Saturday, June 06, 2015

Transgendered? it helps to be Rich

There is a tragic dimension to this story of Bruce - now Caitlyn - Jenner.
Annie Leibovitz image of Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner

It is the hundreds, if not thousands, of transgendered people who do not have $100-million from which they can pay to have all hair removed, skin peeled, breasts implanted, noses straightened, eye sockets enlarged or reduced, along with eyelids, botox injections, hip implants, arse implants, dental work, sculpting whatever has been left out, wigs costing thousands of dollars made from the finest European hair, undergarments that further the illusion of shape, and clothing that enhances areas for which the same is desired.
No, most transgendered individuals don't have the money, the access to the first-rank surgeons, cosmeticians and so on.

They do not have the wherewithal to buy the best clothes that fit correctly around shoulders and hips that may still be too awkward from decades of use as males. Or the shoes that fit properly, and are stylish, and don't make they feet look like ducks' feet.They haven't money for the surgery that will remove a prominent Adam's apple - or even reduce it to unobtrusive proportions - the wish of quite a few men, even straight, who are burdened with one.
Pilot Karen Ulane* -  no surgery to reduce the Adam's apple.

They don't have the money to hire trainers and teachers and companions to assist in their transition from male to female or vice versa. They are more likely lonelier, feel more despair, know deep-down that there is a degree of delusion to turn the wish into fact. They don't eat at top-notch restaurants, don't have families of "stars" and all the attendant sycophants who will always reassure them that they look as good as they hoped, if not "perfect", a much-overused word.

They have to wait in line for surgery; in Ontario they are at the mercy of the staff at CAMH. They are humiliated by having to ask third parties to verify that they "presented as" male or female - terminology reminiscent of Biology 101. They will never skip the line, and their treatment by the media (which currently are casting a benign gaze upon the issue, where until recently it was vituperation, venom and disgust) while currently mostly positive, will change with the wind, we media types being notoriously fickle. Who knows what will be the next juicy morsel to occupy the front pages?

Yes, it is heartening to see in the Jenner story proof that we are casting aside some of the more deeply rooted prejudices. But it shows the degree to which personal wealth make a difference in the quality and nature of treatment.

All one can say is this: Do not give up hope and find strength from others

* Karen Ulane (1941-1989) deserves a big thank you: Ulane v. Eastern Airlines became the federal legal precedent for transsexual legal status under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

(c)2015 Daisy Morant

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Sleepy - But Never a Yawn

All the dirt on Sleepy Hollow (from
Hello FOX.

You control the purse strings on such a degree of entertainment that it must, sometimes, be difficult to keep apart the winners and the losers, even if they're on the spreadsheet.

I always wonder what motivates a network - is it all only "return on investment" in the form of viewers? The way to gather the info on who is watching hat seems rather antiquated, if a few years after my time, so I don't understand the reasoning at all. You cannot  - in raw numbers - measure the entertainment and engagement values of any given show.  It makes one wonder whether there is perhaps a bit of horse trading as well. And if so, it is not something to which the viewer is privy, unless an insider spills ye proverbial beans.

There's a vehicle called this girl, or the girl, or the dotty goofy girl - so lame, so trite, a trope redone ad nauseam here, there, and everywhere. Requires goofy girl to roll her big eyes and look cute, a bit helpless. But cute.

Why is it on the air? are there really so many more viewers who take comfort in it? is it because everything is so predictable?

Then there's Sleepy Hollow which is literally engaging in trial by fire tonight - so everyone fire up your TVs. Sleepy Hollow is more than I enumerated below - it has silliness, it sometimes over extends itself, but it is


Terrifically well acted by everyone

An elastic concept that could last years, if the producers had any assurance that developing certain plots or story lines over seasons rather than episodes would not suffer death by cancellation.

An entertainment that has more than the usual lineup of cute white girl with big eyes, the standard assortment of goofy/serious/ambitious/wise-but-misunderstood white/whitish fellas, and, tucked away somewhere for the weekly dose of profundity, the Wise Old Owl, whether male, female, or anthropomorphic voice-over.

And . . . .last but not least -

it's not always squeaky clean. It is easy to underestimate the effect of a bit o' dirt, FOX. The sweaty, messy but still essentially clean hero/ine is more attractive than the squeaky one, because nothing is as characterless as a freshly-washed body. Could it be that it is this that is making you hesitate?

To which all I can say is - bring on the sweat! the twigs in the hair, the makeshift outfit, mismatched shoes, whatever. It speaks to actions, lustily engaged in. Of an idea, or a topic, so compelling that appearance takes second place.

If you pull the plug on Sleepy Hollow, while retaining the umpteenth cute girl with big eyes I'll have to go elsewhere for my entertainment - along with all my Sleepy compatriots.

Remember: It may be sleepy, but it's never a bore or a yawn.

(c)2015 Daisy Morant

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Friday, January 09, 2015

So You Want to be Martyrs -

The brothers who coldbloodedly massacred the journalists and policemen and others in Paris on 6 January 2015 have expressed their desire to die as martyrs. Just a short note to them:

Someone has twisted your religion as surely as others twisted Christianity to birth the Inquisition.  You are not going to be martyrs.  You will be remembered as extremists who could not assimilate in the real world and who consequently poured yet more blood upon Islam, for which you will never be forgiven by the millions of Muslims who lead peaceful lives. They are going to suffer the backlash against Islam, not you - you will be dead, or incarcerated. And the rest of the world will revile you for the two-bit killers that you are. The two of you are on the run. Like the rest of the gutless wonders who are willing to "die for an idea" (as long as notoriety and plenty of virgins in Paradise are provided) - you are too cowardly.

The cartoonists and editors you murdered - they are the courageous ones.  They did what you haven't the balls to do: they died for an idea. Which is bigger than yours, by the way. No matter how frequently governments or religions have tried to mold their subjects into obedient automatons, an idea has overturned their applecart. Sometimes it takes a bit longer. Other times it is swift and explosive.  The idea?

That every individual has the right to freedom of thought and freedom of speech. You can't kill that idea. You thought you could squelch it by killing those who had dedicated their lives not just to the idea but to the expression of that idea.  But the idea lives. The idea is growing stronger than ever, in part as a consequence of your stupid miscalculations. 

Did the murders give you any peace of mind?  Probably not: you are on the run.

For the sake of argument, let's say you die "a martyr's death" and you arrive at the gates to Paradise.  What do you think Allah will say?

Allah: My misguided children, you are at the wrong gate. You need to go down.

The brothers: We want in, O Great One. Where are our virgins? We were promised much food and as many virgins as we can deflower. Don't you appreciate what we just did for you?

Allah: No I don't. You blacken my name with this intolerable killing. I have half a mind to return you to life so that you can warn off the others.

The brothers: But - but - and Mohammed - what about him, we did it for him, too! We avenged the slurs against the Prophet!

Allah: Moe can't come to the gates right now. He's busy. He's reading Charlie Hebdo - do you hear him laugh? He will be very upset that you tried to kill the magazine by killing its staff.

The brothers: Well - they're dead. You won't see the magazine again.

Allah: You fools. You can't kill an idea. How do you think we got Islam into so many people's heads? No. Time for you to go to Hell. And I have relieved you of your names. You don't deserve them. You are less than the dirt under your feet.

 Je Suis Charlie:

Stéphane Charbonnier, aka Charb, 47 - “It might sound a bit pompous but I prefer to die standing than live on my knees.”

