This Bank and Shoal of Time

This Bank and Shoal of Time

Macbeth, tragedy in five acts by William Shakespeare, RSC, Barbican Theatre, Saturday 10th November 2018, directed by Polly Findlay, reviewed by Leslie Jones

Time, as critic Michael Billington reminds us, is a recurrent theme in Macbeth. (The Guardian, 21st March 2018). Indeed, Shakespeare’s text is replete with references to its passage. In Polly Findlay’s production, accordingly, a digital clock counts down the little that remains of Macbeth’s life after Duncan’s murder. If “fate and metaphysical aid” will have him crowned, it will also have him killed. In the final scene, as Malcolm is hailed the new King of Scotland, the clock is re-set. Another cycle of tyranny commences.

In an earlier, notable production of Macbeth by Rupert Goold, premiered at Chichester in Summer 2007, with Patrick Stewart in the leading role, the three witches were assistants in a morgue. In this current production at the Barbican, they are no less sinister, as played by small children dressed in red, in a possible allusion to Don’t Look NowThe Shining and Schindler’s List.

There are other striking elements, too, such as the split level staging. This device underlines the detachment of Duncan’s court from the power play and butchery going on below. The parade of eight future kings, the “seed of Banquo”, the last with a mirror in his hand, and Lady Macbeth’s sleep walk, also take place in the glass screened gallery. Michael Hodgson, the porter, played several roles, including the third murderer and caretaker, who chalks up the death toll on a blackboard. He was on the stage throughout. Duncan was depicted as border-line demented (shades of King Lear) and was confined to a wheelchair. The design by Fly Dans, the lighting by Lizzie Powell and the music by Rupert Cross were memorable. Ditto, the dazzling costumes of the royal couple.

Christopher Eccleston, the 9th Dr Who, with his ripped torso and perfect plank, was a physically convincing warrior king, “Bellona’s bridegroom”, no less. He excelled in the Banquet scene; likewise, when he bamboozled the two murderers. He seemed  uncomfortable, however, in the set piece soliloquies. Edward Bennett as Macduff, in contrast, looked more like a solicitor than a soldier. His rendition of the lines on discovering Duncan’s body, “Oh horror, horror, horror! Tongue nor heart cannot conceive nor name thee’’, was bathetic. Niamh Cusak as Lady Macbeth was suitably febrile and frenetic.

Although significantly shorter than Shakespeare’s other great tragedies, Macbeth has its longueurs. Lady Macduff’s tiresome exchanges with her son (“Sirrah, your father’s dead…”) and Malcolm’s laboured litany of his vices, spring to mind. But, happily, the “action…moves at a tremendous lick” (Michael Billington). There is no tarrying here.

Dr Leslie Jones is Editor of QR

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Slate’s Slanders

Slate’s Slanders

By Ilana Mercer

When Slate Magazine went after President Trump’s former speech writer, Darren Beattie, it chose to libel this writer, as well.

That’s a bully’s calculus: if you can, why not ruin the reputation of another individual, just for good measure? Ruining reputations by labeling and libeling unpopular others is all in a day’s work for the bully, who has nothing in his authorial quiver but ad hominem attack.

The individual who penned an unsourced hit piece on this writer is Slate Magazine’s designated “chief news blogger.” A hit piece is “a published article or post aiming to sway public opinion by presenting false or biased information in a way that appears objective and truthful.”

Our intrepid journalist, one Ben Mathis-Lilley, does not even feign objectivity. Indeed, nothing screams Fake News like a “newsman” engaging in sloppy slander. That’s what my many dogged, anti-Semitic, readers also do. The Mathis-Lilley article was published on August 20, this year, in the section called “The Slatest.” (Slate does cutesy and corny quite well.)

Mathis-Lilley distorts the truth throughout the piece, starting with the title:

“White House Speechwriter Appeared on Panel With Author Who Compared Black South Africans to Cannibals.”

It didn’t happen. No such comparisons were made. Cannibalism serves merely as a metaphor in my book,“Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa.”

