Saturday, December 5, 2015

Ambroise Thomas - Le Caïd - Pol Plançon

What a great bass he was.

Mozart - From The Magic Flute, sung in Italian, - In diesen heil'gen Hallen

Charles Gounod - Faust - Final Trio 

with Emma Eames and Charles Dalmores

The acoustics of this recording didn't favor Eames voice, there are recordings of her that show she was quite a spectacular singer in her own right.   This is regarded as real bel canto style singing from the "golden age", if you want to hear it these recordings are as close as you're going to get.  I would recommend the transfers that Nimbus Prima Voce did, though they're hard to find.  They used a huge wooden horn to play the original discs back into a hall and used that recorded sound, after considerable research to find the right playback speed.  It was a real labor of love and the results were there to be heard.  I hope someone reissues the ones that have gone out of production.  

Hate Mail

Oh, so, I guess you guys have declared yourselves to know more about music than that Louis Armstrong guy.   How unsurprising, that is for any musician who's familiar with you guys. 

And Since Prayer Is So Much Under Discussion This Week

William Bolcom - Sweet Hour of Prayer from Gospel Preludes, Book 4 

Marianne Kim Organ Recital at Boutell Memorial Concert Hall of Northern Illinois University

Update:   Here is a Pipe Dreams program which contains most of the Gospel Preludes played by different, very fine organists, and  William Bolcom's commentary on them, how he came to write them and many other things.  It leads me to think that organ playing is a far more progressive force in music than most people would suspect.   Here is the program website with additional links to information and to download the show.

Pipe Dreams is one of the few programs on American radio that I still listen to regularly.

Olivier Messiaen - Twenty Meditations On The Baby Jesus - VI Through Him All Things Were Made

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano

Note: In the Youtubes with the score, this meditation is divided in two, I prefer to post it given as a single one.

Olivier Messiaen is a composer who has attracted a number of eminent detractors, some as respectable as the great American composer Elliot Carter who disdained what he regarded as "vulgarity" in the music.  I think that's due to their having had vastly different aesthetics and agendas in their music. Carter's music is an extremely fine exploration of musical technique which transcends that though an extremely well refined sense of which material to explore.  Messiaen's music is no less an exploration of technical resources but his music is always grounded in his  religious, Christian, Catholic and I'd even say French Catholic mysticism.

Another American composer who disdained Messiaen's music was Virgil Thomson.   Which is especially noteworthy as in the imaginary war between "German" and "French" music, Thomson posed as a champion of the French side.  Though Thomson's France was of the flippant and nihilistic cafe society type.  He once said that Eric Satie had invented the only thoroughly modern aesthetic which is as revealing of Thomson's ability to be one of the silliest as well as one of the best music critics of his time as it says anything about modern music.   I don't think Virgil Thomson was capable of getting Messiaen's music because he was entirely unsympathetic to Messiaen's mysticism.   That mysticism put him outside of the realm of fashion - is there anything that could have possibly been more unfashionable than writing twenty meditations on The Baby Jesus in the mid-20th century?

I think  the title of his most famous work, his Quartet For The End of Time was another example to show that independence from time and fasion.  Whereas Mahler dreamed of music that would be big enough to contain the whole universe, Messiaen's vision was larger.  There is something in common with the Austrian composer Anton Webern, whose tiny compositions shared in Messiaen's Catholic mysticism, a mysticism which could see the entire universe and the mind of God in "the smallest bee hive", the heart (Cantata II).   Messiaen's music has more in common with Charles Ives' in his mysticism - another composer Thomson disdained - and, though I have no idea if he would welcome the idea, Ives' finest and most expansive successor in American music, William Bolcom.

The Jillionaires of Saudi Arabia Are The Source of Terror

A week ago we were in the throes of a full fledged hating on all Christians because of the presumed motives of the terrorist who killed people, injured people and terrorized many more in Colorado Springs.   As his ex-wives and present girlfriend and others described him what emerged was a violent, mean hypocrite who, as one of his ex wives truthfully said, didn't follow the Bible he pretended to.  

This weekend we are listening to the family, members of the mosque he used to attend and others who can't explain the motives of the man who murdered even more people at a civil service agency in San Bernardino.   From what most of them are saying, it seems likely that he was recruited to terrorism through the wife he met online and brought back from Saudi Arabia, the breeding ground of terrorist groups and the major banker of terrorists in the middle east and elsewhere.  

Saudi Arabia is governed by some of of the worst human rights violators in the world where beheading and stoning and slavery and human trafficking is mixed with some of the most radical oppression of women found anywhere but those men who maintain that government also are jillionaires sitting on oil that is a vitally needed raw material in many places so that government is seen as untouchable.   Needless to say if the West, somehow, chose to do without Saudi Arabia's oil, China would not be so fussy about the range of violation of rights - it being another of the major violators of human rights in the world - and back in the day not averse to funding a bit of terrorism.  As the communists became commui-capitalists they would seem to have discovered other things are more profitable.

I heard a report on the radio about the possibility that terrorist groups are recruiting women to marry Muslim men in the United States and elsewhere as a means of radicalizing their husbands and others. I don't know how reliable those reports are but it seems to be a possible explanation of what happened in San Bernardino.   Syed Rizwan Farook's family and his co-workers say he never seemed to have violent radicalized tendencies in the past, some of them are saying there were definite changes in him.  He stopped, abruptly, going to his mainline mosque which wasn't supportive of that use of the label of Islam.  

The news that his wife, Tashfeen Malik, had posted her allegiance to ISIS on her Facebook page poses a troubling issue.  If we are going to make it illegal for American law enforcement to monitor such internet activity, we're going to find it impossible to prevent such under the radar terrorists from operating.  I think we're going to be forced, eventually, to accept that such stuff will be monitored in other countries as they are less paranoid about such monitoring and it is stupid in the extreme to allow the United States to be an open opportunity for it.  I've come to believe that the realistic option will be to have better law enforcement who are absolutely dedicated to democratic values who will be trusted to do that kind of monitoring or we're going to get one that is doing it anyway and which isn't dedicated to democratic values.   To do nothing will hand victory to the right-wing paranoiacs because as there are more incidents like this they are going to use them to gain power.   That is happening now.   Liberals have to give up the paranoid-libertarian nonsense on those issues or they will be discredited by the results.   Knowing that someone like Tashfeen Malik has done that on Facebook after she's killed lots of people doesn't cut it.  Greenwald and Snoweden are not going to win that argument in the end, pretending they will is only going to guarantee that the fall out will be worse than it has to be.

The government of the United States and governments in Europe have to start cracking down on Saudi and other governments that allow their countries to fund terrorists.   While I'm no expert, I can't help but wondering if factions of the Saudi government don't see such terror as their means of practicing hegemony in the Middle East, in Asia and in Africa.  I would like to know what role it plays in things like the trafficking of slaves for the Saudi elite and in other features of their worse than medieval system.  And, no doubt, the bankers who do business with that establishment, also need to be cracked down on.  I can't imagine many of those aren't found outside of those regions, certainly some of them on North America or in some of the money laundering countries such as Switzerland and various island archipelagos.

I haven't had the stomach to look at the right wing websites but, no doubt, they are a mirror of Muslim bashing to last weekends' Christian bashing on the pseudo-left websites.   The majority of the people who have been killed by the terror funded with Saudi money have been Muslims, though non-Muslims in the region are treated the full force of such barbarity.   That isn't a shock considering how other religions and minorities are treated under the laws in Saudi Arabia.   I can imagine lots of Muslims despise it as much as many non-Muslims do.   That is one thing that can be said of the phenomenon of "Islamic" terrorism that can't be said of "Christian" terrorism, there is no vast source of wealth fueling it, today.   It won't stop as long as that funding source is in place.   That is what the West is at war with, not the Muslim people who are as terrorized and oppressed by it as anyone is.  This isn't the secular, or even "Christian" west against the world population of Muslims anymore than it was the west against the people of Russia, this is the west against the wealthy elite who want to expand their control through pseudo-Islamic terror.  Not realizing that will only enable them, I have to wonder who is benefiting here by pushing that guaranteed to fail framing of the issue.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Rimsky-Korsakov - The Rose and the Nightingale - Antonina Nezhdanova,

Here's another singer I'd never heard before, or heard of.  I don't know why, she was clearly one of the greatest singers of the 20th century from the recordings you can hear on Youtube.   That she sang in Russia and opted to stay after the revolution might be why she wasn't as famous as some of her contemporaries.  She proves the old line that Russian singers replace technique with gestures is just a line.  For a recording made by singing into a horn in 1914 this is great.  The several glitches on the Youtube are worth putting up with just to hear what you can of it.   She was the singer Korsakov wrote his way too famous Vocalise for, from what they say.

