A Message of Hope from the Land of the Southern Cross

St Patrick's Catholic Cathedral, Melbourne

St Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral, Melbourne

A Message of Hope from the land of the Southern Cross

Jarred Vehlen reviews Andrew Huntley’s new collection of poetry 

From Tradition and away from Tradition: Poems, 2001-2014, by Andrew Huntley, Extra Castra Publications, 2014

For generations men have spoken about the Western tradition, or all that makes up European culture; that which is handed down from one generation to the next, and is preserved in our religion, great books, art, music and architecture. Since the nineteen-sixties, this idea has been dangerously undermined, among other things, by post-modernism and deconstructionism. Its exponents would have us believe that such attempts to speak about our tradition account for nothing more than a “grand narrative”, a great fiction that is set in place to uphold traditional hierarchies and forms of authority, and ought therefore to be abandoned in favour of egalitarianism and democracy. We are told to distrust our ancestors, for they knew only a fraction of what we now know, and to question our customs and conventions in the name of progress. The pursuit for Truth is cast aside in favour of relativism. This way of thinking has led to a conscious effort to destroy our cultural heritage. Yet, despite this wholesale destruction of tradition, there appears to be a resurgence of traditional ways of thinking and of viewing our cultural history.

The first poem of Andrew Huntley’s fourth published collection of poems, From Tradition and away from Tradition, sets the tone for what is a collection of concentrated poetic meditations on the present state of the West. Through “On Reading a Book Discarded by a Dominican Library” the poet observes that, collectively, we no longer take any interest in “Blest books”; those works, theological, philosophical, literary, historical, that have formed our tradition. In our neophilic age, we “…sickly prize/ Ephemerality in word and deed…”. This turning away from once valued books in an unceasing search for novelty becomes something of a symbol of our turning away from our cultural heritage, ultimately our Christian heritage, and is the unifying theme of the collection.

Huntley, in his seventies, focuses on the rapid decline of the West after the Second World War. Of the nineteen-sixties he contends that this was the “predatory decade”, a “ten year zeitgeist that undid the West.” The “baby boomers” (in the poet’s words “the new free”) “Were raised upon loud ignorance—great coup/Of Satan’s war to kill that Life which grew/Out of the tomb: our Risen Deity.” His poetry is written from the fixed point of tradition, from which he sees the decline of Christian civilization. Many of the poems in the collection suggest to us that the current sorry state of affairs (gross violence, the breakdown of the family, the proliferation of pornography) is so often the result of turning away from God. In this respect the Fall is central to many of Huntley’s poems, indeed to the collection as a whole. The poet believes that without an understanding of our fallen human nature, we are prone to all kinds of delusions, to all kinds of perversion. In “Lament for the Latest Female Backpacker Murdered” he notes that “All’s not as when our human life began—/Since evil made a target of the fair.” This kind of insight is edifying for those who find themselves uncomfortably awash in the liberal and laissez faire attitudes of modern culture, a culture that more and more openly denies the existence of God.

Huntley’s poetry is unashamedly Catholic. Our civilization in his estimation cannot hold together for long away from God, and the only hope of amends is a return to a rightful understanding of the relations between God and man. As a perceptive Catholic who can read the signs of the times, Huntley’s critique of Western cultural decline also falls upon the Church (that great bastion of salvation and civilization) which was so caught up with the Cultural Revolution of the nineteen-sixties. Of the Novus Ordo, the modern re-working of the ancient Roman Liturgy, he notes that it “…brought a permeating principle of change/Into the Teaching Church.” Instead of holding firm to its original doctrines, the Church made near-fatal concessions to the modern world (the result of the Second Vatican Council and the idea of aggiornamento, “updating”), to the point where it “scarcely mentioned sin.”

Huntley is a proudly Australian poet, yet he is able to situate Australian culture within the broader context of Western European tradition. In “Revision Splendid”, a “colonial poem” written in homage to the great Australian explorer Major Thomas Mitchell, Huntley exhibits a gift for broad historical vision. He sees Australian life and history as an extension of and a part of Western culture. The poem beautifully evokes this heritage when it reminds us of the “Greek and Latin planted now throughout a woken land…” in the names of Central Victoria’s humble, yet majestic, mountains. The poet sees the spread of Empire and the discovery of Australia as part of God’s Providence (“from Heaven flowed the mandate” for Mitchell to explore and survey). This is certainly a refreshing notion at a time when much of the Australian literary scene seems weighed down by the parochial and a political correctness that would deny our British and European heritage. Huntley’s ability to look beyond the confines of Australian culture gives his verse a wide-ranging and timeless appeal.

While the collection offers many poems that concentrate on societal decline, a number of poems are movingly intimate and personal and give us an insight into the life of the poet as a single man. “Bare Lauds” is a beautiful example:

At sixty-one (so, silently)
I mourn the love that will not be;
Standing alone in a dawn wind,
With more than half a life behind . . .
Watching the wasted starry height
Desist in unremitting light
Which motions all along its way—
A further day, a further day.

A poem like this is deeply personal, yet it reminds us of human suffering and that we live our lives in a “vale of tears”. Huntley is able to take a personal experience and turn it into something of universal value.

“The Plough and the Cross”, the final poem in the collection, is a beautiful, long, blank verse poem recounting the life and experience of the poet. It traces his early life and his journey to the Universal Church and teaches that the life of the soul is starved, is dead, without recourse to the life giving springs of holy teachings. While it is the story of one man’s life as lived from the nineteen-sixties until now, it is at the same time the story of the decline of our Christian civilization, the story of everyman as he finds himself today, cut off from the past, cut off from God. While many of Huntley’s poems evoke a strong sense of sorrow by forcing us to consider how our modern culture has recklessly cast aside much of our cultural heritage, “The Plough and the Cross” evokes God’s Providence and exhorts us ultimately to find refuge in the Christian virtue of Hope:

God’s Providence shapes the least moment (per
Omnia saecula saeculorum):
Night after night, His Cross points to our pole,
Completing design – hence purpose – promising
The Faith that leads to Life for evermore.

Here in Australia, in the Western tradition’s southernmost land, we can look to the night sky and be reminded of God by seeing the Southern Cross.

Huntley’s poetry is for those who still take the Western canon seriously, who devote proper attention to the reading of poetry, and who have a firm understanding of history. He has used, for the most part, the traditional forms and metres of English verse: those timeless forms that, in the right hands (such as Huntley’s), stir the soul and imagination to see the beauty and truth of life. Unlike a great deal of modern verse, his poetry has great clarity and precision—particularly his blank verse—and is not vague, ambiguous or deliberately cryptic. More specifically, his verse can be situated within the great Catholic poetic tradition alongside Hopkins, Thompson, Chesterton and Belloc. In From Tradition and away from Tradition Huntley has proven himself one to hold firm “…to the truths which have tradition for their warrant” (Titus 1:9, the epigraph for the collection), and can be counted among those who champion the recovery of Western tradition.

This book may be published online at http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Tradition-and-away-Tradition-Poems-2001-2014-ANDREW-HUNTLEY-/301651279056?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_15&hash=item463bd13cd0

Jarred Vehlen is an English and Humanities secondary school teacher in Central Victoria, Australia

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On the “Cuspers”

Conan the Barbarian

Conan the Barbarian

On the “Cuspers” 

Mark Wegierski traces the trajectory of a generation

Hardly anything can be added to all the ink that has been spilled concerning generational and/or “decade-based” politics in the United States and Canada, especially in regard to the apparently overwhelming presence of the Baby Boomers. Nevertheless, the author would like to propose a new generational category — “cuspers” – to better explain certain social, cultural, and economic realities of America and Canada in the last fifty years or so. It is in a period of very rapid change – such as that which the triumph of the Baby Boomers in the Sixties has inaugurated – that generational or “decade-based” social, political, and cultural analysis becomes especially pertinent.

