Twenty Years After

Antonín_Dvořák

Twenty Years After

Leslie Jones joins a birthday party

 

Henschel Quartet with Martino Tirimo, a recital given at St John’s Smith Square on Tuesday 11th November 2014 and broadcast live on Radio 3. Programme; Beethoven String Quartet no 5 in A Major, op. 18, no 5: Dvořák, Quartet no 12 in F Major, op 96, B, 179 (“American”): Brahms Piano Quintet in F Minor, op. 34

The Henschel Quartet are Christoph Henschel, Daniel Bell (violins), Monika Henschel (viola) and Mathias Beyer-Karlshøj (cello)

The Beethoven String Quartet in A Major is an early work composed when Beethoven was only thirty. It was something of a surprising choice to open the 20th anniversary concert of this inimitable ensemble. Beethoven at this juncture had not yet discovered his distinctive voice and the composition is indebted to his mentors Haydn and Mozart, especially the latter. Indeed, several of Mozart’s ideas from his own Quartet in A are incorporated here.

That said there is some satisfyingly intricate material for the lead violin, in this instance Christoph Henschel, especially in the first movement and some compelling exchanges between the violins, viola and cello (including a sort of hurdy-gurdy effect) as they alternately take up the main theme. The performers took full advantage of these opportunities to excel. Yet as Maestro Tirimo observed during the interval on Radio 3, the Henschels are nothing if not a serious, self-disciplined outfit – they are not interested in easily earned applause.

The overall mood of this short piece is generally upbeat but it becomes decidedly more introspective and pensive in the third movement. There are subtle anticipations here of the lacerating sadness of some of the master’s late chamber music, notably in the String Quartet in A Minor, op.132 (“A convalescent’s sacred song of thanks to the Godhead, in the Lydian mode”). The playing throughout was faultless and despite the work’s disconcertingly abrupt end, the performance received warm applause from the attentive audience in this atmospheric venue.

The Henschels obviously took inordinate care to balance this programme. Given that the distinguished pianist Martino Tirimo had elected to perform the epic Brahms Quintet, with its echoes of Brahms’ Piano Concertos, the Henschels second offering, Dvořák’s Quartet in F minor, constituted a welcome contrast. It is a much calmer journey than Brahms’ intense and emotionally exhausting expedition. “Its lighter”, as Monika Henschel tersely put it.

Indeed, Dvořák’s evergreen Quartet has in places a lilting quality somewhat reminiscent of Mendelssohn’s stirring Scottish Symphony. As in the New World Symphony, Native American, African American and Bohemian colours are vividly evoked, as Martin Handley pointed out in his informative Radio 3 commentary.

Several wistful themes grace this plangent work, completed while Dvořák was staying with the Czech community of Spillville, Iowa, in the summer of 1893. They bespeak his heartfelt nostalgia for his native land. For despite the ample opportunities in New York for such supposedly typical Czech activities as pigeon fancying, train spotting and boozing (the composer was Director of the National Conservatory of Music there from1892-1895) he remained homesick.

“I am satisfied, thank God”, Antonin Dvořák reportedly remarked, on finishing this work. We humbly concur. It has always been a personal favourite.

Concerning Martino Tirimo’s performance in the Brahms Piano Quintet, this versatile pianist who excels across the piano repertoire clearly has a remarkable rapport with the Henschels.

I conclude with a quote from Johannes Brahms himself, “If there is anyone else whom I have not insulted, I beg his [or her] pardon”.

©

LESLIE JONES is the Editor of QR

Posted in Quidnunc: The QR Blog | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t get “Grubered” by W’s Groupies

GW-Bush-in-uniform

Don’t get “Grubered” by W’s Groupies 

Ilana Mercer ruminates on the rise of executive power

On Fox News’ “The Five,” one female host energetically involved in genuflecting to George Bush turned to another, a former prosecutor and lingerie model, to solicit her “constitutional take”—those are shudder quotes—on President Barack Obama’s impending executive amnesty. A better constitutional authority on presidential powers than Kimberly G-string is Jonathan Turley, professor of law at George Washington University.

For some time, now, Turley, a liberal, has been warning of “the expansion of executive power,” even testifying—to no avail—on Capitol Hill, numerous times, to the rise of an “über-presidency,” in the person of Obama.

In what was a further twist of the screw for Democrats, the talented Turley was selected by House Speaker John Boehner “to represent [the House of Representatives] in a lawsuit against the Obama administration.” While the “suit challenges changes the administration made to Obamacare without congressional authorization,” as reported by the Powerline blog, it must, by logical extension, delve into the “shift toward the concentration of executive power” and the consolidation of the “imperial presidency.”

Still, the powerhouse conservatives at Powerline are already grumbling that Turley—”a hero of the left” during the equally violative George-Bush era—is too much of an extremist when it comes to “restricting presidential power.” Turley, you see, is nothing if not consistent. He has applied to Obama’s predecessor the same constitutional principles he is applying to Obama, and has made clear that the “imperial presidency” didn’t launch with President Obama. In particular, Turley has contended that Bush’s “counter-terrorism efforts were lawless and unconstitutional,” and that Bush committed war crimes.

At the time, the professor had fretted a lot over the cruelty of dunking Abu Zubaydah or placing bugs in the bug-phobic prison cell of this al-Qaida operations chief—hardly a violation of the natural law. Indeed, in Turley, the GOP has a stickler for the letter of the law, not the higher moral law. If anything, Turley’s torture tempest provided a cover for complicit journalists, jurists, politicians and pointy heads, who all skirted the real issue: the imperative to prosecute Bush, Cheney, Clinton and Kerry for invading Iraq and vanquishing an innocent people.

Tapping Turley to prosecute Obama’s overreach is a clever strategic move on the part of the Republicans. Powerline conservatives need not worry excessively about the liberal professor’s case against Bush’s enhanced interrogation methods. Torturing the torture issue served to throw the country off-scent, to the great advantage of the puppet master himself; it concealed an unjust war, waged by Bush with Democratic assent. Of this war crime, most Democrats were as guilty as Republicans.