Jean Cabut, aka Cabu, 75 - formerly at Le Canard Enchaîné and Hara-Kiri.

Georges Wolinski, 80, Legion of Honour 2005.

Bernard Verlhac, aka Tignous, 58 - Five Years Under Sarkozy, 2011.

Bernard Maris, 68 - former scientific adviser to Attac, the international movement working for social, environmental and democratic alternatives in the globalization process.

Philippe Honoré, aka Honoré, 73 - self-educated artist from age 16.

Michel Renaud - former journalist from Clermont-Ferrand, a visitor.

Elsa Cayat - psychoanalyst, author and columnist.

Mustapha Ourrad  - an orphan from Algeria sent to France by his friends, self-educated, respected for his erudition and self-deprecation.

Ahmed Merabet - Muslim, a beat bobby shot in the groin, then point blank in the head as he lay on the pavement.

Franck Brinsolaro, 49 - police officer, Charb's bodyguard since 2013.

Frédéric Boisseau - a maintenance worker who was in the reception area when the attackers burst in.

(c)2015 Daisy Morant


If you Wanna Be Noticed - Mention a Nazi

Neo or Old School, doesn't matter.  Let me just say that the readership of my blog jumped 500-fold a couple of days ago, when I ran a story mentioning the neo-Nazis Heath Campbell and Bethanie Zito, who had better hide from their boy Adolf Hitler Campbell once he's an adult and looking to square things with the 'rents.

Weird, huh?

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Dear Fleet Labs . . .

About your feminine cleanliness ad, the one in Woman's Day, with the advice for us poor stoopit women to cleanse that there thing between our legs first thing in the morning.  Gosh! I'm so glad you told me - I'd never have thought that neglecting my vagina could be the cause for all that grief when I ask for a raise. And here I thought it was just due to my boss being a hardarsed thug stuck in the Fifties.

But you have set me straight: I stink. My crotch stinks. The stink from my crotch is offending the Editor. 

Why did I never think of that?

Oh, how I feel for all those poor men; how I must have offended them when I asked for more remuneration - running through my qualifications and accomplishments - and all they could do was to sit there, in my miasma, trying not to let their noses twitch and their eyes water.

YOU HAVE SAVED ME from a life of drudgery at my five-year rate forever. I'm gonna wash extra careful, three times a day from now on. I am so grateful I think I will spend my entire raise on (your trademarked product which I am not going to name).

It's never too late to improve oneself.

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Monday, January 05, 2015

The Facts Please!

As if the tabloid sites that have successfully migrated online were not liberal enough with "the truth", we now have to contend with such trash as Stuppid dot com (sorry, I won't provide a link) which recently published this "true story": That a couple of neo-Nazis were intending to burn a cross in front of a Chicago sperm clinic which had given them black sperm by error.

The article threw around words such as "ghetto monkey", claimed the daughter's name was "Watermelon" and went on " “The neo-Nazi community don’t want me now. My daughter’s a disgusting little half-breed with baboon lips and she’s going to hell cause she ain’t pure. But part of me still loves that little half-human, cause she’s mine and all, but this ain’t good.” " All of this springs from the fevered brain of someone at Stuppid who deserves to have his/her head reamed out.

The boyfriend was cited as "John Steelhammer".  The late Mr. Steelhammer was, in fact, a politician from Oregon in the first half of the Twentieth Century. The "mother" was stated to be "Molly Cram" - a name that appears on several genealogy sites.
It ain't me, babe.
It is the image that grabs most of the people who land on the page, and who then send it on to other sites: A tattooed swastika-wearing goon and bottle-blonde girlfriend who are unmasked, via, as Heath Campbell and Bethanie Zito, well-known neo-Nazis and now broken up.
 These delightful people were in the news not long ago after Mrs. Campbell evaded police who were there to arrest her for assaulting her roommate - Bethanie Zito.  Both women have children by Campbell, whose son is named Adolf Hitler Campbell (news junkies might recall that Zito's daughter, named Eva Lynn Patricia Braun, was taken away by child welfare authorities soon after she was born, and that Campbell became news when a store refused to write "happy birthday Adolf Hitler" on his son's third birthday cake))

I don't care what anyone names their website, or what they put on it, as long as they are clear about their nature.   But I do care about truth, facts, and truthful reporting of these sometimes slippery concepts.  It is all too easy to slip in the odd little factoid or distortion. It is still too easy for mistakes to find their way into print.  But to present as news - as facts - idiocies sprung from a third-rate brain is a bit much.  Let us not forget that the web rewards those who are impatient, and that favours the young, who don't necessarily yet have the savvy to separate fact from fiction.

Meanwhile, here is the Chicago couple who live with the sperm bank's error.  An altogether cheerier picture than of the menagerie cited above, though their story also has a number of unpleasant wrinkles. The child's face is not shown; she does not deserve to have her young life ruined by intrusions. Amanda Zinkon, Payton, Jennifer Cramblett (photo via

(c)2015 Daisy Morant

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Act well your part

“Act well your part; there all the honour lies.” Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man

image (c)
When we are asked how we want to be, we usually issue a platitude such as "oh I just want to be happy", since happiness is great, isn't it? look at all the comedians who always make us happy with their routine! Laughing all the while!

 Most comedians are not 'happy'; most actors, to varying degrees, do not like, or want to be, themselves; musicians and dancers turn their backs on the world and lose themselves in music; writers create worlds they'd prefer to live in, peopled with persons they'd rather know; many mystery/crime writers find it useful to put their own murderous thoughts to paper - creativity is driven by our failings.  Some of us even find the exposure of our Achilles heel to be gratifying, financially as well as personally.  But not everyone is fortunate enough to find a creative outlet, and many people who grapple with mental imbalance have been unable to find it or have sufficient courage to make use of it.

Every creative person has tornadoes of butterflies in the gut before the opening of the show, the release of the book, the rise of the curtain.  We live with the certain knowledge that we will fail, and are surprised when we don't, because everything that drives us to create also makes us believe that we cannot possibly succeed at it.

Comics/comedians seem to have a particularly thin layer of calm over their frantic desperation, a frantic rejection anxiety that seems to make their delivery manic - which audiences then applaud. So: are they laughing because one is funny, or because one is making such an idiotic spectacle of oneself? the question can't be far from their minds, can it.  If they also act - as Robin Williams did, terrifyingly so - in a negative role (the killer in Insomnia), bring to life a murderous persona, would this not further complicate the thoughts stumbling over one another in one's head???

Look at the picture. We do not need to look closely to see the man's pain, etched in his face. It is not the face of a happy man but one who seems ever at the brink of tears. We should remember him - all of him, from the best to the most troublesome - because it was the totality of the man that we responded to.

Friday, July 12, 2013

What We Owe Lac-Mégantic

CP photo (c)Ryan Remiorz

The devastation wrought upon the heart of Lac-Mégantic has come about because of greed, unconcern for one's environment and one's fellow human beings, and perhaps carelessness as the immediate trigger of the accident that sent a freight train of 73 tanker cars fully loaded with crude oil on its hellish mission in the early hours of Saturday, July 6, 2013.  This picturesque town situated on a lake in the Eastern Townships of Quebec will not be the same.  The trauma, the hurt, inflicted upon the survivors is so deep that one wonders how they will recover; for the residents who were killed one can only wish that it was quick.

There will be a push to rebuild the town, which has lost its memory - literally, as its library and archives were destroyed in the atomic-sized blast. There will be wrangling as to style of buildings, and what constitutes a fitting memorial to the dead.

