Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Why do the Vikings have Scottish accents?

   We celebrated Victoria Day by getting out of the heat and taking in a movie. How to Train Your Dragon is still in the first run theaters, though no longer in 3-D at our local cinema. I'm with Ebert when it comes to 3-D -  it doesn't seem to add anything to my movie experience except the annoyance of a second pair of glasses.
   I'll give this film a six out of ten. There are plenty of good action sequences, but not so many laughs. My kids chuckled a little more than I did, but it was not nearly as funny as, say Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs - a film which more adeptly explores many of the same themes. The main dragon character manages to be cute and threatening all at the same time, but they could have expended a little more energy on making the human characters into characters instead of cliches. (Still, I am glad that Andy of Toy Story fame is getting other roles even though he's no longer a cute little boy.)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What would your suitcase say about you?

  I am fascinated by abandoned places. I can't really explain why; I'm certainly not adventurous enough to become an "urban explorer" myself, but I do like to hear some of the tales they tell, and of course see the photographs they take. My interest in this unusual hobby recently led me to a book entitled The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic.
  When Willard Psychiatric Center in New York state closed its doors in 1995 after nearly 130 years in operation, about 400 suitcases were discovered in one of the buildings on the property. Some of them appeared not to have been opened since the day their owners packed them for their trip to the asylum. From careful examination of the contents and many years of research this book was born, and it provides an absorbing account of the lives of ten of the hospital's patients.
  It is quite disconcerting to read about how quickly a person's life can unravel when they are faced with some great trauma. If an abandoned building produces feelings of melancholy in an observer, it is infinitely more tragic to read of people who were compelled by accident, illness or the death of a loved one to abandon the lives they led outside the mental institution. Worse yet is the possibility that life-long incarceration may not have even been necessary for some of these patients, and that their stay at Willard did them far more harm than good.
  I enjoyed this book, if you can use the word "enjoyed" for something that tells of so much suffering. I also got a chuckle out of a phrase frequently used by Willard doctors when making notes about their interviews with patients: "Lacks judgment and insight." If that is a marker of mental illness, they'd better start building more psychiatric centers.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ms. Moynihan does it again

I so so enjoy her writing. Check out her article "What to do about the burqa" on Mercator. Some very insightful and challenging observations.

Single most chilling phrase: "the current Muslim era in the West." How one wishes that could be classified as some kind of  phantasmagoric oxymoron, instead of cold, hard, veiled reality.
Prior to the current Muslim era in the West, pretty much the only rule regarding how people might appear in public was that they should not be stark naked. Now, the French and Belgian governments, watched closely by Italians, Australians and others, want to forbid anyone being completely covered. Between those extremes -- and with the possible exception of Nazi insignia -- anything goes. Witness a gay pride parade somewhere near you.
[...] As western women cling to fashions that aim to reveal everything about the body, they too are depersonalised. The stranger’s eye is not drawn to the face where they might encounter the person, but to the body as a sexual object. And this leads also to oppression, even if the woman, just like the one in the burqa, does not understand that she is oppressed.
[...] But the truth that human dignity is not defined by decrees of the state does not mean it is defined by the customs of any particular group, either. For all that some women embrace it willingly, there is something very undignified about hiding the face. The dignity of a woman is the dignity of a person, and the face veil suggests, quite simply, that the wearer is not a person -- for her husband and children, maybe, but not for you and me.

This is a sad state of affairs but not one that governments can solve with bans. If anything, these will provoke resentment among Muslims at large and rebellion among the young (watch for more veils appearing, not less). As Muslim leaders themselves say, the answer lies with the education and empowerment of Muslim women.
What would help a lot is a decision by European women to dress and conduct themselves in a style consistent with feminine dignity. Half-bared bosoms and burqa rage are definitely not the way to persuade our Muslim sisters to give up the veil.

"Unmarried couples illegally socializing"

Saudi Vice 'n Virtue cop gets pummelled by angry dame. You go, girl! And it's about bloody time (no pun intended). I'm not in favour of violence, just resistance. But whatever it takes.
Saudi law does not permit women to be in public spaces without a male guardian. Women are not allowed to drive, inherit, divorce or gain custody of children, and cannot socialize with unrelated men.
Jerusalem Post, via MercatorNet.