Here she is singing Verdi,  Sempre Libera  from La Traviata in 1910.  She must have been incredible in person.  You hardly ever get this vivid a sense of a singer from the acoustic era of recording.

Adolph Adam - Cantique de Noël - Pol Plançon

The recording was made on 23 November 1903 for the Victor Talking Machine & Co.

It's one of the fun things about Youtube, you read about a musician or music you've never heard before and it's possible you'll find something of it you can listen to.   

I'd heard of Pol Plançon, one of the most renowned of singers from the "golden age" of opera, but hadn't heard him.  When I came across this I realized that his life overlapped Adloph Adam's and both his teacher, Gilbert Duprez and his model in singing, Jean Baptiste Faure would have certainly been the kind of singers that Adam expected to sing his music.  Faure had originated some of Adam's roles.   And, once I  had read that, I was curious to know what Faure's voice was like.  Here he is when he was 70, an age when most of us would be lucky to croak out something in tune. 

The style is not how you would expect to hear this music today but it is the best evidence we have for how the composers would have expected it to be sung.  

You Don't Get It, I'm Not Trying To Create Anything I'm Trying to Free What Is Already There So It Will Be Effective

Oh, you mistake my purpose, I don't want to create a new left in opposition to the 'secular left' as you put it, I want the real left that has always been there, the left that passed the most significant liberal legislation in the past century, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, etc. to realize that it can't afford the baggage that the anti-religious pseudo-left has been pretty much since the late 1960s.  They and their agenda have created the conditions that have allowed the corporate fascists to destroy much of the progress that was achieved.

Probably as bad as anything they did was the promotion of a moral relativism that denied either the reality or the possibility of discerning an effective difference between the truth and lies in a political and legal context.   The Sullivan ruling is one of the key events in that disaster, as I've mentioned a number of times, it was the product of that thinking.   I don't think democracy is possible without people taking both the responsibility of identifying, absolutely, what truths can be known  in opposition to what lies can be known and the chance of being wrong on that.  Anything which doesn't make a decisive and effective difference favoring the truth over lies, is the death of representative democracy.  I don't think we can merely allow the judiciary whose job is, after all, making those decisions, merely saying that either they can't do that easily with scientific precision or that - for whatever insane and irrational reason - that they are barred from doing so because of the desire for the writers of the Bill of Rights to be poetic instead of specific in what they meant by "freedom of speech" and "freedom of the press".

It is one of the things I most disagree with Noam Chomsky about, his position formerly stated that those freedoms must be absolute is incompatible with democracy, it is incompatible with retaining anything like a decent government.  When someone is given carte blanche to lie, any lie being permissible, it is a license to construct the most vicious and saleable of lies, the most facilely sold of lies.  The evidence of that is abundant in the study of the propaganda of Nazis and fascists and gun nut cults and black helicopter paranoics and the fan base of FOX news and those who have elected a series of some of the worst presidents in our history in the wake of the Sullivan decision and its related ACLU supported rulings and the total absence of presidents and a congress such as the one which was elected in a segregated America but which managed to pass those two landmarks of human progress, both of which have been eviscerated by the governments elected in the wake of that intellectual regime.

The left which elected those members of congress and the president who passed and signed those into law did not do so under the influence of secular or anti-religious pseudo-liberals, they were elected by a mostly Christian electorate who were forced to act under the religiously motivated actions of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, figures such as The Reverends of that movement, others who overtly cited Christianity as their motivation, such as the great Diane Nash, and others who put their lives on the line to end segregation and voter suppression.   It was not the atheists who did that, they were, in almost every case, of no importance, whatsoever, in the cultural context of the early 1960s, their taking a prominent role would have certainly been counterproductive in the effort.  As, in fact, their presence in the left has been mostly counterproductive in terms of electing people and ballot measures and moving legislation.  All you have to do is look at the use of their anti-religious talk by the Republican-fascists for the past fifty years to see that.

Messiaen: Twenty Meditations on The Baby Jesus - V. Regard du Fils sur le Fils

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano 

Hate Mail - Amanda Marcotte's Anti-Baby Screed Is A Good Example Of Why The Secular Left Fails

Flack was received over me criticizing Amanda Marcotte for being so dim as to express her bratty older sibling "SEND THAT BABY BACK!" rant as alleged feminism.  The piece it was from was supposedly an argument for the right of women to determine the condition of their own bodies, a pro abortion piece.  If you want to see just who that is of use to, try a web search to see who has made the most use of it, you will quickly discover that the anti-choice, anti-feminist side has made lots of hay with it.   An argument made by an adult based on a hatred of babies is bound to have a negative effect on whatever it is that they are arguing for.   I can't demonstrate it with the amount of time I have to do research these days but I will bet that the arguments about the plus side of infanticide in The Descent of Man and other scientific proponents for Darwinism has had a net negative effect for the public acceptance of evolution which the Darwinists have always wanted to equate with natural selection.

Now, I doubt Marcotte had much of a goal in writing such a stupidly counterproductive tantrum other than to get attention for herself.  Which is one of the reasons that these baby hating pieces get written, though there is certainly more than enough baby hating around than the subjects of that hatred merit, which is absolutely none.  Babies are innocent of any offence which people take from them, unlike those who are taking offense.

You might give some leeway for the previous baby of the family for being a brat over their suddenly having their position usurped when they are three or, less so, if they are five when the new baby comes home.  That someone has to make this point about people who have long since reached the age of majority should be incredible, especially since Marcotte and her admirers love to tell everyone that they represent the rational community.  But that's another thing that bratty children like to tell themselves, though generally starting about the age of 9.  Some grow out of it, clearly the Marcottes of the world don't.

In case anyone who reads this wants to turn it into a criticism of Marcotte's choice to not have children, no, I'd encourage someone who doesn't want children to not have children.  Not having a child is a responsible position to take if you don't want a child or don't believe you could fulfill your moral responsibility to them.  And by that I don't necessarily mean to bring them up in middle-class material security, lots of dirt poor parents are great parents who bring up children beautifully.

It is especially true that you should not produce a child if you hate babies and are so self-absorbed that you would probably neglect them, at best or abuse them, at worst.  And the worst form of abuse a child can experience, short of actual violence, is for a selfish, self-centered parent to allow them to know that they are hated, that their very life is resented by the people who are responsible for them. I've known more affluent people, many of them with graduate degrees who give their children every material and social advantage but who don't give them the thing they are most responsible to give by virtue of their choice to have a child, the thing they need above all else, love.   Normal people understand that, so many in the "reality community" don't.   Politically, it might make you popular with them, most people will be rightly repelled by it.   Needless to say, it is politically stupid to make your being a nasty adult brat one of your arguments for any position.   It is the Ayn Randism of the alleged left.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

William Bolcom - The Dead Moth Tango

Ursula Oppens - Piano

I wish I could post all three of the Dance Portraits of which this is one.  William Bolcom is definitely the most eminent of living American composers.

William Bolcom - Dream Shadows

John Murphy, piano

I'd ask for this album for Christmas, only we agreed no presents anymore.  Incredibly rich harmony.

Do Atheists Figure All Religion Is A Cargo Cult? Hate Mail

I have a rule that if I've been a guest at someone's place I don't publicly criticize what they say.  Not unless they break that trust, and usually not even then.   That said, I did write a post pointing out some of the problems of scientifically studying prayer at her place years and years ago.

