Friday, September 30, 2022


 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.)


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.)


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.)


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.)


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.)


Kazakhstan’s Only Seminary

 From Aleteia:

In 1991, Fr. Dumoulin was a priest of the Diocese of Monaco and a teacher at the Faculty of Theology in Lugano, Switzerland. When John Paul II secretly asked the institute in Lugano to train the bishops of the Soviet Union, Fr. Dumoulin came forward because he was a Russian speaker.

Fr. Dumoulin then gave courses to various bishops, including the bishop of Kazakhstan who, at the end of his stay, invited him to teach back in Kazakhstan. Unprecedentedly, behind the Iron Curtain that was gradually opening, Fr. Dumoulin gave courses to Kazakh teachers of the history of religions. The information was even announced by the country’s official radio station.

He noticed “a great thirst.” Out of around 50 students, about 20 asked to be baptized. “That deeply moved me,” he says. “There was an incredible sense of expectation in those years.” (Read more.)


Wednesday, September 28, 2022

In Defense of Amazon’s 'The Rings of Power'

I am thrilled and delighted by each episode. There are many Christian and family values in the series as well as heroism, honor and chivalry. From The Spectator:

Toward the end of the episode, for instance, we learn that Tar-Palantir, the deposed king of Númenor, was a religious reactionary. His campaign to restore the true faith came to an end when riots backed by entrenched interests forced him from his throne. His daughter, Tar-Miríel, who took over as regent, treasured her father’s beliefs in her heart but refused to impose them politically. In our world, she’d keep a rosary in her pocket while issuing executive orders to expand abortion access. 'Faith may bind one heart, Galadriel, but it is too fine a thread by which to hang a kingdom,' she says. I can’t think of a better, more succinct critique of secular liberalism and the privatisation of religion it demands.

The show is also just nice to watch. There’s beauty and joy to it. After so many years immersed in Game of Thrones (and now House of the Dragon), it’s nice to be reminded that there’s more to life than killing, screwing and scheming. In one Rings of Power episode, the Harfoot maid leads some young 'uns out to a clearing full of berry bushes, and they all have a good frolic. I’d forgotten how much I love watching a good frolic. The closest Game of Thrones can get to a frolic is an orgy.

Now, on to race. I’m sure there’s a small subset of people for whom the mere sight of melanated skin on a screen is enough to trigger a paroxysm of rage. These are the people who were responsible for the whole dust-up surrounding the Disney+ miniseries Obi-Wan Kenobi, which cast a black woman as its principal antagonist. Ignoring the minuscule number of racist Twitter trolls who objected should have been easy. Unfortunately, we live in 2022. The entire Disney PR machine lurched into action, cracking out a slew of anti-racist messaging to assure viewers that hate has no home in the galaxy far, far away.

This no doubt played well with blue-haired faux-leftists who like to be pandered to by multinational corporations that profit off of genocide. For everyone else, it was just one more sign that Disney had gone woke.

We’ve seen similar cycles of discourse with House of the Dragon, the remake of The Little Mermaid and (of course) Rings of Power itself, in which elvish, dwarvish, human and hobbit characters, in all their varying tribes and nations, were cast on a largely race-blind basis. One Twitter personality even quipped that Amazon had created the entire billion-dollar series just so they could post that 'BIPOC belong in Middle-earth'.

It’s all so tiresome. On one hand, I understand conservatives’ frustration. Progressive rhetoric on this issue is blatantly dishonest. Each time a beloved franchise gets a little less white, they celebrate a great victory for 'representation'. If anyone on the right objects, they switch tactics: 'It’s not a big deal,' they say. 'Why do you care so much?' Gaslighting 101.

But the question remains: do we care that the mermaid/hobbit/inquisitor is black? Or do we just care that they care?

It’s easy to fall into absurdities when debating this topic. I’ve seen plenty of conservatives claim that because Hans Christian Andersen was Danish, Ariel in The Little Mermaid must be white. By that logic, why stop at 'white' (which is itself an imprecise category)? Why not insist that she be Scandinavian? Or even Danish? Do we need to start requiring actors to submit a full genetic sequence along with headshots? Some progressives came pretty close to demanding exactly that when Gal Godot was cast as Cleopatra.

Joel Berry of the Babylon Bee had an insight that I found particularly helpful: '"Blackness" isn’t just a skin colour to the left. To them, it’s also a collectivist, anti-West ideology,' he wrote. 'That’s why… when leftists race-swap a character, it looks like they’re making an ideological statement.'

