Friday, September 30, 2011

If only Britain were more like Texas

Thanks be to God for cranky saints

Giving the Trads hope of heaven.

Benedict XV, the pope of peace, wrote about Jerome, who I think should be the patron saint of late-starting autodidacts. He describes my feelings about learning to draw quite precisely:
What a toil it was! How difficult I found it! How often I was on the point of giving it up in despair, and yet in my eagerness to learn took it up again! Myself can bear witness of this, and so, too, can those who had lived with me at the time. Yet I thank God for the fruit I won from that bitter seed.

The Greatest of Doctors teaches us also how to approach heretics and it is interesting to note that he says nothing whatever about "finding common ground".
"I have never spared heretics, and have always striven to regard the Church's enemies as my own."

"There is one point in which I cannot agree with you: you ask me to spare heretics - or, in other words - not to prove myself a Catholic."

Pope Benedict says that Catholics must follow Jerome's teaching and his example.
they must be ready to combat not only those who deny the existence of the Supernatural Order altogether, and are thus led to deny the existence of any divine revelation or inspiration, but those, too, who - through an itching desire for novelty - venture to interpret the sacred books as though they were of purely human origin; Those, too, who scoff at opinions held of old in the Church, or who, through contempt of its teaching office, either reck little of, or silently disregard, or at least obstinately endeavor to adapt to their own views, the Constitutions of the Apostolic See or the decisions of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

Would that all Catholics would cling to St. Jerome's golden rule and obediently listen to their Mother's words, so as modestly to keep within the bounds marked out by the Fathers and ratified by the Church.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

A fit of gardening

I’ve discovered this thing called “hardiness zones”. This part of Italy is close to the top, Zone 9, and nearly anything can be grown here and will do so more or less year round. Frosts are infrequent and rainfall is pretty good in the winter, though summer sun can be fierce.

Last year, however, we actually had snow (!) and my hibiscus had a dreadful temper tantrum over it, dropping most of its leaves and threatening to just hold its breath until it died. I’m afraid I am a terrible softie, because instead of speaking sternly to it, I took it inside, cut off the dead bits, patted its leaves and told it that it’s a good plant and not to die.

In response, it has grown back all its leaves and has been flowering gorgeously all summer. I’ve learned to defeat the aphids that were bothering it by raising the PH level of the soil. I do this by simply dumping the left over tea leaves onto the soil. Haven’t had any aphids since I started doing this.

I’m running out of room on the shelf that runs around the balcony so it’s time to start thinking of making more use of the rest of the space. First I think I’m going to have to get some of those hook things that let you hang the long planters off the railing.

But more interestingly, I thought I would go up. There is a patch of beautiful

(this isn't the one on the train verge; I got it from the internet)

purply-blue Convolvulus sabatius growing on the verge of the train tracks and I thought I would go out with my trowel and a bucket and dig some up. I plan to get some long bamboo sticks and some twine and make a trellis and put the morning glory in a planter hanging on the railing and train it up to give some shade to the window on the east wall of the balcony, the window that is part of the bay window in the sitting room.

From the point of view of the sitting room, it is a west-facing window and it gets a lot of really ferocious sun in the afternoons that really heats up the room. There is no way to hang curtains directly over the window since it has been built with metal casements and no space on the wall to sink a screw for a bracket so I’ve come up with the brilliant idea of shading it with flowers from the outside. Ain’t I clever?

I have also found out that it is possible to grow wisteria in containers,

(which is good, since as you can see from this pic I took near the S. Marinella train station last April, it really does need containing.)

so I thought I would do one growing up the other side of the balcony. I expect that if I want it to flower, it will have to be in quite a deep pot to give it enough room for a good solid root system, so this one will have to go on the floor. I think I am going to donate my barbeque grill to friends, since the balcony is really too small to do barbequing. This will free up a big section of space for plants.

What I really want, and have admired for years that grows very well in this climate, is

Brugmansia, Angel’s Trumpet. I’ve seen all sorts of varieties around here and I’m sure I could find one to fit. The first time I saw them was many years ago in the Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver and I’ve been fascinated by them ever since. I never thought I would live in a place with a climate suitable to them, but here they are and they are truly amazing. They really look almost unearthly.

Of course, no balcony garden could be considered complete without a little pot of pansies.

I also have to get me some bright red geraniums, since I think it is mandatory for Italian balconies.

