Fear of Frying

Statue of Martin Luther, Frauenkirche, Dresden

Fear of Frying

Dresden, the Fire and the Darkness, Sinclair McKay, Viking (imprint of Penguin Books), 2020, reviewed by Leslie Jones

“Man is at bottom a savage, horrible beast”, Arthur Schopenhauer

Historian James Holland, a ubiquitous presence on television programmes about World War 2 these days, featured in ‘Lost Home Movies of Nazi Germany’. In the undated footage in question, a group of Jews are being deported from Dresden. Holland confides that he had always considered the city “an innocent place”, bombed needlessly in February 1945. But having watched this amateur film, he reminds us that it was also a rail hub with over 140 factories producing war material. For example, from 1942 the Zeiss Ikon camera plant produced precision instruments and optical technology for the military. It employed slave labour, including Jewish women. In this “hotbed of Nazism”, Holland maintains, the Jews were dealt with as brutally as anywhere in Germany. He acknowledges, however, that the Dresden firestorm was “horrendous”, something of an understatement.

In ‘Greatest Events of World War 2 – Dresden Firestorm’, Holland returned to this contentious subject. He referred to the German air raids on England, notably those on London and Coventry but conceded that in all of these attacks, ‘only’ 40,000 people were killed. Dresden suffered more losses between the 13th and 15th of February. Holland blames the Nazi authorities in Dresden, notably the Gauleiter of Saxony, Martin Mutschmann (‘King Mu’), for failing to build air raid shelters for the civilian population (but not for himself). Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews, Current Affairs and Comment, QR Home | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Failure of Canadian Conservatism

Justin Trudeau at the Vancouver Pride Parade, 2018

The Failure of Canadian Conservatism

Mark Wegierski, writing on the 153rd anniversary of Canadian Confederation

This essay is partially based on Mark Wegierski’s paper, ‘An Ineluctable Direction of Progressive Development?: The Ongoing Failure of the Right in Canada’ (read by Dr. Tomasz Soroka). 8th Congress of Polish Canadianists (Polish Association for Canadian Studies) ‘Canadian (Re)Visions: Futures, Changes, Revolutions’ (Lodz, Poland: University of Lodz, Faculty of Philology) PACS. September 25-27, 2019

Canada has indeed developed far away from its origins. July 1, 2020 is the 153rd anniversary of Canadian Confederation. That was the date on which the British North America Act (Canada’s original constitution) was passed in 1867 by the British Parliament. Four provinces (Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia) formed Confederation. It was also a union of two, long pre-existent nations, English Canada, and French Canada (the latter mostly centered in the province of Quebec). The Aboriginal peoples were included insofar as they were traditionally considered to be under the special protection of the Crown. The Canadian Constitution of 1867 was anti-revolutionary. What was called the Dominion of Canada was characterized by “peace, order, and good government” in contrast to the American credo of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.

Until 1896, the Conservatives under John A. Macdonald dominated the Canadian polity. Macdonald was a real nation-builder, extending the railways across the continent, thus bringing British Columbia into Confederation in 1871. He also suppressed the two Riel Rebellions which stood in the way of a coast-to-coast Canada. However, the execution of Louis Riel for treason was a baneful act. Indeed, in the 1896 federal election, French Quebec turned away from the Conservatives, voting en masse for the Liberal Party of Wilfrid Laurier.

Throughout most of the Twentieth Century, Quebec would overwhelmingly support the Liberal Party in federal elections, thus virtually guaranteeing a Liberal majority in the federal Parliament. However, until the 1963 federal election, this did not have socially radical implications for Canada, as the country was dominated by a “traditionalist-centrist” social consensus. Indeed, even the social democratic third party, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), was mostly socially conservative. However, in 1961, the party changed its name to New Democratic Party (NDP), which suggested a more “futurist” orientation. Continue reading

Posted in Current Affairs and Comment, QR Home | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Writer’s Writer in an Age of Mediocrity

H L Mencken, 1928

A Writer’s Writer in an Age of Mediocrity

Ilana Mercer on H.L. Mencken

H.L. Mencken, a contrarian polemicist and consummate critic, who wrote prolifically from 1899 until 1948, may no longer seem relevant, but the fault would not be his. Mencken was a well-read bon vivant with a taste for Teutonic philosophy and a fidelity to immutable truth. He was also a brilliant satirist and a writer whose facility with the English idiom and grasp of intellectual history are unsurpassed.

How can a phenom like Mencken appeal in our age, The Age of the Idiot? He can’t: he should, but he can’t. Henry Louis Mencken cannot appeal to the bumper crops of humorless, dour “dunderheads” America is now siring. He cannot resonate with those who are afraid to question received opinion, who cannot conjugate a verb correctly, use tenses, prepositions and adjectives grammatically and creatively, or appreciate a clever turn-of-phrase.