Here's my suggestion:

Make the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railroad, owner of the track that led the tank cars into town, build new housing for the displaced, but not where they used to stand.  No, the scarred downtown should be bought by the railroad and donated to the town after they have installed a park.

Only green spaces, and the natural world, can heal a wound such as this, inflicted by everything technological. A park that covers the entire site, with a walled garden in which one may sit on benches and contemplate not only the people who died there, but the reason for their needless deaths.  Yes, it will be a very large park, but it has been a very large disaster, Lac-Mégantic doesn't just look as if there had been fires, it carries the same degree of devastation as Hiroshima - or even the Tunguska Event, when a meteor exploded in the air over Siberia and devastated the area utterly.

It is the same sort of devastation, with only the occasional chimney left standing, a bit of the arch over the library entrance, a few poplars stripped of all but their heartwood.

It will cost sooo much money! some will say.  Yes, money is what got everyone into this inferno: the rush to make as much money with a little expenditure as possible.  Let the railroad return some of that money that it made by ignoring the state of the rails - deformed, flaking steel, yet!  Make them plant trees and flowers, shrubbery that will attract birds, insects, butterflies, that will make one feel at peace, if only for a little while.

It isn't too much to ask.  The railroad has stolen their souls.  Let them give back something that will mend the spirit of Lac-Mégantic.

(c)2013 Daisy Morant


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Friday, July 05, 2013


The marvels of electronic communication bring a long list of emails to my inbox.  Sometimes one is so lulled by the regular appearance of vacant positions that one overlooks an aspect that struck me today as if it had been a cold, wet slap of Atlantic sea water:

nobody mentions "career" any longer.

Apart from the fact that the publishing industry is being decimated - to its detriment, no matter what anyone might put forth as an "improvement" - there still is much work that needs doing.

But, as is very clear from the new terminology, "job" is the new buzzword.  Don't bother thinking of your position as an editor as some sort of pathway, boy, it's just a job.  And it won't pay as well as it might have, and it won't offer you a decent pension, and it won't provide job security via a union, because you are just a cog in a machine now.  You will be treated with as much respect and dignity as such a cog deserves, which is minimal.  Because not only are you just a cog, you are an expendable cog - there are hundreds more just like you.

This is what a "business approach" will bring you.  Do you remember, a few years ago, when we were exhorted to think more like business people, in order to modernize operations, minimize duplication and all the rest of the buzzword thoughts that were held up like icons of the new religion - which is what business has deliberately molded itself to be.  The other buzzwords are thrown at us whenever we need reminding of our new place.  The company is passionate about its work.  It is inspired by its stakeholders. Collaboration is the way to reach shared goals.  Meaningful experience will help us to develop - into what, is never said - most likely a more pliable, company-minded cog.

Tell me how this is different from the Victorian experience.  You can't because it isn't.  Then, too, people were treated as expendable, used until they were used up, and tossed out the door.  Then it was a case of industrialization having displaced hundreds of thousands of agricultural workers; now it is a matter of computerization having displaced hundreds of thousands - nay, millions - of professionals.  And throughout it all we are supposed to say yes this is great and wonderful and a distinct improvement.

How so?  Having realized that they can pay their workers substantially less, companies now hold the upper hand but are cutting their own throats without realizing it.  The less you earn the less disposable income you have; the cost of shelter is so outrageous that many people have nothing left for niceties.  But there is the lure of the credit card: it will enable you to buy that $600 Hermes scarf that will boost your self-esteem.  It does need boosting, does it not? hasn't it been crushed by the new realities of the workplace?

There are always naysayers who will claim in all seriousness that we are innately devious and dishonest, that we would try to get away with bloody murder if we could but, not being so inclined, take it out on the poor employer instead, through "misuse" of hard-won rights.  Business supporters, especially in the political milieu, are quick to jump on us for "slacking off", for disloyalty to the company, for daring to leave when we no longer like the work.  Excuse me, but I didn't see where one must sign a loyalty oath, or promise, in bloody writing, to adhere to the company like the slaves it expects us to be.

Business has done this to itself.  There will be great pain and more social distortion and disruption before some more reasonable, equitable mechanism comes into being.
If business thought more clearly and with less self-interest about the contributions of its employees, and the manner in which they ought to be treated, they might find that they have a happier environment with fewer disgruntled employees who are sick less frequently - pay attention! one can be violently ill from being ignored and abused, and will be no less unwell than if one had the flu.  Offering employment with a potential career path will be perceived as more desirable than "a job".

After all, how do you characterize those chores you have do?  just a job.

(c)2013 Daisy Morant

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Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Whither δημοκρατία*? *democracy

This afternoon Egyptian President  Mohammed Morsi has been tossed out of office by the military.

An overwhelming number of Egyptians - and many foreigners, including myself - didn't like him and/or the way in which he was proceeding but he was a democratically elected head of state.

This will put democratic thinkers into a twist. If we do not like our prime minister - and I don't - should we riot in the streets until the Canadian Forces throw him out on his ear? 

Wait till I stop laughing.  For one thing, our oh-so-lily-white democratic (maybe - one could argue the point, we are after all not a democracy but a parliamentary monarchy with a foreign crown-wearing head and a rubber-stamping stand-in who ain't the PM) - well, let us call it democratic - our democratic history coupled with our once-slavish adherence to the crown means that there's much forelock-tuggery and arse-kissery left in the Canadian character.  Can you imagine Canadians en masse rioting to expel Harper?  Exactly.

But what of south of the border?  The U.S. of A. is a roiling cauldron, compared to the crockpot of Canada.  There people are not only free with their opinions but also their plottery and snarkery and gun-waving threatery any time a president dares to tread on a toe.  One has the suspicion that their broader puffery in all things political is probably a safety valve of the sort Canadians don't have and don't think they need.  They have a similar safety valve in Egypt, in a manner of speaking.  Countries of Anglo-Saxon/Germanic origin are more phlegmatic, not as liable to go over the top and into chaos.  One wonders if the army was gauging the mood of the populace until it reached the right temperature - a few degrees shy of critical - after which they felt they had to act.

Probably prevented the patient from expiring from a fever.

But the question remains:  What next, when a country's constitutional mechanism has been upended?  To whom do the other democratically elected heads of state around the world owe loyalty and allegiance?  What will they say when they laud the army - wunnerful, wunnerful, just don't do that here? Is even one of them going to shake his fists and call them subversives? who will wrap himself in the flag of democracy when democracy has just been used as a >ahem< toilet tissue?

Can democracy continue to work in a world where the number of citizens is in the billions, and the number of different ideas as to how things ought to be is in the billions as well???  How will one reach consensus?  How will one define a majority? this preoccupies many a vote-rigging helpmate of a shady politician, first requiring much polling and then the political will to distort appearances to suggest that things are not as they are. 

We aren't toga-wearing inverts prancing around the agora of the Greek democratic city-state (they wouldn't let women in, either, so how democratic where they, hein?) No - we are overwhelmed, frustrated, overburdened, sleep-deprived people trying to accommodate the technological changes of the modern world so that technological changes do not bend us out of shape.  We have high mortgages, thick waists, thinning hair, rebellious, fractious children, boring partners, insane neighbours, Hitleresque low-level bureaucrats, scheming politicians and crass and greedy businesses.  We are pulled in a billion dirctions at once and only our internal gravity keeps us together. 

We aren't citizens in a newish democracy feeling our way through the quag, the mire and the muck. Instead of rioting we are more likely to think "gawd, if I show up in the riot I'll lose my job" or "I'd go carry a sign if I weren't so tired" or "just another x months till the next election, I mean, how bad can it get?"

It can get very, very bad indeed.  It can get so bad that we do not recognize our country.  But that is not very likely - yet.  Between possibility and probability there lies an entire universe. At least, let's hope so.

(c)2013 Daisy Morant

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Hate Mail

I don't like my MP, Rick Dykstra, thank you.  I have my reasons, which I will not get into.  But I dislike being manipulated by special interest groups even more.  And when they stuff the kind of bloody crap in my mailbox that you see here

they can go to hell.

The law of the land suits these people only as long as it upholds their views; the moment it veers away they resort to the kind of tactic that backfires against them even as it - let me use a current word here -  angrifies them.

There is a process.  It is called Parliament.  If you want to change the law that is where you should go.  Pillorying and slandering and manipulating people doesn't work; it will blow up in your faces.

As for sharing your opinion with me, you are entitled to do so within the parameters of what the law allows; hate mail is not permitted.  This is inflammatory hate mail directed against a member of Parliament who will be dealing with the consequences of his actions in the next election.

* * * * 

Comments are closed.

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Sunday, June 30, 2013

eBay: Swine Among the Pearls

Let us now turn to eBay, surely the champion "department store" of the gullible, where sellers from China can pitch "Charming! 8-9mm Black Akoya Cultured Pearl Necklace 18" for  $3.38 and have a buyer fall for it.  The fact that some buyers have virtually no experience with online shopping is not mitigating the fact that eBay turns a blind eye to fraud on its site.

Real Akoya Saltwater Cultured Pearls

Akoya, in case you are clueless, are the very pinnacle of Japanese cultured pearls, at least, they can be, when made by such companies as Mikimoto, and you can expect to pay a hefty price, unless you find them at an estate sale or have similar luck elsewhere.  Eighteen inches of eight to nine millimetre Akoya black pearls will set you back at least two thousand dollars and the thought that you could possibly find them on eBay, undercut by the Chinese wholesaler, for three dollars and thirty-eight cents is not just laughable but pathetic in a sort of is-this-person-retarded-or-just-stupid way.  

Yayayaya I hear you, it no longer is polite to say "retarded" but guess what, it is very clear in describing the unfulfilled nature of the intellect, so retarded it will stay.

Again.  One might think a person with such expectations could be retarded, but that would be an insult to those who actually suffer from intellectual deficits.

Ignorance, greed, stupidity and more come to mind as well.

An assembly of slightly larger black pearls, also 18 inches long, is currently listed at five thousand dollars plus, which is a bit above competitive.  However, that seller offers the option of a counteroffer, so it will probably go for $4,500 or thereabouts - depending on the seller's desperation. 

But back to eBay.

This mega company presents itself as squeaky clean! Champion of the buyer!  Will not tolerate deception!

It will descend like the Hammer of Thor upon a hapless seller who has earned only four stars, rather than the mandatory five - you didn't know that, did you?  Apparently all sellers now are to earn five stars in every category of feedback or there are penalties. 

But if you are a mega seller like those shifty Chinese fly-by-nighters, you won't care.  Listing two thousand items at any time represents a fat chunk of fees to eBay, which won't complain.  And thus we are at the heart of the matter.  Ignorance among the buyers is one gear that keeps eBay earning high profits.

A few years ago I was sold beer bottle glass as "imperial topaz".  I had complained, but to no avail.  I began to email the seller's other customers who had left feedback and got their horror stories by return mail.  They made sad, but instructive, reading.  When I looked more closely at the images accompanying the listings I discovered that the same photo were used for all of them, although the listings themselves assured buyers that they were looking at actual photos of the merchandise.

The seller at that moment was calling himself bellepig.  Reporting him to eBay did no good.  So I set up bellepig as follows:  because he had a "satisfaction guaranteed" policy I bid on about a dozen of his "gemstones".  When I won them, I informed him that these stones were as fake as those which he had already sold me, therefore I was not going to be satisfied, therefore I was not going to pay him.

Bellepig went through some contortions before he reported me as a non-paying bidder; they would make hilarious reading were it not for the underlying threats. 

Why did I go this route?  Because there was no way to report to eBay that a seller was selling fakes.  Once the seller reported a non-paying bidder, though, an actual person from eBay got involved in shepherding the case through its "court".  I sent him a report including information like specific gravity, refractive indices etc. all of which supported the fact that bellepig had been rooting around in the beer garden, not the topaz mines.

Bellepig was kicked off eBay but you can be assured that he was back on, with another front man and another identity, almost immediately.

eBay now makes it even more difficult to report sellers of fake items because its reporting system is so set up as to weed out almost everyone with a legitimate complaint - but that is another story.

Which returns us to the hopeful buyers of two-thousand-dollar necklaces and such, who expect to be sold the real thing, for anywhere from eighty-eight cents to seventynine dollars and ninetynine cents for    


The picture that accompanies this listing shows cheap, dull, barely-lustrous freshwater pearls that can't have been long in the oysters, that have blebs and other deficiencies, and the interior beads of which - it is quite clear - have been shaped to give the baroque effect.  And this seller offers free shipping, so you can ask the buyer of this yard-long strand of one-half to three-quarter inch "natural" "South Sea" "AAA" "pearls" whether s/he is expecting the real thing.

More importantly, is this buyer going to be leaving good, five-star feedback? thus further enriching the entirely undeserved reputation of this crook?

Yes, this buyer appears to be readying herself for a wedding followed by a new household; over the past few months she has been stocking her post box with not just furnishings but also the sort of things one wears on one's honeymoon and gives as gifts to one's bridesmaids.  Let's hope they don't know much about pearls.

She will return to this crooked seller, as she has, a number of times,as when she purchased "natural" "peridot" "faceted" beads.  The only trouble with those is that they appear to be glass, because they most certainly are pressed, not faceted.  Faceting leaves sharp edges; pressed or molded or poured glass cannot attain such sharpness; the softness of the edges always gives it away.

Well, one hopes that she isn't selling these items as the real thing in a shop.  One may quite happily delude oneself, but it isn't done to pull the wool over others' eyes for profit.

At least, not in our world.  In the Chinese world things are never what they seem.  Where we pride individuality the Chinese value the ability to copy an image, an idea, unchanged for hundreds of years.

eBay, however, straddles the juncture of these two worlds.  Badly and uncomfortably, I would say.

(c)2013 Daisy Morant

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Not Your Average Love Story

Let us celebrate the selfless love of a young woman. Most of the twenty-somethings that I know are busy exploring aspects of their personality, different jobs, fashions, boys - beginning to stretch their wings to see how far - whether - they can fly.
There is always someone who already knows, who has felt in her bones since she was a child that she is meant to be a lawyer, a doctor, a cat-rescuer. Such a person is Susana Claros Pazini, who lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and who is a Protetora De Animais - protector of animals.
Now, I know a lot of animal lovers, but I have never come across anyone as selfless, as deeply empathic as Susana. And if this story proves anything, it will be that there are times when love transcends even that great, unbreachable barrier between the species.
A bit of background here: though I have exchanged messages with her, I don't personally know Susana, have never met her, but literally fell into her world one day when I was researching three-legged cats, then two-legged, etc. and up came the story of Susana and Niño, a cat who was so profoundly disadvantaged he had not the use of even one leg, nor one eye, and a lot of other medical wretchedness. 

There are so many scams online that at first I wondered - could there really be a quadriplegic cat? how would it live? what would its care require?  And then I found out.
He appeared to be just another slum cat in the wretched Sao Paulo favelas, a clumsy cat, being tormented by children for whom this was entertainment.  Susana chased them away and took him home, aware that something was not right.
She named him Niño - child - and immediately took him to a veterinarian who did all the usual things vets do when an animal has been rescued, though he - and Susana - realized that some ugly process, likely neurological, was raging through Niño's body. The question was, could it be reversed?
Deep within the cells of our bodies there are various organelles with specialized functions, without which we cannot live. Mitochondria resemble bean-shaped slippers. The maze-like arrangement of membranes within enables them to convert energy into forms usable by the cell. Vesicles are little membrane-enclosed bodies that transport bits from one part of the cell to another.
Lysosomes -"Suicide Cells" in the dry wit of the scientist - are, in effect, the recycling centres of the cell, taking in trash - cell debris, bacteria, old organelles - digesting it with various enzymes, patching cell walls and disposing of cell components no longer wanted or needed, such as the tails of tadpoles or the webs between the fingers of developing fetuses.  All that cellular trash has to be broken down by the use of enzymes and there is where the problem lay.

One of the substances that has to be taken apart is long, string-like chains of sugars termed mucopolysaccharides, that have a mucous quality and are found in corneas, cartilage, skin, tendons etc. You see how it works: muco - mucus;  poly - many;  saccharides - sugars. Woe betide those whose bodies are lacking one of the eleven enzymes required to carry out this complex recycling: they will be affected by one or another mucopolysaccharidosis, abnormal accumulation of the substance in the body.

Among our species their presence is usually evident soon after birth in hydrocephalus, abnormal or delayed development, hearing loss - the list goes on.  These disorders are called, among others, Hunter, Hurler, Sly, Maroteaux-Larmy, and vary in severity. To the vet who was examining Niño, it did not matter which syndrome was expressing itself – his primary concern was whether it was reversible or not. . .And then, in April 2011, two weeks after the newly-married Susana had adopted Niño, she got the bad news that the sweet cat she had rescued was not to be hers for long.  Neurologically he was already compromised.  Many a vet would have recommended euthanizing Niño but Susana had mad a commitment to the cat when she rescued him.  She took him to physiotherapy, to acupuncture, to radio-stimulating sessions. A little help and support from his animal friends went a long way to providing Niño with a happy life.
Susana opened a Facebook page.  People sent her money for treatments, gifts, food, sweaters, a little wagon with a canvas cot suspended in it, with which she took Niño everywhere.  She crammed a lifetime's experiences into his one short, bittersweet year. 
Everyone they visited - whether merchants, veterinarians, old horses, other cats, school children - recognized not just a seriously ill animal, but a deeply loved one.  One of whom they might never have taken notice except for Susana's bringing him to them.
They felt his failing senses with their intact ones.  They honoured him with a touch of his muzzle, a pet of his fur, and a deep sense of respect for Susana.  The children sent many lovely drawings of this extraordinary being; the newspapers visited, published accounts of this special creature.  Susana and her friends took numerous pictures of Niño or both. 
Even the animals sensed that here was someone who was special.  The horse (above)quite clearly understands that Niño is not just a cat, but a rare and special creature - as is the woman holding him.  Animals usually know.  Living largely on instinct they trust when their senses tell them to stay - or to run like the wind.
He was presented with a very special cake.
In her selfless love for a profoundly handicapped creature, Susana demonstrated to us all that when one gives love, love is returned.  And the more one gives, the more one receives - this is nothing new, but in a time when we seem, all of us, about to go off the rails in self-absorption and egocentricity, this story continues to resound, reiterating the lessons we were taught in childhood.
 Niño died in Susana's arms at 5:30 a.m., on May 25, 2012.
What is most remarkable is that, until the very end, when his body had failed him, his senses were dampened down to almost nothing, when Susana came to the heartbreaking realization that he was dying, even then there shone in his eyes great love for her.
You can't miss it. And nobody did; everyone who looks now at photos of Niño sees that this love spanned a gulf made deeper and wider by a cruel illness, but spanned it did. And enriched Susana and all of us who take the time to learn about him.  
Susana continues to fight for all those helpless little creatures who too frequently are ignored by a crush of humanity too much focused on other things - whether the need to get a job, find a place to live, pick that new nail polish, or give someone the boot.  Too often we look but do not see.

It is given to very few of us to be so completely selfless and devoted to someone in hopeless, terminal condition. When our hearts are weighed in that final accounting, Susana's surely will test the sturdiness of the scale. 
Photography (c)Susana Claros Pazini, (c), please advise if your credit is missing.

read about Niño here
and here
One of the hundreds of drawings by schoolchildren; this one by Carolina Germanotta.

(c)2013 Daisy Morant

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Monday, June 03, 2013

Whole Lotta Cats!!!!

If you go to a convenience store, a grocery store, a gas station booth, or a mall you cannot hope to avoid lottery sales.

They're everywhere, and if you are human you will at some point have been tempted to buy a ticket.  You may even be that one person in a million who is so tightfisted, and so skeptical, that you thought about it and said - naaaah! I'll buy a licorice whip instead.

But lotteries are here for good - governments no longer can do without the income.  And there are so many dreamers. . . .

Good. Let's put them to work to help solve a problem: Feral dogs and cats. For simplicity, let's just refer to them all as "cats" - a dog is nothing but a weird cat, anyway. 

Not every cat is going to be as ultimately fortunate as Mr Alexander Habibi - an earlier post below, ESMA, details his rescue and metamorphosis from deep horror to majestic white emperor.  But we know much more about handling feral animals, which these days, in enlightened areas, consists of trapping, checking their health, vaccinating and neutering them, and returning them to live their lives as they do - on the lam.  Not every cat is a housecat, and not every cat has been socialized.  So they are not going to be as hard done by as one might think.

TNR - Trap, Neuter, Release - is a terrific program and like many terrific things, it is expensive.

Why not devote an entire lottery to the reduction of the feral population?

Yours truly recently sent a white paper/proposal to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, who may or may not have read it but sent a cute letter implying that they don't accept ideas from the public because the public then will be at their door demanding a cut of the profits.  "It was my idea, bro!" they envision the plaid-shirted, beer-swilling hosers yelling, "now gimme my cut, I'm low on beer, Bud!"

Well, that wasn't what I had in mind.

At times the adoption of an idea is more important than one's profiting personally from it.

After OLG's refusal I sent it to the office of the Premier of Ontario - it's a proposal that will likely require inter-ministry involvement.

Think I'll hear from them?  The proposal is simple:

Set up a lottery specifically and exclusively to generate funds for the TNR program and associated activities.

Split the proceeds into three streams - one that helps fund TNR across the province;  another that feeds an Emergency Assistance Fund; the third that establishes and funds an adoption network.

On the surface these things don't seem earth-shaking, if somewhat labour-intensive.  But one has to remember that we now are able to tie everything together through electronic communication.  There are endless organizations that rescue cats, foster cats, transport cats, and adopt them out.  The Humane Societies and Animal Control services of cities are so swamped, so overloaded with cats that are given up, found, thrown from vehicles etc. that their only solution is to euthanize them when they pass the time limit, which can be very, very short if the cat is old, sick, unhappy to be there, not attractive, and so on.  Fact is that the rescue networks do a fine job in rescuing cats of this sort, fostering them, bathing and prettying them up and making them adoptable.  Fact is, people don't actually care if a cat has only three legs, or is blind, or deaf, or a mean-looking son-of-a-gun.  There are even people who rescue and socialize adult feral cats that have had to be medically treated, their bond with the big outdoors thus having been broken.