This pairs nicely with a post from black conservative Leonydus Johnson, who responded to the mermaid fracas by advocating for a 'colourblind, post-racial society [in which] skin colour matters about as much as hair colour'. Bingo. The melanin content of someone’s skin is not a political statement, and shame on anyone – right or left – who treats it as such.

Taken together, those two statements do a good job of articulating where I (and probably most other conservatives) stand: casting can be limited by race for purposes of historical fidelity or to make specific statements about race. Otherwise, cast whoever you want. Just don’t shove all that woke stuff down our throats while you do it. (Read more.)

I love the harfoot's walking song. From Nerdist:

The sun is fast fallin’ beneath trees of stone
The light in the tower no longer my home
Past eyes of pale fire
Black sand for my bed
I’d trade all I’ve known for the unknown ahead

Poppy’s song, officially titled “This Wandering Day,” comes from the show’s composer Bear McCreary. The lyrics make clear why it would Middle-earth’s small folk would sing it during their Great Migration. It’s about leaving home for the call of “lands far away.” And while they know that journey will be difficult, it’s one they walk because they have faith the destination will make their suffering worth it. (Read more.)


Intermission: Last Post for Christian England

 From The Abbey of Misrule:

I spent much of the day, along with several hundred million other people around the world, watching the funeral of the late Queen Elizabeth on TV. It was full of remarkable, beautifully choreographed and often moving moments, as you would expect of an event which has been prepared for since the 1960s. A lot of things don’t work very well in Britain anymore, but this kind of pageantry is something we can still do well. We will not see its like again, I don’t think.

I say ‘pageantry’, but this is a dismissive word. What happened today was a rolling, dense mat of symbolism, replete with historical meaning, anchored in a very particular nation and time period. What did it symbolise? Above all, I think, it symbolised something that our culture has long stopped believing in, and as such can’t really process effectively, or even perhaps quite comprehend. This was brought home to me by one particular moment in the ceremony.

You can see that moment in the photograph above. It’s a view from the height of the tower of Westminster Abbey, looking down onto the Queen’s coffin below. The Abbey is, of course, laid out in the shape of the cross, and the coffin was set down at the meeting point of the nave and the transept, where the two arms of the cross meet. At one point in the proceedings, the camera showed us this view, and then focused in on the scene, and the impression was that of some energy flowing down from above and into the coffin, then out across the marble floor and into the gathered crowd.

It struck me then that this was an accurate visual image of the world which this Queen’s death marks the final end of, and it struck me too that this must be one of the reasons why her passing has had such a huge impact - one way beyond the person she actually was. What we were seeing as the camera panned down was a manifestation, through technological trickery, of the ancient notion of sacral kingship.

This notion was the rock which the political structure of all medieval societies was built, and in theory at least it is still the architecture which supports the matter of Britain, whose bishops still sit in parliament with the power to amend laws, and whose monarch’s crown is adorned with a cross. Authority, in this model of society, flows downward, from God, and into the monarch, who then faces outward with that given power and serves - and rules - his or her people.

Forget for a moment whether you’re a Christian, or a monarchist, or indeed whether you just think this is so much humbug designed to disguise the raw exercise of power. I’m not trying to make a case here: I am trying to understand something that I think at least partly explains how we have got here.

The point of the model of sacral kingship is that all true power resides in and emerges from the great, mysterious, unknowable, creative power at the heart of the universe - the power which we call, for want of a better word, ‘God.’ Any power that the monarch may exercise in this temporal realm is not ultimately his or hers. At the end of the funeral today, the orb and the sceptre, symbolising the Queen’s spiritual and temporal authority, were removed from the top of her coffin, along with the crown, and given over to the care of the church. At that point, Elizabeth became symbolically what she had always been in reality, and we all are - small, ordinary people, naked before God.

This notion - that any power exercised by a human ruler ultimately derives from the spiritual plane - is neither British nor European. It is universal. Pharaonic Egypt recognised it, and so did Native America. The Anglo-Saxons believed it and so did the Japanese Emperors. Cultures large and small, imperial and tribal, on all continents over many millennia, have shared some version of this understanding of what the world is. Power, it tells us - politics, it insists - is no mere human confection, because the world is no mere human confection. There is something - someone - else beyond it, and if we are silent, in these cathedrals or in these forests, we can hear it still. Those who take power in this world will answer to it at the end. It is best that they know this now.

