Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What do the EU, Mad Cow Disease and Stradavarius have in common?

Thought you'd already thought of all the ways the EU is ruining everything?

Think again.

Musicians have warned that the works of Purcell, Handel, Vivaldi and Bach may never again be heard as their composers intended – because of EU rules to stop people catching "mad cow disease" from their instruments.


Freaking out

vb (adverb)
Informal to be or cause to be in a heightened emotional state, such as that of fear, anger, or excitement.

Who knows exactly why it happens, when it will hit and what will set it off.

Total strangers emailing me and telling me all about their horrifying medical conditions...and offering to move into my house... The prospect of having my lady parts removed and turning into a strangely mutilated zombie... Spending the rest of my life on drugs... Inexplicable exhaustion... Weird sleep disturbances... Chemo drugs eating my endocrine system... Oh yeah, and the fun chronic pain thing...

Who knows...

I made soup and Vicky made salad. Feel slightly better. Now going to watch some TV.

Just been working our way through Community. It's weird enough to distract anyone.


Dear well-meaning people out there in internet land:

if you, your sister, your mother or any other person you know have had a hysterectomy or any related surgery, please don't tell me about it. It may seem awful, but I really don't want to know. Please don't tell me how horrible it was, how painful it was. Please don't tell me how long it took to recover or the huge dramatic life changes that came as a result. Please don't tell me you know how I'm feeling. It mostly just makes me freak out more.

And please, unless you actually know me in real life, not just in your imagination from having read my blog or articles, please, PLEASE don't offer to come to my house to help me through it. This includes people I've communicated with exclusively through email. If you think you know me because I've responded to a couple of emails, I need you to understand that we are not fast friends. I know you mean to be helpful, but it really just comes across as weird and slightly creepy. (If you think this is aimed at you alone, you're wrong. I've received several such offers.)

Sorry, but the list of people I want this kind of help from is extremely short. It might seem from the blog that I'm really all peachycheery but this is not the case.


I know you mean well, but your sharing is really not having a very good result.

So, just hold back, OK?


More contemporary art I don't hate

Check this guy out.

Jakub Kujawa

Mostly when you say "contemporary art," I start smirking and making jokes about nailing chairs to walls. But there are a few people out there who manage to combine classical technique with modern style and create, dare I say it, real art.

As opposed to bulls---. (Government-subsidised bulls----, I might add.)


In other news...

It looks like the revolution in the Church really is finally over, in the US, at least. With this new crop of younguns, we might hope that when the current batch of decrepit hippies has died off, there might actually be some improvement. In twenty years or so, I predict, the Barque may start righting itself.

(Wait, am I feeling sunny and optimistic today? What's going on? Is it the drugs?)


For your entertainment...

Yeah, the lyrics never meant anything. I wish someone had told my hippie mother that the Beatles never had anything to say either.


Subsidiarity a natural part of human society?

I think I've said before that when the Superstate dies, as it will soon, people and local institutions will step in. Human beings are naturally tribal/herd animals. I have long thought that it is socialism and Statism that has created a kind of artificial callousness that will evaporate the instant it becomes again an unavoidable necessity for people to start looking after each other.

And I think it has already started. In Greece, the EU-imposed "austerity measures" may (or possibly may not) have resulted in the government rebalancing the books (we are talking about the Greeks, after all) but it has effectively put a stop to the common use of the Euro in parts of Greece where people have learned that if they want to keep eating, they have to do something else. This really does illustrate the wide gap between what the EU oligarchs want and what the actual people who live in the countries they rule need to keep their daily lives running.
Prices have been slashed, but customers are few.

Fisherman Christos Xegandakis laughs bitterly. He says business is so bad, it's time to start swapping goods.

"Give me two kilos of potatoes, and I give you a kilo of fish," he says. "Why not?

Indeed, many in debt-ridden Greece — where radical austerity measures have led to soaring unemployment, business closures and a credit crunch — are doing just that: turning to a simpler form of commerce, bartering.

~ * ~ * ~

And here's a little afterthought.

In a few places in Greece the barter system has evolved rather quickly into a system of local small currency that may end up replacing the national adherence to the Euro. It's kind of reminiscent of the Greek plays actually. The Eurocrats forced the Greek government to accept the colossal bail-out package on acceptance of economic controls and "austerity measures". This was in order to "save the Euro" and to prevent Greece from falling back into its previous economic ways and reinstating the Drachma. In what might be a perfectly Greek irony, this action has forced local governments and small businesses to effectively abandon the Euro as the functioning currency.

Volos is also one of several Greek towns with a more formal type of barter network, which uses a currency called Local Alternative Unit, or TEM in Greek. One TEM is equal in value to one euro.

People sign up for free on the barter network's website, where they can post ads on what they can offer or what they want. Members exchange goods and services — for example, English and computer lessons, baby-sitting and plumbing repairs, medical visits and car-pooling — amassing TEM credit into an online account.

Some shops also accept TEMs, in the form of vouchers that function like checks.

Optician Klita Dimitriadis explains how it works. On a pair of 100-euro glasses, she'll take 30 percent in the alternative currency. She needs the 70 euros, she explains, in order to pay her employees, taxes and rent.

Dimitriadis then spends her TEMs at a monthly open-air farmers market, or in exchange for other services.

Over the past year, TEM members in Volos have grown from a few dozen to more than 500, and the movement has attracted Athens' attention. In September, parliament passed a law giving barter networks nonprofit status.

The Volos municipality also actively encourages the TEM network. Mayor Panos Skotiniotis says initiatives like these are particularly valuable at a time when the economic crisis is dismantling so many social benefits.

"This is a substitution for the welfare state, and that is why this municipality is encouraging it and wants it to grow," he says.

It looks like the vast EU superstate is coming to a premature end, and the more it tightens its grip, the more local systems will slip through its fingers. Its balloon of hot rhetoric and leftist Fantasy bursting before it is really off the ground.

At the same time, the European population is generally aging, and fast. Italy's overall fertility rate has leveled off at about 1.3, the death-spiral, lowest-low rate from which, historically, no society has ever recovered. Ever. And while all this is going on, European countries are still wrapped in the warm, fluffy, all-embracing welfare state, a system that cannot survive the demographic implosion that has already begun and is now irreversible.

Could it be possible that the principle of subsidiarity, the idea that people will look after their own and their neighbours if they have to, is really a universal aspect of human society that is inherent? That has been artificially suppressed by the growth over the last two hundred years of the overweening State? One that is now re-asserting itself as that system collapses?

The spectre of the failure of the Welfare State is something that really exercises the mind of the left. Universal abortion, the use of economic coercion to enforce sterilisation programmes on brown people in the developing world, tax penalties for families in which one parent stays home to look after the kids, the state throwing parents in prison who want to teach their children at home... none of this bothers them in the least. But the impending collapse of the Welfare State has them all in a tizzy. And rightly so, indeed. What will happen to our indigent poor? What about the older people who are retired but not rich, who live in council housing and rely on a government pension to keep them in tea and biscuits? And (here's the biggie) what about health care?

I've had a few conversations with doctors recently about the system of universal "free" medical care in Italy. In this country there is a two-tiered system, a phrase that fills Canadian leftists (ie: "Canadians") with terror. "A two-tier system?!! But that means The Rich (faugh!) will get better health care than The Poor (me)!" But in fact, the system works pretty well in this country with private care serving to siphon off a lot of the pressure on the public system.

I actually appreciate the double system quite a bit. My private GP gives routine discounts to people who are wholly without private insurance, as I am, and has given me several consultations for nothing where I've gone in to ask for his opinions and advice on medications and treatments. In the early part, when I was enormously stressed at the diagnosis, I woke up one morning with my back completely seized up. He gave me a prescription for lorazepam to control panic attacks and get my sleep back to normal. And then he offered a discount on an accupuncture treatment to fix my back. He's been a huge support and I'm more than happy to pay cash for his invaluable services. I figure if a guy spends 15 years in university learning ways to help people, he pretty much deserves to be paid.

