Saturday, 27 February 2016

Honours for the Dishonourable

I am absolutely horrified by Pope Francis' praise for Emma Bonino.

Can I even begin, as a Canadian, to imagine Saint John Paul II calling Henry Morgentaler* "one of the great ones of Canada"?


For years--with one or two exceptions--I have done my best to avoid writing about Pope Francis, but when this pontificate ends, I don't want to be listed among those who kept silent. I didn't mind before, but when the Holy Father calls someone who helped murder my generation in Italy "great", remaining silent is no longer charity and prudence is a mask for cowardice.

Denzinger-Bergolio provides food for thought.

This is one of those times in which there is no substitute for the nominative first person singular. I. Am. Horrified.

*The laudatory article, by Morgantaler's biographer, was deliberately chosen, so you can see how praise for such a man makes your flesh creep--especially at the end.

Friday, 26 February 2016

The Credit Class

And so the Returned Alumna skittered over the icy pavement into one of the buildings of her Alma Mater, not--alas--as a professor but as a guest student permitted to visit the Thursday "Intermediate Polish" class. Such was the woman's obsession with Polish that she had enjoined both her own Polish night school teacher and a professor of theology--whose Polish surname is but a happy accident--to write reference letters to the instructor. This precaution turned out not to be necessary, as the lecturer had warmly received the Returned Alumna's email, charmed by her enthusiasm for Polish, as professors of Polish Language and Literature tend to be.

Amusing, the Returned Alumna arrived in the classroom before all the undergrads, high as a kite on the mug of coffee she had drunk before class so as to be as alert and brainy as possible. If only she had been as conscientious when she herself was an undergraduate. Truly youth is wasted on the young.

"Cześć," she said when an undergrad girl arrived.

"Cześć," said the undergrad girl with a surprised but cheerful glance.

"Bzz-bzz-bzz-bzz-bzz-bzz?" said the young, bespectacled woman professor to the newcomer.

"Bzz-bzz-bzz-bzz," said the girl, with a marked Toronto accent. "Bzz-bzz-bzz-bzz-bzz."


"Bzz-bzz-bzz. Bzz."

"Oh dear," thought the Returned Alumna, upon whom all this rapid-fire Polish was lost. "Elementary Polish must have been a really intensive course."

Two more students appeared, and they too bizzed and buzzed in speeding Polish as the Returned Alumna strained her ears and caffeinated brain to determine what was going on, and the students handed over their homework (typed sheets of four paragraphs or so) and opened their textbook (Krok Po Kroku 2) to Chapter 14.

To her alarm, the Returned Alumna soon found herself called upon to make up a sentence using the word "bogaci" (rich people), although it turned out that she really was supposed to be asserting some perceived difference between rich people in Toronto and in Poland. The teacher observed that many rich people everywhere live in "dużych domach."

But then the kindly professor began to give the Returned Alumna photocopies of material in the textbook, and so the latter was better able to preserve the honour of her Polish night school teacher and Edinburgh University's "Languages for All" program. One branch of Polish studies the Returned Alumna is good at is reading Polish aloud, and so she acquitted herself quite well in this.

The subject of the lesson was Personal Pronouns, which are very tricky and  not taught as a block in Edinburgh, for fear we would all drop out. So this was quite a useful lesson. And there was a super exercise in which a voice from a CD read a film précis while the class read along and filled in the blanks with the personal pronouns the voice used. Not only was this a fun challenge, it resulted in the teacher questioning students on the Polish films they had seen, and the Returned Alumna had seen Popioł i Diamenty, Niewinni Czarodzieje, Eroica, Nóż w Wodzie  (etc.) whereas of all the other four students in the room (the last came late), only one had seen a Polish film, and it was Disco Polo.

The one man in the room--K.--thought the Returned Alumna's opinion that Wajda was very romantic (especially compared to the usual run of cynics who shot 20th century Polish films) was quite funny although he never expressed why. Twenty years ago the Returned Alumna would have been crushed, but twenty year old boys have very little influence over forty-plus women who are not their mothers, so the Returned Alumna was merely puzzled.

The two hours flashed by, and the Returned Alumna thought it had been a good, challenging class, that she had been very lucky to be allowed to attend, and that Krok Po Kroku 2 would make a fine addition to her growing collection of Polish textbooks .Afterwards, when the Returned Alumna and the professor were alone, the latter explained that she spoke so quickly because all the students have Polish roots and already speak Polish quite fluently: they just don't know the grammar or how to spell.

The Returned Alumna reflected that listening to rapid Polish (especially when having to fill in blanks) is just what she needs to do to improve her Polish for, it turns out, listening to Polish is even harder than speaking Polish. The scale of difficulty is really reading--writing--speaking--listening.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Much Love, Terrible Connection

The House of Books has an abysmal internet connection. Nobody seems sure why this is, nor seems interested in calling the service provider to find out. This is why there have been so few posts.

In addition, it is difficult to write without the first person singular nominative while at home in one's native town because, really, it is all about me and mine: the reunions, the memories, the feelings, the conversations, the brush-offs, the pączki from "Chicago" on Roncesvalles, the mother-made cake....

*My mother makes really good cakes and always has. She knows how to ice a cake properly, too, and make designs and flowers with the different icing nozzles. So far we have had two cakes: pineapple upside down and birthday, for yesterday it was my brother Quadrophonic's birthday. My mother's pineapple upside down cake recipe involves melting the butter and sugar in a pot instead of whipping the butter and sugar together and smoothing the mix on the bottom of the baking tin. I recommend the latter method for a real caramel crunch to the top of the cake. But to "Black Midnight Cake" there can be no improvement.

*The pączki of "Chicago" are not as good as the pączki of Edinburgh's Tollcross. And--alas!--the placki (potato pancakes) of Café Polonez taste of burnt grease. However, their mushroom uszki (dumplings) are divine, so the barszcz czerwony is safe. Interestingly, the place of note on Roncesvalles is "Cherry Bomb", rumoured to have some of the best coffee in Toronto.

*The Toronto Public Library system is still its excellent self. It has an enormous selection, particularly at its North York Central branch. Sadly, all the Polish books are down at the Roncesvalles branch--the North York branch has, thanks to demographic realities, shelves and shelves of Russian books. However, it also has a relatively recent English-language biography of the Polish Shakespeare, Adam Mickiewicz.

*Adam Mickiewicz: Life of a Romantic is quite a good book, in part because Mickiewicz had a very interesting and glamorous life. He won early fame and was a handsome young man, so despite his cash-strapped beginnings on the lower fringes of the Polish nobility, he spent much of his time with rich people and important aristocrats--even Russian ones. So far even banishment by Russian authorities (to Odessa and then Moscow) seems not to have damaged him all that much; his friends, meanwhile, write him reproachful letters from Siberia. Astonishingly, he was pounced on by every rich-but-unhappy wife under 30 from Wilno (Vilnius) to the Crimea.  It is easy to lose count of the number of Mickiewicz's sweethearts, and so far he is only 28.

*The University of Saint Michael's College still retains an excellent collection of Polish books if it has stinted in recent years on buying new ones. (It has Life of a Romantic, however.) It has, for example, the complete works of Mickiewicz in crumbling bindings. It also has wonderful volumes of Polish poetry with English introductions meant for the throngs of Canadian students who seemed to be studying Polish in the 1950s. The elementary student of Polish can thus test her powers against such poems as Mickiewicz's "Ode to Youth" while reflecting that her own youth was really quite unhappy relative to now.

*The wonderful thing about married love--not to depress the Single--is that it can heal the wounds of the past. The person who was terribly unhappy at university can visit that university and reflect, "Well, anyway, it all led to X, so it doesn't matter." Probably this is what happens to those who, after a life of great suffering, attain heaven. The 'Problem of Evil' is thus solved by the Beatific Vision; no matter what happened, after seeing the face of God, all that just doesn't matter anymore. Someone or other once said that married life was a foretaste of heaven, and this seems to be true--at least for the happily married.

*The women who had affairs with Adam Mickiewicz probably had no idea that marriage can be a foretaste of heaven. They were high on Goethe and then Adam's good looks and also the temptations of being immortalized in verse. They seem to have been very silly women. So far his only intelligent flirtation--a very rich Russian aristo--kept him at arm's length; indeed, she made him a sort of Polish Pretend Son. Such fidelity to a husband seems to have been rare among the female admirers of Pan Poeta.

This internet connection has gone down five time while this post was written. Now to hit the button before the connection breaks off again.