And I’ve saved the poppy seed heads that I had the first summer I was in the flat. I have sprinkled them over the soil in the pansy pot in what I hope is a good imitation of what happens in nature. The poppies in April and May are a main source of visual joy here, spreading rosily throughout the hay fields and all along the railroad tracks and on any bit of waste ground. I’ve found out that they do not last if you cut them, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Last summer, I was walking home from the train station and I saw growing by the side of the tracks this most amazing looking plant.

I suppose here they are considered weeds, since I have never seen one in a garden store. But as soon as I spotted it, I knew it was an acanthus, and I had to have one.

I thought it would be fun to come back with a trowel and a bucket and grab it, but I never got round to it. I have regretted this, since the acanthus is so important to the Greco-Roman artistic inheritance, and it would be so cool to have one live, and maybe even paint it. As soon as you see one, you realise instantly that the Corinthian columns really do look just like that. They are also very handsome plants, “weeds” or not. And they attract bumblebees, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The very next time I see one growing wild in an inconspicuous place, I will not hesitate. I’m told they grow all over Rome and are especially abundant on the Palatine,
but I’m sure that the Roman park authorities would look askance at me appearing at the centre of ancient Roman world armed with a bucket and spade, even if they are weeds.

And of course, I have to have nasturtiums, which can be seeded in with all the other stuff to create a nice dense display and make the whole place look saturated with flowers.

Apart from these grandiose plans, everything on the balcony is doing quite well. They all seem to like the south-facing location and I’ve found that with containers, watering is not much of a problem.

I had an attack of white mealy bugs at the end of the season last year, and they carried off one or two things.

The thyme that I thought had succumbed to the nasty little beasts has sprung back wonderfully. I was just cutting back all the dead stuff in preparation for using the pot for something else when I saw little sprouts of green. I cut away everything else and carefully watered the green stuff, and voy-lah! Lovely lemon thyme again.

The mint has been very robust. I cut it back all the way to the nub when it starts showing signs of flowering; the dried leaves keep their fragrance very nicely and it goes especially well in iced tea. As soon as it is cut, it springs back even more mightily than before. Every morning, I go out onto the balcony to inspect the plants, and I always brush my hands over the mint. It reminds me powerfully (as scents do) of my grandma’s garden.

Grandpa always said he regretted having planted their fuzzy-leaved mint on the south slope of the property, since over the 30 years they lived there, the stuff spread over everything and with the periwinkle and king cup, was nearly impossible to control. But I was always happy to be sent out by Grandma to pick some to put in with the new potatoes for dinner. The smell of fresh mint leaves always makes me feel safe, secure and happy. Loved.

The local garden shop had a few nice things on sale, and I bought this lovely thing that I’d never heard of before,

a Duranta. So many of the Zone 9 plants are unfamiliar it is like learning gardening all over again. Its leaves come in long pointed fronds that drape very elegantly over the edge of the pot, and its orchid-like flowers have a really lovely scent.

A friend gave me this last week and I have deposited it on the balcony, but I have no idea what it is. Anyone? It needs a great deal of water and wilts pathetically if I don't douse it every day.

I noticed last week that this little lump of gingerroot was growing green spikes, and instead of tossing it out, I decided to plant it in a pot and see what happens. I’ve no idea what ginger looks like when it is a plant and can’t wait to find out.

I think this means I am really “settling”. I do hope Luca is interested in renewing the lease for a four-year run, since I’m certainly in no mood to move and can’t afford to buy a place. There’s an Italian proverb: “If you would be happy for a week take a wife; If you would be happy for a month kill a pig; But if you would be happy all your life plant a garden.”

It’s just too bad that there isn’t enough room to keep chickens and ducks. I would so love to keep ducks. (So would Winnie!)


What the cute furry animals at the petting zoo are really thinking.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Looking through the little square Palantir

Bibs and bobs from this morning's fly-over:

* ~ * ~ *

Some Irish people are saying that the country's most recent troubles are the result of a fairy curse after the government ran the M 3 motorway through Tara Skryne Valley, destroying a number of the ancient hill forts. The "desecration" of the Hill of Tara, the ancient seat of Irish kings, has particularly placed Ireland under a curse.

"The Hill of Tara: Activists claim an ancient curse lays over Ireland for the destruction of the fairy forts"

Apparently, part of the curse is the loss by Irish journalists of the knowledge of the difference between "lays" and "lies".

I'm therefore inclined to believe this theory.

Among the sites destroyed for the motorway was Lismullin Henge, a 4,000 year old astronomical observatory and place of worship hailed as one of the most important archaeological finds of the century.

