July 07, 2020

I'm very sorry

It's difficult, but this is something that has to be said.

I will be taking no questions at this time. Thank you. That is all.

April 06, 2020

And now . . . this - Apr. 6/20 (the Coronavirus Cabin Fever Edition)

No, not my cabin fever. This isn't the first time I've been housebound for a long period for health reasons. (And I have a wonderful, stimulating relationship with my collection of singing potatoes.) But it seems that prolonged self-isoloation, social distancing, and other buzzwords that can't disappear soon enough is starting to cause some people to go a little, er, shack wacky.

The big ship always wins, part 1

A train engineer faces federal charges after he allegedly admitted to intentionally derailing a train Tuesday near the USNS Mercy, a ship sent to Los Angeles to ease the burden of hospitals treating coronavirus patients, according to the Department of Justice.

Eduardo Moreno, 44, told law enforcement investigators he was "suspicious" of the ship and believed it "had an alternate purpose related to COVID-19 or a government takeover," the Justice Department said in a news release, citing the affidavit.

[Full Story]

Turns out a 60-foot, 200-ton diesel locomotive doesn't maneuver too well when you take it off the tracks. The Mercy was never safer.

The big ship always wins, part 2

A Venezuelan navy coastal patrol boat sank in the Caribbean after allegedly ramming a cruise ship that it had ordered to change direction.

[Full Story]

Basically, the cruise ship, the RCGS Resolute, stopped in international waters off the coast of Venezuela to perform maintenance. They were contacted by the Venezuelan vessel and ordered to follow them to port. While they were in contact with the head office, the Venezuelans opened fire then attempted to ram the Resolute on the starboard bow. Unfortunately for them, their boat appears to have been constructed from tin foil, while the Resolute, being designed to resist icebergs, is made of sterner stuff. Glug, glug, glug.

"Venezuela accused the Resolute of an act of 'aggression and piracy.'" I suppose, if by "piracy" you mean passively ignoring the Venezuelan navy's courageous own-goal, sure.

January 20, 2020

You'll understand what happiness is

I don't like poetry.

I once made the mistake of confessing this to one of my literature professors while pursuing my degree, which was, of course, in English. He remarked that I had no business in an English program. I graduated anyway.

It's not fully accurate that I don't like poetry. For the most part I don't like poetry. As a literary genre, I find it kind of pretentious—all the more so, the closer to the present that it was penned. On the other hand, I find it works well as a comic medium: the clerihew, for example, the limerick, or whatever you call Ogden Nash's couplets.

That said, there are a handful of poets I can appreciate. Shakespeare, of course. John Donne and George Herbert. Closer to the present, Leonard Cohen and Margaret Avison. And, finally, T. S. Eliot.

I mentioned a few posts back that I was adopting Kim Shay's 2020 reading challenge this year to help guide my personal reading program. One of the categories on Kim's list is a complete volume of poetry by the same author. When I was brainstorming what I would like to read in 2020, I jotted down "Eliot" next to this one. And, it so happens, the first book of the challenge I completed was Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.

Most of Eliot's verse is hard to understand (sometimes bordering on incomprehensible) and loaded with classical allusions. C.&bnbsp;S. Lewis, whose own aspirations as a poet tended to be more classical, did not understand modernist poetry, and apparently had a particular dislike for Eliot—indeed, they were literary nemeses for many years. He spends three pages in his Preface to Paradise Lost criticizing Eliot's poetic excesses. In a self-deprecating poem titled "A Confession," he singles out his own inability to understand "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock":

For twenty years I've stared my level best
To see if evening—any evening—would suggest
A patient etherized upon a table;
In vain. I simply wasn't able.

Lewis's first post-conversion work of fiction was The Pilgrim's Regress, his allegory of his conversion. At one point in the story, the protagonist encounters three pale mean, intended to represent the austere and anti-Romantic modernist poets. One of them, Mr. Neo-Angular, is a caricature based on T. S. Eliot. Practical Cats was published six years later, in 1939. What might Lewis' impression of Eliot have been if he had seen it sooner? (Ultimately, Lewis and Eliot discovered they had a great deal of common ground, and became friends.)