Saturday, 20 February 2016


1. Whereas one greatly admires the courage of a certain Toronto newsagent in stocking "Charlie Hebdo", one would never touch that filthy rag oneself.

2. After an afternoon of fruitless attempts to sleep, the jet-lagged person who promised to go to Goth night will have to spend the evening trying to stay awake.

3. It seems strange how many people in Toronto have authentic Canadian accents like me. Two complete strangers speaking Polish behind me on the southwest corner of Dundas West and Bloor made me feel quite at home. The man's accent was a tad strange, however. It may be pre-war.

Friday, 19 February 2016

The House of Books

The House of Books is on a snowy, pine tree lined street in a northern district of Toronto. It is not the largest home on the block, but neither is it the smallest. The ground floor, which is actually elevated from the cold ground--to reach the front door one must climb icy steps--is mostly open concept: a white stucco wall with two unequal door frames separates the crisp dove-grey tiles of the kitchen from the warm pine floor of the dining room/sitting room. The sitting room is psychologically distinguished from the dining room by a dark-brown vertical beam with a great crack running up it, meeting a similar beam running horizontally along the ceiling. Winter light comes into the sitting room from the tall bay windows, and it is supplemented by three lamps, not including the lamp crouched over the piano. The most noteworthy elements of the dining room are fancy plates and of the sitting room, books.

The family obsession with the written word spills out over all flat surfaces in the house, but the sitting room is a machine for reading. The leather-top table between the two armchairs by the window is currently home to the following items:

Robert Harris' Imperium;
Richard Restak's Think Smart: A Neuroscientist's Prescription for Improving Your Brain's Performance;
Michael Ende's Die unendliche Geschichte;
a pile of newspaper clippings which turn out to be my most recent columns in the Toronto Catholic Register;
Patrick O'Brien's HMS Surprise;
the television guide;
the parish bulletin;
Monika Maron's Pawels Briefe;
a German-English dictionary;
a Kobo reader;
the cardboard box to the Kobo reader;
a TV/DVD channel changer/control;
an empty coffee mug;
a big ball of red crochet thread;
a pin cushion;
a cordless telephone;
an old vinyl wallet of my mother's from the 1960s (why?);
a Kindle reader;
an electronic tablet;
a pen;
a receipt from the local library for "Spy sinker";
a penny notebook;
two pairs of earrings;
a large lamp;
two power cords;
the lace doily that should be under the lamp but is all wedged up beside it, under the TV guide;
a consumer warranty for something from SONY in a clear plastic bag; and
an old wooden box containing shelves made from wooden coasters.

Until a moment ago my mother was in the other chair reading Cornelia Funke's Tintenblut. She has just put her book down on the card table set up in the middle of the room and gone downstairs to do the laundry. The card table is not for cards but for puzzles. On the card table is also a box containing a wooden jigsaw featuring "Amhuirnnsuidhe Castle, Harris, Outer Herbredes" (sic), which is hidden by three pieces of paper containing the details of business class travel to and from Montreal in the near future.

The observant person would also notice the books in the window: The Jerusalem Bible, Neue Horizonte (Dollenmeyer/Hansen), Augustus: From Revolutionary to Emperor (Adrian Goldsworthy), The Playful Brain (Richard Restak), Foundation (Isaac Asimov) and History of Britain (Carter and Mears), Third Edition. There are also some very dead leaves from a poinsettia plant although there is no poinsettia in sight.

Any of my brothers and sisters would recognize this immediately--and by the titles alone--as the joint lair of our parents. Evidence of the other occupants on the house can be found in the kitchen, where three Hardy Boys books stand as if showcased on the window ledge (why?) and two French  books sit--no, sat--on the table. They are gone now. My sister must have removed them before she went to work.

The kitchen is full of French, as a matter of fact, for every box, bottle, tin and bag of food sold in Canada is labeled in both English and Canadian French. This morning's breakfast was "gruau" made from "avoine", But the sitting room clearly belongs to German although soon a Polish note will be introduced to the leather top table.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016


Gone to confession, done a lot of laundry, meditated on my own death....

Now for my trip!

Update: If there are suddenly no posts it's probably because Blogger is panicking over my suddenly being on another continent and locking me out.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

The Usual Bee in Same Old Bonnet

The other day the McLeans were in Lovecrumbs, a splendid tea shop near the Grassmarket, when a loud Canadian girl contrasted what she saw as Canadian culture versus European culture. She told two other tourists, both German-speaking, that Canada had never had a culture to protect, as European countries did, and had never been interested in preserving the past, etc. Canada was just made up of immigrants and always had been.

This, of course, was garbage. However, the woman couldn't have been any older than 30 and she mentioned that her own parents were immigrants (perhaps they are from the UK, which this girl visits often), so very likely she had no idea that History As It Has Been Taught Since 1967 was not taught that way before 1967. She had also clearly forgotten about Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, to say nothing of the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Whatsitsname, the New One.

When my mother was born, English-speaking Canada (at any rate) still considered itself Canada, Faithful Daughter of the British Empire. However, the Forties, Fifties and Sixties witnessed a shift from British-derived identity to an appreciation of what made Canada unique.  A scholarly interest in English-language Canadian art, music and literature sprang up. (French-Canadian culture is so incredibly rich, and always has been, that it goes without saying.) Just off the top of my head, important Canadian writers of the 1945-1967 era included Raymond Souster, Hugh MacLennan, Irving Layton, Earle Birney, Morley Callaghan, Margaret Laurence,  Margaret Avison, Dorothy Livesay, Robertson Davies, the young Margaret Atwood, the young Mordecai Richler.

Of course there were important Canadian writers before them--Stephen Leacock, for example--but we're looking at the last moments in Canadian culture before the immigration experience (immediate or borrowed from ancestors) was considered the all-Canadian rite of passage. My great-grandfather's accent was unusual enough in Toronto of the early 1900s that his workmates called him "Scotty." He was indeed a Scot, but his children were Canadians, and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren were also Canadians, and this caused a deceptively small social problem when the ideological winds changed, the Two Solitudes became the Multicultural Mosaic, and immigration replaced Canada-Unties-the-Apron-Strings-to-Britain as the overarching theme of Canadian thought. What ethnic dishes were the formerly non-ethnic children to bring to school for "Multicultural Day"? White sliced bread from Miracle Mart? Mama mia, what the "Italian" kids would have said about that.

The great Canadian experiment in creating a unified English-speaking Canadian culture was arguably born in the trenches of the First World War and arguably died soon after Canada got her new, history-wiping, flag in 1965. Fortunately a Canadian obsession with the Canadian English literature still exists, and so Canadians continue to write feverishly about life in Canada in English. You can write in Bengali or Polish all you like, but if you want the rest of Canada to give two hoots for your work, you will have to write in English, too. (Or French, naturally.) There are also winter sports, although my firm belief that street hockey is the great integrator of immigrant children became terminally ill the day my eyes fell upon children in Montreal playing street cricket. Cricket. In the streets of Montreal. Sharia law, here we come.

And this is why this blog is so fascinated by European attempts to keep Europe European, let alone to keep Poland Polish, France French, Czech Czech, etc. Can they do it? And if they can't, what will happen to Canadian-style diversity? How will a German-Canadian be able to claim Germanity when she doesn't speak a word of Turkish?

Scotland is almost entirely Scottish and yet goes into fainting fits at the very thought of the migration policies of UKIP. Being 83% ethnic Scottish, Scotland is indifferent to mass migration--despite the upheaval and violence resulting from Irish mass migration in the 19th century. As you can see from the handy-dandy chart, the biggest change to the demographics of Scotland from 2001 to 2011 was the introduction of 69,000+ Asians, 61,000+ Poles and 4,000+ Gypsies. 134,000 people is not a drop in a bucket, but it is only a tenth of the number of migrants and refugees who have made it to Europe in the past twelve months, never mind in the past 10 years. (A goodly number of the 69,000+ new Asians had probably moved from England or been born in Scotland anyway.)

Anyway, it is always interesting to be a Canadian in the middle of huge, history shaking, European events, as my Canadian grandfather (WW II) and Scottish-Canadian grandfather (WW I) might have agreed. Scotland certainly hasn't been an ethnic monolith since the Second World War--we chatted happily with the maitre d' at Bar Italia (est. 1978) in Italian on Sunday--but there have been dramatic changes since Poland, for example, joined the EU. The most obvious is the rapid-fire Polish on the bus at any hour of the day or night, on which I enjoy eavesdropping. Another is the appearance of Gypsies begging on the streets. There are now at least four distinct classes of beggar in Edinburgh: Scottish, English, Polish and Gypsy. The older Gypsies sometimes have some frightful looking amputations. They render them somewhat alarming, although not as alarming as the Scottish ones when they are off their heads on smack, poor souls.