One of the doctors on one of my little trips to the Gemelli emergency room told me (after she had assured me, again, that the symptoms I was experiencing were just the normal thing after chemo) that in her 6 hour shift in the pronto soccorso that afternoon, she would see about 20 or 25 people, almost none of whom would have anything wrong with them. She said that most people coming in there on their own steam (not the ones brought in on gurneys, obviously) came there because they knew that under the Italian system, they could see a doctor for free. She said that this kind of abuse of the system is likely to bring the whole thing down. If the people who came to the PS who had absolutely nothing wrong with them were charged just 20 Euros each per visit, it would pay back a huge portion of the costs and would serve to discourage people coming in for trivial reasons. If, she suggested, there really is something medical that needs doing (as there was in my case) then the system should treat that person either for free or with user fees that were scaled to the his income.

It sounded pretty reasonable to me. But the idea that health care and welfare are simply a universal human right that everyone should have for nothing is a big part of the problem in Europe. Everyone really does want the state to be Nanny.

To be honest, most of my treatment has been on the public dime, first with the NHS and now with the Italian national service. If I'd been paying the whole fare for surgery and chemo, I would have had a debt for the saving of my life that would have taken the rest of it to pay back. One that would have made student loans look like chicken feed.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I was paying for a lot of doctor's appointments, tests and scans myself and it certainly wasn't cheap. A lot of them were subsidised but the user fee was still fairly substantial, particularly when you're having a lot of them. If the MRI actually costs 1500 Euros and I pay 150, I figure I'm getting a pretty good deal. What do I have a job for if not to pay for things I need? But on the double system, I've been able to take a little more control of things. When we were working out the treatment plan, the Gemelli told me that they couldn't schedule me for an MRI at the hospital. But I was able to go to a private diagnostic clinic and get the tests anyway, and quite promptly.

You guys helped a lot, too, and this is more or less my point. People want to help each other and will when help is asked and when the circumstances make it possible to help. One of the biggest failings of socialism is that it makes it difficult, if not impossible, for individuals to help each other. No one can be allowed to get in the way of the State's interference in and control of the lives of its subjects.

I don't really know how it would work without some kind of government-paid health care system. I know that in the US the problem is not a small one. Back in the days when national governments were thinking about putting in national systems, health care was not nearly so expensive. We didn't know how to treat cancer and a lot more people died of it and things like chronic heart disease, diabetes etc. My great grandfather's brother died in the 1890s after a horse stepped on his foot and he developed septicemia. It doesn't need to cost as much as it does and there is a lot of waste in health care these days, particularly when it is run by government and the money just seems to flow for nothing from some magic source up in the sky. But the fact is that our modern "miraculous" medical interventions are expensive. Chemo costs a bundle.

In the 1930s, I'm thinking that even the arch-commie (and eugenicist, by the way) Tommy Douglas didn't think that his nationalised health care system was going to eat so much of Canada's GDP as it does today. No one envisioned it.

But I think apart from the Big medical expenses like chemo and heart surgery, people really can pay for a fair bit of what they get from doctors. Maybe the collapse of our massive, top-heavy national welfare systems will force local solutions that national, centralised governments are constitutionally incapable of conceiving. I, of all people, have no desire to see only wealthy people cured of cancer, but the reality is that the system we have now, that everyone seems to think of as some kind of birthright, is going to end. And soon. It seems to me that a solution can be found only when we are absolutely up against it and are forced to find one.

And I do think that such a subsidiar-ized, ground-level solution will be found because, exceptions notwithstanding, people actually do care about each other and want to help.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Why do we love still life?

I still really haven't quite figured out the answer to why still life affects me so powerfully emotionally. These ones really do it.

Giovanna Garzoni (1600-1670).

Since I started the art thing, I have had the thought I wanted to do a series of formal Botanicals of the flora and fauna native to Santa Marinella. It's been one of my big art goals. Love Botanicals.

H/T to Andrea.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

They're COMING!!!

The secret to their evil is that they manage to be both cute and creepy at the same time. So I'm watching this, and I'm thinking, naturally, "GAAAAAHHHH!!!" but also, "Oh, the poor little thing...someone please help it to the next pond!" That is its power, its evil mind-control power to make you, though fully aware of its evil While. It's. Crawling. Towards. You. feel sorry for it. '


There's another one on YT that shows a giant octopus on the floor of a fish market trying to get away that I just can't watch.

H/T to Zach


Saturday, November 19, 2011

What do you want to be doing when you die?

In the first few months of cancer, I was led to believe that this was not going to be a huge, permanent, life-changing thing. It was presented to me by several doctors as something that could be easily and quickly dealt with, with minimal long-term effects. I was told that "the tumour is small and localised" that it could be "removed easily with a small surgery," that I will be past it by mid-summer, that I would not have to have chemo, that permanently life-changing surgery would not be necessary.

One by one these assertions and assumptions have turned out to have been false. No one lied to me, exactly, but of course everyone wanted to put the best possible face on things. But in the last few months, each of these assurances have fallen by the wayside, opening up worse long-term prognoses, more radical interventions and fewer choices.

When it started, I was led to believe that I could leave it behind, that at some point I would be able to say, "It's over," and that life could carry on as it had before. But the core of the information we had from the doctors last week was that this is never going to be over. It is going to create a deeply altered life for me and my life will now never return to what it was.

For some years, of course, I have been looking at the things I am doing and thinking about how to live the second half of my life. This was just because I'm 45. But since the walls of cancer have closed slowly around me, narrowing my choices, my thoughts have become more acute, more immediate. There seems to be no doubt that the cancer and its treatment have greatly shortened my life expectancy.

So, now a new kind of question, a new set of questions, has been taking up my attention. No longer, "Is this what I should be doing?" but "What do I want to be doing when I die?" because whatever that is, I'd better be getting on with it right away. I think there is no more "some day" for me.

Medically, the more I learn, the worse it sounds. First, I will also have to undergo monitoring tests for many years, if not for the rest of my life to watch for the cancer coming back. The surgery (that I'll probably be having in the next couple of weeks) will greatly reduce the risk that the cancer I have now will recur, but not eliminate it. Nothing can do that. They can reduce the chances by removing all the organs that could now be affected, but there is no way to know if micrometasteses have spread into the surrounding organs and tissues. For that, we can only wait and watch carefully.

What they told me, in effect, was that there is no way to know, no way at all, to be certain, that cancer will not kill me some time in the next five years. All of the possible choices for treatment will render me permanently dependent on medical interventions and at significantly increased risk of a wide array of health threats.

Then, the surgery will render me sterile and induce premature menopause, symptoms of which are more sudden and more severe than it would be if it were natural. My Dorian Gray moment is at hand. The ovaries and uterus continue producing low levels of hormones throughout a woman's lifespan. Removing them all will produce a much more severe and abrupt cessation of normal functions and set of symptoms than anyone normally experiences. It seems that hormone replacement therapy can mitigate some but not all of these.

Further, the treatments to reduce these side effects, that I will have to undertake immediately and for at least ten to fifteen years, come themselves with a set of side effects and increased risks that, ironically, include cancer as well as nasty stuff like thrombosis, stroke and heart disease.

Put simply, I really cannot expect my life to be a long one. And between the new medical realities and the general circumstances of my life and background, I can't help but think that a short life would not entirely be a bad thing. I will leave behind a great many friends, but almost no family, and no one at all who is dependent on me.

I am a believing Catholic and that means that I look forward to the next life to be the better one. And as the medical condition worsens, I have no qualms about admitting that having less and less to lose as we go along is maybe also no bad thing. Releasing and relinquishing life and the things in it, including things long hoped-for but now unlikely ever to materialise, is something we all have to do eventually, and it's better to have less baggage to carry. John Muggeridge taught me that as I watched him let go of things in the last weeks of his life.

But that question, "What do I want to be doing when I die?" has begun to loom very large in my mind since they told me the news last week. It is obvious that I am not now doing it. Whatever I need to be doing when my life is over, I'm not doing now.