The origin of the title is expressly and unambiguously explained in the Introduction. “It is inspired by Ayn Rand’s wise counsel against prostrating civilization to savagery.” (p. 8.). The exact Rand quote is citation No. 15 in Into the Cannibal’s Pot. It comes courtesy of “Robert Mayhew (ed.), Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of Her Q & A (New York, 2005).”

Unlike Mathis-Lilley’s unsourced material in Slate,  “Into the Cannibal’s Pot” is topped and tailed with hard evidence, and sports over 800 endnotes. Based on the evidence presented, readers come to see “that South Africans had been tossed into the metaphorical cannibal’s pot.” (p. 9).

These are facts, not slander. Slander is Slate’s purview.

Duly ignored was my polite request, addressed to Slate’s editors, to let me counter Mathis-Lilley’s claims over their pixelated pages.

After all, did not their chief counsel, Ava Lubell, Esq., promise in an email (Sept. 10, 2018, 4:22 p.m.) that Slate takes “the accuracy of [its] work seriously and would appreciate your identifying what factual inaccuracies you believe the piece contains”?

Chief counsel for Slate clearly didn’t think that Slate’s fidelity to facts was brought into disrepute by an unsound, unfounded cry, straight from the reptilian brain of their news correspondent: “Ilana mercer is a real piece of work, racism-wise!”

Such puritanical zeal would have landed Mathis-Lilley a spot on Cotton Mather’s “special court to try the witchcraft cases,”in Salem, Massachusetts, circa 1692.

“Goody Mercer, burn her, burn her.” “Goody” was a form of address for women, in the days when women were offed for so-called sorcery.

In what is “Goody Mercer née Isaacson” implicated next? Why, for the “insanely unsubtle” “cover art of Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa. “[I]nsanely unsubtle”: Mathis is no wordsmith. His choice of adjectives is positively Kardashian.

The cover art, of course, is the publisher’s purview, not that of the author.

In anticipation of the Mathis-Lilleys of the world, the publisher chose to preface my text with a “Publisher’s Note.” He wrote, “[Into the Cannibal’s Pot] is about ideas and ideology. When losing an intellectual argument, there are despicable people who point an accusing finger and shout racism.”

Schooled in epithets, not argument, Mathis-Lilley goes on to claim that Steve Bannon uttered the “N-word,” and that, by extension, I was a sympathizer of such ugly utterances.

Oh, Mathis-Lilley hedges his words all right. Legalistic phrases like “Mercer seems to” bedeck his sub-par prose. But that’s just dirty, dishonest, underhand writing. Never have I used the language attributed to Bannon. The daughter of Rabbi Ben Isaacson would never use language so foul about another human being.

Daddy was a noted anti-apartheid activist before it became a fashionable and safe virtue-signaling pastime. The book maligned by Slate’s Mathis-Lilley as “racist” pays homage to dad (who refuses to leave his South Africa), for being “…a leader in the Promethean struggle to end apartheid. Rabbi Abraham Benzion Isaacson’s fight for justice for South Africa’s blacks was inspired by the advanced concept of Jewish social justice showcased in Deuteronomy and in The Prophets. …” (“Into the Cannibal’s Pot,” 2011, pp. 185-186.)

The woman who Mathis-Lilley dubs “a real piece of work, racism-wise” worked tirelessly against petty apartheid. A couple of pathos-filled pages in Into the Cannibal’s Pot detail how, in one single day, with nothing but determination, this “racist” broke a bit of the apartheid bureaucracy, to benefit a beloved domestic worker, Ethel, tribal name Nomasomi Khala. (pp. 70-72)

Accompanied by me, Ethel entered the Department of Home Affairs in Cape Town as a woman whose tribal marriage was unrecognized by the authorities, whose kids (in tow) were without birth certificates, and whose decades of toil left her bereft of state benefits. Ethel was not in The System. She was stateless. But not for long. When we departed the Department, that same day, Ethel and Jim, her husband of 25 years, had had their union solemnized by a grumpy magistrate, summoned at my insistence. And the children—bless them, they had dressed to the nines for the occasion—had birth certificates.

