An Inspector Calls

Prison Van Interior

An Inspector Calls  

by Bill Hartley

An inspection report into HM Prison Birmingham was released on August 16th. What the inspectors found made the front pages of several newspapers. It illustrates the short corporate memory of Prison Service Headquarters and a knack for getting into trouble that could have been avoided. They can’t say they weren’t warned either. The 2016 riot at the prison ought to have been an indicator of something being seriously wrong but afterwards attention seems to have wandered. A riot tends to leave a legacy of staff feeling demoralised and fearful. To put this right, strong and visible leadership is called for.

Whilst the privatisation or ‘market testing’ of prisons ended some time ago the legacy is still embedded in the system. Originally it tended to be obscure ‘training’ prisons or new builds that were that were contracted out to private security companies. The big Victorian local prisons which mostly lie in our larger cities were left alone. These jails carry out the core work of the Prison Service: holding remand prisoners, getting them to court and, post sentence, allocated on to a training prison. They are complex institutions which also have to live with significant overcrowding. Continue reading

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Land “Reform” in South Africa

Tucker Carlson, by Gage Skidmore

Land “Reform” in South Africa

by Ilana Mercer

He who believes he has a right to another man’s property ought to produce proof that he is its rightful owner. “As the old legal adage goes, ‘Possession is nine-tenths of the law,’ as it is the best evidence in our uncertain world of legitimate title. The burden of proof rests squarely with the person attempting to alter and abolish present property titles.” (From “Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons For America From Post-Apartheid South-Africa”.)

It is to this potent principle that democratic rule in South Africa has taken an axe—or, rather, an assegai.

Here is how taking land legally currently works, in South Africa, a place that the US State Department has just lauded as “a strong democracy with resilient institutions…,” a country merely  “grappling with the difficult issue of land reform.” “Land reform,” of course, is a euphemism for land distribution in the Robert Mugabe mold.

The process currently in place typically begins with a “tribe” or group of individuals who band together to claim vast tracts of private property. If these loosely and conveniently conjoined groups know anything, it’s this: South Africa’s adapted, indigenized law allows coveted land, owned and occupied by another, to be obtained with relative ease. Continue reading

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Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde

Giovanni Piranesi, le Carceri d’Invenzione

Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde                         

Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, Bayreuth Festival, Germany, directed by Katharina Wagner, conducted by Christian Thielemann, Thursday, 16 August 2018, reviewed by TONY COOPER

This production of Tristan und Isolde by Katharina Wagner first came to the stage in 2015, the 150th anniversary of its world première at Munich. It immediately found favour with the cognoscenti on the Green Hill.

Wagner himself rated Tristan as one of his ‘favourites’ and Katharina Wagner – artistic director of the Bayreuth Festival, daughter of Wolfgang Wagner and great-granddaughter of Richard Wagner – tapped into the opera’s emotional strength to deliver a powerful and compelling production that drifted at times away from its traditional staging, especially at the end.

In the highly-impressive first act, not just musically but also visually, Tristan and Isolde frantically search for each other with Kurwenal and Brangäne struggling to keep them apart. When they eventually meet it, proved a powerful and compelling scene. The lovers stare longingly at each other in total silence and they immediately discard the love potion that Brangäne had prepared for Isolde. Continue reading

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The Professor versus the Philosopher

George Parkin Grant

 The Professor versus the Philosopher

by Mark Wegierski

In recent years, the Canadian establishment media have relentlessly criticized George Parkin Grant (1918-1988), one of Canada’s pre-eminent thinkers. Some years ago, an editorial article in Saturday Night, at that time a leading magazine, decried the supposed prevalence of “the Creighton-Grant nationalist thesis.” Donald Creighton was Canada’s long-deceased, pre-eminent, conservative nationalist historian. In response to the publication of Grant’s Selected Letters, edited by William Christian, University of Toronto Press, 1996, the well-known literary figure, Robert Fulford, wrote a snide review “Re-evaluating praise for George Grant.” (The Globe and Mail, September 11, 1996), in which he expressed surprise at Grant’s religious beliefs. Thomas Hurka’s column of March 17, 1992, also in The Globe and Mail– entitled “Thomas Hurka laments George Grant’s ideas on the morality of technology”, was another pointed example of this harping against Grant. It seems to have become a Canadian “tradition” to deride Canada’s genuine achievers — from philosophers and literary critics, such as Northrop Frye, to business people and even pop-stars (such as Bryan Adams) – while elevating “politically-correct” mediocrities.