What is meaningful about this royal death is that the late Queen really believed this. So, I think, does her son, the new King. But the society around him very much does not. The understanding now is that authority flows upward from below, from ‘the people’ and into the government, which supposedly governs on our behalf. In this model there is no sacred centre, and there is no higher authority to whom we answer. There is no heavenly grant of temporary office which will one day be returned, and a tally made. There is only raw power, rooted in materiality, which in itself has no meaning beyond what we ascribe to it. There is only efficiency. There is only management. There are only humans.

And yet: watching the vast, snaking queue that all week has spreadeagled across London, as the crowds came to bow their heads before the coffin; watching the emotions on display today, and the massed crowds again across the country, bringing something to this event that perhaps they didn’t even understand themselves, I thought: no. We don’t really believe that there is nothing else. It is just what we think we have to say. Look: we believe in a bigger story. It is still there. It never left. (Read more.)


Queen Nefertiti’s Tomb

 From Artnet:

For years, archaeologists have fruitlessly searched for the tomb of ancient Egyptian queen Neferneferuaten Nefertiti. Now, the renowned Egyptologist Zahi Hawass believes he’s finally made the coveted discovery. Hawass is part of an Egyptian-led mission that announced in December that antiquities discovered around Luxor resembled amulets known to belong to King Tut. It also unearthed the mummy in question that month in the west bank of Luxor.

“We already have DNA from the 18th dynasty mummies, from Akhenaten to Amenhotep II or III and there are two unnamed mummies labeled KV21a and b,” he told Newsweek. “In October we will be able to announce the discovery of the mummy of Ankhesenamun, Tutankhamun’s wife, and her mother, Nefertiti.”

“There is also in tomb KV35 the mummy of a 10-year-old boy,” he continued. “If that child is the brother of Tutankhamun and the son of Akhenaten, the problem posed by Nefertiti will be solved.” Nefertiti lived between 1370 and 1330 BCE. She was step-mother to King Tut and wife to Pharaoh Akhenaten, who ruled over a prosperous period. According to National Geographic, Akhenaten converted the country to a monotheistic state worshiping the solar disk Aten, even moving the capital to a new city called Akhetaten, meaning “horizon of the god Aten.”

“His successors tried to erase his name and legacy,” National Geographic said. “His capital was abandoned, and artworks featuring his likeness and name—and that of his family, including Nefertiti—were defaced. Their legacy would stay buried for millennia.” Nefertiti’s role as ruler is still up for debate. “I am still looking for two things: [Nefertiti’s] grave and her body,” Hawass said, via Newsweek. “I really believe that Nefertiti ruled Egypt for three years after Akhenaten’s death under the name of Smenkhkare.” (Read more.)


Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Musings from Chestnut Cottage

 From Victoria:

Almost all successful celebrations leave guests reminiscing for months—even years—to come. When asked to hold an important charity dinner at her home in North Carolina, Kathryn didn’t hesitate in enthusiastically agreeing. Her passion for hospitality led the way as she meticulously planned the tricky seating chart, delectable menu, and elegant table settings.

To her pleasant surprise and honor, guests included the state’s governor, and with him, his team of personal security. Despite the obstacles, Kathryn faced the task at hand with grace and ensured that each security member was served a meal and given a seat, despite initial objections. “If you’re at my house, you’re going to eat! And you’re going to eat the same thing the governor eats,” she fondly remembers.

When planning a get-together begins to feel challenging, Kathryn encourages hosts to utilize caterers and florists as helpful alternatives to designing an event alone. With the weight of each responsibility delegated, once-in-a-lifetime memories can be crafted into the most cheerful dinner table stories your future guests will enjoy for ages. (Read more.)


The Left and Its Problems with Language

 From Crisis:

Examples of what I mean abound. Indeed, hardly a day passes without the news media reporting on some incident or other of linguistic nonsense. There was, for example, the refusal of a Supreme Court nominee to answer the question: “What is a woman?” The nominee—now a sworn Justice of the Supreme Court—feared that the gender-benders on the Left would be all over her if she took note of how a woman is different from a man. She claimed that a biologist was needed to answer the question. Since she was not a biologist, the question went unanswered. Seeing and accepting anthropological difference is akin to career suicide on the noisy Left. 

Or, what about the senior United States senator from Massachusetts explaining that “pregnant people” are being denied constitutional protection by the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs? She and everyone else knows that only women can conceive and bear children. Nevertheless, she refused to distinguish men from women because of the demand on the Left that equality be understood only as sameness. Anything you can do, I can do. How juvenile and immature, anthropologically speaking.

