22 July

Anders Breivik

22 July

Film (2018) directed by Paul Greengrass, reviewed by Robert Henderson

Having adopted the disguise of a policeman, on 22 July 2011 Anders Breivik exploded a bomb near a government building in the Norwegian capital Oslo, killing eight people. He then went to the nearby island of Utøya where a Workers’ Youth League (AUF) summer camp was being held. There he shot and killed 77 people and wounded around two hundred more. Most of the victims were young. Breivik’s justification for the attack was that Norway was being betrayed by an elite who were allowing large numbers of immigrants, especially Muslim immigrants, to radically change the nature of Norwegian society.

His killing rampage is the starting point of the film. Breivik is shown as a merciless but  efficient killer, as he must have been, considering the number of dead and wounded. After the killings, the film follows two plot lines: that of Breivik and that of the Hansen family. We meet Viljar Hanssen (Jonas Strand Gravli) early in the film when he and his brother Torje Hanssen (Isak Bakli Aglen) are at the summer camp. Viljar is selected to address the Workers’ Youth League campers. He trots out the routine internationalist line about the wonders of diversity and how everyone from anywhere should be welcomed. Shortly after this, Breivik begins shooting. Viljar and his brother Torje escape death but Viljar suffers serious wounds including one to the head. A substantial subsequent part of the film is devoted to Viljar’s long and painful recuperation. His part in the story culminates with Breivik refusing to look at him as he makes a victim statement to the court. Continue reading

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Good News for Ancient Anatolians

 

Raphael, St Paul Preaching in Athens (1515)

Good News for Ancient Anatolians

David A. DeSilva, The Letter to the Galatians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Eerdmans, 2018. Pp. I-LXXIX, 1-542. $55.00

Interesting historical relics turned up in the 19thcentury. In 1834, a Frenchman named Charles Texier discovered the ruins of Boğazköy in Anatolia. Cuneiform tablets were found there in 1893 by Ernest Chantre. Professional excavations began in 1906. Aside from notations in the Bible, little was known about the Hittites. Their hieroglyphic inscriptions were hard to understand, but Bedřich Hrozný, Professor of Cuneiform Studies and History of the Ancient Orient, finally grasped the idiom of the Hittite language in 1915. Another door to a once concealed world in antiquity was opened. Inhabitants of modern Anatolia are quite unlike the inhabitants of ancient Asia Minor. The religion of today differs from the religions of yesteryear. In Greco-Roman times Galatia comprised parts of what is known today as central Anatolia. There was Jewish settlement in the district. Diversely populated, belief in god(s) was prevalent.

The diffusion of Christianity around the Mediterranean Sea was slow; it followed the footprints of devotees who traveled. By the time of the Apostle Paul, religion was still of importance. His several missionary journeys, recorded in the text of The Acts of the Apostles, evidence how important it was to him. The resistance he met in select places proves how much Judaism and Greco-Roman cults meant to others. His encounters with people in Galatia (Acts 16:6) were noteworthy: some of them believed his preaching and exchanged the god(s) of their ancestors for a newfound faith which centered upon a man named Jesus. The book under review deals with one of the oldest of Paul’s Greek letters to communities of Christians in ancient times. Continue reading

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Così fan tutte

Photograph by Stephen Cummiskey

Così fan tutte

Così fan tutte, ossia La Scuola degli Amanti, opera buffa in two acts, music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, conducted by Stefano Montanari, directed by Jan Philipp Gloger, first revival, Royal Opera, 25th February 2019, reviewed by LESLIE JONES

In Jan Philipp Gloger’s production of Così fan tutte, certain members of the cast, notably Don Alfonso, wear 18th century costume but others that of the twentieth. And, although the action supposedly unfolds in Naples under Spanish rule, “The basic topic isn’t bound to any particular time…” (Gloger, in conversation with dramaturg Katharina John, Official Programme). The subject matter, in particular the notion of human frailty, is timeless and universal.

