Sunday, January 30, 2011

Anyone?... Bueller?...

Still wanting a roommate for this flat.

Starting to feel the outside edges of panic, slowly getting closer...

That's three jiggles on the line in one day. The Roommate Fairy seems to have woken up from her nap.

Update again... that's four jiggles. Roommate Fairy must be feeling much better...


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Many thanks

to the Duckfan, a regular reader here since at least three blogs ago, for the books.

They arrived in good order at the office this week.

This, particularly, is helping.


Also, I'm starting to think that the internet isn't very good for you

New states of mind the internet has created.

Any of this sound familiar?

(fixed the link...)

The state of being ‘installed’ at a computer or laptop for an extended period of time without purpose, characterized by a blurry, formless anxiety undercut with something hard like desperation. During this time the individual will have several windows open, generally several browser ‘tabs,’ a Microsoft Word document in some state of incompletion, the individual’s own Facebook page as well as that of another randomly-selected individual who may or may not be on the ‘friends’ list, 2-5 Gchat conversations that are no longer immediately active, possibly iTunes and a ‘client’ for Twitter. The individual will switch between the open applications/tabs in a fashion that appears organized but is functionally aimless, will return to reading some kind of ‘blog post’ in one browser tab and become distracted at the third paragraph for the third time before switching to the Gmail inbox and refreshing it again.

The behavior equates to mindlessly refreshing and ‘lozenging’ the same sources of information repeatedly. While performing this behavior the individual feels a sense of numb depersonalization, being calmly and pragmatically aware that they have no identifiable need to be at the computer nor are they gleaning any practical use from it at that moment, and the individual may feel vaguely uncomfortable or ashamed about this awareness in concert with the fact that they continue to perform the idle ‘refreshing’ behavior. They may feel increasingly anxious and needful, similar to the sensation of having an itch that needs scratching or a thirst that needs quenching, all while feeling as though they are calm or slightly bored.

Dear God...

Your brain is not your friend

It's a funny thing about depression. One of the things it does to you is make you think you don't want to feel better. Or maybe just can't be bothered.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Someone said it!

In British politics no less!

Feminists are obnoxious bigots and men are getting a raw deal

Yay! there's still a man in the UK with a pair.

(Turns out he's already married though...dang)


Anyone want to come and live in Santa Marinella?

My amazingly fabulous roommate has had a bad turn done to her and now has to go back to the US unexpectedly.

This sucks.

But it does mean that this place,

is available for the right person.


here's a baby porcupine eating a banana.


Monday, January 24, 2011

At first I looked at this video and thought, "Yeah, a bunch of guys marching for unrestricted abortion...gee, look out for your own interests much boys?"

Then I looked again and saw that actually there were women present.

It was just hard to tell at a glance...


Sure, just as soon as you can assure me that life will be better than the internet

Pope to bloggers: "Get your heads out of the internet and get a life"

I paraphrase, of course...


Cat vs. Internet

Winnie is not this needy. But strangely, she's still this insistent.

(Thanks John. Come home soon)

Sunday, January 23, 2011


So, I have been using a Leonardo calendar to get large reproductions that are clear enough to copy in detail and I am learning a great deal about his techniques... enough to know that it will take a long time to reproduce it myself.

One of the big challenges is this thing called "Sfumato" or "smokey" which is the Italian word for his incredibly subtle shading. The blend of changes from darks to lights, and the overall gentleness of his figures is a result of this sfumato thing.

In one of his notebooks, he describes it as drawing "without lines or borders, in the manner of smoke or beyond the focus plane."

It's very much the opposite of chiaroscuro, the high-contrast light/dark juxtaposition that is so much in Caravaggio and later Italian painters.

Mastery of sfumato is going to take a while, but it is the reason I look at my version of his drawing below, and think, "Well, it's a pretty good drawing of a pretty woman" but I look at his original and think, "It's a magical depiction of a supernatural being". Orders of magnitude of difference.

I was grumbling about my frustration at not being able to do this and of course, when I articulated what the problem is, it sounded ridiculous. "My drawings aren't as good as Leonardo Da Vinci's!!! Wahh!"


Ah, yah.

