21 Sep 2021

Political Ad

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21 Sep 2021

Angelo Codevilla 25 May 1943– ? September 2021

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Angelo Codevilla has apparently been killed in a traffic accident of some kind.

Titus Techera published a fitting tribute.

One of the great fighting men of American politics has died, Angelo Codevilla. He was born in 1943 in Italy, came to America as a teenager, then became a citizen in spirit, not just in paperwork: He rejoiced & suffered in America’s virtues & vices, greatness & misery; he knew right & wrong, he knew the difference between courage & cowardice, & he acted unhesitatingly on his unusual knowledge of foreign affairs; more, he served America in the military, then as staff in the Senate, finally, as college professor & writer on political matters. He had a private life, but that belongs to his family; his public life concerns everyone who loves America, because it reveals better than almost anything now available to us the powers democracy summons & liberalism educates. More than most men, he lived up to his name. …

Mr. Codevilla chronicled liberalism’s delusions on foreign affairs since the 1970s & his seriousness about political science comes across even more than his expertise in his various tracts & policy papers. Read his investigation of the French Fifth Republic or of the politics of Switzerland in WWII & you will learn from him how to be serious about serious things. His writing on America is much harder to learn from, since he was unpopular & perpetually contemptuous of the silly people that find favor with our cowardly elites, always teaching his audience to show no respect to the intellectually corrupt. If there is beauty in justice, in the requirement of the punishment of the offensive, there was beauty in his anger.

It was the misery worse than tragedy of his life to live long enough to see a necessity to speak about American domestic affairs. Only something as ugly as the potential for civil war could make him speak about the problems of our own affairs. He understood too well that we do not even call America a regime before we are ready to tear it apart. He never ceased blaming elites & never ceased encouraging citizens to share in his great spirit, that they may be free & at the same time respect themselves.

RTWT

20 Sep 2021

Seeing an Older America on Television

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World Spectator excerpt 3.

Chilton Williamson confesses to watching old Perry Mason episodes out of nostalgia for the Old Pre-1960s America all we Boomer intellectuals used to despise while we were growing up.

Today, I, too, would trade the gray-flannel-suited, anti-intellectual, Organization Man Establishment of the 1950s for today’s Woke spineless snivelling Establishment in a New York minute.

Over the past year and a half, I have been re-watching episodes of the original show starring Raymond Burr as Mason, Barbara Hale as Della Street, William Hopper as Paul Drake, Ray Collins as Lieutenant Tragg and William Talman as Hamilton Burger. As with so many good things, I found that they had improved with age — not only theirs but my own as well. Several months ago, the discovery that Evelyn Waugh had been a great admirer of Erle Stanley Gardner’s novels, from which the series was adapted, further increased my appreciation and respect for the films. So did learning that Raymond Chandler — a good friend of the author’s — also appreciated the books for their tight structure and for ingenuity of their plots. Having since read three of the Mason books, I understand what Waugh saw in them; also why Chandler privately described Gardner as someone who could be called a writer ‘only by courtesy’.

Gardner, unlike Chandler, was not a descriptive author, nor had he the ability to create mood and atmosphere. Indeed, he was hardly more than a writer of screenplays, which explains in part why the translation of his novels from paper to celluloid was such a brilliant success. Gardner invented the principal characters (Chandler considered Perry Mason a just-about-perfect creation) and the story lines, while the artistes of the Hollywood movie lots supplied the actors, the settings, the backgrounds and interiors, the décor, the clothes and the cars. The result was a precise image of America in the 1950s that seems almost as distant from America in the 21st century as the antebellum era.

My parents considered the United States of the period hopelessly and unspeakably vulgar, shallow, trivial, ugly and uncivilized. Viewed from the perspective of 2021, it appears more like Athens in her Golden Age. Watching Perry Mason is a comforting experience today precisely because America in the Fifties was a comfortable place, and Americans were comfortable with themselves. Gardner’s Mason was perfect for his time: tall, broad-shouldered, and masculine; confident, competent, generous, chivalrous, and — above all — reassuring. He is solid rather than stolid, always in perfect self-control, even-tempered and imperturbable: the personification of the country that had recently won its second world war and was enjoying the ensuing and well-deserved prosperity, and the superior type of American who is wholly representative of his country without standing above it.

RTWT

Along the same lines, I’ve become aware myself of an ever-increasing fondness for 1940s and 1950s B movies, resulting simply from the comfort of revisiting a so-much more adult and masculine America full of optimism and self-confidence, and generally completely lacking any insolent, whining, power-hungry Identity Groups, and one in which adults talk, act, and dress like adults.

20 Sep 2021

Roger Kimball on Wine

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World Spectator excerpt #2.

There must be a lot more money in being a prolifically published conservative defender of civilization than I ever realized, since Roger Kimball so clearly consistently drinks a lot higher off the vine than I customarily do.

I commonly get by on Two-Buck-Chuck Shiraz and undistinguished, simple and hearty reds from Spain and Portugal. Meanwhile, Old Roger is evidently routinely quaffing $30 and $50 French Clarets and thinks it worth forking out $120-130 for some 2015 California Cabernet. Harummph!

Roger apparently even, from time to time, gets in on vertical tastings of First Growths which, I must concede, move him to genuine eloquence.

[W]ine is susceptible to other liabilities as well. One is the same liability that, sooner or later, affects us all: age. Wines, like people, have different life spans depending on a number of factors, some intrinsic — the sort of grapes it is made from — some extrinsic — how it has been stored, for example. Most wines, like most people, lose suppleness, vivacity and lusciousness after a certain point. This is generally a gradual process, however, and some wines that are clearly on the way out are still interesting.

Indeed, it is often possible to discern lingering greatness in a wine that is past its prime. Some colleagues and I were once treated to a vertical tasting of Château Lafite Rothschild beginning with a bottle of 1961, a storied vintage of a great wine. I have heard that some bottles of 1961 Bordeaux are still drinking well, but this bottle had had a hard life. You could still discern, just, its nobility, but it was present in outline only, a ghost, something like Achilles encountered by Odysseus in the underworld.

It must be nice!

RTWT

20 Sep 2021

Letter to a Dead Friend

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George Steiner

The latest World Spectator has several nice pieces, which I cannot resist quoting.

Frederic Raphael, novelist and noteworthy screenwriter, published a scintillating letter, simultaneously affectionate and rivalrous, to his (deceased last year) friend the Jewish polymath George Steiner which, at one point, repeats a humorous, self-deprecatory story Steiner used to tell.

[A]t your first dinner in King’s, you had taken a modest seat one place from the end of high table. Your neighbor, an old professor of mathematics, did not return your vespertine greeting. You and he sat with your backs to the serving table, from which college servants brought charged salvers to the Fellows and their guests. At dessert, a heaped silver platter of the first strawberries of spring was carried along to the Provost and then along the far side of high table. You watched the towering treat being sapped by more or less voracious dons. Eventually, the platter came to your elbow, the penultimate diner. Twelve strawberries remained.

‘The question that I posed to myself,’ you told us, ‘and which I now put to the company is, in view of the fact that the senior wrangler on my left was the only fellow to be served after me, how many strawberries should I, a guest of the college, be advised, en bon débutant, to take?’

Playing up, I made the stooge’s choice of six; so, I believe, did the others, except for Beetle, who said, ‘Five?’

You looked at her quickly and then said, ‘Five is precisely the number, after brief reflection, that I myself chose, with due deference to my neighbor.’

‘And?’

‘Indeed. As the waiter switched the salver and its diminished cargo to the one remaining, so to speak, candidate, the old professor looked at me for the first time, eyes brimming with contempt. “You bloody fool,” he said.’

You replied, with properly obsolete courtesy, ‘I beg your pardon?’

‘You bloody fool,’ he repeated.

You said, ‘Might you do me the honor of explaining your sanguine choice of courtesies?’ The old mathematician swiveled round to point at the serving table behind your back. Another wide salver, freighted with glistening strawberries, was even then being removed, unbroached, to the kitchen. ‘Had you but had the audacious intelligence to take all the few remaining berries,’ he said, ‘I should have been free to help myself as copiously as I had looked forward to doing.’

RTWT

18 Sep 2021

Just Slightly More Woke Disney World

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HT: Karen L. Myers.

17 Sep 2021

“Bushido”

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16 Sep 2021

Emily Dickinson’s Hair

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Two locks of hair, one blond, one brown, allegedly from the head of Emily Dickinson are being offered for sale on Ebay for $450,000.

Were they stolen decades ago from The Evergreens by the poet James Merrill? See LithHub.

[A] bit of questionably obtained Dickinson memorabilia has been quietly traded among a group of literary men for years: locks alleged to be the poet’s hair (some of which are now for sale on eBay for the astronomical sum of $450,000).

How the poet—who chose to cloister her living body from all but a few visitors—would feel about pieces of it making the rounds is anybody’s guess. The dead cannot give consent. But the alleged Dickinson hair may have arrived on the market by a type of violation: theft. That’s the theory of Mark Gallagher, the English faculty member at UCLA who’s trying to sell the hair on eBay.