A Man for All Seasons

I'm so proud of this, I want to stand up and shout, "That's muh Davey!" (The Music Man). Except his name's not Davey (it's Daniel) and he's not my son, but my nephew. But I'm proud of him anyway. If you live anywhere within a hundred miles of any of these upcoming productions, you must go see this play. I only wish I'd posted earlier, because the tour is half over.

Softball for the 21st century

Last night, my child's game was called off on account of rain. Except it wasn't raining and it didn't rain. But rain was predicted and graphically illustrated by the satellite image shots on the online weather forecast. So you could say the game was called on account of radar.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sorry, Brian, your day is done.

The other day, my ten-year old was studying a poster of former Candian Prime Ministers. "Hey, look," she said  excitedly to her older sister, "there's Ben Mulroney's dad!"

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Last one in, pull up the ladder!

 Here is part of an interesting missive from Mark Steyn's mailbox (scroll down to the letter entitled, "Prodigal Sons and Daughters"):

"...I personally feel such desperation to ally myself with some kind of homogeneous Western bulwark against Islamic values that I am considering joining the Roman Catholic Church. It may be in the end, after all, the only legitimate universal fortress of Western values left standing after Islam has re-populated most of Europe. And as for embracing Catholic dogma or doctrine... it's not necessary."

 That last sentence is a doozy. I wish L.G. Eaglesham would explain how one can, in any meaningful sense, "join" the Catholic Church without embracing its dogmas or doctrines. Do we really need MORE people who claim to be Catholic while ignoring what Catholicism teaches (except for the bits that happen to make them feel better)? That will save civilization for sure!

  I agree that the Church may well be the last light shining when all the others have gone out, but apparently some also regard it as a giant tree house we can all scuttle into when the radical Islamo-bullies take over the neighborhood. And never mind the silly tree house club rules - you just have to mumble the password because you are only returning "socially".

  In order to make a stand against militant Islam, or any other harmful ideology, we need to start by acknowledging the truths which form the basis of our "Western values". Otherwise, we are building on sand. If there are no absolute truths which one is obliged to embrace, by what logic can we argue that our civilization is even worth standing for?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Collyer Brothers: A Cautionary Tale

  I know it has been spring for quite some time now, but spring cleaning is far from over at my house. For the Lesser Recovering Pack Rat of eastern Ontario (Cue the "Hinterland Who's Who" theme) spring cleaning usually continues into the summer and early fall, broken only by frequent trips to the park where the young of the species can be observed partaking of baseball and Popsicles.

  Now, I know exactly what some of you are thinking: "Mrs. Beazly, spring cleaning is merely another of the ridiculous vestiges of Victorian society! They had to clean their, have their scullery maids clean their houses from top to bottom every spring because they were full of coal soot and street dust and the bugs that liked to live in their horsehair mattresses. Modern Dumb Old Housewives should implement a regular schedule of daily cleaning so that the work doesn't pile up!"

 Oh, if I only had a ha'penny for every time I've heard that one around the community water trough! Well, naturally, I do have my daily housework and other jobs which I try to complete on a regular basis. I have made up two schedules, one for the jobs I have to do and one for the jobs our children have to do. (See? I write fiction and fantasy.) I still like to do a big cleanup in the spring, though, and I think it's especially important when you are trying to de-clutter your home. Every piece of junk you can get rid of is something you don't have to move the next time you're cleaning, and if your junk is someone else's treasure, then so much the better: you might even be able to make a profit from it...provided it has cost you less than five dollars' worth of time, energy and frustration to move/clean around/store that old TV stand for the last fifteen years.

  Of course, the thought of cleaning out an entire basement or garage can be daunting, and that's where the Collyer brothers come in. I first heard of them while watching a documentary called "World of Compulsive Hoarders" which I viewed here, courtesy of Mrs. P. The Collyer brothers were a couple of New York eccentrics who truly took pack-rattiness to the next level...and beyond. Go and see for yourself - it's not only an interesting story, but good motivation for the reluctant spring cleaner. When you have read about the Collyer brothers, your cluttered spare bedroom probably won't seem so bad. You'll be ready to venture into those corners of the basement that have not seen a broom in this millennium, or to throw out those university notes that are old enough to legally gamble in Nevada. However, as always, do watch out for falling bundles of newspaper.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Catholics at teh Movies (That's for you, Cob)

Steven Greydanus says it best. He is my go-to guy when it comes to movie reviews. (h/t Mark Shea)

Film making is not my vocation, but I hope that those Catholics who are called to serve God in this way will not turn away from that call because they have some mistaken idea that Christians shouldn't involve themselves in this industry. The answer to a bad movie is a truly good movie, not the conclusion that movies are evil. Certainly we have to make judgments about what entertainment to consume, but to completely write off one particular medium makes no sense to me. You might as well never listen to Bach again because your ears were assaulted by Britney Spears.

It also makes no sense to produce what Flannery O'Connor termed "pious trash" - she was speaking of novels, but the identification applies equally well to film, music or art which is of poor quality but is deemed "good" solely because it favorably mentions religion and/or lacks anything that might offend. We can do better than just being blandly inoffensive, and we must do more than criticize if we want to reclaim this aspect of our culture.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

...a day late and a dollar short. Oh well, we procrastinators have to take what we can get. I had a great Mother's Day: spent it with two other families having a potluck supper. Six parents, 24 kids. Lots of laughter, fun and great food. Life is good.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

UN: "A hulking repository of contradictory impulses"

Jay D. Homnick at American Spectator adds to the very long list of reasons why the UN should be scrapped.
It is hard to imagine a great good emerging from the U.N. today on any front. [...]
Why should Iran be less trusted than Pakistan or Israel? There is no real answer to that in a group whose founding premise is the idea of equal legitimacy to all sovereign entities.
If Hitler were alive there would be no basis on which to deny him a vote.
Yet there are many far crazier than old Adolph alive and kicking in the UN today.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Update re: Ontario sex ed program: parents win latest round.

So says Brian Lilley at Mercator, but some "educational experts" are not happy about it.
Ahem... homeschooling parents DO 'get a say' about when certain math topics are introduced, as well as Language Arts topics, and History topics, and Science topics, and Current Events topics, and so on and so on. That is as it should be. There is a simple solution to all the problems with the public (and Catholic and private) educational system: break the teachers' unions/state monopoly and provide parents with a voucher system. It's all about choice after all, isn't it? Aren't all the teachers' unions pro-choice?
Ms. Schroeder says she was excited about the changes, that is, until parents pushed back and forced the premier to stop the curriculum revision, then she was downright disappointed. "Then when I saw they changed their minds, I thought: Oh great, why don't you just move down here. That's what we do in the States, kow-tow to parents groups and religious leaders instead of sticking our feet in the ground and saying ‘We are the educational experts.'"
While Dombrowsky now sees the value in allowing parents to have a say, Schroeder remains upset, saying that parents don't get a say in when certain math topics are introduced, why should they have a say when it comes to sexual education? The answer to that is obvious. Because while we all agree that in math class two plus two is four, we don't all agree on what one plus one should mean, or do, when it comes to intimacy and sexuality. And when there is doubt, parents, not the so-called experts, should have the final say.

Totally, 100% PRO choice...

As long as it's not fully informed choice...somehow, that would be anti-choice. The twisted logic of pro-aborts. MercatorNet blogger, Sheila Liaugminas.

"Christians simply don't riot"

American Spectator on the cowards at Comedy Central:
Now the useful idiots, who normally cast themselves as fight-to-the-death Voltairean liberals, turn on Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park for a mild poke at Islam, even though they had chuckled previously at and profited off their parodies of other religions. This cartoon controversy recalls the Danish one, when the Western media simultaneously shielded viewers from a relatively innocuous drawing of Mohammed in an obscure journal (CNN "has chosen to not show the cartoons in respect for Islam," its prim disclaimer ran) while rolling out enthusiastic coverage of The Da Vinci Code. Why not? the media figured. Christians simply don't riot.

If the executives at Comedy Central, who are often so proud of their "boundary crossing" (such as the time Sarah Silverman had a disappointing "one-night stand" with God), want an example of a really outré image of Mohammed, they should crack open The Divine Comedy. Dante puts him not in a bear suit but in hell...