There has been a high degree of imprecision in regard to defining the actual period of the Baby Boom. The singer Tina Turner is often described as a typical Baby Boomer, although she was in fact born before the U.S. entry into World War II. The Canadian demographers David K. Foot and Daniel Stoffman (authors of the best-selling book, Boom, Bust, and Echo 2000: Profiting from the Demographic Shift in the New Millennium, Toronto: Macfarlane, Walter & Ross, 1998) define the Baby Boom as people born between 1947 to 1966 – surely a too-wide period of time.

The term “cusper” is proposed to apply to a category of persons sometimes identified as “the tail-end of the Baby Boom” and sometimes as “the first wave of Generation X.” These would be persons born roughly between 1958-1967. This proposed generation has existed “on the cusp” of massive change, falling somewhere between Baby Boomers and Generation X in many of their social and cultural traits. A concept similar to “cuspers” has been proposed by the little known website, “generationjones.” Also, the Hollywood libertarian Thomas M. Sipos has coined the term “Generation Keaton” – after the Michael J. Fox character in the 1980s show, Family Ties.

The “cuspers” were children, not teenagers in the 1960s, and for many of them, the Sixties’ “revolt against the elders” was highly disconcerting, and not a badge of shared identity. The “cuspers” were typically teenagers in the 1970s, and the music they listened to was most often so-called “progressive rock” – groups such as Genesis, Canadian band Rush, Supertramp, King Crimson, and Yes. Their favorite movies in that era were the Clint Eastwood action pictures, such as The Outlaw Josey Wales and Dirty Harry, as well as The Godfather – which may be interpreted as a portrayal of a highly traditionalist subculture in modern America. Two dystopian movies of the 1970s, Soylent Green and Rollerball, may also have had some appeal.



In the 1980s, “cuspers” were typically in their twenties, and they wildly embraced the whole New Wave/alternative/technopop music as their music. It was possible to give a “contrarian” reading to many of the Eighties’ songs – such as re-interpreting songs about “gay alienation” as songs of “conservative protest” against the stultifying consumerist society. The “cuspers” had a decided element of ambiguity between being critics and products of Eighties’ pop-culture. “Cuspers” enjoyed such Eighties’ movies as Blade Runner, Top Gun, Back to the Future, Peggy Sue Got Married, Romancing the Stone, Jewel of the Nile, Ladyhawke, Legend (the fantasy movie with Tom Cruise), Labyrinth (with David Bowie), Absolute Beginners (a “New Wave musical”), the two Conan films, Red Sonya, and Red Dawn. Many of these movies could be seen as expressing the theme of human authenticity against a near-dystopic world, as well as a longing for “true romance.” Politically, many of these twenty somethings were willing to vote for Reagan in 1980 and 1984. In Canada, they would be voting for Progressive Conservative candidate Brian Mulroney in 1984 and 1988 – but Mulroney’s Prime Ministership from 1984 to 1993 would prove an intense disappointment to many of them. They resented “the yuppies” of the 1980s, who they often actually saw as “socially liberal and fiscally conservative” (i.e., offensive to both social conservatives and true liberals) – but more importantly, holding all the good jobs. The “cuspers” mirrored the angst and resentments of the somewhat later Generation X, but some of their criticism could be interpreted as more “creatively-nihilist” or even socially conservative.

The “cuspers” had been born in a time of great social turmoil, and when they reached the age at which earlier generations had typically entered the main job-market and started families, they often encountered a series of frustrations. The highly evocative book by Adrienne Miller and Andrew Goldblatt, The Hamlet Syndrome: Overthinkers Who Underachieve (New York: William Morrow, 1989) looks at many of these problems. With quick career advancement – even for those with university degrees – often blocked by the prevalence of “the damn yuppies” and stable family life undermined by the unhappy consequences of the concatenation of sexual and social revolutions since the 1960s, many of the “cuspers” turned to protest politics. The “angry white male” phenomenon of the early to mid-1990s, and the unexpected Republican majority in Congress under Newt Gingrich in 1994 were possibly expressions of “cusper” angst. In Canada, there was the rise of the Reform Party, initially a Western Canadian-based protest party.

The prosperity of the later Clinton years tended to dissipate much of the anger building up among many disaffected persons whose concerns were not being acknowledged in the mainstream media, except in highly caricatured form.

However, the apparent economic troubles of the George W. Bush period – which were arguably exacerbated by such phenomena as outsourcing; high, uncontrolled immigration; and mass H1-B visa hiring — lead to renewed frustration among persons who were then in their forties, and simply could not afford to lose their jobs. And what has followed under Obama has been seen by many as little else than an extension of these previous trends. For example, the frustration among many native-born American computer programmers and engineers is now undeniable. And many “cuspers” who have finished “useless” liberal arts degrees – sometimes simply out of a feeling of “love of scholarship” — and hold “politically-incorrect” views, have actually been in a twilight limbo – in terms of conventional career-advancement – for years on end. Most persons in the entire post-Sixties’ period have also had to struggle to construct a decent, stable family life, in an often hostile environment (such as a close to fifty per cent divorce rate).

Perhaps the hope of some “cuspers” today is that some of their ideas (such as those partially seen in the ever-popular “retro” music of the Eighties) may attract some of the succeeding generations to adopt a similar “creatively-nihilist” critique of current-day, consumption-addled society. There have been some survey results around the turn of the millennium that have shown that American teenagers of that time had a surprisingly deep identification with religion and with the importance of fidelity in relationships, as well as some surprisingly “realistic” attitudes to certain issues, such as the necessity of America to fight terrorism. It has been suggested that the fact that today’s teens pretty well know that they are “abortion survivors” has led to increased social conservatism among them. The same society that produces highly disturbed teens also nurtures ones that are manifestly willing to die for their faith – both of which were seen at Columbine.

The aftermath of “9/11” might have introduced a brief surge of some moral clarity to America – something which many “cuspers” – despite their frequently nihilist posturing and moodiness – have often hungered for. Two great movie experiences of the early Twenty-First Century, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and The Passion of the Christ, may have been pointing the way towards a social and cultural rebirth for America and the West. And in 2015, there may be occurring a similar cultural rallying in the U.S., around American Sniper. In such a re-birth, certain “cuspers”, now in their late forties and early fifties, may be hoping to assume a vanguard role in society which they see as having been long-denied to them.

From The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson

From The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson

N.B. The notion of “cuspers” was initially proposed by this author on the blog of the Hudson Institute’s American Outlook, April 23, 2004

Mark Wegierski is a Toronto-based writer and historical researcher


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Mediterranean Refugee Crisis

Klimt, Pallas Athene

Klimt, Pallas Athene

Mediterranean Refugee Crisis

On watch –
In a long slow timeless wash
Reflux of freighted waters
Slim frigates ride –
Grey grace the warping waves bestride
And fall and rise again like Greeks
Upreared on dolphins
(That classic life still breathing
Like a soul trapped in a ribcage.)

Our Sea
Floats palaces and palm trees –
Towns sick with age, walls punched with holes,
Seized gates,
Flung windows, stone stares of greats
Long metamorphosed, and
Cool tiled courts
(Full ugly now with fat in shorts –
The Renaissance closing down.
Descent of Vandals –
Cloisters flap with fall of sandals
And a squeak of trolley wheels).


Recurring dream –
Lachrimae Christi under an olive tree
That chirrups with cicada.
Things heard and seen –
Geodesies down cobbled streets,
Domes like miracles of maths,
Bones in jewelled shrines –
Grinning saints recline
On altars overtopped with gilt.

Crossing seams –
Glassed cabinets that gleam
With faience David meets Goliath-
Bourbons-Knossos-Rome and Corinth.
Flayed Venetian skins –
Cornices of red-beard kings –
Crusaders climbing their own walls.

Golden fleece and fruit,
Leaf-gods stir and bruit
In the mildest of mild autumns.
Shepherds in oils
Syrinx sheep at tumbled walls –
Arcadia besting Athens.
Homes at posterns –
Fishermen dangling lanterns
Over an abyss.

Wheel-ruts cut rock
And carry down to former docks
In a misknown metropolis.
Roofs fall to floors,
No-one knocks on woodless doors
Or waits for any answer.
We walk on flags –
(Tesserae of hunted stags
Always on the cusp of pulling down).