How can Mencken, author of The American Language (1919), be relevant in an America in which the rules of syntax are passé, pronouns are politicized and neutered, torrential prolixity is in, concision and precision are out, and “editors” excise nothing, preferring to let mangled phrases and lumpen jargon spill onto the page like gravy over a tablecloth. Continue reading

Posted in Current Affairs and Comment, QR Home | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

ENDNOTES, July 2020

Gabriel Fauré, by John Singer Sargent

ENDNOTES, July 2020

In this edition: late-romantic piano quintets by Franck and Fauré; & a classical music establishment in meltdown, by Stuart Millson

The Prague-based Wihan Quartet – winners of the London International String Quartet Competition in 1991 – has achieved enormous success in the world of chamber music. The quartet’s players are the violinists Leos Cepicky and Jan Schulmeister; the viola player, Jakub Cepicky; and cellist, Michal Kanka – artists who gave the first-ever complete Beethoven quartet cycle in the Czech capital and who have covered most of the classical, romantic and native Bohemian repertoire in the concert halls of the world. For their latest recording on the Nimbus Alliance label, they collaborate with the Japanese pianist Mami Shikimori, a graduate of the Royal College of Music and a performer at such venues as New York’s Carnegie Hall.

Choosing the late-romantic repertoire of Cesar Franck and Gabriel Fauré, the musicians show us just how, in the music of Franck, chamber compositions can achieve an almost muscular “symphonic” character – the first movement of the Franck Quintet, alone, a chapter of extraordinary, sinewy, bold musical structure. The music, composed in 1879, seems to contain all the power that orchestras and listeners have devoured in the composer’s bravura Symphony in D minor – the Wihan Quartet and Miss Shikimori generating on the Nimbus recording a great surge of sound for which the listener may have to reduce the volume – so intense is the interpretation. Gentler waters are navigated in the Lento con molto sentimento second movement, although seven minutes into this section, Franck builds to another febrile climax, the composition once again thick with intensity and suffused with a sense of melancholia, even tragedy. Restless themes announce the last movement, but there is a more subdued discussion of ideas, before the clear, onward trajectory to a triumphant conclusion is embarked upon: Franck saving all his dramatic emphasis for one last great statement. Continue reading

Posted in Cultural Matters, ENDNOTES:Music, QR Home | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Love in a Covid Climate

Constantin Brancusi, 1907, The Kiss, Credit Wikipedia

Love in a Covid Climate

 by Ilana Mercer, spellbound

There was a reason why this expatriate missed Canada of late. In particular, the every-day normalcy of its local CTV News. Often so apolitical, Canadians are always less eager to feature the caterwauling of politicians than to cover the joys of a cat rescue. Or, a kiss.

How natural, then, that a CTV Toronto News anchor intuitively ran one of the most enchanting, culturally significant little video clips I’ve seen for a long time. A young, adorable girl, clutching a tiny dog, is being interviewed about face masks in Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park. Her meandering replies are meaningless. She’s just a regular, uninformed, inarticulate millennial, until…  wait for it. A dashing and daring young man with a mop of dark hair appears out of nowhere. He is dressed like the rebel characters in the film “Hair,” Milos Forman’s formidable musical. He grabs the girl and kisses her long and deep and oh-so romantically. The cute girl goes as limp as a ragdoll in his arms. Or, like Scarlett O’Hara in the arms of Rhett Butler. Every bit of her is saying “yes.” Continue reading

Posted in Current Affairs and Comment, QR Home | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Embattled Monuments

Lord Acton

Embattled Monuments

Ilana Mercer, contra “kerns and gallowglasses” 

Steve Hilton is a Briton who anchors a current-affairs show on Fox News. Mr. Hilton made the following feeble, snowflake’s case for the removal of the nation’s historically offensive statues:

It’s offensive to our Africa-American neighbors to maintain statues in public places that cause not only offense, but real distress. And it is disrespectful to our native-American neighbors to glorify a man who they see as having committed genocide against their ancestors. None of this is to erase history. Put it all in a museum. Let’s remember it and learn from it.

“What’s wrong with Camp Ulysses Grant,” Hilton further intoned, sanctimoniously. He was, presumably, plumping for the renaming of army installations like Fort Bragg, called after a Confederate major general, Braxton Bragg.

Sons of the South—men and women, young and old—see their forebears as having died “in defense of the soil,” and not for slavery. Most Southerners were not slaveholders. All Southerners were sovereigntists, fighting a War for Southern Independence. Hilton, it goes without saying, is a follower of the State-run Church of Lincoln. To the average TV dingbat, this means that Southern history comes courtesy of the likes of Doris Kearns Goodwin, a Lincoln idolater and the consummate court historian. “Doris Kearns Goodwin,” explains Professor Thomas J. DiLorenzo, the country’s chief Lincoln slayer, “is a museum quality specimen of a court historian, a pseudo-intellectual who is devoted to pulling the wool over the public’s eyes by portraying even the most immoral, corrupt and sleazy politicians as great, wise, and altruistic men.” Continue reading

Posted in Current Affairs and Comment, QR Home | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Knee Jerk Reaction

Rudyard Kipling, portrait by John Collier

Knee Jerk Reaction

From Stuart Millson, standing tall   

By the end of the 19th-century, the British Empire had achieved a supremacy surpassing that of ancient Rome. The onetime Roman colony at the edge of Europe had become the greatest colonial power in history. The eagle of the Roman legions marked the suzerainty of Caesar, from North Africa to Northern Britain – their power eventually ebbing from our island, 400 years after the birth of Christ. Nevertheless, they left a rich legacy: the foundation of our principal towns, a system of roads and ports to supply them, a wealth of trade and perhaps, more intangibly, the seeding of an imperial ideal that would come to fruition 1500 years later. The maritime expeditions of the first Elizabethan era marked the beginning of this episode.