1. It is impossible, even while giving instructions of what someone is to do while praying to know that any two people are doing the same thing as everyone's understanding of those instructions and their ability to carry them out consistently is of unknowable reliability.  There is a vast range of meaning to what people call "prayer" and there is no way to cover the entire thing in any protocol.

2.  It is impossible to observe what happens during prayer so there can be no observation of what is happening.

3. The biggest problem of praying for the intercession of God or some other imagined deity is that you cannot account for their part in it.   Prayer is not like S&H Green Stamps, you don't automatically get to cash in so many prayers for a guaranteed result.  There is an old saying that God always answers prayers but the answer is often "no".

4. The Bible says, "You will not put the Lord your God to a test,"  if that is true then it is irrational to believe God would cooperate with any such a test.  You can't compel compliance from the deity.

5. There is no way to have a control group as you have no way to know if someone outside of the control group is being prayed for by someone else, by themselves, etc.  And there is no way to know if for whatever reason God didn't just intend an outcome you didn't expect.  

There are lots of other problems with the idea of testing prayer, what if you get a result that you didn't ask for but which works better than what you asked for.  How would you evaluate that is such a proposed test?

I think the problem is that atheists just don't understand what religion is and just don't get it.  But, then, I don't think a lot of people who profess religion get it, either.

Me, I read Duncan's little post, looked at the post by Adrastos at First-Draft it is, I guess supposed to be based on.  I didn't quite get Duncan's point.   But, then,  I looked at the piece by Athenae which Adrastos riffed off of.  Now, her piece is well worth mentioning and it's nothing like the snark that Duncan elicited so predictably from his stable of regulars.   I liked all of Athenae's piece but especially this part.

Every time something like this happens, I dread the platitudes, the “prayers up!” messages, the ways in which we’ve made faith into some kind of dodge that makes us good people. Like if we think and pray, that gets us out of something. Like that’s what we have to do.

It’s insulting, and not just to people for whom prayer is talking to an imaginary, ridiculous friend.

It’s insulting to people for whom prayer is a real act of faith. It’s insulting to people for whom prayer is critical, is active and purposeful and rooted in moving the world forward.

Prayer is not mouthing of memorized words with hands folded before bedtime. Prayer is not “thank you for Grandma and my pony and my plastic rocket.” Prayer is not “please God let it not rain on circus day.” Prayer is not even “please God, let me live.” Prayer is not a never-ending, whiny wish list directed upward at an unknowable, unanswering deity.

Prayer is directed at other people.

Prayer is getting up every day before dawn, and baking bread.

Prayer is delivering letters in the pre-dawn light of early winter.

Prayer is lending a neighbor a shovel when there’s a blizzard. Prayer is bringing a snowed-in neighbor some food.

Prayer is digging a well where there is no water. Prayer is planting a crop where there is no food. Prayer is doing the dishes. Prayer is holding the baby. Prayer is laundry. Prayer is standing on a factory line and repeating the same task over and over and over and over for 20 years, until your hands and your knees and your hearing are gone, and all you have left to pray for is the drive home, the lunchbox your spouse packed sitting full on the seat next to you because you didn’t have time for a break.

Now, I was raised a Catholic and we were big on both faith AND WORKS.  My favorite epistle in the New Testament, James, says:

What good is it, my brethren, when someone claims to have faith, but he has no works?  Is such a faith really able to save him?  If a brother or sister has no coat and they are lacking daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go with peace, be warmed and fed," but you don't give to them the basic needs of the body, what good is it?  So this kind of faith by itself, when not having works, is dead. Someone will indeed say, "You have faith, and I have works.  Show me that faith of yours apart from works, and I will show you a faith by reason of my works." You believe that there is only one God.  You are doing well.  The demons also believe that, and tremble.  But are you convinced, foolish person, that faith without works is useless?  Our father Abraham, was he not justified by reason of works, when he offered his son Isaac up on the altar?  See how faith was working together with his works, and through his works his faith was made complete?  Thus also was completed the scripture which says, "And Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."  And he was called a friend of God.  You should see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.  And in the same way Rahab the prostitute, was she not justified also by works, when she sheltered the messengers and sent them out by another way?  For just as a body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

Update:  Oh, the hell with it, if Duncan keeps allowing Simels to lie about what I said, I'm going to go over everything Duncan posts.  It shouldn't take much time, he doesn't write much. 

I'll start with his equating Prince Charles trying to get BBC 4 to agree to 15 pages of conditions before they can interview him with Chelsea Clinton trying to talk to the media on her own terms.  Apparently Duncan overlooks several facts.  Whereas Prince Charles is a man who has lived as a, well, stinkin' rich prince at the public expense in a family which has lived at the public expense for generations immemorial,  The British Monarchy is populated with parasites who have no purpose except to serve as the head of the British Class system,  Chelsea Clinton is and always has been a private citizen.   So, no, their situations are nothing alike.  It's arguable that, as a public charge, Charles owes his patrons something, Chelsea Clinton owes no one anything that we don't all owe each other, putting yourself in a position to be set up in the national media isn't one of those. 

And whereas Charles pretty much had the press treat him with kid gloves till he started seriously slipping around on his wife, Chelsea Clinton has had her family under full attack from the media since she was a toddler.   She not only owes the media nothing they want, she owes them her total and complete distrust because they have earned it, over and over again.   

I don't much care about the Brit monarchy or, for that matter, Brit TV but to equate Chelsea Clinton's position to Prince Charles is about as stupid as it gets.  

Liszt - Nuages gris

André Laplante, piano

I don't have any idea what brought this piece to mind, the only piece by Liszt I ever enjoyed playing. Well, other than the grey clouds I'm looking at.

Late Lunch Hate Mail

What in the world would make you think that I'd feel envious about someone sending you some lame, moldy I Spy episodes as a Christmas present?   After I made fun of it.   You think I'm going to feel diminished by your watching a show I think was stupid?   I'd think more highly of someone who watched old episodes of Grindl.  

You know, if Derbes bought them, I'll bet that Cosby gets a percentage of the sale, since you were going on about him. I'll bet his agent negotiated such issues when they made the show or when they released it for sale.   I only noted Cosby had never been prosecuted, I've never been responsible for adding to his income or promoting his career. 

Update:  I doubt Tlazolteotl, aka the gal who is so dim that she named herself after the shit eating goddess, has ever read anything I wrote so I don't care what the coprophagous dolly regurgitates, crap in, crap out .  

Olivier Messiaen: Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus - IV Regard de la Vierge

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano

We Had Better Hope That Religion Can Get Guns Under Control Because Secularism Has Failed To Do That For Five Decades

If I had the time I'd go collect comment threads from right wing and allegedly left wing blogs to compare the chatter over the two incidents, the attack on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and yesterday's horrific attack on the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino.   From my fast, cursory look this morning, it might provide an interesting comparison of the hates of the two groups, the hatred of Christians and the hatred of Muslims.   Though last night, before any of the murderers were identified, I did see some Christian bashing by those eager to restart the weekend's group hate session on some of the supposed left wing blogs.  I think the comparatively subdued tone in the chatter as compared to the weekends' frenzy betrayed some disappointment on their part when the killers were identified. 

There is a post up at Religion Dispatches that asks Can Faith-Based Organizing for Gun Control Work?   To which I say, considering that it took religious involvement to move every major reform which became fact in our society, we'd better hope it works on this issue or it will destroy democracy and turn the massively armed United States into one great big Afghanistan.   

The secular gun control movement has failed and I think it failed because it started up just as the pressure to suppress religious expression on the left was gaining hold.   There is a reason that the high water mark of liberal effectiveness came with the passage of the civil rights laws in the mid-1960s.  When the man who, in so many ways, embodied or symbolized that time,  The Reverend Martin Luther King jr. was murdered, it was with a gun, when Robert Kennedy was gunned down a little over a month later, the secularized left couldn't mount an effective response and it hasn't been able to do it at all despite the staggering body count which has been the result of going on fifty years of failure.   