Getting Married is So an Accomplishment

An engaged friend read this HuffPo piece and worried that maybe she was out-to-lunch, for she thought getting married was indeed an accomplishment. She got me to read the silly piece--note that the author is "Vice President of Client Relationships for...a community bank advisory group"-- and was delighted to hear that getting married is SO an accomplishment.

Everyone used to know this. The funny thing is, though, marriage  was once thought to be an accomplishment for men, too--perhaps especially men. That's why we congratulate men on their nuptials and tastefully say "Best wishes!" to brides. The tacit understanding is that men hunt down and catch women with their personality, skill and proven ability to be good providers, and that  all eligible women are prizes any sane man would want. (One suddenly remembers the country bumpkin who took a shine to Anne Shirley, future MA, and demanded "Will you have me?")

Convincing a woman to marry you--to risk her life having your babies and to spend her life doing laundry (if you can't afford servants) and the marketing and whatever else on top of whatever paid work she wants or has to do--that's quite an accomplishment and always has been for anyone who did not come into a fortune at the age of 21. A recent television show about Georgian-era British domesticity showcased the letters and diaries of men desperate to do well, or at least overcome vices, so that they can be married and supply their future wife with a proper house.

Naturally, male thinking on this has changed since the Second World War. (My dad was born before the USA entered the Second World War, and he carried out the old program. Workity, workity, workity, meets pretty girl, workity, workity, workity, marries pretty girl, rents flat, workity, worktiy, babies, buys house, workity, more babies, workity, workity, turns 70, work, work work.)  There were a number of factors for this dramatic reversal: no point repeating them all again.

So now convincing a man to marry you is now rather more obvious an accomplishment for women. Women are no longer trained to resemble the Dream Woman to put in the Dream House, so the few men who still sit around dreaming of Perfect Woman don't notice the perfectly wonderful women around them and, sadly, fixate on women who are nothing like the Perfect Woman of their dreams. Generally western men now just marry their live-in girlfriends, so convincing a man to marry you before you have sex with him is really quite an impressive accomplishment indeed, especially if you marry an man who is not at all religious. Hats off to you. Hats off and gift certificate.

But what the HuffPo writer doesn't understand about marriage--actually she understands so little about marriage I fear for her own, but one of the things she doesn't understand about marriage and why everyone is so much more excited about her wedding than the fact she is Vice President of Client Relationships for a community bank whatsit is that marriage is a public service. A marriage is not a private act or just your personal life but a new brick building up society. To be able to sensibly create and fit that building block, to be able to form a stable household and a union which contributes to society, is an achievement which society can really celebrate because it honours and helps society itself.

Marriage is also transformative in a way that becoming VP of CR for Whatsit is not. Presumably the author does not mean to have the same job for life, whereas she does mean to be Mrs Craig ever after. Being the kind of person who is ready, able and willing to take a permanent vow of fidelity and service to another person is indeed an accomplishment. (And one reflects that Mr Craig may feel a sense of accomplishment of having won a woman who is VP of CR for Whatsit and could theoretically have married the P of CR for Whatsit instead.)

So although getting married is by no means the only accomplishment (and even in Jane Austen's day knowing how to sketch, play the piano and speak modern languages were considered women's accomplishments) or the best accomplishment, it is still an accomplishment.  Indeed, having a nice wedding that does not break the bank and keeps the guests relatively entertained is also an accomplishment. And naturally, given these degenerate times, staying married is an accomplishment, too. In my perfect state, married couples would be given a cash award on their 25th, 30th, 40th and 50th anniversaries.

My married brother is a very accomplished man. He is an accomplished pianist, and an accomplished computer scientist, and even as a boy he was good at many things: sketching, composing, writing stories, singing, marksmanship. His extended family enjoys memories of concerts past and looks forward to concerts of the future. However, perhaps his most impressive accomplishment is that he managed to add a really splendid, clever, hardworking and child-loving woman to our family and, despite coming from a super-traditional background himself, my brother has managed to adjust to the modern two-income model in which the wife's career can come before his own. Now that is certainly an accomplishment. I'm really proud of him.

Oh look--first person singular. Never mind. It's worth breaking my blog rule to say that. I'm so proud of my father and my brothers. And when I met my now-husband, the best way I could sum up his charms was to say that he would get along really well with them.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Royalty Cheque Day

Ah, royalty cheque day. A day when writers everywhere are reminded that nobody cares more about the number of books sold than their loving spouses. So here, in case you have not yet been shaken upside down for the price of the book had the chance to buy this marvelous work of fiction, is a link to my Ignatius Press novel.

When the famous Andrew Cusack was last in Edinburgh, he was all but frog-marched to Blackwell's to buy a copy. He had made the mistake of saying he had not yet had a chance to get my book. This is the sort of thing never to say to a writer in a hipster café half a block from the one bookstore in the entire country that she knows carries her book if you do not wish to be parted from your money.

My feelings of guilt are assuaged by the thought that Cusack may actually be deriving great enjoyment from the book.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Slavic Soul

The McLeans heard a performance of this same programme today at Usher Hall in Edinburgh. It was really very good, and Boris Brovtsyn, who played Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1 was fantastic. He has in buckets what my old pal Janko (now a conductor) called "Slavic Soul". There was a lady in the dress circle who thought three ovations wasn't good enough so stood up while still clapping her  little velvet gloved hands together as if she were in Toronto or something.

Och, zobaczcie. The Shostakoviches (or Szostakowiczes) started out Polish. This may be of interest to three or so readers.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Worst Theme Song Ever--Why?

When the stalwarts make it through the third year of Edinburgh Uni's Polish night school classes, there is nowhere for us to go except back to the beginning of third year. You would think that after a few years of Third Year, we would all be chatting fluently about the latest Polish literature, but no. Occasionally we do discuss cinema, saying things like, "It was a good film", "No, I did not like it", or "It is a sad film. All Polish films are sad, naprrrrrawdę?" like the linguistic geniuses we are.

As a matter of fact, it is quite wrong and foreign to stick naprawdę on the ends of your Polish sentences, as Polish Pretend Son in his mercy saw fit to inform me. The Irishwoman beside me at class never makes such mistakes and indeed has a really good Polish accent. When congratulated on this highly desirable achievement, she said it came about because her Polish husband is so strict. Quite obviously the Polish wives and girlfriends of Perpetual Third Year students are much more easy-going than the Polish husbands, boyfriends and pretend sons and therefore not so helpful from a language learning point of view.

Teaching the same cast of characters Year Three over and over would get challenging for our teacher had she not a firm grasp of all the Polish resources available on the internet. Last week Year Three was introduced to the very clever, if highly embarrassing, Polish language series called "Uczmy się polskiego." It is hard to tell what year it is, but it looks like a last ditch attempt of the People's Republic to convince the world what a great place the People's Republic was. Besides, surely no capitalist democracy could produce such a terrible theme song:

Another clue that this is a communist-era production is the cynical appeal to the basest instincts of Polish as a Foreign Language learners. For example, in Episode 1 the hottie with the eyebrows is immediately smitten by the pudding-faced teenage girl wearing glasses. Clearly this was an tempt to convince pudding-faced teenage girls who wore glasses to defect to the PRL.

The Commies were also obviously trying to use the beautiful blond Polish mother as a sexual trap for Western men, but they also quite obviously underestimated the massive symbolic power of the Polish Mother. Should a Western man have come across Mrs Gregory in some airport, he would have fallen at her feet and wept rather than have even imagined sullying her Polish Mother purity. Naturally any Western man who watched this series massively resented goofy-looking Mr Gregory and wondered what Mrs Gregory could have seen in him.

Still another clue is that when Grandma in Episode 2 comes to visit, she looks around the crumbling concrete Stalinist horror that is the Gregorys' new sink estate and says, in all seriousness , "Nice neighbourhood."

But let us get back to the hottie who for some inexplicable reason has fallen instantly in love with the bespectacled dame reading Robinson Crusoe. (Why Robinson Crusoe? Does she feel that she has been  stranded on the island of the sink estate and has been longing for some Man Friday to come along? Or does Robinson Crusoe symbolize the Cute New Guy Who Is Moving Into the Building? Discuss---preferable po polsku.) Research shows that Marek's real name is/was Filip Kalczyński and he was born in 1977. So let us do the math.

Hmm. Hmm. Hmm. Berlin Wall fell in 1989... my mother cried tears of joy... my history teacher seemed very pleased about it all...nobody advised me to learn Slavic languages at once and make a million dollars in the newly opening markets....

Dash it! If I have his birth year right, in 1989, Marek-Filip was only 12. So that means he was only 13 when the PRL ended and that shoots my whole hermeneutic of  Reds-Under-the-Bed suspicion to blazes.

I can no longer give a credible explanation of why the theme song is so brow-wrinklingly terrible. But meanwhile, this is is a very clever way of teaching students how to understand Polish when they hear real, live Poles speaking it.

Update: Naturally you are dying to point out the very early appearance in this video of a Coke bottle. Well-spotted. The first Polish Coca-Cola office was set up in Warsaw in 1991 but so far research has not uncovered when the demon drink returned to the Ojczyzna. Neither has it turned up the date of the series.

The early appearance of the Coke and Sprite bottles plus the flags-of-the-world could suggest a weird mash-up of the new politics and the old. Commies were always big internationalists, hence the current lefty obsession with erasing borders, so the football means nothing. But the Coke bottle, I admit. That's another serious blow to my theory.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Valentine's Day Advice for Men

But first, heaven forbid this guy  shows up to our mass on Sunday.  Our super-friendly Schola would doubtlessly approach him at after-Mass tea. "So where are you from? Come to dinner!"

Yesterday's advice was for women but this is not a blog just for women, so perhaps a word or two of advice for men would be apropos.

In Canada and the USA, Valentine's Day is a big old deal, especially among traditionalist women who firmly believe in traditional male roles however they waffle on the female ones. You are going to assume this means a display of wealth, but that is not exactly it. No, the sentimental Valentine's Day fan just wants a nice courtship gesture and/or material objects symbolizing courtship gestures. This is why (in case you are wondering) men don't automatically get presents on Valentine's Day.

In Europe and Australia, Valentine's Day is not such a big deal, but women here and there surely  love courtship gestures and their symbols as much as women everywhere else, at least from men they look at with shining eyes. Naturally being male it is difficult for you to tell if a woman is looking at you with shining eyes. This is why you should consult female friends on the subject periodically.

One of our altar servers has declared on Facebook that if anyone is secretly in love with him, now is the time to tell him. He wrote that last year, too, so Facebook demands don't seem to be an effective method of divining truth. Perhaps on Sunday it would be charitable to scrutinize the faces of all female parishioners under 30 looking at him serving on the altar. (Sadly, those best positioned to do that are the other altar servers, and being male, they won't be able to do it effectively.)

Anyway, if you are fond of a woman and want simultaneously to make her happy and to convince her not go out with other guys, it is a good thing to give her something on Valentines' Day. In North America, this is actually essential. And the best gifts of all being time, thought and imagination, you should probably make your own valentine out of red and white paper, as in elementary school. And that is all you need to give a girl you haven't actually gone on a date with yet. (A box of chocolate is impressive, however.) If she likes you a lot, she will be thrilled, and if she likes you only a little bit, she will be flattered and also have a drama to discuss with all her friends. Don't forget to actually ask her out afterwards.

If you are dating a girl, make the valentine, buy the chocolate her best friend (sworn to secrecy) says is her favourite (it could be a Mars Bar), and either make a restaurant reservation or plan a home-cooked supper. If she's super-trad and won't go to your place, suggest you make this supper at her place. If you leave the dishes for her to wash up, there may be trouble, however.

If you are engaged to a North American woman, even more thought is required. A brilliant young lawyer once asked me and a friend what he should give our dear friend, his fiancée, for Valentine's Day, and as one we said "Jewellery". We led the poor chap to Tiffany's, feeling that we were very good friends indeed. Memory does not relate what he bought, but it was from Tiffany's, which has enormous symbolic value to super-romantic girly-girls who only vaguely understand what Holly Golightly was doing for a living.  The fiancée was delighted, the lawyer was delighted that she was delighted, and we the friends felt distinctly smug.

If you have recently married a North American woman, you sort of have to prove that, having taken her home, you do not see her as part of the furniture. Although they may seem a pointless and needless expense, the homemade valentine, the favourite chocolate and the romantic meal (homecooked by you absolutely fine) are probably necessary for the first year or two.  The symbolic gesture can be a lot more casual after that, as--outwith the Historical House, naturally--married women are generally starved for romance and grateful for whatever crumbs fall from Cupid's table.

By the way, if you buy lingerie, you had better know what you are doing. Naturally Catholic married women do not usually discuss such things, even among each other, but cheap red stuff that looks like part of the arsenal of a desperate drug-addled prostitute is surely welcome to no woman. If you want to treat your wife like a high-class hooker, only the most expensive stuff will do.

Really, when it comes to Valentine's Day gifts, you are safest with valentine and chocolates. Flowers can be tricky, as she may find red roses either the ONLY acceptable flower or a stupid, unimaginative cliché. Probably you should ask her (or the helpful sworn-to-secrecy female friend) what her favourite flower is. Incidentally, it will almost never be carnations and, by the way, you must never send or bring carnations to anyone from Central/Eastern Europe, as they symbolize DEATH. In Canada, they merely symbolize CHEAP.  Also good to know is that Slavs don't like even-numbers in flowers, so don't give one a dozen of anything. Five, seven and eleven are good.

Above all, women are all the same but  all simultaneously completely different, which means that although the North American ones definitely like the card-chocolates-flowers combination, we prefer them to be tailored to our unique selves. Hallmark + drugstore box of chocolates + bunch of flowers bought in the metro = ho-hum.  But homemade card + favourite chocolate (or pastries) + favourite flowers = seriously impressive.

Once again, it's not about the money. It's about the symbolic value. Time, thought and imagination trump money. The fact that you bothered to find out what she really likes is manna to the feminine soul.

Finally, if you meet a twenty-something Polish sword collector with a love for ancient poetry, do not invite him out for a pint. Check out the link at the top of this post and then call the police.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Smiling Through Valentine's Day

A quick reiteration of past advice for Singles and Marrieds on Valentine's Day. Fortunately, this is not a universal holiday and the ubiquity of red-pink-and-white in Canada and the USA is absent from Europe. V-Day is still a thing in the UK, but it is in no-one's face for 24 hours, let alone the 24/7 leading up to it.

Past blog reader experiments reveal that the best way for a Single dreading V-Day to actually smile through it is to send cards and chocolate to other Single (or Widowed) friends and family, to host Girls'-Night-In parties for other girls and women without boyfriends, fiancés or husbands, or to do something really affectionate and special for elderly relations. One reader secretly decorated her grandmother's house with a Valentine's Day motif, and other readers spent the day with their widowed grandfather. Do something nice for others you love (and who love you), expect nothing in return, and you will feel great.

Stay out of bars and clubs; sexual predators (pre-daters?) redouble their efforts to chat up lonely women on Valentine's Day. Go to Mass, meet with Single pals, exchange sweets, go watch a fun film together, and make sure your empty bed is one you are happy to return to. (Fresh sheets, for example. A new blanky. Decent reading lamp. New-to-you Georgette Heyer.)

Experiments also reveal that some Singles are slightly weirded out when the Valentine's Day tokens of affection come from engaged and married friends. Thus, I recommend that Singles busily send the valentines and cards to other Singles, and the Marrieds just attend to their vocations.

As for girls with boyfriends, expect the wrong thing. It will almost always be the wrong thing if you live in a Valentine's Day culture because men's ability to be romantic (sincerely and spontaneously) is almost never as expansive in reality as it is in the female imagination. A friend whose boyfriend took her out for dinner and gave her [fashion accessory] once told me in deep disappointment that he had given her [fashion accessory] and she felt that The Rules (a '90s thing, bear with me) would not think [fashion accessory] romantic enough. She was definitely overthinking this.

One feels badly for all the adult, employed (or in grad school) men who give their Catholic girlfriends of more than one year something other than an engagement ring and their girlfriends start to cry. No, wait--one doesn't. Putzes.

This expect-the-wrong-thing advice also goes for girls with fiances and husbands unless you are the kind of woman who feels confident enough to tell your fiance or husband what you want for Valentine's Day. It's too bad if you think he should know without you telling him because for the first few years he is just not going to know unless you tell him. This goes for birthdays, too. So tell him.

"For Valentine's Day, I'd like to go out for dinner."
"Aw, really? But they all jack up the prices on Valentine's Day."
"For Valentine's Day, I'd like to go out for dinner."
"Why not lunch? Maybe we could meet at McDonald's during our lunch hour...."
"For Valentine's Day, I'd like to go out for dinner."
"Uh. I guess I hear you saying that for Valentine's Day, you'd like to go out for dinner."
"Oooh! Yes, please, thanks! Somewhere nice and romantic."

Single girls can learn from this that not all those couples at the restaurants you pass are blissfully happy. They really aren't. Take the couple silently swigging in the corner. The restaurant isn't living up to romantic expectations, and it's too expensive for one of them, and the guy sent carnations to her workplace (CARNATIONS!) and now he's wondering if the funny socks he's about to give her were a bad idea. Meanwhile the vast majority of Happily Marrieds will not be in a restaurant but in front of the television as usual, the wife having got a perfunctory box of chocolate and the husband even less.

Mad Props to the Sub-Ed

Fantastic headline to this cinema review. The films look interesting, too.

Spontaneous List of Good Things about France

1. French films
2. French language in itself
3. Croissants because really the British do not understand the recipe
4. Café Les Deux Magots in Paris
5. Sun
6. Mustachioed farmers even, perhaps especially, when they are blocking the roads with their tractors to protest McDonald's. Hi hi hi!
7. Bandes desinée.
8. French music hall singers
9. French fashion until...hmm....
10. Establishment of New France and therefore Canada

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Funny Because True

H/T Cusack (who reminded me of such things) &

Alphadesigner Art

See also


Update (Wednesday): A Polish reader objects to the idea that the first map is 100% accurate, when in his estimation it is only entirely correct about the former Polish Empire, frightened France, the impious UK,  unspeakable Germany, wicked Russia and, er, quirky Romania. Not enough care has been taken regarding northernmost Europe, for example.

The maps, of course, are not infallible. For example, and speaking as one who knows, Poland according to Germany is not "Vegetables" but once again"Car Thieves." And Germany according to "The Vatican" is surely not "Blond Boys" but "Money." Actually, Germany is "Money" to the whole EU except the UK, for whom "Dirty Porn" basically sums it up--except for the Teutonophiles, of course, who think "Wagner-Goethe-Schiller" and are now chanting "Merkel, Merkel, Merkel, Raus, Raus, Raus!"

Shrove Tuesday

It is Shrove Tuesday, and there will be pancakes in the Historical House. More importantly there will be bacon because the Latin Catholic McLeans are not giving up eggs and milk for Lent. The whole point to eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday was to use up any milk and eggs in the house, for apparently once upon a time Catholics went vegan at Lent. Eastern Catholics still sort of do.

It is also, of course, Mardi Gras, and the Catholic Encyclopedia is indulgent on the topic: "It is intelligible enough that before a long period of deprivations human natures should allow itself some exceptional licence in the way of frolic and good cheer."

Frolic! Hooray! Still, it said "frolic" not "license." Healthy frolic probably includes eating three Polish doughnuts on Fat Thursday, but not the sexual hi-jinks traditional in, say, nineteenth century Germany.

Interestingly, Carnival (literally, "Good-bye to meat") has stretched from Fat Thursday to Ash Wednesday in many countries, so we ought to participate in frolic and good cheer for six whole days. Indeed, I think this is a tradition Roman Catholics should take up again although naturally without the gross excesses of what the C.E. calls "southern climes." (Surely those "southern climes" should be understood to include Bavaria.) The C.E. says English celebrations of carnival involved football, so perhaps the boisterous Celtic fans shouting in the streets of Edinburgh on Sunday were within their rights after all.

Naturally, the Catholic Encyclopedia, like Father Z, mentions this as time in which people were told to go to confession and--interestingly--consult with their confessor about their Lenten penances. Even small children in my Catholic elementary school were encouraged to chose their own penances--asceticism had not yet gone out of fashion. (Nowadays asceticism is all too often declared useless in itself, and the only point of it in the mind of many a western priest is to save the money usually spent on luxuries to give to the poor.) Generally we said we would give up sweets or television, and pint-sized comedians declared that they would give up going to church.

Priests taking it upon themselves to advise on what to give up are not always popular. My mother once reported that one of the priests visited upon her parish instructed the women to give up all beauty products and give the money saved to the poor. My mother did not report what he suggested to the men although one hopes he told them not to tell their wives how haggy they look and how smelly they smell during Lent. Still, traddy points to the priest for his old school attitude towards cosmetics.

Incidentally, Saint Thomas Aquinas felt cosmetics should be used only to disguise deformity, and since we would all be supremely beautiful were it not for the Fall, surely that is what we are doing when we use the stuff, yes?

Monday, 8 February 2016

The Five Wounds No Laughing Matter

Bad taste/probably-unintentional-blasphemy warning on this link to a pious cartoon.

My reaction to the cartoon is in this week's Toronto Catholic Register.

Lessons from the Ghomeshi Trial

Twenty-three people have alleged experiencing harrasment, abuse or assault by Jian Ghomeshi. When the public demanded to know why the accusers never went to the police, some accusers went to the police. Three of them are now on trial included in Jian Ghomeshi's trial for sexual assault and choking.

Complainant 1 was eviscerated on the witness stand.

Lucy DeCoutere was disemboweled on the witness stand. 

Heaven--or Ghomeshi's counsel Marie Henein--knows what will happen to Complainant 3. 

Because one thing that has been proven in court is that Ghomeshi kept the letters and emails of Complainant 1 and DeCoutere for years and years afterwards.  Jesse Brown, the freelance journalist who broke the Ghomeshi story (after Ghomeshi himself, of course), both asks and explains why.

This is a trial examining allegations of brutal sexually-charged assault committed (so far) years ago. If all twenty-three people who have alleged Ghomeshi abused or assaulted them appeared in court, each one of the twenty-three would somehow have to prove they weren't lying. But only three went to court, and anyone who has behaved crazily about/because of a man or written him stupid emails or letters, can now see why only three dared. 

Women used to demand their letters back when their romances ended, and gentlemen gave them back. Into the fire went the letters, and that was that. Novels written before the Sexual Revolution abound with wicked blackmailers, bounders who kept (or bought) women's silly letters and threatened to send them to their husbands. Apparently in the old days, a wife could not just say to her husband, "Listen, darling, I know it's a bore, but when I was twenty, I wrote a simply awful letter to a chap who called himself Count Batory Bourbon de Poniatowski, and now he's blackmailing me for £10,000." It is  hard to get my head around this, but apparently my grandfather was furious when he found out that Auntie was my grandmother's real mother, not her adoptive mother. The past is another country indeed. 

What the Ghomeshi trial teaches us, besides the importance of reporting brutal assaults to the police sooner rather than later, is not to write stupid letters and emails to men.  If we love to write, chances are we have already written stupid letters and emails to men. If we are lucky, the men just read the emails and erase them. If we are even luckier, they chuck our deathless prose onto the fire--but who has fires these days? 

The Ghomeshi trial has become excruciating for anyone who believes--possibly because of the, you know, 23 people who went to the media--that Ghomeshi hit women without their consent. Until Jesse Brown released a Ghomeshi email yesterday, the only correspondence we read was from Complainant 1 and Lucy DeCoutere, and their emails were, and Lucy's handwritten letter was, ovary-shrivellingly awful.  

It makes one ponder how ghastly one's own letters and emails have been. Would a scandal-hungry public think "Oh, how very delightfully Nancy Mitford to Evelyn Waugh"or would it think "Ew"?  

How and why do women get into such terrible situations as Jesse Brown describes, and to what extent should adult women take seriously the idea that we can be "groomed" like targeted children? Where is free will in all this? When it comes to pondering one's own complicity in sexual sin, these are important questions to ask. They are less important, however, when the fists come out of nowhere, without warning, without consent. Whatever Lucy DeCoutere said or did before Ghomeshi hit and throttled her--if he did hit and throttle her--and whatever she said and did afterwards, hitting and throttling her without consent were (or would be) criminal acts. 

But as for manipulation, pick up artistry, and all the ways in which men like Ghomeshi and his ilk try to get women to do (or put up with) things the women would not have done (or put up with), there should be more conversations about them--serious conversations by churches, schools and parents, beginning with "Do these psychological methods really reduce women's freedom to make moral decisions?" and not ending with "If so, how can we teach girls and women how to guard against them?" for the ultimate question, as with rape, would be "If so, how do we convince boys and men not to employ them"?

Interesting: Henein is what we at the Abbey called a Joser-Hoser, i.e. she went to Saint Joseph Morrow Park. No surprises, however, as this is the sort of woman Catholic girls' schools like the Abbey and Morrow Park were trying to turn out in the 80s: professional, materially successful.

Update (Tuesday): Complainant 3 implodes. So many lessons in the Ghomeshi trial for both men and women:

Women's lessons:

1. Don't write men sexy emails and letters and don't send them sexy pictures of self.
2. If a man hits, strangles or suffocates you, don't send him love letters afterwards, m'kay?
3. If a man hits, strangles or suffocates you, don't be affectionate with him in any way afterwards.
4. If you break any of the above lessons, don't waive your right to be anonymous if you testify against the man in court.
5. Don't hide or lie about your relationship with the man when questioned by the police. Very, very bad and stupid.
6. Don't say, write or text anything to co-complainants you don't want repeated in court.

Men's lessons:

1. Keep all correspondence from women, just in case.*
2. If you hit, strangle or suffocate women, you may end up in court.
3. If you hit, strangle or suffocate women--or have a reputation for doing so--save your money for a top lawyer.
4. If you hit, strangle or suffocate many women--or have a reputation for doing so--you may not have to go to jail, but you will probably  lose in the court of public opinion.
5. Don't hit, strangle or suffocate women without asking their permission.
6. If you really enjoy such activities, consider psychotherapy. Therapists are cheaper than lawyers.

*As a woman it kills me to write that, but alas. I still have on file nasty emails from a man (a friend's ex-boyfriend) and he's dead

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Commemoration of Saint Dorothy

In the late 1960s someone decided she didn't exist, so her feast day was dropped from the General Roman Calendar of saints. But her bones lie under the beautiful altar of a church in Trastevere, so someone explain! Fortunately the Old Calendar goes with the Old Mass, and so today my delighted ears heard the old prayers to my saint ring out from the sanctuary.

Here's Father Hopkins on the subject of the girl saint so beloved by the English, and by many others too:

1. For a Picture of St. Dorothea
I BEAR a basket lined with grass;
I am so light, I am so fair,
That men must wonder as I pass
And at the basket that I bear,
Where in a newly-drawn green litter        5
Sweet flowers I carry,—sweets for bitter.
Lilies I shew you, lilies none,
None in Caesar’s gardens blow,—
And a quince in hand,—not one
Is set upon your boughs below;        10
Not set, because their buds not spring;
Spring not, ’cause world is wintering.
But these were found in the East and South
Where Winter is the clime forgot.—
The dewdrop on the larkspur’s mouth        15
O should it then be quench`d not?
In starry water-meads they drew
These drops: which be they? stars or dew?
Had she a quince in hand? Yet gaze:
Rather it is the sizing moon.        20
Lo, linkèd heavens with milky ways!
That was her larkspur row.—So soon?
Sphered so fast, sweet soul?—We see
Nor fruit, nor flowers, nor Dorothy.
See Notes.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Why Learn Polish?

Happy Saint Agatha's Day. Saint Agatha was not Polish, but she was the subject of a stirring sermon at First Friday Mass at my parish church circa 1979. At least one child went home afterwards and looked her up in Butler's Lives of the Saints to see what was so terrible about her death that the priest didn't want to tell us. Good psychology there, Father Bill. In honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Saint Agatha that now middle-aged child will begin the Nine Fridays today. Without anyone ever telling us what we were doing, my entire elementary school practiced the Nine Fridays for years. May we all be granted final perseverance despite our subsequent slacking.

But the topic of this Polski Piątek (Polish Friday) post is "Why Learn Polish?"--a not infrequent question to adult students of Polish. The habitual starter and quitter of language learning may often ask herself such a question, particularly after bruising arguments with Poles, e.g. on the topic of "Is stupid learning Polish."

So here is a fine list to brace faltering Polish learners and convince the curious:

1. Polish is the most important Slavic language west of Russia in terms of influence in Europe (particularly central-eastern Europe) and probably the USA.

2. It is harder than Russian, so if you learn it, Russian will be a snap.

3. Polish is very handy for holidays and pilgrimages in Poland.

4. Polish is now the "second language" of both Scotland and England.

5. Learning Polish will help stave off dementia. So will learning any other language, apparently, but Polish is just that much more of a mental workout.

6. Top Polish literature is so great in translation, it must be even better in Polish.

7. Polish teachers are kind to their students and bring them Polish sweets. If class falls on Tłusty Czwartek (Fat Thursday, the Thursday before Ash Wednesday), the teacher brings Polish doughnuts. FACT.

8. Poles are kinder to foreigners attempting to speak Polish than Other People I Could Mention when you attempt to speak their language. They are even kinder than (real, living-in-Italy) Italians about it, which is very kind indeed. Their attitude seems to be that of Samuel Johnson regarding women preaching:  It is not done well, but they are surprised to find it done at all.

9. Listened to objectively, Polish is quite beautiful. There is a feminine beauty to "Tylko miłość jest ważna" that "Only love is important" does not have. I mean, really: imm-porr--tant.  Bang, bang, thump. And "luv" is rather dull compared to the dramatic "mee-washch". And "tylko" could be played on a xylophone. Bing-bing MEE-washch yest soft-sweet.

10. Saint John Paul II thought and prayed his most personal prayers in Polish. Think about that. Consider also Sister Faustina if you're a big Faustina fan.

11. Polish Pretend Daughter said you could never do it. "It is too difficult." How maddening is that? And it may be this thought that actually sustains you through the years and makes you take up your pen and memorize another chunk of Polish complaint composed by your Polish teacher because:

12. Polish is the language of the stubborn and bloody-minded. It would survive a nuclear holocaust, or so said the new Polish professor at the University of Toronto four years ago. The desire to learn it and speak it will force you to become braver than you are and to appreciate the courage of others who strive to master foreign-to-them languages.

Ghomeshi Trial in CWR

Be sure to leave comments. My editors love comments. Note the sad irony of Ghomeshi's pet cause and the exquisite irony of quoting Naomi Klein to underscore the sad irony of Ghomeshi's pet cause.

That very year (or maybe the next, 1993), my affronted eyes fell upon an illustration of one "1950s" woman warning another "1950s" woman about a "1950s" man waiting to take her on a date, "Be careful! He's anti-choice!" 

Irony, irony, irony. Well, it was the 1990s. Irony was big. There was even a graduate course on Irony taught at the University of Toronto by the "godmother of postmodernism" herself, Linda Hutcheon. She was very friendly and kind, as a matter of fact. Which, given the state of academic literary criticism at the time, is itself another irony.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

World Misogyny Day

American Sex Tourist (Osoba uprawiająca turystikę erotyczną.)
Good News! My post was obsolete even before I finally wrote it. World Misogyny Day has been cancelled. But here is the post anyway.

It is a shame that he picked Feb 6, the Feast of Saint Dorothy, patroness of brides and newlyweds, but an American Pick Up Artist blogger has "organized" meetings throughout the world for his drooling followers. He himself will be at one of the meetings, but it is unlikely to be the one in Glasgow, for Glaswegians have been threatening him with beatings in their inimitable Glaswegian style and he seems rather frightened.

The only meetings that can be said to be "organized" are the ones with emails, not meeting places, attached to them in his long post on the subject. The address list now stands as a guide for men and women who, wanting to show contempt for a rape apologist, may decide to shame his followers instead. (Update: so he has taken it down. My, my.) The blogger suggested that men who are unable to find other like-minded men conclude that their city wasn't ready for them yet. Uh huh. It's as if he grabbed some tourist books and picked the meeting places at random.

Poles will be sorry to see a few Polish cities on the list, but this may have more to do with the blogger's frequent residences in Poland--where living expenses are relatively cheap--than with the number of his Polish fans. (He may be in Poznan even now. Ew.) He writes guides for wannabe sex tourists (whom he euphemistically calls "love tourists"), and he has certainly written one about Poland. The blogger's critics have republished passages from his books in which he actually rapes his pick-ups. One can only hope the books are fictional, and he is merely writing pornos for his pimply audience.

The UK press is full of articles about this blogger, and he insists his "pro-rape" article suggesting that each and every sexual act performed in a domestic space be immune to prosecution. was satire. No. If such an article appeared in a feminist magazine like Jezebel, it would be satire. From that blogger, it was too obviously wishful thinking.

So there is quite a lot of hoopla, which is too bad, as it suggests that more people will buy his horrid books, which will be more money for him to go and live in "second tier" cities in Central and Eastern Europe to prey on virgins and other easily bamboozled women.  His fan demand of his critics why, if he's such a rapist, none of the women have gone to the police. Hmm. Yeah. That would be soooo easy for a Catholic virgin in a traditional country. "So Miss Kowalska, let me get this straight. You were walking down Ulica Piekna, and a bearded foreigner stopped you and asked for directions to the castle, and then made fun of your English. You responded angrily and he apologized, and before you understood what was going on, you were drinking in a tourist bar, and then, after three drinks, you agreed to go back to his apartment. Keep talking. We're fascinated."

The writings of this blogger veer between two points:

1. women shouldn't sleep around but marry young and have babies and take care of their husband
2. here's how to get beautiful young women to have one night stands with you*

He claims to love women and know what's best for women, but his series of books begin with the dehumanizing (and violent) "Bang", as in "Bang Kazakhistan". Ugh. Fortunately, he really hates Toronto--we Toronto girls have always despised preening American strangers who get in our faces, it's true---and also Denmark, where his techniques simply didn't work.

So why waste any thought on him at all? Well, first to put you on your guard against him and men like him. This can be very hard for nicely brought up young women with good fathers and brothers to get their minds around but

1. many men tell lies, some compulsively;
2. some men will say absolutely anything to get sex from you;
3. some men will do absolutely anything to get sex from you;
4. some men see you as nothing more than a walking vagina, no matter how much they may have in common with you on every other level, no matter how plain you think you are, no matter how intellectual and interesting you think yourself;
5. bars are not safe, fun places for a Single woman to be;
6. house parties with many male strangers are not safe, fun places for a  Single woman to be;
7. and, above all, some men practice and perfect psychological techniques to make you consent to things to which you would otherwise not consent. Salesmen have studied such techniques for years, and a knife salesman once--chortling at the stupidity of humanity--explained them to me. He was very good and selling people things they didn't want.

It would be helpful if every young woman in the world had a mobile phone and one solid friend or family member with a car, who could be trusted not to give a lecture, so that if she found herself having drunk a little too much with a guy she barely knows and the thought "What the heck am I doing" crossed her mind, she could go to the "Ladies" and just speed dial the friend.

Update: As the blogger "cancels" the "public" (i.e. largely imaginary, one suspects) meetings worldwide, one wonders if sometimes there is indeed such a thing as bad publicity, especially for alleged serial rapists. Oh, and no your love would not save him.

Update 2: Not safe for work or little brothers.

Update 3: His Middle Eastern good looks are making him a bit nervous in Poland, by the way, as nationalists patrol the streets looking for guys who look like him. WHAT an irony. The very kind of guys he respects--big, masculine, traditional--would beat the snot out of him if they knew why he was in Poland.

*Update 4: In reply to a furious email from a traditionalist reader,  it should be explained out that what is objectionable is the total disconnect between the two points. Naturally women shouldn't sleep around but marry young (if we are grown up, fall in love with a decent chap  and don't have  religious vocations), have babies and take care of our husbands. It's a beautiful, fulfilling, culture-building way of life. But this opinion is a bit rich coming from a man whose life mission is to have as much sex as possible with as many young women as possible and makes money telling other men how to do that, too. 2 rather cancels out 1, what?

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Ghomeshi Trial Day 2

The defense metaphorically disemboweled the first complainant.

Oh boy.  After the anonymous complainant repeated that she had never again contacted Ghomeshi, Marie Henein produced emails showing that the complainant had contacted him, complete with an attached bikini photo.

The complainant explained that she had wanted Ghomeshi to contact her so she could ask him why he had punched her in the head. The bikini pic was bait. This is certainly credible. And it is credible even that she had forgotten sending the email. Wanting to forget embarrassing things leads, over the years, to forgetting them.  But having forgotten the emails certainly looks terrible for the complainant's credibility. Christie Blatchford, one of Canada's top crime reporters, says the woman was "flakey."

The person coming off best in this trial so far is Marie Henein. The moral of the story, girls, is to study very hard and go to law school, not get jobs on the fringes of TV-land and flirt with celebrities. That said, you do not deserve to be punched in the head if you ignore this lesson.

The first complainant is not on trial, officially. But as this is a "he-said, she-said, she-said, she-said and she-said" case, she unofficially is. Thirteen years later, the only evidence left is the credibility of her story. No fair minded person thinks it would be okay for Ghomeshi to punch women in the head. But what needs to be established is if he punched the heads of the three women testifying against him.

It is perfectly plausible--given the outpourings of testimony to (at very least) the press by fifteen women of abuse at Ghomeshi's hands--that Ghomeshi yanked this woman's hair and she agreed to see him again afterwards. And it is certainly plausible that even if he struck her repeatedly in the head, she would contact him a year later. It might not have even been--as she claims--to talk to him about the beating, for she included in that email--to the famous music journalist/promoter--a video of her singing in a band. It might have been to get publicity for the band. She might have been, despite the alleged beating to the head, dreaming little dreamy-dreams that, having a bizarre bond with Mr Allegedly Creepy, he might help her out. If so, this would be evidence that she was not rooted in reality, but not that he hadn't punched her in the head.

People often lie because they are embarrassed although it would be charitable to assume that First Complainant wasn't lying about her 2004 emails but really did forget them. The lesson for women watching the trial, however, is to tell the truth---no matter how embarrassing it is---if we decide to go to the media or the police about dating violence--and maybe check our memories against  diary entries and our email correspondence.

The truth can be seriously embarrassing when it comes to celebrities because if the truth is that you were hoping to use a celebrity's attraction to yourself to advance your career or gain in some other material way, people might say mean things if you admit it. Frankly, the bikini-shot disturbs me much less than the video of First Complainant's band. Nevertheless, there is no doubt in my mind that a woman can be beaten up by a celebrity and a year later try to get his attention--either to "make things better" or to advance a band. But that still wouldn't make the fact that he beat her up--if he did--okay.

 A young mother in Toronto has published on Facebook a photo of a cute little onesie given to her newborn daughter. It reads "I'M NOT ALLOWED TO DATE ... EVER."  And the young mother could post that without a blush because she didn't as much as kiss the baby's father before they were married. If there were a baby in the Historical House, her onesie would read either "I'M NOT ALLOWED TO TALK TO CELEBRITIES" or "NO FURTHER QUESTIONS, M'LUD."

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

helo it is me the inner child

helo it is me the inner child and i am feeling dolful. evryone is mad a me becus i did not finish the bodis riper instead stoping rite at the crushal moment when littel proodens seems to be confessing her luv to the striken hewbert. my outer adult has xplained to me that this is very very wikked and an outrayjus thing to do to reeders and her reedership has sufered becoz of my intransijents. i think intransijents was the word she used.

i dont think it was fair she blamed me when the falt is obveeuslie hers i told her i cannot work if she is in yuk yuk skool. no man kan serv 2 masters you must luv the one and not learn po-lish. i kno a laydie very well edukated who had many children and was so depressed becos her brane was so underused and in desperayshun she turned to ryting fixion. if she had turned to po-lish there wud be no fixion. po-lish is a kurs on literchur.

ba agrees with me he almost dyed when my outer adult said sumthing about rushan at edinburah uni. what rusha and literchur hav to do with eech other is a mistry to me. ok i am working on the bodis riper now but just to put off shoping for an our.

The Schneider Interview

First Pro Season:  2006-7
If Catholics who love the Traditional Latin Mass collected hockey cards with bishops' faces on them, a Right Reverend Athanasius Schneider card would be hugely popular.

(Incidentally, has anyone thought of this yet? Hockey cards for all bishops and cardinals? The divisions in the episcopate must now be so obvious that they could even be divided into teams. The collecting frenzy might become such that we lay aside our own personal likes and dislikes, SSPXers swapping a Fellay for a Marx because they have three Fellays already, America readers eagerly trading excess Cupiches for Sarahs, old Weaklands carefully wrapped in tissue paper instead of burned at twig-stakes, etc. )

The McLeans were once in a very small car with a convert, both to Catholicism and to Tradition (as even FSSP-backing Traddies often say--so naughty), who could talk for Scotland, and all the way home from some rural Mass or other he went on and on, drawing breath only when he said, in tones of great awe, "And WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT? [Dramatic pause.] It was BISH-op SCHNEI-der!"

"Goodness me," said Mrs M, who had never heard of Bishop Schneider in all her life.

It turns out that the Rt. Rev. Athanasius Schneider loves the sacred doctrines and ancient traditions of the Church and speaks up for them all whenever they are threatened. As cynics observe, if you are already stationed in Kazakhstan, there's not much further they can send you. And he's only 54--gracious. Ad multos annos!

The tradition-loving end of the Catholic blogosphere is all a-twitter about the recent Rorate Caeli interview with Bishop Schneider, so here is a link for those of you who otherwise do not frequent the ol' scandal-sheet. He makes the screamingly obvious objection to men ritually washing women's feet, but even more importantly, there is this gem of plain-speaking:

"The very crisis of the Church in our days consists in the ever growing phenomenon that those who don’t fully believe and profess the integrity of the Catholic faith frequently occupy strategic positions in the life of the Church, such as professors of theology, educators in seminaries, religious superiors, parish priests and even bishops and cardinals. And these people with their defective faith profess themselves as being submitted to the Pope. "--Athanasius Schneider.

Update: Happy Candlemas! If you don't take down the last of your Christmas decorations today, the boggarts (or bogles) will break your furniture. The origins of this belief are mysterious, but it may have something to do with February 2 also being Imbolc, the Celtic pagan first day of spring. Not to give  much credence to the Auld Auld Kirk, but it makes sense that  Candlemas should mark the beginning of Scottish spring, given the pretty snowdrops and hint of crocuses to come.  

Monday, 1 February 2016

Thoughts on the Ghomeshi Trial

Several women in Toronto are currently on trial for having been assaulted by a National Treasure.....

Oh, wait. Start again.

Canadian pop star turned CBC radio interviewer Jian Ghomeshi is on trial in Toronto, facing accusations of sexual assault and choking.  Women who read the newspaper reports of the Paul Bernardo trial, terrified that such things might happen to them or their friends, are now following the Ghomeshi trial via Twitter, grimly remembering things that did happen to them or their friends.

Funny how you start off thinking your generation will be different from any other.

The Twitter reports of the first cross-examination are torture because it feels as if all battered women in Ontario are on trial, not just this woman, not Jian Ghomeshi.  Because sometimes women do stupid things that seem absolutely necessary at the time and how on earth are we supposed to explain our stupid thought processes?

JUSTICE SYSTEM: If he did THAT, why did you go back?

WOMANKIND (muttering): Because I thought it would make it better.

JUSTICE SYSTEM: I beg your pardon?

WOMANKIND: Because I thought it would make it better.

JUSTICE SYSTEM: You thought seeing him again would make it better?

WOMANKIND: Yes, because if I saw him again, and he behaved sweetly and was just like the man I thought he was and hoped he was and knew he could be, then everything would be okay.

JUSTICE SYSTEM: After he did THAT, you thought everything would be okay as long as he didn't do it again?


JUSTICE SYSTEM: I don't understand your reasoning.

WOMANKIND: Because, um, if he were the man I thought he was, and hoped he was, and knew he could be, that would be a dream come true for me. Because, um, this is really embarrassing, but ever since I was a little girl, I wanted a man to be that man, the man who would always be there for me and love me and help keep me safe from--I don't know--dire poverty, loneliness, disrespect, want.

JUSTICE SYSTEM: And even though this guy did THAT, you thought he could be that guy.

WOMANKIND: Well, I thought maybe it was a one-off, or it was just some kind of crazy but explicable misunderstanding, or... or...I don't know how to explain it. Anyway, I thought if I saw him again, and he redeemed himself, it would just  ... wipe away what happened.

JUSTICE SYSTEM: It sounds to me like you weren't rooted in reality.

WOMANKIND (ashamed): Well, no, I guess not.

JUSTICE SYSTEM: In which case, how can I take you seriously as a witness of what you allege? As you admit that you were not rooted in reality, you have no credibility. I sentence you to a lawsuit hat will completely ruin you financially. I sentence you to a media coverage that will ruin your reputation and make men throughout the land despise you and hurl online abuse at you. You will reap all that you fear most--dire poverty, loneliness, disrespect and want.

WOMANKIND (in abject panic): Maybe I was foolish, but  I'm not a liar! He did THAT! He did!

JUSTICE SYSTEM:  Prisoner at the bar, I apologize for the machinations of this hysteric. Court dismissed.

Something to think about the next time a man gets your attention with a "neg"-- or if you wonder why so few women report acquaintance rape or physical assault in a dating relationship. Women don't think we will believed, and women don't want to relive the trauma in court, and women fear what the repercussions will be.

Update: Ugh. Now she's been grilled on why she didn't tell her media interviewer--a man, by the way--she was kissing Ghomeshi before he pulled her hair.

Pious Jokes about Jesus?

Dear Calvinist Cath, do give this post a miss for it will pain your noble soul and excite your conscience into fervent prayers for the reformation of your Catholic friends, which would be a waste of time, as we aren't budging. (Prayers for our salvation, however, gratefully requested. Here's a present of my favourite "ecumenical" poem ever.)

In Cath's Scottish Presbyterian tradition, no depictions of the Blessed Trinity are permitted. This makes art class embarrassing for children of her community when they are asked to draw Baby Jesus around Christmas time. First, they don't celebrate feast days, just Sundays, and second, they consider drawings of Baby Jesus idolatrous. No wonder they feel rather testy at Christmas. (Sad irony: as Christians they are more likely to get pious Christmas cards from co-workers than snowman cards whereas they would much prefer the snowman, if they have to get Christmas cards at all.)

Scottish Presbyterians have a lot of insights into the transcendence of God; hopefully they can learn something about His immanence from Catholics. Not sure how, exactly, when we are the auld enemy of all time, but everything is possible for the Holy Spirit. 

What a Scottish Presbyterian would think of this  (Cath, don't click) is quite beyond the courage of my imagination to contemplate. Not to repeat Pope Francis' insistence (surely badly translated) that there is "no Catholic God" or to approve the deplorable innovation of giving  Protestants the Blessed Sacrament, but one wonders when looking at such stuff if some Catholics think we own God instead of God owning us.

For example, Catholics know perfectly well that Christian tradition gave birth to Christian scriptures, not the other way around. There was a Church before there was a writing down of the Gospels. Some assume the Blessed Virgin Mary told Saint Luke the histories that form the Infant Narratives, which does indeed seem the most likely explanation, especially when you consider the beautiful and sacred verse "But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart" (Luke 2:20). However, to what extent should Catholics--and other Christians--riff on the Christian scriptures?  

Here's a particularly egregious example, which this blog would not link to, if the pious cartoonist could be suspected of impious or intentionally blasphemous motives: [Don't click, Cath, I mean it. You will be sorry.]

Did your stomach flip over? There is a slim chance Americans will not find this so horrible; obviously the American cartoonist finds nothing wrong with it, so there's a possibility it might be a cultural thing.

But what makes this take on Sacred Scripture (and the Sacred Wounds) particularly awful for those who find it offensive is the unmediated quality of images. When people write down their ideas, you have to actually engage your intellect to read them. But when someone draws a picture, it goes right through your eyes to your gut/the passions. Freedom of speech is NOT the same as freedom of expression, for ideas are not the same as pictures. For example, no-one has developed a marriage-destroying porn habit from Fanny freaking Hill.  And nobody has stabbed a priest, murdered a nun or set fire to an embassy over Contra Gentiles.

On the one hand, some people argue that those who are offended by images should "grow up". They seem to think that the less you are offended by imagery, the more sophisticated you are. But on the other, one wonders what the ultimate outcome would be, especially considering the lengths some artists will go to provoke anger and grief in Christians. Would our refusal to protest or express anger eventually lead to a dying of Christian devotion in our souls? Graham Greene's Monsignor Quixote went bananas when he perceived a gross insult to Our Lady. Saint Ignatius almost killed a Moor over her honour. Are we really so better than they are when we shrug and remain silent?

And what about when the offensive image or joke is innocently meant?  Pious teenagers in Toronto in the 1980s had an argument that went like this:

Jokester: And then Jesus said, "Let he who is without sin throw the first stone." Everyone just stood there and then all of a sudden a stone came out of nowhere and bopped the woman taken in adultery in the head. And then Jesus said, "Aw, Mom!"

Half the Pious Audience: Ha, ha, ha!

Other Half of the Audience: Tsk. As if Our Lady would ever have done that. Tsk. 

First Half: Aw, come on. Lighten up. It's a joke. You see, Our Lady was conceived without sin, so...

Second Half: We know why it's supposed to be funny, but it isn't actually funny. It's an insult to our Lady.

Jokester: Aw. 

First Half: Lighten up!

So the question for reflection is, is it okay to make jokes about Jesus? Will jokes about Jesus lead us more firmly to devotion to Him, or will they erode our filial respect for Almighty God?  Will the Sacred Wounds cease to be objects of devotion as they become material for peek-a-boo jokes? And, admittedly a minor consideration unless you live in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Canada, the USA, Mexico, Latin America, Korea, Japan or somewhere in the entire continent of Africa, what would the Protestants say?