To be blunt, I am now extremely unlikely ever to be married. And I am incapable of ever being a mother. No religious order will take me, even if I still had the slightest spark of an idea I would want to be taken by them, which I don't. One of the things that cancer has finally put an end to, therefore, is the vocation question. I don't have one. And whether I ever did is now moot.

The "single life," never desired, always a repellent thought, is what I've got and will have. I have never believed this NewChurch drivel about the "single life" being a vocation in itself. The multiple catastrophes of universal divorce, the "sexual revolution," the ruin of the family and the abortion and contraceptive cultures have simply demolished the possibility of marriage for a huge number of us. I would venture to say that these things have ruined the hopes of marriage or the religious life for most of the people of my generation. We are simply so damaged as to be incapable of fulfilling the married or religious life. This kind of happiness and hope is something many of us simply cannot have, and all the blither about the glories of "the single life" falls upon our ears like a cruel jeer. I hope the fad dies out in the Church quickly.

If you can't choose it, if it is something that can be forced unwanted upon you by circumstances you can't control, it is not a state in life, but a mistake. I suffer from no delusions that a life lived without any sort of ontological connections can be inherently sanctifying, which is what a vocation to a particular state in life is for. If unmarried, unvowed people want to be holy, they have to do something else.

So the question remains, what, therefore, can be the next step down? No sanctifying state of life. No ontological context. Only me, and an "occupation," the doing of some thing that will not rule out a holy life. Of course, it could simply be that I can just carry on doing what I'm doing. I am set up now to live a fairly happy life, as long as it is likely to be short anyway. But it has become clear that I'm not now doing what I want to be doing when I die.

Lately I have been asking some priest friends, who I think have not really understood why the question is important, whether art can be taken as a sufficient substitute for a failed vocation. My question has mostly been dismissed with a terse answer. But I've been thinking about it a great deal.

What can I do with the second half of my life (or perhaps last third or fifth) that will give glory to God, that will occupy me and that is suited to a life that will largely be lived alone?

The only thing that makes me hesitate (apart from financial constraints) is time. I am looking very hard at the admissions page of the website of the Florence Academy of Art, which is the centre of the renewal of the arts of drawing, painting and sculpture. It is probably the best art school in the world. My current instructor, Andrea Smith, trained and taught there for several years. Nearly all of the leading classical realists studied there or studied with people who studied there. Most of the schools that are involved in the restoration of these traditions were founded as offshoots.

But it takes three years to complete the programme, and of course, years more to grow into maturity in this work. When I started studying nearly two years ago now, I thought I had time. Now I think I probably don't.

But that question is still in there: "What do I want to be doing when I die?"

Is the mere pursuit of this, without any guarantee I'll reach the goal, a worthy thing to die doing? I might very well die in the middle of the course. What would be the value in starting something I likely haven't the time to finish? Can I indulge in this pursuit, knowing I will likely not finish it, while the world comes crashing down around us? Is it selfish?

But there comes at time when you no longer have any room to fool about with life.

I'm thinking about it.


Friday, November 18, 2011

The Five Slogans

Some years ago, I started taking pro-life apologetics training courses in which I was taught how to make the case against abortion, staying strictly away from feelings ("feewings") religion or personal preferences.

I've talked before about S.L.E.D. and if you missed it, go here. I'm not going through it all again.

But I post the link to this thing in the Martlet, the student paper of the University of Victoria, (Yaaaaay!) where the Sled thing was used fairly effectively. It is interesting to note how far and how fast Scott's stuff is spreading in Canada, probably mostly due to the work of these two people (and now all their little friends) who founded this organisation (Watch out, scary pics on the opening page of this site). (We all took the course together in ... um... can't remember, maybe about 2000?... and the Canadian org. was formed while we all sat around the coffee table in a cabin on an island in the middle of a lake in New Jersey. It was fun.)

But I thought the most interesting part of the Martlet thing were the comments. A number of people chimed in saying why the argument against abortion is invalid. Fair enough. We believe in freedom of speech around here, (Ha ha!, not really...) and I note that the pro-aborts' arguments have been quite effectively addressed by others writing in. (Which is the point of this post ... which I keep forgetting.)

All the things they said are things that Scott listed as the same things people ALWAYS say in defence of abortion. Scott told us that they absolutely never come up with any other ones. (And the fun bit is that they really, really think they are being great independent thinkers, thinking these things up for themselves. Really!)

But I'm not kidding when I say they always say the exact same things. A.L.W.A.Y.S. and E.X.A.C.T.L.Y. the same things. It's amazing. I've been keeping track. On the few occasions I have been able to stomach reading this stuff, that is. Frankly, in recent years, it has really bored the crap out of me.

But when he told us, I thought Scott had to be exaggerating. It just seems impossible that an entire cultural movement (perhaps anti-cultural), one that has resulted in the deaths of 50 million people in the US alone, and is responsible for putting bajillions of dollars into the greedy blood-soaked mitts of the abortion industrialists.

All those lives, and just five slogans. Five.

- woman has a right to choose

- abortion should be a decision between a woman and her doctor

- woman has a right to bodily autonomy/privacy

- you can't bring unwanted/poor children into the world

- I wouldn't have an/am personally opposed to abortion, but I can't impose my personal beliefs on others (also, when you're standing on the sidewalk with a sign, "How DARE YOU try to impose your beliefs on MEEEE!!!! EVIL FACIST!"...)

All others, or actually "others," are just variations on this. Really. Try it yourself. The "rape exception" thing, the "overpopulation" thing, the "abortion is safer than childbirth thing," the "foetus is just potential life" thing, the "violinist" thing, etcetera, etcetera ad nauseum....whatevs.

One of my all time favourite bits of nonsense is the variation that starts, "if you don't have a uterus, you can't have an opinion..."

Rilly, I'm not even making it up...
"If you do not have a uterus, I don't believe you have any right to dictate what my body can and will be used for in regarding to pregnancy. I am not an incubator, I am a human being with rights to my own body and my own choices..."
blah blah blabbity blahblahblah...

(It's amazing, but even more, she goes on...

"Also, I believe it is most likely safe to assume you don't have a uterus. Therefore, why do you think you should have any say on a uterus bearer's body? I say UTERUS BEARER, because not all women have a uterus, and not all people with a uterus are women...."



Srlsly. They're all on the list. Go check it out. Think of it as a training exercise.


Decisions... decisions

I've decided to get another cat. Well, a kitten, really. I think you can get them pretty easily from the cat shelter at Torre Argentina. It's for Winnie. I'm starting to really worry that she's bored and lonely and doesn't have enough cat-things to do.

When I first got her, about four years ago now, I think she had been exclusively an indoor cat. We lived in my little cottage in Tattenhall and even though the place was tiny, and I left the kitchen door open a lot, she wouldn't go outside. She would sort of sidle up to the door and put her little nose out for a minute, then run back into the cottage. It was a big deal the day she went outside for a few minutes. After a while she would go outside pretty regularly through the bathroom window. She would run around on the rooftops and then back. She never stayed out at night.

Then we moved to Italy and we got a place with a really huge wrap-around terrace and she was pretty happy to go out on the terrace. Then we had a flat for a year that had a garden and she loved it. She would go out every day and prowl around the wood pile and chase the big grasshoppers in the garden. Sometimes she would just sit in the sun in the flowerbeds. I was vaguely worried she'd meet with the wrong end of a scorpion, but that never happened. After a while she got into a big thing with the local feral cat. The Mean Cat we called him. He would bully her and she started being scared to go out. One night the Mean Cat actually came into the flat and beat her up. While I was there! I had to chase it out. I think this really upset her and she would only go out when I was there in the garden digging.

Now we live in this really nice flat, but it's a story up from the garden and she can't go out. I've taken her on supervised visits to the garden a couple of times and she seemed to like it, but I'm afraid to let her out into the garden alone because it would be quite hard for her to ask to get let back in. The street outside is also quite busy, more than she is used to, and I'm really afraid that if she went out she would get hit by a car.

Sometimes she likes to go into the stairwell and run up and down the stairs, but she's pretty dumb and the floors look all the same, so she sometimes mistakes the upstairs apartment for ours and sits outside the wrong door yowling to get let in. Then I have to go rescue her.

But she's really looking quite lassitudinous; I think she sleeps too much, even for a cat, and she spends too much time trying to get my attention. She needs someone to play with who's more her own size. Someone fun and energetic to beat up on and boss around. For a while, I thought I should get her some mice, just let them loose in the apartment so she can have something fun to chase and then kill, but it turns out it's pretty hard to buy live mice. Don't know why.

I thought an adult cat would just be too much for her, since she's been an only-cat for so long. So, it's a kitten.

Also, I've decided to get a total hysterectomy to get rid of the cancer once and for all.

We tried really hard to keep all the important and useful bits in there, but it turns out that I have a "chemo-resistant" tumour and there were micrometasteses in the margins, which means the entire aparatus could be infected. The doctor said there was a 2 per cent chance that there were micrometasteses in the ovaries, but that there was really no way to test for this. The only way to know whether there was cancer there would be to wait until they developed tumours, by which time I'd be in pretty big trouble. I consulted my nice English-speaking GP and he said that with the flu or something, 2 per cent is no big deal, but it's way too big a risk with a disease that will kill me. WAY.

They said I could have radio-chemotherapy but this would (probably) have the same effect ie: premature menopause, anyway. Frankly, I didn't really even bother looking up the possible side effects of radiotherapy. It just seemed obvious that the only way to be as close as possible to absolutely sure is surgery.

So, life is about to change, permanently. I was really hoping that I would be able to deal with the cancer and have things go back more or less to the way it was before, but that hope is over.

So are a lot of other hopes.

But that's the way life goes.

More later on my Third Decision, which you guys might be able to help me with.

Now, I'm going to the beach to sit around and look at the water.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Some day, some day soon...


Richard Miller

I'm not ready for colour (yes, there's a U in it), I'm not even as far as charcoal. Still on pencil. But it's one of the things I've decided to live for. Getting to colour.

Pretty, pretty, pretty pictures, pretty ladies, pretty dresses...

Oh! oh oh oh!!!

(More on my List of Things to Live For later)


Why the Church in England is falling apart

This is from a post by Fr. Ray Blake of Brighton's St. Mary Magdalen parish. It is just a snippet from a

"letter from a Bishop to one of his priests, which basically said, "I cannot be bothered to read what you have written or to listen to what you have to say or to investigate what you are accused of but whatever it was it was wrong and hate filled."

Fr. Blake doesn't tell us the subject of the accusation, but comments simply, "It actually wasn't, it was a gentle argument trying to explain the faith".

He comments,
"I rather welcome the recent judgment that the relationship of priests to their bishops is like that of employer to employee, simply because it might bring some justice into a situation which is often quiet unjust and sometimes, as an American friend suggested, more akin to master and helot.

Those with power in the Church are often a law unto themselves, especially when they turn their back on the Church's Canon Law and basic Christian principles."
But it's not merely that these are bad men and bad bishops, heedless of the law of the Church and the tenets of the Faith. It's that they are intellectual runts. Some of them have a kind of animal cunning when it comes to protecting their interests, but other than this, well...

Think about it. It's not just that this man wasn't interested in investigating an allegation of "hate" against one of his own priests. It is the complete inability to grasp the internal logical contradiction he is making in his ridiculous rant. He "cannot be bothered" to investigate an accusation, yet "whatever it was" was "hate filled". And how, exactly, Your Excellency, have you made this assessment when you "cannot be bothered" to examine the actual material in question?

This is the current level of intellectual ability in the leadership of the Catholic Church in England.

In the lead-up to Advent, I think I will revive my "Abolish Christmas Now!" campaign. I am beginning to think that only if Christians in England are absolutely forbidden, on pain of harsh judicial penalties, from mentioning their religion in any public sphere that there is the slightest hope of saving the Faith in that country. These men need to be persecuted harshly for the belief they no longer hold and defend.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A lot going on

There's a lot. I've had the consultation with the doctors. The news isn't good, but it isn't as bad as it could have been and there are still things we can do to make the whole thing (possibly) go away. I can't really go into it more right now, but I thought I'd let y'all know straight up that things are still hopeful but the cancer is still there.

The chances that the next thing we do will make my cancer entirely a thing of the past are in the high 90s, but, well, things are still complicated for the moment.

But for now, I have a difficult decision to make. I've been given a few options, none of which are particularly appealing. Once I've decided what I'm going to do, it's still going to be difficult to live with and will change a lot of things more or less for the rest of my life. So, stick around, I'll go into it more as we go along.

At the moment, however, I'm actually just a bit pressed for time and for some rather unexciting, mundane reasons. I've got a doctor's appointment in the City this afternoon for more information, Q&A sort of thing, and I would have been back to you all before now but the internet at the flat died for about 30 hours. Fixed now, but we've got to run off to do more doctor-related things.

So, I'll get back to you.

Sorry, I realise now all that was kind of cryptic. But I'm in the process of making some pretty big life decisions and am trying to make them based entirely on rational and sensible things. The effort is leaving me somewhat muddled.

In the head.

You know.

Anyway, once all that is sorted out, I'll be back and we can have some tea. I might bring biscuits.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Art to soothe

Julio Reyes demonstrates where I want to go with



and charcoal...

and how far I've got left to go.

No further health news. Will let y'all know.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

First piece of bad news since the diagnosis

I'm afraid plan A has failed.

I'm sorry to say that surgery was not successful. The cancer remains in the "margins" and that I will now have to go on to the next step. Consultation on Monday to see what that will be, whether radiotherapy or surgery.

No comments please.


Taxonomy III

Part III

Alright let me get the category thing correct.

From your emails, I see five - is that correct? In descending order:

neo-conservatives (neo-Catholics)

And what of the term Rad-Trad (I know what it means) - who is defined by it? - SSPX and further along the scale, the Sede crowd?

The problem you are having is not that there are not enough subdivisions of "liberal" on your scale. Your problem is the scale itself. These terms are already defined and there IS NO SCALE.

We are not identifying a scale with extremely conservative Trads at one end and crazy "modernists" at the other. Forget about the scale. There is no scale. There is no "descending order" from Trad to Modernist. Trads are a distinctive group who are what we are according to a clear definition. Modernists are what they are because they adhere to one degree or another to a particular heresy (described by the popes are the "synthesis of all heresies") You are creating confusion for yourself with this scale business. Forget about the scale.

Modernism is a formally defined heresy that has created in the post-Conciliar Church what we now call "liberalism" because we have lacked a better, less politically derived term. Within the limitations of the extremely vague and slithery concept of "liberalism" (that is mostly undefined and undefinable) it could be said that there is a sort of a scale, from a certain point of view, and that in some respects, people who are usually regarded as "conservatives" are on it.

But please leave it there; the concept of a scale is no more use than that. If we are to use the scale idea, we might label the whole thing "Modernism", and on the "Modernism Scale" there is a gradation from people who consciously and willingly adhere to the heresy (whether they deny that Modernism is their source or not) and those who unknowingly and unwittingly have absorbed its tenets because they know no better. The former are generally referred to as "liberals" and the latter, as "conservatives".

(It is interesting to note that a few years ago, these "liberals" in the Church were more or less oblivious to the existence of Trads, while the "conservatives" hated us and in some cases did their best to eliminate and "absorb" us. Since then, the general knowledge of Trads has increased. Liberals still do not usually see us as any kind of threat and treat us with fascination as a sort of re-discovered long lost tribe, or like something legendary that they thought was long extinct. Conservatives for the most part continue to hate our collective guts, but have learned to be more polite about it, often attending the Old Mass out of attraction to its beauties and to demonstrate that they are not bigots. This is what we like to call the Ratzinger Effect.)

But from the point of view of the people on the scale, they are not on a scale at all. To them, there is no scale, but rather two camps implacably opposed to each other and locked in mortal combat. This is the point at which the scale analogy becomes useless. Conservatives do not understand that they are infected with this heresy; they do not consciously accept it.

There is no scale, there is just the heresy, Modernism, more or less consciously accepted. The scale thing is a total red herring. Because in reality, the model of two implacably opposed camps is much more realistic and useful. Though I can't stand S---, and he hates Traditionalists like me, we both know we are on the same side. I know that if S--- were ever to be presented with the fullness of the Faith, and there was some way to turn off his ego for five minutes, he would accept it. Subjectively, from his own point of view, he is not a liberal because he consciously rejects their heresy. He rejects Modernism.

That he has been unknowingly infected with it is something he cannot do anything about and isn't his fault. In this case, the subjective point of view is important. Objectively, S--- is a Modernist material heretic, but this is because the Church in the last 50 years has taught nothing but Modernist heresy and if you want to know the Faith, you first have to know you don't know it, and then go looking for it. But subjectively, S--- is a good Catholic who is striving to be as good a one as he can. His will and intentions are all correct.

The "liberals" of the Mahoney/Chittister/Gumbleton stripe would not accept the Faith if it were presented to them. They are modernist heretics, formally, and I believe that a formal declaration of this, and excommunication, is long past due. (I'm going out on a tiny, precarious limb here, because I am presuming to judge their souls, but I'm doing it for the sake of clarity in this discussion, not because I think I can see into their hearts. Who knows if Sr. Joan would convert if given the proper chance? Not me.)

The "conservatives" of the Shea/Akin/Scalia/Neuhaus stripe aren't Trads because they have never been adequately presented with the Faith in its fullness by the proper authorities. I like to think the best of them because I was a conservative myself once. I was a JPII-clapping neo-Catholic and I was angry at the liberals and wanted the Church to be restored. If you had told me at the time that I was a liberal, and a Modernist and a heretic, I would probably have punched you. My will and intention was to be a Catholic in the fullest sense. This made me a neo-Catholic conservative.

If these neo-Catholic conservatives were properly instructed by the correct authorities in the fullness of the Faith, I have great hope that they would accept it. But they won't be because of near-total acceptance of "soft" Modernism in the Church from top to bottom. In theology, we call this "material heresy" which means heresy accepted out of ignorance.

Traditionalism, therefore, is not "extremely conservative conservatism". "Traditionalist" is not a sliding term, it cannot be used as an adjective and it is certainly not part of a scale from Trad to Modernist. THERE IS NO SCALE.

Traditionalist can't be used as an adjective; it is only a noun. You can't be "more traditionalist" than someone else. You are, or you are not a Traditionalist. There could be such a thing as a conservative Traditionalist, I suppose, because "conservative" can be used as an adjective. And in theory there could be such a thing as a "liberal" Traditionalist, but the thing is what it is.

I am a Traditionalist. This totally precludes me from being "a conservative" (noun). I do indeed also happen to be quite a conservative Trad, but that is using the term "conservative" as an adjective to describe my personal style and attitudes. The issue here is the difference between substance and accident. I am not a conservative of any kind. I am a Traditionalist.

"Conservative" and "liberal" are malleable, slippery terms that can mean a great many things and are nearly entirely relativistic. You are a "conservative" or a "liberal" depending on who is standing next to you. Dolan is a conservative when he is standing next to Mahoney, but a liberal when he is standing next to, say, the late Cardinal O'Connor, who would be a screeching liberal if you could stand him next to Spellman.

(No one and nothing is "defined" by the term "Rad Trad". It's just an insult. It's an epithet thrown at anyone whom the thrower doesn't like. Normally, it's used by a neo-catholic or conservative to insult someone who he thinks is getting uppity over the Mass.)



My correspondence with my friend (Part II... scroll down for part I):

I think I have found the core of your difficulties.

When I talk about liberals in the Church .. I mean what you have described.

When I talk about Modernists in the Church, I mean the really bad guys.

You need to forget about the scale. There is no scale.

A "Modernist" is not merely a "really bad liberal". There isn't a scale with "liberal, bad liberal, really bad liberal and modernist". Liberalism isn't just a mild case of Modernism.

Modernism is a heresy. One that was described very clearly and aggressively and successfully opposed by Pope Pius X. If you put "Modernism" and "Pius X" into Google you will be able to read what the definition is. You will immediately recognise the liberals of our acquaintance, those people who are now in charge of the Church around the world. It is a creed opposed to that of the Catholic Church. The thing that makes people like Gumbleton and Sr. Joan and Cardinal Mahoney, et al, "liberals" is the heresy called Modernism. How much of a liberal (as the term is commonly used in the Catholic media) you are depends on how much of the Modernist creed you willingly and consciously adhere to and how much Catholicism you have retained. The two things are opposed and where one is ascendant, the other will be suppressed. You can't be a Modernist Catholic.

Now, from the point of view of a Trad like me, nearly all the people who are regarded as "conservatives" in the Church right now are to one degree or another infected, mostly unconsciously, with Modernism. But they mostly don't have enough knowledge of the Faith to know it. This situation has been created by the corruption of the Church hierarchy. People have not been taught the Faith, but Modernism instead, as you and I both know. They are Modernists, but it isn't their fault, and if you told them, (when they were finished being mad at you) they would do their best to stop being Modernists.

Perhaps that is the real distinction between a "liberal" and a "conservative" ; merely that a "liberal" is a Modernist on purpose. He is someone who has consciously agreed to the tenets of Modernism and has willingly abandoned the Faith in favour of it.

A "conservative" is someone who really wants to be a Catholic, who would reject any heresy if it were presented to him as such because he wants to do the will of God in good faith. He is a Modernist but only because he knows no better. If he is one, it is because one day in the late 1960s, the Church "woke and groaned to find itself Modernist". He is, therefore, consciously opposed to, and often actively engaged in fighting "liberalism" in the Church. He is at war with Modernism, even if he doesn't know it, and doesn't know how much he himself is infected with it.

Which is why "conservative" Neo-Catholics like S--- are so angry with us Trads. Why they hate us so much is that we have learned how much Modernism has infiltrated the Church and have rejected it and are in the process of fighting it in ourselves and outside, just as he is, but we can see it in him and he can't. (I'm sorry if this sounds insufferable, but I can't help it. If you are a Trad, you will, by definition, be able to see things that non-Traditionalist Catholics can't. Unfortunately, because Trads are all fallen, it does indeed tend to make us insufferable.)

We see that he too is suffering from the Modernist infiltration. Trads want the Neos to come out of the Modernist matrix. But because the Catholic Real is so much more frightening than the Catholic Real, they can't face and react with anger at the people who are trying to get them out. (Again, I disclaim here: a lot of Trads are just pests and it is perfectly reasonable to get mad at them, but there are a few of us who really really do want to see all the poor Neos released from the prison of the Matrix.)

Very few modern Catholics know half of what the Church teaches, and if they did, it would scare them silly. Don't forget, most of them, even the "conservatives" think that feminism can be "Christianised," that it is natural and good for Church and State to be separated, that "freedom of speech" is a natural human right... a lot of rubbish, but it is rubbish upon which their entire universe is founded. It is no wonder, then, that they are scared stiff of the fullness of the Faith and get angry with Trads and call us names when we point out that they are infected with the Disease. (That and I think I mentioned Trads tend to be jerks about it.)

But imagine his position, for a moment. He wants to be a good Catholic, thinks he is being a good Catholic by accepting all the tenets of the Faith he has been told about, and by fighting the bad guys, the "liberal Catholics" who have infiltrated the Church. He thinks he is doing the will of God and working for the right side. And he is, by virtue of his good intentions and the mercy of God.

Then along come the Trads and say things like, "Oh yeah? Well, what about the Social Reign of Christ the King?"

"The what of whom?" they respond.

"Don't you know that the separation of Church and state were condemned by the Popes?"

No. He doesn't. He has never been told this in his life.