Barack Obama’s cringe-factor has crescendoed—so much so that conservatives feel comfortable about dusting off an equally awful dictator, Bush 43, and presenting him and his dynasty to the public for another round. However, when James Madison spoke of “war as the true nurse of executive aggrandizement,” he was speaking not only of Obama.

“Speak softly but carry a big stick—the stick being executive power,” preached another Republican tyrant, Teddy Roosevelt. While Turley will be tackling the constitutional quagmire posed by Obamacare, immigration is the latest legislative stick with which Americans are being stuck.

Greg Gutfeld, the one and only neoconservative on that current-affairs show mentioned who entertains and occasionally edifies, is correct about the “broken” inchoate verbiage: “Our immigration system is broken” is a euphemism for the refusal to enforce immigration law (against certain ethno-racial groups). It is statist semantics; Orwellian Newspeak; a linguistic trick to lead Americans to believe urgent action is required.

The structure of the Obama argument for this Brownian legislative motion around immigration is that: 1. Congress has failed to do anything, ergo, He must do something. 2. Matters can’t be left as is, “broken.”

The premise for each is wrong:

On No. 1: From the fact that Congress has not passed an immigration bill—it doesn’t follow that one has to be passed.

On No. 2: That some sectional interests in the U.S. have bought or acquired special privileges and favors—doesn’t mean that all Americans need an immigration bill. (The New York Times has some ideas about the politics of immigration reform, which it did—surprise, surprise!—voice in “The Big Money Behind the Push for an Immigration Overhaul.”

Back on “The Five,” Georgie-Porgie groupie Dana Perino was waxing fat about “W’s” socialist-realism style paintings. W’s art is not quite “murderabilia”—”collectibles related to murders, murderers or other violent crimes”—but it is certainly the “artwork” of a mass murderer (ask ordinary, innocent Iraqis). No wonder the art of Bush Jr. has the same solipsistic, barren quality present in the paintings of John Wayne Gacy Jr.

gw-bush-painting-435x580

So: Don’t get “Grubered” by immigration illogic. And don’t get “Grubered” by GOPers who’re trying to rehabilitate their preferred tyrant.

 

ILANA MERCER is a paleolibertarian writer based in the United States. She pens WND’s longest-standing column, “Return to Reason” and is a Fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies. She is a Quarterly Review Contributing Editor. Ilana’s latest book is Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa. Her website is www.IlanaMercer.com. She blogs at www.barelyablog.com

 

Posted in Quidnunc: The QR Blog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

GB Grill and Bar

_dsc6202

EpiQR

Epicurean expeditions with

Em Marshall-Luck

GB Bar and Grill

Address: Bermondsey Square Hotel, Tower Bridge Road, Southwark London SE1 3UN
Phone:020 7378 2456

The Shard dominates the street view on the approach to GB Grill and Bar in Southwark, typifying an area of south east London that is currently undergoing much regeneration, and into which young, buzzy and trendy outlook this outstanding restaurant fits very comfortably indeed.

The interior of GB Grill and Bar is laid-back industrial-modern, with seating a mixture of tables around which cluster railback chairs with tie-on cushions and American-diner-style booths. We were led to such a booth, above which hung a large fabric lightshade with the rather pretty floral design from inside projected out through the translucent fabric. This differs from the lighting in the other areas of the restaurant, with industrial pendant lights in the fully-glazed frontage, and elsewhere wires draped from a central ceiling point with reflector bulbs ensuring an adequate ‘spread’ of light without glare; angled recessed lights complement the effect. Tables are simply but effectively dressed – the bare wood free of tablecloths and trappings; simple, unfussy cutlery; a single candle on each table; and tumblers for water. The menus are printed on heavyweight (presumably recycled) brown paper, which also act as placemats. The popular music present when we entered (rather blaring and intrusive) soon changed to an enjoyable jazz (Ella Fitzgerald / Oscar Peterson-inspired), which was played at a discreet volume so as to be enjoyable but not hamper conversation.

The service is very good: informal and chatty but nevertheless helpful and attentive. Very good care was taken of young master Tristan, with the extremely friendly East-ender who looked after us first offering a high chair and then bringing big padded cushions to raise him up more to our level on the bench; whilst a Spanish waitress brought him a toy bus to play with and – movingly – talked affectionately to him in her native tongue.

The menu offers a choice of six starters plus a bread box (several of these are vegetarian and a couple fish-orientated); while mains comprise four non-grill items (we both went for one of these), the pie of the day and fish of the day, two types of steak, an Angus burger, and rotisserie chicken (half or whole). There are various tempting side dishes on offer as well.

The wine list (printed on an A4 sheet of the same paper as the menu and displayed on a clipboard), like the menu, is relatively short, with only eleven each of red and white wines, two roses and six sparkling; one suspects that as many clientele order cocktails as wine – several were specifically mentioned on the wine list, and a full cocktail list was also available. Back to the wine list (not being about to drink cocktails with our meals!): France probably predominates, but Italy, England, South Africa, Argentina, New Zealand, Spain and Australia also feature. There are very brief but nevertheless helpful descriptions for each wine.

We went for a Malbec Torrontes, Malbrontes, 2013 from Mendoza, Argentina, which was a very dark purple – verging on black – in colour, with a dark and very spicy nose featuring black berry fruits and a hint of tar and liquorice. The taste was rich and full, and very peppery indeed – oodles of black pepper hit the palate first and black fruit, tar and leather followed after. It was possibly just a tiny bit harsh, but mellowed with time and was generally an impressive bottle.

For my starter (here called small plates) I chose the hog shank and savoy cabbage terrine – and my already not unfavourable impressions of GB Grill and Bar rocketed. It was quite exquisite – very moist and meaty and intensely full-flavoured: the layers of meat in the terrine extremely porcine, whilst the stripes of savoy cabbage seemed to hold the very essence of that often under-rated brassica, denoting the freshest and best of ingredients. It was accompanied by pickled giroles on what tasted like a celeriac puree, which was gloriously creamy and worked extremely well to temper the (welcome) saltiness of the pork. The chervil root in the puree added a further and well-thought-through dimension with lovely crunchy morsels of intense herbiness.