The order for this piece of desecration was signed by then-Minister for the Environment Dick Roche, who
was since held up by an armed gang in the Druids Glen Hotel and also lost his job and was then demoted.

Martin Cullen, the then Minister for Transport nearly got sucked out of a helicopter when the door fell off on one of his extravagantly expensive trips. The chief Health and Safety Officer was seriously injured by a falling tree when felling began at Rath Lugh in 2007.A worker was killed when he became trapped at Fairyhouse where there have been many accidents on this stretch of road.

* ~ * ~ *

David Cameron (that's the Prime Minister of Great Britain for our 'Merican readers) has enjoined schools to teach "happiness" lessons. This, as you might expect, has raised some eyebrows from various quarters.

David Cameron is obsessed with happiness...and is spending millions of taxpayers’ money on surveys to chart our every mood.

He wants the National Well-Being to be calculated and incorporated into future social policy. Does this mean the Government plans to penalise the people (like me) who are what I call creative pessimists?

Recently, Dave ordered the Office for National Statistics to ask 14,000 of us to complete ‘time diaries’, and another 4,000 to calculate (on a scale of one to ten) just how much they enjoyed each and every activity in their day.

That exercise is costing £1.5 million — which given the millions of people looking for work, many might feel we can ill afford.

I have one or two reactions: first, if he is the leader of Britain's ostensible "conservative" wing in politics, why are he and his party working so hard to barge into the inner lives of Britain's citizens? It is an axiom of conservative thought that free British people have a right to be as miserable as they want. It is the Left's modus to be interfering busybodies.

Second, and perhaps in contradiction to the above, it strikes me as not such a bad thing for a very stupid person to think. It seems as if Cameron's instincts are to try to make people happier, which is good, but equally instinctive is his assumption that it is the government's place to do so, which emphatically is not.

Mr. Cameron, apparently, needs a lesson in what government is for. Government, according to conservative thought, exists to keep the country safe from foreign invasion, to keep the peace at home and to create an environment in which citizens may get on with their lives unmolested by centrally imposed Bright Ideas. By these, I offer Bright Idea examples of the past like collectivisation, mass deportation of populations, gulags and "happiness courses". In the very furthest stretches of our theory, it might be allowed that a government may, with proper controls by the citizenry, keep the trains running on time, maintain the roads and help local communities build and maintain schools and hospitals (though these last two really should be the purview of the Church who, after all, invented them).

But I excuse Mr. Cameron on two grounds. First that he is a thoroughgoing, liberally educated modern who therefore is too stupid to know how to find his head with both hands and a Landsat and, like nearly every other British person I've ever met, does not know what "conservatism" means. They have been told all their lives by the BBC and hte Guardian that "conservative" simply means "evil". I will grant him good intentions, with his Bright Ideas like "Big Society" and "happiness courses" in schools, but give him an overall F- for failing to grasp the purpose of his office.

However, even in this last, I find it easy to forgive him. As we have stated above, he is a typical modern, morally illiterate British heathen who does not, therefore, have the faintest notion how a society is supposed to be structured and run. Like most Britons he simply assumes that government is supposed to dictate and run every aspect of people's lives for them. Crucially, he has forgotten the purpose and function not only of government, but of religion. If he wanted to spend his life making the British people happy, he should have become a priest. But as it is, he wants to give citizens the meaning of life and the secret to happiness without knowing it himself.

I can help with this.

Mr. Cameron, it is not the job of government to make people "happy". That is the job of religion. Specifically it is the purpose of the True Religion (which, of course, they have not had in Britain since 1534) to teach people how to live their lives and be happy.

You're welcome.

* ~ * ~ *

18 year-old Marc, who I understand is quite the up-and-coming thing among Catholic bloggers, tells those who don't know what it is like to be a Catholic:
It's like sex.
Wait, no, people will think I'm 18.
It's like waking up in the morning, looking outside, and realizing that someone had replaced your ordinary route to work with a roller-coaster, your pen with a sword, and your friends with gods.
Not really.
It's like everything smelled of your favorite smell and you never got sick of smelling it.
But not quite.
It's steak and cigars.
It's like being constantly punched in the face.
Closer, warmer.
It's the feeling you get when you think you've reached the top of the stairs, but you haven't, you actually have one step left, and so you trip over it, and while you're laying sprawled out on the floor, crying, you check Facebook and realize that you have 37 notifications and 700 new friend requests, so you smile to yourself, pour a large glass of red, and read a 1000 year old book about some one who had a similar experience.

