Thursday, October 6, 2022

Ode to Autumn


The Cedar Lot, Old Lyme, 1904, Childe Hassam


 From East of the Sun, West of the Moon.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
   Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
   With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
      For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

~ excerpt from "Ode to Autumn" by John Keats


More HERE.

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Banned Books Bunkum

 From American Greatness:

Aside from the downright perversity, there is a pile of irony—not to mention hypocrisy—to the book banning hysteria. The same anti-banning radicals are also in the vanguard of the so-called cancel culture, which has led to the censoring of mainstream icons like Dr. Seuss and J.K. Rowling because they didn’t toe the woke party line. Also, Columbus Day has been canceled, and statues of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt have been torn down in various locales.

Additionally, Facebook workers have routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential “trending” news section, according to a former journalist who worked on the project.

Ultimately, all the Banned Book Week harrumphing is dishonest because no one is actually trying to take away the right to publish any books. The thought of banned books evokes images of totalitarian regimes tossing written material into massive bonfires. In Nazi Germany, the ruling party burned thousands of books written by Jews, communists, and others. The problem that parents have with the books in question is simply that they are not age-appropriate, and have no place in our schools. It has nothing to do with censorship. Our laws prohibit 12-year-olds from going into a store and buying a Playboy or Hustler magazine. Why should schools be allowed to push Lawn Boy on a child of that age? (Read more.)
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The Great Wall of China Is Coming Down

 From History of Yesterday:

The building of the wall started during the 7th century BCE by the ancient Chinese state known as Chu which ruled during 770–223 BCE. When the state was formed, its leaders wanted to build a new type of defensive system that would not only protect a village or a simple settlement but a whole region without the need for a large army. It is believed that this was the first time someone in human history had thought of using walls to create borders. Therefore they started building a large fortified wall around the whole prominence of Hubei, with guard posts every 10 kilometers.

During the 6th century, other states within China soon followed this tactic. They all understood that this would help defend their own regions from their neighbors throwing a surprise attack. Another vital point of building the great wall was to protect China from nomadic tribes that attempted raids and invasions from the north. Until the 2nd century BCE, all the sections of the walls were separate, not connected from one region to another. (Read more.)

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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Was Charles I the ‘Commoners' King’?

 Charles I put a halt to the enclosure movement, in which peasants were forced off their land by wealthy people who wished to raise more sheep. The King fined such landowners who drove their tenants off their land. From The Land is Ours:

If the reign in its social and agrarian policy may be judged solely from the number of anti-enclosure commissions set up, then undoubtedly King Charles I is the one English monarch of outstanding importance as an agrarian reformer. How far his policy was due to genuine disinterested love of the poor, and how far it followed from the more sordid motive of a desire to extort fines from offenders, it is difficult to say. But even the most unsympathetic critic must allow a good deal of honest benevolence to his minister Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, and some measure of it to his master. On the whole it is perhaps not too much to say that for a short time after the commissions issued in 1632, 1635, and 1636, Star Chamber dealt fairly effectively with offenders. The lack of ultimate success of this last governmental attempt to stem the tide of enclosure was due, no doubt, partly to the mixture of motives on the part of its proponents. Still more its failure is to be attributed to the fact that again the local administrators, upon whom the Crown depended to implement its policy, were of the very [landed] class which included the worst offenders. A (practising) poacher does not make a very good gamekeeper! (Read more.)

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Letter to the American Church

 From The Wine Patch:

Eric Metaxas’ newly released Letter to the American Church, is a biblical bugle blast in the ear of all the churches feigning sleep while our country is besieged by anti-Christ and anti-American ideologies from every direction. Metaxas takes ready aim at the churches and pastors who are reluctant to stand up and speak out against the well-coordinated assault upon the health and stability of our nation today — and he names names.

The book delivers a battle cry for the church to rise up and face these most serious matters of our day. He asks us why God’s people would evade speaking against the murder of the unborn. He asks us how the church can be silent in deference to our education system and its pernicious incursion to induce sexual confusion within our children.  


He asks us why church pastors are not pounding the pulpits to end the mutilation and castration of minors under the subterfuge of gender expression. And why is there so much acquiescence to the endless unfurling of Marxist tenets as the rise of global tyranny is boosted before our very eyes.

How can seasoned church leaders fail to understand that philosophies like Critical Race Theory are founded in Marxism and purely atheistic? Further, how can the church that is charged with discipling and cultivating healthy loving families, not realize that Transgender and Queer Theory is “…inescapably anti-God and anti-human. So they are dedicatedly at war with the ideas of family and marriage…”

Metaxas’ thesis is: We must wake up and speak up. (Read more.)

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Josephine Tey: Scottish Crime Writer

 From The Herald:

Mention the name Elizabeth MacKintosh at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival, say, or Bloody Scotland – or, indeed, any other event where fans of noir gather to talk plot twists and big reveals – and you’ll likely be met with blank stares and puzzled looks. And this despite her being arguably the first (and some say the finest) Scottish female crime writer.

The recognition factor may be higher in the Highland town where MacKintosh spent most of her life and where she wrote all her novels sitting at the kitchen table or in the garden shed. But not by much. Even throwing out book titles won’t help. To Love And Be Wise, anyone? How about The Franchise Affair, The Daughter Of Time or A Shilling For Candles?

If there’s a trivia nerd or a film buff in the company, those last two might jog memories as the penny starts to drop. Was she using a pseudonym, perhaps? Didn’t Alfred Hitchcock do something? Wasn’t there some kind of famous list?

Answers: she was, he did, there is.

First, the list. In 1990, the UK Crime Writers’ Association published a now-celebrated rundown of the 100 Top Crime Novels Of All Time. Nestled in the number one spot, ahead of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep and John le Carre’s The Spy Who Came In From The Cold – and well ahead of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca and the grand-daddy of the detective novel, Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone – you’ll find The Daughter Of Time, published in 1951. The Franchise Affair, from 1948, is at 11.

As for Hitchcock, he filmed A Shilling For Candles as Young And Innocent in 1937, barely a year after the novel had been published. Along with his 1936 film Sabotage and 1938’s The Lady Vanishes it proved enough of a calling card for Hollywood to come knocking. By July 1938 he was in Los Angeles readying his first project for legendary producer David O Selznick: an adaptation of Rebecca starring Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier which would go on to win two Oscars.

The Elizabeth MacKintosh question is a trick one, of course, because the woman born on July 25 1896 and raised in an Inverness fruit shop did indeed write under a pseudonym: Josephine Tey (pictured below). But even learning that may cause some head scratching. Although famous enough in her lifetime, particularly in her early career when she wrote plays as well as novels, there’s no doubt her star has slipped since her death in 1952 aged just 55. (Read more.)