My husband’s onion and cider soup with cheesy sourdough toast was pronounced equally excellent and really hit the spot after giving a long and strenuous concert (he being a concert violinist). Although quite delicate, it sported a lingering and sustained impact of flavour which rendered it most satisfying. The sourdough toast, too, was excellent, with just enough cheese to lift it above the ordinary, and the whole beautifully light. My husband noted that I should strongly recommend this to any potential patrons of the establishment as a starter – it was light enough to ensure there is plenty of room for the following food, but substantial enough to take the edge off one’s appetite and to enable one to view the rest of the meal with pleasurable anticipation. However, if I have now committed myself to recommending dishes, I must honestly say that I don’t believe that anything could beat the terrine!

The main courses were good too – I opted for the oak smoked and roasted Scottish venison, which was served slightly pinker than I would have liked but had a stunning taste, rich and salty and very deep and intense. The chef later informed us that it had been home cold- smoked with olive oil and rock salt to engender the depth of flavour. One received a very generous portion too, with thick, chunky slices. The accompanying blackberry sauce was very fruity and seeped into the anise carrot puree, which was consequently slightly more blackberry favoured than anything else. The two spires of herb dumplings (some emulation of the Shard going on here?) were very herby, but a little too dry for my palate. The final element of the dish was a small portion of rich spinach. As a whole, all elements worked well to complement each other.

Mr Marshall-Luck’s roast pork belly was gloriously tasty, wonderfully tender and just salty enough, with some deliciously crisp crackling to complete the dish. The meat used by GB Grill and Bar is from a Suffolk farm, marinated overnight to ensure depth of flavour, then blasted at high heat before being slow-roasted at a lower temperature to produce the intense taste. All very impressive.

No desserts tempted me (being more of a savoury person) but I found myself yearning for a little salad, so the accommodating staff combined a starter and cheese course for me, presenting me with a wooden board of Cornish yarg – quite delicately flavoured but delicious nevertheless, alongside red grapes and a baby gem salad with a slightly sharp dressing which cut through the creaminess of the cheese well.

My husband took up the opportunity to sample all the desserts; expecting tiny portions of each, he was slightly nonplussed to be presented with four seemingly full-sized puddings! He pronounced them all absolutely superb: the crumble was deliciously fruity with a light yet nicely-textured cinnamon-y topping; and the pear and almond tart was buoyant, fresh and moist, with the (extremely alcoholic) rum ice-cream providing an effective foil. In the chocolate pudding with drunken cherries, the sponge was perhaps a fraction on the heavy side, but boasted an intense chocolate flavour, well complemented by the cherries which were steeped in kirsch and nestled on a bed of whipped cream. He concluded with the lemon and rosemary posset which was wonderfully light, with a subtle and distinctive flavour. It was presented topped with a compote of berries, the slight tartness of which threw the flavour of the posset itself into perfect relief.

On the whole, it was an outstanding meal, and on top of the excellent food we had been made to feel very welcome. I must confess that it this is not the sort of restaurant that we would have normally visited, tending to go for establishments that are less trendy and modern and more elegant and old-fashioned (less vibe and more timeless classic) – yet I am very glad we did visit as we would most definitely have missed out on something rather special. Highly recommended.

Em Marshall-Luck

 

 

Posted in Quidnunc: The QR Blog | Leave a comment

On the Cusp of Modernity

Turner train

On the Cusp of Modernity

Robert Henderson enjoys Timothy Spall as Turner

Mr Turner:

Main cast

Timothy Spall as Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851)

Dorothy Atkinson as Hannah Danby

Paul Jesson as William Turner

Marion Bailey as Sophia Booth

Ruth Sheen as Sarah Danby

Sandy Foster as Evalina Dupois –

Martin Savage as Benjamin Haydon

Director Mike Leigh

This is a curate’s egg of a film. At its centre lies a commanding performance by Timothy Spall as Turner in the last quarter century of his life. The film is worth watching for that reason alone, for Spall is one of those rare actors who cannot deliver a poor performance; he does not have it in him. Here he has a marvellously varied collection of snorts and grunts to express his feelings to add to his ever-present virtue as an actor of seeming to be someone fully engaged with the rest of humanity. (Even Spall’s portrayal of Britain’s longest serving hangman Albert Pierrepoint managed to make him curiously sympathetic.)

There are also first rate supporting performances by Dorothy Atkinson as Turner’s housekeeper Hannah Danby, who is in love with and sexually exploited by Turner, and Marion Bailey as a boarding house keeper Turner meets on his regular trips to Margate and eventually takes to London where he surreptitiously sets up home with her.

With the exception of Paul Jesson as Turner’s father (an unremarkable performance) and Martin Savage as a fellow artist Benjamin Haydon who was incessantly whining about how his career was being sabotaged by the professional jealousy of other artists whilst he attempted to borrow money (something which added nothing of importance to the story of Turner’s life) , the rest of the cast have so little screen time that they do not have a chance to develop their parts beyond the perfunctory .

But…but…. there are serious weaknesses. First, it tries to cover far too much ground with seemingly every incident publicly known about Turner in his later life requiring a nod of acknowledgement by the film. It smacks of the completest mania of the collector. The result is that characters (over 80 actors are credited in the official cast list) come and go without any proper explanation of who they are and what their significance is for Turner. For example, his two illegitimate daughters and their mother appear briefly at the beginning and near the end without proper explanation of exactly who they are or why Turner is so very cold towards them.

The second weakness is the implied assumption by the film that its audience would have a good grasp of British artistic history during the period. The portrayal of artistic relations between Royal Academicians and Turner will be bewildering for most people who see the film and simply clutter up the narrative.