* ~ * ~ *

It has come into the news many times in recent years that British Christians often find themselves on the wrong side of the law when they dare to assert any aspect of their faith in public. Many, many stories have appeared, too many for me to keep track of. Fortunately, I don't have to, since the Christian Institute is doing that work.

Briefly, a Christian cafe owner in Blackpool, James Murray, was threatened with arrest by local police because he plays bible verses on a flatscreen TV in his cafe. No music or audio of any kind, just the verses with pictures of candles and things in the background. Now, while it is not illegal to show bible verses in public, it becomes an offense if someone takes offense.

And this is at the core of the whole problem, this major shift in the focus of law. The law in Britain no longer concerns itself with real, verifiable, objective acts, but is now focusing on phantasmic, internal, subjective experiences that are "verified" only by the word of the person experiencing them.

The law that is usually breached in these kinds of cases is the Public Order Act, section 5 of which states,

"(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he:

(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,

within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby."

That little bit at the end is the kicker. "...a person likely to be caused..."

The statutory defences are as follows:

(a) The defendant had no reason to believe that there was any person within hearing or sight who was likely to be alarmed or distressed by his action.
(b) The defendant was in a dwelling and had no reason to believe that his behaviour would be seen or heard by any person outside any dwelling.
(c) The conduct was reasonable.

Do you see it? The whole concept behind such a law should be anathema to British Common Law. An offense has only occurred when someone has the subjective experience of being offended.

If no one takes offense, then the same act, playing bible verses in a shop, is totally within the law.

But should someone be offended, then it is an offence for which the perpetrator may be arrested, detained and ultimately fined up to £1000. This perp. it must be emphasised, has committed no individual act that is in contravention of any law...until someone who sees it becomes offended.

Moreover, under the list of statutory defences is one, the first and most important, that requires the putative offender to have the ability to read minds and see the future.

A society based on the rule of law cannot start making laws that are subject to the whim of the individual citizen.

* ~ * ~ *


On the question, that so vexes the minds of art students of the nailing-chairs-to-walls school, 'what is art?' Vasari had this:

Art owes its origin to Nature herself... this beautiful creation, the world, supplied the first model, while the original teacher was that divine intelligence which has not only made us superior to the other animals, but like God Himself, if I may venture to say it.


Working on it

Progress on Mr. Big has been slow, but I've learned a lot

When I started, I had no idea how to enlarge a drawing to scale. I just made it up as I went along, and learned a great deal.

But, piano, piano, as the Italians say. A little bit at a time and he comes along.

Having a DEUCE of a time with the modeling on the back of his knee. As you can see...

So, to keep my brain from exploding in frustration, I took a little break and sketched a copy of this painting, with the thought that I could figure out the nice little jacket she's got on and maybe copy it in linen. Only with less frilly stuff, obviously.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pretty portrait

Albert Lynch, 1851 - 1912


"Tea time"

It might be a useful line of inquiry to determine what it is about the modern world that it so hates beauty?


Learn about art

Found some really terrific art blogs with loads of pretty pictures and regularly updated.


And Scott Waddell's art page that has some excellent instructional videos.

Scott Waddell took some of the best technical training available in these degenerate latter days, and uses very technical language. This can be a bit difficult to follow, since he kind of shoots it out very quickly assuming you are familiar with the vocabulary. But it's OK, since you can play the video over several times. I watched all his videos last night and jotted down some of the terms with which I was unfamiliar. You can then look them up somewhere like this.

And Voy-Lah, yer getting edjumacated.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Art is good for your brain

Found this on, well... on some website somewhere, so, you know, it must be true...
A recent study in neuroaesthetics conducted by Professor Semir Zeki of England, gives scientific validity to an idea which artists have subscribed to for centuries: looking at beautiful art creates as much delight as being in love. In a series of pioneering brain-mapping experiments, Zeki, a Professor of Neurobiology and the Chair of Neuroaesthetics at University College London, concluded that viewing beautiful art releases a surge of the neurotransmitter dopamine into the orbito-frontal cortex of the brain, stimulating the same 'feel-good' centers of the brain as are affected by romantic love. "What we found," said Zeki, "is when you look at art - whether it is a landscape, a still life, an abstract, or a portrait - there is strong activity in that part of the brain related to pleasure."

Dream Life

I'm informed that Daniel Greene and his wife are selling this place.