In act 1, accordingly, Fiordiligi and Dorabella take selfies and Guglielmo and Ferrando supposedly depart for war from a railway station. Another scene takes place in a cocktail bar. A recent production of Così at the Edinburgh Festival was set in Eritrea in the 1930’s, when it was part of Mussolini’s “new Roman Empire”, with “stark portrayals of the sexual and racial tension of the time”. Continue reading

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Lara Logan, Touting

Lara Logan

Lara Logan, Touting

By IIana Mercer

In 2018, Lara Logan left her perch as foreign correspondent for CBS’s “highest-rated, most profitable and best-known program, ‘60 Minutes.’” She is currently doing the rounds, assuaging ‘conservative’ media’s appetite for celebrity. The latter have a Uriah-Heep like propensity to fawn over swamp-based, defecting, big-name media celebs.

It’s as though Logan is job hunting, on a blond-ambition tour—for she certainly has no news to impart other than a few banal catchphrases. Logan has “revealed,” first to Breitbart podcaster Mike Ritland, the tritest of truths, that the media are “mostly liberal.”

Ever in search of defecting celebrities around whom to create buzz, the pack dogs of “conservative” media picked up Logan’s scent and gave chase. Mission accomplished.

In a lovey-dovey, public tête-à-tête, Fox News’ Sean Hannity hinted to his higher ups at Fox that they should hire Logan. One wishes they’d do this self-congratulatory cable-news porn behind closed doors. As if we don’t already suffer an abundance of Fake News, No-News and salacious news. Continue reading

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The Sex Factor

Victoria Bateman, vnbateman.com

The Sex Factor

The Sex Factor: How Women Made the West Rich, Victoria Bateman, 2019, Polity Press, 226pp. Pb, reviewed by ED DUTTON

Cambridge University Fellow of Economics Dr Victoria Bateman (born 1979) is notorious for her nude protests. The diminutive yet busty economist (she is just under 5 feet tall) got her kit off at academic conferences to protest about the neglect of gender in economics. More recently, she made headlines by stripping off, live on air, to draw attention to what an economic disaster Brexit is supposedly going to be.

She justifies this behaviour because feminist performance art ‘would be a creative addition for a meeting of economists’ (p.2). Indeed, she tellingly admits that even though an economist the thing that has most powerfully affected her thinking is ‘art . . . a power that goes beyond words’ (p.1). She cannot understand why ‘feminism’ has had such a huge influence over every other social science – sociology, cultural anthropology, certain forms of psychology – but not over her own discipline of economics. Why does economics overlook ‘the vital importance of women’s freedom over their bodies’ ? (p.2), wonders Dr Bateman. Don’t they understand that ‘Economics needs to embrace the sex factor if it wants to answer such questions as ‘Why is the West rich?’ Why can’t economists, like other social scientists, accept the importance of learning from other disciplines, such as Feminist Studies?’ (p.3). Continue reading

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ENDNOTES, February 2019

Arctic birds, the Ptarmigan

ENDNOTES, February 2019

In this edition: choral music by Rautavaara, orchestral music by Künneke, reviewed by STUART MILLSON

Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928-2016) enjoyed fame in Britain in the latter part of his life. His orchestral music – semi-romantic and Sibelius-infused – reflected the landscape and birdlife of Finnish coasts and Baltic marshes, especially the 1972 piece, Cantus Arcticus, in which a recording of bird-song plays over an orchestral accompaniment. The composer, from a Lutheran background, later embraced the Eastern Orthodox Church and what might be described as a general spirituality – with Hinduism added to the mix. “A sense and taste for the infinite” – these are the words of Rautavaara’s favourite philosopher, Friedrich Schleiermacher concerning religion, and this neat description summarises the composer’s own viewpoint. Also dating from 1972 is a work entitled Credo – a pre-echo of the Mass (Missa a cappella) which crowned the composer’s last great creative period, and which constitutes the main work on a new CD from the Chronos label. Continue reading

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Grammys: Great Music it was Not

Lady Gaga

Grammys: Great Music it was Not

by IIana Mercer

I used to respect Lady Gaga. With all her pretentious Yoko Onanisms, Stefani Germanotta (Gaga’s real name) is a hard-working and, at times, polished singer. But to watch Gaga, at the 61st Grammy Awards, perform a number called “Shallow” was to endure an assault on the eyes and the ears.