All right, you say, tell me how this works.

The TNR-support portion is a straightforward support of the programs in various areas of the province.  Some of these programs are in danger of being dropped, as they are labour- and cash-intensive.  I imagine TNR support would be the prime beneficiary of the lottery profits.

The Emergency Assistance Program would top up donations required for emergency medical assistance (arrow through the head, acid burn etc - dealing with the cruelties sick people visit upon animals are not for the faint of heart).  Let's say someone finds a cat with an arrow through the head.  They take him to a vet who agrees to treat the animal. The person sets up a chipin-type fund via social media, but the vet needs money up front.

First of all, it would be better if an organization were in charge of setting up the fund-raising campaigns, because that would prevent fraud of the sort when an enterprising woman claimed to be raising money for an 82-year-old owner of a purebred, pregnant cat who had been hit by a car etc etc etc and who was unmasked when the picture of the cat she claimed to be the victim was identified as living halfway around the world.

The EAP would act as a bridge between the amount raised and the amount required. This is a more frequent occurrence than you think, especially in a world where machines, which have no sensibilities, have taken over the workplace. This revenue stream likely would not be as broad as that of TNR.

The Adoption Network would consist of an online presence that puts together the adopters, the transporters, the shelters and veterinarians, and companies that are willing to donate their services.  I think it would require an office with one or possibly two full-time employees to keep it up to date, to handle true emergencies, and to keep the fences mended, the gate oiled, etc.

You may not agree.  You may think it's a pipe dream, you may think all cats ought to be sent on a raft to a very small island populated by very large rats.  You may think all sorts of things but I don't think you could argue the facts: that there are too many cats, that the current way of handling them is spotty, unnecessarily cruel, and creates moral dilemmas for those whose job it is to kill animals every day. Let us think outside the box for a moment. . .
+    *    +    *    +

so you think people are, perhaps, overdoing it, being nice to animals????  then how about this!   Enjoy!
(c)2013 Daisy Morant

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Call Me Cassandra

So Prince Charles has called upon the food industry to come up with a more localized food delivery system. read here  and here  and on about a million other redundant pages that clog the Net.


Well whoop-de-do.  Twentythree or so years ago yours truly sent a carefully thought-out package to the Prince, who did not deign to respond.  The carefully thought-out package, which took me a year to work out, investigate and write, included tie-ins to

  • UN protection of unique local agricultural areas around the globe - such as the Niagara Peninsula, Canada's richest fruit-growing area,
  • courses in agricultural colleges dealing with the special requirements of these areas, as well as
  • courses dealing with the "rare" animal varieties - in other words, any cow other than holstein, any Sus domesticus other than Landrace, and the multitude of poultry, rabbits, pheasants etc.
  • courses in agricultural colleges dealing with the preservation of at-risk species and varieties of fruit and vegetables, including the specific pruning requirements of such trees,
  • internships or similarly structured residential courses where students of these courses would staff the farms in the protected areas and learn hands-on how to grow and care for heritage varieties,
  • even the collection of food wastes to be processed into organic composts that would be used at these farms, or be recycle into the local community.

Yours truly even sent along a diagram for free-standing recycling bins in sets of three, for glass, metal and paper.

Oh the response I did not get.  Curious, because usually the royals are fanatical about responding to anyone who writes.  One must keep one's fans mollified, right?

I rewrote the proposal as a White Paper and sent it to the Kellogg Foundation, hoping they might bend their rules as I was not an American resident.  Hahaha!

I then rewrote it as an updated White Paper which, as I understand it, has been forwarded to Dr. Jane Goodall because she has now opened the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada, one of the concerns of which is to make life better for the millions  billions of poor farmers, who cannot afford to pay for the Devil's Seeds - the genetically modified seeds that Monsanto grows even when interdicted.  The corporation's attitude?  who the hell are you, the government? you don't control us!

I'm getting tired of butting my head against the wall about this - it's what happens when - unlike someone such as Madonna, let's say - one is too far ahead of the crowd.  Such as I was on January 22, 1972 (you read it right, seventy-two), when I ran the first page of articles in the Oshawa (Ontario, Canada) Times, detailing the garbage crisis that was looming, the problems that would arise, and how local people could help do their little bit (apart from simply cutting back on buying over-packaged items) to reduce quantity, and volume, on trash.

Well, yours truly was equally busy at that time, being harassed endlessly, and viciously, by the management of the then-Thomson newspaper, because my name was on a suit against the paper on the basis of  Equal Pay for Equal Work.  And that's another interesting point.  In all the years since I have not read or heard one word from any female journalist.  Clearly I was wrong in assuming that at least one of them might have appreciated the fact that it was my neck that stuck out, tempting the sword throwers in the publishers' offices.  And whatever became of that concept? that two people doing equal work should be equally compensated???  doesn't matter.  As water it's not even under the bridge any longer but has been recycled a hundred times through all stages of lake, earth, cloud, body.  Somehow I was meant to do this - tho I still don't know to what end.

There you have it - some of us are meant to be Cassandras, whereas others are meant to be perceived as knights in shining armour.

Despite it all, I will still throw in my lot with the Cassandras of the World.

(c)2013 Daisy Morant

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

You Want News? Don't Kill Journalism

So people, including prominent journalists, think social media will create a more informed public? One in which everyone will exchange the latest bumpf?

Don't bet on it.
Recent events have demonstrated the failure of traditional journalism when it adopted social and digital information exchange,  just as its greater failure  has been to cut its own throat by starving the readers for the past three or more years.

photomanipulation (c)Daisy Morant of image (c)
In the case of the Boston, journalism entirely abandoned its role as gatekeeper, verifier of fact, measured and accurate reporter of events, and yielded to the gross onrush of factoids, inflammatory and prejudicial speculation, a flood of tweets and other conveyances of incorrect information, out-and-out rumour and more.  This is what people want, they are told, and people will be damned if they won't get it - if not from the Daily Gatherer then the Nightly Blabberer.

The Gatherers and Blabberers forgot one essential fact:  People have been buying newspapers despite the presence of radio and television because the newspapers were able to provide an element of newsgathering and dissemination that radio and TV aren't very good at:  elaboration, summary, analysis, comment.  People sat down with their papers and took time to read all they could about the events that were on everyone's mind, facts they hadn't known about, other opinions and ideas, and ruminated on the whole.

In Boston media coverage was a messy, gory free-for-all with all the media tweeting and huffing and blowing trash into cyberspace.  Their abdication of their central role resulted in exaggeration and rumour that included a third explosion - not - and twelve dead - not.

This is not what journalism is about, nor is it what journalists do.  Do you want proof that people will pay for newspapers that they will then read?

Ask the Orange County (Cal.) Register, which has been hiring journalists and writers as fast as it can, to fill the needs for which the subscribers will pay.  The readers want more than 140 characters.  They want background.  Colour.  Quotes from a variety of people. Meat on the bones.

Stuff that in your beak, Twitter.

 (c)2013 Daisy Morant

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Need For the Whole Truth

A doctored photograph of victims in the Boston Marathon bombings is published as fact, leading to a number of comments pro and con its publication.  What is particularly disturbing is that some comments are from people who have defended "the American way of life"; these people say by all means doctor the photo so that people won't be upset by more blood and gore".  My question is, do you really want to live in a system where you can never be certain whether you are seeing the truth? isn't that what all the fighting has been about, against regimes in parts of the world where this is a routine happenstance?

Journalists report the news; the news is what happens. Photojournalists report the news via photos they take of the events that have occurred; publishing photos that have been altered - for whatever reason - is not journalism and is one of the more egregious actions a journalist - editor, publisher - can undertake, because it violates one's notions of integrity, destroys one's credibility as a news source, and leaves one open to suspicions ever after that one is not being entirely truthful.  Do you want that attached to your name as a (photo)journalist? not bloody likely. If I were John Tlumacki, the author of the photo in question, I would be damn mad and demand an apology. (the photo was doctored to cover a severe leg wound on a victim with "pants".

I know this will perhaps cause someone to say "what about apologizing to the victim for intruding into his/her grief?"

Unfortunately there are instances in which a member (or members) of the public are swept up in circumstances that are unpleasant - or worse.  The fact that there is a public component to these events means, as well, that the notions of purely private hurt or grief do not apply.  Even if these events occur in a private space, the fact that they have public consequences (arrest and trial of perpetrator, etc) takes away their claim to be an entirely private event.  If we want to have the rule of law, we have to accept all aspects of the application of that law; this will include proof of the transgression (photos of victims) and proof of the state's sincere attempt to punish the transgressor.  Sometimes this does not occur, for one reason (insufficient proof) or another (the state overstepped its authority).  Then the chorus resumes: we should not make these innocent people suffer any more than they already do.

The point is this: if you want a free society you must maintain a free press.  A free press must be able to present the news as clearly, in as unbiased a fashion as possible.  Then you, as a citizen, can be informed and can base your decisions on the facts.  One feels for the victims of these blasts; one feels their agonies, their lost lives, their requirement to live henceforth with severe restrictions and hurt.  But one must also honour their sacrifice with the truth, not some doctored, prettified version thereof.

(c)Daisy Morant 2013

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CIRCULAR FORMS, (c)Garrick Palmer, 2009.  Mr. Palmer's chef d'oeuvre, and proof that wood engraving is a supreme intellectual challenge.  Edition of 20.  Three available.  If you are interested in purchasing, please leave your address in the comment box.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

And now for something completely different

Prune and Sherry Ice Cream

What's ice cream doing in a blog that deals with fake fabrics, murders, and opinions on all manner of wacky things, you ask?

Every blog, no matter how serious, must come up from time to time to catch a breath of the air out there.  For me that includes ice-cream making, which I considered seriously a few years ago when I was eating excellent ice cream but rebelling at the price.  I can do it about as well as these guys, I muttered, frequently - and pointlessly, as I had no way of proving my puffery.

Then one of my darling daughters gave me an Ice Cream Maker - I capitalize the words to indicate the seriousness of the tool I was given.  Anyone can stick liquids of various sorts in the freezer and hope they come out somewhat scoopable.  But an actual Ice Cream Maker requires one to approach more seriously the entire art of the frozen delight.  Consider this (my preference, that is, you may have your own):  Like jam, ice cream must be
Ze doktor speaks!

Possessed of a pleasing texture, and
Capturing the essence of the subject at hand.

I live in Canada where almost all commercially made ice cream is way too sweet (and it is worse south of the border!).  Canadians are well-known to favour gooey, sticky, sweet ice creams/desserts, which is why, when one looks for fruit ice creams, one is almost always disappointed, just as North American jams are simply too full of high-fructose corn syrup and not enough of the fruit.

When we were making jams and jellies we held the proportions, wherever possible, as close to 50%-50% as we could.  When biting into a glob of berry jam one wants to be able to taste the berry as well as its sweetness.  In the same way one wants the ice cream to be sitting right at the intersection of sweet and tart.  One wants to feel blissfull and almost ready to weep at the same time - the way one does when one has something utterly sour in one's mouth but it is exactly what is needed to cut through the heat and the sugar.

Well, enough of that.

To resume:  ice cream must be sweet, and tart, and have a smooth, silky texture.  It must taste as it is meant to, not sugary.  It is not to have a granular texture, that's simply bad preparation.

And thus I began experimenting with the ice cream maker which worked like a charm and which has only the one drawback: it has no lid one can slap onto it - thus doubling as a proper ice cream container.

First ice cream:  apricot.  Not everyone in my family likes apricot - certainly not as much as I do.  Decades ago we were able to get half-pound packages of fabulously huge Australian glaceed apricots, about six to a package, that were all of the above: sweet, tart, with great texture - and no leathery bits of skin that some processors neglect to remove.  But we haven't seen them in a few years.  Last time they appeared as a Christmas gift we were utterly shocked to find they cost over fifty dollars for a pound and a half from the only place that had them, which shall remain nameless, but may be recognizable if you think of their overpriced cookware and their chi-chi snob appeal.  Exorbitant!  The giver of the gift understood that we were concerned for the health of her pocketbook; we have since ignored their mention in holiday catalogues and gift suggestion lists.  So one turns to the smaller Turkish apricot, ubiquitous in dried form, or - in a moment of desperation - to four-dollar-a pound French glaceed apricots, smaller, perhaps, but oooooooooooh soooooooooo wonderful.

Problem was, they did not yield the silken texture we were looking for.  Back to the Turkish apricots.  Very slow long cooking over gentle heat was the way to go; the skins slipped off nearly intact, the innards disintegrated almost entirely, and the resulting Philadelphia-style ice cream - apricot puree, sugar, cream - was bliss.

At the time we took home a couple of packages of apricots there was a special - three packages of dried fruit for ten dollars.  There sat the lone(ly) cellophane bag of pruneaux d'Agen, shivering in anticipation of being neglected.  We eyed the prunes; the prunes - I swear - eyed us, and before we knew it I had upended my glass of Pedro Ximenez sherry (rich, dark, pruney, raisiny, with an underlying tang and just a hint of a kick) into a glass bottle with the prunes.

Time passed slowly, measured by the twist of the wrist, the turning of the bottle upside down to ensure that the rich dark wine reached every part of the rich, dark prune.  We whiled away the hours by recollecting the French name fracas when someone wanted to name their daughter Plum instead of Prune, which eventually led to the archaic French name laws being overturned, or possibly swept away for a bit, to be revisited later.

Over time the prunes and the sherry began to exchange characteristics and when, one day, the sherry no longer looked liquid but rather more like jelly, we knew its time had come.

You cannot rush this sort of process.  If you wish to have prune and sherry, or prune and port, ice cream you should begin by macerating the prunes at least three or four months ahead of time.  Think that's silly?  By the time the prunes were ready their texture was meltingly soft.  None of the occasional stringy texture that runs alongside the pit, no leathery skin. They required but a little whirl in the blender - one does not want them to be a mousse; that would be entirely characterless and detrimental to the finished product.  One wants bits of prune to punctuate the smooth ice cream.

This is a custard-based recipe - custard has always been an irritant in our house.  It will refuse to set properly, it may even have curdle, once, but frequently the result is blah and bland.  But this was a new recipe - and the eggs were new.  Not fresh-new, but different, from a different farm, Omega-3 eggs.  They looked better, separated better, and mad an absolutely superb custard, which - believe it or not - did not form the nemesis of such squeamish cooks as I, a skin.  Custard/pudding skin is one of the most horrible things one may encounter, short of an alien concocted in Hollywood.  Let's leave it at that, explanations unnecessary and possibly liable to make one gag.  The custard was absolutely perfect, skinless, cooled down entirely when in went the prune/sherry puree.  From there into the Ice Cream Maker.  Twenty-five minutes later, bliss.  Of course with an amount of alcohol in the mix (even after all these months) the ice cream will not freeze rock solid but one doesn't want it to do so.  The next day when the Official Taster lifted the lid she oooooohed and aaaaaaaaahed at the surface of the ice cream: smooth, not grainy, rich, somewhat yielding, prune-flecked.  And the taste?