I'm amazed. You wouldn't get me out of there except feet-first.


I miss my eyebrows and eyelashes.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Because a girl should have long hair, she should have clean hair; because she should have clean hair, she should not have an unclean home; because she should not have an unclean home, she should have a free and leisured mother; because she should have a free mother, she should not have an usurious landlord; because there should not be an usurious landlord, there should be a redistribution of property; because there should be a redistribution of property, there shall be a revolution.

That little urchin with the gold-red hair, whom I have just watched toddling past my house, she shall not be lopped and lamed and altered; her hair shall not be cut short like a convict’s; no, all the kingdoms of the earth shall be hacked about and mutilated to suit her. She is the human and sacred image; all around her the social fabric shall sway and split and fall; the pillars of society shall be shaken, and the roofs of ages come rushing down, and not one hair of her head shall be harmed.

H/T to Zach.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pick me! Pick me!

I believe in gender stereotypes!

The titanic arrogance and impenetrable wall of assumptions behind this headline simply boggle the mind.

Gender stereotypes persist among young Canadians
[Plan Canada surveyed] 1,000 Canadian youth between the ages of 12 and 17.

They found that while 91 per cent felt that equality between men and women in Canada is good for both boys and girls, some youth still subscribed to gender stereotypes. For example:

* 48 per cent of the youth thought men should be responsible for earning income and providing for the family
* 31 per cent of the boys felt that a woman's most important role is to take care of her home and cook for the family.
I wonder if they took the trouble to define any terms.

I don't doubt that the survey simply asked, "Do you think that equality between men and women is good for both boys and girls". In my experience, surveys of this kind are no more sophisticated than online newspaper polls. So I don't doubt that there was no attempt to define "equality".

But the concept "equality," like it's in-bred idiot cousin "human rights," can mean a lot of different things, and since it has become the primary operating concept in Canadian government, it might be helpful for someone to actually define it.

Because it is not defined, "equality" has become not a concept in political philosophy or economic theory, but an essentially meaningless noise, one of those words that Chairman Mao described as a "little stick of dynamite you plant in people's minds". Effectively, it has become a kind of battering ram to knock in the doors of many moral social bastions. No one wants to be thought to be against "equality," so whenever some feminist (or increasingly often, homosexualist,) government bureaucrat in Canada, Britain, the UN or the EU starts slinging it, everyone ducks and covers.

But let's ask a few concrete questions. What does "equality between men and women" mean, exactly? Does it mean that a woman's testimony in court is held to be as reliable as a man's? Does it mean that in criminal cases, the same rules of evidence apply to men as to women? Does it mean that a woman doing a job, say a Toronto bus driver, receives the same pay and is taxed at the same basic rate as a man doing the same job?

Few people realise that most of these kinds of things were already covered in British Common Law long before the Great Emancipation.

But now, "equality" as the holy grail of all government policies, is wielded like a blunt instrument, mostly to make the lives of small businessmen miserable.

Here's an example.

In the Canadian bureaucracy, at all levels, it has been held to equate with the fictitious concept, "equal pay for equal work". The slogan that feminists used in the Canadian government is actually more accurately given as "equal pay for work of equal value". A lot of people assume that this means "the same pay for the same work," as in, you pay a female bus driver the same as a male bus driver if she does the same job and works the same hours.

But in fact, the slogan, which has become the government's operating policy, is a byzantine labyrinth of Official Feminist socialist doublethink that attempts to weigh the value of work done and arbitrarily assigns a job a dollar number that must be met by employers.

This little bit of socialist interference in business has been enshrined in Canadian law at several levels, such as the Ontario Employment Standards Act and there are real consequences for employers failing to govern themselves according to it.

As Real Women of Canada puts it: The "equal pay for work of equal value" slogan/policy
would include the problem of evaluating different jobs having very different factors, such as job risks, uncertain tenure, working conditions, training, etc. There is no objective way to measure the value of a job apart from the price it commands on the market. Once market wages are abandoned as a guide, the system, unfortunately, becomes a subjective assignment of points based on the bias of the evaluator about the relative value of working conditions, job skills, education, training and responsibility.

Of course, most Canadians, including doubtless the boys and girls surveyed by Plan Canada, know nothing about this. Being fair-minded people in general, the first assumption is probably the one everyone makes, that "equality" is a good thing and the idea of defining it has never crossed any of their minds.

But the survey above is an interesting indicator. On the vague, undefined notion of "equality between men and women," everyone surveyed (remembering that these are just kids) snapped to attention and saluted, like the good little Canuckistanis they have been brainwashed to be. But when the survey asked some questions about something real, like whether a woman should go out to work or look after things on the home front, they were able to break their coding and nearly half of them answered honestly.

It gives one a ray of hope, don't you think?


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Balcony gardening

Something I want to do more of. My balcony faces south and is well sheltered from wind.

Here's someone doing it in Milan.

update: dang. I just noticed her most recent post was in April.

He knows they hang homosexuals there, right?


Friday, September 16, 2011

EngBishCorp Calls for Return to Meatless Fridays

In a statement issued earlier this month, the bishops said it was important that followers of the Church were united in a common, identifiable act of Friday penance because "Lord knows, they sure don't go to Mass every week, heh, heh, heh... Oh wait...the virtue of penitence is best acquired as part of a common resolve and common witness" yeah yeah, that's it....


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Remember that thou art dust...

Oh, and I am looking around the net for a place that sells artists' casts for a skull. I've always wanted one.


...I know what I like...

I think a lot of people who know what they like in art, but can't really say why, really only lack vocabulary. I am new to reading and thinking about art, analysing why I like what I like, and I have found it very difficult to articulate my thoughts. I am starting now to collect a vocabulary that describes what I think, but it's still quite difficult.

The other day I was thinking that I wasn't so keen on portraits as I am on still life, but I was having trouble identifying why. What I've realised is that I often find modern portraits, even the ones by modern contemporary realist painters whose work I admire, to lack a sense of universality.

Everyone can know the universal significance of a still life or a landscape, or even an anonymous nude figure, and modern realist painters usually really shine in these genres. But I've noticed that when it is a formal portrait, very often the sense of a universal meaning is lost. They are often technically extraordinary, but they lack a deeper meaning. Maybe this is because of the influence of photography, but there is something about the portrait above, by the 18th century German painter Christian Seybold, that surpasses the simple creation of a good likeness. She glows with inner strength and an extraordinary beauty.

I remember seeing in the Chicago Art Institute and the National Gallery many 17th and 18th century portraits, often by Dutch painters, that had this same inner glow. So much that they harbour a kind of beauty and serenity that is nearly impossible to see in day to day life. I imagine that this is what people would look like in heaven.

Why do modern painters so often fail to create this kind of meaning in portraits?


Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Went to Civitavecchia this evening to get the first of a series of scans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging. CT is next week, then PET at the Gemelli.

Am suddenly filled with dread and visions of horrifying worst case scenarios are dancing before my eyes.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sadie Valeri

I've featured her here before, but I thought I'd make a list on the sidebar of modern classical realist painters I like.

With Sadie Valeri, it's all about the colours.

Y'all might remember her silver pitcher picture.


Me me, me me-me me...

as our friend Gregory likes to say.

My home internet is causing trouble, so there may be fewer posts for a while. Dunno what's wrong. (What do I look like, some kind of computer geek?) I'm trying to get the Telecom Italia guy to come fix it. Running for now on my mobile internet stick, but not sure it has more than a couple of hours left on it.

In the meantime, I just thought I'd throw out a little health update since people are asking.

We're at Chemo III + 11, and I'm getting better much faster than expected. I am out of the wheelchair at home and walking about the flat without difficulty, and even made it to the shop and back the other day. Last night managed to get in a little swim in the evening followed by a burger at the pub after. Big night out!

Nausea is over, pain is mostly under control, though I'm guzzling down the maximum allowable dose of a fairly powerful painkiller and probably will for a while yet. The neuropathy is a bit worse than last time, my feet and fingers are numb and if I miss a dose of painkiller or am late with it, I hear about it right quick. But it isn't getting any worse and there isn't going to be any more chemo, so the nerves will now be able to start healing. They're only worried about my liver, so I'm still taking a bunch of liver-fixing drugs. I'm sure it will like me again soon. I've even still got most of my eyelashes.

I seem to be doing this weird thing of having an Up Day full of energy, followed by a day of total somnolence. It's kind of like a mini bi-polar disorder.

On an Up Day, I accomplish amazing, superheroic feats of normality: walking more than two blocks without resting! Doing laundry! Cleaning the bathroom! Cooking dinner! etc. On these days I invariably think, "Whoopee! I'm all better! Time to get back to work and do lots of stuff!!! Woot!"

