Archive for the 'art, culture' Category

Compare and contrast

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

From WaPo:

My own eyes show rising ocean levels. They show the Arctic ice cap shrinking. They show massive beach erosion, homes toppling into the sea and meteorological records indicating steadily increasing temperatures. The Earth, our dear little planet, just had the hottest May on record. My eyes read projections that are even direr — drought, stifling heat, massive and more frequent storms, parts of coastal cities underwater and, in the American Southeast, an additional 11,000 to 36,000 people dying per year from the extreme heat.

From elsewhere:

Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling. Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes. The dead rising from the grave. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria.

Possibly related: “We call Bill the Crust Master, because his pies, I don’t know what he does, whether he puts crack in them”

Unacceptable language in these times

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

It’s finally been established! The term Washington DC has been determined to be an offensive and insulting slight. Plenty of good reason for that. Oh wait, Oops!

Ad fontes

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Terry Teachout on TCM’s 20th anniversary in the WSJ:

On Monday it will be showing, among other things, “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” “Casablanca,” “Citizen Kane,” “Gaslight,” “Gone With the Wind,” “It Happened One Night,” “The Maltese Falcon” and “Singin’ in the Rain.” You couldn’t ask for a more representative sampling of the best of studio-era Hollywood…Ever since its launch, the audience for TCM has consisted primarily of people who want to watch studio-era movies. While the channel has diversified its offerings over the years, it remains committed to accommodating the conservative tastes of its regular viewers, which is why it steers clear of the franker films that Hollywood started to release around 1970. Look at the schedule for the month of April and you’ll find just 20 films made after 1970, most of them forgettable mediocrities.

If you believe, as I do, that American film entered a new period of artistic maturity in the 1970s, you’ll find little to confirm that belief. Where are “Apocalypse Now,” “Cabaret,” “Chinatown,” “The Deer Hunter,” “The Godfather,” “The Last Picture Show,” “Network,” “Patton” and “Taxi Driver”? Not on TCM. Nor do its potential problems stop there. With under-30 moviegoers reflexively tuning out black-and-white films because they look old fashioned, how can a channel that specializes in the oeuvre of Gary Cooper, Katharine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart hope to eventually replace its aging viewers

The Renaissance was marked by a return ad fontes, to the texts of Greek and Roman classics, and indeed the Reformation featured a return to an ancient text. Things can get lost for hundreds of years, like perspective in art, and then get rediscovered, to the great benefit of civilization.

TCM is not just entertainment; it is a course in American history. Unique in that it is the first time in history we have the voices and pictures of human beings of yesteryear speaking to us directly. In important cultural ways, the America shown on TCM is superior to that of the 70′s and thereafter — the 40-80% illegitimacy trend of the last four decades is a cultural disaster of the first order.

TCM should stick to its knitting, and not worry that kids might currently prefer 3D to B&W. Niche marketing is fine. More importantly, kids can grow up and perhaps discover that BS and malarkey aren’t a viable path to rewarding lives. In that sense, TCM isn’t just a view of the past frozen in amber, but a reminder that a better future culture is possible.

(Incidentally, both Scott Johnson and Mark Steyn would be excellent fill-ins for Robert Osborne, but TCM’s chairman emeritus might object.)

Worth reading today

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Kevin Williamson has a very amusing piece on the life in the Beltway. Many of Mark Steyn’s readers are also pretty good writers. Some anniversaries arriving: it’s ten years since Kill Bill (Sheriff Earl Parks and Esteban Vihaio are the same guy), and coming up on ten years in August since the forging of the Rathergate memos. Finally, we can report that from seeing college age kids talk that George Will’s statement on TV today is true, as political correctness morphs into absurdity (not that it was such a long trip).

Brite collage years

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

LLS:

In a move designed to foster diversity and to create a university that “thinks like America,” Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, the President of Harvard University announced yesterday that the school will embrace egalitarian admissions. The school will no longer give priority to students with good grades, high SAT scores, and impressive extra-curricular activities. Such policies have, Dr. Faust acknowledged, created an “elitist” and “inegalitarian” atmosphere at the college. “It is unacceptable in 2014 to be favoring the intelligent over the unlearned, and the energetic over the slothful,” she proclaimed. Starting next year Harvard’s incoming class will have SAT scores ranging from six to sixteen hundred to produce, for the first time, a truly diverse freshman class…

A press release declares that “Harvard is now dedicated to serving the ‘differently intellectual’ and ‘differently learned’ or DIDL students.” The idea that some are “smarter” than others is a prejudice that we need to overcome. The twenty-first century, the era of Hope and Change, is an age of equality. Gone are the days when knowing the difference between “their” and “there,” or references to dead White European males like Goethe or Marlowe were used to perpetuate privilege. There is no reason to favor an applicant who has been reading Shakespeare since he was ten over one who has watched every episode of “Sponge Bob” fifty times.