Decades ago, gender inclusive language had gained a foothold in many parishes and other places where the Catholic liturgy was celebrated. Attempts were always being made to change texts from their supposed “gender exclusivity” to a more agreeable “gender inclusivity.” Sad to say, this silliness still abides in some places. Behind this foolish preoccupation is a desire to whittle away at any linguistic difference so as to suggest that any difference factually, and especially anatomically, is arbitrary and meaningless. (Read more.)


‘There Is No Climate Emergency’

 From Slay:

A group of almost 1200 of the world’s leading scientists and scholars has signed a document to declare that “there is no climate emergency.” The group, led by a Nobel Prize laureate, signed the declaration that states climate science is based more on personal beliefs and political agendas than rigorous scientific facts. The World Climate Declaration warns that climate science “should be less political, while climate policies should be more scientific.”

“Scientists should openly address uncertainties and exaggerations in their predictions of global warming, while politicians should dispassionately count the real costs as well as the imagined benefits of their policy measures,” the declaration reads. According to a report by WND, the declaration was organized by Climate Intelligence. (Read more.)


Monday, September 26, 2022

Beyond Love Songs: Troubadours and Cathars

 From Medievalists:
Although the troubadours’ poetry does not explicitly indicate a connection to Cathar beliefs, Aroux, Péladan, and Rahn postulated that the troubadours intentionally wrote in an ambiguous style called trobar clus (“closed style”) so that their affiliation to the Cathars would be disguised, lest they be persecuted for associating with a heretical sect. According to Aroux, the troubadours’ jongleurs travelled around France while singing their songs, and along their travels, revealed the lyrics’ secret messages to select listeners. While certainly interesting, these authors’ theories are highly speculative and suspect, and as stated by Karen Sullivan in her book Truth and the Heretic: Crises of Knowledge in Medieval French Literature: "…in more recent years, critics have tended to dismiss the possibility of a link between Catharism and troubadour verse, to the point where two new surveys of medieval Occitan poetry do not even bother to refute this notion."

Despite the consensus among most scholars that the troubadours’ poetry does not indicate signs of Cathar influence, there is still contention among some who insist that certain troubadours harboured an affinity for the heretical sect, especially Peire Cardenal. Select verses from Cardenal’s works denounce and admonish the Catholic clergy – who he thought to be hypocritical – which has led some authors to believe that he was a Cathar sympathizer (since Cathars were very much opposed to the Catholic church). Cardenal’s disdain for the clergy is exemplified in his poem “Clergues se fan pastors.” The poem reads as follows: “Clergue se fan pastors, et son aucizedor, e par de gran sanctor, qui los vei revestir” which translates to “churchmen pass for shepherds, but they’re murderers. Dressed in their robes, they seem so saintly.” (Read more.)

Florida Versus Davos

 From Governor Ron DeSantis at The American Mind:

When COVID hit, I had never experienced a pandemic. Probably most people here had never done that. And so I started to do research and consume data, because we were being told what to do by the White House task force, or this health bureaucrat or that. But did any of that actually make any sense? Was any of it justifiable? 

I look back at Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address. Most people remember it for his warnings about the dangers of the military industrial complex, and I think those were very smart observations. But if you read that inaugural address, he talked about this new phenomenon of the federal government funding so much scientific research. And he said, when those two things are intermingled like that, there’s a danger: public policy itself could be held captive by what he called the “scientific-technological elite.” And he rejected that as something that was acceptable. He said, A statesman’s job is not to subcontract out your leadership to a very narrow-minded elite. The job of the statesman is to harmonize all the different competing interests that are in society, weighing different values, and then coming up with the proper policy. And so my view was, we had to choose freedom over Fauci-ism in the state of Florida. 

We had to make sure that our policies weren’t excluding all these important values, just because people with a very narrow-minded view, with some credentials by their name, were telling us that those values didn’t matter. And a great example is when we were dealing with the schools, and whether schools should be open. The fact of the matter is, from a perspective of evidence and data, this was not a very difficult decision. But it was a very difficult political decision. Just in terms of the blowback that we got: we were opposed by almost every major health bureaucrat that would go on T.V., or that was on the White House task force, or in different state capitals. But the reality was, we had seen this go fine in other parts of the world. And we were following observed experience. And we put that ahead of what some intellectual elite thought should happen. 

And I said at the time, if we don’t have kids in school, you’re going to see massive problems that are going to go for years and years and years. And I was the one that was being attacked, time and time again. I did think though, that once we had the kids in school, the school year was going, the sky didn’t fall, I thought all these other states would be forced to open their schools. In reality, you had places that locked them out for over a year, sometimes even more. And so we followed the data, we looked at the big picture, and our state is much better off for having done that. 

And I can tell you, if you look at the test scores that we’ve seen, we’ve actually had students with lower incomes gain over the last two years. You can’t say that about California and a lot of these other places. But all of that came just from being willing to look at the data independently, being willing to set out a vision of what was important to our state, and then executing. Going on that, we rejected the elites. And we were right. 

They’re now trying to rewrite history, acting like they wanted kids in school all along. And we shouldn’t let them get away with that. But we should also point out, not only were they wrong about schools: the elites were wrong about lockdowns, they were wrong about epidemiological models and the hospitalization models. They were wrong about forced masking. They were wrong when they rejected the importance or even the existence of natural immunity. They were wrong about the efficacy of the mRNA vaccines. And they were wrong when I said that COVID was seasonal. Now they admit it. But they didn’t when it was obvious that that was the case. So in almost every major significant issue, these elites who would show up on cable news or wherever, they were wrong. They got it wrong time and time again. 

And so we also served in Florida as a roadblock to what I think would have taken hold in this country, if it weren’t for our leadership. And that’s a biomedical security state. If you look at what they were trying to do, forcing a vax and passports and all these different things, this country would look a lot different right now, if people like me hadn’t stood up and said, not on my watch. You’re not doing that here.

We were one of the first. We were one of the first, if not the first state, to stand up. And this was early in 2021. We were among the first to say, our schools cannot compel students to do a COVID shot. So we got that off the board very early, before it was even available. Because we saw what they were up to. We saw what was coming down the pike. We were one of the first to ban so-called vaccine passports, the idea that you have to show proof of a COVID shot to be able to participate in society. And there were some conservatives that said, “yeah, well, government shouldn’t do a vaccine passport. But if a private business wants to do it, what’s wrong with that?” Well, I’ll tell you what wrong. What’s wrong with that is an individual has a right to participate in society. And we’re not just going to sit idly by if you’re trying to circumscribe people’s freedoms. And that’s true if it’s government; it’s also true if it’s big business. 

And here’s another thing with Florida: if we hadn’t said that, I do think most businesses probably wouldn’t have wanted to do a passport. But if even one did it, what would people say? Florida has passports? Well, guess what, because we didn’t have vaccine passports, 2021 marked the best year for domestic tourism in the history of the state of Florida. Those tourists wouldn’t have come if they had to cough up medical papers, not in those numbers. And if you look at all foreign tourism in 2021 for the entire United States, almost 45% of it was to this state right here, the state of Florida. Of course it was. If you’re going to travel internationally, you want to go and have a good time, enjoy yourself, make your own decisions. You don’t want them haranguing you about wearing a mask or haranguing you about coughing up a vax pass to go get a cheeseburger somewhere. So we were right on that both from a freedom perspective, and from an overall social good perspective. 

We also were one of the first states to provide protection for all employees in Florida—not just government employees—against employer-imposed COVID shot mandates. Our view is very simple. No Floridian should have to choose between a job that they need and a shot they do not want. And that’s the same if you’re a police officer in a municipality, or if you work for the state government, or if you work for the biggest corporations in the state of Florida. We apply that across the board. And we saved tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process. And so yes, I think that when you look at where people are moving, and why they want to move, they wanted to live in a place that was rational, that was not doing all these ridiculous things that they would do in these other states. 

Remember, Fauci used to criticize us because we had restaurants open. And what they said was, you can’t eat inside a restaurant, it’s so dangerous. And my view on that is well, no one’s forcing you to do it. If you don’t want to do it, that’s fine. But don’t impose that on everybody else. Nevertheless, what they said is you have to eat outdoors. Okay, so fine, Chicago, some of these places, you can set out tables on the sidewalk, even close off the street—probably works okay, until it starts to get cold. People don’t want to eat outside when it’s 40 degrees. And so what would they do? They would do “outdoor dining” by building an enclosure around the tables that are outside the restaurant, with worse circulation and ventilation than just being in the doggone restaurant. But it was “safe” because it was “outdoors.” 

So I think people just saw this and they realized how bizarre it was. And they realized that it had no connection to evidence-based medicine. And so they wanted to go back. We would have people, particularly during 2021, they would be in other parts of the country, wanting to meet for business. So instead of meeting in their city for business, they would all separately fly down to the state of Florida, they’d eat and be able to live like normal human beings, do whatever business they needed to do, then they’d all get up and fly right back to where they all came from. And that was something that was commonplace for us. 

I do think people have also noticed the distinction between how states are governed. I’ve had people move from California to New York. And what they’ll tell me is, man, things are just so much easier here. I got my driver’s license easier, the roads are better, all these other things. Here’s an interesting comparison. The state of Florida has 3 million more people than the state of New York, which is our closest competitor in terms of population. And yet New York’s budget is over twice the size of the budget of the state of Florida. But do we have worse roads than them? No. Do we have worse services? No. And we have higher-performing K-12 schools, and the number-one ranked public higher education system in the country. And we do all of that, with no income tax, and the second-lowest per capita tax burden in the country.

We also, with our most recent fiscal year that ended on July 1, had a $102 billion top-line budget. And that yielded a $22 billion surplus, the largest in the history of the state of Florida. And again, with no income tax, that’s purely from expanding the economic pie and economic activity. If you look at our economy, we have more people employed today than we did prior to COVID. That is not true for most of these lockdown states. Our labor force has expanded, and our unemployment rate is lower than it was prior to COVID. By almost every economic indicator, we’ve exceeded the national average month after month after month for close to two years. And obviously people are benefiting as a result of that. (Read more.)


Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, and Aging

 From The Dispatch:

The world’s obsession with Marilyn Monroe will never die. For the latest evidence of this fact, look no further than the much-anticipated Monroe biopic Blonde, which received a 14-minute standing ovation when it debuted at the Venice Film Festival this week. It’s easy to become fascinated with Monroe for all the wrong reasons, to learn the wrong lessons from her life, ideas that motivated Joyce Carol Oates to write the novel on which Blonde is based. Oates sought to look past the superficial persona that enraptured the world and examine how Monroe wasn’t the person everyone tried to make her out to be.

Monroe’s death at the age of 36 granted her a special status in pop culture: She would forever be young, beautiful and sensual. Blonde grapples, by all accounts darkly, with the destructive behavior that led to Monroe’s premature death and America’s unhealthy fixation with her, but there’s another—radically different—film that also deals with the youth- and beauty-obsessed culture that turned Monroe into a goddess. 

This week marks the 70th anniversary of the release of Monkey Business, a screwball comedy in which Monroe played a supporting role the year before her star-making turns in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire.

The film follows forty-something Dr. Barnaby Fulton (Cary Grant) as he tries to create an elixir of youth for his elderly employer, Oliver Oxley  (Charles Coburn). An accident at the chemical company leads to the genuine product being created without Fulton and Oxley's knowledge, and the watercooler gets tainted with a drug that makes those who take it feel younger. Fulton and his wife Edwina (Ginger Rogers) accidentally ingest the elixir and hijinks ensue. Barnaby, feeling like a 20-year-old, gets his hair cut far too short, buys loud clothes, drives a flashy car, and hits on Oxley’s secretary, Lois Laurel (Monroe). With a teenaged-mentality, Edwina is alternately shy, angry, and mischievous.

As these middle-aged kids (and eventually Oxley) wreak havoc on those around them, Laurel is in the middle of it all, serving, as Monroe so often did in her films, as the embodiment of youth and beauty that everyone who wants the serum aspires to be like or be with. Everyone gets a taste of that youth again and finds it lacking, not because there’s anything wrong with being young or being like Monroe, but because there is something wrong with wanting those things when they’re no longer yours to have.

Grant is the perfect opposite for Monroe in a movie that’s essentially a feature length version of the admonition, “act your age.” If Marilyn Monroe is a symbol of eternal youth, Cary Grant is the epitome of aging gracefully. Already in his late 40s at the time Monkey Business was filmed, and still with 10 years of being a romantic lead ahead of him, Grant’s success came not just from his good looks, but his good sense to accept his aging. When Charade came out in 1963, Grant was 59 and his co-star Audrey Hepburn was 34. He was so uncomfortable with the age difference, Grant insisted lines be written in to emphasize his advanced age and that the script be rewritten to make Hepburn the pursuer in the relationship.

Notably, Grant didn’t hit it big in Hollywood until after he turned 33 and while Grant always cared about his appearance, his approach was one of moderation in all things (except for making love, he once quipped.) His fashion advice was to ignore trends and aim for the timeless, making him the perfect star for Monkey Business. When the dignified, middle-aged Grant assumes the garish guise of youth, the contrast between his screen persona and his character under the influence of the formula make Barnaby’s behavior all the more ridiculous. (Read more.)