Professor Hurka’s by-line states that he “teaches philosophy at the University of Calgary specializing in ethics.” However, judging from his Grant piece, as well as his last column during this major stint at The Globe and Mail, “Thomas Hurka explains why academic writing is so boring and the musings of journalists are so shallow,” March 24, 1992, he seems unaware of certain developments in modern philosophy. Continue reading

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The New Oxford Annotated Bible

Arch of Titus, spoils of the Roman plunder of Jerusalem 

The New Oxford Annotated Bible

5thedition, Oxford University Press, fully revised and expanded, NRSV with Apocrypha. Pp. xxiii, 2416, ISBN: 978-0190276096. $95.00., reviewed by Darrell Sutton

When Early Modern English was becoming the vernacular speech, Edward VI (1537-1553) removed restrictions on the printing of the Bible. Mary Tudor (1516-1568) later reversed these changes. Once again, the Crown looked favorably on Catholicism. So Reformers went into exile, during which time a Church of England was formed in Geneva. There, the “Marian Exiles” agreed to undertake a new rendition of the scriptures. The Geneva Bible of 1560 was the fruit of their extensive labors. It was unique, seeing that it contained not only a new translation, but also over 300,000 annotations to the text. The exiles’ popular interpretations of the English text and alternate renderings of Hebrew and Greek terms opened the minds of citizens whose thoughts had been inured to established beliefs. Since that time, new interpretative ideas and arguments have been received; closed-mindedness has gone out of fashion.

From its inception in 1962, The Oxford Annotated Bible provided students of scripture with non-traditional insights into the contours of the development of the canon. The transformation of the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) is now complete. Originally edited by Herbert May and Bruce Metzger, cutting edge scholarship on the text and context of scripture was popularized. May was a distinguished Old Testament specialist; Metzger was a recognized doyen of New Testament textual criticism. May and Metzger found various facets of select biblical books dubious and legendary. They were broad-minded; but they still maintained sympathies toward the salvific work of Christ outlined in the New Testament. Scholarship advanced in profound ways through their researches. But in light of some of the notes now accepted in the Bible under review, both May and Metzger could be considered somewhat conformist. Continue reading

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Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, 2018

Haus Wahnfried

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, 2018

Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Bayreuth Festival Germany, Saturday 11th August 2018, directed by Barrie Kosky, conducted by Philippe Jordan,reviewed by TONY COOPER

An innovative, flamboyant and quirky director, Barrie Kosky (artistic director of Komische Oper Berlin) delivered a brilliant and entertaining production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, first seen at last year’s Bayreuth Festival.

Born in Melbourne in the late 1960s, the grandson of Jewish emigrants from Europe, his name in now indelibly linked to Bayreuth’s glorious history as he is the first Jewish director in its illustrious 142-year-old history. He is also the first person outside of the Wagner family to direct Meistersinger at Bayreuth’s Festspielhaus, built to stage Wagner’s mighty canon of Teutonic works, especially Der Ring des Nibelungen.

That constitutes a significant step by Katharina Wagner – artistic director of the Bayreuth Festival and daughter of Wolfgang Wagner and the great-grand daughter of Richard Wagner – in acknowledging Wagner’s anti-Semitic stance and his family’s later association with Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. Ditto, the revamped exhibition focusing on the Bayreuth Festival housed in the newly-restored Villa Wahnfried, complete with a new extension, where Wagner lived with his wife Cosima and their children from 1874 to 1882. A museum since 1976 (it reopened to the public just over three years ago) this is the first time that the era of the Third Reich has found a place in the exhibition. Continue reading

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How the Left Stole Liberalism and Betrayed the West

Ludwig von Mises

How the Left Stole Liberalism and Betrayed the West

by Ilana Mercer

Liberals have taken to promoting socialism, which is the state-sanctioned appropriation of private property. Or, communism. In communism’s parlance, this theft of a man’s life, labor and land is referred to as state-ownership of the means of production.

Liberals are less known for misappropriating intellectual concepts. But they do that, too. Take the term “liberal.” It once belonged to the good guys. But socialists, communists and Fabians stole it from us.

Having originally denoted the classical liberalism of the 18thand early 19th century, “liberal” used to be a beautiful word. However, to be a liberal now is to be a social democrat, a leftist, a BLM, antifa and MeToo movementarian; it’s to be Chris and Andrew Cuomo.

A French classical liberal, Benjamin Constant (1767-1830), explained what liberalism stood for:

Individuals must enjoy a boundless freedom in the use of their property and the exercise of their labor, as long as in disposing of their property or exercising their labor they do not harm others who have the same rights.

This is the opposite of communism aka socialism. Continue reading

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Parsifal, Munich Opera Festival

Parsifal, by Rogelio de Egusquiza

Parsifal, Munich Opera Festival

Richard Wagner’s Parsifal, Bayerischen Staatsoper, München, Germany, directed by Pierre Audi, sets by Georg Baselitz; Bayerischen Staatsorchester conducted by Kirill Petrenko, Tuesday, 31 July, 2018; reviewed by TONY COOPER

In Pierre Audi’s strange but compelling production of Parsifal, the Great Hall of Montsalvat Castle – the home of the Knights of the Holy Grail – has drifted away from its original setting. It is now a strongly-built, wooden-constructed building located in the Holy Forest of the Knights of the Grail, with members of the Brotherhood attired in dark monastic robes as opposed to the tough leather or chain-mail shirt and embroidered tunic favoured by medieval knights. Parsifal closed the Munich Opera Festival on a high note and was conducted by Kirill Petrenko, artistic director of Bayerischen Staatsoper and the new chief conductor of the Berlin Phiharmoniker.

At the opera’s première at Bayreuth in 1882, the set was conservative, based on a traditional German wooden-beamed roof supported by four heavy-duty stone columns. But with Audi, the incoming general director of the Aix-en-Provence Festival, you can expect to be challenged – and he duly obliged. Continue reading

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Talking Pictures

Still from Rebecca

Talking Pictures

by Bill Hartley

Anyone in search of tedious game shows, threadbare repeats and sales of junk jewellery is well catered for on British television. The sheer number of channels is bewildering and difficult to navigate. More means worse but persistence can pay off and for those willing to work their way through the wilderness of multiple channels there is one gem to be found.

‘The past is another country they do things differently there’: the quotation might well have been written for the Talking Pictures channel (Freeview 81), which has been in operation for three years. Welcome to a world close in time yet which shows how enormously life in this country (and indeed in the United States) has changed. Everyday life, manners, opinions and prejudices are perfectly preserved on film. In an era of on demand television and encouragement to binge on box sets, this channel takes us back to an era when cinema dominated and television was the new upstart. Continue reading

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ENDNOTES, August 2018

Sir Granville Bantock

ENDNOTES, August 2018

In this edition: a flourish, from Sir Granville Bantock on the Somm label; piano sonatas by Beethoven, and Elgar’s Second Symphony, from Chandos Records, reviewed by STUART MILLSON

Sir Granville Bantock (1868-1946) was a noted composer, conductor and teacher in his day. He established an orchestra at the once-fashionable resort of New Brighton on the North-West coast of England, and presided over a new musical curriculum at the Midland Institute and at Birmingham University. He made many atmospheric arrangements of Tudor and old English tunes; wrote a Tchaikovsky-like Russian suite, alive with colour and local flavour; and penned Pagan and Hebridean symphonies. New from Somm Records comes a CD devoted to Bantock’s equally vivid piano music: Saul, Twelve Pieces– and best of all (and in the outdoor spirit of the Hebridean Symphony), Two Scottish Pieces. Played by the ever-sensitive and rare-repertoire enthusiast, Maria Marchant, the north-of-the-border scenes are delightful pieces of tone-painting, yet infused and animated by an authentic sense of Caledonian traditional music: TheHills of Glenorchy– a quickstep, that nevertheless conveys a sense of longing; and The Brobers of Brechin– a reel (possibly dedicated to whisky and good cheer), with a magnificent, mountain-torrent of an ending, resoundingly performed by Marchant. With a fine portrait of Bantock on the CD cover and a graceful, detailed recording quality, this is one edition which enthusiasts of rare British music will take to their hearts. Continue reading

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