Sometimes you have to say out loud what your brain is thinking to see how dumb you really are.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Did a quickie tonight

One of Leonardo's cartoons for a painting. Don't know which one.

Took a break to have dinner and watch some TV, and when I came back I thought, "Good grief! look at that nose!"

Spot the differences...


Friday, January 21, 2011

New nuns

My Norbie friends have just gone to check up on those new nuns who came over the Tiber a few weeks back from Walsingham.

They look like they're doing OK, which is good.

Today some of the confreres had the great joy of welcoming to the Priory Sr Jane Louise, Sr Carolyne Joseph and Sr Wendy Renate, who have joined the newly established Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. The Ordinariate, set up by the Holy See to welcome former Anglicans into communion with the Catholic Church, also allows for communities of religious to come under its jurisdiction.

I would go into all the cosmic implications of three nuns, women consecrated to pray for the things that Walsingham is supposed to be about, coming over to the Religion of the Real, but really, I'm just too lazy and generally fed up with the whole business. So, I'll let y'all work it out for yourselves.

Weep, weep, O Walsingham
Whose days are nights,
Blessings turned to blasphemies,
Holy deeds to despites.
Sin is where Our Lady sat,
Heaven turned into hell,
Satan sits where Our Lord did sway,
Walsingham, oh farewell!


The other day I discovered the website called "Etsy". There's lots of stuff on it, most of which leaves me more or less going, "meh".

But this!

I have GOT to, got to get me one of these!

My life will be complete if I can only get me a Wall Tentacle.



Infants born the year this document was promulgated are now old enough to be graduating from the Catholic colleges it was meant to help reform.

US bishops, college presidents to discuss campuses' Catholic identity

plus ├ža change, plus c'est la same crap...


Good news for us lonely, frumpy single Trads...

Religious girls in long skirts luckier in love?

That's what Pravda says.

Religious women in strict clothes would be laughed at and used as a subject for countless jokes during the beginning of the 1990s. Their secular friends and colleagues did not even want to believe that young women wearing long skirts and handkerchiefs could arrange their private lives successfully. However, as experience shows, girls in handkerchiefs enjoy special demand.

The TV series and two motion pictures Sex and the City has earned global popularity for one simple reason. The lives of its main characters are very similar to the fates of millions of lonely woman all over the world. They are successful, attractive and stylish, but single. How can one explain the paradox?

It seems that those women, who do not use cosmetics, wear plain clothes, cover their heads with kerchiefs and follow religious rules, are no competition to fashionable and liberated women when it comes to love affairs. Real life proves the opposite, though. Religious women get married one after another and celebrate the joy of motherhood. The prototypes of Sex and the City women keep meeting each other in restaurants and cafes to sip cocktails and complain to each other of their failures in relationships with men.

I think there's another aspect to this that people might miss. Religious people are usually connected to a large community of other religious people, a church or other religious group, sometimes an entire subculture. This makes a person much more accountable for his actions in life. The secular world has no internal social order. In the religious subcultures, there is a social order which puts checks on behaviour, but also supports people and keeps them connected to other people.

For people just living their secular lives, one of the biggest characteristics is isolation. Seculars are by nature atomised. They are not accountable to a group, their lives are lived, especially if they are not married, entirely according to their own personal whims and ideas, and in most cases, they live far away either physically or socially from their families of origin.

They are also entirely on their own in the project of finding a mate, and secular people often have great difficulty defining their values and personal wishes because of this lack of a cultural context. In a religious group, the value system is well defined (even if not always appreciated in every instance) and generally accepted. There's a "norm" for behaviour and values that is shared with a stable group of other people.
This creates a pool of potential mates that makes marriage a lot easier to find and to maintain.

Religious people have networks, even if they don't have families of their own to help, that can make finding a mate much easier and much more safe. Where secular people are reduced to the bar scene (or whatever it is they do) meeting strangers and taking huge chances. A religious person meets a potential mate at the parish after-Mass tea and snacks and in five minutes knows exactly what he's about, who his friends and family are, probably where he went to school and what he does for a living.

Religion, in short, creates social cohesion in the midst of a secular environment that is a wasteland of moral confusion, social isolation and risky encounters.