For the people of the Mother Country in the age of Queen Victoria, the British rulers of India and Africa were heroes. Her empire engendered – if not automatic loyalty from the subject peoples – than at least a strangely long-lasting affiliation, which turned in some cases, after the granting of independence, to a form of imitation. One need only look at the ceremonial uniforms and peaked caps of the modern Indian army and its brigadiers, now facing the Chinese on India’s northern border, to see that. Continue reading

Posted in Current Affairs and Comment, QR Home | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Watson’s World

Coal Mining, 18th Century, Léonard Defrance

Watson’s World

Bill Hartley mines an archive

John Watson was a colliery viewer working in the Northumberland coalfield in the middle of the 18thcentury. His journals, written from 1750-55, came into the possession of the Mining Institute in Newcastle but beyond this nothing is known of the man. Watson didn’t always stick to a dry record of mining operations and as a result we get some insight into life in mid-18th century Northumberland.

There was no such thing as a mining engineer in those days and the way Watson worked suggested he had learnt his trade as an estate surveyor; someone who looked after the business of an agricultural property. Mining and agriculture were closely connected, with coal being another resource to be exploited. Back then an intelligent boy might be talent spotted and perhaps with the assistance of a benefactor, gain a place at one of the small grammar schools in the county. Such schools had no interest in providing a classical education. The emphasis was on mathematics. Classroom learning was augmented by practical experience outdoors, where boys would hone their skills by measuring and surveying the surrounding fields. Continue reading

Posted in Current Affairs and Comment, QR Home | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Canaille Play with Madness

Chaos, George Frederick Watts

Canaille Play with Madness

Ilana Mercer reports from “occupied” Seattle

On June 9, I tweeted out the following:

“Seattle’s East Precinct has fallen, as Police Chief Carmen Best orders Seattle Police to evacuate. The occupiers, aka the ‘peaceful protesters,’ declare victory. ‘They’ve given us the precinct,’ they boast. Not even in South Africa.”

A mere day on, and the City of Seattle is de facto occupied territory, fallen to the “peaceful protesters”—the same counterculture media darlings who’ve been sacking cities across America. The rabble—Black Lives Matter sympathizers, which, as police arrest records show is almost entirely local—was further roused by Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant, formerly of Mumbai. Most reprehensibly, Pied Piper Sawant led the “peace makers” to occupy City Hall in downtown Seattle, on Tuesday, June 10.

The altercation between Council Member Sawant and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan gives new meaning to the “broad” sweep of ideas in this dysfunctional city. Sawant, a socialist, called on Mayor Durkan, a progressive, to resign over abuse of power (what power?) and systemic racism (a meaningless abstraction). This, as the city was being sacked.

Surrender Monkeys
As of this writing, the Seattle Police has surrendered without a fight. Seven blocks of downtown Seattle, renamed the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ), have been appropriated by the Peaceful Ones, with the imprimatur of the mayor and her police chief (Carmen Best aforementioned). Now loosed on the public, these buccaneering entrepreneurs are reported to have set up checkpoints to shake down residents who imagine they may come and go. Not in this satrapy. On the positive side, Seattle now has that shithole-country vibrancy. Continue reading

Posted in Current Affairs and Comment, QR Home | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Pedal Power

Jimmy Savile

Pedal Power

The Vice of Kings: how Socialism, Occultism and the Sexual Revolution Engineered a Culture of Abuse, Jasun Horsley, London, Aeon Books, 2019, 323pp., reviewed by Ed Dutton

When ‘national treasure’ Jimmy Savile died in 2011, copious revelations emerged about the entertainer’s decades of predatory sexual abuse against teenage girls. Senior figures in the BBC claimed innocent ignorance, despite the fact that there had long been rumours about Savile’s proclivities, with some of the milder forms of abuse having occurred ‘in plain sight,’ such as Savile groping a girl on Top of the Pops. This resulted in ‘Operation Yew Tree,’ with frequently fruitless investigations into other celebrities, including Sir Cliff Richard and two well-known actors from Coronation Street. All were eventually exonerated. In its worst excesses, Yew Tree gave free rein to conspiracy theorists’ more outlandish, paranoid ideas.

Some believed – on the grounds that Sir Jimmy Savile and the late Liberal MP Sir Cyril Smith had been child abusers – that Britain had been run by a clique of high-powered paedophiles. They accepted the fantasies of one Carl Beech. He posited a VIP paedophile ring that included former Prime Minister Edward Heath, former Home Secretary Leon Brittan, former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor and numerous others. Labour MP Tom Watson told parliament that he had ‘clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to parliament and Number 10’ after meeting with Beech, who it turned out was himself a downloader of child pornography. Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews, Current Affairs and Comment, QR Home | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment