Thursday, June 22, 2006

Western Standard's 'No-Spin Zone'

I can't deny that I like the new Prime Minister. Optics don't concern him the way they did his Liberal predecessors-- particularly the clown Paul Martin. I'm happy when ol' Stephen frowns--because, it seems to me, that on one of those less likely occasions when he smiles, odds are that he is doing so genuinely. A rare enough thing in a politician. But, it's more than that. I like a man who recognizes that there's precious little worth smiling about when you're running a circus.

What I don't like--and it's hardly an original complaint--is fawning journalists. For the same reasons. The hack that produces the sort of glutinous, bootlicking palaver to be found in Kevin Libin's most recent piece in the Western Standard isn't doing his job. Yes, okay, great!--conservatives can rest a little easier knowing that the government is now on their side. But a circus is still a circus: bearded ladies, half-men-half-women, fortune tellers, prestidigitateurs, clowns, tumblers, animal trainers and, of course, animals ... all vying for attention; all trying to get themselves at the top of the bill.

It's ugly and imperfect work for those trying to keep such a rabble at bay. And--lest the manager get carried away with the impression that he himself is the main attraction--it should be thankless work too.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Pseudo-Church refuses to die; will, however, fade away

Not that this wasn't just the most predictable thing--but the American branch of the Anglican Church (ECUSA--Episcopal Church of the United etc.) has managed, once again, to hold on to its ostensible membership in the communion by offering up a big bucket of nothing to defray the cost of what established Anglicanism considers to be rather glaringly schismatic behaviour. At least I assume it will have done so, once that hapless dilly-dallyer, Rowan Williams[1], endorses for the umpteenth time the unfortunate supremacy of the letter over the spirit.

Legislation was passed today--at ECUSA's General Convention in Columbus, Ohio--to "exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." Fine. This, however, following yesterday's apparently overwhelming defeat of a motion to put a moratorium on the election of practicing homosexuals to the office of Bishop. (Which, of course, is precisely the "strain on communion" that "the wider church" is so upset about.)

Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold said prior to the tabling of the second motion:
"Unless there is a clear perception on the part of our Anglican brothers and sisters that they have been taken seriously in their concerns, it will be impossible to have any genuine conversation." A sentiment that might have actually meant something if it had come prior to the first vote. And, indeed, if the first vote had passed. The latter concession, alas, is rendered meaningless (or hopelessly vapid, in any case) in the absence of the former. Any hopes of traditional Anglicanism's being "taken seriously" died there.

This road, for me anyway, seems rather likely to end in Rome. (Which, I hasten to add, I'm totally cool with.)

NOTE: Appreciating that the bulk of people are under the impression that traditional Christianity is a bigotted institution that promotes hatred towards homosexuals, let me simply say that it is rather more complicated than that. In 2002, Archbishop Drexel Gomez commissioned a study of the traditional/orthodox Anglican position in re. the blessing of same-sex unions, which goes far in shedding light on the matter.

[1] Who, uniquely (in my experience), asks that you "click anywhere to enter" on the main page of his website ... Indeed.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

From: Snook (The Elder) at Home

It is with great sadness that I must report the passing of little John Parry on June 9th, 2006. Beloved husband of Chluey; father, presumably, to the various little critters that the cat (also lamentably) made short work of the second they put paw to floorboard. Succumbing to the ravages of pneumonia, he died not quite peacefully—but certainly no worse than irritated. (His illness was brought about by a chill received on a three-day journey to the corner to get a copy of the Star.)

Family and local RC priest were present yesterday when, with all due ceremony, we flushed him down the toilet.

Excerpts from his diary—tentatively called Memoirs of a Squirt— will be posted as they are translated from the miniature. Mourners may pay their respects here, here, and here.

Requiescat In Pace, John Leonard Parry.
Friend, Wit, Mouse-Man.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Band of Horses, Beirut - Intimations that All's Well with the World

The peaks and valleys of great musical finds tired me to the point of retirement a few years ago. I've taken the odd suggestion here and there on a purchase, but spend most of my time listening to tried and true Tom Waits albums, or lately, stuff more in a classical vein. The total absence of a capable sense of lyric-concoction among bands has been my biggest stumbling block ... Which is all to say that it is pure chance that I now find myself, delightedly, atop one of those elusive--I was beginning to think perhaps only ever imagined--peaks.

Really, it's all because I've been in such a College Street mood the last couple of months--you can't help but find yourself strolling into Soundscapes' welcoming salon, ready to defer to the tastes plugged into the various listening stations they have there. The tiniest bit cloying, but the likes of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, or the latent promise of a band like Loose Fur got the old juices going. When I found Band of Horses I had the distinct feeling that here was something special. I won't pretend that I have the musicophile's sensitivities to describe what exactly it is that they do and why it seems to me that they do it so well. Suffice it to say that I couldn't stop listening to the album once I'd got it and even went so far as to buy tickets (the wife did, anyway) for a performance they were giving at Lee's Palace, two nights ago now.

I refuse to risk spoiling something as phenomenal as the performance they gave that night with any attempts at embellishment. Two performances (indeed, five, as I've seen the former three times, the latter twice) stick out in my mind as being damnably near untopable: Leslie Feist, and the absurdly obscure Clinic ... But walking out of the sweltering confines of Lee's Tuesday night I felt (disconcertingly--as Feist and Clinic really are brilliant, and because I'm getting just too old to be putting matters so sophomorically) as though I could leap over both bands to get just one more set with BoH.

Ben Bridwell--the singer--strikes me as something nearing the status of a phenomenon. A kind of hillbilly dandy, he trills through perfectly imperfect teeth, walks with one of those ugly, aluminum orthopedic canes (suggesting a genuine need for what is, otherwise, so clichéd a prop), and is covered in--so incongruous, yet somehow so complimentary of his musical stylishness-- homemade tatoos of the arrow-through-heart "MOM" variety. The second he limped on stage[1] to provide back-up vocals for the opening band (called Mt. Egypt--strangely consisting of the same drummer and bashful bass player from BoH, but with the addition of a very eccentric seeming chap, Travis, on guitar and singing ... Again, latent potential, but excessively cloying) you got the sense that something perhaps remarkable was about to happen. When he hit that first high note, the unbearable heat of the room became suddenly bearable, my aching back serene, the chunk of hamburger lodged in my gut from a typically awful meal at Pauper's reduced to irrelevance ... But there I go embellishing.

Such has been the effect of all this that I find myself only too willing to shell out money I don't have for albums on the off chance that my luck might not have run out. And see: it hasn't. Behold, Beirut's
Gulag Orkestar!

[1] The cane, obviously, never made its way on stage with him. We happened to run into the band as we were leaving a nearby bar an hour or so after the show had ended--as they themselves were just coming out of Lee's--and noticed it then.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Saint Mugg

He was against the notion of progress, which he called "... the most pernicious delusion ever to take possession of the human mind." To believe in any sort of mechanical progress governing history by which men automatically improve and become more enlightened and humane is to confuse progress with change. Progressive materialism is the most foolish of all philosophies and requires the greatest credulity in those who hold it ... Likewise, he made clear his view that the pursuit of happiness, included along with life and liberty in the American Declaration of Independence as an "unalienable right" (added, incidentally, at the last moment in substitution for the more realistic defense of property clause) is both "fatuous" and "... responsible for a good part of the ills and miseries in the world." Once when Dr. Johnson heard a woman proclaim in his presence that she was happy, he remarked in a loud, emphatic voice that if this was so her life gave the lie to every research of humanity for she was happy without health, without beauty, without money, and without understanding.

-Ian Hunter Malcolm Muggeridge: A Life

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Lacking Moral Cider

Chris Selley takes issue with Rondi Adamson’s call for moderate western Muslims “to admit that most of the terrorists who threaten us are Muslim,” and—to the extent that I don’t think she goes far enough explicitly in her expectations—so do I. Which is to say that I take issue with Mr. Selley too.

The idea of bothering to get Muslims qua Muslims to undertake admitting such a thing (to themselves? to non-Muslims? en masse? … “Yes, they are Muslim. Can we get back to reheating our pizza pockets now?”) seems, obviously, rather pointless. One is reminded of heated arguments with wife or friends wherein you come to that desperate part of the exchange where someone says: “I just want to hear you admit it!” But, in fairness to Ms. Adamson, I don’t think that what she is getting at is exactly what comes across here. Indeed—as she imagines what David Miller might have said (if he wasn’t such a hopeless mincer) in his official remarks following the arrest of the infamous “Toronto Seventeen” (Selley’s tidy moniker, I believe)—Adamson does ask “I wonder what Canada’s Muslim leaders/moderate Muslim citizens can do to prevent this kind of thing in future?” This strikes me as being much more to the point.

Selley counters that “it’s anathema to a free society to ask anyone to state his position on a given topic simply because someone nominally “like” him did something unpleasant. You might as well drag someone out of Sunday service at St. Paul’s and demand to know his position on the Omagh bombing.”

Now, whacky analogy aside, I really don’t see how it is “anathema to a free society” to have the relevant section of its “multitudes” actively (I should probably be using the pseudo-word ‘proactively’ here, but I can’t bring myself to do it) participate in the preservation of that very freedom through a simple assertion of solidarity. It’s called a gesture, and civilization has long- depended on its gestures to preserve an uncertain peace. If this sort of thing is anathema, then western civilization (in its liberal democratic character) should itself have been cursed from the outset and never would’ve lasted.

But there is, of course, a time and a place for such gestures. Sickly-sweet, endless, uninitiated declarations of fealty are irritating and, ultimately, without merit. To this extent, moderation (in Selley’s sense: of “not speaking up all that much”) is a great virtue and much to be desired. But there does come a time when a gesture goes far in stemming (understandable) panic and misdirected concern, and (nearly as importantly) in keeping rash, brick-wielding idiots at bay.

To my mind—and I think, perhaps, this is rather clearly what Rondi Adamson is getting at—The Great Inexplicable in this whole situation is what appears to be the widespread reluctance of moderate Muslims to come forward in a crisis, as concerned Canadian citizens possessed of (an albeit still very limited amount) of useful expertise above and beyond that of your average citizen who has only a Judeo-Christian/European inheritance upon which to draw. If I can offer an analogy of my own: in a hospital filled exclusively with GPs presumably you wouldn’t hesitate to call a cardiologist if somebody came in complaining of serious chest pains. He may not have the answer, but he’ll be fairly handy in determining, at least, what the problem isn’t.

With regard to the recent raids of suspected terrorists’ homes in Forest Gate in London, Peter Hitchens emphasizes “the difficulties of penetrating groups whose language our security services barely speak, and whose culture they hardly know.” Ours, I think, is a very similar, if not identical, problem. In spite of our shared nationality and, ahem, nominal well wishing on both sides as such, there remains to be a considerable cultural divide among Canadians. And we rationalize—past rationality—maintaining this divide in the interests of various platitudinous notions of tolerance and diversity, and, apparently, even non-platitudinous ones like moderation. But if it is the case that moderate Muslim Canadians are committed to liberal democratic principles, and if those principles happen to be threatened, then it is absolutely not asking too much to expect those citizens to make available any advantages they might possess to protect them (liberal democratic principles, I mean).

So long as we continue to indulge this totally counterintuitive idea that by constantly treating a section of our population as honoured guests rather than as contributing—indeed indispensable—members of Canadian society, then the ‘othering’ so many of our well-meaning inclusivists are so afraid of will continue in a most virulent and insidious form.

Monday, June 05, 2006

From: Snook (The Elder) at Home

I seem to be getting myself into all sorts of trouble these days with that set of chumps I made the mistake so long ago of choosing as friends.

This week it was over my refusal to accept the existence of something punters insist on referring to as Gay Culture. Pharisees that they are—and, indeed, themselves punters—my associates took this to mean that I disbelieved in the true existence of homosexuality. As a biological condition. Precluding choice. (All their vocabulary—I don’t know what the hell they were on about.) And so I was subjected to a good twenty minutes’ worth of some of the most clichéd moral outrage I’ve ever heard.

The consensus among them seemed to be that I was a variety of weak-minded religious fanatic; all taking the rather inexplicable line that my (what they called) homophobia was the result of biblical literalism. A bizarre notion, as to the best of my knowledge none of them has ever bothered to notice if I keep a Bible in the house. Though, I admit, I do. Many in fact.

When I was finally given the opportunity to defend myself, I did so thus:

Friends, it is not so much that I am a biblical flibbertigibbet— whatever it was that you said that I was—as it is that I am a man filled to overflowing with (a no doubt naïve) faith in my fellow man that he should recognize things for what they are and never imbue them with a character or authority that they don’t actually have. Gay Culture makes no more sense than does Nose Culture—and, as you’ll observe, Nose Culture makes no sense at all. Neither does Dextrose Cuisine or B Sharpism. They are nothing. They are nought.

The problem with this ridiculous idea that there exists a Gay Culture is that the word culture, in the sense that it is here being used, is far too comprehensive for the given sexual proclivity to provide for. I have no trouble with homosexual individuals per se, but this grandiose notion of a Gay Culture suggests a collection of persons so utterly stupid that they are willing to allow a purely material predisposition— what you have relentlessly been calling a biological fact—to impose itself upon their taste. Upon their prejudice. Upon, ultimately, their capacity to reason. (Which, incidentally, makes them something more in the nature of a mob than a culture.)

Observe the harm:

Last week Lenore and I were enjoying a drink on the patio of a restaurant on Bloor, and couldn’t help overhearing a conversation—indeed, it was more of a drunken, meandering monologue given in far too loud of a voice—between a gay man and whomever else would join him for a smoke just outside the patio door. I say that he was gay, and I hasten to add that this wasn’t the bigoted guesswork of a biblical literalist, as he kept on insisting on the fact himself. That he was gay, I mean.

Anyway, it happened that the fellow was interrupted in his discourse—as indeed were we all in ours—by the passing of a long train of cyclists, slowly and noisily making their way up the street, fresh back from some rabble-rousing event or other. They all seemed to be in their early twenties, and were wearing yellow shorts; they were shouting, and one, gleefully, tootling a horn (and doing a rather smart job of it too, I thought). The young men in the procession had nothing but the scant hair upon their chests to sweat into; the women, fractionally more modest, retained the use of their brassieres, though for many of them, to little effect. A jolly group—concluded we—much the better for drink and lack of clothes, back from some sporting event down Christie Pitts way. We waved to them from our seats, and they waved back from theirs, managing somehow not to fall off these precarious perches as they did so.

Once the brouhaha had subsided and the conversations resumed, our gay friend slipped back into gear:

“‘Was that?” he slurred loudly into the bar.

Somebody called something to him from inside, but his attention was too quickly cast back upon the now quiet street. His head rolled from right to left as he scanned for a clue.

Ten seconds passed.

“Oh,” he finally said, apropos of nothing. Then with conviction: “Dykes on Bikes”—which seemed to put an end to the matter.

Charming, what?

Suffice it to say, it wasn’t Dykes on Bikes. Dykes on Bikes, as I understand it, is the coming together of a variety of highway hardened lasses, usually—shall we say—meaty of build, with unflattering haircuts, wearing rather a lot of leather and, of course, they are lesbians. And they ride motorcycles. What is important to note here is that no amount of booze could ever make it easy to confuse a gathering of mostly men on bicycles with a bunch of mostly women on Harley Davidsons. No. To do this, you must first purge yourself of any willingness to observe the world as it is ... Then, of course, you must put on a set of spectacles offering a very, very narrow view indeed.

Now, as you will observe, the harm that I spoke of with regard to this little episode belongs to none but our boozy and voluble gay man, so eager to see lesbians on motorcycles where none have actually passed. Never mind for a moment the despair-inducing vulgarity of anyone professing to take seriously a tradition calling itself Dykes on Bikes; ask yourselves, rather, could this man be of any use to his fellow men outside of the Church and Wellesley neighborhood?

“Excuse me, sir. Are you a local?”

“I am.”

“Well, I wanted to take Junior here to see the Santa Claus parade. It being the day, I was wondering if you had seen it pass?”

“No, but the Pride Parade just did and it sucks ... By the way, what agency let you adopt the little guy?”

Indeed, one wonders at the harm he might do himself:

Hiya Doc. I've got a terrible headache and I'm getting a little concerned.

Now, now. Let's not get too worried yet. How many fingers am I holding up?

Three penises.

This is grave, indeed.

[I'm sorry to say, dear reader, that my defence ended here, as my companions promptly quitted the table, each of them calling me by turns a son of a bitch or a bastard ... At the very least, I rest assured that no more of my weekends for the next couple of months will be interrupted by awkward dinners with people so easily baited.]