Good people, Mr Mathis-Lilley, act. Bad people badmouth.

Next, Slate’s pseudo-newsman falsely contends that “Mercer thinks getting rid of apartheid has been bad for South Africa.”

In fact, Into the Cannibal’s Pot condemns apartheid, calling it “one of the world’s most retrogressive colonial systems.” (p. 65) “Apartheid showed a gross disrespect for human rights and international law,” I wrote (p. 222).

What I do condemn in the book is “unrestrained majoritarianism” or “simple majority rule,” as applied in South Africa (and America).

Need I remind the crushingly stupid Mathis-Lilley that “America’s founding fathers had attempted to forestall raw democracy by devising a republic” (p. 9)?

Mathis-Lilley likely doesn’t even know that in mediating the political dispensation in the New South Africa, “Anglo-American elites,” condemned in my book, sidelined South Africa’s indigenous, leading intellectuals, one black (Dr. Mangosuthu Buthelezi), the other white (Fredrick van Zyl Slabbert).

Both these classical liberals are cited as opposing “unrestrained majoritarianism,” and in support of a “power-sharing constitutional dispensation.” (p. 222). Both favored “a multi-racial, decentralized federation, in which elites of the various groups agree to share executive power and abide by a system of mutual vetoes and spheres of communal autonomy.”

I write in strong support of the thing instantiated in the U.S. Bill of Rights, “the preservation of the rights of cultural groups and the protection of minorities.” (p. 222).

One last ugly, baseless idea imputed to me by Mathis-Lilley is that I think “white people shouldn’t support democracy in countries in which they’re a minority population because they will be exterminated by nonwhite savages.” And I’m the pseudo-intellectual?

Every democratic theorist worth his salt knows that South Africa doesn’t even qualify as a democracy. The scholarly data cited in Into the Cannibal’s Pot stipulate that a prerequisite for a classical liberal democracy is that majority and minority status should be interchangeable and fluid; that a ruling majority party should be as likely to become a minority party as the obverse. By contrast, in South Africa, the majority and the minorities are permanent, not temporary. And voting is strictly along racial lines.

If majority and minority are perpetual or fixed, then government ceases to have a mediating or remedial function. It becomes an instrument of perpetual oppression of the minority by the majority. That’s untrammeled tyranny.

In the U.S., we still have a rotating duopoly, for what it’s worth. But not for long.

To that I object. Of that I warn.

As regards Ben Mathis-Lilley. Look, this is the Age of the Idiot*. Idiots have come into their own in a big way. The Lilliputian Mathis-Lilley is not working with much. But what’s Slate’s excuse?

*Editorial note: as demonstrated by Edward Dutton and Michael Woodley of Menie, in At Our Wit’s End, 2018

Ilana Mercer’s weekly, paleolibertarian think piece has been going strong since 1999. She is the author of “Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa(2011) & “The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed(June, 2016). She’s on Twitter, FacebookGab & YouTube

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The Disunited States

Statue of Robert E Lee, covered in a tarpaulin

The Disunited States

By Ilana Mercer

“We are one American nation. We must unite. We have to unify. We have to come together.” Every faction in our irreparably fractious and fragmented country calls for unity, following events that demonstrate just how disunited the United States of America is. They all do it.

Calls for unity come loudest from the party of submissives — the GOP. The domineering party is less guilt-ridden about this elusive thing called “unity.”

Democrats just blame Republicans for its absence in our polity and throughout our increasingly uncivil society.

These days, appeals to unity are made by opportunistic politicians, who drape themselves in the noble toga of patriotism on tragic occasions. The latest in many was the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre of Oct. 27.

In the name of honesty—and comity—let us quit the unity charade. Continue reading

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ENDNOTES, November 2018

Chateau Wood, Ypres, 1917

ENDNOTES, November 2018

In this edition: In Remembrance, from the Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital, Percy Sherwood’s Double Concerto from EM Records, Orchestral Works, by Ruth Gipps.

