Saturday, September 28, 2013


OK, I have tried the Roman flatbread recipe and modified it into something AWEsome. It's a little more complicated than my usual throw-it-all-in-a-pot sort of recipes, and requires some attention, so no going off to watch Big Bang Theory while it's cooking...

In a bowl, mix equal parts

spelt flour, about three heaping tablespoons
coconut meal
almond meal
hazelnut meal
and a little bit of rice flour
about 2 tsps salt

In a hot dry fry pan, toast
coriander seeds
cumin seeds
sesame seeds

Swirl it around regularly and don't keep the heat up too high or they will burn. Toast until the sesame seeds are starting to brown and the coriander is starting to pop. Take the mixture off the heat and place in a dish to cool (I used a soup plate). Pour a handful into a mortar and grind.

Mix the spices into the dry ingredients.

Pour in enough water to make a dough, mixing thoroughly with a fork.

Ball up into about 50g lumps.

Dust the board with spelt or rice flour, and work the dough ball until it's nice and dense and not too sticky. Roll out very thin. Thinner than you think it needs to be, since the heat in the pan will make it shrink and thicken.

In the hot fry pan, add about 2 tbs olive oil and swirl it around until it runs freely. Keep the heat under the pan quite low. If you see the oil start smoking, you will have to pour it off, clean the pan with a paper towel and start again. Burnt olive oil is quite unhealthy.

When the oil is nice and swirly, very gently lay your flatbread sheet into the pan so it lies flat on the bottom. Don't fuss with it. In fact, just wander off somewhere for a few minutes. You want to leave it long enough that it starts forming the little brown toasty spots. Flip it once and allow it to toast on the other side.

When it's nice and toasty and crisp, break into big pieces. Perfect with lentils or mashed Mexican beans or anything like that for a good Lent or Friday meal. Or just eat them plain like chips. Best when really hot.

I know I'm supposed to be off grains, but there really isn't much in this recipe, and the spelt keeps the gluten content down to a minimum. It's pretty carby, but as a once-in-a-while treat it can't be beat.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Thinking out loud

I jot a lot of things down on Facebook. Just stuff that occurs while I'm reading something. It's a way of keeping track of my writing ideas, and throwing them out for appraisal. But I've only got about 140 FB contacts, so I never really think about who's reading it. It's funny that when I'm jotting things down on FB, I tend to think that it's for public consumption, even though the number of contacts I have there is quite small. (They're almost all professional contacts, news services, research orgs, lobbyists, etc.) But when I'm writing here, to you guys, I tend to think of this as my private conversations with the 500 friends who drop in to chat every day, and therefore less public. It's funny how our brains work.

Speaking of which, the latest research is in and yes, we are actually addicted to Facebook and similar social media. Does anyone use email for anything but subscriptions any more?

"That little zing you get when someone likes' your picture or sings your praises on Facebook? That’s the reward center in your brain getting a boost." I read a study once that showed rats would get so addicted to a similar dopamine zing that given a choice between the thing that clicked the dopamine thing and the thing that gave a pellet of food, they chose to starve.

Dopamine, baby... and it's the drug of choice for a lot of us post-divorce wave kids or others raised by the hippie narcissists who didn't get the affirmation from our parents we were supposed to get in early childhood. Which is why most people of my generation, the Xers, are all attention hounds. Another cyclically depressed Gen-X friend of mine called all the positive interactions you get on Facebook and blogs and twitter and whatnot, "love bubbles". She admitted to me that she had allowed herself, especially when in the throws of a depressive attack, to become helplessly enthralled to Facebook because every five minutes or so there was a possibility of that tiny zing of affirmation.

Love Bubbles. She quit Facebook. Successfully. A few months later, she entered a Discalced Carmelite monastery. I don't know if the two things are related.

(BTW: just to let y'all know, reject nearly all FB friend requests I get from people I've never met.)

~ * ~


It's funny the pope should mention being all fixated on what some people have called "the pelvic issues", because I said something about it at LifeSite's staff meeting this August. I think it might be part of the reason the conservatives had such a shock hearing the same thing from the pope that we get from the libtards from whom we hear it as a constant refrain.

Trust me, I'd love to write about something else. I'd love to write about anything else, frankly.