The story goes like this: While an undergraduate at Amherst College in the 1940s, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Merrill broke into the home (aka The Evergreens) of Dickinson’s niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi. Merrill and two friends absconded with personal effects, including a small mirror, “tiny wine glass,” and a manuscript sheet—written by whom, it is unclear. The caper was recounted by Stephen Yenser in a 1995 issue of Poetry magazine dedicated to Merrill, who had died earlier that year. Yenser, Merrill’s literary executor and the now-retired founder of UCLA’s creative writing program, said he heard the tale from Merrill himself. In Poetry, he euphemized what was essentially burglary with terms like “borrowed” and “rescued,” writing that the trio “gained clandestine entry.”

The anecdote has been whispered among Dickinson scholars for years, according to University of Maryland English Prof. Martha Nell Smith, one of the nation’s foremost experts on Dickinson.

“I’ve long been convinced James Merrill did wander off with (steal?) some Dickinson items from the Evergreens, Martha Dickinson Bianchi’s home,” Smith wrote in an email.

Gallagher believes that Merrill must have also taken the hair during the alleged break-in at The Evergreens. Gallagher got his hands on the hair by way of the poet J.D. McClatchy, who, until his death in 2018, shared Merrill’s literary executorship with Yenser. McClatchy’s estate sale, where Gallagher purchased the hair, listed Merrill as the original owner.

Yenser, for his part, denies any nefarious origin for the locks. He says the hair came from an envelope found inside an 1890 edition of Poems by Emily Dickinson that belonged to Merrill, likely purchased from a rare book dealer.

Yet the envelope was labeled in cursive “For Mrs. Dickinson,” and the book in which it was found includes notes from Susan Gilbert Dickinson, according to Yale University, which now holds the volume and provided photos of the artifacts (below). Susan was Martha’s mother, and she and her husband Austin, Emily’s brother, lived at The Evergreens until their respective deaths in 1895 and 1913. Their daughter Martha then moved into the property and “preserved it without change, until her own death in 1943,” according to the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, which controls The Evergreens. As far as Gallagher is concerned it’s quite possible Merrill took the book when he broke into the property.

RTWT

16 Sep 2021

Amazing Fishing Technique

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15 Sep 2021

“AOC Writes ‘Tax The Rich’ In The Sky With Her Private Jet”

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Babylon Bee:

NEW YORK, NY—On her way back to D.C. from the Met Gala, a young lady named AOC made a powerful statement on equity by directing the pilot of her private jet to write ‘Tax The Rich’ in the sky.

The stunningly brave slogan was seen by thousands of people in the area and inspired dozens.

“AOC is a true socialist hero,” said Comrade Maisley Wiggins of the Socialist Party of America. “We couldn’t agree more with her statement that the rich should be taxed, which they clearly aren’t. Of course, AOC should be the exception, due to her being a socialist hero.”

Speaking to reporters after landing in D.C., AOC said: “I, like, just thought of doing that while sitting all bored and stuff in my jet. Then I commanded my indentured slave pilot to write in the sky about how important it is to tax the rich! Yay socialism!”

RTWT

15 Sep 2021

Is There Anything She Can’t Do?

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Mary Harrington observes that it is very possible that none other than Ayn Rand recently saved Britain from a system of vaccine passports.

Health secretary Sajid Javid announced [9/12] that the much-debated plan to introduce vaccine passports for nightclubs and other venues at the end of September was not going ahead.

Appearing on the Andrew Marr Show, Javid insisted that while the government ‘was right to look at it’ and the plan would be kept ‘in reserve’ he was pleased to say the passports would not be implemented as previously announced, adding that it was ‘a huge intrusion into people’s lives’ and ‘most people instinctively don’t like the idea’.

Javid is widely known as a fan of Ayn Rand’s brand of radical individualism, reportedly once telling Parliament’s Crossbench Film Society that he wooed his future wife by reading her passages from The Fountainhead. So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to find him resistant to implementing as national policy a requirement to show medical paperwork in order to do something as everyday as going clubbing.

This is all the more so when growing evidence indicates that vaccination doesn’t in fact put a stop to infection, or even transmission of the virus — it mainly reduces the severity of symptoms. If the aim is not eliminating Covid but simply ensuring healthcare systems aren’t overloaded, then provided vaccine uptake is good (as is the case in England, where 89% of over-16s have now had at least one dose) there’s no need to constrain anyone’s movement.

So this announcement feels like a breakthrough of common sense amid a slew of countries announcing vaccine passport policies.

RTWT

14 Sep 2021

C.S. Lewis: On Living Today

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Written by CS Lewis in 1948.

“ ‘How are we to live in an atomic age?’ I am tempted to reply: Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of chronic pain, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways.

It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

The first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about death. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

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