Practical Cats is a short volume (fewer than 50 pages), but that's typical of poetry collections. Unlike his more weighty poems, such as "Prufrock," "The Waste Lands," or "The Hollow Men," this is light verse, originally penned to amuse his godchildren. (Though perhaps the occasional classical allusion slips in—I wonder whether "The Naming of Cats," which reveals that cats have three different names, a common one, a dignified one, and a secret one, parodies the trinomen given to citizens of ancient Rome.)

Eliot does a wonderful job describing the personalities of cats, including their laziness (Jennyanydots, "The Old Gumbie Cat"), pickiness ("The Rum Tum Tugger"), and thievishness ("Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer" and "Macavity: the Mystery Cat"). Other highlights include "Mr. Mistoffelees," who can do magic tricks; "Skimbleshanks: the Railway Cat," without whom the mail trains couldn't operate; and "The Pekes and the Pollicles," about a ruckus caused by rival dog factions. But you didn't pick this book up to read about a bunch of stupid dogs.

Famously, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats is where British rock band Mungo Jerry got their name. It's too bad Mungo Jerry never set the poems to music. Someone really should. In the meantime, if you like light verse and cats, give it a read sometime.

January 18, 2020

How climate change answers everything

First off, let me say I have no opinion on the USMCA. I'm not an economist, so I don't know if ultimately it would turn out to be a good or a bad thing. I'll wait and see. That said, this article makes a great springboard for my own point:

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats announced Thursday they would not support the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), citing the proposed deal's failure to address climate change.

"Despite the fact that it includes very good labor provisions, I am voting against USMCA because it does not address climate change, the greatest threat facing the planet," Schumer said in a statement.

[Full Story]

I like this approach. I like it so much, in fact, that I think the right should adopt it forthwith, and use it against any progressive objectives deemed ridiculous by the common-sense-based community. For example:

  • Do you want to legalize more and later-term abortions? Or impose bubble zones around abortion clinics where free-speech rights do not exist? "I'm sorry, but your bill does not address climate change. I vote no."
  • Do you think people ought to be subject to fines if they "misgender" or "deadname" transgender and so-called "non-binary" people, or refuse to use silly, made-up pronuns like "xir"? "Despite the fact that it includes good provisions, this legislation does not address climate change, the greatest threat facing the planet. I vote no."
  • Perhaps you think we should legalize marijuana. "We have only ten years to save the planet from Climate Armageddon, and you want to increase carbon emissions by making it legal to set more stuff on fire? I vote no."

As far as I can tell, this approach has multiple positive effects: It uses the hysterical left's own tactics against them. It highlights the absurdity of both their social agenda and their climate hysteria. And who knows? Maybe something might actually (albeit accidentally) get done to reduce greenhouse gases and other pollution.

December 31, 2019

2019 in books

2019 ended for me pretty much as it began: reading airport thrillers on a Greyhound. I started the year with a Jack Reacher novel between Sudbury and Ottawa. I (almost) ended it on the way back reading The Institute by Stephen King. In between (and shortly after), I read 33 other books in 2019. While this falls short of my intended annual goal of 50 books, I managed to read a lot more titles than in previous years since I started tracking my reading. Usually I manage somewhere in the mid-20s.

(I think, in fact, The Institute is the only thing I read this past year that was actually published in 2019, which is kind of ironic for a post titled "2019 in Books.")

Here are some of the highlights of my reading pursuits.

December 18, 2019

And now . . . this - Dec. 18/19

An exotic-looking bright orange bird was rescued by a wildlife hospital after people saw him on the side of a highway. . . .

According to the hospital in Buckinghamshire, UK, the bird had somehow doused himself in curry or turmeric, which prevented him from flying properly.

[Full Story]

I love curry. I read books like Daniel Santiagoe's Victorian classic, The Curry Cook's Assistant, as well as Madhur Jaffrey's cookbooks, for entertainment. So I realize you can curry pretty much anything. This, however, is pushing the envelope.