The experiment of the secular left has been run in the period since then, it has failed, utterly.  And a good reason that it failed is that its replacements for religious morality, media libertarianism, foremost, the license to lie, massively, for pay instead of insisting on holding the media responsible when it lies, has been the foremost venue used by the gun industry to lead us into the terrible situation we are in today.  It leads to conditions in which all rights are at risk.  That is what I've come to conclude in the past fifteen years of reading the secularists and reviewing the history of their influence in politics and society.  When morality is considered an ephemeral manifestation of physical causation and one set of morals or no morals at all is as good as any other, it's no wonder everything goes to hell. 

Christine Donkin - Magnificat

Camerata Xara Young Women's Choir at l'Église St-Bernard in Church Point, NS

Given that it's a canticle sung by Mary when she would have been a teenager, it's kind of strange that there aren't more settings specifically for women's voices.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Olivier Messiaen: Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus - III L'échange

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano

Some Random Thoughts

Snark about "baby Jesus" has been coming in since I started posting these, from predictable sources. It leads me to think about how often such people go out of their way to express their hatred of babies, which is a pretty telling hatred to have and to so obviously enjoy voicing.  Afterall, they wouldn't be here to hate on babies if they'd never been babies.  And if it is the habits of babies that lead them to hate babies, what do they think they're being?

When I've heard people mocking "baaaaby JeeeeSUS" they get a kind of sarcastic, disdainful inflection in their voice that they generally don't get when they are talking about adults, even adults they hate.

Having sort of specialized in reading the literature of Darwinism and eugenics, the early and scientifically voiced enthusiasm for infanticide as practiced in Pagan Europe and among what they presented as "savages" came to mind while thinking about this.   While, in the Darwinist advocacy for their asserted benefits of infanticide, the murder of those who are disabled comes first to mind, the fact is that most of the infanticide that happened was probably on the basis of gender, most of the babies so murdered, females.  And, as I've mentioned a number of times, that enthusiasm for the deaths of babies continued in the literature of cultural Darwinism up till today when advocacy of infanticide by such people as Peter Singer is compatible with a career in academia and on upper market magazine and upper brow talk media.

And then there is the infanticide story that is part of the Christmas season, Herod's slaughter of the innocents.  Now, I know there is considerable skepticism about that story as history but I don't think it's necessary for it to have happened in order to think about how it would have been seen among the Jewish-Christians who were a considerable number of those in the early Jesus movement.   The story would have been an example of Herod's irreligiosity, the Jewish people being what was likely either the only or among the few people who had a strong ban against infanticide in the Mediterranean basin.   It would have been a sign of the extent to which the moral authority of those who ruled over Jerusalem and the Jewish people had become corrupted though association with Roman paganism.

Perhaps one of the strongest contrasts that could come to mind among the Jewish-Christians would be the story of Abraham and Issac, which so many ignorant people around these days seem to believe was an example of human sacrifice in the Jewish tradition.  Which only proves, once again, how much of the common received unwisdom of those holding college degrees depends on never having read what they believe they know.    The point of the story is exactly the opposite of that, it elevates the status of human beings, even children, those so powerless that they can't prevent their own murders.   Through that story human beings are granted a status that few, if any Pagan cultures gave them, certainly not those familiar to the Hebrew people.  And it certainly elevates people above the status of inanimate objects which naturalism assigns us, then and now.

In thinking about it in the past two weeks, I think it was the decisive lesson given to Abraham in his conversion from naturalistic thinking to the incredible advance over that which we, in the West, owe to the Jewish tradition.  In the story, after a gradual series of lessons in which Abraham is taught a new way of thinking, after God has promised him that he will be the founder of a great people who will save the world, God tells him to sacrifice the son through whom that will happen.   Abraham complies in one of the most dramatically structured stories in the Bible and is about to, literally, give everything he hopes for to God when, by God stopping him, he learns that, unlike the gods of Paganism, God isn't that kind of god, the gods that are the product of human projection of their own personality.  And in doing that God also distinguishes people from being mere things to sacrifice because God reveals that God is ever so much more than people can conceive of.

In this week during this part of the modern Catholic liturgical cycle, there are readings from Isiah which presents a vision of the perfected world after it is redeemed.

On that day,
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A Spirit of counsel and of strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
But he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.

On that day,
The root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
The Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.

That is the opposite to the world of  of Darwinism, and, of course, fascism and Marxism. It's a lot closer to egalitarian democracy than those product of scientism and the Enlightenment.   That is the difference between the heritage of Abraham and that of the atomists.

Update:  2 comments:

steve simelsDecember 2, 2015 at 10:49 AM
"Snark about "baby Jesus" has been coming in since I started posting these, from predictable sources. It leads me to think about how often such people go out of their way to express their hatred of babies,"
Okay, it's official -- you're completely bonkers.


The Thought CriminalDecember 2, 2015 at 10:52 AM

I may make a long list of examples, for now, here, from Amanda Marcotte:

I don’t particularly like babies. They are loud and smelly and, above all other things, demanding. No matter how much free day care you throw at women, babies are still time-sucking monsters with their constant neediness. No matter how flexible you make my work schedule, my entire life would be overturned by a baby. I like my life how it is, with my ability to do what I want when I want without having to arrange for a babysitter. I like being able to watch True Detective right now and not wait until baby is in bed. I like sex in any room of the house I please. I don’t want a baby. I’ve heard your pro-baby arguments. Glad those work for you, but they are unconvincing to me. Nothing will make me want a baby.

Any normal person would just say,  "I don't want to have a baby."

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

“He claims to be a Christian and is extremely evangelistic, but does not follow the Bible in his actions,”

steve simelsDecember 1, 2015 at 5:13 PM

And please shut the fuck up with the "not a real Christian" crap. Who the fuck do you think does this shit on a regular basis -- atheist rock and roll fans?


The Thought CriminalDecember 1, 2015 at 6:27 PM
Were you never taught in, like the third grade that you need to read things before you know what they say? Here, from your own citation in the NYT

The man she had married professed to be deeply religious. But after more than seven years with Robert L. Dear Jr., Barbara Micheau had come to see life with him as a kind of hell on earth.

By January 1993, she had had enough. In a sworn affidavit as part of her divorce case, Ms. Micheau described Mr. Dear as a serial philanderer and a problem gambler, a man who kicked her, beat her head against the floor and fathered two children with other women while they were together. He found excuses for his transgressions, she said, in his idiosyncratic views on Christian eschatology and the nature of salvation.

“He claims to be a Christian and is extremely evangelistic, but does not follow the Bible in his actions,” Ms. Micheau said in the court document. “He says that as long as he believes he will be saved, he can do whatever he pleases. He is obsessed with the world coming to an end.”

I'll add, you guys claim to be a brain trust but you never read things that you pretend to know the contents of.

Update:  I will say that reading the various stories purporting to tell what his ex-wives say, they aren't consistent.  I wonder if the agenda of the person writing those stories doesn't have a lot to do with the discrepancies.   I'm not going to believe anything, much,  unless it's said under oath in a trial.

Update 2:  I wish I could say that Simels is unique in embodying an unusual number of bad habits of thought among those whose educations are more dependent on TV than on using a library but there's a whole passel of them who are as bad and some who, if you can believe it, are probably stupider.

Hate Mail - Blah blah blah blah

Don't bother telling me, I don't care.  Their ballot box poison makes them politically irrelevant.  

Duncan's alleged un-named mention in an old West Wing episode about ten years back was the political high point of his blog. Even his being one of the groovy bloggers who Obama called in to tell him why the young people didn't adore him sufficiently was on the downward slope.    It's not as if Obama changed any policies as a result that that meeting, it was a pose, nothing else.   And Duncan squandered whatever opportunity he had, like Obama did.  

Update:  Yes, I read that New York Times piece with Robert Dear's ex wife, as I recall she said she'd seen him something like once in the past seven years and the guy she remembers isn't much like the guy who  murdered at least three, injured more and terrorized the Planned Parenthood clinic and the general area where it was.  What she has to say wouldn't appear to be exactly fresh intelligence.  

I don't know what part of we don't know why the guy did it you don't get.  In the mean time, try reading my past several posts on the topic and tell me where he'd have gotten permission in the Gospels, the Acts, the epistles or even the Book of Revelations for doing what he did.   If he'd followed the teachings in those, he'd never have done it.  

Your intelligence is stale.

End of Break Post

My morning break is about to end and I'll point out that with all of the whining and complaining and outraged response to me pointing out the obvious encouragement to male entitlement and willful violence in rock songs, no one has yet pointed out anywhere in the Bible where someone doing what Robert Dear did is recommended or even excused.   

I'll add that to the list of pending challenges I've made which atheists have not yet answered, beginning with this one, pending since last April.  

Update:  If you think Hugh Hewitt or Ted Cruz are religious figures, it's no wonder you hate religion so much.  Let me relieve your misconception, they are political hacks and liars who break the commandment against bearing false witness pretty much every day of their public lives.   They are to Christians what ... well, no, actually, there is no prohibition against lying and bearing false witness and inciting violence and hatred for personal and political gain in atheism so there is no equivalent.  What they're doing is not forbidden by atheism which you profess, it is forbidden by Christianity which they and those like them falsely claim to follow. 

Messiaen: Vingt Regards - II. Regard de l'étoil

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano

I am going to post Olivier Messiaen's Twenty Meditations on The Baby Jesus this Advent.  I was thinking of renewing the posts of Magnificat settings I did last December with associated antiphons as those entered into the liturgical calendar,  I will probably post some settings but I don't have the free time for research I did last year.

Messiaen was a Christian mystic, a Catholic mystic and his music is a product of his mysticism.  If you would like to hear these played, all at once, the recording by his wife, Yvonne Loriod, a great pianist and, she being his closest and most intimate associate,  as close to the composers' intent as you are likely to find.   At just over two hours, it is a real challenge to sustain your attention.  I'm not sure but taking one meditation at a time is likely to give you more.

Hate Mail - Where And By Whom You Would Expect To Be Attacked?

Yeah, I really did mean that it is far more likely that Robert Dear got the feeling that he was entitled to attack people from listening to rock music than from reading the Bible.  Where would you expect to be more at risk from being attacked, at a rock concert or at a religious service?    Even his ex-wife who claimed that he was a devout Bible reader doesn't claim him as a church goer.   And I'll make the same challenge that I made in comments the other night, show me anywhere in the Bible that anything would have authorized him to make the kind of attack that he did.   I am pretty confident that you would have to stretch your evidence past the point where it made you look ridiculous to any rational witness to provide such an instance.  As with the supposed Islamic terrorists who the Republican candidates are using to pander to anti-Muslim bigots, I don't think you can make an honest case that those who have killed and injured people in opposition to abortion could find their motives in the Bible.

On the other hand the genre of rock music glorifies willful, irrational violence, especially when women are the target of it.  It promotes the domination and subjugation of women in ever so many more instances than it speaks of their empowerment.   I gave an example in the music of the Rolling Stones, "Gunface" that would have given a Robert Dear all of the reasons he could possibly need to do what he did, some of the words to the song are rather creepily in line with what he did.  And that is only one song.  The glorification of male violence against women always was and, it's my impression, is ever more a feature of pop music.   If male supremacy had a national anthem, it would be a rock song.

The political tool of those who want to pillage public education, blaming teachers for the ignorance of their students in the face of the barrage of distraction from TV and other electronic entertainment is one of the greatest and most hypocritical of logical disconnects.  Most of that accusation is made on the media that is the reason for America's intellectual deficits.   The time that the average student spends watching TV or engaged in similar commercial entertainments is time they are not spending in effective study.    The schools are at an enormous disadvantage when it comes to those fun and, especially, easy things that compete with them for the time and, therefore, minds of students.    If students aren't learning from schools it is because they're learning from TV, from the media they get online, from movies, pop songs, etc.  Those are what inform more of the understanding of more Americans than even the best efforts of teachers and schools can hope to compete with.   They have far more of an influence in the culture than what they get in a classroom does.

And what you can say of schools being at a disadvantage is ever so much more so for the churches, which a minority of Americans even attend for an hour a week.   And one of the favorite canards of atheists, that Christians don't know much about Christianity would have to go out the window if you are to posit that the level of violence against women in the United States is based in a through indoctrination in what they imagine the Bible contains in that regard.  

I have mentioned before that, as a gay man, I have been several times the victim of anti-gay violence and have been menaced with it more times than I could honestly estimate.  Now, in popular anti-religious imagination, the motive for that is supposed to be religion, Christianity.   I was never attacked, not even verbally harassed by someone I knew who was a faithful church goer, they're far more likely to try to persuade me through friendly engagement to agree with their belief than to attack, though, living in New England, we tend to be rather reticent about doing even that.

When I was attacked and threatened, it was never by a person who was anything but irreligious.  The first proof of  that fact that in every case the attacker broke the commandment about taking the Lord's name in vain, along with a stream of language that you wouldn't generally associate with a person of religious piety.  And certainly the actions of being punched and kicked was nothing you'd associate with such folk.   I can tell you that it was far more likely that the boys and young men who did that spent a lot more time listening to heavy metal or some other form of what used to be known as hard rock than they did listening to hymns.   Since I knew several of them, I can say they'd fit in a lot better among the trash talkers of the atheist blogs than they would at a Bible Study.

While there are people who use religion as an excuse to attack people, to oppress people, to kill people, unless their religion specifically permits or encourages that, they aren't being honest about that being the real motivation of their violence.   Not unless they're one of those massively ignorant Christians who the atheists always claim are so abundant.   And if the person giving religion as an excuse is ignorant of the commandment to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, that those who live by the sword will die by the sword, the teaching that only those who are without sin have a right to cast a stone, and a host of other such prohibitions against what they are doing, it is hardly the fault of religion which has spent an enormous amount of time making that information available.

If there is something which would make any serious religious person happy it would be to have all people professing their religion to abide by its teachings in their lives.  The idiots who croon John Lennon's dopey atheist dirge love to intone his idiotic panacea, "Imagine no religion".   Such a world would be a world with no effective commandments of the kind I just listed, no effective means of convincing people to not kill, to not bear false witness, to not oppress, to treat people as they would like to be treated EVEN WHEN THEY REALLY WANT TO TREAT THEM ENTIRELY WORSE THAN THEY WOULD LIKE TO BE TREATED, THEMSELVES.   And I'm afraid that is the world taught by so many pop songs, so many movies, so many of the most popular ones are all about imposing a man's will on women, on the world instead of that.   If you want to start looking for where such men get their license to kill, look at what encourages that idea instead of the idea that they are violating the will of God to do it.

Update:  Well, you ask for an example, Charles Manson got his inspiration from Helter Skelter, not How Firm a Foundation or Abide With Me.

Update 2:  Imagine that, I, a person who avoids Mick and his old Stones whenever I can avoid them knows one of their songs which The All Knowing Oracle of all Rock doesn't.   Uhgh!  Don't tell me that that means I'm more hip than you!   If it's any comfort to you, I wish I didn't know it.

Monday, November 30, 2015

They're Even Jerks When They're Calling Each Other Out For Being Jerks, They Can't Help Themselves

That article in the Guardian by Jeff Sparrow, mentioned in my update this noon,  about how atheists can save the "good name" of atheism from the annoying, arrogant, conceited, bigoted new atheist type is rather revealing as to why it ain't gonna happen.   After many words condeming Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, etc. for being the jerks and bigots they are, here is how he finishes it, with my comments.

As my colleague Jason Wilson argues, denunciations of other people’s “stupidity” are a particular temptation of our age. By way of contrast, he puts the case for solidarity, writing that:

"Solidarity requires listening: to stories of the structural deformation of individual lives; to the ways that popular culture makes people feel like they are living against the grain; to analyses that have not yet and may never become wholly coherent, or even depart from common sense."

Now, remember, Sparrow thought that passage from Jason Wilson was an improvement on the new atheists.   Look at this "Stories of the structural deformation of individuals lives,"  apparently this remedy includes the assumption that religious belief is a result of "structural deformation" of individuals lives.  Which is rather hilarious because in many studies, religious people are more likely to have well adjusted lives than non-believers.  Less likely to be addicted to alcohol or drugs, less likely to divorce, longer lives, report higher happiness, etc.   For example,

This study examines the multifaceted relationships between religious involvement and subjective well-being. Findings suggest that the beneficent effects of religious attendance and private devotion reported in previous studies are primarily indirect, resulting from their respective roles in strengthening religious belief systems. The positive influence of religious certainty on well-being, however, is direct and substantial: individuals with strong religious faith report higher levels of life satisfaction, greater personal happiness, and fewer negative psychosocial consequences of traumatic life events. Further, in models of life satisfaction only, the positive influence of existential certainty is especially pronounced for older persons and persons with low levels of formal education. Finally, there are persistent denominational variations in life satisfaction, but not in happiness: nondenominational Protestants, liberal Protestants, and members of nontraditional groups such as Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses report greater life satisfaction than do their unaffiliated counterparts, even with the effects of other dimensions of religiosity held constant. Several directions for additional research on religion and psychological well-being are discussed.

Sparrow continues:

That doesn’t entail abandoning a critique of religion. But it does mean adopting a certain humility when coming to terms with why ordinary people believe the things they do.

First, I have yet to encounter an atheist who cared to develop the knowledge of religion so as to make a critique of any aspect of it superior to the internal criticism of religious scholars.   There may be the odd agnostic or atheist New Testament scholar who has bothered to do that but, really, other than the rarest of instances, what atheists have to say in criticism of religion is generally jejune at best.

And, um, sorry, but given my experience with atheists, I wouldn't bet a nickle on any of them being able to discern "why ordinary people believe the things they do".  They'd be too busy filling that gap in their knowledge with self-serving narratives and attributions f ideas they'd like to imagine religious people hold for the most insulting of reasons they would like that to be true.   Not to mention the INCREDIBLE ARROGANCE DEMONSTRATED BY THAT PASSAGE.  We, the "ordinary people" apparently need the presumably "extra-ordinary" atheists to discern why we believe as we do. Clearly, Sparrow, even as he is posing as not being one of those atheist jerks, can't help demonstrating that he's got exactly the same attitudes that the ones he names do.    Go back and look again at the previous passage, this little gem of unintended revelation of the same kind, "to analyses that have not yet and may never become wholly coherent, or even depart from common sense," to get a firm sense of where Sparrow is really coming from.

In a different world, religion might not be necessary. But we’re not in that world yet. In the struggle for social change, the religious will play just as important role as anyone else. If you don’t believe in God, that’s great. But you’re not helping by being a jerk about it.

Given what I said the other day about atheists never having played a positive role in American politics, that their role has been in volunteering as a foil for the Republican right to use to paint Democrats and liberals as anti-religious, helping that effort with all their might, anyone hoping for change had better hope that religious people play a far more important role in doing that than atheists have and certainly will try to continue to play.

I have given reasons why atheism, especially in its most common form as materialism, will likely play an inevitably negative role in egalitarian democracy.   Without someone to endow all people with equal rights and a moral obligation to respect those rights, the greatest of all prerequisites for producing egalitarian democracy, those rights and obligations won't be held sufficiently firmly by enough people in society to produce or sustain democracy.

If Sparrow wants to do something, he should come up with a very strongly compelling argument that would talk the atheists whose materialism makes them deny the reality of moral absolutes, such as that you are not to treat people as you would not want to be treated, that you must respect peoples rights on an equal bases EVEN WHEN YOU REALLY DON'T WANT TO.   And while he's at it he could come up with compelling arguments against his fellow atheists who try to debunk a belief in the possibility of free thought, free will and a myriad of other positions necessitated by a belief in materialism.    After he's done that, maybe we can talk about other things, without that, I'd rather do without such atheists on the left.

Perhaps Sparrow doesn't know that the path that Christopher Hitchens took here in the United States from Trotskyite to neo-con was a well trodden trail beginning with the original neo-cons at City College in the 1930s, all of whom were atheists.  It never surprises me when an intellectual atheist leaves the nominal left for the lucrative vulgar materialist right.  There really isn't more than a pose of intellectualism that separates the two.

Olivier Messiaen: Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus - I. Regard du Pére

Pierre-Laurent Aimard

Atheists Are Allies You Don't Want To Have

It is a guilty pleasure,  seeing the athe-bots proving that their real political enthusiasm is their hatred for the religion of about 85% of the American people, Christianity.   They are going on, and on, and on about the Republican-fascists saying exactly the same things they say about Christians, only about  Muslims.   And they don't see the irony of that.

Most of the Christians I know and read condemn the Republicans pandering to anti-Isalmic bigotry and did so before it occurred to the athe-bots of the blog set that it was wrong to characterize 1.6+ billion people for the acts of a small number of terrorists who violated the teachings of the Quran in the name of Islam.

The funny thing about seeing the athe-bots doing that on a political blog is that the Christians who condemn the Muslim bashers don't go out of their way to alienate the rest of the Christians who constitute a political majority in the country and who, because of that, could have a far stronger effect on thwarting the Republican-fascists on that issue.  The atheists, through their political innumeracy of bashing the far, far, oh, so very far many more Christians in the country, are almost certainly entirely counterproductive in that effort.

Atheists have been a political loser for the left, their greatest role in politics has been in Republican-fascists using their intemperate and offensive language to recruit people to vote for Republicans.  The last thing that beleaguered Muslims need is them championing their cause, that is when they don't turn on a dime and start in with the Muslim bashing, too.    Their movement began with Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens saying what the Republicans say and worse about Muslims in the wake of 9-11.    I don't know of any among even the Republican candidates pandering to the worst of American bigots who have made more hateful and demented remarks about Muslims and how they should be killed, en masse than Hitchens and, especially Harris.

Update:  Here I didn't intend to touch this post again until I got home and here I find I'm accused of cribbing something a Jeff Sparrow said in the Guardian yesterday.   It's not as if I hadn't said these things before yesterday, it's not as if a lot of us haven't been pointing out that Harris and Dawkins and Hitchens are flaming racists and bigots against Muslims and Christians in the past.   If this is new stuff to the athe-bots it's because they don't seem to read much.

Sparrow asks if they can save atheism from the new atheists.  Well, I doubt that, having read large amounts of what the old atheists have said,  Those as decorous and lofty as Bertrand Russell, forgotten figures such as Joseph McCabe, those of the bottom rung gutter snipes and bigots like Madelyn Murray O'Hair and once somewhat major now forgotten racists and antisemites like James Hervey Johnson and Woolsey Teller.   The history of atheism, especially popular, movement atheism doesn't really provide much else but bigotry and nastiness.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Two Comments +

steve simelsNovember 29, 2015 at 4:42 PM
"The recluse accused of killing three people and wounding nine in an attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado posted ranted about the apocalypse and posted Biblical passages online - while also seeking sadomasochistic sex..."

Oh well, that last part about the S&M is obvious just an anomaly.


The Thought CriminalNovember 29, 2015 at 4:48 PM
Oh, I read that story about an hour ago. It also noted he listened to rock music. Now.... well, I guess I won't ask YOU to tell me, what are his actions more in line with, the Gospel of Jesus whose earliest followers were notable for being pacifists, or a large range or rock music. Maybe he listened to your favorites, Mick and his old Stones who promoted S&M and Bondage in a series of songs and albums.

And let me add, why not blame his crimes on him being a man?   While everything he did was in opposition to the teachings of Jesus, everything he's done is in line with crimes almost exclusive to the male gender.   While many men don't become mass killers of his kind doesn't change the fact that almost all of such incidents are done by men, many of whom are not Christians, a significant number of whom have been atheists, as I pointed out to you and Septic Tank a while back.  That's a far stronger indicator than the religion which is at odds with what he did.

Update:  Well, I used to consider my brawls with Simels the loss leader for this blog, considering it's him he's more of a lead loser.

Update 2:  I used to figure Simps misrepresenting what I said was free advertising and would attract readers, then I realized that most of the people at the place he lies about me don't bother to read anything either.  It's pretty much the theme of this weekend's posts that the internet seems to encourage people to jump to conclusions without reading and, wouldn't you know it, the conclusion they jump to is the one they like the most.   Some life of the mind, huh?

"it would have been possible to find things out"

I am getting smug comments from someone who's bragging about going to see Trumbo yesterday, the current alleged bio-flick about the screen-writer-Communist- HUAC martyr, Dalton Trumbo. Apparently I'm supposed to feel diminished by the cineaste's great accomplishment.  As if sitting in a movie theater with a bunch of other paying customers is some kind of achievement imparting merit. I doubt I'll watch it.   Trumbo was one of those who I used to dutifully revere but, then, I learned more about him and the more I learned the more of a sleeveen he turned out to be.   I could go look to see what he was still saying about his hero, Stalin, as Stalin was mounting his pogrom against Jews right before his just in the nick of time death.  Like all white-collar, American Communists, the mass murders, purges, slave labor system, abolition of the right to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to so much as anything Stalin's apparatus decided to kill you over. was no skin off of his nose.   Compared to the conditions under Stalin's regime, we are to weap and tear our garments over Trumbo having to go uncredited for the movie scripts he still wrote.  Such is the make-believe of the psudo-left which burdens the real left, still.

Apparently it has not occurred to a lot of desk set lefties that no one has to choose either HUAC or the American Communist Party, you can reject them both, and for a lot of the same reasons.   And I do.

Anyway, this gives me a chance to go back to a post I started writing quite a few weeks ago about watching a far different kind of bio-flick with entirely different motives but which, nonetheless, raised some of the same issues about the cinematic, theatrical and novelistic use of real history and real figures in it.   The movie is the wrenching Der Untergang about the last 10 days of the Nazi regime, presenting life in Hitler's underground bunker and in Berlin as the Russians were about to take the city.   I will begin by saying the acting was nothing short of great.  Bruno Ganz did a spectacular job of presenting Hitler in what you have to believe was all of his original ego-maniacle, self-absorbed, childish and willful repulsiveness.   He did that while, at the same time, showing how he could invoke a fear and affection in even those closest to him that you imagine was the secret to his success.   The scene, so often used to produce parody "Hitler finds out Barack Obama has won" style Youtubes, in the original, is brilliantly acted.  The scenes in which he has tantrums in front of his Generals blaming the failure of HIS reich on the German army and the German people, the scenes in which he screams and sputters that they'll pay for failing him with their blood is as short a summary of the thinking behind Nazism as you could get through drama.

It was another of those revealing scenes that was the beginning of my uneasiness, the scene in which Eva Braun [Juliane Köhler] begs Hitler for the life of her brother in law,  Hermann Fegelein.   Hitler ordered his summary execution in the wake of his discovery that Fegelein's boss, Himmler, was secretly trying to negotiate a surrender with the Allies and Fegelein, no doubt sensing the danger, left his post in the bunker.   When Hitler's explanation of why he's having him killed was that "It is my will", the change of expressin on Braun's face is some of the best acting you'll ever see.   It's like she, perhaps for the first time, perhaps finally, sees just what "her man" is and what she's a part of.

Why that was so troubling is that it might have made anyone unaware of who Hermann Fegelein was might have been led by what was in the movie to sympathize with him.   A movie is limited in what even a writer and director who takes great pains to be faithful to history can show.  They had to leave it to the previous knowledge of the viewers to understand that he was one of the most putrid, cold blooded, opportunistic and amoral of the Nazi murders, a man who commanded and carried out the murders of tens of thousands of Polish women and children, first trying to drown them by driving them into swamps, then, when the water was too shallow to do that, to shoot them.  And that's only one instance of his real life evil.   And he was only one of the cast of some of the most evil men who have ever lived.   In the movie the only thing that approximates forcing us to face the total evil of the Nazi high command is when, with the help of an SS doctor,  Magda Goebbels [Corinna Harfouch] drugs and cold bloodedly murders her own children so they won't live in a world free of the evil she so obviously and piously loves.   The scene when she forces the drug down her daughter's throat has to stand in for so much other evil that it's almost unbearable to watch.

After watching it I had to remind myself that none of those amazing actors were Hitler or Goebbels [Ulrich Matthes] or Traudl Junge [Alexandra Maria Lara] ,  Hitler's young secretary who the dramatic action surrounds.   What we were seeing, what was presented with such convincing power was not any member of the Nazi inner circle, it was a writer's, a director's and an actor's presentation of a constructed, theatrical role.  The extent to which that told us anything about the reality of what happened in Hitler's bunker and in Berlin in April of 1945 is only the extent to which all of those who made that movie could imagine it, either based in actual evidence of what those who were there said about it, or made up out of something else.

The only real voice in the movie was the elderly Traudl Junge who commented on her memories of what happened.   It was a brilliant choice for the director to make because it presented the fact that the actor who played her was not her in the movie was playing a role and that the movie was not what the ultimate meaning of the moral catastrophe the Nazi regime was.

The most affecting of all the scenes in the movie was the very end of it when the real Traudl Junge talked about how after she learned of the Holocaust, all of the other murders of so many millions, she comforted herself that she was only 22 when she went to work for Hitler and she was kept from that information, that she didn't know at the time what she was a part of.    In the end she says how she had to face that that was a self-serving lie.

Of course, the terrible things I heard from the Nuremberg Trials, about the six million Jews and the people from other races who were killed, were facts that shocked me deeply. But I wasn't able to see the connection with my own past. I was satisfied that I wasn't personally to blame and that I hadn't known about those things. I wasn't aware of the extent. But one day I went past the memorial plaque which had been put up for Sophie Scholl in Franz Josef Strasse, and I saw that she was born the same year as me, and she was executed the same year I started working for Hitler. And at that moment I actually sensed that it was no excuse to be young, and that it would have been possible to find things out.

In a very minor and very mild form, that is what I had to face when the fact of what I'd made excuses for was no longer deniable.  What I did in excusing the murders of even more people committed by those who were held up as heroes for the left was not different in kind than what she described.  I chose to believe the old line Stalinists who sold the line that Harry Truman did during the war, that Stalin was a bastard but he was "our bastard" well after the war and well after Truman initiated the anti-Communist scares which had Dalton Trumbo hauled before HUAC.  After all, look who persecuted those champions and fans and, yes, agents of foreign despots, racists and capitalists who weren't far removed from fascists.  People who, for heavens sake, ripped up the Bill of Rights and were truly as unamerican as anyone they were persecuting.

And after Stalin couldn't be sustained as a hero, there was the still very much alive Mao, you still find people who romantically present American Maoists such as those in the Progressive Labor party, I read those aging members of that generation and younger people who weren't born yet writing that kind of drivel in magazines I still buy and in books I still read.  They are still recapitulating the promotion of those championing a communist dictator even as he was in the process of murdering tens of millions of people.   I will add that I think the fact that Mao was murdering Asians instead of white Europeans had a huge role in his respectability in the American and European left.  I think it had a large role in why Stalin's mass murders were so palatable to the American left before there was no choice but to have him join the effort to defeat Hitler.

There were liberal anti-communists, even some like Reinhold Niebuhr who navigated the narrow road that allowed him to be both anti-communist and an opponent of the disaster of the American war in Vietnam.   But for the rest of us, we, not facing any danger of that or of our government really going after us produced no Sophie Scholl or her fellow martyrs of the White Rose who told the truth and paid for it with their lives.   We risked nothing but being dissed by the Maoists as being traitors.

This is a confession.

The White Flag of Surrender To The Liars And Haters

Well, unsatisfying as it is to our fast news addiction, we still know little about Robert Lewis Dear and why he killed at least three people, injured many more and terrorized hundreds in his assault against the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.  We know his age and gender, we know he's had criminal complaints against him for violence against women and a dog.   His neighbors report him as being extremely anti-social and mean and extremely weird.   They obviously were expecting him to do something violent.   I'd guess he should have been in custodial care back on the East coast, but I won't go into our 18th century style mental health system just now. 

Among the things I've so far read and heard from those who come close to being familiar with him one thing that is missing would be any of them identifying him as a church goer.  Or religious.     Considering the use of him in a blanket indictment of Christians over the past two days, that's rather odd.   Though, considering the urban myths of the twit and comment thread class, it would be irresponsible not to just make that up.   I will point out, again, that such people in the commentariat are blaming Officer Swasey who was a part-time pastor at his evangelical Christian church, for his own death.   I would imagine there's a good chance that is also true of many of the first responders who were trying to stop him and save people on that snowy afternoon, as their colleagues were being shot by Dear.  Such a contrast to those whose bravery kept them at their keyboards to complain that they were taking too long and why didn't they just shoot him like they see on TV. 

It's clear from the reaction I've gotten over this that the preening, conceited, self-announced reality community doesn't get that point WHEN YOU DON'T KNOW YOU DON'T KNOW.  Something which they apparently don't care about either.  A respect for the truth has never stopped them from making the most hatefilled and bigoted statements as fact.  I could mention the comments that abound online falsely labeling even atheist mass murderers as being motivated by Christianity.   Their low regard for the truth puts them in the same category with those who made the dishonestly edited videos lying about Planned Parenthood which so many of them just assume motivated Dear.  

They share the same attitude towards the truth with those fascists, a lie is as good as the truth if it gets you what you want.   Also, a lie is a lot easier to make work for you because it doesn't have to bother with those so often inconvenient facts.   It's perfect for the Twitter rumor age in which lies have been granted the same protection as the truth by the Rehnquist and Roberts courts.   That that was done by the same people who oppose womens right to own their own bodies should show who will benefit from a time when lies sold with hate is a dominant force in our culture.  Lies are a lot more dangerous to the left and a lot more useful to the right than the lying libertarians of the pseudo-left would want real liberals to realize.   

You can have a country in which lies are punished or you can have one dominated by those who lies benefit.  Our idiot free-speech industry don't seem to care about what the results are of their absurd program of protecting lies.  Considering most of them are affluent, and most of them are men,  it's a lot less risky to them than it is for most of the people who would be at a Planned Parenthood clinic on any given Friday.   Or the first responders left to clean up the dangerous mess they've made of things. 

If it turns out Robert Dear was motivated by absorbing the hate and lies of the anti-choice industry, especially that doctored video, not addressing the ability of those who produce it to just get away with feeding it to the people who will act on that poison, not changing the law as to prevent that from continuing unpunished is a white flag of surrender to the liars and those who they serve. 

All of that is a lot more complex than will fit into an oh so satisfying to post hate Tweet or comment thread tantrum.  But it's what's necessary to REALLY change things.  

Being A Dick Over St. Nick and Font Size And Mental Hygiene

Those always reliable kill-joys, the psychologists, were at the height of the Freudian anti-Santa Claus campaign when I was a kid.  It was supposed to be psychologically damaging to children when they, inevitably, found out that their parents had been lying about there being a Santa Claus.  I'm sure they worked some theme of adult sexual dysfunction or "hysteria" into it, though I was about eight and couldn't be bothered to notice.

I remember being kind of astounded that any kid could really believe in the stupid "Santa Claus" North Pole, elves and down the chimney story, it being physically improbable in the extreme.  Or maybe it was that I had five older siblings who were only too eager to tell us younger ones that it was a hoax.

I doubt any child was ever damaged by finding out that the old folks were pulling their leg.  If anything, the point would be that seeing through it meant they'd reached a milestone in that most desired of all children's aspirations, growing up. Odd how that has been replaced by the desire to be perpetually a child, given the benefits of all that psychologizing in society.  There were any number of better reasons to be disappointed in what we were told was true turned out not to be,  Like that psychology was anything like a science.

Just to say, considering how much their university educations fixated the Freudians on The Phallus*, it wasn't too much of a shock to finally learn what a bunch of dicks they were when I read them in high school and college.  It's as if they went out of their way to get attention by say telling parents that they were to blame for everything, even around something when they weren't taking credit for giving the kids things.   Now I just think they were telling their wealthier clients what they wanted to hear, to keep them coming back at three figures an hour.


And speaking of dicks.  One of the stupidest arguments I've gotten involved in online surrounded the reality of Santa Claus.  It started the usual way, by an atheist making the comparison between God and Santa Claus.  Which I'll only go into again if I happen to read it in my rambles today.  The stupidest part of the brawl was what came after I pointed out that Santa Claus is a popular interpretation of the real, historical figure, Nicholas the bishop of Myra, on the Southern coast of present day Turkey.

Well, those evidence based atheists just wouldn't have that complicating one of their most simple-minded routines, one of the blocks of conventional assertion that substitute for thought in a rather stunning percentage of what comes out of their mouths and keyboards.

One, an especially successfully propagandized and dishonest Brit-atheist insisted that Santa Claus was derived from the dutch Sinterklaas, which, apparently, the typically history and etymology challenged atheists believe is some kind of folk or pagan figure with no connection to Christianity.  You know the kind of "skepticism" I mean, where condescending attitude is supposed to successfully fill in for knowing what they're talking about.  Considering that even at a glance the name is certainly derived from "Saint Nicholas", it's in the running as one of the stupidest atheist myths of the type that the Brits have specialized in and which are firmly embedded into the common received culture of a particular kind of would be rationalist in the English speaking peoples.   And, from what I've seen, it's spread on a number of neo-athe websites.

Apparently, from what I've seen in a short and informal review of that kind, it's very important to post-literate atheists that Santa Claus have nothing to do with a Christian Bishop, popular in his day and throughout history due to his charity - he was a late 3rd, early 4th century trustifarian who spent his life giving it all away - his other works of charity and the wonders and miracles attributed to him, during his life and when he left this life behind.  

In the United States and in places under the its cultural hegemony, the corruption of Saint Nicholas has reached its modern form through the verse of the slave holding, upper class twit, Clement Clarke Moore.  It's not something to marvel at how a figure who was beloved for his giving to the poor and destitute was corrupted by a slave holding real estate baron into a figure who was all about the affluent receiving and, even more so, selling stuff.   That he, an especially stuffy, self-righteous pharisee began the effort to turn St. Nicholas of Myra into the symbol of American neo-Mammonism should have been expected.  That is a figure who begs to be disbelieved in because he is a fraud and an impostor.  The real St. Nicholas isn't worth just acknowledging but emulating.  


I was looking for a suitable representation of St. Nicholas to put with this but couldn't find any I could believe in.  They were all either too sad or too forbidding or too solemn.   They just don't match how any of those really generous people I've known look.  They tend to be rather cheerful people, the kind of people you like to be around, not grumpy and forbidding and a real drag. The kind of people cynics can't stand because they're good without being showy about it.  Iconographers should make some smiling Saint Nicholas images.  Not to mention the other saints.  It's bad advertising to show those who have achieved eternal happiness looking like they've got an abscessed tooth.


And, speaking of dicks.  I've had some criticism of my use of different type in my posts.  One commentator at Salon slammed me for using all caps and bold because it would risk hurting the feelings of college students who didn't like what I said about how stupid they were to reject the fact that getting drunk makes you more vulnerable to being victimized.  Imagine that, their little feelings would get hurt by that assault of the upper caps.  No doubt some study could be made of the relationship between being exposed to 24 point font while young and erectile dysfunction.

On another blog it was asserted that my use of different weights and sizes of type was a symptom of mental instability.   Considering the gravitar and pseudonym that guy chose for himself and the company he keeps, all I can say is that's rich coming from him.

The reason I use different type size is because it's been a real revelation to me how skimming has taken the place of reading and how even journalists don't bother to understand what they claim to reference.  Reading comprehension turns out to be a radical act, along with having a memory.   Putting important point in large type is a desperate attempt to get them to notice main points in the discussion.  Something which I won't apologize for even with the assertion that it might make little Dick and Jane feel a little sad because they want to act like they're 12 instead of like the adults they like to assert they are.

*  There's a post to be written about the cult of the phallus among 20th century Freudian atheists and that of the pagan Romans and Greeks.  But I'm Irish and I'd die of blushing if I tired to write it.