Take Turner’s relationship with John Constable. Constable did not publicly slate Turner but he was jealous of him and like many others privately dismissed his work as just insubstantial fireworks playing with the depiction of light. In 1832 at the Royal Academy’s annual show Constable and Turner had paintings hung side by side. Constable’s painting was The Opening of Waterloo Bridge, a large colourful canvas that had been a Herculean fifteen years in the composition. Turner’s painting entitled Helvoetsluys was a rather subdued affair of Dutch ships.

Constable was putting the finishing touches to his painting using vermillion to paint the flags on barges in in his painting. Turner came into the room and placed a daub of scarlet paint in the grey sea of his painting. He then left to return the next day (when the paint was still wet) and shaped the scarlet daub on his painting into a buoy. Constable took this as taking a rise out of his rather colourful and long time in the making The Opening of Waterloo Bridge and loudly complained that Turner ‘ has been here and fired a gun.’ In the film this episode takes place rapidly with no explanation of why Constable should have been so annoyed.

To the poorly developed professional relationships can be added the references to Turner’s work both individually and generally. For those with some familiarity with his work, or at least his most famous paintings, a scene, beautifully realised, with Turner in a boat watching a steam tug towing a warship which had seen duty at Trafalgar would have immediately evoked Turner’s painting The Fighting Temeraire. But to someone who had little or no knowledge of Turner the scene would have seemed random and of little importance. The same incomprehension would have been felt by those ignorant of Turner when he watches a train rush by on the new-fangled railways and the idea of his Rain, Steam and Speed is born.

Then there was for me the most exquisitely enjoyable moment in the film. This was the look of profound contempt which crossed Spall’s face (accompanied by a particularly meaningful snort) when he sees some pre-Raphaelite paintings. But to appreciate the moment the viewer had to understand that the contempt was result of Turner and the pre-Raphaelites being artistic polar opposites: Turner was concerned with overall effect and the play of light in particular: the pre-Raphaelite’s were fixated with representing the world in almost photographic detail. Spall’s magnificent contempt is born of the man who sees further and farther than others and sardonically views the work of lesser beings who are trapped in their immediate surroundings.

Irritating as all that unnecessary event counting was, there were plenty of moments of humour which anyone could understand, many simply deriving from the interplay with Spall’s personality with others, but with a few set pieces in which other characters provided the humour such as a wickedly savage depiction of a young John Ruskin (Joshua McGuire) performing with sublimely unselfconscious pretension. Even if someone did not have a clue about who Ruskin was they could still find the portrayal very amusing.

A running theme throughout the film is an England on the brink of modernity. At the start of the film Turner makes his regular trips from London to Margate on the Kent coast by ship because that is the fastest means of making a trip of perhaps sixty miles. By the end of the film he is catching a train.

A lady scientist visits him and shows him how a metal pin can be magnetised by fragmenting light by passing it through a prism to produce the colours of the rainbow some of which magnetise negatively and some positively.

Late in the film we see Turner having his photograph taken using an early photographic system called a Daguerreotype. Turner quizzes the photographer about how things are done in this new means of representing things whilst inwardly fretting that photography will be the nemesis of the artist. He sighs with relief when the photographer tells him that colour photographs are nowhere on the horizon.

This film could have been much tauter than it is if the director had made it less cluttered with characters and specific events. But when all is said and done Spall’s performance rescues it from a disjointed banality. Go and see it to watch a master actor in action in a role, which fits him like a glove.

 

ROBERT HENDERSON is QR’s film critic

 

Posted in Quidnunc: The QR Blog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

War Boys

Nordfrankreich, Panzer VI (Tiger I)

War Boys

Robert Henderson has a tiger in his tank

Fury

Main cast:

Brad Pitt as US Army Staff Sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier

Shia LaBeouf as Technician Fifth Grade Boyd “Bible” Swan

Logan Lerman as Private Norman “Machine” Ellison

Michael Peña as Corporal Trini “Gordo” Garcia

Jon Bernthal as Private First Class Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis

Jason Isaacs as Capt. “Old Man” Waggoner

Director: David Ayer

“I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell”, General William Tecumseh Sherman.

A director making a film about war should reflect Sherman’s simple truth that it is hell. Anything short of that is no more than cruel propaganda. Fury does fall short in the end, although it contains much that rings true.

It is Germany in April 1945. Staff Sergeant Don Wardaddy Collier (Brad Pitt) is captain of a Sherman tank nicknamed Fury. Collier and his crew of four of Swann, Garcia, Travis and Elllison (respectively played by LaBeouf, Peña, Berthnal and Lerman) are taking part in the snuffing out of the last desperate throw of Nazi Germany. All but Ellison have been with Collier fighting their way from North Africa to Germany.

Whatever pity there may have been in them has been leeched away by the brutality they have seen and the primal desire to stay alive, the latter fact made unusually pressing because Sherman tanks were no match for the German Tiger tanks and had a nasty reputation for going up in flames with little provocation. (The Allied troops satirically named them Ronsons after a popular lighter of the time which sold itself under the slogan “Lights up first time, every time”).

For an hour the film is just what a war film should be: full of the harsh dark humour of soldiers who live with fear as their constant companion, cruelly violent, horribly destructive of men and a sentimentality free zone.

Collier displays a Patton-like harshness to the new recruit Norman Ellison. He is a very young soldier who is replacing Fury’s newly killed assistant driver. He has zero experience of tanks, his previous role in the army being that of a clerk/typist. Why is he assigned to a tank? Because casualties make him Hobson’s choice.

Unsurprisingly Ellison’s is unfitted for the work not merely through inexperience but psychologically. His first task is to clean up the mess in the tank left by the dead man’s wounds. He vomits as he scrapes some flesh off his place in the tank. In his first taste of real warfare he fails to fire on Germans which results in another tank being destroyed. The commander of the tank falls out of the tank in a ball of flame and shoots himself in the head with his pistol to stop the agony.