November 09, 2019

I know we'll meet again some sunny day

A lightning review of The Storm of War by Andrew Roberts (New York: HarperCollins, 2011).

I first heard of Andrew Roberts and The Storm of War back around 2011, when the book was new and theologian Albert Mohler interviewed him for his podcast, Thinking in Public, in which he called The Storm of War "the finest one-volume history of World War II I've ever read." I borrowed the public library's copy, which for some reason was hard to find in the stacks; it took a few weeks for the library to locate it and put it on hold for me. Unfortunately, at the time I was only able to read the first few chapters, but it was enough to whet my appetite, and I finally committed to reading it cover-to-cover for this year's Science Fiction-Free September.

Unfortunately, in the intervening eight years, the library had (again?) lost or discarded its copy. I know Roberts is a reputed and popular historian, but I wouldn't have thought he was steal-this-book popular. Fortunately, I was able to obtain another before September was over. Little did I know it would take me the rest of September, all of October, and the first week of November to finish it—and at a shade over 700 pages, it's long, but not that long. Chalk it up to relatively little contiguous free time for committed reading. (I do miss those hour-long rides to work on the bus.)

The Storm of War is, I would say, semi-chronological in its arrangement: each chapter covers a major campaign or facet of the war: the Battle of Britain, the Holocaust, the battle in the Pacific, and so forth, in rough chronological order. Not being an avid reader of history books, I don't know if this is the norm or just Roberts' particular method of presentation. To an extent, it made the book feel a little bit non-linear. But with a topic as extensive as WWII, could it have been done any other way?

The central character of the book is, not surprisingly, Adolf Hitler. Roberts portrays his handling of the war as that of an inept dilettante. Amongst "Corporal Hitler's" major blunders were halting the advance on Dunkirk (thus allowing the British Expeditionary Force to evacuate), launching Operation Barbarossa against Russia (and underestimating the ferocity with which the Russians would defend the Motherland), declaring war against the United States following Pearl Harbor, and remaining committed to a "stand or die" policy that prevented his generals from making strategic retreats. Of course, had Hitler not been a doctrinaire National Socialist, he may not have started World War II at all—but, then again, maybe he would have won it. It was his commitment to Nazi ideology that was responsible for many of his blunders.

All in all, though, an engaging read, even if it did take up more of my time than I anticipated. I'd read Roberts again: his recent biography of Churchill, Churchill: Walking with Destiny, looks interesting.

October 16, 2019

Fearing the abortion debate

I'm not Roman Catholic, but I know these conspiracy theories about the real loyalties of Catholic leaders are bunk.

So should Michael Coren, as he's been a Roman Catholic more than once in the life-long pinball game that's been his religious pilgrimage.

In a column in yesterday's National Post, Barbara Kay writes:

Pundits Michael Coren of Ontario and Richard Martineau of Quebec don't normally coincide polemically. But they have lately converged on one issue.

Both have elected to gin up fears that Andrew Scheer's campaign promise not to introduce an abortion law might, in the (unlikely) event of a CPC majority, yield to his fervent pro-life convictions. And both have justified their scaremongering through guilt by association.

In a late-August Maclean's article, Coren brings his insider knowledge as a former Catholic to bear on his claim that Canadian women's continued right to unfettered abortion might be compromised by a Scheer government. Scheer, after all, believes abortion is a "grave sin." Therefore, "(c)an we believe Scheer when he says that, given the power to stop it, he simply won’t do so?" Maybe we shouldn"t believe him, Coren muses. Because even though Scheer has not himself labelled abortion as the "crime of murder," "he has certainly associated with people who do."

[Barbara Kay: Stop the Conspiracy Theories About Canadian Catholics in Government]

In the last 50 years, nearly every Canadian prime minister has been a Roman Catholic. (The two who weren't are Kim Campbell [Anglican] and Stephen Harper [Christian and Missionary Alliance]). So what were these past (and present) Prime Ministers' positions on abortion over the years?

October 07, 2019

On plant confessions and "non-human persons"

Rod Dreher is my favourite apostate. And, if he happened to lift my title for a recent blog post about Union Seminary holding a plant confession in chapel, then I'm also flattered. (It also could very well be that in my quest to write original post titles, what I find terribly witty is really just blindingly obvious.)

