Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Wars of the Roses

Dark clouds bring waters
When the bright bring none.
Yea, dark or bright,
If they their silver drops
Cause to descend, the earth,
By yielding crops,
Gives praise to both,
and carpeth not at either,
But treasures up the fruit
they yield together.

It was a dry winter and now that spring is here, the rains have arrived. And yet hardly a day goes by that we don't see the sun for a space. When the wind whips up the clouds will scatter, and with any luck will herald a spell of warmth and sun. The seasons roll by paying no heed whatsoever to our plans.
And we pursue our plans without much regard for the weather of a day, sometimes to our cost. The example that springs to mind is a pair of global warming zealots who embarked on a trek to the South Pole to document in words and pictures the truth of their convictions. Alas, their lifeless bodies were found frozen solid in their tents. Discovered by chance sighting by a pilot taking an unusual route to his destination, it is speculated that they didn't realize that when it's summer in the northern hemisphere it is winter in the south. In our warm and cozy civilized existence it's entirely possible to spend a lifetime being stupid without suffering any inconvenience, but outside of that protective cocoon stupidity is often fatal.
I have just finished reading a book called Malory, a sort of biography of the author of the perennially popular Le Morte D'Arthur. I say sort of because very little is known of this Thomas Malory. The biographer, Christina Hardyment, fleshes out the story with a great deal of imagination. Normally, I would find this approach to border on the dishonest, but she does a very good job. Still, it is more of a history of Malory's times than anything else, but framed in the context of the kind of circumstances in which he lived. This was the era of the Wars of the Roses in 1400's England. A very confused time of contention between the Yorks and the Lancastrians for the kingship of England. It must have been a time of deep divisions among the English people, as well. The merchants of London were gaining importance compared to the feudal agrarianism of the past, and the political climate was intense.
Strangely, it reminds me in some ways of our present political situation. Henry VI inherited the throne from his father Henry V who is famous for his conquests in France. Under his leadership half of France came under English rule. Henry VI married the strong willed Margaret of Anjou who became Queen of England, and the real ruler of the country. This is where the similarities begin. She was opposed to the war in France and gathered around the throne powerful interests who were also against the war. In addition, she greatly expanded the size of government, and raising taxes. The general population was not too happy about about either policy. They wanted to keep the English possessions in France, and they wanted the number of people enriching themselves at the taxpayers expense to be reduced.
You can only carry these things so far. History never quite repeats itself. Yet there does seem to be something cyclical about it. Periods of peace alternate with periods of war. The divisions in American society are very deep, and have been growing deeper for most of my life. One side believes all problems can be solved by government. Health care is the flashpoint. Putting medical services under the control of a huge bureaucracy effectively turns the US into a Marxist Lite communist state and diminishes the autonomy of every individual citizen. Power is concentrated in fewer hands, most of them invisible to the citizenry. A free press should make this impossible to happen, but it seems the media has been largely taken over by the bureaucratic class. The Democratic Party is the public face of this faction in a somewhat similar way that Henry IV was the public face of the government party. Curiously, his queen disdained her adopted country and did everything she could to undermine England's prospects in France. For all intents and purposes she was a French agent who lacked any concern for English history and institutions at the very least. Knowing that she and her henchmen were growing unpopular, she resorted to increasingly despotic policies. Her enemies, real or imagined, were quite likely to lose their heads.
It hasn't reached that stage yet in the US, but I don't expect the Democrats to easily relinquish their grip on power, even if they lose the coming elections in November. The government party's hatred of Sarah Palin is truly illuminating. It is not so much Sarah they hate, but all the Joe the Plumbers and all the soccer moms, and just about anyone who isn't part of their clique. Sarah Palin is just a proxy for the rest of us. It is us that Keith Olberman, Bill Maher, Sean Penn and all the rest hate. That's why they see nothing wrong with having union goons beat up a man in a wheelchair, or why they think a Down's syndrome child is a joke.
Right now, Americans are just beginning to figure this stuff out. So far there is no Edward IV to rally round- unless Sarah Palin is the one. The two personalities have characteristics in common. Edward was a magnanimous man who tried to reconcile his foes by issuing them pardons and promoting them to important positions. Sarah Palin has that generosity of spirit. However, reconciliation didn't work then. Old foes bided their time until they were strong enough to go on the attack. First one side then the other gained the upper hand, and as it went on the struggle grew bloodier. Will something like that happen in our future? Will Americans settle their differences peacefully, or is a new civil war in store?