Collier slaps Ellison around and tells him he has to learn to kill Germans or he is worse than useless. He forces Ellison to shoot a defenceless SS officer who has been captured, which Ellison does with the greatest reluctance and only with Collier holding Ellison’s finger over the trigger and forcing him to fire the gun. After a few more engagements Ellison gets the message: kill or be killed and even admits that he enjoys slaughtering Germans and becomes an accepted part of the tank crew, although he never quite seems to be at home in the tank as the other four crew members are unselfconsciously at home.

So far so good, but around the hour mark sentimentality crashes into the action. Collier and Ellison enter a German home and find a woman in her thirties and her niece. At first their meeting is all tension. Then Ellison sits down at a piano and starts playing music from some German sheet music. Unasked the niece comes across and sings the song which belongs to the music. Before you can say knife the niece and Ellison disappear into a bedroom from which they emerge later as instant sweethearts, having, it is implied, had sex. This implausible nonsense is thankfully cut short by further fighting in the town which results in the niece being killed. But the sentimental marker has been put down and stays with the film.

The final half hour or so is the plot of the Alamo adapted for World War 2. Fury hits a mine, sheds one of its tracks and is immobilised. Unable to move with the tank, the crew find themselves in the path of a group of SS soldiers several hundred in number. They are seen coming from a fair way off so tank crew have plenty of time to decide what to do. The sensible thing would be to retreat on foot. Collier orders his crew to get going whilst making it clear that he is staying to attack the column using the immobilised Sherman tank’s guns. In true Boy’s Own fashion the other four men agree to stay.

The tank then takes on the role of the fort in the Alamo. The SS soldiers arrive and the tank crew are able to spring a surprise attack. So far so realistic. We are then treated to some of the most preposterous battle scenes ever filmed. SS men keep popping up obligingly to be machined gunned, shot with small arms or obliterated by the tank’s cannon. For most of this action Collier is standing exposed on the top of the tank using its heavy machine gun. But this being Hollywood he does not get hit until all but the one of his tank crew (Ellison) have been killed. Then, incongruously, in view of his long exposure to the enemy without a sniper taking a pot shot at him, he is shot twice by guess who, a sniper.

With Collier wounded and now inside the tank, Ellison slips through an escape hatch in the bottom of the tank and hides underneath it. Collier is finally killed in the time honoured way infantry deal with tanks, namely, by climbing onto them, opening the command hatch, tossing a grenade in, closing the hatch and jumping off the tank before the grenade explodes. Ellison hides under the tank until the SS column has moved on, although not before a very young SS soldier sees him there but does not raise the alarm. Ellison is found in the morning by American troops and his survival is complete.

If the film ends disappointingly by relapsing into Hollywood vacuity, there is sufficient in it to make it watchable. The main actors all give strong performances. Pitt is convincing as a tough as teak tank commander; the LaBeouf character is one of those quietly competent people any group in a tight corner is glad to have with them, Peña is louder but just as reliable while Berthnal has something of the savage about him but nonetheless he is someone would be glad to have by your side when there is danger about. Lerman is the least likeable main character, not least because even when he has got over his reluctance to kill, he always appears to be on the edge of losing his nerve and in the context of the lives the tank crew are living his fear in some curious way seems to be a kind of disloyalty to the rest of the group.

The battle scenes are convincingly done apart from the final “Alamo” stand. The most intriguing sequence is of the Sherman Tank and a German Tiger tank performing a two dimensional dog fight, with the more manoeuvrable but inadequately armoured Sherman desperately trying to get behind the less agile but much superior in armour and gun-power Tiger to attack the Tiger’s one weak spot, the rear of the tank. Shades of the old fighter pilot’s tactic of getting above and behind an enemy before attacking.

You will not be bored by this film, but a much superior tank centred story is the Israeli film Lebanon (2009). This is set in the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2002. The entire action is filmed from within the tank with any outside action being shot through the bombsight. The film gives you much more of the claustrophobic reality of being part of a tank crew. All the good things about Fury are there without the distraction of implausible battle scenes and unwonted sentimentality.

ROBERT HENDERSON is QR’s film critic

Posted in Quidnunc: The QR Blog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Poem for Marjorie Sawyer

iflora0001p1
Poem for Marjorie Sawyer

 

Song-redemptive woman; well might time’s unfading flora

flourish still and known in the opening April of your hands.

Then never turn your heart against itself;

for the heart alone avenges the wronged heart.

-

Where you are not, only the dreamer will remain;

searching for some hidden night.

Where you are, love’s every depth

is your own heart’s height.

-

When you are not, the impoverished dream

shall seek for those moon-bullion evening fells.

When you are, morning will find your

forbearant loveliness like a granted pardon,

season safe within the flourishing

forgiveness of spring.

-

By Michael Cope. 

Michael Cope is a blogger and poet

Posted in Quidnunc: The QR Blog | Leave a comment

Your Life, a Playground for Rich Liberals

gun control 2

Your Life, a Playground for Rich Liberals 

Ilana Mercer highlights liberal hypocrisy and phony

philanthropy

“Make sure it doesn’t happen in your state next,” warns Michelle Malkin, in “Rocky Mountain Heist,” a documentary in which the columnist puts her trademark shoe-leather journalistic sleuthing to work in exposing the Democrat-rigged “democracy” of Colorado. There, a group of well-heeled liberals used its power—and “every scheme possible”—to transform Colorado into a playground for the rich (and their liberal ideology) and a nightmare for “common” Coloradans.

Malkin, who once resided in our state, might already know that the dice are loaded against decent people in Washington, too. Take I-594, a gun-control measure which, we are led to believe, expresses the legislative will—even though it is, as the Zelman Partisans have noted, “the anti-gunners’ dream. Under the pretense of being ‘only’ a universal background check bill (common sense, you know!), it will criminalize nearly all transfers of firearms, including the most essential, innocent and fleeting. Loan a gun to a friend in need? Felony. Instructor hands a gun to student and student hands it back? Two felonies.”

The measure was “bankrolled by billionaires on the left,” among them former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Microsoft billionaires Paul Allen, Steve Ballmer and, of course, Bill Gates. These busybodies—who reside in fortified castles and are cosseted by security details—raised millions and gave unstintingly to make it harder for ordinary folks to defend life and property.