It is not an exaggeration to say that there are foods that can make one feel that one has approached the Divine, or that the Divine has decided to show us glimpses of the joy that awaits in Paradise -

The ice cream was perfection.  It is also so rich that one cannot possibly eat the entire amount in one go, or two.  One generous scoop - courtesy of a 1930s aluminum-handled ice cream scooper - is all one can manage.  And that's as it ought to be.  One shouldn't have to eat half a tub of ice cream before feeling that one has had a serving.  Even at that, the half-tub is mostly air, gums, fillers, extenders, fakery meant to make one feel that one has had a serving of dessert when in fact one has been diddled.  Again.  Even the expensive ice cream manufacturers are relying on some of these fakers; one feels it in the weight of the container.  Our prune and sherry ice cream is so heavy it requires both hands.  The - admittedly smaller - tubs of commercially prepared ice cream, while still heavier than the dreck that it is most people's misfortune to eat, are heavier than the "popular brands" but, weighed against home-made, they are short.  They also have stronger machines that beat more air into the mix; one of their manufacturers told me, straight-faced, that this extra air was required to make the ice cream more scoopable.

Hm.  Isn't it just as easy to take it out a minute earlier?

If it is the last thing you ever do, make your own ice cream.  Just once.  You will instantly grasp that
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your Pantry," to paraphrase William Shakspere (as correct as Shakespeare, btw).  So why not taste them!???

 (c)2013 Daisy Morant


Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Theft Of Words

I Said It First! - Terence
The three young journalism students who wrote the article in the Ryerson Review of Journalism, "Willfully blind: A closer look at the Margaret Wente plagiarism scandal and what it says about The Globe and Mail's institutional arrogance" should be justly proud of their article. 

The Globe has always, in my experience at least, positioned itself as "the paper of record", but for decades it has been retreating from that position - one of the most informative columns carried by the paper was What Was Said,  a partial transcript of the day's proceedings in Parliament.  That was a window on the process that has the most direct effect upon our lives, and it is sorely missed.  Moreover, in its first wave of computerization, at the end of the Seventies, the newspaper did away with compositors and proofreaders, thereby eliminating a tier of fact-checking that captured more errors - of fact, of grammar, etc - than one could imagine.  The removal of copy editors completed the gutting of the fact-checkers and grammarian nit-pickers that helped sustain the Globe's reputation.  Pick up any edition and you will find such unpardonable lapses as "[the late premier of Alberta, Ralph Klein] slayed the province's $23-billion debt".  I hear people groaning, opining that it doesn't matter whether it is grammatically correct as long as it is, factually. 

Bosh and hogwash.  The removal of these layers of inspection at publications has seriously damaged the overall quality of the written word everywhere, as is evidenced by missing quotes, spelling and grammatical errors, words falling off the page and widows (single words at the end of a paragraph, appearing alone at the top of a fresh column or page), random characters or words.  But hey!  as long as you get the gist of it, hein?

It is against this background that columnists found themselves able to use other writers' work more freely.  And I am not even suggesting that it was necessarily deliberate.  One may become so enamoured of someone's turn of phrase, or particular idea, that one may reuse it.  What of this:

"I have everything, yet have nothing; and although I possess nothing, still of nothing am I in want."


"As having nothing, and yet possessing all things."


"Lord of himself, though not of lands; And having nothing, yet hath all."

By our standards this would appear to be a case of plagiarism.  Yet the first quote is by the Roman Republic's playwright Terence (185 - 159 B.C.), who may have borrowed the idea - or the phrase - from previous Greek works.  The second is from the Bible (Corinthians VI, 10, approx. 55 A.D., written by Paul the Apostle, later St. Paul) and the third by Sir Henry Wotton (1658 - 1626).  From where we sit we cannot know whether the idea came independently to each writer - certainly it would not be the first time - or whether Paul, the author of the letter cited in Corinthians, saw the play Eunuchus (161 BC), from which the quotation is taken.  It seems more likely, though, that Sir Henry Wotton took his inspiration from the Bible and paraphrased it for his poem The Character of a Happy Life.  Had one of these phrases appeared in an article for the Globe, it might have been noted in the proof room, where some seriously literate writers worked while pursuing their own goals.  But there are no more proof readers or copy editors.

Because of our technological advances the ability to find quotations, citations and turns of phrase is greatly expanded, and writers who, for one reason or another, borrowed, recycled or stole someone else's work are discovering, to their cost, that they can't continue down this merry path.  Writers who may have a favourite phrase or two (such as "the pearly light of the North", which appeals so greatly to me that I have used it privately a couple of times after reading it years ago in a National Geographic magazine article on Paris/Notre Dame; it so completely describes with what I am so intimately familiar that I could not just let it slip into obscurity with the issue.) yes, even they are being accused of plagiarizing - themselves.  Whatever one thinks of someone's recycling one's own creations, I don't think plagiarizing oneself is the correct term here - unless you have included the "stolen" words in a work the moral right to which you have foolishly given away to a corporation such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; you can be sure you will be hounded mercilessly by such a beast, as that is its nature.

This takes us away from the Wente scandal, however.  In the case of the columnist who was once the Globe's managing editor, there are too many instances in which direct or slightly reworded phrases are used without attribution.  That the Globe is loath to punish her at all is evidenced by the length of her suspension - two weeks.  Journalists have been sacked for much, much less there - and elsewhere.  That the Globe does not follow its own policy on plagiarism is an established fact, once more  underscored by the leniency with which Wente was treated.

For all we know, Terence might have been exceedingly angry, had he known that Paul had taken his words.  Or he might have felt flattered.  I tend to think the former, as most writers jealously guard their words, their phrases, the felicitous manner in which one idea slipped effortlessly from the pen into the public mind.  We still have to eat, you know; we still must be paid for that seeming effortlessness.  And that, ultimately, is almost as important as a writer's ownership of his or her words, poems, ideas.

At times I despair because the word is in terminal agony.  Millennia ago people found that, to communicate, it was necessary to devise words, with specific meanings, and to abandon the pictographs and pictograph-type "languages" for being too unwieldy.  Well, we now have a world in which the word is falling into obscurity; we do not value books, magazines, newspapers, as highly as we do talking heads, whether on TV or the computer monitor, as we derive our entertainment from them and from the movies and computer games that are ever more about flash and trash, action and a skewed "reality" that appeals to the basest and grossest within our nature.  Moreover the plot lines, the characters, situations, and spoken words/done deeds are brazenly cribbed - plagiarized - by one another because they are proven to sell.

So I am afraid that before long people will loosen themselves entirely from the strictures of grammar - it has happened already, in the ghettoes, for example - and go down the road that leads to mutual incomprehensibility.  In the end there will be few of us left, each, as in Fahrenheit 451, remembering verbatim just one book, or - like Peter Ustinov in Logan's Run - spending our declining years safeguarding the contents of a library, while the rest of us  sit, stupefied, in front of our giant screens that show a world where plagiarism isn't a crime so much as it is a rule...

(c)Daisy Morant 2013

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