Monthly Archives: December 2005

Those Who Forget the Past Can’t Predict The Future

Another year has passed and you and I are lucky to be alive. I mean that in both senses. It’s amazing that so many of us made it through 365 more days of the horrifying human condition, and it’s a tremendous privilege to have done so.

I’m pleased to note that we now know where the days go. In Wednesday’s Citizen comics section, Lucky Eddie told Hagar the Horrible they “turn into nights.” As for the years, well, they turn into old-movie special effects of calendar pages flipping, or broken resolutions, or enthusiasms acutely embarrassing in retrospect, like bellbottoms or government-subsidized canals.

A few years back everyone had millennium fever and was listing the great this and the outstanding that of the millennium. Including me. For instance I thought the best spelling of “millennium” was with two “n”s and William the Conqueror was the most significant individual. Continue reading

Finally, a good time to read the Pickwick papers aloud

Ahhhh. It’s Christmas time. Gather round the fire, kids, and listen to Uncle John drone on about the good old days. And plan some more.

For instance, what ever happened to the Christmas tradition of the kid who can’t wait to get his big present out of the box and play with the box? Nowadays the cool stuff is smaller not bigger so you couldn’t fit into the package to play even if you could get the space-age armoured plastic open without pliers, hacksaw and blowtorch that leave lethal sharp edges.

It may be traditional to deplore the decline of tradition. But I also find myself puzzled at how to keep sacrificing meaning to materialism now that kids have so much stuff. Back before I was a boy you had nothing and clung to it. Then on that magic day, Dec. 25, you got another sock and both feet were warm for months. Wow! There’s still some room to thrill even a modern child by finding something they didn’t realize they wanted until they saw it. But less and less just because they have everything. Does anyone out there really anticipate 30 or 40, or 300 more years of new must-have toys that are faster, fancier, smaller and cheaper? Will we all end up laughing at the X-Box in our total-body simul-suits? Let’s stop that thought right there. Continue reading

No wonder our politicians don’t know how to govern well

Oh boy. It’s the leaders’ debate. Time for beer and popcorn. Uh, make that pablum. And a hanky.

What has me on the edge of tears is that politics in this country is an unskilled profession. Our politicians, though desperately keen to govern, aren’t just bad at it; they seem uncurious about how it’s done. Like Paul Martin trying to repair relations with the United States through abuse. You could argue with the goal; the NDP and Bloc did. But what rational person could expect to achieve it this way? Or to cure Western alienation (another top priority) without setting foot in Alberta in this election. Or to stop global warming by not doing anything.

We suffer a silent plague of such stuff. Remember how Dalton McGuinty spent 13 years in opposition, seven as leader of the Opposition, campaigned on neither cutting nor raising taxes, won, said golly I didn’t know the budget looked like that and raised taxes. The power of the purse (backed by the sword) is the essence of government. For 13 years his whole job was to pay attention to it. And he didn’t. Nor did he check electricity generating capacity against projected demand before promising to shut down Ontario’s coal-fired reactors. What was he doing all those years? His own party’s website boasts he’s too politically hyperactive to pursue hobbies. Continue reading

Is Narnia Christian? Do lions roar in the woods?

Almost from the moment it became known that a serious effort was under way to bring Narnia to the big screen, people have been debating whether Disney would trash the Christian message, or transmit it faithfully. We bring good tidings. This is indeed the Lion of Judah.

The question of how the film handled, mishandled or dropped the specifically Christian elements in the book is clouded by the other debate prior to the film’s release, about whether Narnia was necessarily Christian. This debate was mysterious because the Christian message of Narnia was not something awkwardly tacked on and therefore easy to remove.

The book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is “subtle” in the sense that there are no crosses, no one says, “Hey, guys, Aslan’s Jesus, I just realized” and there are no virgin births. You don’t get a communion cup dashed in your face. But the whole structure of the story, and the world it depicts, is fundamentally Christian. Continue reading

The Lion, the Witch and the Obvious Meaning of the Text

Aslan’s roar will shake Narnia to its foundations today as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe fills the big screen. My own roar is nowhere near as impressive, but I will nevertheless roar it at anyone who still claims he is just one more talking lion.

I’ve long said some people should be prevented from owning tools, not legally but through social pressure, because their home-repair work is infallibly as ugly as it is structurally unsound. And I increasingly feel that many surprisingly literate people should be shunned if they do not either avoid books or, if they must read them, do it quietly and avoid offering grotesquely inappropriate opinions.

Consider recent bickering about whether C.S. Lewis’s Narnia stories are Christian. I confess that as a child I missed the connection entirely. (Lewis once said their goal was “a sort of pre-baptism of the child’s imagination.” I guess it worked because I’ve always aspired, like Puddleglum, to live like a Narnian even if there is no Narnia.) But once the analogy was pointed out to me I never doubted it. And if the filmmakers have not made a faithful adaptation, in both senses, it will be through deliberate vandalism or wilful blindness. This is no generic fairy tale with a few clumsy Christian metaphors tacked on; the whole thing is built on sin, repentance, sacrifice and redemption. Continue reading

Politicians bewitched by their own press releases

King Canute never thought he could stop the tide. Back in the Dark Ages, when literacy was as rare as white teeth, people weren’t that stupid. Nowadays, however, we seem to think we can stop carbon dioxide with a regal and self-congratulatory wave of a press release.

Consider, as 10,000 delegates gather at a UN conference in Montreal to be well-intentioned, that Canada signed the Kyoto Accord in 1997 and committed to reducing our “greenhouse gas” (GHG) emissions by six per cent from 1990 levels. But we actually did nothing and the emissions went up instead.

Someone please explain this to me. It was certainly predictable that as Canada’s economy expanded, so would its use of fuel and its output of exhaust gasses, including the “greenhouse’’ kind. It has been so ever since man first set beard alight with this newfangled “fire’’ thing. How could the Liberals not realize this link would continue to exist until they took steps to break it or, even weirder, have this realization and stop there? Continue reading