I'd love to have the issues I cover include more stuff about the economy, to talk more about the application of Catholic social teaching, economic ethics, to our large social and economic problems. I'd like to write about environmental issues. About art. About nature. Movies. I care about pollution and environmental degradation, about exploitation of workers in developing countries, about the persecution of Christians in Islamic countries, about prison and criminal justice reform, about fitness and health, GMOs and Monsatan. Hell, I even care about fashion and pop culture. I would like to write about what it means to be interested in these things, in nearly all aspects of the human world, through the lens of Catholic social teaching and philosophy.

But all the New York Times/BBC/CBC/Guardian/MSNB/CNN (etc) know anything about seems to be, not to put too fine a point on it, sex.

Get a Mainstreamian journalist alone for a second and play word-association. Say the word "Catholic" and he instantly thinks "gay marriage!" or "abortion!" or "no contraception!" or "war on women!". Not because any of them has read so much as the Wikipedia version of what the Church teaches on any of these things, but because it is simply his lifelong habit. An almost Pavlovian response.

It's not us. It's the culture. Flipped through any of the magazines at the supermarket checkout lately? Scrolled down the latest music videos on YouTube? Watched any sitcom produced in the last 40 years?

Sex is the way the Bad People have decided to destroy our civilisation. So sex is what we have to talk about if we want that not to happen.

Trust me, it's not the Church that's fixated on sex.

~ * ~

Also, here's Teddy the Talking Porcupine eating a pumpkin.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Silver and gold have I none.

This phrase is rolling around my head today:

Argentum et aurum non est mihi; quod autem habeo, hoc tibi do.

What shall I do that I may have life everlasting?


The jolly bishop and the winnowing fan

I realise I am breaking the never-listen-to-the-Mainstreamians rule, but one point springs to mind from a comment in the NYTs piece on Dolan's reaction to that thing.

"...the archbishop of New York, embraced the “magnificent interview” in which the pope chastised the church for its obsession with sexual morality, and called him “a breath of fresh air.”

After Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Cardinal Dolan, who has himself softened his language on homosexuality in the past year, likened the pope to the Yankees’ retiring relief pitcher: “I think he’s our Mariano Rivera. He’s a great relief to all of us.”

Last Wednesday, Pope Francis surprised Catholics and non-Catholics alike with the publication of a lengthy interview in which he reprimanded the church for emphasizing dogma and moral doctrines over ministering to its people, including “those who have quit or are indifferent.” He laid out a vision for a more inclusive church as a “home for all” and said the church could not afford to be “obsessed” with same-sex marriage, abortion and contraception.

The comments were a sharp departure from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who had zealously defended church doctrine, once calling homosexuality “a strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.”

If we do not "emphasize" dogma and moral doctrines - otherwise known as the truth of the Gospel - what do we have to offer these people in our "ministry"? Without the truth, what can we give? Our own personal warm feelings? Our sincere wishes for their wellbeing? Warm hugs all 'round?

Silver and gold have I none...but here's a hallmark card platitude for ya. Go and be comforted.

~ * ~
"...a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them.

"Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ancle bones received strength.

And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God: And they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him.


And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?

The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.

But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.

And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.


The press of events

Things are happening in the world that are making me re-consider some things I'd put aside for a while. Things about the consequences of devotion to The Real.

At the risk of sounding a bit too much like a certain high-ranking prelate, I am wondering, are we too comfortable?

Am I too comfortable? Have I allowed my blessings to become a security blanket? Have I allowed my attention to wander off and have I become too attached to these things I have?

Should I even be pursuing a nice, quiet happy life? Is this what people do who know the things I know?


Sunday, September 22, 2013

I'm hungry

Looks good, huh? It's lentil and root veg mash, that the Romans called ... um, lentil and rootvegmash.

In Rome there are still a few old fashioned (really old fashioned), usually family-owned restaurants that do traditional Roman style cooking. (One of the best ones is v. close to the Campo di Fiori, called Trattoria Der Pallaro, where there is no menu that you choose from, and the sign outside says "You will eat what we want to feed you".) The real Roman menu always has lentils, and they usually just bring it to you in a big bowl, cooked in olive oil, possibly chicken or meat broth and spices and sometimes onions. Often you can get this thing, lentils and salsiccia, which is sausages cooked with lentils.

