Night Moves

Tuuli Takala as Queen of the Night, photo by Tristram Kenton

Night Moves

Die Zauberflöte, singspiel in two acts; music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House conducted by Leo Hussain, 6th revival of director David McVicar’s 2003 production, revival director Bárbara Lluch, Royal Opera, 1st November 2019, reviewed by Leslie Jones

Reinhold Hanisch recalls a conversation that he had with Hitler, on the bread line in Vienna. Citing Die Zauberflöte, Hanisch suggested that Mozart was a much greater composer than Wagner. Hitler flew into a rage. He considered Mozart’s work superficial and sentimental.

Imbued as it is with humanistic, nay Masonic, ideals of peace, progress, reason and love, Hitler evidently detested Die Zauberflöte. The character of the Queen of the Night, bent on murder and revenge, was more in line with his social-Darwinist thinking. Yet, paradoxically, there are anticipations of The Ring in Mozart’s late masterpiece. Its hero Tamino, who contends with a giant serpent, prefigures Siegfried. The Queen’s Three Ladies, brilliantly performed on this occasion by Kiandra Howarth, Hongni Wu and Nadine Weissmann, likewise, bring to mind the Rhine Maidens. And for Alberich, read Monostatos (Rodell Rosel, suitably sinister). Indicatively, a production of Der Ring des Nibelungen, at Strasbourg, is one of director David McVicar’s credits. Continue reading

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Learn before you Lead

Friedrich Hayek

Learn before you Lead

Ilana Mercer tutors young conservatives

To judge by their writing, the youngsters who’ve been given the run of the conservative op-ed pages, pixelated and printed, know little about how socialism differs from capitalism. To their credit, they’ve chosen a side—the right side—but are incapable of arguing the morality of capitalism and its efficacy, which stems from its morality. Their employers are failing to demand that their young, conservative charges methodically and creatively motivate for the right—and the Right—side.

Endeavoring to explain the oft-repeated banality that, “Colleges are turning young people [into] socialists,” one such prototypical writer says this in her dog’s breakfast of a column, for the Washington Examiner:

“Students are gullible and moldable because they have little conviction and no foundation. Too often, public universities teach students to accept basic, shallow ‘knowledge’ at face value. They are not trained to ask why this knowledge matters or how it influences the rest of their education or how it relates to higher principles.”

The writer at once, and incoherently, condemns “shallow knowledge” (whatever that is) yet laments that students are not taught to relate “shallow knowledge” to higher principles. What does this even mean? Such bafflegab is published absent the telltale signs of editorial oversight. Or, perhaps the editors of the Examiner and publications like it think that voicing an opinion is the same as advancing an argument. Continue reading

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ENDNOTES, November 2019

St James the Great Church, East Malling, Kent

Endnotes, November 2019: in this edition, Mozart at a mediaeval church in Kent – and Six Flute Sonatas by Bach, on the OUR label, reviewed by Stuart Millson

Vaughan Williams once likened musical life to a great pyramid. At the apex are the renowned performers of world standing, but beneath them – like supporting blocks – are the thousands of fine amateurs, students and soon-to-be professionals who make music simply for the joy of it. This vast band of dedicated people can be found throughout the country: at churches, community halls and the concert-halls of provincial towns. Names like the Sevenoaks or Maidstone Symphony orchestras, Midlands Philharmonic, the old North-East London Polytechnic Chorus and a thousand other choirs or chorales come to mind.

Mid-Kent’s East Malling Singers have been established for over thirty years and have performed such ambitious repertoire as Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s Passions, Britten’s Saint Nicolas, the Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music, Brahms’s A German Requiem and Orff’s Carmina Burana. Continue reading

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Texas Sings the Blues

Downtown Dallas

Texas Sings the Blues 

Ilana Mercer does demography

Democrats, reports the Economist, “think they might win Texas in 2020.” Demographers, being mostly Democrats, credit Donald Trump. One of them, he’s from Rice University in Houston, claimed that Trump was the “worst thing that ever happened to Texas Republicans”:

“Mr. Trump has alienated many white Republican women in Texas, and has also pushed away Hispanics, who account for around 40 percent of the state’s population. … According to a recent poll by the University of Texas and Texas Tribune, more Texans say they would sooner vote for a candidate running against Mr. Trump than re-elect the president.”

But even those afflicted with Trump Derangement Syndrome are forced to concede that,

“Long after Mr. Trump leaves office, demographic change in Texas will continue to exert an influence on the fortunes of Republicans, as the Hispanic population grows, millennials vote in increasing numbers and people continue to move to Texas from other states, bringing their more liberal politics with them.”