The "cockamamie piece" in Sojourners that Dreher is reviewing, by Cláudio Carvalhaes, raises a good question:

When we confess to plants, to forests, to each tree, every meadow, to birds, fish, rocks, animals, rivers, and mountains, we repent, mourn and reconnect ourselves to a much larger web of life, made of people, animals, creatures, and ecosystems that we have lost, taken away from our common home.

This understanding demands a reinterpretation of democracy. When are we going to consider the seeds and the panther and the zebras and the cows and horses as part of our democracy?

[Why I Created a Chapel Service Where People Confess to Plants]

By "good question," I mean apropos. In fact, it's kind of a stupid question. Seeds and cows are not capable of participating in democracy; everybody knows that. At best, we would have a sort of benevolent hegemony where we humans decide what's best for the ficus plants and wombats, and lord it over them with or without their consent.

I say the question is apropos because not long before I ran into Dreher's post, my roommate and I were perusing the list of registered political parties in Canada, in anticipation of the upcoming national election. At the top of the (alphabetical) list was the Animal Protection Party of Canada. The APPC claims to be "Canada’s only true multi-issue party because we are inclusive of all species. We cannot talk about any societal structure without including all affected by public policy." Their platform includes amending the Criminal Code to recognize animals as "non-human persons." What the author of the Sojourners article wants to do in church, the APPC wants to do in government. Fortunately, with (by my count) only 17 candidates running, the APPC is as unelectable as any other single-issue fringe party.

None of which is to say I don't care for the earth or its animals. Care for creation is perhaps the one place in my politics where I would tend to the left rather than the right. I think climate change due to the combustion of fossil fuels is a real thing. I regard it as a problem that should be solved, though, rather than a portent of impending doom. The Chicken Little-ism that says we have only 10 years before irreversible damage is done, on the other hand, is laughable. (It's always 10 years until Climate Armageddon, and has been for decades.) We should be listening to climate scientists, not pundits, politicians, and adolescents, even though they don't look as cute berating the United Nations.

I didn't come by my views by listening to Al Gore, Alexandria Occasio-Cortez, or Greta Thunberg; I got them from Francis Schaeffer, whose book Pollution and the Death of Man1 rightly says the things in the natural world have intrinsic value and are worthy of our respect, because God made them and put them there. Our relationship to the world is expressed in the creation mandate: "The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it" (Genesis 2:15). We are not merely one species amongst the many that populate this planet, nor are we its masters, having the right to "conquer" and exploit nature's resources as we please. God is the earth's master; we are his caretakers, entrusted to cultivate the earth. If our lax environmental policies cause the extinction of, say, the rhinoceros, then to that extent we have failed as caretakers. On the other hand, if the radical policies of groups like the APPC are put into effect and cause the rhinoceroses to flourish but humanity to go extinct, we have also failed. If I ever have children, I want to leave them a world in better condition than I found it. If we have environmental sins to confess, it is to God, who entrusted us with his creation to care for it. We won't get absolution from the plants.


1 Francis A. Schaeffer, Pollution and the Death of Man: The Christian View of Ecology (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1970). I own the 1992 Crossway edition, with an added concluding chapter by Udo Middelmann.

October 02, 2019

It's October . . . Please resume normal reading

I always love Science Fiction Free September. Not only do I get to read some great books I wouldn't otherwise consider, but it's a great time to see exactly how much of a failure I am at this.

For example, when I started this month, I intended to read through Andrew Roberts' history of World War II, The Storm of War. Granted, it's a longer book at 700+ pages. But I've read longer, in less time. Granted, the public library has lost or removed its copy. But I found another.

So, how far did I actually get?

About 30 pages.

Heck, the Battle of Britain hasn't even started yet.

Given that I started the book about two weeks into September, that works out to an average of two pages a day. Worst SFFS showing ever.

Still, it's a good read, and I'm looking forward to finishing it. I might even get a good run at it by the end of the weekend.