Then I start chanting "Normal-life! Normal-Life! Normal-Life!"

The difficulty comes the next day. The Sleepy Day.

Last week I had two Up Days in a row and of course, thought, "Hey, I'd sure love to go into Rome for Mass this Sunday. It's been ages and I feel great!"

Sunday, as it happens, was a Sleepy Day however. Fortunately, my loyal friend decided that it would be best to take the wheelchair and was willing to show up at my place and push me around all day. It turned out to be a very smart idea. Slept on the train into the City, drifted off to visit the mermaids during the Mass, was a zombie at lunch and slept again all the way home on the train-o. Got home, and zonked out on the sofa for five hours, got up, had something to eat and was out for the night by ten.

So, my body will continue tricking me, I guess. I had my little Up Day yesterday, even went to the beach-o (yes, I know the Italian: spiaggia, OK?) and had a little splash about. Went to Monkeys pub after for a hamburger and a Coke and walked home after with no trouble.

For which I am now paying.

Anyway, things are going pretty well, over all. Better than expected, in fact. I've been inundated with people emailing and saying they're praying and having Thoughts for me. I've been overwhelmed with people coming over and helping during the period when I really couldn't get out of bed at all. There hasn't been a moment when I've needed help and it hasn't been there. So things are good. The weather is even being fairly cooperative.

I am REALLY looking forward to getting back to Normal Life, but the Up/Down thing might be going on for a while I suppose.

Now we have to wait to see if the chemo has had the desired effect. I am scheduled for another MRI/CT scan on Thursday, and for a PET scan some time soon. Whether the tumour has shrunk or not, I will be having surgery in a month or so, when my immune system is back up and running.

Then, at last, it should be over for the most part.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Just gotta keep working

you'll get there if you just keep going.


لن استسلم‎

The other 9-11,

September 11, 1683

when King Jan Sobieski of Poland arrived at the Siege of Vienna, raised the Cross of Christ and routed the Ottoman Turk barbarian, who had raped, pillaged and burned their way across the eastern half of Europe, enslaving Christians and forcing "conversions" at sword-point.

Lan astaslem, you bastards!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

God, Bless America

Praying today for the victims and their families.


Friday, September 09, 2011

See those big guys carrying that dead priest out of the rubble of the Twin Towers? The firemen, cops and paramedics, right?

Apparently they're not invited to the 9-11 Memorial service. "Not enough room" for them.

Neither are any priests.

“It’s a civil ceremony. There are plenty of opportunities for people to have their religious ceremonies,” Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show...“If you want to have a service for your religion, you can have it in your church or in a field, or whatever.”

Yeah, really not making this one up.

Deal Hudson writes:
One cannot help but contrast this decision with the actions and behavior of civic leaders in the immediate aftermath of the attack. A comparison of the differing impulses and decisions of representative politicians and media then and now offers a compelling and frankly discouraging perspective on how secularism and anti-traditionalism have become embedded in the politics of the northeastern states in the past ten years.


You will notice... in a circumstance involving not Islam but (primarily) Christianity and Judaism, the mayor is telling people how they can and can’t pray, and where they can or can’t pray. Isn’t this, in the mayor’s own terms, a blatant violation of first Amendment freedoms? To answer in part, one must realize that to the secular elite all religions are not equal and thus are not all entitled to equal treatment, the Constitution be damned. Such obvious and verifiable hypocrisy from such an intelligent man points us once again to a deeper meaning and deeper motive for the decision on the Memorial prayers and clergy.

Why don't you write and tell Mr. Bloomberg how you feel about that decision.

Go ahead. Share.


Want to rent a flat in paradise?

A couple of friends of mine are looking for a third Catholic man, (student), to fill up the room in their new flat,

in this building,

with this view.

One of the rooms.

Rent is cheap, people are nice, location is perfect.

Send an email if you have just arrived in Rome to study and have discovered that your assigned roommate is a cannibal who likes to practise his yodelling skills at three am.

(Or, just if the shine has worn off Rome and you'd like a quiet affordable place to study. Close to trains, shops and nice new friends.)


Thursday, September 08, 2011

Started a new project - another still life

Sadly, it won't look a thing like this.

But I thought the subject looked good.

Took a bunch of photos of the final set-up so I can keep track of progress. The positioning, draping, lighting and backgrounding took most of the evening. What doesn't come out in the photos is the carved rosewood screen in the background that really adds a layer of warmth. I draped it with black behind to cut down on shadows. Now I have to figure out just where to put the easel to get the best possible angle.

I'm planning on letting this one take as long as it takes. The only trouble is that it takes up nearly all the dining room table.

Pull the camera back and it's like a movie set, lots of mess and very little drama. And every last thing is marked with masking tape where it is supposed to go, the chair, the easel, the drapery, the screen. NOTHING moves. And it has to sit like this until it's done. Beginning to think I need a studio.

I know, there are readers out there who know that I've not finished the last one, but I've got an excuse. It's hard for me to stand long enough to get any work done on Mr. Man,. I was working on Michelangelo's oddly proportioned nude study today, chivvying away on the left hand again. I had to stop when I realised I was getting dizzy whilst standing on a chair.

I am setting up Still Life with Dramatic Tea Pot so I can work on it sitting down.


Chemo Observations I

One of the ten thousand weird (awful) little things that no one tells you ahead of time about chemo is that it can put you off sweets.

When I came home, everything tasted horribly of chemo drugs and a whiff of chemo-drug-smell was enough to start me retching. So I wasn't too keen on eating anything and even had to have water be either extremely cold, fizzy or flavoured with lemon to keep it down. Anything else that went in there was just going to come right on out again like it hit a trampoline in my stomach.

It took a couple of days for the everything-tastes-like-deadly-chemical-toxins stage to wear off and in the meantime, my lovely friend Sarah, thinking I would need both cheering up and nice things to nibble on, bought me a stack of my (formerly) favourite chockies: dark, semi-sweet with toasted hazelnuts.

It's been a week, and my appetite is bouncing back amazingly, with me wolfing down a particularly tender rare steak with mushrooms and onions this evening for dinner. I am still waiting for any interest to generate in my mouth for chocolate, however. Every now and then I think, "Hmmm... maybe a nice chockie?"


Sarah also bought me a little tub of hazelnut chocolate thingies wrapped in silver foil and everyone else has been having a few. This evening, I tried a couple to see and I'm afraid they were met with indifference.

Has chemo finally cured me of my chocolate thing?


Let's play a game!

Time for another round of our favourite game...

Liturgical Dance Chicken.

The location is "Mary, Mother of Jesus Catholic Community House Church," a warm, inclusive nursing home Catholic Community that welcomes women who feel called to sacerdotal ministry,

and wafting about in tiaras,

in Florida.

But wait, there's more!

Take your positions...




(Contestants please record their times in the commbox.)

Plus a bonus, just-for-fun, video of our all-time fave,

Worst Procession EVER.

Seriously that's how you find it on Youtube. Those are the search words.

(No points, since we've all seen it already.)


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Thinking about things

I've been thinking a lot. I've thought about chemo, about God and Providence, friendship, charity and dependency, about happiness and how to get it, about Grandma's linen closet and why painting The Real is important.

I've been dreaming too. Had a bunch of really horrible nightmares the first couple of days after coming home, but that's over now, and was probably all about being sick and poisoned.

Soon, I'll tell y'all about the blue nuns' infinitely expanding library, and maybe, if you're very good, about the Amazing Magic Sewing Machine. It needed fixing, but after I found an American monk who was also an expert machinist, who built me a motor small enough to fit in a walnut shell, it worked great.

I've not forgotten you. More to come.



I missed this year's Gardone conference

...for chemo

For frick-ing CHEMO!!

Am I mad? Am I annoyed by this?

Why yes.

Yes, I am.

The lectures. At most conferences, the lecture periods are the times when I normally pull (grateful) conferees out of the hall to be interviewed. Which works out for everyone, really.

At Gardone, I go to the lectures.

Incredible, huh?

Sign up
. Save up. Seriously, it's worth every nickel. You won't have a better holiday anywhere.



Turns out it's "cruel" to give women information about what actually happens in an abortion.

But I don't get it.

It's just a blob of cells, right?

I mean, what's cruel about removing a blob of cells?

They weren't lying about that, or anything, were they?


People think

I have no excuse whatever for being homesick.

But I'm from here, so...

you know.

And I'm such a BC tree nerd, I can tell you the species of both those trees just from the bark pattern. The one in front is a Douglas Fir and the other is a Western Red Cedar.

(H/T to Vicky. More Vicpics!)


Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Hilary in the hospital


No, not really. But LAWKS!! it was no fun.

Feeling a bit more normal and human, however, now that everything I eat and drink no longer tastes like chemo-drugs.

Happy to have so many extremely high-quality friends.

More later.