Sunday, September 25, 2022

Chevalier (2022)


I heard that Marie-Antoinette is made to be the enemy in this movie. I hope that is not true, since she had the Chevalier as her music teacher. From Yahoo:

For a man who was very nearly lost from history — forcefully erased both during his time and long after he’d passed away — Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges still managed to leave quite a footprint. Good luck choosing which of his many accomplishments to recognize first: his prodigious fencing talent, his exploits as the colonel of the first all-Black regiment in Europe, his incredible skill as a virtuoso violinist, the list goes on and on. In Stephen Williams’ “Chevalier,” it’s Boulogne’s awe-inspiring work as a composer — so talented that he was often referred to as the “Black Mozart, an even funnier moniker considering the pair were contemporaries — that forms the center of

Born in the French “overseas department” of Guadeloupe in 1745, Boulogne’s life was complicated from the start: he was born the son of a wealthy planter and an enslaved teenager who served as his own maid, and though his father acknowledged him and even supported him, the younger Boulogne was always doomed to be an outsider no matter where he was. As Williams’ film — only the director’s second after his 1995 debut “Soul Survivor” and an enviable run of TV directing gigs — kicks off, our on-screen Joseph (played by the always-electric Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is busy beating back his outsider status with insane talent and a brash attitude to match. (Read more.)

From The Playlist:

For a string player, the Chevalier’s pretty brassy, well-matched to Harrison’s snorting-bull volatility. He’s brazenly confident in his own abilities, left with no other choice than extreme self-assurance in defiance of a world aligned against him. His accomplishments and reputation caught the eye of Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton), just one of the many, many white women shown to lose their minds the instant they make eye contact with this hunky virtuoso. Another was named Marie-Josephine (Samara Weaving), a general’s wife and opera sensation said to have collaborated with the Chevalier on more than just a show.

While their affair created a major scandal after a gossip columnist broke the story in the factual record, Robinson’s script takes its tragic outcome one step further into the realm of emotional button-pushing. Across all these happenings, including subplots with his long-lost mother and his engagement with the rabble-rousing proletariat, the typical biopic issue arises; these events seem sequential rather than causal, a series of things that happened which must be shoved into the mold of a story. (Read more.) 

From The Wrap:

The story then resets to Joseph’s childhood, with his father, plantation owner George Bologne (Jim High, “Knightfall”), dropping him off at a music conservatory. Headmaster La Boissière (Ben Bradshaw, “The Office” UK) is reluctant to enroll Joseph, a mixed-race child of a slave, born out of wedlock. The optics seem to be the issue, though La Boissière does bring up the valid point that Joseph will have a hard time fitting in. The youngster manages to get through the door on the strength of his playing, but he must endure his peers’ brutal beatings.

In a fencing match, Joseph impresses Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton), who in turn anoints him Chevalier de Saint Georges. His quick rise to prominence affords him fame, wealth and a libertine lifestyle, but his ambition seemingly knows no bounds. He has eyes for opera singer Marie-Josephine (Samara Weaving), who is married to the powerful Marquis Montalembert (Marton Csokas, “The Last Duel”).

Joseph also vies to become the head of the Paris Opera and challenges his main competition to a duel of composing the superior opera. The chevalier soon finds out that talent alone can only carry him so far in a society that remains focused on the color of his skin. Despite his association with Marie Antoinette, there are limits to how much she is willing to extend herself in the face of her waning popularity. (Read more.) 


Orbán's Warning for Europe

 From Compact:

At the ruling Fidesz party’s annual “picnic” last weekend in Kötcse, a village two hours’ drive southwest from the capital, the message was dire: The United States is driving its trans-Atlantic allies to ruin by globalizing a local, intra-Slavic conflict in Ukraine. And European leaders are going along, obstinately sticking with sanctions that have failed to force a rethink in Moscow, let alone “collapse” the Russian economy or trigger a palace coup against Vladimir Putin.

“Sanctions work when deployed by stronger actors against the weak,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told me as we sat down for a brief interview on the sidelines of the Kötcse conference. “Europe isn’t the stronger actor when it comes to energy. And so the sanctions aren’t working.” It seems like an obvious enough point, but these days, it takes the gruff rationality of the “black sheep” of the European family to voice the obvious.

Western leaders make-believe as if Moscow is some small-time Mideast “rogue regime,” which they can bring to heel by cutting it off from global trade and financial flows. There are only two problems. One is that this isn’t 1999 anymore: What Fareed Zakaria condescendingly called “the rise of the rest” means the rest of the world doesn’t salute when Washington and Brussels hand down sanctions diktats—“the rest” can afford to disobey.