Yes, the country as a whole is moving leftward. And it’s not Donald Trump—although a border wall and a moratorium on immigration would have helped mightily. As the Economist attests, “Americans are more in favor of ‘big-government’ policies today than at any point in the last 68 years.” The “public mood” in America is decidedly with statism and leftism. Continue reading

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“Hitler’s Holocaust” – made in Britain?

“Hitler’s Holocaust” – made in Britain?

David Ashton reviews a TV agitflop

On 3 and 10 October, BBC4 showcased Science’s Greatest Scandal, a two-parter, which claimed that Englishmen initiated the “shocking” beliefs that “drove” the mass-murder of the Jews (Radio Times). This gruesome slander was illustrated by ipso facto irrelevant and therefore purposely prejudicial Soviet footage from Auschwitz.

The presenters were Adam Pearson and Angela Saini. Both have acutely personal perspectives. Pearson is an actor facially disfigured by neurofibromatosis and surgery. Ms Saini, from a high-caste Punjabi background, has written a book about Indian brains “taking over the world”, and another recommending that female scientists should transform society towards “equality” [1]. Her subsequent shallow polemic against “race science”, Superior: the Return of Race Science, was refuted by Mankind Quarterly’s editor, and also in Quillette, provoking a torrent of online vituperation.

The causal connection that she alleges between our fellow-countrymen and the “horrific practice [0f] …the Nazis” was “eugenics”, the applied science elaborated by the Victorian polymath Sir Francis Galton. Eugenics is about human birth and conception, not death and extermination. Galton proposed incentives to encourage parenthood and fecundity among healthier and more creative people, and to discourage reproduction of offspring with hereditary illnesses and social handicaps. The objective was to prevent, not inflict, personal suffering, and to improve community capabilities. How is that “evil”? Continue reading

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The British Aristocracy, a Retrospect

Cliveden House

The British Aristocracy, a Retrospect

Entitled: a Critical History of the British Aristocracy, Chris Bryant, 2017, Transworld Penguin, ISBN 9780857523167, reviewed by Monty Skew

Chris Bryant is a privately educated, former Anglican priest, once a Conservative Party supporter, who subsequently became MP for the Rhondda, one of Labour’s safest seats. He was also secretary of the Christian Socialist Movement. In Entitled, this Welsh MP mounts a critique of the aristocracy and their privileges.

Jack Jones, a former dockworker who rose to become General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, once described the aristocracy as nothing more than the descendants of robber barons and trollops. Bryant expands on this list of their supposedly negative qualities. He includes insatiable greed (they own one third of the land), jealously guarded wealth, pride and arrogance and ostentatious display (such as monuments). He may be right but his text does not sustain the argument.

The history of the aristocracy is the history of this country but it is not all the history. The early chapters on the Normans and Plantagenets, with a description of feudal land tenure, are useful and highlight one of the lesser known continuities of history. But the slender argument runs aground with an over-detailed account of families, their squabbles, marriages etc. None of it adds to an understanding of the historical forces at work. Continue reading

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Democracy makes us Dumb

Portrait of Friedrich Nietzsche

Democracy makes us Dumb

by Ilana Mercer

From the riffs of outrage coming from the Democrats and their demos over “our democracy” betrayed, infiltrated even destroyed—you’d never know that a rich vein of thinking in opposition to democracy runs through Western intellectual thought, and that those familiar with it would be tempted to say “good riddance.”

But voicing opposition to democracy is just not done in politically polite circles, conservative and liberal alike. For this reason, the Mises Institute’s Circle in Seattle, an annual gathering, represented a break from the pack. The Mises Institute is a think tank working to advance free-market economics from the perspective of the Austrian School of Economics. It is devoted to peace, prosperity, and private property, implicit in which is the demotion of raw democracy, the state, and its welfare-warfare machine.

This year, amid presentations that explained “Why American Democracy Fails,” it fell to me to speak to “How Democracy Made Us Dumb.” (Oh yes! Reality on the ground was not candy-coated.)

Some of the wide-ranging observations I made about the dumbing down inherent in democracy were drawn from the Founding Fathers and the ancients. A tenet of the American democracy is to deify youth and diminish adults. To counter that, let’s start with the ancients. The Athenian philosophers disdained democracy. Deeply so. They held that democracy “distrusts ability and has a reverence for numbers over knowledge.” (Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, New York, 1961, p.10.) Continue reading

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Canadian Thanksgiving, 2019

Brandon, Manitoba, 1922

Canadian Thanksgiving, 2019

Mark Wegierski dissects Canada’s prosperity 

Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October. Canada is certainly a country which has been blessed with great material bounty. However, in these troubled times, some somber reflections seem appropriate. There has been a perceptible downward trend in the Canadian standard of living and quality of life, especially when compared to the United States. The weak Canadian dollar is a symbol of continuing Canadian decline. It is possible that the great bounty Canadians are accustomed to is increasingly fraying, and may even disappear in the third decade of the twenty-first century.