It runs in the family. In 2011, we were menaced by another unfathomably wealthy “man,” who got behind an effort to bilk Washington-State businessmen and women of more modest means. The Service Employees International Union (state and national locals), the National Education Association, and Washington Teachers Union locals all united to champion a new income tax. The poster boy for this regressive measure was William H. Gates Sr., father of Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

The late Steve Jobs was not the only man who had no time for Bill Gates. Less well-known for his contempt for the patronizing Gates was hedge-fund founder Robert W. Wilson.

Having donated an estimated $600 million over his lifetime, Mr. Wilson was one of the most generous philanthropists in our country. Still, Wilson flatly refused to join what he derisively termed Bill Gates’ “worthless Giving-Pledge” charity.

And it was not only Gates’ showy, sanctimonious, public giving that Mr. Wilson discounted.

But first—and against this background—let me add the following: the righteous give discreetly; the pious give publicly. Accustomed to the hedonism of Hollywood and the exhibitionism of cable news anchors, it may surprise some to learn that the manner in which most ordinary Americans give—anonymously—satisfies the exacting standards of righteousness specified by Maimonides. The 12th-century Jewish philosopher stipulated that the highest form of charity is practiced when “donor and recipient are unknown to each other.”

To escape being lionized was not Mr. Wilson’s only message to the flabby Microsoftie. BuzzFeed published Bill Gates’ paternalistic, condescending, verbose missives to the late Mr. Wilson. As the latter’s replies are eminently quotable, I’ve shared them with you, courtesy of BuzzFeed:

From: Robert W. Wilson

Sent: Wednesday, June 16, 2010 12:16 PM

To: Bill Gates

Subject: Re: Giving Pledge discussion

Mr. Gates, I decided more than ten years ago to try to give away 70 percent of my net worth and have already given away one-half billion dollars. (I’ve never been a Forbes 400.) So I really don’t have to take the pledge.

Your “Giving Pledge” has a loophole that renders it practically worthless, namely permitting pledgees to simply name charities in their wills. I have found that most billionaires or near billionaires hate giving large sums of money away while alive and instead set up family-controlled foundations to do it for them after death. And these foundations become, more often than not, bureaucracy-ridden sluggards. These rich are delighted to toss off a few million a year in order to remain socially acceptable. But that’s it.

I’m going to stay far away from your effort. But thanks for thinking of me. Cordially.

When the vapid Gates continued to nag him, Mr. Wilson became sufficiently piqued to terminate the exchange, and decisively so:

From: Robert W. Wilson

To: Bill Gates

Sent: Saturday, June 19, 2010 4:15 PM

Subject: Re: Giving Pledge discussion

Mr. Gates thanks much for your email. But as my previous email indicated, I wouldn’t have much fun or add much value to this group. You, being a liberal, think you can change people more than I think.

But let me make one comment. When I talk to young people who seem destined for great success, I tell them to forget about charities and giving. Concentrate on your family and getting rich—which I found very hard work. I personally and the world at large are very glad you were more interested in computer software than the underprivileged when you were young. And don’t forget that those who don’t make money never become philanthropists.

When rich people reach 50 and are beginning to slow down is the time to begin engaging them in philanthropy.

I’d greatly appreciate just leaving it at that. Cordially.

Wilson, who “committed his life to donating his fortune to charities,” took his life late in 2013. While men with the (Melinda-inspired) mindset of a Bill Gates are multiplying, the likes of Robert W. Wilson, of blessed memory, are a dying breed.

 

ILANA MERCER is a paleolibertarian writer based in the United States. She pens WND’s longest-standing column, “Return to Reason” and is a Fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies. She is a Quarterly Review Contributing Editor. Ilana’s latest book is Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa. Her website is www.IlanaMercer.com. She blogs at www.barelyablog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Quidnunc: The QR Blog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Meditations in Manhattan

anti americanism death liberty teheran mural

Meditations in Manhattan

Niels Hav has a proposal

The USA has both a good reputation, and a bad one. American imperialism has caused great harm around the globe, and in cafés in Cairo, Islamabad and Sao Paulo many newspaper readers agree that the world’s problems have their source in Washington. But at the same time it is the USA everyone turns to for military and emergency aid, when disasters ensue.

The USA, then, is a land of paradox. In its appetite for oil and profit, American capitalism rampages over the planet. At times blind to local cultural values, the superpower has invaded centres of disturbance on all continents.

But there is another America. The most influential critics of American imperialism are USA’s intellectuals – just think of Noam Chomsky, famous for his razor-sharp contributions to contemporary political debate.

When Grace Paley, the American writer, died, I wrote an obituary for the paper. A month later I was in New York; I’d come down from Canada to join my wife at the Artbreak Hotel. That evening we went for a walk in Manhattan, and I thought of Grace Paley – it was here that she lived for most of her life. Author of three short story collections, a volume of poems and some essays, yet despite this modest output, she achieved almost cult status.

Everything she wrote has a genuine quality, as if her poems and stories are a direct reflection of reality itself, lifted unaltered into her finely crafted work. Most of the tales are set in Manhattan; it is women’s relationships with men and children which fill her books. As in the short story “Wishes” about a woman who meets her ex-husband on the library steps. She is on her way in to return some books. He accompanies her, and they talk a little together. In three pages, Paley succeeds in engaging us in a whole life, its pettiness and magnanimity.

But there were long intervals between Paley’s publications. In 1974 after Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, 11 years would pass before her next book Later the Same Day. When Grace Paley was asked why she had not written more books, she pointed out that she had many other important things to do with her time, such as raising children and participating in politics. “Art,” she explained, “is too long, and life is too short.” Besides being a mother, she was a peace activist and engaged in the civil-rights movement. During the Vietnam War she travelled to Hanoi to bring American prisoners of war home.

As we walked that evening through Manhattan, I thought of all this. We had eaten dinner and had a beer, now we just strolled. My wife spoke of her coming concert, and I studied the small piles of refuse set outside each household for the garbage collectors. Then I noticed a stack of books, and I stopped. I lifted aside the worn paperbacks on top – and what did I see? Just as I Thought by Grace Paley, a collection of articles, reporting and speeches written over 30 years. “As close to an autobiography as anything we are likely to have from this quintessentially American writer,” says the cover.

Here in the trash in the middle of Manhattan lay the book, waiting for me, a hello and a smile and signed Grace Paley. Today it stands among the reference books on my shelf. Now and then I open it and read a little, like the short essay “Jobs”, where Paley writes about her time as telephone operator and housewife – “the poorest paying job a woman can hold. But most women feel gypped by life if they don’t get a chance at it.”

Put your newspaper aside for a moment and look around in your café. How many women are there? If there are far more men than women, then something is askew with equal rights in your area. Maybe you are sitting in a café in Paris, and women and men mingle. Maybe you are in a café in Istanbul, and at other tables are groups of laughing women, talking eagerly. Maybe you are sitting in a café in Sulaimaniya, and everything is the same.

In Copenhagen there are often more women than men in the cafés, just as in Berlin, Calgary and Rome. Women love to meet with their friends after work over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, and talk about the happenings of their day, discuss and hear the news, exactly as men do.

Take note that in strong countries with a healthy economy, that the women are also strong. What is reason and what is result? The first qualification for a free country with a strong economy is that women be strong and free. No country can compete successfully in the global market without the contribution of its women.

Men have run this world for thousands of years, with no great success. Violence and wars ravage the planet. In many cultures, women are treated as second class citizens without the same rights as men. Maybe the women’s rights movement is, at present, by far the most important global arena of all. Women have just claim to the same rights as men: that ought to be a matter of course.

To straighten out this wretched state of affairs, I would suggest that we give all the political power, and all the seats in parliament, to women – for example, for 100 years – as an experiment. Not all women are angels*, but maybe there is a fair chance that women will be able to bring about a more peaceful planet, with respect for each individual, both in America and in the rest of the world.

Shortly before she died Grace Paley managed to complete a new book: Here and Somewhere Else. All her poems are collected in one volume: Begin Again: New and Collected Poems. This is a good enough place to start.

*EDITOR’S NOTE: agreed, see my review of Wendy Lower’s Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields, at  www.quarterly-review.org/?p=2715

© Niels Hav – translated by Heather Spears. Niels Hav is a poet and writer

 

Posted in Quidnunc: The QR Blog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Sovereign Agrees to … a Bourbon Summit

Skeleton

The Sovereign Agrees to … a Bourbon Summit, by Ilana Mercer

The mid-term elections – the people speak but Barack Obama doesn’t get the message

Barack Obama’s remarks on the results of the midterm congressional elections of 2014 were, well, remarkable. What else was the upheaval in the balance of power between the White House and Capitol Hill if not a repudiation of President Obama and his policies? Republicans gained control of the Senate. In the House they won the “largest majority since World War II, 246 seats in 1946, when Harry Truman sat in the White House.” There were major gubernatorial gains as well. Yet the message the president took away from the defeat of Democrats country-wide was that he needed to “get the job done.” He had not been busy enough.

Semantic sophistry being Obama’s forte, the president attempted to delegitimize the results of the midterm elections. A master of divide-and-control tactics, Pharaoh quickly blamed his party’s electoral ousting on a minority: those who voted. “To the two-thirds of voters who chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you, too,” he said.

Luckily for him, Obama did not cry racism – although he had sent race RoboCop Eric Holder and his federales to election stations across the country to ensure that anyone who wanted to vote could, and that if a voter were asked for an ID, informed of a citizenship requirement, hadn’t been provided with “bilingual assistance” or a ramp for a wheelchair – this disenfranchised soul could quickly dial into a hotline to register a complain of “intimidation, discrimination, obstruction,” and racism, naturally.

Having faulted a misguided minority – the few who voted – for rejecting his regime, the president proceeded to reaffirm the policies just repudiated. “[M]ore Americans are working. Unemployment has come down.” [So has participation in the labor force: more than 102 million Americans are not working.] The “minority” that voted were informed, too, that “more Americans have health insurance” [because those who don’t need it, 19- to 25-year-olds, have been forced to purchase it; and the rest of us are paying for them and other indigents in exorbitant deductible and cost-sharing ploys]. “… Our deficits have shrunk [due to crippling taxes, and as the national debt balloons to $17.9 trillion]. Yes, “our economy is outpacing most of the world,” [but that’s due entirely to the resilience of America’s private economy and a dearth of the same drive elsewhere in the world].

According to the unrepentant Obama, it’s all good, except that Americans are not feeling it … yet. His mission is thus to keep plugging away “until every American feels the gains of the growing economy.” Just how “magnanimous” is this man? Obama has invited the victors into his legislative inner-sanctum, so that they may partake in sanctioning more government make-work schemes: “rebuilding … roads, bridges, ports, waterways.” If Republicans behave, Barack will also collaborate on “tax reform.” To Obama this means “closing tax loopholes.” In other words, increasing the taxes on the profits of those nasty corporations who account for the productivity the president just touted as his own.

“I hear you”; you want me to … “close divisions, break gridlock, and get stuff done,” preached the president to those “few” voters who, if they could, would have ousted him from office, Tuesday. Just as Obama was once the guy “who was elected by everybody,” by his own admission, he now finds himself as the guy who was rejected by everybody. And the lesson he has learned? Everybody wants him to get busy.

Having never hesitated to jam through legislation by executive action and Senate sleight-of-hand, our munificent loser has suggested this: if Republicans table bills to comport with his “legislative priorities” – pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens, or amnesty, for one – he might refrain from resorting to executive action.

But Obama is right. He has executive authority. The Constitution has saddled Americans with a very strong presidency, should he choose to act on the veto it grants him. Buried in the constitutional thickets, concedes historian Paul Johnson, are “huge powers.” The American president “was much stronger than most kings of the day, rivaled or exceeded only by the ‘Great Autocrat,’ the Tsar of Russia (and in practice stronger than most tsars). These powers were not explored until Andrew Jackson’s time, half a century on, when they astonished and frightened many people.”

Had the “self-restraint and common sense of George Washington” not “prevented any display” of these presidential powers in the 1790s – this “formidable potential authority” vested in the U.S. presidency “would certainly have led to protest and constitutional amendment.”

What’s left for Americans is to hope that Obama’s get – busy schemes will revolve around planning a bourbon summit with incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Hit the bottle, Barack; stay on the juice, just don’t juice the economy.

ILANA MERCER is a paleolibertarian writer based in the United States. She pens WND’s longest-standing column, “Return to Reason” and is a Fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies. She is a Quarterly Review Contributing Editor. Ilana’s latest book is Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa. Her website is www.IlanaMercer.com. She blogs at www.barelyablog.com

 

Posted in Quidnunc: The QR Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Obama Ebola Doctrine

Peter Breughel the Elder The Triumph of Death

Peter Breughel the Elder
The Triumph of Death

The Obama Ebola Doctrine: Worship the Saints in “Spacesuits” 

Ilana Mercer debunks the new “patriotism”

The tweets came fast and cynical: “That’s so science!” “I saw those white lab coats on the men behind [Obama], which pretty much convinced me.” “Another day, another POTUS presser on Ebola. If you missed it, here’s the summary: ‘White lab coats, science.’”

The Obama Ebola Doctrine (OED) was dictated during the presidential addresses, this week, on Ebola. The message, delivered against a backdrop of demigods in freshly unpacked, white laboratory coats, was hardly subliminal. So serious was Obama, he even threw in references to a God not himself, something he rarely does.

The president used the word “troops” to describe the individuals stationed behind him. These public health workers were “serving” America (much like soldiers would). Theirs was a “sacrificial service” (much like that of saints). They were “citizens of the world, global citizens,” who were “leading globally” (as all you locals should strive to do).

Volunteering in Africa Obama has equated with American “patriotism.” Well of course. If being “citizens of the world” is the existential state-of-being, then patriotism must be redefined. No longer does it mean the love of one’s country and countrymen, but love of The World. Go to West Africa, and you are demonstrating “citizenship … and public service at its best.” In Africa, you will be serving America, “the country that we love.”

The medics who rush headlong into the Ebola maelstrom embody “American exceptionalism” (unlike all those Americans who run businesses).

To the extent that America’s Ebola workers are motivated by “faith,” it is their “sense of faith and grace” that Obama has commanded all Americans to emulate.

The president is now defining for his subjects the very meaning of worship.

Aversion to Ebola, Obama mocked as “hiding under the covers,” indirectly associating precautions with cowardice, even venality.

His Holiness “saluted” Dr. Craig Spencer for “his service” – Spencer is the saint in scrubs who lied to investigators about his whereabouts. He had been gallivanting around Manhattan when already symptomatic.

Is Nurse Kaci Hickox the next to be canonized? Just back from treating Ebola-afflicted patients in Sierra Leone, contempt dripping from every word disgorged – threatened: “If the restrictions placed on me by the state of Maine are not lifted by Thursday morning, I will go to court to fight for my freedom.” Paul Callan, a usually reserved, dignified, civil-rights attorney expressed his disgust: Hickox is “setting a bad example … for the rest of the public” in the event that “this thing gets out of hand,” and there’s a quarantine across the United States.

So listen up, petty, provincial Americans: These are your new deities. Worship the saints in “spacesuits”!

Ultimately, Americans are meant to forget that the duty of the U.S. government is to its people, first. Obama is obligated by the Constitution to protect the liberties of his constituents. Without life there is no liberty.

But not according to the Obama Ebola Doctrine, which is this:

  • The health of West Africa is the health of America.
  • Those serving as healers in Africa are serving as healers in America.
  • Africa’s medicine men are America’s medicine men.
  • Local yokels dare not “discourage” these new deities; “disincentivize” or inconvenience them. Rather, the “health care workers” who are sacrificing for us must be lauded and “applauded,” and should certainly not be made to bear the brunt of our scientific ignorance.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, parroted the president: “by going over there, they are helping us to protect America.” Therefore, the lives of doctors fighting Ebola in West Africa must not be “disrupted” on their return.

This means no quarantines, cretins.

There you have it. Funded by Americans, the role of the president of the U.S. is to engineer desirable political, social, medical and financial outcomes for the world.

What else does the OED imply?

Preparing Americans for the inevitable sacrifice for the greater global good is essential. As we move to eradicate Ebola “at the source,” we, concomitantly, must maintain the unfettered movement of people in and out of the U.S. Consequently, our prejudiced, unworldly citizens must be conditioned to accept “the few Ebola cases that we see here.”

A few dead Americans is a small price to pay for the greater global good.

The Bush Terrorism Doctrine was as follows: we’re fighting them over there, so we don’t have to fight them over here.

The Obama Bioterrorism Doctrine runs parallel. Barack Hussein Obama’s express objective is to convince Americans that if we fight Ebola in West Africa, it won’t threaten America: “If we [don’t] deal with this problem there, it will come here,” he asserted.

However, as revealed by State Department documentation marked “Sensitive But Unclassified, Predecisional,” the policy is as fluid as the “liquefying” internal organs of a hapless Ebola patient.

Prior to being petitioned by a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act Request and subsequently exposed by Fox News, the knaves at State were considering the “expeditious” “medevacing” of Ebola-infected non-citizens into the United States for treatment.

If Ebola doesn’t “come here” in a big way, Obama may just introduce it to you by hook or by crook.

ILANA MERCER is a paleolibertarian writer based in the United States. She pens WND’s longest-standing column, “Return to Reason” and is a Fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies. She is a Quarterly Review Contributing Editor. Ilana’s latest book is Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa. Her website is www.IlanaMercer.com. She blogs at www.barelyablog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Quidnunc: The QR Blog | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment