Friday, December 31, 2010

This was me in the German snow

I really like snow. Quite a lot.

I have lots of Germany pics to give y'all, but you'll have to wait till I get into town to pick up the cable. Left it in the office.


h/t to Vicky for the penguin vid

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hey, my birthday is coming up

I think I want a pink rifle.


Christmas week

Over the next few years the Christmas week feasts are going to be increasingly appropos, I think...
The Vatican estimates that from Egypt to Iran there are just 17 million Christians left. Christianity is on the verge of extinction in the ancient lands of its birth. In short, a creeping religious genocide is taking place. Yet the West remains silent for fear of offending Muslim sensibilities.

Non pacem sed gladium.

St. Stephen, St. Thomas Becket and the Holy Innocents, orate pro nobis.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It snowed!

Made this video by holding my Mac up to the window.

I was just sitting in the kitchen, watching the soup and idly surfing around doing important internet research, when I happened to glance out the window.

Yoiks! Not what I expected to see!

And it stayed!


By the way,

Merry Christmas, everyone.


The Source

I've found the Source of All Stuff.

Il Mercatino dell'Usato, a national chain of shops selling, well, cheap antiques.

It's Value Village (this is only for Canadians of a certain socio-economic category) if Value Village were jammed with decent antique Roman furniture, china, silverware, pictures, lamps and chandeliers, traditional Italian kitchenware and fabulous vintage clothes.

The one I went to today is ideally located about a block away from the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. Ideal because it is on a bus route that takes me straight back to the office and to the train station to go home with my loot.

As y'all know in April I got freakishly lucky and scored the apartment of my dreams (the dreams that didn't involve a working hot water tank, slope-backed, claw-foot bathtubs or fireplaces...oh well) and discovered that My Stuff was nowhere near big or elaborate enough to properly furnish such a place.

I, and later my kindly and stoic roommate have been living since in a place that more closely resembles a cavern, sparsely furnished largely with an incongruously English arm chair and two-seater sofa "three piece set" that I brought with me, and little else. My pictures, of which I have quite a few, are all of a scale more suited to a tiny country cottage in Cheshire, and even the largest of them are somewhat forlorn on the great white expanses of the walls.

Before I moved in, I had asked the landlord to remove the mountain of egregiously horrible cheap and nasty modern furniture (two large and very worn faux leather sofas and assorted bits of appalling rubbish furniture that looked like rejects from a garage sale c. 1976) on the principle that it is better to sit on the floor than have to look every day at stuff that would crush the spirit. We kept the beds, the wardrobes, (never yet seen any closets in an Italian residence) the very large dining room table and the table-shelf-thing the TV used to sit on before I asked them to take it away.

(The very nice agency lady was horrified I didn't want that mountainous TV. I'm sure it was supposed to be a big attraction of the place. She said even if I didn't want to watch TV, what about my friend who was going to come live with me? I refrained from explaining that I could not possibly live with anyone who would want to watch Italian television.)

But indeed, though we have stuff to sit, sleep and eat on, the place is sparse. Cold, even.

There are no carpets, as is also usual in Italian homes (what these people have against domestic comfort is beyond me) and the very high-quality marble flooring is quite as icy at this time of year as I had anticipated. The place echoes like a warehouse in an economic downturn and is about as homey.

But I had more or less despaired of ever finding anything I could afford to make it nicer, warmer and more cozy. Furniture in Italian shops is of a style that would do little to create "cozy," (a concept for which there is no Italian word). The antique shops in Rome are so wildly overpriced that there seems little point in complaining that they are filled with furniture that would affront the aesthetic sensibilities of the most vulgar spenders of new wealth. "Overwrought," "overdone," "over-the-top" are also not really concepts that have Italian words attached to them. What they have plenty of are faux marble and gold-painted curlicues... dear God!

Italians like to boast about how much money they've spent on things and aren't big on admitting to having "previously owned" things in their homes. If it ain't obviously new and expensive they don't want it. Which all means that there really aren't any places where people with an abundance of taste and a shortage of funds can get nice things for their homes.

We foreigners aren't really expected to be setting down roots here and the places we are offered for rent are routinely furnished cheaply and hastily with the basic stuff. We're a mendicant race, we ex-pats, and tend not to be interested in becoming heavily domesticated.

I was trying to make my Brain get into the idea of a kind of "high austerity" as a new domestic aesthetic, but it wasn't buying it. It would often whisper whinily of an evening about how cold and unappealing the place is.

But things are looking up. I have found the Source of All Stuff and bought a carpet.

[photo to follow...sorry, I forgot to bring home the cable for my camera]
My first since Halifax, 12 years ago.

It's not huge (I was able to take it home on the train, rolled up very tightly in my wheelie shopping cart), but it's a start. It hasn't done a great deal to dampen the echoes, but there was more in that shop. And there are several other outlets around the City. And they deliver.

I'm going to go there and buy one or two bits of things at a time, and they said they will hold on to them until there is a truck's load worth and will charge me a flat €100 to deliver everything out to the seaside in one go. Cheaper than renting a van myself. And cheaper than Ikea's delivery rates out here ... and when I'm done I won't have to look at Ikea, I win!

You will note in the photo above the two book boxes that have served the last few months as an end table for my tea cup and toast plate in the mornings. The next thing on the list is going to be a pair of book cases, but clearly I'm going to have to get an end table at the same time. I have had my 18 boxes of books stacked up in the spare room - and making shift as furniture - since I moved in, boxes that have not been unpacked since I moved to Italy over two years ago. I've recently realised I don't remember what books I have.

I figured that I might be happier if I felt more like I actually lived here instead of just camping temporarily. A big part of that is going to be to buy Heavy Stuff. Stuff that will require a lot more thought before moving it again. Especially to some other country.

I've got my eye on this giant sofa and ottoman thing. (The awful little round chair doesn't come with it) the price has gone down. I looked at it in the shop today and they are asking €560 now, which I might be able to do next month. Forgot to ask if they take deposits.

I think people unjustly malign Getting More Stuff as a source of happiness and security.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Taking some time away.

See you guys later.

Time has changed me

and left me full of doubt.

It was strange seeing pictures of Jon Laursen the other day.

I've changed so much. It seems like the world has changed too.

Things are so different on the inside now. It's hard to imagine that I'm really the same person. It's a bit of a shock to be reminded that things weren't always like this.

I don't know that I will ever trust again
It's a price I must pay for all my sins
Time has changed me and left me full of doubt
And my heart may be lost never to be found


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Little more man-music for ya


Here's someone who gets the philandry thing

Things women will never understand about men

I understand it. Maybe I'm weird.


One of the things I like about country music

it's for men.
Took the bus today down the Corso Vittorio Emanuele past dozens of shops and banks with windows held together with tape. The riot temper tantrum started down near the Piazza del Popolo where Andrea has her studio. She told me she went outside to find the students spoiled brats busting up the terracotta flower planters, swinging from the downspouts and attacking shop workers who were out trying to get the metal blinds down.

Remind me again,

when did we stop caning in schools?

Is there some reason these people should not all be automatically expelled from their universities?

Oh, and a tip for the Rome riot cops...

two words:

Fire. Hoses.


High Praise Indeed

This just in from Scotland...

Someone just emailed
to say that LifeSiteNews is in real financial trouble. My correspondent didn't even say "Sister, do you have a dime?" He just asked me to blog on their financial plight, and I said yes. He asked me to tell other bloggers like Andrew Cusack, and I said yes.

LifeSiteNews fights the good fight for the rights of unborn babies, the disabled, the aged and women who don't want to share their bathrooms with men dressed like women, and it collects a lot of news items of interest to Catholic and other Christians that you can't easily find elsewhere. It is quite unabashedly pro-traditional this and that, and it blew the lid off the Development & Peace scandal, which my Canadian readers may have heard about.

LifeSiteNews is more-or-less associated with The Interim, [actually, not so much now. Not for a decade or so. Paul Tuns never calls, never writes...HJW] Canada's pro-life, pro-family print newspaper, which has managed to stay in print for so many decades, I'm starting suspect divine intervention. LifeSiteNews is also, IMHO, the most wide-reaching, influential thing the pro-life movement in Toronto has ever done, and I know what I'm talking about. It also employs Hilary White, who is a very good writer, I must say. She's got a tongue that could shave a hedgehog and has denounced me once or twice, but the woman can write.

If you happen to have $5 or more that you can spare on a needy internet newspaper, I suggest you send it to LifeSiteNews.