The bigger problem is that Russia isn’t some small-time Mideast country, but a Eurasian civilization with the world’s largest nuclear arsenal and most valuable energy reserves. Even in the case of those classic sanctioned “rogues,” Western embargoes have as often spurred autarkic internal development as caused pain to ordinary people. But in the case of Russian energy, the sanctions were always structurally bound to backfire against Europe.

“If someone believes you can beat Russia, and change things in Moscow, it is a pure mistake,” Orbán told his party’s grandees in Kötcse, speaking forthrightly about the war’s military endgame.

His attitude isn’t born of any deep love for Moscow—impossible, given half a century of Soviet occupation and the premier’s belief that Russian civilization is fundamentally different from Europe’s. Rather, it comes from the realism and cold rationality that Hungary’s historical and geographic circumstances have imposed on her.

Realism: The Russians have utterly confounded the energy sanctions’ intended effects, whether by selling their reserves to the Chinese, who then resell to the Europeans at a markup, or by simply selling less of the stuff at higher prices created by sanctions. In the event, the war and the sanctions have buoyed the ruble to historic highs. (Read more.)


Warnings from a Fascist Playbook

 This is worth a listen. Rudy recants his public pro-choice stance.


Surprising Research Findings on Big Breakfasts, Hunger, and Weight Loss

 From SciTech:

Front-loading calories early in the day reduces hunger but does not affect weight loss. In dieting, there’s the old saying that one should “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper.” It is based on the belief that consuming the bulk of daily calories in the morning optimizes weight loss by burning calories more efficiently and quickly. However, according to a new study that was published on September 9 in the journal Cell Metabolism, the way a person’s body metabolizes calories is not affected by whether they eat their largest meal early or late in the day. On the other hand, the study did find that people who ate their largest meal in the morning reported feeling less hungry later in the day, which could foster easier weight loss in the real world. (Read more.)


Saturday, September 24, 2022

The Hats of Elizabeth II

From Eye on Life Magazine:

When Britain’s Queen, Elizabeth II, crossed the Atlantic last week to visit Canada and speak at the United Nations in New York, all people could talk about was her hats. I can see why. The lady has 500 of them and they are all pretty terrific.

One Canadian commentator pointed out rather snarkily, "you would think that in tough times she could do with fewer hats.” I don’t think so. Hats have been her thing since she became queen in 1952. Her hats are the record of her reign. The hats of Queen Elizabeth II say as much about the world as they do about her. Here is a chronological glimpse. (Read more.)

A Church Drowning in Sentimentality

 From The Catholic World Report:

Whenever I teach graduate seminars, I lay down one rule for the participants. While they’re free to say what they think, they cannot start any sentence with the words “I feel . . .” or ask a question which begins “Don’t you feel . . .?” Quizzical expressions immediately appear on some students’ faces. Then I inform them I couldn’t care less what they feel about the subject-matter.

At that point, there’s at least one gasp of astonishment. But before anyone can even think “trigger,” I say, “Perhaps you’re wondering why I’m not interested in your feelings about our topic. Well, I want to know what you think about the subject. We’re not here to emote to each other. We’re here to reason critically together.”

The puzzled looks disappear. Students, it turns out, grasp that reasoned discussion can’t be about a mutual venting of feelings. And that’s as true for the Church as for graduates. Catholicism has always attached high value to reason. By reason, I don’t just mean the sciences which give us access to nature’s secrets. I also mean the reason that enables us to know how to use this information rightly; the principles of logic which tell us that 2 times 2 can never equal 5; our unique capacity to know moral truth; and the rationality which helps us understand and explain Revelation.

Such is Catholicism’s regard for reason that this emphasis has occasionally collapsed into hyper-rationalism, such as the type which Thomas More and John Fisher thought characterized much scholastic theology in the twenty years preceding the Reformation. Hyper-rationalism isn’t, however, the problem facing Christianity in Western countries today. We face the opposite challenge. I’ll call it Solis affectibus.

“By Feelings Alone” captures much of the present atmosphere within the Church throughout the West. It impacts how some Catholics view not only the world but the faith itself. At the core of this widespread sentimentalism is an exaltation of strongly-felt feelings, a deprecation of reason, and the subsequent infantilization of Christian faith.

So what are symptoms of Solis affectibus? One is the widespread use of language in everyday preaching and teaching that’s more characteristic of therapy than words used by Christ and his Apostles. Words like “sin” thus fade and are replaced by “pains,” “regrets” or “sad mistakes.” (Read more.)