This summer, the entire Harvard faculty will be trained in sensitivity to needs of DIDL students. There is talk of an, as yet undetermined, plan for affirmative action for “Low IQ Americans.” The Puritans who founded Harvard held that “there is no sin but ignorance.” But they also burned witches, Harvard noted.

Get with the program, Harvard; you’re behind the times. Recall that professor who assaulted the protester at UCSB? The university effectively sided with the DIDL prof. She’s the 21st century, after all. Harvard: sometimes you’re just so 1636.

Unusual development in the SP

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

If you don’t have a narrative of your own, you’re using the other guy’s narrative. Roger Simon says why that’s a bad idea, both stylistically and substantively. One fellow who is breaking the mold is Rand Paul. Whatever you think of his other merits, he’s doing something very unusual for the Stupid Party: going on Smiley and West (where he got a lot of respect from the call-in audience BTW), going to Detroit and then following up substantively on that trip, and to Berkeley, where he apparently got a standing ovation for torching the NSA. In each case he sought pretty successfully to use areas of common ground with his audience. As we said, unusual for the Stupid Party, but then again not as stupid as focusing over and over on 2 or 3 counties in places like Florida and Ohio to try to eke out 334,000 votes to just squeak by in an election.

Then and now

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Spengler quotes Bottum on the Catholic world pre-1965, in a fascinating discussion of the secular religion of today:

The embroidered arcanery of copes and stoles and albs and chasubles, the rituals of Holy Water blessings, the grottos with their precarious rows of fire-hazard candles flickering away in little red cups, the colored seams and peculiar buttons that identified monsignors, the wimpled school sisters, the tiny Spanish grandmothers muttering prayers in their black mantillas, the First Communion girls wrapped up in white like prepubescent brides, the mumbled Irish prejudices, the loud Italian festivals, the Holy Door indulgences, the pocket guides to scholastic philosophy, the Knights of Columbus with their cocked hats and comic-opera swords, the tinny mission bells, the melismatic chapel choirs— none of this was the Church, some of it actually obscured the Church, and the decision to clear out the mess was not unintelligent or uninformed or unintended.

It was merely insane. An entire culture nested in the crossbeams and crannies, the nooks and corners, of the Catholic Church. And it wasn’t until the swallows had been chased away that anyone seemed to realize how much the Church itself needed them, darting around the chapels and flitting through the cathedrals.

That’s the Catholic Church that’s been lost, but most of Bottum’s book is about the today’s post Christian Puritans in America: “We live in a spiritual age when the political has been transformed into the soteriological. When how we vote is how our souls are saved.”

Indeed. A major dividing line is how we think about the past. We have high government officials who believe the past is outdated and, it follows, irrelevant. We think they’ve been beguiled by the metaphor of technological progress, as well as their own good fortune in life. Is there a way back from this fantasy world? Of course, but it is highly unlikely to be pleasant.

(On the lighter side, we offer examples of outlandish but fashionable idiocy, here, here, and here, which suggest that maybe, just maybe, things might right themselves without cataclysm.)

Low, going lower

Monday, March 24th, 2014

In a world where this is considered normal, this is what you get. They sow not; neither do they reap. But they sure can complain and lecture.

Lighter side: Moonglow and a scene from Picnic.

Wheels within wheels

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Henry Kissinger:

For the West, the demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one…

Ukraine has been independent for only 23 years; it had previously been under some kind of foreign rule since the 14th century…Ukraine has been part of Russia for centuries, and their histories were intertwined before then. Some of the most important battles for Russian freedom, starting with the Battle of Poltava in 1709 , were fought on Ukrainian soil. The Black Sea Fleet — Russia’s means of projecting power in the Mediterranean — is based by long-term lease in Sevastopol, in Crimea. Even such famed dissidents as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Joseph Brodsky insisted that Ukraine was an integral part of Russian history and, indeed, of Russia…

Ukrainians…live in a country with a complex history and a polyglot composition. The Western part was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1939, when Stalin and Hitler divided up the spoils. Crimea, 60 percent of whose population is Russian, became part of Ukraine only in 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev, a Ukrainian by birth, awarded it as part of the 300th-year celebration of a Russian agreement with the Cossacks. The west is largely Catholic; the east largely Russian Orthodox. The west speaks Ukrainian; the east speaks mostly Russian. Any attempt by one wing of Ukraine to dominate the other — as has been the pattern — would lead eventually to civil war or break up.

Roger Kimball has lots more. This is certainly more complex than the US simpletons on either side of the issue make out.

(For today’s light reading, Clarice’s pieces are simultaneously funny and depressing.)

Once in a Blue Moon — not

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Roger Kimball explains why today’s problems are only the beginning for the prankster and the rest of us. Steyn rates Blue Moon. And it’s been almost fifty years, and we never knew that that’s what Eric Clapton was playing in 1967.

The university, the media, and the rest of us

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Gallup has a poll showing what people from L to R and in-between care about. It’s a little surprising in that there’s so much agreement on important things. OTOH, here’s a typical college voting 26-3 in favor of nonsense. The media, of course, are just like the college kids: they’ve mostly never worked a day in their lives in the real world, i.e., the private sector. Too bad politics is downstream of culture.

Don’t know whether to laugh or cry…..

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Wretchard can really bring you down. On the other hand, there’s always Crimea River and other such tunes. A long, long way from the songs of yore. Ah, well. HT: PL

Gas attack

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

What passes for wisdom today: “in the old Westerns or gangster movies, right, everyone puts their gun down just for a second. You sit down, you have a conversation; if the conversation doesn’t go well, you leave the room…if you look at Iranian behavior, they are strategic, and they’re not impulsive. They have a worldview, and they see their interests, and they respond to costs and benefits.” Fellow sure likes the sound of his own voice, and he’s far from alone in his naïveté. It’s what they really believe inside the beltway, the media, the media, and the academy. There’s a war on, but only one side is fighting.

Cognitive dissonance?

Friday, February 28th, 2014

It has been said that humans are not a rational animal, but a rationalizing one. So when we see a comment like this — “there’s plenty of horror stories being told. All are untrue” — we wonder why the stridency? Of course, these are politicians, not the brain trust, but we also see such stridency in certain parts of the academy. Why the rigidity and over-reaction on the part of some? Just a case of nasty personalities? Or maybe that, as true believers in the religious doctrines, they are more than a little discombobulated when reality veers from their desired, indeed predicted, outcomes. Time will tell.

Glory Days

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

The army is going down to pre-WWII levels and the navy to pre-WWI levels. The FCC was about to monitor both TV and newspapers (page 7) to ensure their political correctness (here’s the group that designed the study). The utopians (see VDH) from the faculty lounge and the media are firmly in charge of the narrative and the current cultural rot. This can’t end well, but as Wretchard said the other day, end it will.

That’s Entertainment

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Mark Steyn has a piece on Shirley Temple that ranges far and wide, which brings us to the topic of entertainment. While watching A Place in the Sun for the first time on TCM yesterday, we noticed an instrumental version of Mona Lisa in the background. Turns out it had been written for another Paramount picture released a year earlier. That led us to the fellows who wrote the song. Jay Livingston not only composed Que Sera Sera, the Bonanza theme and many other memorable songs, he also sang the Mr. Ed theme. How about that? His brother is equally remarkable: Bonanza, the Capitol Records building, Bozo the clown, and the Beatles, among other accomplishments. Amazing, the things you can do with a phone today while watching a movie.

Breaking news from a century ago

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

From 1919:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Good news! Almost 3/4ths of Americans know that the earth revolves around the sun. Cowabunga dude. In related news, top government officials are warning that we are reaching a tipping point of no return on AGW. Gosh that’s scary. Steyn has some comments. Meanwhile, Thomas Sowell has an excellent but depressing piece as we slouch toward Gomorrah. Finally, a US president said: “I so much despise a man who blows his own horn, that I go to the other extreme.” Any guesses?

Then and now

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

The now: Peter Beinart has a rather dreary piece cataloguing decline. The education system has done a fine job for the last generation or two, hasn’t it? But it’s not all dreary; apparently Romney is going to be impeached. He appointed those awful bundlers to be diplomats to countries they know nothing about. Even the then is corrupted by the now. A local radio station says it plays 60′s-80′s biggest hits, but 10% of the playlist are covers or simply unknown to us, and the song selection seems quite peculiar compared to the Billboard Top 100 lists. What’s up with that? We did see one the other day (#81) by someone we never heard of. Well, that’s been corrected.

Things to read

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Dr. Strangelove was true? Doubt it. Jerry Lee Lewis killed one of his many young wives. Seems likely. Hinderaker will get a knock on his door. Definitely. The US has 50% of the world’s lawyers. Ouch! In the academy, all literature is political. Yuck! The ME is a mess. Who knew? The GOP is the stupid party. Duh….

Questions for high school seniors

Friday, January 24th, 2014

How many feet in a mile? How many yards in a mile? What is the circumference of the earth? What is the Pythagorean theorem? How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? What’s a woodchuck? How many men have served as president? What’s the official language of the UN and how come they can’t spell? What is the phrase “will a jolly man make a jolly visitor” a mnemonic for? What about “how terribly poor the frail paper boy looks”? What does “negative b plus or minus the square root of b squared minus 4ac over 2a” mean? What does the phrase “remember the alamo” refer to? Who is William Bradford? What’s the first line of Moby Dick? Recite three lines of any Shakespeare sililoquy. When is a door not a door? (When it’s ajar.) What’s the shortest verse in the King James bible? What’s your opinion on the Psalm 46 kerfuffle? What’s wrong with the phrase “agricola amat puellam“? What are NaCl and entropy?

Well, we could have performed well enough on most of those in high school, except for the bits about Psalm 46 and the woodchuck. We suspect that fewer high school seniors would fare as well today. Question: how would the writers of this speech do?