For seven years in a row in 1994-2000, Canada had been acclaimed as the number one country in the world in which to live, according to the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI). In the year 2001, it dropped to number three, still a very high ranking. Whether such superlative rankings are accurate, depends on one’s perspective.

It is clear that Canada cannot be defended as the best country in the world for the majority of its citizens, if defined according to strict financial accounting. For the middle and working classes, taxation is exceedingly high, and the benefits of the current welfare state are a mixed blessing. For the bureaucratic and corporate elites, on the other hand, Canada is indeed bountiful. It is also bountiful for groups qualifying for state and corporate sponsored equity initiatives, who would face the prospect of a drearier existence under a different arrangement. Continue reading

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Don Pasquale

Don Pasquale

Don Pasquale, dramma buffo in three acts, music by Gaetano Donizetti, libretto by Giovanni Ruffini and Gaetano Donizetti, conducted by Evelino Pidò, directed by Damiano Michieletto, Royal Opera, Monday 14th October 2019, reviewed by Leslie Jones

In director Damiano Michieletto’s updated version of Donizetti’s classic comic opera, Norina, played by the gifted soprano Olga Peretyatko, in her Royal Opera debut, is a make-up artist, working on fashion shoots. This telling detail perfectly captures the meretricious character of this self-confessed manipulator of men, “A soul [supposedly]… innocent of guile…modest without compare”, “straight out of a convent”. All women, it seems, are ultimately false. Men, notably Don Pasquale (Bryn Terfel), are their victims or dupes. Even Ernesto (tenor Ioan Hotea), is a hapless victim of love – “mi fa il destin mendico” (fate has made me a beggar), he complains. Cynicism and misogyny reign here.

Norina – Olga Peretyatko
Photo: © ROH Photographer: CLIVE BARDA

According to Rosencrantz, an old man is twice a child. In a perceptive review of a previous production of Don Pasquale at Glyndebourne, Mark Valencia stated, “My beef with this…is its mean spirit. For a light comedy, Don Pasquale has a heartless streak that says it’s quite OK for old men to be humiliated…”. In similar vein, apropos the same production, Erica Jal opined that this is “…an opera that can seem to have as much to do with cruelty as comedy”. Rupert Christiansen concurred – we have “…a doddery old fool ruthlessly humiliated and cheated out of his money ….” (Daily Telegraph).

Indeed, Don Pasquale, throughout, is a figure of fun – ailing, overweight, white haired, bespectacled, possibly incontinent, self-delusional and worthy of mockery. His dressing gown and fauteuil roulant were supererogatory.

There is so much to enjoy in this production – the spirited ensemble work, the inspired conducting by Maestro Pidò, the revolving, spared down set, wherein Don Pasquale’s dreary residence, with its clapped out Fiat and furniture, is transformed into a consumerist paradise that is “…both horribly chic and oppressively minimalist” (Warwick Thompson, ‘A Designing Minx’, Official Programme). But we left the opera house, nonetheless, with a nasty taste in the mouth. Maybe it’s the ageing process.

Dr Leslie Jones is Editor of QR

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Homeless in Seattle, Part 2

Seattle Tower

Homeless in Seattle, Part 2

Ilana Mercer shows how high-tech sucks the soul from the city

Trust the late Anthony Bourdain, the Kerouac of cooking, to blurt out the truth when nobody else would. Following his Jack Kerouac wanderlust, Bourdain had arrived in Seattle to spotlight the manner in which high-tech was changing the city, draining it of its character and of the many quirky characters that made Seattle what it was.  

“Microsoft, Google, Twitter, Expedia, and Amazon are the big dogs in town,” mused  Bourdain. “A flood of them—tech industry workers, mostly male, derisively referred to as tech boys or tech bros—is rapidly changing the DNA of the city, rewiring it to satisfy their own newly-empowered nerdly appetites.”

That the “tech boys” “are so dull”, as members of a Seattle band say—and sing—in no way assuages their heated effect on the housing market. A street artist called “John Criscitello … told Bourdain how the high-tech influx has driven up housing costs and forced artists [like himself] out of the neighborhood.” Continue reading

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