Celebrating Poland

From Blinded by the Lights

 Celebrating Poland

Mark Wegierski writes from Toronto 

A flurry of Polish-related events in Toronto was engendered by the 100th anniversary of the regaining of Polish independence (November 11, 1918). After 123 years of harsh foreign occupation by Tsarist Russia, Prussia/Germany, and the Habsburg Empire, Poland was then reborn. As part of the independence commemorations, Terry Tegnazian, a Los Angeles-based Armenian-American and publisher of award-winning books on Poland’s World War II history, spoke at the Consulate-General of the Republic of Poland on October 25th. The 10th  Toronto Polish Film Festival (ekran.ca) showed a variety of films. The Polish Students’ Association at the University of Toronto arranged the showing of three Polish films – The Gates of Europe, located in 1918 in Poland’s Eastern Borderlands; Warsaw 44, about the Warsaw Uprising of 1944; and Ida, set in the post-World War II period under Communism. There was also an exhibition at Robarts Library, at the University of Toronto; and on November 13, the book-launch of Being Poland, a collection of essays on Polish literature and culture since 1918, edited by, among others, Tamara Trojanowska and published by the University of Toronto Press. Continue reading

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Private Colleges to Revive the Humanities

Ave Maria University, Graduation 2016

Private Colleges to Revive the Humanities

by Mark Wegierski

The liberal arts in Canada currently face a multi-pronged assault. Given the clamor for a narrowly conceived “market” and “economic” ethic, they are taught less and less, in favor of business, technology, and reductively defined law. Then there is the totalitarianism of political correctness that stifles genuine enquiry and the mind-numbing jargon and disdain for plain-speaking that pervades the liberal arts. Finally, we have the dumbing-down by the mass media and pop-culture.

Political correctness and its heavy-handed enforcement across Canada’s campuses is exacerbated by the scarcity of private colleges. Among the most prominent of these are Trinity Western University in British Columbia, and Redeemer University College in Ontario. Traditional Catholics in Ontario hope to launch a fully accredited liberal arts college, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy. Continue reading

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It’s their Skin Color, Stupid

Nick Sandmann meets Nathan Phillips

It’s their Skin Color, Stupid

Ilana Mercer, on the Covington kids

When Catholic Bishop Roger Joseph Foys saw a Catholic boy with a beatific smile, standing athwart an agitated, Amerindian elder and smiling in that pacifist, sweetly Christian way—he and the Diocese of Covington simply had to condemn the kid. Who else? What choice did a man of the cloth have?

The same absurdity typified the reaction of the lickspittle liberal mayor of Covington, Joe Meyer. “Appalling,” he called Covington Catholic High School student, the boy implicated in that “daring” standoff, on the National Mall, in D.C.

Had not philosophical giants like Cardi B (once a stripper, now a rapper, always illiterate) and Alyssa Milano (illiterate starlet) shown us the way? Indeed. “The red MAGA hat is the new white hood” was Milano’s catechism. She went on to implicate “white boys’ lack of empathy [toward] the peoples of the world [in] the destruction of humanity.” Only 12 years to go, predicts Comrade Ocasio-Cortez. Continue reading

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The Violence against Women Industry

The Violence against Women Industry 

by Ilana Mercer

Speaking recently to Fox News’ Arthel Neville, Andrew Napolitano repeated the feminist canards about sexual assault against women being an under-reported, ever-present crime in American society.

The violence-against-women industry in North America—you know, the one-in-four-women-are-assaulted rot—is propped up by the sub-science or pseudoscience of violence-against-women statistics.

In particular, violence-against-women surveys are based on inflated numbers nobody questions; numbers the advocates bandy about and the politicians rely on when drafting policy and plumping for resources. Continue reading

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La Traviata, 2019

Ermonela Jaho as Violetta, photo by Catherine Ashmore

La Traviata, 2019

La Traviata, opera in three acts, music by Giuseppe Verdi, libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, after La dame aux camélias by Alexander Dumas (fils), conducted by Antonello Manacorda, directed by Richard Eyre, Royal Opera, 14th January 2019, reviewed by LESLIE JONES

The gamin (street urchin), all alone in that “teeming desert called Paris”, as depicted on the opening curtain of this production, is presumably la petite Plessis. Courtesan Marie Duplessis was the inspiration for the character Marguerite Gautier, in La dame aux camélias, by Alexander Dumas (fils). As Professor René Weis records, Duplessis eventually married Edouard, Vicomte de Perregaux, the precursor of the character Alfredo Germont. We were reminded of Michael White’s description of Arianna Stassinopoulous, to wit, “the most upwardly mobile Greek since Icarus”.

In this, the 16th revival, no less, of Richard Eyre’s production, first seen in 1994, Violetta is played by Albanian born soprano Ermonela Jaho. A svelte and striking figure, Ms Jaho has a commanding stage presence and looks perfect in the part. She confidently follows in the footsteps of previous distinguished performers of this demanding role. Her rendition of the poignant aria Dite alla giovine received warm applause. Jaho and soprano Charles Castronovo, as Alfredo Germont, make a handsome couple. But baritone Igor Golovatenko (Giorgio Germont) in his Royal Opera debut, was underwhelming, especially in the aria Di Provenza, usually a highlight of La Traviata. Continue reading

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ENDNOTES, January 2019


ENDNOTES, January 2019

In this edition: Revive– from Chandos Records; George Antheil’s American SymphonyNostalgia from Wim Henderickx, reviewed by STUART MILLSON

What better way to begin our 2019 musical journey than with a lively and completely refreshing compilation from Chandos of baroque and Elizabethan-era classics – Handel’s Water Music; Byrd, Pavan and Gigue; Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 3– arranged for saxophone quartet. The Ferrio Saxophone Quartet – Huw Wiggin, Ellie McMurray, Jose Banuls and Shevaughan Beere, is an ensemble of young players and has already undertaken critically-acclaimed international tours, despite the group only having been formed three years ago. On their new recording, Revive, they bring a glorious lightness of tone and touch to a well-chosen programme from the 17th and 18th-centuries; the works all transcribed for the saxophone by Iain Farrington, who comments in the CD booklet:

“Baroque music lends itself particularly well to small ensembles… the arrangements maintaining the essential material of the music. Transferred to the pure and haunting sound of  saxophones, the music comes to possess an added beauty (perhaps melancholy?)”

Handel’s Sarabande, from his 1733 D minor suite, first published in Amsterdam, is heard with exactly the impression which Mr. Farrington has envisaged, as is the William Byrd arrangement, taken from that extensive and hallowed collection of early English music, The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. Although, perhaps we should also use the word – breathtaking – as it is remarkable that such a detailed three-movement work as Bach’s Third Brandenburg Concerto– usually heard on violins, violas, and basso continuo – now radiates its beauty and invention through four saxophones. Continue reading

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When the Fun Stops, Stop

Eva-Maria Westbroek as Liza, photo by Catherine Ashmore

When the Fun Stops, Stop

The Queen of Spades, opera in three acts, music by Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky, libretto by Modest and Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky, after Pushkin’s novella Pikovaya Dama, conducted by Antonio Pappano, directed by Stefan Herheim, Royal Opera, Sunday 13th January 2019, reviewed by LESLIE JONES

The Queen of Spades pays homage to Mozart, who as dramaturge Alexander Meier-Dörzenbach reminds us, was Tchaikovsky’s favourite composer (“Yearning Hearts in a Bird Cage”, Official Programme). There are several direct quotations from Mozart’s oeuvre in the opera. Moreover, Tchaikovsky once confided to his patroness Madame von Meck that “…as a child of my century, inwardly confused and morally frail, I am drawn to him [Mozart] for his healthy lust for life and on account of the purity of a nature that is not poisoned by brooding: he comforts and calms me”.

As for brooding, there is more than enough in Modest and Pyotr Il’yich’s libretto, notably from Gherman, played by tenor Alexandrs Antonenko, who tells us that “…all around is happiness, But not in my stricken heart”. And also from Liza, “…weary and worn out with suffering!” Like Tchaikovsky, Liza was evidently not cut out for marriage. Indeed, both characters are arguably projections of the composer himself. For according to Freud, compulsive gambling is a form of self-punishment, a “repetition of the compulsion to masturbate” (Sigmund Freud, “Dostoyevsky and Parricide“, 1928). Continue reading

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Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy

Captured French soldiers from Dien Bien Phu, escorted by Vietnamese troops, walk to a prisoner-of-war camp

Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy

Max Hastings, Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy 1945-1975, William Collins, London, 2018,  xix-xxx + pp. 1-652, Illustrations, Maps, Glossary, Bibliography and Index, ISBN 978-0-00-813298-9, reviewed by Frank Ellis

This thirty-year story of slaughter and misery begins with the French attempt to reimpose colonial rule after World War II. To this end, the French devoted much blood and treasure, theirs to begin with, and then American, losing some 93,000 soldiers. French resources would have been much better spent on rebuilding France, above all psychologically, after the war, rather than aspiring to play the role of some great imperial power, and trying to atone for the collapse of 1940. A point not picked up by Hastings is that the reasserted French claim to its colonies was a flagrant violation of the Atlantic Charter (1941) which guaranteed nations the right to choose their own government. Why should the Vietnamese, liberated from Japanese occupation, have to submit to the re-imposition of French colonial rule?

By arming the Vietnamese in the belief that they would fight the Japanese, the British and Americans also helped to instil the idea of national independence and armed struggle to achieve it. It did not occur to them, however, that these weapons would be used to fight the French. Such unintended consequences were repeated in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The CIA ensured that a liberal supply of weapons, including highly effective anti-aircraft missiles, was delivered to the mujahedeen, with disastrous consequences after the Soviet withdrawal. One lesson here is that when the interests that brought the supplier and recipient of weapons together in a common cause start to diverge, you cannot recall the weapons. Today’s ally in a common cause is potentially tomorrow’s enemy. Continue reading

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Death by Illegal Alien

Geraldo Rivera

Death by Illegal Alien

Ilana Mercer opines

The topic: American lives snuffed out by illegal aliens. The forum: the ubiquitous Fox News, dual-perspective panel that never fails to dim debate.

Arguing in favor of letting potential killers come: Geraldo Rivera, a former daytime talk-show, bosom buddy of Sean Hannity, and a permanent fixture on Fox. The Rivera “argument”: that some criminal aliens kill is incidental and immaterial to their status as uninvited, unvetted interlopers.  

Here are some of the stories Geraldo dismisses as sensationalized:

The latest in a string of bereaved parents to appear on TV are the parents of young Pierce Corcoran, 22, killed by Franco Cambrany Francisco-Eduardo (44), recipient of the U.S. Professional Drunk-Driver Immigration Visa. And in 2012, a man named Ramon Hernandez took the tiniest of victims. Dimitri Smith, of blessed memory, was killed in-utero by this recipient of the same visa. The deceased preemie was shown on CNN, in 2012, being held for the last time by young mother Aileen Smith, before being laid to rest. Continue reading

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Cuneiform Inscriptions

Darius the Great

Cuneiform Inscriptions

Old Babylonian Texts in the Schoyen Collection: Part One: Selected Letters by A.R. George, Pp. 328: xiii, 192 (221 plates), CDL Press 2018, $99.95

Literary Notes by Darrell Sutton

Two hundred years ago expeditions were the primary pathway to recovering antiquities because the rudimentary phase of the science of excavation persisted until the latter part of the 19thcentury. Explorers, foreign-service workers and missionaries supplied museums, university scholars and independent epigraphists with the raw material objects (i.e. inscriptions, sculptures, pottery) that were crucial to their material researches. At various times, curators and other individuals made the items available for study. The public took interest. Antiquarian pursuits intensified. George F. Grotefend’s (1775-1853) efforts to resolve the mysteries of Old Persian paved the way for studious men soon after to comprehend Assyrian and Babylonian script.

Because of Grotefend, King Darius was able to speak to future generations about the greatness of his reign through The Kerman Inscription, a tetra-angular pyramid of dark stone that has three inscriptions – each one etched on a different side: one in Persian, one in Elamitic and another in Babylonian.

Contemporary cuneiformists also owe a great debt to Edward Hincks (1792-1866), William H.F. Talbot (1800-1877), Henry C. Rawlinson (1810-1895) and Jules Oppert (1825-1905) for their labors in the decipherment of the writings of Mesopotamia. They made impenetrable worlds accessible and understandable. Continue reading

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