gay men wrongly believe that you can tell someone’s HIV status by what they look like, how they act, or who they’re friends with. But you can’t tell whether someone has HIV by looking at them, and with a quarter of gay men who have HIV currently undiagnosed, he may not even know himself.

“The assumption that HIV is visible is almost certainly affecting whether men use condoms or not."

But I don't agree. I don't think they don't know that if you do what they do, you are likely to get a fatal disease. I don't think another "education campaign" is really what's called for. It's not ignorance. How could it possibly be, after 20 or 30 years of "safe-sex" propaganda?

I think it's something else.

I think the evidence is good that if you are so into self-destruction as to be in the "gay lifestyle" in the first place, you're probably not that far off from just being flat-out suicidal. I've talked to gay men about this stuff, and if you can get them to tell you the real truth, you find out pretty quick that the word "gay" is used ironically.

Something about this strikes me as not a little nuts though. These people say they're all on the side of gay men, and want to help them.

The Terrence Higgins Trust says, "We're here to provide information and advice about HIV and sexual health and offer a range of services including sexual health checks, counselling and support groups. We campaign for a world where people with HIV live healthy lives, free from prejudice and discrimination and we promote good sexual health as a right and reality for all."

and the lady from the Health Protection Agency says, "We must continually reinforce the safe sex message – using a condom with all new or casual partners is the surest way to ensure people do not become infected with a serious sexually transmitted infection such as HIV."

and they seem to think this is what passes for "caring".

Doesn't it occur to anyone, ANYone, to say, "Maybe it would be a good idea not to have 'casual partners'". That the whole notion of 'casual partners,' even in the implications of the language, is utterly demeaning. AND. IT. WILL. KILL. YOU.

Doesn't anyone want to say to these men, "Stop. You're going to die."

I think these "health agency" people actually hate gay men and want them to die.

The fact that many of them are gay men does nothing to preclude this. I don't remember meeting a gay man who didn't hate himself at least to some degree. Hating yourself seems to be a necessity for the "lifestyle".

Well, I'm going to say it.

Stop having 'casual partners'.


You're going to die.


EU foreign service runs into a snag...


La Stampa asks: Why establish such a huge foreign service when "there are more divergences than convergences among EU members"?

An editorial in Italian daily La Stampa on the new EU External Action Service (EEAS) and the EU's common foreign policy argues: "While everyone can see that on all the main foreign policy issues the EU has to deal with - e.g. relations with Russia, Turkey or the US - divergences among member States are more evident than convergences [...] is it really indispensable to put into motion such a huge instrument [the EEAS] before making clear its role and functions?"

Well, mostly because the EU isn't a Real Thing. It does not concern itself with The Real. It is a body wholly dedicated to the Fantasy that there is (or could be if we just wish hard enough) this state called "Europe" where everyone will live in peace and socialist harmony. In this fantasy, everyone gets along swimmingly in peace-love-groovy harmony; the French don't hate the Germans, the British just love the Poles, and the Italians are easy to get along with.

Again: what is capital 'F' Fantasy? The determined adherence to one's personal preferences in the face of objective contrary evidence. Like, "No, the French don't like the Germans. And no one is ever going to like the French."


Let all the poison that lurks in the mud hatch out


Damian is doing a good job keeping track of the blossoming of anti-Catholic bigotry in the build-up to the pope's visit to Old Blighty.

Hands up everyone who thought this papal visit was going to go well...




Started a new drawing in art class

This is my new project. I hate to admit it, but I picked it because it's pretty.

I'm such a girl.

I got a couple of pics of my beginning dots and mapping so we can do a before and after.

Andrea says I'm not ready for the Belvedere Torso.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Interesting choice of words

"Islam is a religion that has always been revitalized by its migration," he wrote. "America is a nation that has been constantly rejuvenated by immigrants. There is now a critical mass of Muslims in America."

Does that mean it's gonna esplode?


Monday, July 19, 2010

Anglicans... still confused


The Muddled Religion still seems to have a problem grasping some fundamentals.

This headline actually made me laugh aloud:

"Will Gender and Sexuality Rend The Anglican Communion?"


Interesting tense-usage there...