Legs permanently splayed like an arthritic street walker, she traipsed around catatonically, attempting to head-bang, but getting disoriented. Some things are best left to a macho, metal-head guy.

Gaga’s look was not good. But her sound, which is what counts here, was positively terrible. Yet, Gaga—lugging microphone and mount around like a geriatric with a walker—was a highlight in this pornographic, cacophonous extravaganza. Continue reading

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The Asylum Racket

OFO, Foot Crossing at San Ysidro, credit CBP Photography

The Asylum Racket

by Ilana Mercer

The Wall is crucial, but it’s not everything. Caravans of human cargo are filing into the United States because … they can. U.S. law allows it, even invites it.

Here’s how: provided you’re not a white, South African farmer—in other words, a real refugee—you may plonk yourself at an American “port of entry,” say San Ysidro in San Diego, and simply assert your right to petition the U.S. for asylum.

Then and there you claim asylum on the grounds that your race, religion, nationality or politics expose you to persecution in the country you want to leave.

Compared to a multicultural mecca like America, where faction fighting is rising, Latin American arrivals seem homogeneous. Dare I say that they’re largely Hispanic Catholics? Dare one ask who precisely is persecuting them in their homelands? Continue reading

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Cell Phones

Credit, College of Community Innovation and Education, Megan Small Story

Cell Phones

by Bill Hartley

The governor of a women’s prison once confided that she preferred middle aged men for her senior management team and that she was prepared to fly in the face of Equal Opportunities to get them. In her view, most women are in jail because they mix with the wrong men. She even provided a mini bus to take discharged prisoners to the local railway station. But not from altruism. Rather, she had become tired of watching forlorn women waiting for the promised lift home from men who didn’t show up. She realised that what most women prisoners lack in their lives is a positive male role model and she set about providing them. ‘After all’, as one of her team told me, ‘handle them wrongly and some are quite capable of barricading in a cell and feeding bits of themselves under the door’. Self-harm is one of the principal ways by which distraught women express their distress.

All of this came to mind, on reading that the Prison Service is planning to provide in-cell phones for prisoners. A predictable storm of outrage ensued in the press, together with comments about making jail ‘soft’. Equally predictably, the Prison Service responded that the scheme would be carefully controlled; only approved numbers could be dialled and the idea was to reduce the sense of isolation and incidents of self-harm. This hostile response was inevitable. The Prison Service and the Ministry of Justice have never sought to get the public onside when it comes to rehabilitation. The Service lacks a coherent, overarching approach. Instead, we see add-on proposals which are badly received when they go public. Continue reading

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Kát’a Kabanová

Leoš Janáček

Kát’a Kabanová

Opera in three acts; music by Leoš Janáček, libretto by Leoš Janáček based on a Czech translation of Alexander Nikolayevich Ostrovsky’s play The Thunderstorm, orchestra conducted by Edward Gardner, direction by Richard Jones, Royal Opera, Monday 4th February 2019, reviewed by Leslie Jones

All of the characters in Kát’a Kabanová, with the exception of the carefree, courting couple Varvara and Kudrjáš, are, in Dylan words, “bent out of shape by society’s pliers”. They are either inauthentic and hypocritical, like Dikoj and Kabanicha, or conflicted and tormented, like Kát’a and Boris. And most of the men are weak and compliant, especially Tichon Kabanov, who is dominated by his mother, and Boris, who is financially dependent on his uncle Dikoj and who tamely accepts the latter’s instructions to depart for Siberia.

Kát’a herself is a complex, child-like individual, who has visionary experiences and hears voices. In Act one, she confides to Varvara that her mother treated her like a doll, yet that she was then “free as a bird”. But married life has made her wither. With her dreams of flying, her ineffectual struggle to deny her sexuality and her tendency to project inner urges onto external agencies such as fate, Kát’a is a case study. As Christopher Wintle observes, “The tragedy of Kát’a is that she instinctively shares the oppressive moral values of the community to which she is bound…” (What Opera Means). She claims to love her verbally abusive and controlling mother-in-law, “You are like a mother to me”, she submissively informs her. There is no escape, then, from the super ego, the repressive representative of society in your head. Continue reading

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