17 December 2014

More Church websites.

I started three times to write this post, and deleted everything each time.  It began when I saw the St John Cantius in Chicago has added a virtual tour of their church to their website, which is awesome.  I then segued into a lamentation about how bad the church websites are around here, combined with my complete bafflement that an entire diocese, whose churches I have visited from time to time, have removed every single individual parish website.  I was going to speculate on why such a move had been made- as it obviously could only have been done from the top or by someone near the top- and then go on to opine about the quality of many other websites that haven't been deleted, and so on and so on, when I remembered that is not the way I prefer to go.  At least, not after some sober thought. 

Once again I had to remind myself that priests are the poster boys for the overworked and underappreciated club, and the last thing they need is some yahoo with a keyboard and internet link saying they aren't working hard enough on their website.  In addition, while I can't explain why an entire diocese would shut down all their parish websites at a time when we are being called repeatedly to increase our presence on the net and to reach out to people who are spending more and more time there, I don't know anything about the situation beyond the fact that the websites are gone.  While I cannot think of any good reason for doing so, I must admit that there is the remote possibility that the bishop and his staff might, just might, know something about what is happening within the diocese that is in their care that I do not, and maybe, just maybe, there was a good reason for taking this admittedly strange course of action.

Therefore,  instead of that, I prefer to praise what is well done, and pray that more priests and parishes find the wherewithal and the skill to do a good job, and also to pray for that diocese, in case they had a problem, that it may be cleared up soon and they may continue with the important work of spreading the word through every means available.  Priests and bishops get enough criticism for when they get things wrong. They deserve the occasional "attaboy!" when they do something right.  So "Attaboy!" people of St John Cantius, and keep up the good work.  As a bonus, there is one church not far from here (next diocese to the west) that is also working on their site and has a virtual tour up as well, so attaboy, St Patrick's in Hamilton.

Lastly, the Cantius website has a letter from Fr. Phillips which also points out a weakness of mine.  As beautiful as the architecture may be, we must remember "a church is more than the art and architecture it contains.  The structure is brought to life through the Church’s theology which is carried out in the sacred ceremonies of the Mass, the Sacraments, a variety of devotions, and Her sacred music ranging from Gregorian chant to the classical works of Mozart, Haydn, and Schubert.  All of these are united, as in a symphony, with the art, architecture, and the light contrasted against the dark wood."  Well said, and again, well done.

More Bazaar Stuff.

Climbing toys.  These are hung from a peg or a nail, and the animals climb up as you alternate pulling the strings.  The monkey's head and arms move as he goes up.  Monkey-$10.  Bears- $7.  Lizard $5.

More ornaments made by Younger and I, which she sells for herself.  $6 each.  Honestly, try buying one of the fabric ornaments for under $25 on Etsy.  Maybe this year we'll decorate our tree entirely with our homemade ornaments.

Bowls.  The large ones are made from cedar., smaller ones from either spalted or tiger maple.  Large $20.each  Small $15 each

Tops.  My best seller last year.  Didn't sell one this year.  Pull tops-$5 each.  Snap tops $2.

Mirror, made of reclaimed mahogany.  $40.

Detail of carved phoenix at the top of the mirror.

10 December 2014

My bazaar stuff

At the recommendation of a few people, I have been taking photographs of my wares to post here. I will be looking into starting up a paypal account and having a button on the side in case people are interested in buying my stuff. I will work out shipping and handling later. For now, leave a comment.

Please note: this is only a small portion of my wares. First, it does not show the stuff I sold at the bazaars. Second, while taking pictures, my camera batteries died. I went to the local store to buy replacements, and the kind proprietors appear to have sold me dead batteries. I haven't had time to replace them yet. In other words, more is coming later, including toys, game boards, and some small furnishings.

One final note, all my works these days are made from reclaimed and recycled materials, which is a fancy way of saying I pull stuff out of the garbage and use it to make things.

T-rex and dragon puzzles.   They can also stand up.  Not suitable for children under 3.  T-rex- $10. Dragon- $15

More puzzles, suitable for younger children.  $6 each.

Angel puzzle- $10.

Ball ornaments made by Younger and me.  Not shown: a series of variations on these.  $6 each.

Sequin ball ornaments.  Many more variations as well.  $6 each.

Nativity set.  $40.

Ornaments based on stained glass windows.  From left to right: Jesus with the children: $10. Two St Cecilia's- $7 each.  St Patrick- $7

Carved Santas- $15 each

Nativity- $40.

Carved Nativity, featuring my Cueball Joe.  $60 

Carved Man in the Moon ornament- $15.

Praying Hands ornament- $7 each

Angels $12 each.

Nativity set.  Figures about three inches high.  It comes with or without the stable.  With: $75.  Without: $50. 

Marian ornaments, also based on stained glass windows..  Immaculate conception- $10 each.  All others, $7 each.

Carved Santa Ornaments, plus a snowman.  $15-$20 each.

Chickadee in a wreath ornaments- $5 each, carved snowman- $15, other snowmen- $5 each. 

Another marian ornament, based on the Madonna of the Streets- $7.

8 December 2014

It's Still a Wonderful Life Repost

One of my favourite lines from It's A Wonderful Life occurs quite early in the movie. Clarence has been summoned by Joseph and Sir to help George Bailey. "Oh no," says Clarence. "Is he sick?" "Worse," says the calm and patient Sir. "He's discouraged." The movie begins by recognizing that, worse than any disease of the flesh, is the loss of hope.

I saw It's a Wonderful Life on television the other night, meaning we are now into It's a Wonderful Month. I don't mind so much, as it is one of my favourite movies. It is about hope, and friendship, and love, and the transforming powers of all these. So naturally, at this time of the year people come out to attack it.

There are among us certain people who cannot stand the idea that goodness exists, which, if left to themselves, would mean little. But they also cannot stand that anyone else believe that goodness exists. Not content with being not contented on their own, they seek to draw others into their discontent. They are Evangelists of the Bad News. They treat life as only the bad is real, and good an illusion for children, as if black were the only colour, and all other colours visible to the eye are illusory.

With that in mind, I repost this piece from a few years back, written in response to one attack on the movie by someone who missed what I like to call The Entire Point.


Back when I was a teaching assistant, one of the theories of interpretation held that texts had infinite possibilities for interpretation, and were capable of being interpreted any number of ways.  I used to tell my students that, yes, it was possible that a text could have any number of interpretations, but that did not mean it could have just any interpretation.  Sometimes, an interpretation is just plain wrong.

I thought about this when I saw that Dale Price had linked to an article reappraising the old classic, Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life.   This article is fairly innocuous in its call to have a more nuanced interpretation of the old classic, as compared to others, which claim the film is possessed of a tremendous darkness, citing hatred George had for his life, even how each and every step he took even though it helped others, merely nailed his feet to the ground of Bedford Falls.  One reinterpretation I once read even claimed that Bedford Falls would have been better off economically without George Bailey, for the manufacturing economy he favoured and fostered in Bedford Falls would not have survived the economic turndowns of the nineties and recent years, and a town like Pottersville would have fared much better through the Depressions of recent years. That someone would suggest that a municipal economy would be better off based on Prostitution, speakeasies, strip clubs, gambling, along with police who fire indiscriminately into large crowds is more an indictment of themself than it is of this movie.

The author of the article to which Dale Price links asks questions which seems to bolster the interpretation which says that the movie is complicated and darker than perhaps may be seen at first blush. 

What does George think about as he lies awake late at night? Does he resent that he saved his brother’s life? Does he hate his father for saddling him with the family business by dying? Does he resent that his wife chose him, a failure, when she could have had any man in town?

The conclusion to this line of questioning comes fairly early in the article: “On Christmas Day he’ll wake to find that his life is not so different than it was when he wanted to commit suicide.”
This has stepped outside of the realm of interpretation, and moved into imposition.  It is a cynicism imposed upon the film, not inherent in it.  As I told my students, so I would say to this writer: this is not an interpretation the movie can hold. The writer is a materialist evaluating the movie in the light of materialism. He is correct that the George of Chrismtas Day is materially no different than the George of Christmas Eve. But he is incorrect to materially evaluate a movie which rejects materialism utterly. By doing so he ignores the one simple fact which the movie brings out in stunning clarity:  The George Bailey who awakes on Christmas morn is not the George Bailey who sought to end his hated existence the night before.
What has happened is that George has come to love his life.  All his life he has wanted to make his mark upon the world, carve George was Here in ways no one could ignore, by building skyscrapers a hundred stories tall, or bridges a mile long.  What Clarence has shown him is that, in his own quiet way, he has been leaving his mark everywhere and upon everyone in his little town.  He has lead the life he wanted, only he did not realize it at the time.  And now, returned from the very brink, he sees that everything he once hated is in fact the very stuff of his joy, and as he runs through the town he wishes Merry Christmas to all the things he once regarded as stumbling blocks to his dreams, but now realizes as the stepping stones to his truly wonderful life. If this man's interpretation were to be pushed to its logical conclusion, the greedy, lying, scheming and rich Potter, whom we last see alone but for his servant on Christmas Eve is th hero of the movie, and George Bailey, surrounded by his family and friends, singing, cheerful and happy, proclaimed by his successful, war hero brother to be 'the richest man in town', is the movie's chump. 
It is not so. George Bailey stood on the bridge a miserable man, seeing himself a failure.  That was Christmas Eve.  On the morning he awakes, a poor man with a poor job and children he struggles to support.  But that is not what holds him back:  it is what holds him up and strengthens him, and now he knows it.  Those who do not see this do not see the movie.

Immaculate Conception

7 December 2014

Second bazaar wasn't too great either.

Unlike the first, this one was well planned and executed. We had announced in the bulletin. We had banners in front of the church. We told some other nearby churches that we were having the bazaar, and they announced it to their congregations.

Usually attendence at a bazaar, if it were to be graphed, appears like a classic pig in a python pattern. We begin with a trickle, then a sudden flood, then quickly back to a trickle, and then done- a python with a bulge. But the pig never showed up. We had a trickle from beginning to end. Perhaps I was mistaken about the previous bazaar. Perhaps no amount of planning can draw the crowds anymore. I made money, but not much. The planner is considering shifting the day next year, from a Saturday to Sunday before and after the Masses. it may be easier to get the congregation to come when they're already there. Maybe it will help. Can't do much worse.

4 December 2014

One down

The first bazaar was a bust. The planning of it was not competent.

My first clue that something was amiss was when I received the e-mail confirming my table and telling me when I could set up. The set up time, according to this missive, was half an hour before the bazaar began. I thought that must be a misprint, because no one would be stupid enough to believe that setup would only take half an hour.

My second clue came as I approached the school. The school sign read "Christmas bazaar 5-9, Christmas concert 7." I thought that too must be a mistake, for why would they have the two on the same night? It made no sense. Perhaps it was an oversight.

But then I spoke to one of the people in charge and discovered that, no, it was planned this way. You see, they told me, this way the parents would be able to attend both at the same time.

(Yes, dear reader, I live in a world where I had to explain to a teacher that someone cannot be in two places at the same time.)

They seemed to be of the opinion that the parents would stop by the bazaar before and after the concert. In the very best case scenario, that would have the sellers twiddling their thumbs for two hours. But parents work. And after work, they wish to eat. And after working and eating, they like to rest. So they would not be coming early, as that would cut into dinner, and they did not stick around afterwards, because by then (the concert ran over its expected length- qu'elle surprise) the parents wished to return home.

I had been told that we could expect a crowd at the bazaar of five or six hundred and possibly more. I doubt the actual number reached one hundred and fifty. And we did spend at least two hours twiddling our thumbs. I am thankful I did not rent that car. I would have eaten every penny of that cost.

So onto the next one. If I am going to make any extra cash, it has to be there. I do not like putting all my eggs in one basket.

By the way, that card reader we went through so much trouble and expense to get? Never used it.

3 December 2014

How bazaar

Tomorrow I'll be off to the first of two bazaars this year. Last year I did more, but some nameless person (cough*mom*cough) forgot to tell me when her church (my old church)was having theirs.

I used to do them regularly, stopped for about ten or so years, and then started again. A lot of things changed in those ten years. Let me describe two.

First off, I no longer had a car. Having a car meant that when I wished to go to a bazaar, I simply loaded up the car and headed out. Car maintenance was part of the household budget, so the only thing this trip would cost was gas. Not having a car means I either rent one or take public transportation. Taking public transportation means I can only take a limited amount of the goods I have made, which means a potential loss in sales. Renting a car means an absolute loss in money.

I tried to rent a car for tomorrow. The cost of renting for a single day was $43.00. Plus a five dollar tax, plus another twenty dollar tax, plus another twenty dollars for insurance. Plus tax. Plus gas. So a hundred plus bucks out of pocket before I make my first sale. Add on the fifty dollar charge for renting the table, and I would be out of pocket over a hundred and fifty bucks. Plus the cost of making my stuff, which I keep very low, but not nothing.

To sum up, I would have to sell over two hundred bucks to break even. At most of the bazaars I do, I sell at about an average rate of $40-$50 per hour, so for a four hour bazaar I should reasonably sell about two hundred bucks worth of stuff. In short, on an average day I would end up losing money with the car.

So instead, I'm loading up my granny cart and heading out on the bus. I will show up at an academy indistinguishable from a hobo. Hopefully they'll still let me in the door, otherwise I'll also be out the fifty bucks for renting the table. But this way I should be able to turn a profit. It's not a big one, mind, but no one ever went broke turning a small profit. Or so an uncle used to tell me. Who died broke. Never mind.

Is there a way to make more money and boost sales? That brings me to the second problem: people don't carry money any more. They carry credit cards and debit cards and maybe- just maybe- a twenty, which they don't wish to spend in one place. You can only get small pieces of that twenty off them. Last year, when I made nearly three hundred at one bazaar, I did it the hard way: two and five dollars at a time.

There are alternatives, such as card readers for smart phones which allow people to pay with their bank or credit cards no matter where you are. The only problem is that I don't have a smart phone, nor do I have any cell phone at all. I don't want one. I hate phones in general, including home phones. The only thing that makes a home phone tolerable is that it stays at home when I leave. However, there are alternatives to that as well. Some of our technology can be hooked up to a card reader and we can have Internet if we also get some kind of rocket Internet booster, for the low low cost of two hundred bucks plus a monthly user fee. I was hesitant, but I bent. We got the booster. It can help us make money. Maybe. I hope. Unlike the car, I will have this thing for a while and can spread its cost out over several bazaars. If it works, it may pay for itself quickly. I hope.

My next bazaar is on Saturday at St Cecilia's. I was concerned that I may end up selling all my good stuff at the sale at the academy, but then I thought: who cares? A sale is a sale. Get rid of your stuff any way possible. At any rate, if anyone is out nears St Cecilia's next Saturday between 9:00 and 1:30, drop on by. I may have something you want. Feel free to bring your plastic. I'm ready for it.