If so none of us will be unaffected. The same divisions plaguing the US are visible in every Western society. It feels to me like we are in for a change of seasons.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Individually, a termite is a small insect, but termites cannot live on their own as individuals. Like bees and ants they form colonies where the individual is utterly subordinate to the whole. At the centre of a colony is a queen who herself is absolutely subservient to her role as a producer of eggs. This has proved a very successful strategy if it's true that termites make up the largest biomass on earth.
Termites have the ecological role of disposing of dead trees, being one of the few creatures able to convert cellulose into animal tissue. It's a talent that benefits the forest and makes it possible for aardvarks and similar animals to make a living, too. Where termites thrive people tend to build there homes out of stone and brick, because a house made of wood is for a termite just another tree to gnaw at until it's gone. And unless measures are taken, the wooden house will soon be gone.
Maybe western civilization is a dead tree. I hope not, and I am optimistic that we are in a dormant phase from which we will awaken and renew ourselves. But for the moment we are infested with a breed of termites commonly known as liberals, socialists, progressives, environmentalists, et al. While most citizens have been puttering about the house raising families, going to work, and then settling down in front of the TV after work, an army of termites has been chewing away tirelessly and relentlessly at the social structures and moral understandings that have made it possible for us to live in such a prosperous, peaceful and well-ordered society.
Strange. It wasn't that long ago that it was taken for granted that the ultimate goal of a well-ordered society was the well-being of mankind. Gradually, the termites eroded that seemingly self-evident proposition. Mankind was not of itself any more important than any other life form on the planet. It didn't take long for this logic to take another step. Humans are destroying the earth. Humans are the enemy of the earth. This philosophy has a name. It's called deep ecology, and for many it has become an article of faith.
Contrary-wise, the older, Christian faith it is trying to supplant, is based on the notion that man was created in the image of god. We are the culmination of God's creative acts. We may have stumbled and forfeited the ability to directly experience Him, but we have it in us, with the help of faith, to earn our way back to his presence. Whether you believe it or not, as a creed to live by, it has had a tremendous civilizing effect on those of us who have inherited it.
Our western civilization stands on two legs. Besides the Christian faith, we are also heirs to Greek rational thought, which has given us science as well as models for our arts and literature. The two legs aren't always coordinated well, but they have taken us a long way in the past few thousand years.
But that's history, and our children are now taught that of all the varieties of humanity on this earth, those of us descended from the inhabitants of Western Europe, ie white folks, and especially white folks of the masculine gender, are by far the worst. Thus, it follows that the history of fair skinned Europeans, my history, my forbears, is despicable. Now the problem for the termites who have been trying to excrete this by product of their metabolism, the written record does not support that view. And so it has become an important part of the termites' mission to eradicate knowledge of our past and substitute a new one designed to demoralize our youth.
The termites have made a lot of progress, but their work is far from complete. We still have libraries and bookstores and not all they contain is absolute rot. Most of it is, true, but for the curious reader enlightenment is still possible. As a breed we haven't died out yet, but many of us haven't realized that we have to fight back.
Luckily Victoria is well-endowed with bookstores. I find older books immensely more interesting than new ones. These are books written before the spread of termite language, otherwise known as political correctness. Political correctness is truth inverted. The truth may never be mentioned, lest you arouse the termites, who have grown bold and are able to bite. But they are still timid creatures. They may be shrill and loud, but if you say boo with an authoritative voice and stand your ground they will scamper back to their burrows.
Until recently the termites stayed hidden where non termites couldn't see them but a termite is now president of the United States, and other termites run congress. This is a very dangerous situation for those of us who value our freedoms, because the termite way is to control everything, to turn everything into a termite colony. There is no room for freedom in the termite hill. Heretofore, the termites have been at work on our educational system, attempting to recruit new termites, and having a termite president is a measure of their success.
But now they are in the daylight where everyone can see them. The question now is, is it too late? Or did they come out of their burrows too soon? That remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: the termites are very close to bringing about the collapse of constitutional government in the US. This is very bad news because for at least the last half century it has been that constitutional republic that has made it possible for the rest of us to flourish.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Glendale Gardens