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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

The Marriage of Maria Theresa of Austria and Francis of Lorraine

The Wedding Feast

Maria Theresa as Queen of Hungary from the miniseries
 

The young couple

 From The History of Royal Women:

On 12 February 1736, Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria married Duke Francis Stephan III of Lorraine. The pair had known each other since childhood and were distant cousins. Maria Theresa’s family had offered shelter to Francis’s father and grandfather who were both born in Austria, during a period of exile from their Duchy Lorraine. Despite a Duke of Lorraine being much lower in rank than a daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor, the close family bond meant that a match had been planned since Maria Theresa was a child.

The Archduchess was destined to marry a son of the house of Lorraine, but Duke Francis was not always the intended groom. From being an infant, Maria Theresa was betrothed to the Hereditary Prince of Lorraine Léopold Clément. Unfortunately, the match was ill-fated, and Léopold died of smallpox at the age of sixteen on his way to Vienna.

There was a period of uncertainty for Maria Theresa after the death of Léopold as her father planned to marry her to Charles, the heir to the Spanish throne. Luckily for Maria Theresa, this match was vetoed by many European powers. The Spanish branch of the Habsburgs had only died out in 1700, and the rulers of Europe were unwilling to allow the re-creation of such a power bloc.

Throughout the years of negotiation, Maria Theresa and Francis grew close as they were brought up together in Vienna. Though once it was finally time for the marriage to go ahead, Francis was hesitant. Maria Theresa’s father; Emperor Charles VI had put Francis in a difficult position. In order for him to be able to marry Maria Theresa, he would have to give away the Duchy of Lorraine. To help to solve the War of the Polish Succession, it was decided that Lorraine should go to the deposed King of Poland for his lifetime. Francis would be compensated by being given the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Francis and his family were truly heartbroken about the decision; Francis even hesitated during the betrothal ceremony and put down his quill before eventually signing the documents.

The wedding took place at 6 o’clock in the evening at the Augustinian Church in Vienna. Imperial chamberlains led the procession to the church. The privy counsellors and conference members followed and after them, the Knights of the Golden Fleece in long medieval robes. The groom was clad in cloth of silver, a white hat and wearing the collar of the Golden Fleece. The bride wore a gown of silver-thread fabric studded with diamonds and pearls. She was flanked by her mother and Joseph I’s widow, Wilhelmine Amalia of Brunswick-Lüneburg. Her train was carried by her mistress of the robes, Madame Fuchs. Her younger sister followed her in the procession. The church was lit with thousands of candles and was hung with splendid Flemish tapestries. The bride and groom exchanged rings and were blessed by the papal nuncio. The celebrations ended with a Te Deum, and the wedding party had a magnificent banquet. (Read more.)

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Regressive

 From Fox News:

The All-American swimmer who became an outspoken advocate for women's athletics after competing against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas is supporting Sen. Rand Paul's re-election bid, and says Paul is "not afraid to fight for fairness" in a new campaign ad.

"I trained from an early age, giving it my all to achieve my dream," Riley Gaines says in the 30-second ad. "And I accomplished it, becoming a 12-time All-American swimmer at the University of Kentucky. But for girls across America that dream is being taken away by men competing in women’s sports. Sadly, few stood up for me." 
"But Rand Paul is not afraid to fight for fairness for women and girls, and that’s why I’m supporting him," she says. The Kentucky Senator has been an outspoken critic of transgender athletes competing in sports corresponding with their gender identity. "I will always fight for fairness," Paul says in the ad.

Gaines competed against Lia Thomas, the transgender swimmer for the University of Pennsylvania, in her senior year at the 200-meter race at the NCAA Championships, one of the most competitive events in swimming. After tying with Thomas down to the hundredth of a second, Gaines said Thomas was given the trophy for "photo purposes" while Gaines had to wait for hers to be sent to her in the mail.

Gaines told Fox News Digital in an interview she thinks the Biden administration is "absolutely not pro-women" and is pursing "regressive" policies.

She said Paul’s support "makes you a lot more confident as someone who is in this position to speak your mind. It means a lot to have someone in his position willing to do that for female athletes, willing to do that for people’s daughters."

"No one wants their daughter in the situation that myself and other female athletes have been in," Gaines said. "So to have someone willing to fight for that, it really means a lot." (Read more.)


Terrible that young women should be forced to use the same locker room as a man.  

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Tim Challies: A Modern-Day Rev. Hyde

 From Tom Piatak at American Remnant:

In Dominus Iesus, the future Benedict XVI wrote that “those who are baptized in these communities are, by Baptism, incorporated in Christ and thus are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the Church.”

In other words, the Catholic Church recognizes the vast majority of Protestants to be Christians. So do I.

Indeed, I am far more worried about the eternal fate of Catholics who leave the Church than Protestants who, in good faith, never become Catholics. Of course, I am delighted when anyone crosses the Tiber, and I applaud their courage in following the path of truth to its only terminus. But I think God still saves many of those who come nowhere near the terminus, provided that they sincerely follow Him and do not repudiate the Truth once they fully understand It. Even before Vatican II, Catholic theologians recognized that faithful Protestants’ undoubted belief in Christ and earnest desire to follow his example would help them to work out their salvation “in fear and trembling,” just as St. Paul worked out his and Catholics work out theirs.

Proselytism, of the type advocated by Challies for Catholics and other unbelievers, can also be an ineffective if not offensive way to evangelize. The first time a born-again Christian tried to convert me, for instance, the emotions I felt radiating from this would-be evangelizer were arrogance and disdain, not love and joy. (Read more.)
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Monday, October 3, 2022

Cecilie Of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Crown Princess of Prussia

From Esoteric Curiosa:

Duchess Cecilie Of Mecklenburg-Schwerin was born September 20, 1886, the youngest daughter and child of Grand Duke Friederich Francis III of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and of his wife Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna of Russia. Although born at the family Schloss of Schwerin, Duchess Cecilie spent little of her youth at her home on the Baltic Sea. Her father, being a confirmed invalid was obliged to live in the south. Taking up abode at Cannes on the French Riviera, where he built the famous Villa Wenden. Cecilie's grand ducal parents were an ill suited couple at best and stormy scenes between the two were frequent. Grand Duchess Anastasia, born a Russian Grand Duchess, having inherited many of her despotic and eccentricies of her Romanov ancestors, was quite a bit for her husband to handle and dominated his softer nature. 