Gosh! I'm blushing.

Yep. It's that time of year again. When we engage in what I like to call our Keep Hilary in Tea and Biscuits campaign.

It's a matter of public safety really. I have had many people shudder at the thought of what sort of damage I could do if I were out there runnning around the world unsupervised doing freelance.

LifeSite, in fact, does something no one else in the world does. We have pioneered the work we do and have come a long, long way in ten years. But as you can see, there is still a long, long way left to go.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Classical painting techniques

Some time ago, I fell madly in love with the Dutch still life genre. I went to the National Gallery in Washington and was mesmerized by them. I wondered if anyone is doing anything like that. Turns out yes.

I have come to the conclusion that the quality of a painter can be judged most easily by his still lifes. If you can paint an onion and make it interesting, you can do anything. But if your paintings are only interesting because of the subject matter, you're cheating the viewer.

My current drawing project, which I expect to take much longer than any of the previous ones, is a still life. Simple: I draped a chair with a white cloth and placed a silver teapot on the cloth. I expect it to be very difficult, but once I've got the knack of doing things from life, the sky's the limit.


Oh man! I LOVE kung fu movies

For all the years I lived in Vancouver, I was the world's biggest Sinophile. I shopped in Chinatown all the time, and learned to eat all the weird stuff that none of the white people ever ate. I haunted Chinese bookshops with their mysterious red wax seals and chops, and scrolls, ink and brush paintings, the Sun Yat Sen gardens, the Chinese bakeries, the Chinese Catholic parish with its gorgeous paintings of the Virgin and Child in the traditional Chinese style.

I went to the kung fu and wushu demonstrations too, and went through a very long kung fu movie period with Vicky.

If only the Chinese had gone for Christianity instead of Communism...

Oh well...

Monday, December 13, 2010

A little perspective

I've had a lot of nice comments about my drawings, and I'm appreciative, believe me.

But I've got a ways to go.

Marina Dieul, "Philippe" in charcoal and sanguine.


The thing with Tony

that no one seems to want to say is that he's really just not that bright.


Sounds good to me

Where do I get one?


What's missing?

This report on the Swedish bomb scare has left me rather puzzled...

Didja catch it?

What wasn't mentioned?


Friday, December 10, 2010

Oh science!

Thou art just so awesomely, amazingly cool!

Made. Out. Of. Legos. !

If logic (that is, science) didn't require the existence of a Prime Mover, I'd cheerfully worship you, Science.

If my fellow-worshippers weren't all jerks, that is.


Thursday, December 09, 2010

I don't know. These PRI guys keep telling people to "think about it".

Not sure that's really a helpful suggestion in our times.


I really have very cool friends

And I really want one of these.

But there's only one in the whole wide world.


And here she is done...

Finished the drapery this morning.

The original, for comparison

The face was the most difficult bit, of course. As you can see, it took several tries.

But determination triumphed. The idea of collecting the sanguine dust in a jar and applying it to the finished piece with a brush to give the whole thing an even tone, seems to be working. Though I had to go over the lighter bits with the kneaded eraser to bring them back up to contrast.

And before you ask, yes, I did her boobs just a little bigger than Michelangelo. What is it with that guy? All his women look like high school PE instructors.


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Odd artist

One man defies the modernists...

Yes, they're disturbing. But there is something about them. Something that reminds me of all my own darker thoughts about the world. Obviously we see Bosch, Caravaggio, Rembrandt. But as someone said, imagine those painters, instead of looking back at the Christian story, had lived in our time and faced our nihilistic post-Christian future. As though Rembrandt had met our modern apocalypse of despair and lost his faith in both man and God.

His admirers praise him for his superb Old Master technique, while his critics condemn him as hopelessly reactionary.

Sounds like my kind of guy.
The Norwegian artist Odd Nerdrum is one of the greatest painters of the century. Unfortunately, according to his detractors, the century in question is the seventeenth. Thus Nerdrum has emerged as one of the most controversial artists of our day.

Nerdrum’s career thus presents a challenge to the modernist establishment that still dominates the international art scene. He refuses to paint like a modernist, but thematically he seems to be responding to a crisis in the modern world; indeed he seems to be coming to grips with the spiritual state of modernity in a way far more profound than that pursued by most modernist painters.
Not that much of a challenge, one would think...