Libraries open,
Libraries burn, beacons showing
Fat backs to hungry lands,
Last reach of sands
(Empty Quarter, Ozymandias)
Before the temperate begins.
Hooves in the night,
Alarms far out in darkness,
Simooms carry hot howling to all coasts.

Colossi raised,
Colossi razed – highways which haze
Immediately to epic.
Passed things passing –
Even sibyl smokes soon thin
And pass into empyrean
Fan-vaults of blue
Propped by cypress – (and, oh, the silky shoe
Of the Bay at Posillipo.)

At sea-ends of streets
Breakwaters are ranged by cats –
Mange among detritus, harbours
Rainbowed diesel,
Fish float gut-up, their innards spill,
Contaminate our food-chain.
Our Sea no more –
Our Sea no less – because that shore
Landmarks our geography.


Cool home-ports
Manifested across miles, brought
Close by deceit of light.

Far adrift,
Proficient navies shift
And GPS themselves again.
They scan the skies
That swelled about Odysseus,
Stare the straight blue line
That falls away
To Sirte and Barbary
Seeking what they fear to find
Out there,
In the reminiscent glare
And seditious glitter of the Gulf.

“Another!” –
(Crew can’t look at each other)
Darkling marks brought Swiss-lens sharp
Wave for attention –
Hands across the sea, children
Of a Common god look up,
Are flashed –
As frantic rotors lash
The oppressive air to froth.


Code of the sea:
Hoist all misery
On davits to our decks.
Code from the shore:
Lower the launch once more
We need to be seen to have done.
And sailors do –
Unable not to –
They raise the drowning drowners as their own.

This is our Creed –
To each according to his need.
Failed states have given, and received.
What would Jesus have done?
Fished them as one.
(Stella Maris still lingers in the West!)
Familiar fable –
Green fields in play on a great blue table
(Mortgagees are drinking in the sun.)

Orbs fumbled, falling –
Spires shaking, engines stalling,
To go again just as the gears
Click sudden loud
And Ocean slaps the ship around –
The grey ghost shudders then recovers,
And makes away
Along a lighted pathway as
Winds are freed from bags to blow all strayers home.

Our watch –
In the phosphorescent wistful wash
Redux of weighted waters
Slim frigates ride
Cetaceans plunge and sport beside
As sailors spit and swill the decks,
Plough again the back and forth,
Sharp weather front declining North,
And losing its identity.

Poem by DEREK TURNER, the former editor of QR

His website is at www.derek-turner.com

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Yankee Supremacists Trash South’s Heroes

Confederate battle flag

Confederate battle flag

Yankee Supremacists Trash South’s Heroes

Ilana Mercer untangles the Confederate flag imbroglio 

Fox News anchor Sean Hannity promised to provide a much-needed history of the much-maligned Confederate flag. For a moment, it seemed as though he and his guest, Mark Steyn, would deliver on the promise and lift the veil of ignorance. But no: the two showmen conducted a tactical tit-for-tat. They pinned the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia on the Southern Democrats (aka Dixiecrats). “I’m too sexy for my sheet,” sneered Steyn.

It fell to the woman who used to come across as the consummate Yankee supremacist to edify. The new Ann Coulter is indeed lovely.

Also on Fox, Ms. Coulter remarked that she was “appalled by” South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s call “for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the state Capitol.” As “a student of American history,” Coulter opined “the Confederate flag we’re [fussing] about never flew over an official Confederate building. It was a battle flag. It is to honor Robert E. Lee. And anyone who knows the first thing about military history knows that there is no greater army that ever took to the battle field than the Confederate Army.”

And anyone who knows the first thing about human valor knows that there was no man more valorous and courageous than Robert E. Lee, whose “two uncles signed the Declaration of Independence and [whose] father was a notable cavalry officer in the War for Independence.”

Robert E Lee

Robert E Lee

The battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia—known as “Lee’s Army”—is not to be conflated with the “Stars and Bars,” which “became the official national flag of the Confederacy.” According to Sons of the South, the “first official use of the ‘Stars and Bars’ was at the inauguration of Jefferson Davis on March 4, 1861.” But because it resembled the “Stars and Stripes” flown by the Union, the “Stars and Bars” proved a liability during the Battle of Bull Run.

“The confusion caused by the similarity in the flags was of great concern to Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard. He suggested that the Confederate national flag be changed to something completely different, to avoid confusion in battle in the future. This idea was rejected by the Confederate government. Beauregard then suggested that there should be two flags. One, the national flag, and the second one a battle flag, with the battle flag being completely different from the United States flag.”

Originally, the flag whose history is being trampled today was a stars-and-bars-flag, a red square, not a rectangle. Atop it was the blue Southern Cross. In the cross were—still are—13 stars representing the 13 states in the Confederacy.

Wars are generally a rich man’s affair and a poor man’s fight. Yankees are fond of citing Confederacy officials in support of slavery and a war for slavery. Most Southerners, however, were not slaveholders. All Southerners were sovereigntists, fighting a “War for Southern Independence.” They rejected central coercion. Southerners believed a union that was entered voluntarily could be exited in the same way. As even establishment historian Paul Johnson concedes, “The South was protesting not only against the North’s interference in its ‘peculiar institution’ but against the growth of government generally.”

Lincoln grew government, markedly, in size and in predatory boldness.

“Slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil,” wrote the South’s greatest hero, Gen. Lee. He did not go to war for that repugnant institution. To this American hero, local was truly beautiful. “In 1861 he was offered command of all the armies of the United States, the height of a soldier’s ambition,” chronicles Clyde Wilson, distinguished professor emeritus of history at the University of South Carolina. “But the path of honor commanded him to choose to defend his own people from invasion rather than do the bidding of the politicians who controlled the federal machinery in Washington.”

To his sister, Lee wrote: “With all my devotion to the Union, and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home.” Lee, you see, was first and foremost a Virginian, the state that gave America its greatest presidents and the Constitution itself.

Lord Acton, the British historian of liberty, wrote to Lee in praise. The general, surmised Lord Acton, was fighting to preserve “the only availing check upon the absolutism of the sovereign will”: states’ rights and secession.

Lee’s inspired reply to Lord Acton:

“… I believe that the maintenance of the rights and authority reserved to the states and to the people … are the safeguard to the continuance of a free government … whereas the consolidation of the states into one vast republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of that ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it.”

Another extraordinary Southerner was James Johnston Pettigrew. He gave his life for Southern independence, not for slavery. Quoting Pettigrew, Professor Wilson likens the forbearance of his own Confederate forebears to “the small Greek city-states who stood against the mighty Persian Empire in the 5th century B.C.”

Not quite Leonidas’ 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, but close.

“The U.S. government had quadruple the South’s resources.” Yet “it took 22 million Northerners four years of the bloodiest warfare in American history to conquer five million Southerners,” who “mobilized 90 percent of their men and lost nearly a fourth.”

When they hoist the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, it is these soldiers Southerners honor.

Unable to defeat the South, the U.S. government resorted to terrorism—to an unprecedented war against Southern women and children.

With their battle flag, Southerners commemorate these innocents.

ILANA Mercer is a US-based, libertarian writer. She pens WND’s longest-standing, exclusive, paleolibertarian weekly column, “Return to Reason.” With a unique audience of 8 million, the site has been rated by Alexa as the most frequented “conservative” site on the Internet. Ilana has also featured on RT with the “Paleolibertarian Column,” and she contributes to Economic Policy Journal (the premier libertarian site on the web), Junge Freiheit, a German weekly of excellence, as well as to the British Libertarian Alliance and Quarterly Review (the celebrated British journal founded in 1809 by Walter Scott, Robert Southey and George Canning), where she is also contributing editor. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Ilana is a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies (an award-winning, independent, non-profit, free-market economic policy think tank).