I've got almost no food in the house. I'm trying this new thing of just buying food in little bits and eating only exactly what I buy, when I buy it. It's working out cheaper and I do a lot less grazing. But it does mean a lot of little trips to the shops. V. old fashioned. Italy still has a housewife-oriented domestic culture, and you are expected to shop early in the morning (ugh!) and often. Traditionally, Roman housewives shopped only for the day, and the idea of keeping food around was, until very recently, considered a sign of bad housekeeping skills. Laziness. Which, I suppose, is simply accurate.

Anyway, there is a cool 'blog out there, Pass the Garum, which I've been looking at for a while, that recreates ancient Roman recipes, mostly from Apicius. And today have decided to try one of their recipes. Lentil and root veg mash.

Apart from all the things we would consider normal in kitchenware, fry pans, soup and stew pots, Dutch ovens, etc, the Romans used one item in the kitchen probably more than any other: a mortar and pestle. You see them in the museums a lot. They used a lot of pastes, ground-together veg and herbs to make sauces. I've got a little brass one that I use just for quick crushing of peppercorns and nutmeg and things, but is too small to use for making sauces, or making my own curry past (which I've always wanted to try). I found a beautiful one at an antique stall in S. Mar during the beach season this year, but the guy wanted 50 Euros. It was bronze, which I admit, was fairly cool. But still! fifty smackers! I'll keep my eyes open.

The other thing you really need to reproduce Roman cooking is Garum and liquamen. The first is a condiment, Roman ketchup, that is added to the food later by the diner. It was very expensive in Roman times, (though the price varied with the quality) and would be considered pretty gross by today's standards. It was made by fermenting fish blood and guts. You can get a modern equivalent of Garum in Italy, but it's hard to find, and pricey.

Liquamen is another kind of fish sauce that is much easier to get, and is more or less exactly the same as Thai fish sauce that you can buy in a lot of supermarkets, and is even available here if you know where the Chinese supermarkets are in Rome (near Termini train station).

Anyway, it's 3:30 and I've done exactly nowt with myself today, so I'm going out to the only shop open in S. Mar on Sundays, the Elite supermarket near the marina, and I'm gonna get me the stuff to make some Roman food. We'll see what kind of root veg they've got in and buy a big bag o' lentils.

I might even try making the spelt-based Lagana, a Roman flatbread that has no gluten, if I can find the spelt flour.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Remain Calm

So, the pope has said something. People are freaking out...

Steve Jalsevac gives a quick, sensible overview:
The reality is that there has been widespread, massive negligence throughout much of the Church, at least in the developed West, for the past several decades to teach on the moral issues and to ensure that Church moral teachings are followed. They have been avoided in most parishes as being too controversial and many Catholic schools, colleges and universities have been either totally ignoring or acting against the Catholic Church's authentic teachings on moral issues.

The pro-life and pro-family movements have been formed mostly in response to the giant vacuum of leadership from religious and other leaders. It has been a near impossible job for the relatively very few dedicated to the task.

Just because I have a feeling I will be receiving basically the same email/FBmessage/blog comment all day long, and because I have (believe it or not) other things to write and think about today I will offer the following as a response to everyone who feels the urge to freak out:

"I am trying not to panic..."

Do not.

Don't fret at all, in fact. The Faith is still the Faith. The Church is still the Church (and no, emphasising her moral teachings in public isn't going to bring it down, like a house of cards or any other way).

Now, here's the hard part.

No. He's not being "played" by the media. This was obviously the carefully thought-out and intentional statements that we've all been waiting to hear from him. It could be seen, in a way, as a sort of 'manifesto' for the papacy. It's Jesuits talking to other Jesuits, so he was comfortable, and doubtless had a lot of chances to alter or correct whatever he thought necessary. So I think, at last, we can be sure that this, finally really is something he really means.

That being said, it is clear that the media and the usual suspects (ILGA Europe and other activist NGOs whose job it is) are taking his words and running with them madly off in their favourite directions. A good idea is to do what we always do, and take the rule that nothing whatever we have ever seen in the MSM has any relation to reality. Don't bother your wee heads over the NYT or BBC's interpretation. That way madness (and possibly sedevacantism) lies.

Whatever you might think about Francis or his article, or any of his many "off-the-cuff" remarks, or spontaneous homilies or media-friendly gestures, here's the thing: the Church is not the Pope. The Faith is not the Pope. If you think he's a bad pope, that he's a liberal or is, wittingly or not, enabling the forces of liberalism in the Church - or whatever - it still doesn't make him not the pope. It doesn't make him the anti-Christ.