Imagine what his reaction would be. He gets his entire self-image threatened, his total self-understanding as being one of the Good Guys, along with having his entire social and political foundation yanked out from under him. He is then presented with the awful reality of just how bad everything really is in the world and the Church, and it turns out to be a hell of a lot worse than any conservative is capable of imagining on his own. No longer is he the good guy fighting a good and more or less winnable fight. Now he is himself a compromiser, a collaborator, who adheres to a set of anti-Catholic proposals in a world that is totally howling mad and rapidly turning into hell on earth.

Really, is that a club you'd want to join? I'd get mad at that messenger, wouldn't you?

(That, and the Trads tend to be jerks about it...)

A Neo-Catholic conservative is someone who loves the faith, who wants to be as Catholic as possible, but in large part has not been given enough information.

(I believe this is the default position of nearly everyone in the Church who still more or less believes what the Church teaches and wants to do the right thing. I have reservations, however, about a lot of people who have set themselves up as Professional Catholics, writing on the net about the faith as apologists or amateur theologians who write "popularising" books about Catholicism, their conversions to it and who go on lecture tours making money as a "conservative Catholic" celebrity. Once you have that much professional stake in a position, it is going to be very, very difficult to change it when you discover its limitations. This is the main reason I object to the whole world of "professional Catholicism" that you find a lot of in the US. But really, this is neither here nor there for this purpose today. In general, I believe in the good will of "conservatives".)

Many, many times, when he fully understands how untenable his position is, he changes it. And that is how many of us have become Trads. We learned about all this hidden stuff about the Faith, we learned what has really been happening in the Church and the world. We then went through an incredibly painful transition period where we learned all sorts of awful things about how the Church is nearly destroyed, and we had a big personal crisis. Sometimes we ran off and join up with the SSPX or some other schismatics or do-it-yourselfers.

If we are given to emotional or psychological instability, if wen were alone and had no one around to help, we might have a really really bad time of things and gone a little bonkers (which is why a lot of Trads are jerks). But most of us settle down, remember that God is God and owns the Church, and will work things out in His own way and that our job is to be as faithful as possible in the given circumstances. After that, we generally settle in to whatever we are doing in life, whether it is raising a family, doing our jobs or whatever, find a decent place to go to the Old Mass, and get on with life.

Understand all this, and you will have a much easier time sorting out your terminology.


First, define your terms

Since people seemed interested in it, here below is some more of that discussion with my friend on Catholic taxonomy. (Who, by the way can probably be classified himself as a conservative, trending Trad, as I explained to him. It is much easier to understand these things from the point of view of someone who is not on the scale at all, that is, from the Traditionalist point of view. You can't see the Matrix while you're in it.)

My friend is new to the world of the Catholic culture wars but has dived in with both feet as only an enthusiastic American can do, firmly convinced of his Constitutional rights to pronounce on any subject and eager to get things done.

He had used the term "neo-Catholic" to mean what we normally describe as a "liberal" Catholic, interchangeably. The latter of these, however, are more accurately described as Modernists, and formal heretics.

This is, of course, an area I don't know enough about to pronounce upon in any but the most casual, journalistic way. I don't have any theological training and I stand ready to be corrected by those of my friends and readers who do. (I hate disclaimers, don't you? They're such beady-eyed, rabbity things, but just this once...)

I would like to add that to define a Modernist properly, I would have to do a lot of lookings-up and asking of experts. I hope it is understood that I am always writing as an interested layman with a layman's understanding. But my understanding is a baptised one and so I can at least know that there is such a thing, know where to go to look it up, and by applying this basic catechism-level knowledge to my own observations, I can know in broad terms how and where this pernicious heresy has flourished and choked out the Faith. Don't ever let anyone tell you that you are not qualified to defend the Faith because you don't have a degree.

Moreover as a journalist and a blogger, I have more than a passing understanding where the divisions lie for the purposes of writing about the Catholic debate and the Culture Wars, on the internet. Of course, I also want to add that these divisions, these taxonomic classifications are themselves far from fixed separations. If you have studied the history of biological taxonomy, you will find that it is a science, or a study adjunct to science, that is not exactly err... exact. Over time, lots of species have been shifted around the taxonomic key as more things are discovered about them.

But the basic premise is perfectly sound and does not change. Real things, things that exist in nature, have characteristics, observable accidents that can be quantified to help us decide what sort of things they are, and what sort of other things they are related to.

Of course, people don't like to be quantified in this way, and it is especially unfashionable now that political correctness has entered the fray. I can't tell you how many times I have heard the indignant cry, "I'm not a ____, I'm just a Catholic." Well, may I suggest that in the modern Church, if that is true, then you are, most likely, simply a lazy Catholic who has never bothered to learn anything about the Faith, to discover its depths and surprises and has never had an opportunity to find out what your reactions to those surprises will be. The Church is in crisis and is fragmented from top to bottom. If you are trying to claim that you are "just a Catholic" I suggest that you are attempting to wish these realities into the cornfield, a power you do not have. Grow up and get into the fight.

I sold the other post to a friend who runs a small but famously irascible Catholic newspaper in the US, so I won't be putting it back up. But the gist, for those who missed it, was my attempt to help my friend clarify the distinctions between the various tribes of the Faith and to dispel some of his misconceptions.

To summarise, here are my main points:
"neo-Catholics," as the term is used by Traditionalist writers describing a certain strain of modern Catholicism...

- are often American converts from evangelical protestantism,

- adhere generally to and defend the sexual moral teachings of the Church but are either ignorant of or opposed to the Church's teachings, as defined by the 19th and early 20th century popes, on the proper construction of the social order, ie: the Social Reign of Christ the King

- are generally satisfied with the direction taken by the modern Church with regards to "freedom of religion" and other beliefs, but believes that a return to the traditional sexual moral teachings is essential in both the Church and society

- indulge in a selective enthusiasm for the 20th century popes, with the usual exeption of Pius X. They normally believe that John Paul II was "Great" and should be canonised

- usually know very little about the Church's struggle in Europe and the US, through the 18th and 19th century with secularists and anti-clericals

- are convinced that the principles behind the US constitution (liberte, egalite, fraternite, freedom of speech, separation of Church and state) are entirely compatible with the Catholic Faith and are usually totally unaware of the writings of the popes

- often oppose what they believe to be "the Vatican's" objections to US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and will argue vociferously that this does not constitute opposition to the Pope

- believe that the liturgical reforms following Vatican II are mostly either innocuous or acceptable, and the ones that aren't were not direct products of the Council but unapproved aberrations

- oppose "gay marriage" but believe that marriage should be an "equal partnership" between the man and the woman, don't see any problem with "natural family planning" and think feminism was generally founded on good ideas but went astray and can be "Christianised"

- usually want to be seen as a supporter of "womens' rights" and like to say, often and loudly, that "women are just as much victims of abortion as their dead children"

- are strongly clericalist, particularly when it comes to Bishops and believe it is always wrong to criticise bishops

- believe in the "reform of the reform" for the liturgy and (recently) that the two "forms" can and should exist side by side and "enrich" each other

- believe that the Second Vatican Council itself was either innocuous or a good thing, but that it was hijacked by 'liberals' and its documents distorted and misapplied

- generally hate and fear Trads, but lately have learned to be polite to them, at least while Teacher is looking.

Here is some of the rest of my correspondence with my friend (Part I):

Hi Hilary,

good to hear from you.

Saw your email [the one I posted and then sold, hjw].. hmmmm ....

I guess I was using the term in a larger sense when equating with liberal .. meaning exactly what you described .. someone opposed to the more traditional aspects of the faith. But i guess i could sub-divide the "liberal" crowd even further.

When I talk about liberals in the Church .. i mean what you have described.

When i talk about Modernists in the Church, I mean the really bad guys.

Just like with bishops, there are the Traditionalists (Burke et al), the liberals (Dolan, Chaput et al) and the Modernists (Bernardin et al).

Both of the last two are bad, just in different degrees. But which ones do the most damage - ah, now there is a question. Those with actual evil intent, or those so self-deluded, that they are being destructive while actually believing they are helping.