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Intelligence evolving


Intelligence evolving

Robert Henderson is impressed by Alex Garland’s new film

Ex Machina

Main cast:
Domhnall Gleeson as Caleb
Alicia Vikander as Ava
Oscar Isaac as Nathan
Sonoya Mizuno as Kyoko

Directed by Alex Garland

This is yet another film exploring the potential of digital technology to radically change our lives. The subject here is the relationship between advanced humanoid robots and humans, but with a twist, namely, can sexual attraction arise between a human and a robot and can that attraction move on to something resembling deep emotional attachment?

The basic plot is simple. A young computer coder, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) thinks he has won a competition at his workplace, the prize being a week on an isolated research station with Nathan (Oscar Isaac), the boss of the company for whom Caleb works. In fact, there is no competition and he has been chosen simply as an experimental subject.

When Caleb reaches the research station he finds it occupied by Nathan and what he thinks is a female Asian servant Kyoto. There are no other people on the research station. In fact there are only two humans for Kyoto is a robot.

Nathan asks Caleb to perform a Turing test. The classical version of the test consists of a human interacting with an artificial intelligence (AI) without knowing whether they are dealing with an AI or another human being. The test is passed if the human is convinced the AI is human. But this is a Turing test with a twist. Caleb knows what he is dealing with, a humanoid robot called Ava (Alicia Vikander).

Caleb’s ostensible task is to see whether Ava convinces as a human interlocutor, despite the fact that he knows she is a machine. But his real function is to see how readily a human being will accept a machine that he knows to be a machine as a quasi-human being, or at least an intelligence which a human can relate to as they would relate to another human being.

To make matters more complicated Ava is physically portrayed as a machine. She, for want of a better word, is humanoid, but her non-human  status is made only too visible with every part of her but the face, hands and feet being  rather obviously those of a robot rather than a human, for example, by having some of her machine components nakedly exposed. As a further barrier to emotional involvement there is no physical contact between Caleb and Ava because a transparent screen separates them.

As the film progresses Ava becomes more and more human to Caleb not only because of the developing relationship between the two, but in the way Ava presents herself physically. She puts a wig over her skull and wears a dress which obscures her machine structure. With these accoutrements she resembles an attractive woman.

That Caleb should develop an emotional relationship with Ava is extremely plausible. Just think of the emotional investment that people make in their pets. Reflect on the habit humans often have of endowing inanimate objects with some of the qualities that they respond to in humans and animals or on their sentimental attachment to objects which are associated with those they care about or of events which are important to them. Humans have a strong innate desire to form relationships with the external world. That they might form deep emotional relationships with intelligent machines is utterly believable. (The recent film Her which featured a highly intelligent operating system forming a relationship with its male owner covers exactly this ground.)

Caleb learns more and more about what is going on. He discovers that Kyoto is a robot and sees unanimated bodies of earlier model robots. He finds out that he did not win a competition but was chosen by Nathan not for his IT skills but for his personality and personal circumstances, for example, Caleb is heterosexual and single (which makes him vulnerable to female attention). Nathan has also developed Ava to appeal to Caleb by basing Ava’s general physical appearance on Caleb’s Internet pornography searches.

Caleb is fascinated by Nathan’s AI techniques but disturbed the way he is being manipulated. After he has already become seriously emotionally involved with Ava, he is naturally upset when Nathan tells him that if Ava fails the Turing test she will be updated with her memory wiped. This will destroy her as the personality he knows, in fact, be the AI equivalent of death. Consequently, Caleb plots with Ava for the pair of them to escape . In fact, this is the real Turing test which Nathan has devised, namely to see if Ava can be convincingly human enough to trick Caleb into helping her escape, an escape Nathan smugly but wrongly believes is impossible.

Ava makes choices for herself in a way that is both human and inhuman. Her final actions at the research centre would be seen as psychopathic in a human because she single-mindedly seeks her ends without regard to what she has to do to attain them. Ava has manipulated Caleb without any emotional investment on her part. But at the same time she has a fundamental component of consciousness, namely, her own desired ends which go beyond mere mechanical programming. Ava wants to escape to satisfy her curiosity as well as to retain her existence as Ava. She is not a quasi-human but something new, neither insensate machine nor organic life.

The film ends with Ava showing what a difference there is between a machine intelligence and a human one. Caleb does not escape nor Nathan live to see the end of his experiment. Only Ava leaves the research station and leaves it without any sense of loss or shame at her betrayal of Caleb. But because the character is a robot her behaviour does not seem heinous as it would do in a human. It merely seems as innocent of blame as a predatory animal killing its prey.

The performances of Gleeson, Isaacs and Vikander are all strong, not least because the film is very well cast. Gleeson has an appropriately shambling geekiness and clumsiness in his relationship with other people and Isaac is a dominant, brooding, psychopathic presence. But the real star is Vikander. She is weirdly convincing as a being who is at least half the way to being human. Her realisation of the role makes the robot flicker in and out of her performance. Vikander, a professional dancer, gives Ava a fluid grace of moment which does not seem quite natural; she speaks in a pleasantly modulated and controlled way but with little variation of emotion; her face is not expressionless but there is a very restricted range of expression. The overall effect is of an ethereal other-worldly being. The film is worth seeing for her performance alone.

ROBERT HENDERSON is the film critic of QR. He blogs at Living in a Madhouse

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“It’s the rich what gets the pleasure …”

Russell Brand

Russell Brand

“It’s the rich what gets the pleasure …”

Robert Henderson reviews Russell Brand’s rant

The Emperor’s New Clothes (2015)
Narrator: Russell Brand
Director: Michael Winterbottom    

This documentary shamelessly mimics Michael Moore with a large dollop of “The smartest guys in the room” thrown in for good measure. The end product is a tepid imitation of Moore’s style and a rather better pastiche of The smartest guys in the room.

Like a Moore documentary there is much in the film which is shocking: the greed and irresponsibility of the bankers: the overt or tacit collusion of politicians which allowed bankers to be effectively unregulated in the run up to the 2008 crash; the failure to punish with the criminal law any of those who were responsible for the banking crash; the ability of the likes of Fred Goodwin (the erstwhile CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland) to walk away with a pension worth hundreds of thousands a year after wrecking, through his megalomania for expansion, one of the largest banks in the world. More generally the film also makes much of the growing inequality in Britain.

Sounds intriguing? But the problem is Brand, unlike Moore, never manages to get to quiz any of those responsible or even to embarrass them by getting close enough to shout questions at them. This is in large part simply a consequence of Brand /Winterbottom choosing a subject – bankers’ recklessness – where getting to speak to the culprits was an obvious non-starter. But that makes a large part of the film’s approach an anticipatable and hence avoidable mistake.

A fair bit of the film features Brand arriving at the head of office of, say, a high street bank, daringly entering the public foyer and then hitting a brick wall of indifference as he is left to grill receptionists and security guards on the wickedness of their employers. The result is underwhelming the first time he uses the ploy, but moves from underwhelming to irritating as the device is repeated several times. The nadir of this “beard them in their lairs” tactic is Brand’s arrival at the home of Lord Rothermere (whose family own amongst other publications the Daily Mail) to tackle Rothermere about his non-dom status. After Brand had vaulted over a wall to show his rebel devil-may-care tendencies, the scene ended with him conducting a meaningless conversation with a bemused housekeeper via an answer phone. There was a vapidity about all these scenes which robbed them of their potentially humorous situational content based on the incongruity of what Brand was asking rank and file employees. In the end it was simply Brand behaving boorishly.

All of this tedious, ineffective and self-regarding guff is wrapped within an ongoing theme of Brand “going back to his roots” to his childhood town of in Grays in Essex. (Brand is part of what Jerome K Jerome called “Greater Cockneydom”). He is certainly much friendlier in his dealing with the white working class than the vast majority of those on the Left these days who tend to approach them with all the delight of someone trying to avoid dog excrement on a pavement, but there is a cloying quality to his relationship with those he meets as though he is playing in a rather ham fashion the part of a cockney sparrow returning to its long deserted nest. He is also rather too keen to prove his street cred- there is an especially cringeworthy episode where Brand vaults a underground barrier and claims he has dodged the fare. More damagingly perhaps, was that hanging over his words on the state of the have-nots and the misbehaviour of the haves hung the fact that Brand is a rich man, a fact he tried to address by trying to make a very feeble joke indeed about the fact.