Anyway, there was a line in it, as I gave it my customary 5.34 second glance, that caught my sand-flea-like attention:
It’s a question that only begs more: Does sweeping change cause schism or does incremental change cause it as well? Why would the divide last the next 90 years? How would a shift of Anglican-Catholics to Vatican loyalty change the Catholic Church?

Sorry? A "shift of loyalty" is not what is on offer here chaps. Reception into the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, from which you have spent your apostate lives separated is what's on the table.

I think there is going to be a lot of this. One of the weirdest and most tangle-brained things Anglicans believe is that they are not outside communion with the Church. This despite the use of papal language like "absolutely null and utterly void," which on first glance would appear to admit of few nuances.

I must have had less frustrating conversations than the ones I have had with Anglicans on ecclesiology, but I can't recall them off the top of my head. Perhaps they were with people who categorically and absolutely denied the existence of categories or absolutes...not sure.

But this kind of language: "a shift of Anglican-Catholics to Vatican loyalty," is, I think, representative of the long future of migraine-inducing problems to be faced by Cardinal Levada and his successors for jolly sherry-sipping decades to come.

Maybe the next pope will put an Italian in charge of the CDF like in the good old days. Then we'd really be in for a show.


Holy cow! She's the anti-Me. And she even sort of looks like me.



The Roman Forum in Gardone

I was sitting at the other end of the table, trying to shush people. It was hopeless.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

No Take Backs!

I'm getting better... I don't want to go on the cart... I feel fine... I think I'll go for a walk... I feel happy! I feel happy...

Just proves the Dale Price Axiom: that there's a Monty Python sketch for EVERYthing.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

From our bulging "Aren't we sick of these people yet?" files...

Religion of Pieces threatens to kill ... again complains of discrimination by Everyone Draw Mohammed Day creators.

The creator of a now-defunct "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" page on Facebook fears she may be targeted for death now that the cartoonist who launched the online campaign has been placed on an execution list by a radical Yemeni-American cleric.

The 27-year-old Facebook page creator -- a Canadian woman who asked not to be identified due to fears of reprisal -- told that she was visited at her home last week by Royal Canadian Mounted Police officials who advised her to remove her page and not to talk to reporters.

"I'm scared," she said. "I'm scared that somebody might kill me."

Same war, different century...


Wednesday, July 14, 2010



OK, these are absolutely the last Gardone pics I'm going to put up...

Until at least tomorrow...

It's the Gardone Look. I'm sorry I didn't get any pics of the full look, which includes a straw fedora with a black band. It's kind of the Gardone, Roman Forum uniform for men: tan pants, blue or white button shirt, natty leather shoes, tan jacket worn over the shoulders (except at Mass, when you put your arms through the sleeves) and shades.

Thomas of Austria, philosophy professor at Sankt Pölten seminary.

Dale Ahlquist of the Chesterton Society who spent the week speaking almost entirely in a code made up of Chesterton quotes. And was always at the centre of the most fun table at dinner.

Michael Matt, editor of the Remnant newspaper who nearly made prosecco come out my nose a couple of times.

Chris Ferrara, head of the American Catholic Lawyers' Association: a lawyer who knows how to tell a joke is a dangerous creature.


I'm annoyed

I lost my hat.

A really good hat.

Left it on the train from Milan after Trenitalia had spent the day trying to put me in an insane asylum. I really want it back. So much that I've been considering actually calling the Trenitalia customer service line.

But I'm afraid. It's Italy. I don't know what happens to people who call customer service numbers. It could work out. I could even, possibly, get my hat back.

But you never know. Maybe calling a customer service number results in a crack team of commandos breaking feet first into your apartment windows and taking you away to a dark room in an unknown building somewhere.

But it was a really good hat.

Hmmm... tough call.

Pro-Life 101: I'm not pro-abortion, I'm just pro-choice

Post pending.

It's hot

I'm trying hard not to have last summer happen again. I'm consciously working towards a positive attitude to the heat. I'm having my tea on the balcony. I'm appreciating the nightly cold showers and am really not very bothered that my caldaia doesn't work. I'm careful not to move around too much in the early afternoon.

But it's hot. By anyone's standards except Africans, 31 degrees C. is hot.

