The Captains of the West were foundering in a gathering sea. The sun gleamed red, and…the shadows of death fell dark upon the earth….The onslaught…broke like a wave on the beleaguered hills, voices roaring like a tide amid the wreak and crash of arms…
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Capital in the Twenty-First Century

There has been much attention given to Thomas Piketty’s recent book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. I haven’t finished reading it myself, but its combination of economics and history make it worth examining, regardless of the author’s personal opinions. My own reading of it is, contrary to the opinions of some, not an endorsement of Marxist redistribution. In my view, the book argues that we as a civilization have been encouraging the wrong sorts of private investments.

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Inside the Mind of Putin

On March 4, 2014, Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, held a press conference, answering questions about the crisis he spawned in Crimea. Echoing the lies of his representative before the UN Security Council a day prior, Putin maintained that neither he nor Russia as a whole was responsible for recent events in Ukraine. He attributed the crisis to an illegal, American-backed coup against the legitimate government in Kyiv. Continue reading

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

[Lt. Col. Dr. John McCrae, Canadian Army, 1915]

“The common law of the Anglo-Saxons, in which laws emerge from the resolution of local conflicts, rather than being imposed by the sovereign, has had a large part to play in fostering the English (and American) sense that the law is the common property of all who reside within its jurisdiction rather than the creation of priests, bureaucrats or kings.”

taken from an essay by Roger Scruton at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23895920

“It is twenty-three years now since I first attended a National Socialist meeting, saw (without particular enjoyment) Herr Hitler at close range, and listened to the flood of nonsense — or so it then seemed to me — that he was spouting.  It was only gradually that the effects of these speeches made me realize that behind all the nonsense there was unrivaled political cunning….Hitler was able to enslave his own people because he seemed to give them something that even the traditional religions could no longer provide; the belief in a meaning to existence beyond the narrowest self-interest.  The real degradation began when people realized that they were in league with the Devil, but felt that even the Devil was preferable to the emptiness of an existence which lacked a larger significance.  The problem today is to give that larger significance and dignity to a life that has been dwarfed by the world of material things.  Until that problem is solved, the annihilation of Naziism will be no more than the removal of one symptom of the world’s unrest.”

Excerpted from Der Fuehrer by Konrad Heiden, published in 1944.

Beasts Of The Southern Wild soundtrack

Beasts-Of-The-Southern-Wild-SoundtrackThere has long been an assumption that high art and low art are separate things.  And to a certain extent, popular tastes had long ago diverged from those perceived to be “elite”.  But in many respects, these divisions exist only on paper, and derive more from the separate lives that educated and working class people live.  One area where these divisions can seem greatest are in the field of music.  Listening to pop music radio, and then attending a concert of the local symphony, can feel like two worlds that have nothing in common.  But every once in a while, these stereotypes over high and low art come crashing down, and in a surprising way, it is the music of modern cinema that carries it out.

The 2012 independent film “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is an example of this phenomenon.  The movie itself is a fantasy piece, of life in the bayous of southern Louisiana in the midst of a storm that resembles Hurricane Katrina.  But, in a twist, is told from the perspective of a small child known as Hushpuppy (played by the unparalleled Quvenzhané Wallis).  By having the story be told by a small child, it turns what would normally be an overt tragedy with political overtones into a nearly mythological tale with epic sweep.  (Because, let’s be honest, everything feels epic at the age of 6.)  It infuses the whole story with a sense of magic that would otherwise be impossible to done with a more adult perspective.

As one would expect, the world inhabited by Hushpuppy (nicknamed “the Bathtub”) is desperately poor.  Its inhabitants cling to a marshy bit of land outside the normal levee system, constantly at risk of being washed out to sea.  And while I may yet write a review of the film itself, this is a music review.  And the music of this film delivers.

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