Ironically Brand displays a strong conservatism with a small ‘c’ when he laments the change from the Grays of his youth as a place where the shops were run by local people and “all the money spent in the town stayed in the town” to a modern Grays of boarded up shops and multinationals who suck the money and by implication the sense of community out of the place.

That is too black and white a view of then and now, but I can sympathise with Brand’s general nostalgia for the not so distant past. My memory tells me that people were generally more content forty years ago. The trouble is that Brand completely fails to address the thing which has most dramatically changed places such as Grays namely, mass immigration, which of course is all part of the globalist ideology he purports to loathe. That he should avoid the immigration issue is unsurprising because it is part of the credo of the modern Left that it is nothing but an unalloyed boon, but it does undermine horribly the credibility of the film as an honest representation of reality.

The most nauseating part of the film involved Brand using an audience of primary school children (at his old school) to get his message across by feeding them with the most intrusive sort of leading questions along the lines of “Bankers earn zillions of pounds a year while the person who cleans their boardroom takes home fifty quid a week: is that fair?” The children were charming, but using children as ideological props is a cheap shot at best and abusive at worst.

The film is at its best when Brand is working from a script with crisp graphics and commentary in the style of The smartest guys in the room. The cataloguing of the excesses of the financial industry and the stubborn refusal of the authorities in Britain to bring criminal charges against any board member of the institutions which were responsible, even the banks which required bailing out by the taxpayer, was angering. Comparing this escape from punishment by high ranking bankers (who invariably left loaded with huge amounts of money on their departure from the offending banks) with the many, often quite severe, custodial sentences handed out to the 2011 rioters for stealing items worth at most a few hundred pounds and often for much less showed a reality that lived up unhesitatingly to the old refrain “It’s the same the whole world over, It’s the poor what gets the blame, It’s the rich what gets the pleasure, Ain’t it all a bleeding shame”.

There is also some strong stuff about the growing inequality in Britain and the thing which with frightening speed is creating a massive generational divided, namely, the grotesque cost of housing which has removed from most of this generation any chance of buying a property and forcing people increasingly into extremely expensive private rented accommodation. But here again, the immigration issue was left untouched.

The film missed several important ricks. One of the scandals about the way bankers have been able to walk away from the 2008 crash without any serious action being taken against them is that there has been no attempt to apply the provisions in the Companies Act relating to directors behaviour. These provisions allow the removal of personal limited liability from directors where they have behaved in a reckless fashion. Remove their limited liability and creditors, including the government on behalf of taxpayers, could seek every penny they hold.

Then there is the extraordinary fact that the shareholders of the bailed out banks still hold shares worth something. The banks were irredeemably insolvent when the Labour government bailed them out. The shareholders should have lost everything. This fact went unexamined.

But the film’s greatest failure is to spend far too little time role that politicians played in the economic disaster through their lack of regulation and the aftermath of the 2008 crash. For example, there was nothing on the Lloyds TSB’s takeover of the HBOS which ended up capsizing Lloyds. This takeover was done at the behest of Gordon Brown and turned Lloyds TSB from a solvent bank with a reputation for prudence and caution into a bank which had to be bailed out by the British taxpayer. The bank is now the subject of a civil action by disgruntled shareholders who claim they were misled by Lloyds about the state of HBOS.

Much of what Brand dislikes I also dislike. Like him I deplore globalisation because it is destabilising at best and dissolves a society at worst; like him I think it a monumental scandal that neither the main actors in the financial crash nor the politicians who had left the financial services industry so poorly regulated were ever brought to book; like him I am dismayed at the growing inequality in Britain and the particular disaster that is the ever worsening British housing shortage. But the film offers no coherent or remotely practical solution to the ills of the age. It is simply a rage against the machine and like all such rages ultimately leaves its audience dissatisfied after the initial adrenal surge of sympathetic anger.

ROBERT HENDERSON is QR’s film critic

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A Candidate to “Kick the Crap out of all the Politicians”

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

A Candidate to “Kick the Crap out of all the Politicians”

Ilana Mercer makes the case for Trump

Since he announced for president, real-estate tycoon Donald Trump has distinguished himself from the pack of Republican presidential hopefuls.

Trump claims he opposed the invasion of Iraq. If this is true, it would make him better than almost all his Republican competitors, who mulishly continue to justify the most disastrous military campaign in American history (besides the War Between The States).

Decisive and to the point was Trump about liberalizing ties with Cuba: “It’s time!” he stated. The man who wrote “The Art of The Deal,” however, would rather a “deal” with Cuba favored ordinary Americans and Cubans, and would know how to “deliver the goods.”

We inhabit a world of managed, not free, trade. Trump is no rent-seeking political rat like every other Republican competing for the throne (besides Ben Carson, who is similarly motivated). Better than any self-interested politician, Trump can probably negotiate winning deals on all Treaties in Force, to the benefit of Americans.

“I’m really rich,” Trump swanked disarmingly. Being independently and stupendously wealthy means that this American individualist can continue to march to his own drum beat, be as blunt and bold as he wants and pander to nobody.

“His fellow GOP presidential candidates,” explained Trump, are “totally controlled by their donors, by the lobbyists and by the special interests. If we have another politician, this country’s going down. … I’ve watched the politicians, I’ve dealt with them all my life. They will never make America great again. They don’t even have a chance.”

In the productive, non-parasitical economy, Trump has been enormously successful. Career politicians have created the hot mess that is America. The Founding Fathers wanted regular citizens to serve the public, not live off it as a vocation. Such upstanding Americans were to return to their careers after serving.

The consummate homo economicus, Trump is a rational actor in the market place. Unlike the rest of the GOP contenders who’re guided by political calculations, Trump speaks like a man to whom rational economic choices are second nature. And so he gets that the “stock market is bloated”; that the Stock Exchange is a laughing stock, and that soaring stock prices are a consequence of centrally planned, monetary stimulus.

The business mogul surprised Bill O’Reilly with the revelation that he’d “have a great relationship with Vladimir Putin.” This is a good thing. Whereas in the past, Trump was motivated by the sense that the nimbus of great power that surrounds the U.S. was dissipating—he now seems prepared to search closer to home for the causes of America’s economic inertia.

Also to O’Reilly, Trump “promised to build a wall along the southern border and make Mexico pay for it. ‘The Factor’ host stated that there’s no way they will pay for it.”

Although Bill is likelier than Dana Perino to comprehend the workings of tax and trade policy, Trump opted to calm the host down: “You have to let me handle that. They will pay for the wall, and the wall will go up.” D.C. insider Perino hit the roof: “On what planet is that actually true? Do you think you can make Mexico pay for a permanent wall between Mexico and the United States?” You can do that?”

A guide to the perpetually perplexed: Trump must be thinking of taking the populist path advocated by Pat Buchanan, whose patriotism is unimpeachable: tariffs. Levying a tariff on Mexico could indeed pay for a wall. Trade tariffs are not this libertarian’s bag. But walling off the deluge of Democrats crossing the southwest border is.

Finally, Trump is annoying the right people—from the liberal media to regimist neoconservatives like Perino and Charles Krauthammer, to noise making socialist Neil Young. In particular is the MSM furious about Trump’s matter-of-fact, informed assertion as to the quality of America’s largest immigrant population.

DONALD TRUMP “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. … They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with [them]. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. But I speak to border guards, and they tell us what they’re getting.”

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN “… The notion of calling Mexicans rapists, people lose their jobs over words like those. And this is a man running for the president of the United States.”

Barbie, Trump created his job. He owns it.

And “The Donald” has certainly apprised himself of the facts. Perhaps he is reading Ann Coulter’s data-driven “Adios America!” in which she writes: “The U.S. government admits that at least 351,000 criminal immigrants were incarcerated [by] the United States as of 2011—the vast majority of them Mexican.” (Report to Congressional Requesters, 7 and 10.)

