Sunday, August 14, 2022

Painting Middle-Earth


If you’ve ever picked up an illustrated book written by J.R.R. Tolkien, or spent time clicking around on the internet in fantasy circles, or if you’d seen the posters on my dorm room wall years ago—or, heck, scrolled through any of the posts of The Silmarillion Primer—basically, if you’ve lived on Planet Earth over the last few decades, then you’ve surely chanced across the scenic, brilliant, and exceedingly prismatic illustrations of Ted Nasmith. I mean… if chance you call it.

Ted is a luminary, an artist and illustrator of… well, many things, but he’s best known for depicting Tolkien’s world more or less how we’re all imagining it. Or maybe you’re imagining it, in part, due to Ted’s work. From official Tolkien calendars to illustrated editions of the professor’s books to The Tolkien Society’s journal covers, he’s dipped his toe and his brushes into Tolkien’s mythology so many times there’s just no keeping track of it all. You know, I’m going to come right out and say it: Ted Nasmith is basically the Bob Ross of Middle-earth.

…Well, minus the almighty Bob Ross hair, but definitely including the soft-spoken manner and sage, genial warmth and overall friendliness. Somehow Nasmith makes what is insanely challenging look easy, and when you look at his paintings—especially his landscapes—you’re sucked right into that world. It’s not his world, per se, but it’s one to which you get the sense Tolkien would give his stamp of approval. These essentially are scenes in Arda (a.k.a. the whole world that includes the continent of Middle-earth).(Read more.)


Impossibility of Informed Consent

 From The Public Discourse:

The ideology glorified by “Pride” month has overtaken much of the medical profession. Burgeoning numbers of trans-identifying individuals demand euphemistically labeled “gender affirming treatment,” or GAT (puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones, surgeries), and clinicians in the thriving trans industry are often happy to provide it.

At the very least in this experimental area of medicine, these professionals should be scrupulous about obtaining truly informed consent before proceeding. Informed consent is the process by which physicians educate patients about the risks and alternatives of a medical intervention, to ensure that patients can fully understand and consent to the path chosen.

But in too many cases, this critical process that protects the dignity and authority of the patient is not happening. The marginalization of informed consent is contributing to the worst ethical scandal in the medical profession since the lobotomy craze ended in the mid-twentieth century. One hopes that this latest scandal will lead to an end to this dark chapter in the profession.

Dr. Steven B. Levine, professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University, focuses on treating trans-identifying children and adolescents and has written extensively (see here and here) about the nature of informed consent for such patients. (In 2020, I discussed this work for Public Discourse in a twopart essay.) Although Levine, unlike many physicians, does not rule out GAT in all circumstances, he recognizes that medical interventions for gender dysphoria or incongruence profoundly implicate many aspects of a patient’s life: physical and mental health, social adjustment, family relationships, and romantic relationships. Decisions made now will determine whether the young patient ultimately flourishes or flounders.

Building on his earlier work, a new study by Levine and his colleagues E. Abbruzzese and Julia W. Mason, published in March 2022, finds that the informed-consent process is too often more of a box-checking exercise than a serious discussion and deliberation. In “Reconsidering Informed Consent for Trans-Identified Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults,” the authors (to whom I will refer as “Levine” for short) lament that clinicians in the trans industry have gone beyond simple negligence or incompetence; instead, they are engaging in demonstrably unethical practices. (Read more.)


Origins of the Peace Sign

 From Women of Grace:

Another less than peaceful use of the symbol was by those wishing to display support for communism. The confirmed atheist, Bertrand Russell, author of the 1927 essay, Why I am Not a Christian, affixed not only a pro-communism meaning to the symbol, but also believed it could be used to express peace without God. This could explain why the Bolsheviks painted an upside down cross on the doors of the churches they closed during their bloody revolution.

But the history of the upside down cross goes back even further, and it is from these earlier times that its most sinister meaning is derived. As we know, St. Peter was crucified on an upside down cross by the Roman emperor Nero (37-68 AD), after which time a drawing of an upside-down cross - called "Nero's Cross" - became known as a symbol of the "broken Christian" or "broken Jew." Three years after Peter's death, when the Roman legions marched into Jerusalem, they sported Nero's Cross as their insignia. The Saracens used the symbol as early as 7ll A.D. on their shields to symbolize the breaking of the Christian cross. (Read more.)


Saturday, August 13, 2022

A Hobbit's Feast

From Rhubarb and Lavender:

In 1937 English author J.R.R. Tolkien published a short novel called The Hobbit and introduced generations of readers to the magic and splendour of Middle Earth. It would be almost twenty years later before Tolkien would publish his much longer novel, The Lord of the Rings, and change the landscape of fantasy fiction forever. Twenty years ago the release of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy would introduce this beloved story to an even wider audience and people everywhere would fall in love with the curious and charming halflings called hobbits.

My introduction to The Lord of the Rings came at a very young age when my father would read it to me before bed. I was almost too young to even remember the story but I do remember begging my father to keep reading. I have read The Lord of the Rings many times since then and seen the movies too many times to count (or admit to!) and my love for this story has only grown.

For all the other Tolkien fans out there, I offer this Hobbit’s feast – a culinary journey through the foods of Middle Earth. Whether it’s for an evening party or a full-day movie marathon (extended edition only!) I hope you will find inspiration here to bring the foods of Middle Earth to your table. (Read more.)


The Anti-Christ Now Rules Us All

 From UnHerd:

Throughout history, the poets, the prophets and mystics have usually done a better job of predicting the future than pundits, politicians or scientists. Generally the reward for their perspicacity is to be ignored or laughed at, but luckily they are usually far enough from the centre not to notice or care.

The French mystic and thinker René Guénon, who was doing his best work nearly a century back, was one of them. In his two books (The Crisis of the Modern World and The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times), Guénon laid out his notion that the modern world had deteriorated into a realm of pure materialism as a result of what he called the “Western deviation” from eternal truth. He called this the “reign of quantity”, and predicted its future collapse. But Guénon was not simply talking economics or politics. What was going on, he said, was something akin to a spiritual war, and as a Sufi Muslim he wasn’t shy about naming its antagonist. To this age, he wrote, “the word ‘Satanic’ can indeed be properly applied”. 
Presenting disorder as order and truth as lies — this, wrote Guénon, was the way that Satan rolled. The “more or less direct agents of the Adversary”, he explained, using the Biblical name for what Europeans would later come to call the Devil, always aimed to invert reality. Right is wrong, black is white, up is down, there is no truth, do what thou wilt: this has always been the Adversary’s line, and today it is prominent in all quarters.

The heterodox Catholic philosopher Ivan Illich, who died in 2002, also believed we were living in the time of Anti-Christ, but for different reasons. For Illich, any claims that we lived in a “secular age” were nonsense. The modern West was still Christian, he said, but it had disastrously attempted to codify the spontaneous expressions of love which Christ had shown to be God’s desire for humanity within systems and institutions. First the Church, and then the supposedly “secular” liberal states which had succeeded it, had attempted to transmute Christian love into obligation and enforce it by law, thus twisting it into a new form of oppression. His biographer David Cayley explained in a recent essay that Illich’s work “emphatically rejects the idea that ours is a post-Christian era. ‘On the contrary’, he says, ‘I believe this to be the most obviously Christian epoch, which might be quite close to the end of the world.'” (Read more.)

A Global History of the Black Death

 From Undark:

Many aspects of the plague are still contested. The controversy begins in the book’s opening pages, in which Belich recounts the debate over its nature. The standard perspective was that it was a bubonic plague, whose pathogen is common in rodents. Scholars whom Belich calls “anti-bubonists” (he enjoys fashioning neologisms) revised this perspective in the 21st century, but he rejects the revisionists’ claims, writing that “since 2010, the ‘bubonists’ have struck back decisively.” He cites research showing that scientists found the bubonic plague’s pathogen at 10 different Black Death burial sites in various countries. Evidence derived independently from graves excavated in London in 2013 showed the same thing.

He writes that “rodent species are the villains,” and points to evidence for grain-loving black rats aboard cross-coastal ships as key to the plague’s spread. But Belich arrives at this by linking a series of assumptions that, on their own, are reasonable, but become more questionable when compounded. He says an outbreak jumping to humans from rodents that co-existed with populations would likely have infected far more people than one coming directly from wild rodents acting alone, for instance. He then argues that, for the plague to spread as quickly as it did, the first infected settlement would likely have been connected with other areas via trade, and “a byname for the black rat was ‘ship rat,’” making it a probable suspect. “One can overstate this case,” he admits, but he pursues it nonetheless. However logical such inferences may be, they are hardly conclusive. (Read more.)

Friday, August 12, 2022

Of Knights and Nobility

From Victoria:

Scottish heraldry brims with legends that unfolded within the storied stone walls of this mesmeric land’s myriad castles, tucked within its ancient towns and scattered across the braes and glens of the Caledonian countryside. Resting at the end of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, the Palace of Holyroodhouse—also called Holyrood Palace—has undergone numerous renovations and additions in its long narrative, which includes many prominent names in Scottish history. Mary, Queen of Scots, held two of her weddings at the castle, and Oliver Cromwell’s troops once lodged here during the English Civil Wars. When King George V and Queen Mary reigned, they modernized the ancient structure and initiated the tradition of holding garden parties on the verdant grounds. (Read more.)


Back to the Books

 From The Classical Difference:

It’s true that our schools are full of bright kids receiving a first-rate education. And it’s true that Crime and Punishment is an incredible novel. But it’s also true that giving it to a fifth grader, no matter how bright, would be a mistake. To rush a fine thing is to ruin it. We do not microwave a filet mignon. No young Christian should meet Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor without first having met the claws of Aslan in The Horse and His Boy. (We want our kids to engage with the problem of suffering, not be crushed by it.) Let kids first learn to appreciate the poetic structures of Robert Frost or Gerard Manley Hopkins before tackling ancient Greek epics. Give them Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare before introducing them to King Lear himself, screaming Elizabethan curses into the storm. The good books contain simpler elements of the great books. The good books can allow us to focus on one or two elements of literature at a time, whereas the great books give us layer upon layer upon layer all at once: the plot and characters, the similes and metaphors, the rhymes and meters, the themes and ideas. (Read more.)