Italian summer protocols:

1 - Be thin. If you are remotely overweight, the heat will be a misery for you. If you are poor, you can use both your poverty and the heat to your advantage by having them help you lose weight. You can get thinner by entirely losing your appetite because it is too damn hot to either eat or cook, and you are too poor to eat in an air conditioned restaurants every day. One of the first things stranieri notice when they come here is that the Italians are nearly all bird-thin. Tiny little sylph-like creatures (with inexplicably and horribly loud voices). There is a reason for this. All the fat people died in the early bronze age from the heat.

2 - Have a job where you can sit in air conditioning for large blocks of time.

3 - Have a place in your home where you can sit outdoors not doing anything like a balcony or garden.

4 - Live in a nice town that doesn't have bad air quality, too many tourists, filthy gypsy beggars, horrifyingly loud traffic and isn't entirely populated by crazy people who want to swindle you and then kill you with their motorini and laugh while you lie there bleeding, wondering why you didn't stay in England isn't Rome. Live in a town that has lots of birds, flowers, gardens, sea breezes and nice friendly people who will sometimes give you a free gelato when you're looking down.

5 - Have a freezer. (I don't have a freezer. Not even the little one built into the top of my fridge. The reason for this is obscure, but when I asked the landlord to get me one he looked doubtful in that inimitable Italian way that says 'why are you bothering me with this trivial thing? Can't you see I'm busy loafing around and having a good time?', and said he would try. Try? TRY!? Just effing go and effing buy one! What the hell is the damn problem...?!


Anyway, if you have a freezer, the thing to do is to take a 2 litre plastic pop bottle of water and freeze it. When the temperature suddenly rises at 3 am, as it does, and you wake up in the night gasping for air, you take the bottle of ice, wrap it in a tea towel and take it to bed with you under a sheet. The ice cools the air under the sheet. It's like air conditioning for your bed.)

5 - Buy a fan. The folding kind that you can carry around with you in your hand bag. If you are a boy, I don't know what to tell you; you can't carry a fan. Sorry, but it's a rule. Learn to sit next to women with fans I guess.

6 - Carry a damp flannel in a plastic bag in your handbag. This can be re-cooled at any fountain and applied to the face, neck and arms at will. Buy a large supply of flannels, so you can take a clean one with you every day. Once again, boys = no hand bags. Sorry. Just dunk your head in every fountain you see and be grateful you don't have to worry about spoiling your makeup.

7 - Cultivate a Kwai Chang Cain Zen-like state of mind in which the heat cannot get inside you. You feel the heat, but it remains on the outside of you. The inside of you remains normal, serene and non-sweaty. I am working on this, and I think it can be achieved if you don't think too much about hot things, like being wrapped in large sheets of velvet dipped in warm treacle...

I think it's time to go to the air conditioning office.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Gardone Pics II


I don't think I stopped smiling, even in my sleep, all week.

There's that New Jerusalemesque glow I was mentioning.


Gardone Pics

Yes, it's paradise.

Yes, you can get there, but probably not from here.

Made new friends. That's Chris Ferrara, Andrew Bellon, (both US) Prof. Thomas Stark (Austria) and me (unknown origin) in a little town at the top of Lake Garda where we were heading off to storm the castle.


More later.

Pics = Andrew's Flickr page.

Found something out about Italians being weird


So, I finally found out the answer to another Weird Italian Thing.

Italian houses all have either wooden shutters or these impenetrable blinds on all their windows. I have blinds, which are the most common thing in this part of Italy.

They're pretty useful, actually. You can put them half way down so when the sun is on you, you can make shade, but also allow some air in. They have slots between them so you can put them down sort of all the way, but not quite and it keeps the zanzare out, and lets some air in. You can put them down all the way when it is really windy or rainy and the weather stays outside.

Sometimes they come with locks, so you can put down the one on your balcony most of the way but leave a little space at the bottom so the cat can get in and out, but burglars can't get in.

But Italians don't use them that way. They just keep them all the way down all the time every single day. There is an apartment building opposite ours that I thought was unoccupied because I have never seen the blinds up on any of the apartments. Then one day, one of them was up, and I could see people having normal life inside. There are 17 windows on that building visible to me now, and only three have the blinds up at ten thirty in the morning.

The blinds absolutely block the light. Completely. They make it as though there is no window in the room. They are a wall, so the rooms must be utterly pitch black inside. And they block the air movement too. So I can't imagine what sort of state the room would be in when it is, as it is now, 29 degrees C. out.

Well, I found out why Italians do this insane thing that makes me worry I live in a country full of vampires.

The sunlight fades the furniture, you see.

And when they tell you that, and while you're blinking at them in wordless stupification at the insane weirdness of Italians, they give you a look that says, "Man, these stranieri are weird!"


Home home homity home.

Got in about 11:30 last night. The cat was sitting on the bed, staring at the door, daring it to be my friend who was flat and cat sitting. She had a most comical expression of surprise when it turned out to be me.

It is indeed the second half of July, and now is the time when we go down into and must traverse the dark valley that is the Italian summer. Daily 35 degrees centigrade and 110% humidity from now until early September.

It is slightly nicer in Santa Mar than Rome right now, but not by a lot. And that slightly better is mostly to do with the flowers and twittering birdies and the non-Romeness of it. Got off the traino last night, after Trenitalia had spent the day trying to kill me, and thought again, "Oh. Hello. Rest. Of. Italy." Got off the train in Santa Mar and looked around at the cracked asphalt, the garbage strewn streets, the graffiti...

and thought of Gardone. Gardone which is starting to glow in my mind with an unearthly New-Jerusalemy radiance.

Nice to be home though. Funny thing, that.

Winnie was very surprised and pleased to see me. She followed me around the apartment as I was putting things away and puttering around last night.

Then she spent the whole night making sure I wouldn't try to escape again.

"Wake up monkey!" "Pet me now monkey!" "It's only three in the morning for monkeys. For cats its Pet Me Now Time!"


Monday, July 12, 2010

My New Favourite Blog


Ever feel like you are just pretending to be a grown-up?

A lot of us who were born in the post-hippie era feel like this:

"...a few times a year, I spontaneously decide that I'm ready to be a real adult. I don't know why I decide this; it always ends terribly for me. But I do it anyway. I sit myself down and tell myself how I'm going to start cleaning the house every day and paying my bills on time and replying to emails before my inbox reaches quadruple digits. Schedules are drafted. Day-planners are purchased. I stock up on fancy food because I'm also planning on morphing into a master chef and actually cooking instead of just eating nachos for dinner every night. I prepare for my new life as an adult like some people prepare for the apocalypse...

I begin to feel like I've accomplished my goals. It's like I think that adulthood is something that can be earned like a trophy in one monumental burst of effort and then admired and coveted for the rest of one's life."


Good Bye Gardone Riviera


Good bye lovely, tidy, highly functional Gardone. Good bye town full of Italians who all speak six languages fluently, including yours, who want to help you, know how and actually get around to doing so before you are ready to kill them. Good bye parks that are not merely patches of infrequently mown weeds, but that have flowers, soft green lawns and fish ponds full of large, healthy, non-mutated fish.

Good bye functioning air conditioning. Good bye bar bathrooms with a seat on every toilet, doors that lock and soap dispensers jammed with actual soap.

Good bye clean streets entirely devoid of gypsy beggars and graffiti on the beautiful, meticulously restored medieval buildings. Good bye fabulous boutique hotel with the ridiculously friendly staff and apparently limitless supply of ice cold prosecco.

Good bye happy, rich, friendly German tourists. Good bye smiling French people who are much nicer than any French people you’ve ever met before.

Good bye precious taste of normal civilisation.

Hello Rest of Italy.

I’m back.


Friday, July 09, 2010


Got off the train and it was right there. The Grand Canal, the gondolas, the fancy-schmancy pointed arch windows, the domes, the Gothic churches, the paintings, the stone carvings, the mosaics...


Who knew it was even real?

Can't remember the last time I had this look on my face.

Venetian taxi.


Stone carvings on the Doge's palace.

Ridiculously famous painting in San Zaccaria, called "The Sacred Conversation". Can't remember the painter (and can't be bothered to look it up).

Lit a candle, and asked Him for help. Felt very Catholic for a moment.

Shiniest shops I've ever seen.

St. Mark's

Novus Ordo Tryptich: the "People's altar," the ugly modern candle sticks, the tacky polyester banner. Examples of what our modern Church is offering the world.

The glories of NewChurch at Ss. Giovanni e Paolo.