By the General Accountability Office’s “extremely conservative figures, Mexicans alone—forget other immigrants—have murdered a minimum of 23,000 Americans in the last few decades,” as compared to the Jihadis’ 4000 for the same time-frame.

I know, stick to rape; murder doesn’t matter. Cited in “Adios” is a report from the Inter-American Children’s Institute. It seconds what the media-political-complex has submerged. “Latin America is second only to Asia in the sexual exploitation of women and children because sex abuse is ‘ingrained [in] the minds of the people.’ Women and children are ‘seen as objects instead of human beings with rights and freedoms.’” (p. 168)

Ann’s “Adios” provides a critical-mass of evidence for Trump’s impolitic statement. A few of Latin America’s proud sons are:

  • Ariel Castro (kidnapper, sexual sadist, operated out of Cleveland)
  • Elias Acevedo (173 counts of rape, 115 of kidnapping, Castro’s neighbor)
  • Ingmar Cuandique (killer of Chandra Levy)
  • Matias Reyes (contributor, Central Park rape)
  • Conrado Juarez and family accomplices (Baby Hope’s rape and murder)

“Adios” cites well-concealed official records to uncover a preponderance of “Hispanic child rapists,” rounded up (and often released again), in “Nebraska, Indiana, even Hawaii.” When rates of child pregnancies and births are factored-in as proxies for rape, Latin America’s rape culture on American soil becomes even scarier.

Trump is on to something elusive: the truth.

RedState’s Erick Erickson concurs (kind of). “Trump’s campaign,” he writes,” “makes a hell of a lot of sense in an age when people no longer think their vote matters, but they sure want the crap kicked out of all the politicians they blame for making their vote meaningless.”

Get cracking, Donald.

ILANA Mercer is a US-based, libertarian writer. She pens WND’s longest-standing, exclusive, paleolibertarian weekly column, “Return to Reason.” With a unique audience of 8 million, the site has been rated by Alexa as the most frequented “conservative” site on the Internet. Ilana has also featured on RT with the “Paleolibertarian Column,” and she contributes to Economic Policy Journal (the premier libertarian site on the web), Junge Freiheit, a German weekly of excellence, as well as to the British Libertarian Alliance and Quarterly Review (the celebrated British journal founded in 1809 by Walter Scott, Robert Southey and George Canning), where she is also contributing editor. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Ilana is a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies (an award-winning, independent, non-profit, free-market economic policy think tank).


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HOLA, Ann Coulter!

Ann Coulter

Ann Coulter

HOLA, Ann Coulter

Immigration patriot Ilana Mercer welcomes Ann Coulter’s conversion

“Adios America” is the apropos title of Ann Coulter’s latest book. It details how mass immigration is killing America, as Bill O’Reilly would say (or still will). Adios means farewell in Spanish. Hola is the opposite. Immigration patriots bid a hearty hello to Ann Coulter, as she takes over and takes the battle to the enemy.

The big gun has arrived.

Ms. Coulter had managed to avoid the mass immigration vexation until recently. CPUKE 2013 was when she, I believe, first came out as “a single-issue voter against amnesty.” This Sally-come-lately stand, Ms. Coulter has rationalized with reference to Peter Brimelow, on whose work immigration patriots piggyback. Ann acknowledged as much during an interview with Chronicles‘ Thomas Piatak. Since Brimelow had made the definitive case against the duopoly’s “plan to turn our country into a third world hellhole,” there was nothing more for her to add.

A WND reader expressed a different opinion. He writes: “Ms. Coulter is spot on but a decade late. That’s a big and calculated ‘mistake.’ Unless you recognize how politically cautious she’s been—you cannot appreciate how professionally suicidal the folks at VDARE, NumbersUSA; Michelle Malkin, Pat Buchanan and yourself have truly been all along.”

Then again, Ann herself conceded in the same interview “Adios'” first seven chapters were a rehash. If it’s now safe to say stuff “everybody knows,” why the wait?

Like our reader, I worry that the indispensable Ann may be too late, and that we’ve passed the tipping point. For years, those of us who’ve warned about demographics have been dubbed racists. But “the D-Bomb has already dropped, as this column noted in 2012. Demographics need not have become destiny, but they have.

Both factually and analytically exhaustive, Brimelow’s seminal “Alien Nation” remains the definitive text on centrally planned mass immigration. Peter and I are both immigrants. We came to the U.S. via Canada—and before that from countries whose national fabric is in tatters. An attachment rare among the current crop of immigrants to the American ideas of limited government and self-governance, and a recognition of the importance of the bonds that unite members of a civil society in common purpose: these prompted Peter and myself to take up the cudgels on behalf of an adopted country—America—that is still second-to-none, and an oblivious people—Americans—whose heritage is being squandered for a mess of pottage.

With first-hand experience in the visa labyrinth, I’ve been able to lift a corner of the curtain to reveal, for example, that the O-1 visa program is an open-ended one, allowing unlimited access to individuals with extraordinary abilities. If the traitors in D.C. were truly trawling for the world’s limited pool of unique talent, the O-1 visa gives them unlimited access to it. The H-1B program is anything but. Theoretically, the H-1B swindle could be abolished and all needed Einsteins and supermodels imported through the O-1 program.

A discussion in 2003 with black immigration patriot Terry Anderson, of blessed memory, prompted this warning against “selling out black Americans”: “It’s all very well to disenfranchise meek, guilt-ridden WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants). But by encouraging the displacement of black Americans, promoters of unfettered immigration—black leaders included—may have slipped-up strategically. Given their history, blacks are less inclined to fade into the night. They’ve already been sold down the river once before.”

As a libertarian immigration restrictionist, it has been vital to point out that “we are [not] the world” (2006). Free trade is glorious. America needs and wants to remain the first and most mighty consumer society. But “the free flow of people across borders is not to be confused with the free flow of goods across borders. Free trade is a positive-sum game. Contrary to immigration, it is always invited, consensual and hence mutually beneficial to the parties involved.”

Some things are metaphysical. Again, “The purely economic argument about the price at which American workers will perform menial work is meaningless without a reference to borders and to the thing they bound—a nation. Render asunder the idea of a nation, make borders obsolete—and the world is your labor market. Sure, supply and demand must determine the price of labor. Once the borders are shut to the deluge of laborers, the supply of cheap labor (as well as the steady ‘supply’ of crime and welfarism) will no longer be limitless. A smaller pool of workers will allow wages for ‘menial work’ to rise—all the more so as employers, no longer seduced by the interminable flood of cheap labor, begin to bid for the most productive workers. The resulting higher wages, in turn, will induce more Americans to do ‘menial work.'”

Going by “the ‘logic’ of La-Raza libertarians, “living at the public’s expense does indeed violate the rights of American taxpayers, but there is no reason to single out non-nationals.” Oh yes there is. Such illogic was defeated in 2006: “From the fact that you oppose taxpayer-funded welfare for nationals, it doesn’t follow that extending it to millions of unviable non-nationals is financially or morally negligible. (Or that it comports with the libertarian aim of curtailing government growth.) The argument is akin to saying that because a bank has been robbed by one band of bandits, arresting the next is unnecessary as the damage has already been done.”

As to “the exclusive emphasis in the immigration debate on border security”: What a relief it is that Ms. Coulter is finally dispelling this distraction. According to “The Immigration Scene”(2006), this fetish “has helped open-border evangelists immeasurably. Everyone (and his dog) currently concurs that we have no problem with legal immigration, only with the illegal variety. It’s now mandatory to pair an objection to the invasion of the American Southwest with an embrace of all forms of legal immigration. The sole emphasis on border security has, in all likelihood, entrenched the status quo—Americans will never assert their right to determine the nature of the country they live in and, by extension, the kind of immigrants they welcome. The security risk newcomers pose is the only permissible topic for conversation.”

Immigration into the U.S. is a statist and inorganic affair; a result of manipulation from on high. A 2002 tract, “The Problem With Immigration”, explained why: “In previous decades immigrants assimilated. Now they are encouraged by politicians and identity-politics activists to cling to a militant distinctiveness. The state-enforced ideology of multiculturalism and diversity has thus become a double-edged sword, deployed by government at once to make newcomers more subversive and the host population more submissive.”

Not enough can be said about the hypocrisy of environmental lobbies! They “abhor all by-products of human existence, unless generated by illegal aliens. In that case, the vast latrine and land fill created along the border with Mexico, as millions of migrants defecate and despoil their way to their destinations in the U.S., are just dandy.” (From “In Defense Of The Fence.)

Alas, it might be too late for Annie to get her gun. Recounted in “Immolation by Immigration” (2002), our family witnessed the following at the American Immigration and Naturalization Service headquarters in Montreal, where we waited to complete the final leg of the immigration odyssey: “Small extended families like ours were not the norm among immigrant families. Birth rates being what they are in the Third World, one qualified legal immigrant from, say, Africa is a ticket for an entire tribe. The initial entrant—the meal ticket—integrates and pays his way; the rest remain, more often than not, unassimilable and welfare dependent.”

To paraphrase the old nursery rhyme, When she’s good she’s very very good. Ann Coulter is perhaps the most powerful ally the immigration patriot movement could hope to recruit. We can now stand down as she stands up.

ILANA Mercer is a US-based, libertarian writer. She pens WND’s longest-standing, exclusive, paleolibertarian weekly column, “Return to Reason.” With a unique audience of 8 million, the site has been rated by Alexa as the most frequented “conservative” site on the Internet. Ilana has also featured on RT with the “Paleolibertarian Column,” and she contributes to Economic Policy Journal (the premier libertarian site on the web), Junge Freiheit, a German weekly of excellence, as well as to the British Libertarian Alliance and Quarterly Review (the celebrated British journal founded in 1809 by Walter Scott, Robert Southey and George Canning), where she is also contributing editor. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Ilana is a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies (an award-winning, independent, non-profit, free-market economic policy think tank).


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ENDNOTES, July 2015

English Music Festival, First Night. Photo by Keith Barnes

English Music Festival, First Night. Photo by Keith Barnes

ENDNOTES, July 2015

In this edition:

An orchestral world première and a recent chamber commission at this year’s English Music Festival * Transcriptions for strings from Meridian Records

Dorchester-on-Thames in rural Oxfordshire is home to the English Music Festival, now in its ninth year. The ancient Abbey, set back from the village high street, provides the main venue for what is currently a four-day event, a fascinating series of orchestral and choral concerts, and specialist recitals of rare chamber music. There is a sense of the Festival as a place of pilgrimage; and each May “from every shire’s end of England” come the many enthusiasts and followers of the English musical renaissance – eager to hear lost works by figures such as Havergal Brian, George Butterworth, and less-familiar pieces by the high-priests of our musical tradition, Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose Bucolic Suite featured in the BBC Concert Orchestra’s first-night programme.

As you enter Dorchester from the main road to Oxford, there is a glimpse of a famous local landscape, the Wittenham Clumps – a promontory above the course of the River Thames, and a view which the 20th-century artist Paul Nash regarded as spiritual, or even pagan inspiration. Nash said that the view here was of: “A beautiful legendary country haunted by old gods long forgotten.” For amateur archaeologists, walkers, birdwatchers or just the weekend visitors with their guide books, Oxfordshire is known for its hill-forts and wooded ridges (such as Wittenham); and it seems as though the music played at Dorchester’s unique festival radiates from the very trees and soil of this soft, gentle countryside. It was certainly the case with Havergal Brian’s English Suite No.3 of 1919 – the second movement of which carried the atmospheric title: The Ancient Village. Conductor Martin Yates, a regular conductor now at Dorchester (and an indispensable one, considering the intensive scholarship and painstaking reconstruction of incomplete scores at which he excels) shaped a sense of a lost past from Brian’s romantic, but mysterious music. As dusk began to fall on that May evening, the listener could imagine the world of long ago: wood smoke rising into the ragged clouds, and the faint outlines of returning huntsmen on the nearby ridge.

One movement of the suite, inspired by a portrait of a rural labourer – The Stonebreaker – continued the mood of shadow and fantasy, but building to a noble crescendo, with the organ of Dorchester Abbey bringing a glimpse of Havergal Brian’s grand Gothic side into the evening. Just three years before the completion of those English impressions, another young composer, George Butterworth, was in the midst of a very different landscape: the terrible Western Front, which consumed a whole generation of young men – Butterworth among them. His death at the age of 31 symbolised the waste of the Great War; the flying bullets and shells making no distinction between factory worker or Eton scholar, mechanic or composer. Fortunately, threads of Butterworth’s music survived, and most listeners and concertgoers are familiar, at least, with his sunlit Banks of Green Willow. Darker and lonelier, though, is the orchestral rhapsody, A Shropshire Lad, and his settings (for baritone) of Housman’s poetry. The “new” Fantasia for Orchestra, completed and premièred by Martin Yates at this year’s Festival, belongs very much to the sound-world of the Shropshire Lad and those who would “die in their glory and never be old” – the score offering us, perhaps, a sense of what a Butterworth symphony might have sounded like. Not exactly an elegy, or a tone-poem with any discernible theme, the work nevertheless brought out a feeling of mild unease, but settling in the end into the sort of peace and calm which surrounds you at the end of Vaughan Williams’s Sixth Symphony – or in the sublime, mellow beauty of the second movement of Gerald Finzi’s Cello Concerto, the piece which concluded the concert.

Finzi – described by broadcaster and composer, Michael Berkeley, as an English version of Fauré – died in 1956 at the age of just 55. The extreme delicacy, and deeply-touching simplicity which are the hallmarks of the composer’s style are best known in his Eclogue for piano and orchestra, and Five Bagatelles, but the Cello Concerto is much larger and ambitious in its scale. World-renowned cellist, Raphael Wallfisch, received a warm welcome from the EMF audience, and did not disappoint a single soul that night in Dorchester Abbey in his commanding, all-involving, emotional performance of a work that emerged (to this reviewer, at least) as a worthy rival to the Elgar, Walton or even Dvorak concertos. It is no disrespect to Martin Yates to say that Wallfisch led the performance: he truly made the work his own.

But the evening began, not in the old, dead, tired world of World War One, but in “the New Age” of radical English composer, Richard Arnell: a man attracted to the New York of 1939, the city’s World Fair, and the flowering of purposeful modern music. If Havergal Brian and Butterworth gave us the England of winding lanes, Arnell gave us a thirst for the direct routes and fast speeds of the future. This was H.G. Wells distilled into musical form, and what a stirring, emphatic opening to the 2015 Festival – the BBC Concert Orchestra clearly relishing the dynamism and certainty of the music, which reminded me of the style of Arthur Bliss (composer of the film score of the classic Things to Come).

The Festival’s organiser and founder, Mrs. Em Marshall-Luck, must have been delighted by the quality of the musicianship, and the presence of a large, enthusiastic audience for what was a varied and off-the-beaten-track orchestral programme. The momentum established, Saturday morning at the Festival – a violin and piano recital – proved just as stimulating; with Rupert Marshall-Luck (violin) and his accompanist, Matthew Rickard, performing the G major sonata of 1915 (Gallipoli) by Australian-born composer, Frederick Kelly. A large-scale work, with many magnificent passages, it defies understanding as to why – for so long – audiences in this country (and elsewhere) have been deprived of such masterpieces. Rupert Marshall-Luck is undoubtedly the perfect artist for this repertoire: producing not just an immensely fine tone, but revealing much colour and subtle detail – and honouring the composer and everything for which the Festival stands by his immaculate presence, and clear liking for concert custom and formality.

The next work in his programme was a remarkable demonstration of how the English Music Festival is taking our artistic tradition forward – a repudiation of those critics who seem to make the mistake of viewing the EMF as something which only has an eye on the past. We must not forget that Havergal Brian, Cyril Scott and many others were the modern radicals of their day. Written with Rupert Marshall-Luck very much in mind, the Sonata for Violin and Piano, op. 130 by modern English composer, Stephen Matthews (b. 1960), was another very worthwhile discovery.

Here was a work which combined an insistent, contemporary sound-world (without in any way pandering to a pre-conceived avant-garde formula) with moments of mellow tonality, which mirror and perpetuate the traditions of our very finest pastoral composers of the bygone age. I must confess that the name of Stephen Matthews is new to me, but on the basis of this well-structured work which communicates itself strongly to an audience, I very much hope to be hearing more of this modern force for good. Finally, works by Alwyn and Sir Hubert Parry brought the morning music-making to an end. For me, it was time to bid farewell to Dorchester Abbey – and to the excellent inn just opposite, The George, the headquarters for many Festival-goers who value that other complementary English cultural tradition: the appreciation of real ale and civilised company.

From the musical landscapes of Wessex, to the Russia of Mussorgsky and Rachmaninov (and the Germany of Brahms) – courtesy of Meridian Records and their artists, the Isis Ensemble. Founded a decade ago, Isis is a professional chamber orchestra, achieving a strong reputation for adventurous programming; a policy which has resulted in this latest disc of string transcriptions of pieces such as Pictures at an Exhibition, which we tend to think of as belonging to the world of the full orchestra.

Arranged by conductor and composer Jacques Cohen, Mussorgsky’s gallery loses none of its colour, drama and well-drawn characters and scenes in this pared-down version. For the listeners who are familiar with Ravel’s orchestration, you might wonder how the Isis Ensemble manages to make up for the lack of snare-drums and breathless, virtuoso trumpet passages – not to mention the hypnotic atmosphere of the troubador by the old castle. But somehow, the panoply of the full orchestra is reproduced by the clever and exciting re-drawing of the score for strings. Rachmaninov’s Prelude, Op. 3, No.2 is also given a convincing and beautiful performance, as is the Brahms Sonata, Op. 120, No. 1, with Anna Hashimoto as the most impressive clarinet soloist. Listeners who relish the sound of a string orchestra – but a string band that achieves a wide sense of sonority – will cherish this well-engineered and satisfying disc.

Stuart Millson is the Classical Music Editor of The Quarterly Review





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From Purges at National Review to Duggar Paedophilia

Josh Duggar

Josh Duggar

From Purges at National Review to Duggar  Paedophilia

Ilana Mercer uses the “I” word

Fellow Canadian Kathy Shaidle sends her latest Taki’s Magazine column, “Beta Male Suckiness at National Review.” In it I learn that Kathy’s benevolence approaches the saintly; only recently has she terminated her subscription to National Review (NR). I did so about 15 years ago. The Alberta Report, a Canadian paleoconservative publication with libertarian leanings, soon became the subscription of choice in the home of this budget-conscious, coupon-clipping, immigrant. (Scientific American was another guilty pleasure.)

Why, you ask, would a budding libertarian not patronize Reason Magazine? Well, once one becomes familiar with the libertarianism and writings of the American Old Right—Garet Garrett, Frank Chodorov, Felix Morley, James McClellan, Russell Kirk, Clyde Wilson; as well as Murray Rothbard, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand, on and on—Reason rings hollow; its writers ooze a post-graduate cleverness lacking in philosophical depth. Yes (and yawn), we libertarians favor a free market in kidneys and drugs. No, this libertarian has no desire to read desiccated disquisitions on these dry-as-dust topics.

Then there is the delicate matter of my one-off submission to Reason. Here I must pause to apologize to our readers (who’re probably none the wiser) for the frequent use, in this column, of the first person. A difference of opinion exists about this practice, so prevalent nowadays. I (that honestly hurt) consider its overuse a cardinal sin—even by writers who’ve earned the right to use the “Imperial I.” The more frequent the use of “I this; I that” in a column; the crappier the writing. So says I!

With that disclaimer out of the way, I’ll proceed with one of the few chatty columns I’m likely to write.

“How Things Would Work In A Copyright Free Universe” had found favor with the fair-minded, superb editor of Canada’s Financial Post (Larry Solomon). Not so the gatekeeper at Reason! He grumbled that my piece fell short of Reason’s standards—so woefully inadequate was my essay that said editor hastened to use the “inferior” material in his syndicated column that same week. Thus did Reason Magazine become synonymous with pomposity and dishonesty.

Back to Ms. Shaidle from whom I learn that National Review’s editor has terminated Mark Steyn’s print-magazine column. I still recall searching frantically for Florence King’s back-page “Misanthrope’s Corner,” which was retired in 2002. That’s how long ago I bid “adios” to NR’s print version (I access Kevin D. Williamson online, as do I appreciate Josh Gelernter’s mention of my work on South Africa).

But why retire the Steyn byline? Steyn is a star. He also supports wars and is extremely talented. To wit, he managed to both defend and diss columnist John Derbyshire, who himself was dismissed from NR (where he freelanced), for writing “The Talk: Nonblack Version,” published, too, at Taki’s.

By the time the “girlie boys” of NR came for Ann Coulter, I was unaware the magazine still appeared in print. Ann’s column was expunged from National Review after 9/11. The reason? Most real people had a 9/11 moment. Miss Coulter’s cri de coeur was particularly memorable. For exhorting, “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity,” she was given the boot. This was a puzzling purge, considering neoconservatives promptly adopted her recommendations, invaded Muslim countries and killed their leaders.

In fact, the neoconservatives at NR supported all Coulter’s recommendations save the peaceful one (Christian conversion). Still do. Clicking through the ENORMOUS icons on the new NR website reveals that Lindsey Graham, John McCain’s evil ideological twin, is touted alongside the Patriot Act, whose “expiration” is mourned. (Fear not, fearless ones, your metadata remains unsafe. The USA Freedom Act, to replace Section 215 of the Patriot Act, is a mere mutation. It privatizes the Patriot Act, by co-opting corporations into the service of the Surveillance State.)

Kathy Shaidle is displeased with NR for different reasons. She floats the possibility that founder William F. Buckley might have, “allegedly,” covered up for “liberal celebrity pedophile” Gore Vidal.

Unlike Buckley, whose prose was impenetrable, Gore Vidal was a brilliant belletrist, who dazzled with his original insights, and was wonderfully unsparing about assorted anal activists and all manner of “vulgar fagism.”

Personally, I’m more inclined to forgive the late Mr. Vidal his “predilections”—”poor choices,” as reality TV’s Duggar dynasty absolves child molestation—than I am to succor the simpering, sanctimonious, fruitfully multiplying Duggars and their priapic son (Josh), who preyed on his sisters.

As to why talent is vanishing from the TV screens and mastheads of mainstream media (which is what NR is): There’s a reason that everywhere the likes of S. E. Cupp, Kimberly G-string, Juan Williams, Alan Colmes, Judy Miller, Kirsten Powers, Leslie Marhsall, Andrea Tantaros, Jedediah Bilious, Margaret Hoover, Dana Perino, Kathryn Jean Lopez, Rich Lowry, Katherine Timpf (OMG!), Hannity’s Tamara Holder (OMG! again) and their editorial enablers are weighing in on weighty matters: However hard they try—the aforementioned cannot outsmart their hosts and higher-ups.

Indeed, mediocrity strives for conformity. Republicans have their own fellatio machine to maintain. For the GOP political establishment, intellectual equilibrium is optimally maintained when the Cupps outnumber the Coulters, the Malkins and the Steyns; a reality that would remain unaltered were James Burnham, Russell Kirk and H. L. Mencken themselves to materialize before our very eyes.

ILANA Mercer is a US-based, libertarian writer. She pens WND’s longest-standing, exclusive, paleolibertarian weekly column, “Return to Reason.” With a unique audience of 8 million, the site has been rated by Alexa as the most frequented “conservative” site on the Internet. Ilana has also featured on RT with the “Paleolibertarian Column,” and she contributes to Economic Policy Journal (the premier libertarian site on the web), Junge Freiheit, a German weekly of excellence, as well as to the British Libertarian Alliance and Quarterly Review (the celebrated British journal founded in 1809 by Walter Scott, Robert Southey and George Canning), where she is also contributing editor. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Ilana is a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies (an award-winning, independent, non-profit, free-market economic policy think tank).

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