OK, I begin to see where your error lies and have to say that you absolutely must stop making definitions up on your own. All the terms you are using already have clear definitions and cannot be used randomly according to your own lights. Words mean things.

Of course, as a Trad, my opinion is that a neo-Catholic, that is a "conservative" Catholic, is merely a liberal who's been mugged by reality. But he's a conservative. He has, by this mugging, changed from the position of liberal to that of conservative. He is no longer a liberal. OK? Neo-Catholic does not mean liberal, it means Neo-Catholic. The two things are not the same.

Words mean things and you can't just use them any which way and not cause confusion. It is extremely important that you do not simply start using these terms in whatever way suits your personal little fancy.

The terms modernist, liberal, conservative, neo-Catholic and Traditionalist all have definitions, meanings, (though "liberal" and "conservative" less than the other ones). Each means something different and cannot be used interchangeably.

A neo-Catholic is not a liberal in the sense that the latter term is currently understood in the Western Catholic Culture Wars. In the same way, a Traditionalist is not a conservative. (If you were to go to a party full of Trads and start to call them conservatives, you would be thought a clod and not invited back. Conservatives have ruthlessly persecuted Trads and have only recently begun to be even remotely polite to us.)

The term "Neo-Catholic" and "conservative" are almost interchangeable, but not quite, but most important is that a Neo-Catholic conservative is not a liberal. Please get this clear. A Neo-Catholic is not a liberal. At least, not subjectively according to him, and not in the current usage in the world of Catholic-talk on the internet. (Whether he is objectively, is a separate question and shall be dealt with hereafter.) The term is not used that way.

The terms "liberal" and "conservative" are the least accurate, most slippery, vaguely-defined and least useful. Unfortunately, these terms are also the ones most people are used to, and when you start using the term 'liberal' to describe people that are normally thought of as 'conservative' you will not be helping the cause of clarity. They started to be applied a long time ago, and though more suited to political discussion, have been tacked on, with varying success, to the Catholic world.

In the interests of accuracy, however, and with respect to the effort to communicate clearly, the term neo-Catholic is a great deal more descriptive, precise and accurate in what it describes than the nearly infinitely malleable "conservative". "Conservative" has become such a slippery expression as to be nearly useless, whereas "neo-Catholic" has quite a specific definition, and a clear provenance. It was first coined by the Traditionalist writers Christopher Ferrara and Thomas E. Woods Jr. in their book The Great Facade, one which I strongly recommend you buy and read. I can give you the email address of Chris, if you would like to have him help you further clarify the meaning of the term.

The term "liberal" to mean the evil Modernists who have taken over the running of the show since the 60s, is also quite slippery of course, but I would be very cautious about using it as interchangeable with "Modernist". Modernism is a clearly defined heresy, and I expect that not every one we think of when we use the term liberal (Card. Mahoney, Bishop Gumbleton, Sr. Joan Chittister, etc) is a modernist, as the term is correctly applied. But they are "liberals" in the broader sense. I suppose that you can be a liberal without being, strictly speaking, a modernist. (Whether you can be a modernist without being a liberal is a different question. I don't know enough about Modernism as it was defined in the late 19th and early 20th century to tell you.)

You are, as far as I can tell from following your podcasts over the last couple of years, moving from the position of "conservative" to that of "Traditionalist" without fully understanding what is happening, and are therefore suffering from category confusion. This is probably why you think Cardinal Burke is a Traditionalist. I'm sure he would never say so. (I think you need to understand right off the bat that there are no Traditionalist bishops alive today who hold a see or position in the Church. None. Not one. Burke is just a very very conservative conservative, who happens, like many conservatives, to be sympathetic to the Traditionalists' positions and complaints. There is a small number of Traddie priests and a larger community of laity. but there are no episcopal Trads.)

You may be suffering from the common misunderstanding that a Trad is merely an ultra-conservative. Just a conservative only moreso. But, as I see you are starting to understand, "liberal" and "conservative" are merely arbitrary labels that can be applied according to where you yourself are standing on the scale. Whether one is regarded as a conservative or a liberal depends entirely upon whom you are standing next to. Whereas "Traditionalist" is an absolute term for which there is no scale. You can't be "more Traditionalist" than someone else. It's an all or nothing proposal and a Trad can be clearly defined. You either are one or you are not. Traditionalist is not an adjective, in other words, and cannot be used as one in the way that "liberal" and "conservative" can.

Friday, November 11, 2011

In Flanders Fields (by John McRae)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
... The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Little Belgian kid takes the salute

Tomorrow, I'm probably going to be busy. I'm supposed to be at a stem cell conference at the Vatican most of the day, so I'll probably either be on a train or interviewing someone or recording talks and taking notes and being all worky, and will likely let the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month slip past. I'll be wearing my poppy, and there are nearly always chapels available at these Vatican things.

I hope I remember to do a minute of silence, but if I don't, say a prayer with me tonight while we're both thinking about it and not in the middle of a busy day.

For peace, for an end to war, for the safety of American, British and Commonwealth soldiers in the Scary Zones of the world, for the defeat of evil men and ideologies, for the spread of the Gospel to Godless lands, for an end to persecution of Christians in Islamic countries, for the conversion of friends and family to and within the true Faith, for the coming of the Social Reign of Christ the King over the whole world without which no peace will ever be lasting.

I pray for the repose of the souls of my great grandfather, William Doloughan and my grandfathers Herbert Edward Burkett and Norman White who all served in both the First and Second World Wars.

Dear Lord, have mercy on us. Give us a bit more time.



Are you now, or have you ever been...

Sorry, but I'm in negotiation with someone to sell this post for money, so I'm putting it on ice for the moment.

Thanks for the fun comments.



Hear ye, hear ye.

Dear Satirists, Editorialists, Columnists and Punditrists the world over,

Please take note that I am officially imposing a worldwide Orwell's Picnic ban, a global prohibition, if you will, on the use of the expression, "a modest proposal" in any editorial piece on any subject whatever.

There can only be two causes for the use of the term and both are completely inexcusable and either way you will cease from this point forward.

Either you want to invoke the memory of Swift and are attempting to grab some of his coolth for yourself, or you have somewhere heard the phrase "a modest proposal" and somehow vaguely associate it with clever editorial writing and have used it out of ignorance of Swift.

If you are doing the first thing, then you are just a plain old copy cat. You aren't cool or smart and even if every "modest proposal" thing you write suggests eating the people who are causing whatever trouble you are writing about, you are still just trying to ride his 200 year old coat tails. If you can't think of your own funny outrageous stuff to write then you should give up and face the fact that you are really just a dull unimaginative person who has no business writing and who should have been a chartered accountant.

If you have used the phrase for the second reason, you need to stop writing immediately and start reading books.

Both reasons are inexcusable and unacceptable, but it doesn't matter either way because now that this prohibition is in place, even if you have some other reason, the use of the phrase in any editorial writing whatsoever will result in the immediate dispatch of an authorised Orwell's Picnic agent to your home with a rolled-up newspaper which shall be applied smartly to the end of your nose.

So let it be written, Ayy-men.


Diane Fraser studies values in oil

Found a new painter I like.

Check out the still lifes.

She really does gorgeous reflective surfaces.


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Proof that I'm really a radical and a hippie,

deep in my soul.

I approve of guerrilla gardening.

I once came across a group of hippies in Victoria who had taken over an abandoned house and started a huge garden in it, complete with sophisticated four part compost heap, ducks and chickens and the start of a seed company. The city left them alone because otherwise no one would be there keeping the rats and mice away.

It was cool.

I think Italians do a lot of this. When you travel around by train or walk around the outskirts of towns, you see a lot of suspiciously organised looking patches of greenery by the sides of the tracks and on bits of waste ground. There are some allotments that are clearly officially approved allotments, but there's plenty of stuff that looks allotment-y but is in little nooks and crannies or on impossible looking slopes with obviously hand-built wooden terraces.

Wish I had the nerve.


Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Uh oh...

Have just discovered that the Vogue patterns website lets you buy things with PayPal...

ships overseas and...

has a sizable vintage section.


Have to try this

Still trying to decide the best thing to do with that beautiful robin's-egg blue linen. I've been combing the vintage dress and sewing blogs (of which there is a startling number out there... crowds of us, apparently, find modern fashion somewhat lacking) and have come across this lovely little project.

How to do a 1930s scallop-edge collar.

It would be worth doing as a separate, detachable piece, don't you think (Karen)?


Monday, November 07, 2011

Space weather report

Lots of solar activity, a group of sunspots will be visible for those with solar filters on their telescopes. Slightly less hazardous will be the full moon in 2 days 23 hours, but the big news is the asteroid near-miss report from NASA JPL in California.

Quite a big asteroid going past in our neighbourhood tomorrow, near-Earth asteroid 2005 YU55. About 400 meters or 1,300 feet in diameter, or about the size of a medium sized stadium, and will be passing about 202,000 miles away. 0.85 lunar distances. Quite close.

You won't see it though. It's going to be raining in Rome, so, as Vicky pointed out, even if it were a giant flaming ball, we'd miss it. But it is a type-c asteroid, the c is for "carbonaceous" which means it's quite dark and you will need special long-exposure equipment to see it if the sky is clear where you are.

As for it's potential, err...impact:
"Astronomers estimate objects in the 50 meters range impact on the Earth about once every thousand years and produce explosions equal to 10 megatons of TNT (several times the Hiroshima bomb). We know one such impact occurred in Siberia on June 30, 1908, and flattened more than a thousand square kilometers of forest."


Not the only one

who thinks old things are better than new things.

There's a whole internet world of starry-eyed nostalgists out there.

(I just made that word up. Good eh?)

Vicky and I have been having a good time watching Downton Abbey and she has been getting screen caps of some of the more luscious outfits. They're a bit fuzzy, but they give the general gist well enough.

From these, I'm doing some sketches and we'll see about working up some patterns.

I have simply come to the conclusion that there aren't any clothes in the shops that I want to buy (unless I happen to be in Florence, which I'm not most of the time) so the only solution is to make my own.

One of the many things I've been planning on doing "when it's all over" is start the creation of an entire wardrobe of exquisite and meticulously crafted hand made clothes. So, now's the time.


Sunday, November 06, 2011


Some time ago, I had lunch in a nice little place across the Lungotevere from the Ponte Sisto, can't remember the name, but they make a lot of their own digestivos and I had one there that was green and fantastic: Alloro. It's a strong liqueur made from bay leaves, an ancient Roman thing.

Ever since I tried it, I've been determined to try making some, and this week it is slowly starting sink in that I'm probably more or less done with cancer (if the tests turn out the way we hope). So now is the time to start getting around to doing a bunch of the things I was planning to do "when it's all over".

So, tonight, I put up 2 litres of Alloro.

In theory, liqueur making is really simple. You buy incredibly strong grain alcohol, mix it with a bunch of water, sugar and various flora and let it sit for a long time. Strain, mix with sugar syrup, and bottle. Then you drink it. Mostly after dinner.

Amaro means bitter in Italian. It is a herbal infusion in alcohol and amari (plural of amaro) are still popular in Italy as digestives, or after-dinner drinks. There are many brands on the market. The bitter taste is imparted by wormwood, gentian root, quinine, centaury, bitter orange peel,rhubarb, hops, cascarilla, nettles. Aroma is provided by juniper, anise, coriander, hyssop, fennel, cinnamon, cardamon, nutmeg, rosemary, lavender, caraway, camomile, peppermint, tumeric, vanilla, lemon balm, sage, marjoram, oregano, angelica root, orris root, thyme, sweet calamus root.

The recipe I used for my Alloro is here.
* 2 cups (500ml) neutral spirit (40%bv)
* 2 cups water (500ml)
* 2 cups sugar
* 50 fresh bay laurel leaves
* 1 large cinnamon stick
* zest from a large lemon

Steep for 2 weeks. Filter. Add sugar syrup. Bottle and age.

In Italy, making your own liqueur is very popular, and in most grocery stores, they sell bottles of 95% alcohol that is meant specifically for making it. I feel today that I have taken my first step towards becoming more Italian.

It has to sit for at least two or three months, so, if you are around in January, you might get to see if it's working.


Saturday, November 05, 2011

It's that time of year again

Attention all Roman and 'Nellan friends: I am running low on jars and I'm in an autumnal jamming/preserving/pickling/chutneying kind of mood. All friends who provide me with two or more glass jars with reusable metal lids will receive one (1) jar of your choice of jam/preserves/pickles/chutney back. Lids must be undamaged and have one of those little pop-up things.



Hair Update:

September 20th, going for the full Persis, polished cue-ball look. Those eyebrows are painted on and I've got about five eyelashes.

October 28th, natural eyebrows eyelashes returning and a bit of top-fuzz.

This morning, eyebrows shaped and eyelashes almost back to former length.

Chemo shrank the tumour; too bad it couldn't do anything about the nose.

(O's P. gold star to the first Picknicker to identify the Star Trek reference.)


Friday, November 04, 2011

And now, back to what's really important


We just started watching Downton Abbey tonight, with episode one. All sorts of interesting characters and plot and whatnot, all very engaging, but of course, the thing I was going nuts over were the clothes. The 1912-1920 period is my all-time number-one top-favourite for women's clothes (for men, it's easily 1802-1820 ... can't resist a tall white collar, crisp cravat and black cutaway).

A few months ago, I splurged on a lovely bit of 60 inch wide robin's egg blue blouse weight linen and have been planning on using it to make a blouse along the lines pictured above. I saw Elizabeth McGovern wearing something like it in the 2007 ITV version of Room with a View.

This blouse was a very common pattern for the time. Variations include raglan sleeves, long shawl collars and a square neckline. Must have it.

Must also have this brown coat with the velvet revers

Thursday, November 03, 2011

A Cry For Help

As you may imagine, LifeSite gets a lot of mail, not all of it friendly. (That's a joke, son.)

Today we had one that was forwarded to me and the rest of the staff that I think it would be a good idea to share.

From, let's call him Jeff, who posted this to our general editorial address:
You pro-life people are so naive - you think everyone wants life. Many of us
living in misery curse our parents for not aborting us. Open your eyes to

I say nothing but I do ask for my readers' kind indulgence to pray for him.

There are a lot of reasons the Culture of Death has proliferated, but in general, it is that the world is not kind. This is a problem about which we can do something every day.


Going home tomorrow

Well, doctor came. Surgery was without complications. Now they have to do the histology, a cell-by-cell examination of the "margins" the bits they cut out around the tumour, to make sure there is no cancer there. If the answer is no, then that's it.

If yes,


We won't know for 20 days.

But I'm going home tomorrow morning either way.


Still in hosp...

Still here. Went in for surgery at six and was out again by eight. If the bleeding has stopped they may let me go home either tonight or tomorrow morning. More or less just lay around all day, drawing and hanging out. Not too much pain, but of course started off on massive painkillers for chemo-induced neuropathy, so it's hard to tell. Still no sign of any surgeon to give me any news as to how it went. Spent the day recovering... and waiting...and drawing...and still waiting...and drawing some more...

Vicky has knitted me a whole hat and...

...yep...we're still waiting...

Ten to six...

...still waiting...


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Still alive

There was no room in the oncology ward where I've had everything else, so when we got here, they gave me a really nice posh single in the baby ward. Only one bed and a sofa for people to come hang out on. In the baby ward, they give you towels, a little pack of toiletries, and a mid-day snack if you want it. The food is better and they let people stay over night if they are wanted.

Bit ironic, really, that I'm in here and will be unlikely, particularly after this week, ever to be a mother.

So far, we're just waiting. Had a blood test, cardiogram and chest x-ray, and an examination by the doctor. It's two pm and no one has any idea when the surgery will happen. Expecting visits from the anesthesiologist (since yesterday) and the surgeon, the famous Professor Scambia.

Trying to stay calm, with middling success.