A century ago this month, The Great War– the “war to end wars”, shuddered to a close. From the Western Front to Gallipoli, from the deserts of Arabia to the sea-lanes of the Atlantic and the North Sea, British and Empire servicemen fought for a land “fit for heroes”. Yet their dreams and youth were lost in the mud of Flanders fields and are only remembered today by the poppy, the words of the war poets and the music of England’s composers.

In a salute to these events, SOMM Records has issued a stirring compilation of choral music, performed by the Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea – with the veterans of the Chelsea Pensioners’ Choir reinforcing performances of the much-loved Jerusalem by Parry, I Vow to Thee My Country (the famous hymn based upon a section of Holst’s Jupiter, from The Planets), and a lesser-known item – O Valiant Hearts, by one Charles Harris (1865-1936), a Worcestershire vicar and neighbour of Sir Edward Elgar. Much smaller-scale than his great choral-orchestral war-work, The Spirit of England, another Elgar elegy also makes an appearance, a setting of Cardinal Newman’s, They are at rest

“… We may not stir the heav’n of their repose
By rude invoking voice, or prayer addrest
In waywardness to those
Who in the mountain grots of Eden lie,
And hear the fourfold river as it murmurs by.”

Continue reading

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Escape to the Country

Darlington Cattle Market

Escape to the Country

by Bill Hartley

There is elation in the town of Darlington because the local cattle market may be moving. Darlington might be best known as an old railway town but its roots lie in agriculture, serving both County Durham and North Yorkshire. The cattle market has been there for 140 years, longer than the houses which now neighbour the site. Admittedly on market days it is a smelly and noisy place, difficult for lorry drivers to get into from the narrow streets nearby and there may be a good argument for getting it out to a more accessible location. Everyone in officialdom, from the town’s MP to the local council, seems to think so and media reports reflect this, with, it would seem, no dissenting voices.

That said, a link to the agricultural life which surrounds the town will be lost. Interestingly, no-one seems to have considered the economic impact. For example, farmers may have other business to conduct in the town and spouses can travel with them in order to shop. Arguably the council should have considered this since Darlington is a town which has recently lost its Marks & Spencer and the House of Fraser store is under threat. In terms of retailing, the only visible growth is the number of coffee shops. Continue reading

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Calvinism for Agnostics

Westminster Cathedral

Calvinism for Agnostics

Messa da Requiem, music by Giuseppe Verdi, concert performance, Royal Opera Orchestra and Chorus, conductor Antonio Pappano, words from the Missa pro Defunctis, Royal Opera, 23rd October 2018

Verdi Requiem, Orchestra Révolutionnaire et Romantique, Monteverdi Choir, conductor John Eliot Gardiner, Westminster Cathedral, 18th September 2018

Reviewed by Leslie Jones

According to Nietzsche, Richard Wagner, in his dotage, fell snivelling at the foot of the cross. The same could hardly be said of Verdi, who never went to church once during his adult life. His Requiem, as Marin Alsop has observed, “…is a mass written by an agnostic”

The prospect of death, for an unbeliever, may be more terrifying than for a devout Christian, hell fire notwithstanding. In “A Powerful Expression of Life”, David Cairns calls Verdi’s Requiem “…the passionate protest of a man who rebels against the outrage that is death” (Official Programme, Westminster Cathedral). The final words of the Libera Me, sung by the soprano, are “Deliver me, Lord, from eternal death, on that dreadful day”. The soprano “is left stripped of any armour that religion might provide…there is no salvation at all but only eternal silence” (Peter Gutsman, Classical Notes, 2009). The last bars, appropriately, are marked morendo or dying away. Continue reading

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The Euro FifthColumn

Carleton Martello Tower

The Euro Fifth Column

By Stuart Millson

With five months to go before our country disengages from the EU, a millionaire-funded, pro-Brussels movement is obstructing the democratic Brexit process.