We've had bad popes before, just as we've had bad Councils before. A bad pope can make trouble. He can cause harm, even irreparable harm to the Church, and still be the pope. He can even, (yes, really!) preach heresy, from the pulpit, or in interviews, off the cuff remarks, or spontaneous airplane interviews. It still doesn't make him not the pope. Or the AntiChrist. We moderns tend to suffer from an extremely short historical memory: Popes have been heretics before, in their personal opinions.

What he can't do is take the Faith or the Church itself in the wrong direction. That's not me telling the pope what to do, it's just a statement about what the powers of the papacy are and are not. The Faith is more than "whatever the pope says".

We've fallen in recent decades into a bad habit of cheerleading, of simply lazily saying that "what the pope says goes," and pointing to giants like John Paul and Benedict as proof. We love to clap and strum our guitars at World Youth Day, and work ourselves into a rock-star frenzy over a personality (real or trumped up) that we've forgotten that there are rather more important things to be doing and thinking about. So, we've had a wake-up call. All to the good. It's not supposed to be easy to be Christian.

We've become so used to holding our popes up as paragons, partly because one or two recently were decent sorts, but mostly because of the cultural and theological shifts in the Church over the last 100 years, that we can't even conceive of simply, a bad pope. One who doesn't have much of a grasp of the intricacies of international affairs, cultural trends or shifts, who maybe hasn't got the depth and strength of personality to grasp what's going on in the Church or why. One who, maybe, is blinded by ideological prejudices, who is perhaps too affected by his own press and has failed to grasp the implications and ramifications of his actions and careless words.

Perhaps this would be a good opportunity to really learn and come to understand Catholic ecclesiology (ignorance of which was identified by Benedict XVI as the core of all our troubles in the Church). Doctrines like papal infallibility and what the Church is and is not, who it is and is not. There's been a lot of misdirection about these teachings over the last 60-odd years, but it's all still out there, conveniently written down and stored away in libraries and probably even on the internet if you look. And if you know them, you will not be disturbed.

It is difficult and annoying to have to become your own theologian, but these are the times we live in. Sorry. I think this sort of resentment is commendable because it is, essentially, a sign of intellectual humility. And if it is channeled into more larnin' and more communication with the people who ought to be doing their jobs better, then all the better.

We have known for a long time that things in the Church really, really aren't going well. This is nothing new, nothing surprising, nothing really even terribly interesting or important. (Though its effects on people are going to be both those last things.) This is really the time when we are called to hold on tight.

But the Faith has never been about the Pope. And this situation might end up being a good thing, to knock the silly, clapping papolaters back to their senses, and to force closed, finally, the comfortable middle ground that a lot of Catholics have become used to living in.

We've had an easy time of things recently, and like the Narnians of the Golden Age, have grown a little portly, sleepy and complacent. But the Christian is called to vigilance.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

It totally was fun, though...

"That looks fun," I thought, as I squinted into the sun to see the huge breakers crashing up against our convoluted volcanic rock formations at the beach this afternoon.

"I bet I could get all the way from those rocks there to the other side of that point way over there. I can only see about two places I'd have to jump over a twenty-foot crevasse with the sea crashing insanely below...or maybe three. And I bet if I timed it right, I'd be able to get over those bits where the sea is landing right up against the cliff base. Bet I could do it without even getting my new runners wet.

"Yeah, I bet I could totally get all the way over there without falling in."

No. No, as it turns out, I can't.

But I bet I could if I tried again tomorrow...

~ * ~

Classic Ska

~ * ~
Pro-lifers are just a bunch of angry old white guys...

...oh wait...


Thursday, September 12, 2013

New pope an atheist: says gay marriage will solve the Middle East crisis and global warming!

Ah, Mainstreamia!

I was a little worried about that letter. So much so that I decided not to look too closely to spare myself the pain.

Because I knew, for sure, that really no matter what it said, the Mainstreamians were going to hook onto something and say, "LOOK! LOOKLOOKLOOK! the new pope is an atheist and says gay marriage is going to solve the Middle East crisis and global warming!

"WE WIN! stupid Christians!"

And of course, no bit of Mainstreamian obfuscation would be complete without the obligatory quote from Vidkun Quisling Bobby Mickens from the Tablet, assuring us that the new pope is soooo much better that that other guy.


Found some new nuns

So, I've been feeling the urge for a while now. Been looking around locally for some nice Benedictines to go visit and I've found these guys.

Benedictine Daughters of Divine Will
Might be an article in it.

And they're on Facebook, and are pretty friendly. I just sent a FB message and said, "You seem nice, can I come to hang out?" and they basically said, "Sure." I've got a couple of things on for the next few weekends, but I figure I'll take a train around the first weekend of Oct. Nearest town is Rimini, and I've never been to the Adriatic coast before, so that'll be cool.

They live in one of the teeniest towns I've ever spotted on Google Earth.

Every town in Italy seems to have at least one little odd thing they do that is their very own, unique tourist attraction. Talamello's seems to be a cheese pit.

Yep. It's exactly what it sounds like: a pit where they keep cheese.

Gonna go check it out. I'll report back later.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

All change is bad, even change for the better

I like to say, "All change is bad, even change for the better", but I always mentally put scare quotes around "better". Most change is simply not for the better.

I like the internet as much as the next Facebook addict, but I know full well that it's not good for me. I know that the internet isn't good for the world, for our societies. It's not bringing more happiness, more "social cohesion" or stability, more intelligence or mental or emotional health.

A lot would change and there would be many problems if the internet simply stopped working (massive solar flare perhaps?) but putting the world back to a state in which we must interact with each other in "real time" would not, in the long run, be anything but a good thing. The internet has made much of our lives artificial, unReal. I sometimes wonder what it would take to get it out of my life.

Is the internet just another idol? Is entertainment killing our souls? I imagine that someone like Fr. Faber would think so. Probably this guy would too.

Mr. John Collingwood, I salute you for a sensible fellow, and I envy you your freedom from the mind-numbing and soul-choking encumberments of Modernia.

I remember the day, back when I lived in North Vancouver, that I called up the Sally Anne and asked them to come and take away my TV. I had bought it second hand, and it was huge and filled not only my living room with its baleful unblinking eye, but my entire life. One day after work, I was watching the news, and there was an item in which some young thugs had broken into a children's petting zoo and had bludgeoned a donkey to death, just for the fun of it. Something in me snapped, and I thought, "What do I "need to know" that for? How has that improved my mind, my life or my knowledge?"

As soon as it was gone, I realised how addicted I had become to the wretched thing. Every day, several times a day, I would find myself mindlessly groping for the remote control in an effort to take my brain away from the real world. It took a while to adjust, but in the end, I found it was enormously worth it. That was about 1994.

Then the internet came.

When I worked in Toronto, I lived in a beautiful old house that I shared with a group of other ladies who also didn't make a lot of money. We didn't have a microwaver or a TV, and I think only one of us had a cell, but we made sure to get internet access right away. But in those days, with my room filled with lovely tatty old fashioned furniture, I used to finish my job and put my computer away in a cupboard, roll up the cables and stash them out of sight, and all traces of the 21st century would instantly vanish.

I wonder what has happened to me that I have left that very healthy practice?

Hell, I never even liked the phone, even when it was safely contained by being attached to the wall. The day I found myself trying to answer my mobile phone while I was riding my bike, while the phone was in my handbag in the front basket, while I was trying to turn left in a busy intersection, was the day I knew the mobile had got hold of my brain. I should have won the Darwin Award that day.

The phone is a bad invention for those of us with crippling social anxieties. But in another way, the internet is worse because it allows us to hide much more effectively from our friends, from life and The Real.

Maybe I should be making more efforts to hide from Modernia and live in The Real.

All change is bad, even change for the better. This is mostly because the humans are far, far less clever than we think we are, and rarely know what is going to be best for ourselves.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mystery solved

I hate to say it, but I took one look at this and thought, "Actually, I'd probably give it a shot".

I may have discovered the reason I can't seem to lose any weight.

That and the sitting-around-on-my-butt-all-the-time thing.

(Actually, mostly the second thing.)

I've more or less got through my horrible jet-lag sleep timetable screw-up problem, and my back seems finally to have recovered. So I've got no excuses left not to be at the gym every day.

Except... every day?! Srsly?

~ * ~

OK, I've got an embarrassing secret to admit: I like Chagall.

I know, I know, he's not with the realist programme, and I am betraying a modernist streak that most people would not really credit to me, but well, there you are. I look at his paintings and I see something Real. Frequently, it's something that I don't find in a lot of the new classical and contemporary realists doing the work now.