As a result, few contemporary painters have managed to enrage the modernist establishment as much as Nerdrum has. The artists, critics, and curators who comprise the modernist establishment somehow sense that if Nerdrum is right, then they must be wrong.
I wouldn't be so quick to grant them so much intelligence. The logical principle of non-contradiction is the foundation of all rational thought, not a strong suit of theirs.

By returning to the Old Masters, Nerdrum is violating what has come to be the fundamental convention of modernist art. Thumbing his nose at the whole art establishment, Nerdrum used the occasion of a series of exhibitions of his paintings from 1998 to 2000 in Norway to proclaim himself publicly the King of Kitsch...

...One must wonder about the insecurity of modernists who feel it necessary to insist that their art and only their art is “the art of our century” or “the art of the future.” Do the modernists fear the challenge traditional art still represents to the triumph of their own aesthetic?

It all sounds just so...ahem...oddly familiar, doesn't it?

Some day I should write a book or something about the connections between the artistic modernist movement and the Catholic modernist movement.


Sun Snake

Holy cow!

can science get any cooler than this?

A magnetic filament snaking around the sun’s southeast limb just keeps getting longer. The portion visible today stretches more than 700,000 km–a full solar radius. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory took this picture during the early hours of Dec. 6th. The STEREO-B spacecraft, stationed over the sun’s eastern horizon, saw this filament coming last week. So far the massive structure has hovered quietly above the stellar surface, but now it is showing signs of instability. Long filaments like this one have been known to collapse with explosive results when they hit the stellar surface below.

From NASA's Goddard Flight Center Science-Is-Most-Awesomely-Cool website.

Go there and be boggled.

Did I ever tell y'all about the time I called NASA in California? I was trying to confirm some information I'd been given about someone who had worked for them. I got hold of some bigwig who was very nice but asked if I could call back in a couple of days. They were launching the space shuttle that day, so everyone was really busy.


Monday, December 06, 2010

More on sanguine

It's a naturally occurring mineral, mined for centuries in Italy (natch), that can be used straight in chunks, or combined with other things like oil and other coloured chalks to produce things like this:

Apparently, my instinct to save the powder from the sandings was a good one. (It comes of having been raised by a post-war baby who grew up in England during rationing. You never, ever throw anything away that might come in useful). You can combine the powder with water to make a sort of ink that can be used with a brush. I haven't done very much ink-and-brush work, but the little I've done has been with the el-cheapo big plastic bottles of water-based calligraphy ink I used to buy in Chinatown in Vancouver. Great fun, and because it's so cheap, you can be pretty lavish with your experiments and not feel guilty.

Of course, now I'd give my eye teeth for just one bottle of the stuff, since Rome has no Chinatown.

Anyway, sanguine pencils apparently have quite different properties from the pure mineral. You can cut little bits of it, put it in a metal holder and get some very fine lines. You can use the powder dry to dust over a bit that you want only slightly toned (I already figured that one out all my myself! Woo!) and it does all sorts of interesting things on a wet canvas or paper ground.

I wonder if anyone has any tips for the Amazing-Disappearing-Sanguine-Line problem.


Sanguine ink drawing by Stephanie Goldman.

Must try this!


Almost finished another one this weekend

A study by Michelangelo for one of his ignudi for the Sistine Chapel.

I've solved the problem of finding inexpensive prints of the great painters to copy. The ones in books are fine but they tend to be very small, and small is difficult.

Solution? Calendars. There are a lot of Italian art calendars around this town.

My idea lately is to try to learn to eyeball as much of it as possible, using the plumbline to plot points as little as I can. I started the contour outline with just about ten plotted points.

Then as the contour line was finished, I mostly did the halftones and cast shadows by eye.

The face will need some serious point-plotting however. I had to re-do that mouth about three times, which in sanguine is really problematic, since once you have erased it is very difficult to get the pencil to lay down a mark over the erased bits.

The suddenly-disappearing-line: one of the exciting quirks of sanguine pencils. Scrub at it as much as you like, no line will appear on any surface that has been interrupted with erasing, or has had too much oil rubbed into it from your fingers.

I think I'll be buying a mahl stick soon too, since I ended up using a square of tissue, held in the crook of my little finger so I could rest my hand on the page without marking it or smudging.

I toned the lighest parts, the left forearm, the right thigh, where the light fell, using sanguine powder I collected when I was sharpening my pencil with sand paper. I just took a little watercolour brush and dusted it as evenly as I could. I found that with the lighest parts, the untoned paper left too high a contrast and the cool tone of the greyscale paper looked just a little odd with the warm tone of the sanguine. I tried it at first just because it seemed a shame to throw away all that sanguine powder. Now I think I'm going to collect it in a little jar and keep it around.

I found that I just couldn't get a dark enough mark with the sanguine pencil for the darkest shadows, so I cheated a little and shaded in the darker contrasts with an HB. I wondered how Michelangelo managed to get such dark lines but thought he was probably using a stick of pure sanguine, rather than a modern manufactured pencil and that I had no idea how big the original was. For all I knew, the original was big enough to use a sanguine stick as thick as my thumb that would make very dark marks. Or maybe he used a bit of charcoal on the darker bits and blended them together.

Going to try to finish tomorrow.

I've discovered that sanguine is an incredible pain in the butt to work with, but I like the results so much that I think I'm going to stick with it. Graphite is easier but not nearly so pleasing.

My pencil collection. I go through odd phases where I obsessively buy HBs.

Andrea working. She hates having her picture taken, but I thought this was a good one. And it gives a nice idea of the calm and quiet atmpshere in the studio. Outside, the Big City roars and rages; inside all is calm and good sense.

The tomb of Blessed Fra Angelico in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, my favourite of the Big Churches in Rome.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Dawn over the Med last month.

Nice, isn't it?


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Much like the new Mass,

one might venture to say...

Benedict is reforming the penal code of the Church to reflect...errr...current historical realities:
Other areas of canonical discipline at the time could be assessed in the light of practical ecclesial reality by evaluating positively or negatively the results of various norms ad 'experimentum' when it came to drawing up the definitive norms of the Code. The new penal law system, however, being "completely new" in relation to what had gone before, or almost so, lacked this "opportunity" for experimental evaluation, and so it was established practically 'ex nihilo' in 1983.

Something of a recurring theme when talking about things that came directly from the recommendations of the Second Vatican Asteroid Council.

Hermeneutic of rupture anyone?


Sent by one of my LSN colleagues, who triumphantly shouts, "I've found you!"

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

So, tell me if I've got this right

It's discriminatory to refuse to allow homosexuals to adopt.

(But of course, it's not discriminatory to force all the Catholic adoption agencies in Britain to close because they disagreed with the above.)

It's discriminatory to refuse to allow unmarried, cohabiting couples to adopt, even though it is statistically provable (and freaking obvious!) that they tend to break up and that it's proven that such break-ups are bad for the kids.

Now because it's discriminatory to refuse to allow homosexuals (whose "relationships" have...ah...a somewhat higher rate of "break-down", but never mind that) and unmarried cohabiting couples to adopt children, even though it harms kids,

now we have to allow convicted sex offenders to adopt.

Because avoiding discrimination is more important than children.

Did I get it?

What do I win?


Not Ashamed

Well, they're not, anyway.

Protestant evangelicals and Anglicans in Britain have today launched a campaign to show that Christianity, the person of Christ, is not merely the solution for our personal lives, but for the nation.

The Church (the real Church, that is,) used to have a specific doctrine about this.

It's called "the social reign of Christ the King". One of those retrograde pre-Vatican II popes even instituted a feast day, the Feast of Christ the King, to try to get people to remember this. This doctrine is probably the most significant point of departure between Catholics (particularly American Catholics) who identify themselves as "conservatives" and us. Trads are usually Trads not because of the old Mass. They're Trads because they believe that democracy isn't going to work until it is under the reign of Christ (if then). We are believers in the Catholic confessional state.

And when we start talking about it, you can see the neo-cons just starting to burst...that faint popping sound you hear...

Certainly the doctrine of the social reign of Christ is one that most Catholics, and nearly all Churchmen, (yes, right up to the very top) are deeply ashamed of. But it is interesting that this group of prots has just figured it out, all by themselves. Just through the use of reason.

So maybe it is not much of a wonder that there doesn't seem to be a signficiant Catholic contingent in this campaign.

I wonder how many of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales have signed on for the Not Ashamed campaign.