With the ratification of the EU Withdrawal Act by Parliament earlier this year, Britain is now on course to leave the European Union at the end of March 2019 – a sea-change in modern political history brought about by the 17.4 million-strong Leave vote at the June 2016 referendum. And yet, despite Parliament originally devolving the decision on EU membership to the electorate, the Brexit process appears – to most everyday observers – a tedious stalemate: an endless to-and-fro exchange between the elected British Government, and the unelected leaders of the European Union on matters such as customs arrangements and the future of the Irish “soft” border; persistent calls from the defeated Remain side for a second referendum (variously) on the final Brexit deal or a complete re-run of June 2016; and the sympathetic parading on TV of the extraordinarily well-funded leaders of the anti-Brexit side.

Their Euro-banners flying at street demonstrations, and their spokespeople crowding the airwaves with the mantra that the people “didn’t know what they were voting for” or that post-Brexit Britain is heading for economic oblivion, the Remainers have emerged as a dedicated political “fifth-column” standing for the interests of the European superstate. And yet this group, despite its puffed-up prominence across the TV and social media, constitutes but a tiny minority of opinion: their many thousands of marchers a mere drop in the ocean when matched against the 17.4 million Britons who backed Brexit. Continue reading

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The Caravan Cometh

San Salvador, 1981

The Caravan Cometh

By Ilana Mercer

The latest “caravan” community planning to crash borderless America is not part of Latin America’s problems; it’s escaping them. So say America’s low-IQ media.

And Latin America’s problems are legion.

The region, “which boasts just eight percent of the world’s population, accounts for 38 percent of its criminal killing.” Last year, the “butcher’s bill … came to around 140,000 people … more than have been lost in wars around the world in almost all of the years this century. And the crime is becoming ever more common.”

So writes The Economist earlier this year, in an exposé aimed at “shining light on Latin America’s homicide epidemic.”

As is generally the case with this august magazine, the shoe-leather journalism is high-IQ, but the deductions drawn therefrom positively retarded. Continue reading

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Rise of the Dominacrats

Rise of the Dominacrats

By Ilana Mercer

Throughout Brett Kavanaugh’s ordeal, Democratic women and their house-trained houseboys had attempted to derail the decent part of the process, rendering a U.S. Senate Supreme Court confirmation hearing a mean-spirited, undignified and gossipy affair.

In tenor, the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing resembled a tabloid, a woman’s magazine, or the female-dominated, Trump-watch panels, assembled daily by the Fake News networks.

As to the women folk in the Gallery: they were plain gaga. These libertine “ladies” appeared constitutionally incapable of abiding by standards of decency and decorum, as demanded in such a solemn setting.

Thank our lucky stars that Democratic distaff are not yet disrobing, as do their Russian heroines:

Pussy Riot, the Putin-hating, all-girl pop band, specializes in desecrating holyplaces and flashing holey places. Continue reading

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ENDNOTES, October 2018

Taras Bulba, by M. Zichy

ENDNOTES, October 2018

In this edition: Janacek from Decca, reviewed by Stuart Millson;
Bruckner, Wagner & Schoenberg, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, 30thSeptember 2018, Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, reviewed by Leslie Jones

The late-19th/early 20th-century Moravian-born Czech composer, Leos Janacek (1854-1928) was a phenomenon in music. He seemed to follow no school or particular style; he wrote no symphonies, although he excelled in opera –Jenůfa, The Cunning Little Vixen, The Excursions of Mr. Brouček  – which took the hero to the moon. He saw himself as an artist in a new age for his people and homeland, and yet his work resounded with echoes of a noble past from lost centuries.

In a newly-issued recording from Decca – a further tribute to the last years of maestro and Czech music champion, Jiří Bělohlávek – three major works and one lesser-known offering of Janacek are presented: the 1926 Glagolitic Mass (Glagolitic – an ancient script of the ancestral Czech race); the rhapsody, Taras Bulba, a tense, three-movement symphonic poem about a Cossack warlord; and the life-affirming orchestral sequence – famous for its blazing massed-brass, the Sinfonietta. The last work on the disc – The Fiddler’s Child– shows how close Janacek was to the folkloric tradition of his native lands – and this is a work which shows some connection with the world of Antonin Dvorak, famous for his own symphonic pieces – such as The Noonday Witch– which came from local tales. Continue reading

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