In 1897 even the most hardened habitues of the Riviera were shocked by the tragic and sudden death of Cecilie's father, who in a moment of despondency supposedly threw himself off the wall from Villa Wenden. At the time of her engagement to Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany, Cecilie was described "as a vivacious little blonde, with Dresden China figure, brown eyed and of healthy complexion, with a sunny disposition; she was an excellent liguist and fond of sport. but not the least horsy!" Duchess Cecilie married William on 6 June 1905 in Berlin. Once she was married she was styled Her Imperial and Royal Highness The German Crown Princess and was also Crown Princess of Prussia. Her husband died in 1951, making her Dowager Princess. Cecilie died on 6 May 1954 of a stroke and had been ill for some time leading up to this. She and her husband are buried in the grounds of Hohenzollern Castle. (Read more.)

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Will 2024 Be 1984?

 From Zero Hedge:

The infamous DOJ letter on schools was sent out a month before the gubernatorial election in Virginia, where the National School Board Association, not to mention much of the D.C. establishment, is based. Much as Garland’s DOJ operatives feared, the school protests helped elect Gov. Glenn Younkin and  nearly toppled New Jersey’s Democrat governor in the bargain.

The Mar-a-Lago raid was carefully timed around the DOJ’s day policy of avoiding politically sensitive moves 90 days before an election. The real election it has its eye on is in 2024.

And, if it has its way, 2024 will be the new 1984.

The Steele dossier, the Mueller investigation, the Mar-a-Lago raid, and everything before and after are part of the larger Spygate continuum which is marked by the use of national security tools to suppress the political opposition especially before and during elections. The claims of national security, whether they involve the Russians or classified documents, are just a tactic that allow Democrat officials to wield virtually unlimited investigative powers cloaked in secrecy.

Beyond the details of these investigations, which turn as hollow as Steele or Mueller on closer examination, is the larger construct of a crisis that is described as a “threat to democracy”.

The “threat to democracy” is shorthand for a threat to Democrats. The source of that threat are conservatives and Republicans. The vectors of that threat can be described as coming from Russia, school board parents, electoral activism or “disinformation” on the internet. The common denominator is that political activities which are inherently “democratic”, speech, protest and electioneering, are defined as a national security “threat to democracy”.

The net of this crisis extends from individuals posting on social media to political candidates and institutions. Meeting the “threat to democracy” requires the government to monitor social media and for social media companies to censor unapproved speech, for candidates who believe the wrong things to be barred from office, for the IRS to investigate conservative non-profits, for companies to be pressured into pulling donations to conservative candidates and for the military to be prepared to intervene once again in the event of another grave “threat to democracy”.

The threat to democracy or rather the republic here is coming from the Democrats.

The Spygate targeting of Trump is only one strand of a number of threads drawing together to criminalize opposition to leftist agendas. Cancel culture had already contrived to economically punish speech. The next step was criminal investigations of people who non-violently stood up to Black Lives Matter race rioters or drove over BLM’s racial supremacist slogan on streets.

The underlying rationale was that racism was a public health crisis and another threat to democracy. Individuals were components of the crisis. Those who would not take a knee and admit their privilege were perpetuating the crisis and posed a threat to the nation at large.

The same collectivist machinery is being ramped up to enforce global warming dogma by using financial institutions, insurance companies, SEC regulations, real estate codes and countless other financial minutiae to extra-legislatively impose the Green New Deal, punishing companies and individuals until they conform. Dot com monopolies are already censoring those who don’t.

Once again the argument is that all human life on the planet is endangered. Anyone who doesn’t toe the line is a threat to the race. And must either conform or be silenced.

Race and the environment are not the real issues here, no more than Russia or classified documents are with Spygate. Manufactured crises are used to justify totalitarian fascist abuses of power. The details of any individual crisis or allegation matter much less than the tactics used to suppress dissent in the face of this latest imminent emergency. Every crisis is met with a centralized response weaving together federal authority, corporate complicity, national media outlets, cultural elites and all the commanding heights of power in the United States of America.

As FBI raids blend into congressional investigations, National Security Council aides, political campaigns, opposition research labs and media outlets appear to speak with one voice because they operate as arms of the same machine. Likewise, school board leaders, DOJ officials, media outlets and publishing giants start functioning as components of a single political entity.

Because they are just different ways of describing members of the Left.

In true Orwellian fashion, the “threat to democracy”, like most leftist slogans, should be interpreted to mean the opposite of what it appears to. It’s democracy that is a threat to a political system that is undemocratic and built around undemocratic institutions.

The threat to democracy manifests itself when conservative candidates win elections and is most pronounced in the least democratic institutions, government bureaucracies, national media outlets, elite universities and the upper ranks of corporations. This increasingly integrated ruling class springs into action when it’s unable to rig an election and warns of a “threat to democracy”. The worse it loses, the more urgent the crisis and the more ruthless the method of dealing with it. Having lost one election and fearing losses in 2022 and 2024, it’s getting more ruthless.

The solutions to all the crises come down to the components of the machine, the administrative state, corporate leaders, technocratic monopolies, educational bosses, activist front groups and many others urgently grabbing more power to cope with the threat of losing elections.

The Mar-a-Lago raid is a warning that the machine is rapidly preparing to fight off the “threat of democracy” to the 2022 and 2024 elections by once again weaponizing national security, censoring “misinformation”, and stamping out the political opposition. It will do whatever it takes to win, not because it needs to win elections to pursue its agenda, but because winning elections is a convenient cover to explain the amount of power it wields.

Democracy is not just in its name, but its facade. When it loses the facade, people start to notice that elections don’t seem to change very much. And that things still run the same way.

America is in a bad and dangerous place. But it will be in an even worse one by 2024. (Read more.)

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'The Woman King' Is Bad News

 From National Review:

Historical fraudulence is a problem, but the reasons behind it are what cause alarm. Director Gina Prince-Bythewood and screenwriters Dana Stevens and Maria Bello gainsay Dahomey’s role in the slave trade, trivializing the complications of that original sin. Instead, they offer another Millennial gender-flip, conceived to further sexual confusion via racial frustration and feminist anger.

This approach cannot be taken seriously because, like Black Panther and The Lion King, The Woman King is juvenile. The film’s comic-book premise treats black audiences like children. That adolescent kick over hair-pulling catfights is extended into an almost laughable, pseudo-political history lesson pitting women against men. Consider it deriving from Black Lives Matter’s attack on the black family, honoring butch women as standard-bearers in the battle against toxic, ineffectual masculinity.

Only teenagers should fall for this nonsense. Prince-Bythewood’s usual boast about telling marginal black stories (Love and Basketball, Beyond the Lights, The Secret Life of Bees) is motivated by the notion that she is correcting Hollywood’s neglect. Thus, she gives us Dahomey as Wakanda, a made-up history for uninformed viewers who feel so “unseen” that they can be robbed and conned again.

What benefit comes from proffering the delusions of the film’s two big battle scenes? The Agojie fight the slave-trading Oyo and then against European slavers, and the women emasculate and devastate the men. Bad feminism is compounded by the offense of trafficking in slavery simply as an excuse for action-movie violence.

Narrowly defining womanhood as consisting of masculine traits, The Woman King actually contradicts the virtues of diaspora-based Afrocentricity. The film uses period history to parallel contemporary resentments. (There’s even an effeminate court sage dressed in lavender.) Nanisca asserts the valor of being “feared, paid for your work” and having “your opinions heard.” Commanding her troops with “we fight or we die,” she sounds like Hillary Clinton, drunk on that purse-hidden hot sauce.

Maybe Prince-Bythewood has tapped into something that the two lousy Wonder Woman movies missed, but whatever it is, it isn’t excitement. Her battle scenes (supposedly based on Mel Gibson’s Braveheart) are haphazard, with poor continuity. These black Amazon battles, featuring sharp, bloody, clawlike fingernails — sorority-house celebratory rituals with banshee ululations — are mere novelties.

Anger is Viola Davis’s specialty, but it isn’t enough to justify this distortion of black African heritage and grievance from way back. Nanisca’s leadership focus on physical strength, force, and power — not love or knowledge — is just truculent. Figuring out its tradition source is as frustrating as trying to place Nanisca’s odd patois. She represents a naïve Hollywood-Marxist-materialist view of third-world rebellion, the history that Frantz Fanon, John Henrik Clarke, and Ivan Van Sertima made credible. Davis reduces it to sporting a stylish upswept Afro; she struts the way Cardi B twerks — superficial feminine postures. Nanisca’s stoicism (“You are powerful, love makes you weak”) betrays the camaraderie and spirituality that should be at the heart of Afrocentricity.

Claiming that “the white man has brought evil here” makes black tribal enslavement and warfare sound Edenic. Has Prince-Bythewood never heard “King and Chief must have had a big beef / Because of that / Now I grit my teeth,” that ingenious précis of the African slave trade in Public Enemy’s “Can’t Truss It”?

Falling way short of the magnificent “Can’t Truss It,” The Woman King cannot be trusted. Nanisca’s backstory is a pitiful steal of Sethe’s painful matriarch memory in Beloved. Her protégé Nawi (Thuso Mbedu) goes through an endurance test that Eddie Murphy and Craig Brewer had affectionately satirized in Coming 2 America. The emphasis on feminine audacity is a trashy version of Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen, and dismissing Yoruba and Christian religious conflict is inexcusably trite after Haile Gerima’s Sankofa. The only male character of note is the Dahoman King Ghezo, who reinstated the slave trade before being deposed (a role reduced here to John Boyega’s performing with the same misdirection as in his portrayal of Star Wars’ Finn). (Read more.)

 

On the true history of Dahomey, founded on selling other tribes into slavery. From UnHerd:

And although this was a story in which European slave-traders played a leading role, the women warriors of Dahomey were hardly innocent. Quite the reverse. As Araujo notes, The Woman King opens with a scene in which the Adojie attack a neighbouring village, killing the men but chivalrously sparing the women. This is pure fiction, though. In reality, she writes, “the soldiers of the Dahomean army (both women and men) would take the healthy, younger villagers as prisoners and walk them to Dahomey’s capital, Abomey”. Here some would become local slaves, others butchered in human sacrifices. But “most would be transported to the coast, where they would be sold, and board slave ships sailing to the Americas, especially Brazil”.

This isn’t the only distortion of the truth. In the film, King Ghezo is persuaded to end Dahomey’s reliance on European slave-traders and embrace palm-oil production instead. But this is nonsense. Indeed, to his neighbours, the idea that he and his Amazon warriors were reforming liberators would have seemed downright obscene. In reality, Ghezo was as brutal and self-interested as any European imperialist. When he seized the throne in 1818, one of his first acts was to punish his family rivals by selling them into slavery. And for much of his reign he actively resisted pressure from Europe to end the trade in human beings, since by the 1830s and 1840s the British were vigorously trying to stamp it out, even blockading his coastline with Royal Navy ships.

Does all this matter? Maybe not. To repeat: all historical films turn fact into fiction. If you go to Hollywood for your history, that’s your problem, not theirs. Addressing her critics in Variety, Viola Davis insisted that a movie is just, well, a movie. “If we just told a history lesson, which we very well could have, that would be a documentary,” she said bluntly. “Unfortunately, people wouldn’t be in the theaters.” As for John Boyega, he fell back on the kind of impenetrable gibberish for which actors have long been admired across the world. “Art can live in a moral or immoral space and could sometimes just be about shining a light on human nature, history, and the reality of that conflict,” he said gnomically. “So, for me, including that just shows that there is a way in which we can embrace stories that accept the fact that humanity is not perfect, while also being entertaining and something you can learn from.”

What does that mean? I suspect we will never know.

But because it’s Africa and it’s slavery, some people don’t see this as a trivial matter at all. A month ago the New York Times’s Nikole Hannah-Jones, mastermind of the crazy “1619 Project” to rewrite all American history around the theme of slavery, issued an ominous warning that she was looking forward to seeing “how a movie that seems to glorify the all-female military unit of the Dahomey deals with the fact that this kingdom derived its wealth from capturing Africans for the Trans-Atlantic slave trade”. The New Yorker, poring over the film’s many distortions, condemned it as not merely “muddled” and “disingenuous” but a “cynical distortion of history”. (Read more.)


From Insider:

Dahomey first rose to power as a centralized and militarized kingdom in West Africa in the 17th century. It wasn't until the 18th century, during the peak of the Atlantic slave trade, that the kingdom expanded its might.

In 1727, Dahomey conquered the coastal Kingdom of Hueda, taking control of the port city Ouidah. This would become its main base for trade with European powers, and marked the start of its active participation in slave trade.

Dahomey soon became a key player in the trafficking of Africans, which proved to be one of the most profitable exports at the time, according to Manning. Armed with muskets they obtained from foreign nations through their export of slaves and other goods, Dahomey's armies captured people from nearby kingdoms and villages to fuel their supply of slaves.

Dahomey's involvement in the slave trade was fueled by European demand for cheap labor. Africans were left with scant choices: Would they benefit from this opportunity to steal people and sell them, run away, or fight back against foreign powers? (Read more.)

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Sunday, October 2, 2022

An Early Autumn Brunch

 From Victoria:

Slowly and reverently, sip Apple and Spice Wassail, allowing cozy notes of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cardamom to mingle on the palate with a tangy blend of orange juice, cider, and fresh fruit. The aroma of this refresher offers its own gracious welcome. Fresh Fig and Frisée Salad promises delight with Tiger and Mission varieties crowning a medley that includes golden beets, pomegranate arils, and toasted walnuts. Egg-Topped Prosciutto, Mushroom, and Goat Cheese Galettes, the stars of this fete, boast savory filling atop delectable homemade crust. (Read more.)