The sun peeked out from behind the clouds from time to time this morning, which encouraged me to pay my first visit to Glendale Gardens. I don't know much about the place, but it seems the antithesis of world renowned Butchart Gardens. Glendale, it seems, is mostly run by volunteers, while Butchart Gardens is a family business. You can find out all about it by visiting their website.
Victorians love their gardens. Even the meanest, shabbiest walkups in the most drug infested parts of the city will have some horticultural distinction. It may be a neglected but extravagantly thriving rhododendron by the gate, or a begonia bush, or a cherry tree in the back. I'm glad of this even though I barely know the difference between a marigold and a petunia.
I had a very pleasant walkaround, and will make sure to revisit it as the seasons revolve. Maybe I will finally learn what a primrose path is.
The entrance fee at Glendale Gardens is $1o for adults, $7.50 for seniors.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Reena Virk's birthday

I was intending to write a pleasant piece today about fishing for herring off the Craigflower Bridge, but whenever I stop to admire the beauty of the Gorge Waterway, I can't help thinking of Reena Virk.
Last Wednesday, March 10, would have been her 27th birthday. Unfortunately, she didn't make it to her 15th birthday, as she was brutally murdered by her middle class schoolmates in November 1997.
It happened right under the Craigflower Bridge where the folks in the picture are standing with their fishing lines in the water. The school she and her killers went to is just upstream from the bridge. All this beauty, the bucolic setting of the Gorge Water meant nothing to these products of our wonderful education system. Where did the boiling rage, the seething hatred, the indifference come from?
Could it be that modern society's rejection of the traditional morality we were taught when we were a Christian nation have something to do with it? One of the bedrock principles of Christian belief is that every human being is loved by God, and so to kill a person is a kind of blasphemy against God. We have strayed so far from that principle in the last half century that I think it's no wonder at all that those adolescent savages turned on one of their own like rabid dogs.
I believe the turning point was the Roe vs Wade decision in the US Supreme Court which made it a human right for a mother to kill her child. It was a lead that every Western nation followed. No need to go into the legalisms. It was a judgement desired by certain powerful elements in American society and so the English language was tortured and contorted until the right answer came out.
As is well accepted since Darwin's time human beings are classed as mammals. The word mammal refers to breasts, as mammals feed their young on milk produced by breasts. This means that instead of laying eggs and dying like salmon do, mammals nurture and protect their young until they are ready to look after themselves. And mammals are supposed to have a maternal instinct.
But the intellectualoids decided, as is their wont, to abolish that instinct. The world is too crowded, they reason, humans are destroying the earth. Bright idea! Let's talk young girls into killing their own babies. Let's change those outmoded laws, let's write articles and books, make movies and TV shows. And here's how we do it. We tempt people with sex. Everybody likes sex, it's like sugar, you can never get enough of it. Everybody always wants more. So many pretty girls, so many virile young men. Abolish the old morality. It's all right to 'hook up' just for the pleasure of it. No need anymore for getting married and getting stuck with one person your whole life. Have sex with whoever you want, at any time anywhere, it's just the funnest thing. Consequences? What consequences? Oh, yes, the baby thing. Easy. You just kill it. Problem solved.
So how can those young people be blamed for indulging their blood lust? We all have it in us. And if the pleasure is the only thing that matters in sex, why shouldn't they be able to indulge this other pleasure? If the only thing that matters about another person is the pleasure he can give you, then why should it be wrong to get pleasure from killing? If it's all right to kill an unborn child, doesn't that mean that lives are disposable, anyway? It took thousands of years of moral teaching to curb our primordial passions so we could function in large societies. It took one generation of idiots to cancel it. This is where it's got us.
Life is cheap now. People get more upset about puppy dogs than they do about our systematic baby killing. Maybe this was one of the lessons these young people learned at school. I happen to know that there was an abortuary adjacent to Shoreline School where these kids would have known about it, seen it every day. What more evidence do they need that to our modern culture life is no longer sacred. I don't know if it's still there, and I didn't figure out what it was until some time after I had occasion to visit the premises. That was several years ago but I still remember the smell. I have worked in hospitals and know the smell of blood and death, but this was something different. I can still smell it sometimes. What a handy place for it, right next to a school. Just like the tattoo parlour right next to Vic High in Fernwood.
I think future generations are going to look back on our age with horror. How could we have done this thing? With the example of Hitler's Final Solution to instruct us, it turns out we have have learned nothing.
The memory of Reena Virk has a way of intruding on my perception of this beautiful waterway. It's almost always calm and serene. Did any of Reena's tormenters live in one of those fancy houses lining the hills? I often wonder about that.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Who needs snow?

