1 August 1914

With their relentless talent for the tactless, the Germans chose to violate Luxembourg at a place whose native and official name was Trois Vierges. The three virgins in fact represented faith, hope, and charity, but History with her apposite touch arranged for the occasion that they should stand in the public mind for Luxembourg, Belgium, and France.

– Barbara Tuchman, “The Guns of August”


David Warren

David Warren is far more fun to read now that he’s unconstrained by the formatting and editorial demands of the Ottawa Citizen op-ed page. He is perhaps too enamoured of medieval Catholicism, too ready to indulge the “everything that’s gone wrong can be traced back to Luther” line of thinking, for my liking. But then I would think that, being all Calvinistical and such. Still, anyone willing to take on the Sisyphean task of attacking the stupid prejudices that pass for thought among those who think that all prejudices are bad and that they don’t have any is worth reading. I commend in particular his attacks on the fatuous attachment of so many moderns to “democracy” (which is not the same thing as voting):

The problem with American Imperialism being, they don’t know how to do it, and keep messing up, even with military resources that any of the old Imperial powers would have envied.

This is because they keep trying to sell “democracy.” They have been doing it for several generations, and they will not learn from experience, nor accept any criticism on this point. Power may be projected, but “democracy” cannot be imposed in a place like Iraq (let alone Afghanistan) without easily foreseeable, shall we say, negative consequences. Nor should one persist in giving lip service to an ideal that is impracticable, to such a ludicrous degree. As we have seen, it is not even working in the United States of America, where “the people” have voted themselves government benefits and entitlements (as the Europeans before them) to the point of spiritual as well as fiscal bankruptcy.

Do yourself a favour and give him a read.


The Sir John Carling building was blown up yesterday morning. The best video of the event is here:

I confess that the first few times I saw the video I thought it odd that people would cheer and applaud at the end. It’s a demolition project, not a performance. People don’t stand around construction sites and with foam fingers and banners shouting encouragement whenever a new slab of concrete is poured. Why should demolition sites be any different?

After some thought though, I’ve reconsidered my initial opinion. When it comes to constructing buildings, the twenty or twenty-five years following World War II was a singularly abysmal period. All asbestos and aluminium wiring and slabs of exposed concrete. Ugliness on an inhuman scale. Architecture against humanity. The total destruction of the ‘accomplishments’ of that generation, such as they were, is entirely salutary and to be applauded with vigour.

Bridge building

We have a new bridge and, despite some construction hiccups, it looks to be a perfectly adequate piece of infrastructure. But quoth the mayor:

“It looks like our version of the Eiffel Tower right here in Riverside South. This is going to be a new landmark,” Watson said. “Forget the Sydney Opera House, forget the bridge in St. Louis. We’ve got the Strandherd-Armstrong Bridge.”

And herein a lesson in trying to be funny when you’re a politician: there’s an even chance you’ll end up hitting ‘fatuous’ instead. He was trying to be funny, right?

Bridge in St. Louis?

Being a tourist at home…

Photos from my week in wild rose country Alberta.ca.

The recently renovated Art Gallery of Alberta. Quote from the architect regarding the building: “there are some nice surprises that are weather related.” Or in non-architect-speak: snow piles up on the concave bits of the Gehry-knockoff.

I can’t actually find any photos of the building in winter, other than the architectural renderings. So far it doesn’t seem as though the weather-related surprises entail impaling pedestrians with whimsical shards of ice, so that’s a plus.

Edmonton too has one of those Chinese gate things, but for some reason it’s in the wrong place. The actual agglomeration of Asian restaurants and grocery stores runs along 97th St., starting about five blocks to the north of here. This looks to the east along 102 Ave where you’ll find little but vacant lots, a few shabby buildings, and dodgy convenience stores.

Jasper photos to come…