This bit was pretty good too:
Men become attracted to religious women because they create personality cult in their families. An emancipated woman perceives her husband just as a partner, whom she can compete with. A religious woman sees her husband as the head of her family. A man is a ruler in traditional families.

"She serves him dinner and she bows to him, she is completely crazy"...
...says the emancipated modern woman...

Oh, and...

Pravda! Who knew those guys were still around?!


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Roman Ruins Part II

Can't pay your student loans? Don't know what to do with ten years of philosophy?

Consider becoming a Roman Ruin.


People sometimes rag on St. Augustine

for saying that the behaviour of infants and small children is a clear indication of the truth of the doctrine of Original Sin.

These people hardly ever take the time to remember their own childhoods.

Hyperbole and a Half has a new post up.

Benny and the wolf pack.


I'm having a difficult conversation

with someone I know who is having a very hard time with the faith.

This is someone who is very very clever, but has had quite a rough ride of things for a very long time and things in general are not, objectively, getting much better. To say this has shaken his/her faith is a bit like saying the 1905 San Francisco earthquake shook the town a bit. There's very little faith left to shake, in fact and this person is becoming seriously depressed. This person is also a pro-life activist and has been in the biz for as long as I have.

I'm not sure I can really help, but I wrote this today and thought I'd share.

Can I just ask one thing? Do you believe in fighting evil?

Do you think that you would fight evil even if you didn’t believe in God?

I think I would keep fighting evil even if there were no God to tell me I should.

I know there are all sorts of clever arguments to tell me that the only way to know evil and good is because God hath ‘stablished them, and those arguments are probably right.

But how much actual difference would it make to you if you did just stop believing in a good, personal God? I think I would keep doing what I am doing.

You have described your growing flabby indifference and sometimes outright hostility to religion, and it has made me think about whether I would still be doing the work I do if I really did entirely stop believing. The answer was easy: even if you don’t believe in God, you still can’t kill people to solve your problems.

Pro-lifers like to piously maintain that the pro-life position can be held without any religious backing, and I suppose it can. Even from a strictly atheistic Darwinian viewpoint, it is easy to see that abortion is counter productive. You can’t advance the interests of your species (which I guess is what Darwinian atheism is about) while systematically killing off your own offspring.

You say you have been building up to this for a long time, that a string of disasters in your life has created this situation and that you came to Rome to try to do something about it but it isn't working for various reasons. Something Else happened instead and it turned out very badly indeed. And Something Else has mightily contributed to the accelleration of your loss of It. Now, It seems to be nearly entirely gone, to the point where even the desire for It has vanished and that you are at best now a Deist.

You've acknowledged that it is simply silly to say there is no God. That someone has to have set all this up. This makes sense of course. All my life, I’ve been observing first hand things not popping spontaneously into existence of their own accord. They just don’t do it. So, of course, we agree that the whole Prime Mover, Uncaused Cause, Non-contingent being against which all contingency is ... err... contingent, I guess...

But the kind of God the saints talk about just seems to be completely incredible to you. I think I can understand this. Even saving for later the whole Incarnation/Eucharist thing (I know, that one really just freaks everyone out who gives it five second's thought...) even the idea of a God who knows and cares about our existence just seems incredible. We don't care about the individual grains of sand on the beach, so it just seems amazing that God, the creator of everything out of nothing, can possibly even be aware of us. It just seems like the most outrageous arrogance.

I can see it. I really can. And I can really see this difficulty putting a damper on the post-Mass luncheon get-together. It's a bit of a downer and I can see its being hard to be perky. And I can't answer your Big Problem, which is, simply, the oldest one in the book, "Why is there so much bad if God is so good." Sorry, I realise it makes it sound as if I'm trivialising your difficulties, but I'm really not. Bad is still just bad.

Nevertheless, I might be able to offer something from the Fighting Evil point of view.

We fight evil for a living and know it well. I admit that I often don’t know what good is, but I know beyond a doubt what evil is. I’ve been studying it quite closely for a significant portion of my life now. I know that you can’t compromise with it, you can’t appease it, you can’t “find common ground” with it. You have to fight it and fight to win. That is, fight to destroy it. It is a thing utterly at odds with goodness and incompatible with it.

Now, even if you think that God doesn’t care about us, you still know good and evil. Maybe the big clockmaker in the sky doesn't think any more of us than I do about the individual grains of sand on the beach. But I think it is possible to believe in a good God (though maybe not the Christian God) because I am capable of knowing and really hating evil and having a desire to fight it.

I’m sure you can guess what I’m about to say. It’s obvious. If there is such a thing as an absolute, impassable divide between good and evil, and evil is … well, bad and can’t be anything but bad, then there has to be such a thing as good. I can’t be fighting evil without knowing that there is good and that good has to replace evil.

We see mitigated good all the time. When philanthropists give money to poor people, when Missionaries of Charity pick up dying old people off the Calcutta streets, when a young man stands up and gives an old lady a seat on the bus. It’s mitigated by all sorts of factors (maybe the philanthropist is Bill Gates and he’s giving money to population controllers ... maybe the Missionaries of Charity have got the worst liturgical sense in the world and can’t sing to save their lives ...maybe the young man is really just trying to impress the girl he’s with ...) but it is clearly a good impulse to try to do something right, however wrongheaded, with one’s wealth, and to pick up dying old people off the streets, and to let a tired old lady sit down.

Logically, if there is such a thing as a mitigated good, which seems to be all the good we are capable of doing, there must be a kind of Gold Standard of Good, a yardstick by which we measure the relative goodness of our own acts.

This yardstick, to be meaningful and real, has to be absolute. Well, I’ve never met absolute Good before, not in this world, but logically, the only possible way for me to know any good is for there to be an absolute standard by which to measure its worth.

Thinking about it, I can see that it is very difficult to imagine absolute Good. But I can see that it must be like the difference between light and darkness. I’ve been in a room which is absolutely black. Darkrooms, or the bathroom without a window. Wave your hand in front of your face and you can’t see it. But even a tiny amount of light, an LED display on your VCR or a bit of phosphorescent glow from a clock face, entirely defeats the absolute blackness.

It’s physics. There is no such thing as darkness or cold. When you think you are “seeing” darkness or feeling cold, that is really just a way of talking about it, and it’s a misleading way. Even the teeniest bit of light completely confounds dark because dark doesn’t really exist. There is no such thing as “absolute” dark, it doesn't have any physical reality, only absence. When even a tiny light of bit or heat enters the picture, all the darkness and all the cold are utterly defeated because they were never real to begin with. Once a bit of the real thing enters the room, all the unreal is gone, confounded, by definition.

This is why I think that although absolute good can exist, absolute evil can’t. Even the devil isn’t absolutely evil; he has existence, which Thomas said is a good right there ... and his evil works, if we believe what the Catholics say about it, are all in the end going to be turned around by the absolute goodness of God. All evil is mitigated in some way, if only by being limited to a particular time and place.

But not all good is mitigated, only the good we’re capable of. Our good is necessarily mitigated because we don’t live forever, aren’t all-powerful and can’t see all possible outcomes of every act. The good we do may be very pure good, but it is limited at least by our living in time and space.

So, going over it, evil is an absence. It’s an Unreality that is necessarily defeated instantly even by the existence of an absolute Reality.

So I believe that there is at least a reasonable argument to be made the the God who made everything out of nothing, can be a good God.

From there to lighting candles in front of statues, however, is, I realise, a long road.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

So, how's January where you are?

It was so cold and wintery in Rome this weekend that

when we had lunch after Mass on Sunday, we had to keep our coats on!



Sunday, January 16, 2011

This irritates me

Dorothy was posting about the reaction of some English and Scots to her Toronto accent, and I tried to post the following as a comment, but for some reason the commbox thing wasn't working.

There is one thing about all this that most people forget, even Canadians. There is no such thing as a "Canadian accent" or I should say, "the" Canadian accent.

The weird hootings that made up the mockery of the putatively Canadian accent were completely incomprehensible to me when they appeared in the mid 1980s on that silly show...what was it called? Not Wayne's World, but that other stupid thing with the two guys and the beer. Anyway, people all of a sudden started claiming that Canadians all talked this "aboot" business and said "eh", and for the life of me, I could not figure out what they were all blithering about. No one in my entire life had ever spoken that way in my presence.

It was not until many years later that I came to Ontario and began to understand. Most Americans, (and Brits, for that matter) assume that the "Canadian" accent is that of a small pocket of the popuation with whom they are most familiar: to wit, Southwestern Ontario. I had never in my life heard anyone talk like that (the way the "Canadian" accent was suddenly being depicted on American television shows) until I went to Southwestern Ontario... and suddenly it all became clear. The SW Ontario accent is indeed heavily influenced by the Scots who administered the place (Calvinist presbies all, and virulently anti-Catholic, btw).

I have something that is extremely rare: a native Victorian accent. I was raised, as were most of my contemporaries, by first time English immigrants in a colonial town almost completely isolated from the outside world. No one came to Victoria in the 1960s and '70s .... except American tourists up on the ferry from Seattle.

Victoria was a sleepy little place with a lot of old ladies in flowered hats and near-parodic English colonial types, all somehow overlooked by the modern world since circa WWI. I therefore sound "English" to the Canadians, and even some of my English relatives said that I spoke near enough with an English (though not London or Cheshire) accent that they didn't mind.

I also went to live for four years in the Maritimes and have spent some time in northern Quebec and New Brunswick, where even when they are speaking English, you can't tell. In Mirimichi the country people speak with a weird combination of Irish, French and Cree or Algonquin... dear heavens!

I do wish the rest of the world would get their collective heads out of their derriers about Canada. The county is HUGE. English people have no conception of a place that takes a week to drive across (without any overnight breaks). I once calculated the equivalent distance, and it is about that between London and Burma.

The regional differences are equally vast because the different waves of immigrants came and settled in groups in different parts of the country and usually in different centuries.

This idiotic thing with "aboot" and "eh" just infuriates me.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The source of all stuff

Coming along. Just need to find a couple more good deals on carpets and save up to get one or two of my pictures framed.

I'm aiming for "cozy," which is rather a tall order in this country.


Graydon Parrish talks about Classical Realism

"As you noticed as you look around the room, my art is very different than a lot of 20th century, 21st century painting. And some people are very uncomfortable with that. When I grew up I just became enamoured of the Old Masters [Oh! me too!] I became enamoured with figurative painting. I became enamoured with life and symbols and I was sort of in my world and I never realised that you couldn't do [sorry, didn't catch it] in the 21st century...Everything's OK, you can do this too. But it was just very hard to at the same time to find the training available make a big painting."

The same modernisers who destroyed the liturgy (and theology) of the Church also ran amok in the art world, as we have discussed. But there remained a few, a remnant, who refused to go along with the Campbell's soup can, nailing-chairs-to-walls, paint-splodge "school" and just went ahead and made real art.

Thank God for the weirdos of the world.

He calls himself a contrarian.

More Graydon Parrish here.


Saturday, January 08, 2011

Wonkey Still Life with Silver Tea Pot

Well, finished. More or less.

From this

To this.

Must try harder next time.


Friday, January 07, 2011

Well, never really liked either Tom Jones or Elvis very much...

until today.

"Why Tom Jones and Elvis both wanted to beat up John Lennon."


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Started a new project

My first still life from life in charcoal and white chalk.

It didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped. Not finished yet though.

I think we're going to be seeing a lot of this little silver teapot. It was bought for me in Tunisia last spring. I've been scared to make tea in it for fear of lead in the pewter. But it really is ideal for still lifes.


Monday, January 03, 2011

Sunday, January 02, 2011

I do so miss my little house

as who would not?

So tiny, it only fit me and the cat, and Uncle Mike had to stoop nearly double to get through the kitchen door built for hobbits.

I remember, when we were still redoing the kitchen, and I hadn't even finished peeling the 100 years worth of lino up off the old sandstone tiles, I lit my first coal fire in the grate, put my feet up and thought, "I hope this never ends".


Nature Girl

This is an old post from a previous life. I lived in Cheshire once, and was fairly civilised. Went stomping around the footpaths in my tweed skirt and wellies, collected oak branches from the fields for the fire. Ate blackberry jam I made from berries picked off the hedgerows.

Tell me again why I am here in this weird, desolate place. I've forgotten.

In April 2008, I determined to walk to Maiden Castle, an Iron Age hill fort in the neighbourhood. I got all the way to the end of the Sandstone Ridge, saw many wonderful things and didn't get to the castle in time to find it before it was too dark and I had to go home.

Part II

From the entrance to the Bolesworth Estate, the road goes ever on and on...

and up.

Lesser Celandine hide in the grass and nettles in the verge, like sparkles on water.

My mum used to say that you can tell the moment when spring really starts. For weeks the dark brown bulbs of chestnut buds have been forming and growing. Then one morning, they leaves have all flopped down and it has begun.

Jews ear fungus. Edible, I discovered, and I think popular in the Far East where it is sold dried.

Sat on a stump at the top of the hill behind the Bolesworth Estate, looking back whence I had come. You can make out Tattenhall in the distance, but more important, the weather catching up to me. The hills in the far distance are Wales.

...and up and up...

The woodsy bits at the top of the hill are the crest of the Sandstone Ridge. A morraine of rock and rubble pushed up by the thousand foot-high ice sheets that once covered the Cheshire plain. (No photo of latter, sorry). The ice is responsible for much of the shape of the terrain here and for the type of things that can be grown. It picked up boulders and rocks from miles away in Cumbria and Scotland and left them desposited all over. Some of them are local landmarks and some, it is said, were the site of pre-Christian ritual sacrifices. The ice also carried with it lots of smaller bits of rubble that its great weight ground down to a very fine powder which was deposited all over the plain. This formed a clay that still prevents drainage, which is why the fields are often flooded and where the meres and pools come from.

Oak wasp galls.

Very unusual to find farm buildings of wood here. Almost all the farm outbuildings are solid brick or sandstone. The feeling it gives is one of great permanence and dignity, something I always found lacking in Canadian rural areas, other than Quebec. These people have lived here a very long time and clearly intend to remain another thousand years or so.

A case in point. This little barn was clearly expanded at least twice. You can see the places where the newer brickwork was added to the older building in two stages.

Being chased by the weather as I climb higher up above the plain. Gorse bushes always remind me of the Winnie the Pooh story where Bear tries to get to a honey bee nest with the help of a balloon lent to him by Christopher Robin. The plan failed when Bear found that, although he could see the bees and smell the honey, the necessity of holding onto the string meant that he could not reach it. The problem of how to get down became serious. Christopher Robin was, sadly, forced to shoot the balloon, which deposited the hapless Bear into a Gorse bush.

We have to go up there?!

Yes. But not before we get a pint.

Some of the farms on the way to Burwardsley.

Other walkers, complete with all the Walker Geek Gear, looked decidedly long-nosed at me in my sturdy tweed skirt and wellies. I let them get well ahead before I started talking to myself again.

It seemed like miles and miles. One of the things about walking everywhere is that it gives one a deep appreciation of the seriousness of the land. In a car, one just whips past it, careless and unheeding like Toad in his automobile. Walking forces one to take seriously the distances and matters like food and water, tired feet and hills to climb.

Burwardsley cottages.

Everyone was out digging the gardens.

Many cottages have brightly painted doors. Often this particular shade of blue or bright red. And don't you love the name?!

Daffs are everywhere.

I fell instantly in love with this cottage. The chap who lives there sold me ten bags of fire logs at 50p per bag less than I was paying. Delivered the next day.

The last stretch of the hill before gaining the top of the ridge. But not yet. Onwards, to the Pheasant!

The seething core of metropolitan Burwardsley. The shop was closed (Sunday), but it had a lot of useful and interesting notices and a nice bench to sit on for a rest.

This little cottage, just before the Pheasant, was once a Methodist chapel. So many of these are now converted into flats or cottages, one wonders if there are any Methodists left. The one in Tattenhall has been changed into very uncomfortable looking flats and it makes me sad when I remember that it was once host to the great John Wesley himself who preached in the village in the late 1700s.


The Pheasant at last. My mum's favourite pub in all Ynglonde.

The walker's reward. I ate my tongue sandwich, cheese and sausage rolls, but it was too cold and windy to stay on the patio. I moved inside where the pub was full.

The next stile is the entrance to the Sandstone ridge and the beginning of stage two.