There was snow in our vicinity yesterday, but the only sign of it to be seen in downtown Victoria were on a few cars driving down Douglas St. By the afternoon, the sun was out and even on the Malahat it was all melted. The Malahat is the doorway between the Victoria region and the rest of Vancouver Island. Climbing to 352 metres, it presents some pretty awesome views of Finlayson Arm and the Saanich Peninsula. If it snows anywhere around here it will snow on the Malahat. I have a feeling this will be the last of the nastiness for this winter. Truly, we got off easy this year. If we had any snow on the ground in the city I didn't see it.
Usually we'll get one or two spells of snow and cold in a winter, just enough to make us all cranky and complainy. This makes Canadians from other parts laugh, but I say that's because in those other parts when it snows it snows and stays on the ground until spring. Not here. Here it snows for a few days and then the temperature warms up enough to melt it a little. Then at night the melting snow freezes again. It doesn't seem to matter how much salt you put on a sidewalk or a driveway, it will be a sheet of ice in the morning.
Luckily, we can wait it out. Maybe a few days, maybe a week, and then it's back to normal. The rain will arrive and wash it all away and then we can complain about the rain. Victorians can then indulge in one of their favourite pastimes: dressing up in dark clothing and going out jaywalking at night. Maybe we should lobby to have it made an Olympic sport.
The buses are usually a lot fuller during snowy spells, which means that people who normally drive to work choose discretion. As a result, cars don't get exposed to much salt in Victoria, which explains why we have such a high density of old cars in very nice condition. The ones that were not sent to the wreckers, used in demolition derbies or in other ways met with ignominious ends are now graced with the sobriquet 'classic.'
Here are a few I saw today while enjoying the last weekend of winter in Victoria.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What possessed this very pretty young lady to mutilate herself by puncturing her face with little bits of metal? It bothers me a lot, and there are so many that it's becoming commonplace. Body piercing, tattoos, what next? Disks the size of mustard jar lids dangling from the sides of a young man's head held in place by his stretched earlobes. Grotesque. Am I being judgemental? I suppose so. A sense of judgement is a very valuable thing to have. Is it my business what she does to herself? Maybe not, but I wouldn't be human if I didn't care, even though I have only seen her once and have no idea who she is or what kind of a person she is. But there is something wistful and sad, even pleading, in that smile. Maybe the plea is, "Please care about me."
Stretched earlobes are unusual, but tattooing is pretty well mainstream by now. Any cook and mechanic may sport an assortment of graffiti on his epidermis to go with the bits of metal puncturing his lips, brows, nose, etc, and so in order to function in this day and age I have to smile wanly and pretend not to be revolted when I deal with one of these specimens at the checkout counter.
The Kingston Trio had a song out once about 'that old tattooed lady.'

We came to town to see that old tattooed lady
She was a sight to see, tattooed from head to knee.
My Uncle Ned was there, he came to gape and stare
"I've never," he declared, "seen such a freak so fair."

And on her jaw was the Royal Flying Corps
And on her back was the Union Jack
Now could you ask for more.

All up and down her spine
Marched the Queen's own guards in line
And all around her hips sailed a fleet of battleships
And over her left kidney
Was a bird's eye view of Sidney,
But what we liked best was upon her chest'
My little home in Waikiki