Venice is the only place I've seen these things look good. Romans like them, but they just don't fit in there.

So that's what I look like when I'm happy!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Paradise on Lake Garda

I took a few pics yesterday of the town we're staying in.

You know how most Italian towns are a strange combination of gorgeousness and decay...beautiful medieval architecture, charming shrines, lovely gardens, statues...etc...? And you know how all that is marred by the garbage strewn everywhere, graffiti on every surface up to a height of nine feet, plumbing that doesn't work, general mess, disorder and chaos?

Well, imagine a beautiful Italian town...

run by Germans.

Neat. Tidy. Mowed lawns. Cultivated gardens. Cleanliness and toilet paper in every loo.

Who'd have thought?

The Angeli hotel. I'm on the top floor. There's air conditioning. And it WORKS!

Bougainvilia arching over the charming little streets.

That other, orangey trumpet-shaped-flower stuff, also arching over the charming little streets.

Wisteria, past its blooming, also arching over the charming little streets.

The little shrines all over...

This little cat was climbing all over the olive tree next to the terrace on the first night as we were having dinner. No one could get near it. Next morning, as I was walking around the church, I heard meowing from somewhere. It had fallen into a rubbish bin. Later this kid was hauling it around.

Italy's feral cats get a pretty good ride. The ladies feed them.

Happy friar.

Nother happy friar.

Lake Garda

Took a walk down to the lakefront. Must find the swimming place.


So cute.

More later. Busy.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Thugs of the sea

What the...?

Octopus makes a feint towards the guy's face, but it's only a distraction so it can grab the camera and make a break for it.

What's next? Little old ladies' purses?

Working holiday

Well, I'm off on an adventure tomorrow. Everyone who knows me even a little will know that, being a paradoxical sort of creature, I love to travel, but hate leaving the house. But tomorrow, I have to go outside, brave the heat and am on a train up to Gardone Riviera for a conference. So expect offerings here to be a bit light. I'll put up lots of pics of the beautiful Italian lake district resort where I'll be for a week.

Meanwhile, I've been given a bunch of delicious octopi and they've been in the fridge for a while, so today's the day.

The octopi around here are pretty small compared to the ones in BC we used to see sometimes. Still wouldn't want to meet one face to face, or perhaps, face to snorkel mask. These were caught by JP Sonnen who gave them to me when he moved out of his apartment for the summer. (A drawback to living in Santa Marinella is that most of the rental apartments are split into summer and winter rentals. The students live here in during the school year and get quite nice places [compared to Rome] for fairly cheap rent, but they get kicked out in June so the owners can rent to Rome tourists for the summer and make unconscionable amounts of money. I'm one of the few who sticks it out through the year.)

First thing mum always said was read the whole recipe through. No good discovering you're out of baking powder only after the flour, milk and eggs are already mixed up.

So, take:

About 1 pound of octopus
4 tbs olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 cup white wine
2 tbs honey or sugar
2 tbs fresh marjoram (from the balcony pot)
3 tbs fresh thyme
S&P to taste

The secret to cooking octopus is the long cooking time over a low heat, but first you have to blanch it.

That is, dunk them in boiling water, let them parboil for about 2 minutes and remove from the water. This is how you avoid the rubber-octopus problem.

They curl up instantly, and turn a kind of purply red colour.

Then, cut them into large pieces and saute in olive oil over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes.

Other stuff, ready to go. Clockwise from the bottom left: chopped thyme and marjoram, minced garlic, cup of white wine, tin of tomatoes, Canadian maple syrup (a treat instead of sugar or honey), chopped Thai chilies, coarse black pepper in the silver cellar.

Add the chopped garlic and saute for another minute or two.

Add the wine and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir well and let it cook down for 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chili flakes and allow to simmer with about a teaspoon of salt and the honey or sugar. Mix well, cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes.

At 30 minutes, add half the herbs. Check the octopus -- sometimes small ones will be tender in just 30 minutes.

If they are still too chewy, cover the pot again and simmer for up to another 45 minutes for the really big ones. But check every ten minutes or so.

When you think you are about 10 minutes away from being done, uncover the pot and turn the heat up a little to reduce the sauce.

Add the remaining herbs at the last minute, and crushed black pepper.

Serve with pasta or very fresh white Italian bread.