 


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‘These Guys Just Bull-Rushed Our Houses’

 From The Daily Wire:

“Well, this is my house. My house where I live with my children in this house right here,” the farmer narrates in the video. “There’s your freaking border wall. … Eight individuals just crossed the freaking border wall, running. … Tried going in my door but the door was locked. So what did they do? They ran right inside my grandpa’s house. Four of them made it inside the barricades themselves inside my 95-year-old grandpa’s house. You want to tell me it’s okay?”

“They tried to break into my house, that’s locked. They tried to razzle-dazzle my porch and my laundry room door and that’s locked,” he added.

“These guys just bull-rushed our houses. I mean trying to open doors, trying to get in,” the farmer told Fox News Digital. “Not everyone is that and I’m in agreement with that, but these guys were trying to get away and get into our houses. That was pretty bad.”

“When they have zero respect and barge in your home on a Sunday at four o’clock in the afternoon when you’re sitting down, rest and relaxing, recliner up and your door flings wide open and three people that you don’t know just come running through the kitchen, it’s unfathomable,” he added.

“I feel that we’re at an all-time peak right now. We’re at the highest we’ve seen this in, ultimately, 90 to 95 years,” he concluded.

On Monday, the New York Times acknowledged “the historic pace of undocumented immigrants entering the country.”

Earlier this month, the executive associate director for Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Corey Price issued a stunning and revealing response when asked by Florida Chief Deputy Attorney General John Guard about ICE deportation rates in the past decade.

“I do not have the last ten years’ data available. But it is less than at least the last four years that I have here,” Price answered.

In 2012, a decade ago, under President Obama, ICE removed almost eight times or, excuse me, almost seven times the number of aliens than the Biden administration did in either 2021 or 2022, right?” Guard followed up.

“That appears correct,” Price admitted.

“From 2008 to 2016, ICE removed up to 400,000 aliens per year and never less than 230,000. In 2021 the agency removed only 55,598 aliens,” The Daily Mail pointed out. (Read more.)

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The History of Eärendil

 From Nerdist:

Simply put, Eärendil, a half-elven mariner, helped save Middle-earth. The Dark Lord Morgoth and his evil forces threatened to overrun Middle-earth, and the Elves and Men couldn’t hold him back on their own. And though the Valar, the godlike beings of The Lord of the Rings‘ universe, did not allow mortals on the shores of Valinor, their realm, the half-elvish Eärendil eventually found a way and traveled there with his wife, Elwing.

 Elrond’s father built his ship, Vingilot, with the help of Círdan the Shipwright. His first voyages saw adventures aplenty as he sailed to look for his parents Tuor and Idril in Valinor. And Eärendil figured, while he was in Valinor, he would carry the message of Elves and Men to the Valar and ask for assistance for Middle-earth’s fight against Morgoth. This initial trip, which Eärendil made without Elwing, didn’t end as planned.

 After a detour that saw Elwing briefly turn into a bird, Eärendil set back out for Valinor with Elwing (in half-elven form again). Elrond’s father wore a Silmaril, a brilliant jewel made from the essence of the light-giving trees of the Valar, bound across his brow. And its light shone like a beacon. The sons of Fëanor, the elf who made the Silmarils, pursued them, trying to get their hands on the Silmaril. Luckily, this time, Eärendil finally arrived on Valinor’s shores. (Even though he wasn’t technically allowed to). He asked the Valar for mercy upon Men and Elves, and the Valar agreed. (Read more.)


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Saturday, October 1, 2022

Serving the Queen

 From Social:

The Queen reportedly employed hundreds of staff. She had people to clean rooms — of which there are an eye-watering 775 in Buckingham Palace alone! But of course, a vast property requires roles of all kinds. Reporting on the Palace’s employment situation in 2016, Forbes magazine mentions the kind of jobs you might expect, such as footmen. Yet it also refers to engineers, and even vase polishers. Yes, you read that correctly!

 Of course, Elizabeth owned some pretty rare and expensive vases, hence why a specific individual was needed to keep them looking their best. Was a vase polisher the best position from which to obtain a behind-the-scenes view of her secret life? Possibly not, we’re thinking. Yet others worked at closer quarters, and would have seen more than most. (Read more.)


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FBI Whistleblower: ‘Nobody I Know Signed Up’

 From American Greatness:

Special Agent Kyle Seraphin, who was indefinitely suspended on June 1 after nearly six years with the Bureau, said that he was so disturbed by the directive, he went to his congresswoman’s office in New Mexico, and made a “protected disclosure.”

Garland announced the creation of the tag “EDUOFFICIALS” to track school board meeting related threats in an email sent to Justice Department employees in October of 2021.
Investigations were opened on parents based on anonymous tips, and agents had to surveil and interview ordinary moms and dads who got caught up in the dragnet.

In a two-part interview with conservative radio host Dan Bongino, Seraphin said that most of his colleagues didn’t appreciate the political nature of these cases, and just did “cursory investigations” before shutting them down.

Nonetheless, he said, there are many parents out there who have no idea the Bureau has case files them and that agents have combed through their financial information just because they may have said something deemed inappropriate at a school board meeting.

Seraphin told Bongino that the Bureau was putting resources towards something that should have been a state and local issue, and that he knew it was happening because of political pressure from the left-wing National School Boards Association (NSBA).

“That’s when you become part of political hatchet jobs, and I didn’t sign up for that, and nobody I know signed up for that either,” he said. “That’s not what people want to get involved in.” (Read more.)


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The Village Without Sun Which Created Its Own

From The History of Yesterday:

Viganella is an Italian town located on the Alps, in the region Piedmont. As of December 2010, it had a population of 204. You might think that Viganella is a small mountain town just like many others, but you would be wrong. There is something more, something extraordinary. Until 2006, the town used to remain shadowed for eighty-three days per year — from November 11 to February 2. Viganella was built at the bottom of a steep-sided valley; therefore, in that period, the sun disappears. It hides behind one of the mountains that surround the town.

In 2005, the then-mayor Franco Midali and an architect named Giacomo Bonzani began to work on an ambitious enterprise. Those two hundred inhabitants could not bear those dark cold days any longer. As a consequence, Midali and Bonzani started to consider the plausibility of making the mayor’s dream come true. That dream, as you might have guessed, was bringing the sun back to Viganella. (Read more.)


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Friday, September 30, 2022

Unwatchable

 I started watching Blonde on Netflix last night but turned it off. What a completely vile film. Unwatchable. And not even true. It is a shame because Ana de Armas plays the part of Marilyn Monroe/Norma Jean Baker so well and is exquisitely beautiful in it. According to Variety:

Andrew Dominik’s “Blonde,” starring Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe, skyrocketed to the top of Netflix’s movie chart after its first day available to stream, but the NC-17 drama is leaving many subscribers outraged. The film may have been the talk of the Venice Film Festival with its 14-minute standing ovation, but critics and viewers are calling it “sexist,” “cruel” and “one of the most detestable movies” ever made.

“Given all the indignities and horrors that Marilyn Monroe endured during her 36 years, it is a relief that she didn’t have to suffer through the vulgarities of ‘Blonde,’ the latest necrophiliac entertainment to exploit her,” wrote The New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis, who panned the movie in her review. (Read more.)

The Variety article goes on to pan the movie as being "anti-abortion." If that is the case, then good; I am glad it showed abortion as the horror that it is. I, however, could not bear to stick around any longer to hear more screaming. It is likely true that Norma Jean aka Marilyn had multiple abortions, which may have contributed to her later infertility and ongoing despair.

From The Ringer:

Published in 2000, Joyce Carol Oates’s novel Blonde borrowed (or stole) Insignificance’s no-proper-names conceit and integrated it into a formidable array of literary and rhetorical tricks. Like Mailer’s tome, Oates’s 700-page doorstop represented yet another Great American Writer’s attempt to wrestle with—and profit from—Monroe’s legacy, as well as to show off her own virtuoso prose. Similarly flouting the rules of biography and working with an extra 30 years’ worth of hindsight, Oates inflated Monroe into a tragic, emblematic figure of 20th-century femininity: a hapless, helpless victim used and abused by her own illusions, and those of millions of others as well. In swapping out Mailer’s disingenuous chivalry for violent, picaresque melodrama, Oates not only turned her heroine’s sickness into metaphor but reveled in it. In interviews, the author said that she saw Monroe as her version of the Great White Whale, which would make Oates herself Ahab—a crazed, kamikaze hunter stalking dangerous game until they both went down together.

Andrew Dominik’s film adaptation of Blonde, which stars Ana de Armas as Monroe, hews relatively closely to Oates’s text, meaning it’s faithful to her particular strain of bad faith. Drawing on and selectively hyperbolizing the historical record—and eliding any moments that might interrupt its highlight-reel-slash-atrocity-exhibition structure—it’s a no-holds-barred exercise in unpleasantness featuring enough graphic scenes of sexualized violence to earn an NC-17 rating. The film opens with the young Norma Jeane Baker as a girl physically and psychologically terrorized by her mother, who tells her that she’s the illegitimate daughter of a famous movie star who’ll one day return to claim her; gazing obsessively at the man’s photo, Norma (Lily Fisher) wonders whether she somehow drove him away. The idea that Monroe lived the rest of her life in thrall to this dashing absentee father pervades the film’s ensuing inventory of her personal and romantic relationships. A few years out of the orphanage where she was deposited following her mother’s mental breakdown, Norma carouses unrepentantly with the adult sons of Charlie Chaplin and Edward G. Robinson, forming a tabloid-friendly throuple raising fingers to the Old Hollywood establishment. After gaining traction as a pin-up model, she transforms into the platinum-blond Marilyn as a way to leave her sadness behind, only to find that it follows her and deepens in the hairline fractures of her new sexpot persona. Courted by A-listers of all kinds and insecure about her acting talent, Marilyn proves unable to reconcile her modest yet all-consuming desire to be loved with the demands of fame. Wracked with grief over a series of failed pregnancies—including one thwarted by her own hand—she falls, swiftly and almost gratefully, into a haze of barbiturates and self-loathing, down a bottomless abyss that gazes back at her every time she looks at a mirror or movie screen.

Downward spirals are irresistible to filmmakers looking to flex their aesthetic muscles, and Blonde, which exists somewhere between period-piece meticulousness and impressionism, is awash in spectacular displays of technique. Nearly every passage features some kind of warped perspective or augmented soundscape; throughout, there are relentless, Oliver Stoned shifts in framing and cinematographic format, from ripe color to drab black-and-white and back again. Grim, magic-realist touches abound: The opening sequence, set in 1933, unfolds in the midst of a fire in the Hollywood Hills that draws Norma Jeane’s mother (Julianne Nicholson) toward it like a moth to the flame, terrified daughter in tow. The blaze heralds an ingenue story coated in ashes, an apocalyptic inferno as the showbiz primal scene. Later, the newly platinum actress’s audition for a role in the B-movie thriller Don’t Bother to Knock transforms, Mulholland Drive–style, into an intimate, close-up psychodrama. As Marilyn exits the studio, we iris in on her rear end in leering, synchronous complicity with the sexist executives who can’t decide whether they’re embarrassed, turned on, or repulsed by what they’ve just seen. It’s the same sleazy ambiguity that’s slathered all over Blonde’s immaculately composed frames like a layer of slime. (Read more.)

So next we tried Empress on Netflix, and it was almost as bad, and about as historical as Disney's live-action Cinderella. It is alleged to be the love story of Elizabeth of Bavaria and her first cousin Franz Josef, the Emperor of Austria. The sets and scenery are fabulous but the costumes and hairstyles are strange. Plus Sisi's hair is much darker than it really was. It shows both Sisi's parents being sadistically cruel to her; I never had the impression that they were. The court ladies have weird matching bouffant hairstyles. And would Maximilian have been allowed to bring his mistress down for breakfast? Meanwhile, the people of Austria are being starved, just like in Snow White and the Huntsman. I made it through the first episode, but that is my limit.


There is another terrible film coming out about the murdered Elizabeth, Empress of Austria, called Corsage. In the words of Eye for Film:

Marie Kreutzer’s focus in Corsage (Austria’s Oscar entry and a Main Slate selection of the 60th New York Film Festival, produced by Toni Erdmann director Maren Ade) is on Empress Elisabeth of Austria turning 40 years old. Vicky Krieps, who shared the Cannes Film Festival Un Certain Regard Best Performance Award is in excellent form and up to the task of presenting to us the icon in all her idiosyncrasies. It is December 1877 and the Empress holds her breath, literally and more than once, in a cold bath or while her corset is laced ever more tightly by her maids, she sometimes confuses. Is it Hanni or Fini?

Her husband, the Emperor Franz Joseph I (Florian Teichtmeister) knows who is the thinner one and leaves out no opportunity to comment on what he sees as female physical decay in middle age. It’s all numbers - how long she can hold her breath underwater in the ice baths, how tiny she can manage her waist to be. Without this sense of control her life would surely fall apart. Teaching cousin Ludwig II (Manuel Rubey) the art of fainting naturally, Krieps charmingly doubles up on the message of the performative. Here is an actress playing royalty playing at fainting in order to escape the pressures of the public eye.

Some of the winks to the present work better than others in Corsage. When Sisi and three of her ladies-in-waiting, accompanied by a gaggle of dogs, enter the palace, Charlie’s Angels like in slow motion, we hear a female singer with the omnipresent 21st century choky-sexy voice croak how “she was lost.” When Sofia Coppola made anachronistic music choices for Marie Antoinette it was fresh, now it feels as though Kreutzer didn’t fully trust her own vision, which in other scenes is much more artful and deep. “We love in the other what we’d like to be,” says Sisi, encroaching more and more on Lacan territory and the desire of the desire of the Other.

Horseback riding, fencing lessons, and trips to get out of stuffy old Vienna promise a little bit of freedom from the excruciating scrutiny by the press who love her and comment ceaselessly on every aspect of her being. The costume design (by Monika Buttinger) is exquisite, as it wraps her body in skins, a collar of feathers, a shell for the body recalling fish scales. She is a wild creature, trapped in the body of an empress, and the clothing, despite the fact of the corset strangling her organs, still feels as though the animal kingdom is closer to her than the humans of the court.

What is it about Empress Elisabeth of Austria that makes her so inexhaustibly fascinating? The answers are many. Born a Bavarian duchess from the House of Wittelsbach on Christmas Eve 1837 and assassinated at age 60 in Geneva by an anarchist - her life has been a very full and extraordinary one. Sisi’s role in establishing the K&K dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary in 1867, her distinct and often extreme fitness and diet regime, the Rapunzel-like hair, the extensive travels, what happened with her son at Mayerling, the bond with her cousin, the “mad” swan king Ludwig II (whose castle to this day shines from many a Disney logo) - all this has been floating in public consciousness in waves of popularity.

In other words, Sisi never drowned. There are the famous midcentury Sissi films (with double s, though the real Sisi preferred one) with Romy Schneider which are in the German speaking world the equivalent of The Wizard Of Oz or It’s A Wonderful Life as holiday treats. A recent boom of rediscovery portrays her in various TV series, In László Nemes’s excellent 2019 movie Sunset (Napszállta) she is a haunting presence in absence, and Frauke Finsterwalder’s Sisi & I (screenplay with Christian Kracht, starring Sandra Hüller and Susanne Wolff as Sisi) is scheduled to be released next year.

“At 40 a person dissolves,” Sisi says and her husband as well as the painter hired for her final official portrait keep shooting arrows at her self-confidence about her weight and complexion. Her visit to hospitals and especially a women’s ward for the insane comfort her and as she distributes neatly wrapped purple parcels of candied violets to patients, she also initiates the installation of modern bathrooms for the institution. The veil on her face is a finely-spun sibling to the netting around the “melancholic” women’s beds. What was the reason a particularly despondent woman was brought to the asylum for treatment, the monarch inquires. “Adultery” is the bombshell response.

Her little nine-year old daughter Valerie (Rosa Hajjaj) does not bond with her mother. Nighttime riding escapades are not her thing and only make her sick. She is her father’s daughter and loves the order of Schönbrunn Castle, which to Sisi resembles a prison. “You are the child, Mama” she says in frustration. Yes, Sisi lives in a world of her own, and the privileges she has are enviable compared to most women at the time. And yet, she is clearly stifled and would love to be the one to invent air conditioning or be involved in politics more. When she confronts “FJ”, as he is called here, about being kept out of any important political decisions, he points to the reason why he married her in the first place - to be ornament, physical representation, “a good picture,” not flesh and blood and intellect and energy and stride.

What is there to be unhappy about? How would he feel if he had nothing to do but having his hair braided all day? Sometimes this Sisi sticks out her tongue or uses language she probably wouldn’t have used in the 19th century like that, which feels a little too eager to get young audiences to relate, although it is very clear how much her story resonates today. During a trip to England (with the filming location looking rather continental) to visit an old friend together with her sister, she is introduced to a brand-new invention: moving pictures! The invented scenes with Finnegan Oldfield as Louis Le Prince (who sports an earring) are lovely and provide great context of the times. “I love to look at you looking at me,” she tells her “riding instructor” before a tragic accident cuts the trip short. (Read more.)


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Why Armenia Stands Alone

 From Compact:

Armenia—the victim in this situation—checks off all the right boxes, as far as the arbiters of “rule of law” and “international order” in Brussels and Washington are concerned. The country boasts the highest ranking in the South Caucasus region in The Economist’s Democracy Index, based on factors like electoral fairness, political pluralism, and civil liberty. Azerbaijan, by contrast, has been ruled by the same family for decades. The regime of President Ilham Aliyev suppresses civil rights and indulges in graft that is notable even by post-Soviet standards

Yet the initial Western reaction to Azerbaijan’s aggression has been tepid, limited mostly to expressions of concern and calls for calm on both sides. American neoconservatives have generally been disgraceful, mocking Armenian losses and rooting for the Azeri dictatorship, mainly because they see Baku as a useful speartip against Iran and Russia. The Christian right in America, which one might think would feel affinity with the world’s first Christian nation, has remained silent.

Indifference doesn’t quite capture the Western posture. On the contrary, the West has been courting Azerbaijan in recent years, inking new gas deals and supplying millions of dollars in military assistance annually.

The contrast with the Ukraine crisis, another conflict in which an authoritarian state has attacked an aspiring democracy, is jarring. President Biden has described that war as part of an existential struggle “between democracy and autocracy, between liberty and repression”—a grandiose framing shared by the hawkish usual suspects on the American right. The United States alone has committed a staggering $50 billion to Kiev since the Russian invasion, in the name of democracy, self-determination, and international borders. Blue-and-yellow flags fly everywhere. So why ignore Armenia?

The answer lies in a combination of hypocrisy, cynicism, and shortsightedness. The West’s indifference to Armenia reveals once more that its concerns for democracy are highly selective, operative only where the West sees its interests at stake. Here, the West has concluded that its interest lies in appeasing Azerbaijan, which can help supply gas to Europe and check Russia and Iran in the South Caucasus.

But even on cold realpolitik terms, this is a mistake. The West has misjudged the situation. Azerbaijan can offer little to the European Union in terms of gas exports. And abandoning Armenia to its fate would do little to contain Russia or Iran. In the end, it would only lessen Western influence in the region. (Read more.)


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Charles Was 'Mostly Right'

 From Building Design:

With the accession of Charles III to the throne, a new Carolean era has begun. Never before has there been a monarch quite so interested in the built environment, with such clearly expressed views.

Charles is well known for his interventions in a number of major planning decisions. He is alleged to have played a key role in blocking RSHP’s Chelsea Barracks scheme. Many have taken the view that it was not his role to do so. As Duke of Cornwall, he has also been instrumental in the creation of Poundbury and Nansledan. These are both experiments in “New Urbanism”.

Dismissed as nostalgic irrelevances by many, they actually represent serious attempts to tackle the challenges of urban growth, the housing shortage and how to build new sustainable communities. They deserve a more serious response from an architectural and urban design establishment that has a generally poor track record in creating convincing new large scale urbanism.

Inevitably much attention will be paid to the infamous 1984 “carbuncle speech” that Charles gave at the 150th anniversary of the RIBA. In architectural folklore it’s come to be seen as an unforgivable act of treachery – he had, after all, been invited to celebrate the RIBA’s birthday.

But reading the speech today, the striking thing is how mainstream most of it sounds. In fact, by the end you’re left wondering whether rather than being the architectural dinosaur that he’s sometimes depicted as, Charles wasn’t in many respects ahead of his time when it comes to the built environment. The speech actually began by praising Charles Correa and, later on, Edward Cullinan – hardly a couple of dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists.

The then Prince of Wales went on to tick off a list of what today might be described as the accepted principles of sustainable urbanism: decrying the destruction of historic townscapes; advocating reuse of existing structures; promoting accessibility; calling for community engagement; warning of skylines disfigured by “giant glass stumps”; arguing for rediscovery of ornamentation (now pretty much de rigueur among even the starchiest “modernists”) and, most un-controversially of all, making the case for respecting historic street plans and traditional-scale housing typologies.

The 2019 Stirling Prize for Goldsmith Street shows that the RIBA was only 35 years behind the curve on that last point. To be fair, the actual heart of the controversy was Charles’ attack on Ahrends, Burton and Koralek’s (ABK) proposed National Gallery extension – the notorious “monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend”. But was Charles really wrong?

I am a huge fan of ABK and the damage done to that practice by the speech was by all accounts devastating. But however much I love their JCR bar at Keble College, I can’t help but feel that the National Gallery extension was not ABK’s best work. It has that slightly lost and apologetic feel of tail-end high-modernism, when most architects frankly didn’t know which way to turn.

How much more determinedly “of its time” is Venturi Scott Brown’s complex, disorientating post-modernism? A building that addresses the fundamental confusion at the heart of architecture at that moment by just throwing in (knowingly, of course) a little bit of everything.

There are many architects, though, for whom Charles remains an emotional trigger. The mere mention of his name can send temperatures soaring and cries of “pastiche” flying. This from architects often in denial about how modernism has itself become another historical style, which they have just chosen to return to and pilfer from. (Read more.)

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Thursday, September 29, 2022

Dangerous Liaisons: the Prequel


 As if the original novel is not enough. It was banned by Louis XVI for being immoral. I can't stand any of the characters. But some people can never get enough of the sordid side of the old regime. From Le Boudoir de Marie-Antoinette:

The network behind the project, Starz, describes the show as “a bold prelude of Laclos’s novel focusing on the origin story of how his iconic characters, the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, met as passionate young lovers in Paris on the eve of the revolution”. Billed as a “modern take on a classic”, it will centre on their will-they-won’t-they romance, but also feature Camille blazing a trail in male-dominated 18th-century society by wielding secrets to gain power. Valmont, too, has other things on his mind: the reckless libertine’s title has recently been taken from him, and he’ll stop at nothing to get it back. Cue snarky asides, double crossing and plenty of elaborate, seductive scheming. (Read more.)

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Ukraine and the Casualty of Truth

 From Charles Coulombe at 1P5:

It is ironic that three days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 of this year, I had the privilege of speaking with Franz Ferdinand’s great-great nephew, the Archduke Karl von Habsburg on another matter. On the one hand, he was certain Putin would invade, and I was just as certain he would not; as it happens, I was dead wrong, and His Imperial and Royal Highness was dead right. On the other hand, the Archduke had just worked with his daughter on the documentary Navalny, which “Follows the man [Alexander Navalny] who survived an assassination attempt by poisoning with a lethal nerve agent in August 2020. During his months-long recovery he makes shocking discoveries about the attempt on his life and decides to return home,” as IMDB informs us. As might be expected – added to the warnings of his father Otto, son of the last Emperor of Austria, who made Putin’s acquaintance when the latter was still a KGB agent – this experience had not made the Archduke a fan of the current Russian government. He asked me why so many American Conservatives were fans of Putin.

Herein lies the rub, and to the best of my ability I shall try to tease out the various strands of ambiguity that enfold the current conflict for many American and other Conservatives. There are two major narratives to this war, and what seems obvious to the holders of one is invisible to those of the opposite persuasion. So let’s begin.

Firstly, for many Americans, before there was Putin, there was Obama. His gender-bending administration presided over a great many horrific things, from the imposition of gay marriage (thanks to the Supreme Court) to his own executive order cutting off Federal funding – that is, free lunches – to public schools that would not allow boys who self-identify as girls to use girls lavatories and shower-rooms. His cavalier dismissal of those who “cling to guns or religion” – indeed, his supercilious manner and obvious contempt for those who disagreed with him – made Putin look good.

This is an important thing to understand; all the while Obama was lashing what most believers held sacred, Putin was doing just the opposite – praising Christianity and promoting Russian Orthodoxy. Regardless of his sincerity or lack thereof, his words fell upon parched American ears. Nor was that all; while Obama was forcing gender confusion down his subjects’ throats, on June 30, 2013 Putin signed into law a “anti-Gay propaganda bill” which was designed to shield schoolchildren from early exposure to “alternative lifestyles.” For many in the United States, beset by officially sponsored “drag queen story hours,” this seemed like manna from heaven – but it predictably roused outrage in the breast of the American president. A year before the clashes in Syria and Ukraine, the American-Russian relationship took a dive from which it has not recovered. The overthrow of pro-Russian elected Ukrainian president  Viktor Yanukovych (a popular rising against a Russian stooge or an illegal Western-backed coup against a legal president, depending upon whom you are speaking to) in February of 2014 did not help matters.

Of course, the hatred of Putin by the Left was merged with their hatred of Trump after his insolent victory in 2016; thusly was manufactured the myth of “Russia stealing the election.” In time, Trump’s supporters would make the same claim about 2020’s snout-counting on a very different basis. Regardless of any of that, once Biden and company were resettled in the White House, it was inevitable that Obama’s feud with Putin would be picked up once more. It was just as inevitable that the new president would do his best to make Putin look good in the eyes of his Conservative opponents. These, in turn, whilst contemplating the fresh horrors pouring out of Pennsylvania Avenue, were reluctant to condemn or to find fault with a man who in their eyes looked so much better that the Sleepy if not Senile Chief Executive. In many ways, Biden has been Putin’s best propagandist. I myself have often said that because of Putin’s rhetoric – especially during his support of the anti-ISIS effort and in response to the social and “moral” policies of the Western leaders – he would one day be the most powerful politician in Europe. (Read more.)

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