What was a joke in the late fifties has become fashionable in the 21 century. I remember a lot of fashions coming and going in my lifetime. When I was a schoolboy, women wore flouncy skirts and pointy bras. I especially remember the women's bathing suits of the time which had a kind of a tight flap stretched between the top part of the thighs over the pubic area. I was always verrry interested in what was beneath that flap. I think I was in grade ten when the sack dress came briefly into style. This costume was loose in the upper parts but tight around the knees, requiring the wearer to cultivate an interesting walking style. Girls of that day also wore girdles. Why a slim young girl would want to wear a girdle was somewhat of a mystery to me, but then just about everything concerning the female sex has always been a mystery to me. Now I realize that girdles were a birth control device. There was no way in hell you could get a girdle off her and still keep her in the mood. About the best you could hope for was to get the stockings unhooked. To this day I think the sexiest part of a woman is that part of the thigh between the stocking top and the lacy panties. All that wonderful drama and suspense, the courting and the wooing, was spoiled by the mini skirt which came along in the sixties. There really is no eroticism without a sense of sin, and the mini skirt was a signal that everything was allowed. Therefore, no mystery, no taboos, no sin, no shame. That was the end of romance, and maybe it was the end of real style.
Lots of fads have come and gone since then. For a while in the seventies every young man had to have sideburns. Extravagantly bell bottomed trousers and paisley shirts were essential parts of every dude's wardrobe. Looking back, the styles were indeed pretty ridiculous, but compared to baggy jeans falling off the ass they seem like formal wear. And what's with all these t shirts and hoodies decorated with death heads and skeletons? These getups certainly do harmonize with self mutilation.
You can always buy a new wardrobe and chuck the old duds in the Salvation Army bin, but you can't get a new skin. I really, really pity these poor, silly tattoo covered people, but it really upsets me to see a pretty girl, hardly more than a child, disfiguring herself. What happened with all this self-esteem stuff kids are supposed to get in school? With all that self-esteem wouldn't a person have respect for his body, the only body he can ever have?
Well, here's my analysis. When a kid throws a tantrum and the teacher compliments him on how well he expresses himself, the kid knows the teacher is lying. The kid knows he is being bad. The kid knows that he might hurt himself, that he is putting himself in danger. He is actually saying, "Stop me." And yet the teacher won't make him stop. This means to the kid that he is not loved and so he tries harder to be bad, puts himself in more danger. Stop me, he says again, but the teacher refuses. As time goes by the child comes to the conclusion that the reason he is not corrected is because he is not loved. And pretty soon he learns to hate himself. He takes drugs to obliterate his thoughts. He marks himself with needles as if he was smearing graffiti on the school he hates. He wears clothing scrawled with the symbolism of death.
So, yes, when I pass by some young person sitting on the sidewalk begging, surrounded by mil-dewed blankets and ragged clothing the first thing that occurs to me is, "How can you do this to yourself?" The second thing is, "No, I'm not going to contribute to your idiocy." If it's drugs you want, I won't help, especially when our welfare system is already acting as your supplier. This is something that peeves me immensely. I would really, really like to know how much of our welfare money goes straight into the pockets of drug dealers. But that's another topic.
Young lady, if I had my way I would pick you up by the scruff of the neck and tell you in no uncertain terms that your lifestyle was about to undergo a drastic change.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Symphonies and Hockey

The rest of Victoria held its breath in suspense when the Canadian and American hockey teams were locked in an overtime struggle. I, with a fairly large crowd of music lovers, was listening to Joseph Boulogne's Second Symphony at the University of Victoria Centre. It wasn't a full house as I was expecting. It was sometime during the Bach Piano Concerto that some of those conspicuously empty seats became occupied, and since the faces were glowing in smug satisfaction I rightly surmised that Canada had won. Perhaps it was the distraction of the hockey game that caused the hiccup in the performance of the Bach piece. Right in the middle of a drivingly rhythmic performance, pianist Jamie Syer suddenly stopped. The orchestra stopped. Conductor Giuseppe Pietraroia turned inquiringly to the pianist for a brief consultation, and then the music resumed. I think there might have been a missing da capo or something. I'll have to ask principal cellist Lawrence Skaggs about it the next time I see him.
After the intermission came Beethoven's Eighth. In spite of the conductor's enthusiasm I think Ludwig had an off day when he composed this one. Still, Beethoven is Beethoven and it lacked nothing in his characteristic sonorities, the Victoria Symphony Orchestra playing them beautifully. My seat in the balcony's back row was hardly the most favourable spot, but I was pleasantly surprised at the fine acoustics of the theatre. I'm looking forward to the Haydn/Vivaldi concert here in four weeks.
An unexpected bonus to the concert was an art exhibit in the adjacent gallery which was featuring traditional textile work from central Asia. Carpets, dresses, in amazing patterns and brilliant colours. The impulse to create beauty is universal.
Although I'm not a big sports fan, I was thrilled to learn of the Canadian win, and a little sorry I missed it. As it turns out, Canadian athletes set a record in the number of gold medals won at any winter Olympics, an achievement for which they are rightly proud. Maybe we are finally getting over our inferiority complex.