The floating wiggly people, the angels and purple chickens and dancing goats, the winged cows playing fiddles, the magic rabbis in snowy Russian villages... it all speaks to me about my inner symbolist dream world. Can't help it.


Sunday, September 08, 2013

Phone fear

I agree, these are all excellent reasons to hate talking on the phone, and I also hate talking on the phone for these reasons.

But I have a previous problem, I don't just hate talking on the phone, I hate answering the phone. The phone ringing can never be a good thing.

Very simply, if the phone rings, it means someone wants to talk to me, and since there are really only about two or at most three people living on planet earth who do not scare me, I mostly don't really ever want to be talked to.

The problem is that you can never predict what other people will say or do, and it's nearly always something bad. They want to yell at you for something you've done, or written, or they want you to do something that you don't want to do, like leave the house ... or talk on the phone.

And even if it's the best thing in the world, like they've made you king of a tiny European nation and the job comes with a really great free house and a butler, it is always going to be interrupting my train of thought, and I hate that.

Also if the phone rings, I have to open it up to see who it is, and if it's someone scary (nearly everyone) I am now stuck with a conundrum: do I wait until it finishes ringing (nine or ten rings) so the Scary Person on the phone will think I'm not home or maybe have left my phone somewhere, or some other innocuous thing and doesn't think I'm standing there wishing he/she hadn't phoned me; or do I just hang up by closing the phone, thereby cutting the rings off early and giving away that I am hanging up on him/her? The longer I sit there letting the phone ring, the worse I feel, but if I look and it's someone scary, I am afraid to make the Scary Person mad by hanging up.

It's kind of like squashing a spider. You don't actually want to squash the spider, because what if you miss or what if you squash it and it springs back to life and takes some kind of horrifying zombie-spider revenge?

I have a landline that I never use. The service came as a package with the internet, and my mobile phone is a separate thing that costs me about double the cost of the phone I never use. The phone itself is a treasure, a beautiful black 1937 bakelite art deco job, converted to a modern wall jack. It weighs about ten pounds. I know because I hauled it all the way here from Toronto.

Sometimes it rings, and I feel great about ignoring it because I've never, ever given out the number to anyone, so if it is ringing I know for sure it's telemarketers. Every now and then I make a call out on my beautiful antique landline just for the pleasure of dialing the wonderfully machined dial thing.

Someone once asked me, in a very forceful way, for my landline number, and I almost told him that the fact that he was demanding it was the reason I was certainly never, ever going to give it to him. A person like that might do anything. He might even phone you on your landline! I didn't tell him that though, because I thought it would make him mad and start yelling at me.

This fear of the ringing phone is very much like my more generalised fear of the outside world, and has to stem from my childhood, when I was in constant terror of being abandoned by my parents who never did anything but scream at each other. I never knew what horrifying disaster was coming, but I knew it was going to be bad. I remember I used to hide in a cabinet when they were going at it. Then, when they actually did abandon me, (several times between seven and 15) I guess I figured that the thing you fear the most is actually the thing that is most likely to happen, because it did.

It's subsided in recent years, like most of my general fears. I guess just having been functional as a grownup for a couple of decades will do this. (It's really awful being young, thank God it doesn't last forever). I used to jump whenever the phone rang, and just stare at it like a bird at a snake, until it stopped making that horrible noise. Caller ID helped a little, but it still makes me jump still if it shows a Rome number the phone doesn't recognise because for a couple of years, that meant a doctor was calling me, which was always bad news. Really bad.

In general, I think the phone was a bad idea. I wish we could have moved straight from letters to the internet. Which I like a lot. But probably for bad reasons.


Thursday, September 05, 2013

How to properly waste time with your Facebook friends

Dale Price: Semi-witty observation I stumbled across in a book.

Hilary Jane Margaret White: Witty original come-back, with subtle snooty undertone.

Hilary Jane Margaret White: (I love this game!)

Steve Morgan: Bad Pun loosely tied to observation

Heather Blaesing-Price: Unrelated comment displaying affection for original poster.

Patti Sheffield: Hit and run question: So?

Hilary Jane Margaret White: Carriere-esque non-sequitur demonstrating that I dwell alone in a realm of coolness and intellectual superiority.

Zach Frey: Me too! agreement.

Zach Frey: Local sports team allusion.

Dale Price: Failed attempt to derive greater meaning from status that was not as interesting as the poster hoped.

Hilary Jane Margaret White: Taking offense at something the original post could never have possibly meant.

Heather Blaesing-Price: Feeble attempt to defend original poster.

Jamie Fellrath: Overly-vicious name-calling and denigration of poster's person without real reason other than padding of commentor's ego, of a fiery variety.

Cary Strickler: Casual observer wondering, WTF?

Hilary Jane Margaret White: Mockery of new person's clewlessness... oh, and feigned puzzlement about sports lingo.

Jay Anderson: Insertion of 3rd Reich analogy. Game over.

Hilary Jane Margaret White: Jay wins.


Irish fling!

What the famous and important Hilary White listens to while working.

I'm feeling very famous and important today, after being told how famous and important I am by famous important people...

someone hose me down!


Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Santa Rosa! Viva!!!

So, what do you get a young girl on her birthday? What do you get her if she's a saint in heaven and she saved your town from an outbreak of plague?

Something really, REALLY, good. And you get the handsomest and strongest young men in town to bring it to her.

Behold the uniquely Italian Catholic thing: the "macchina". Lots of towns have a macchina on their saint's festa. But Viterbo does it up prouder than most. It's 30 meters high, weighs 5 tonnes and they make her a new one every five years. It takes about a hundred guys to pick it up and carry it across town from the cathedral to her shrine.

Last night, I was there. It was... I don't even know. Amazing.


Monday, September 02, 2013

"Dangerously English"

The cultural self-loathing of Britain's ruling elites has really come to an almost hysterical, self-parodying pitch.

This is the latest from the guy who organised the famous Last Night of the Proms for eleven years. If someone was wondering why it was looking less and less English every year, we are now told that it was no accident.

"...The flag-waving finale to one of the cultural highlights of the nation’s calendar.

But according to its former director, patriotic fervour should be kept to a minimum at the Last Night of the Proms.

Sir Nicholas Kenyon, who ran the concert series for 11 years until 2007, claimed the event was ‘dangerously English’ until he brought in a host of international musicians to make it more ‘inclusive’.

The former BBC Radio 3 controller welcomed the fact this year’s concert will feature talent from overseas.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme yesterday: ‘The Last Night of the Proms, from being something dangerously English, has now become something totally inclusive.

Wanker. Tosser. Pillock.

You had to know this was coming. Though the Proms' Englishness is mostly ironic, a typically tongue-in-cheek English in-joke, it could hardly get past the self-hatred censors on the left forever. What started as healthy and charming national habit of modest self-deprecation has been nurtured by people like this into a dangerous national mental disorder. I've come across no other people in Europe, except perhaps the Germans, who are so thorougly trained in this mass neurosis.

But here's a little secret: English people are patriotic. And they're emotional. The people bobbing up and down and singing along to Elgar in their black-tie and dinner jackets at the Royal Albert Hall are only doing it in an ironic way as a cover for their real feelings. Trust me, by the second chorus, the irony is the fake, the shield, not the patriotism.

It's not an accident that all the English people I know can sing along to Jerusalem. And this Last Night sing-along has grown into a mass annual outpouring, now being broadcast every year onto giant screens in the biggest public parks in three cities to huge and totally unsophisticated crowds of flag-waving chavs and shopkeepers...all. singing. along.

It's the nation's best kept secret: they really are the good natured, "keep calm and carry on," stiff upper lip, mustn't grumble down to earth people the stereotype says they are. For all the studied sophistication on display in the Capitol, one doesn't have to scratch too deep to get the average Englishman back to his fish n' chips and flat-cap roots. I've talked to them, and compared to the real thing, the real soulless moderns inhabiting the world's centres of the anti-culture, the modern urban Brit is what he's always been. And away from London, away from Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, the people in the small towns and villages have very little modernian skin to scratch off. Plenty of tweed skirts and twin sets, plenty of flat caps and wellies out there if you know where to look.

Like much of the Islamic rage one sees on the evening's newscasts, Britain's self-hatred, outside this little cadre of elites, is staged for the cameras. And judging from the comments sections in newspaper reports like the one above, the general population is going along with it less and less.

Here's one of my favourite clips of one of the all-time great English actors in one of the all-time great English films, about one of the all-time great English heroic characters. Leslie Howard as the Scarlett Pimpernell.

..."This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,--

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm,

this England.