Art, music, literature and thespianism

Putting In The Asterisks

Via Sarah at Insty comes this thoughtful piece:

Yes, an intolerant minority can control and destroy democracy. Actually, as we saw, it will eventually destroy our world.
So, we need to be more than intolerant with some intolerant minorities. It is not permissible to use “American values” or “Western principles” in treating intolerant Salafism (which denies other peoples’ right to have their own religion). The West is currently in the process of committing suicide.

I’ve often pondered this issue. If we assume that the Constitution isn’t a suicide pact — by no means a certain assumption, by the way — then yes, of course we can attach asterisks to certain socio-political movements (e.g. Nazism, Communism etc.) which rely on the tolerance of the typical Western-style democracy (and in the case of the U.S., the tolerance entrenched in its Constitution), and use that tolerance to further their own brand of intolerance. As an example, note that a considerable percentage of U.S. Muslims support the idea of Shari’ah law as first an adjunct to, and then a replacement for the existing U.S. legislative system. And in the name of “tolerance”, or “cultural appreciation” (or whatever term liberals use to disguise “eventual submission”), we should allow such ideas to become not only acceptable, but accepted?

No.

Here’s a little thought for the Intolerants to ponder. Even our Constitution is not written in stone; it can be amended — admittedly with considerable difficulty —  but there is nothing to stop a majority of members of Congress, and a majority of states, from creating an amendment to the First Amendment which says, simply, “except for [Islam / Nazism / fill in your brand of intolerance].” Here’s an example of such an action, a funny one but still one that is absolutely possible:

Our “group” here in the United States is one which supports tolerance. But if you think for one moment that we are incapable of expelling an intolerant sub-group, think again.

One of us is going to have to change their outlook and philosophy, and we’ve probably changed ours enough — or too much (which is what I think). Beware of mistaking gentleness for weakness, of tolerance for submission. Start acting like citizens of the United States, accept the principles of our Constitution, or risk losing your place at the barbecue. It can happen. Pray that it doesn’t.

…And Here We Go Again, Again

From the Comments on my post about the alt-Right comes this:

Splendid Isolation indeed. Young white men today certainly won’t be enjoying any splendid isolation as they grow older. They’ll be lucky if they can find any isolation at all, splendid or not. And they won’t be staring vacantly off into space, their backs turned on a world they would rather ignore, choosing not to look at what they don’t want to see. No, reality will get in their face and force itself into their space, like it or not. Nor will they be getting any ice cream, shit-topped or not. They’ll be getting a full shit sandwich, courtesy of a system their fathers and grandfathers have either supported, acquiesced in, or “opposed” with little more than impotent whining. And if you want to know who they really hate, it’s not blacks or even Jews, but smug, clueless boomers who claim to be fighting for truth and justice, for Western Civilization and against liberalism, but who reserve their utmost condemnation for the only movement that speaks for them and their interests. And I say that as a boomer myself. If you want to argue against the Alt-Right, you should deal with the actual positions they hold and arguments they make, rather than with the strawman caricature you’ve constructed only to demolish. Countercurrents and the writings of Greg Johnson are a good place to start.

I get it: I don’t know what I’m talking about, because I just haven’t studied the issue enough, or haven’t read this or that which explains it perfectly.

Here’s the beauty of age: you recognize silliness when you see it, because you’ve seen it so many times before at first hand. Add a small dose of historical perspective (such as I possess), and it’s clear that you don’t need to eat a whole egg to know that it’s rotten. People who try to justify silliness like the alt-Right are like the vicar in Punch magazine, talking about eating a rotten boiled egg: “I assure you, parts of it are excellent!”

The good part of splendid isolation is that I get to pick who my allies are, and like I said: I know who you are, I know your philosophy, I know where you’re heading, and I want no part of you.

And one last thing: if you think I’m reserving my utmost condemnation for the alt-Right, then you’re not too familiar with my writings. You probably missed the one, for example, where I suggested that I’d like to tie Senator Ted Kennedy to a chair and beat  him to death with a lead pipe. Or maybe it was Chuck Schumer… there are so many options when it comes to liberals. Compared to pricks like them, the alt-Right gets barely a mention.

You see, Mr. Expatriot, I’ve been hating liberals since before most of the alt-Right were born, and I don’t need to get lectured by some suddenly-aware Baby Boomer about the evils of liberalism and socialism and where they’re taking us. There is an answer to this problem, and the alt-Right ain’t it.

Of Passing Interest Only

As one who quit watching network TV shows in about 1990 and has barely watched anything since, I’m not really qualified to pass comment on many of the shows that have been renewed / canceled for the upcoming season. Nevertheless, while The Mrs. was going through her invalid stage she did watch some shows, and as I was generally in the room with her, some stray bits of video have stuck in my brain and allowed me to make at least a few superficial judgments on the ones of which I do remember seeing the occasional snippet. In no specific order, here they are.

Grey’s Anatomy lost my interest in about the third episode of its first season, when it became clear that it was a combination of Black- and female wet dreams (unsurprisingly, as the show’s writer is — ta-da! — a Black woman). I know that most entertainment requires a suspension of disbelief, but seriously? A hospital in Seattle with a Black chief surgeon (as opposed to Jewish or, even more likely, Chinese)? Ha ha ha ha… considering that in just about every hospital in the United States, the highest Black executive is generally someone like the Benefits Administrator, HR Director or some similar bureaucratic fonctionnaire, the Anatomy Hospital is such an unrealistic construct that it might as well be on Mars. Ditto the various couplings and characters: McSteamy and McDreamy? One can only imagine the furor had the main female characters been nicknamed McTitty and McVaggie by the male cast. What a load of shit. And a final comment: in the episode where a disgruntled man takes a gun and starts systematically shooting doctors, was I the only one who made a mental promise never to go unarmed into a hospital again? (On a personal note: Ellen Pompeo is a dead ringer for one of my long-ago girlfriends — coincidentally, a nurse — which made watching the show an interesting experience for me, to say the least.)

Bones: I think Emily Deschanel is one of the most beautiful women ever to be on TV (despite being a liberal vegan nutcase in real life), and her character was wonderful: the outspoken and nearly autistic brilliant forensic scientist whose unbending logic made her paradoxically all the more human. Also, the same logic made her a gun owner — I have no idea how that little quirk made it through the network’s GFW (gun-fearing wussy, for my New Readers) editorial committees. The real mistake came when the male and female stars got married — the same mistake made in Castle and Moonlighting — which took away all the sexual tension of the show.

Grimm remains the only modern TV show I’ve ever stayed home to watch. As any fule kno, I detest the fantasy genre whether books, movies or whatever, but the premise of Grimm, plus its brilliant cinematography completely captured me. I did lose interest when the show created a grand story arc involving Austrian princes and such — the weekly episodes of catching various (and wonderfully-named) monsters was more than enough for me — so I lost interest after about the third season, something which I find myself doing for just about every TV show, incidentally, when the show’s premise is generally fulfilled and the writers have to jump the shark to keep it interesting.

I’m glad that Blue Bloods has been renewed, even though I don’t watch it anymore (another casualty of Kim’s Season Three syndrome). The conservative, religious and pro-law enforcement slant of the show makes a refreshing change from the usual liberal crap.

The renewal of Law & Order: SVU keeps the exquisite Mariska Hargitay on TV (she’s Emily Deschanel’s only real competition, beauty-wise), which is just fine by me even though I haven’t watched the show in years. The only other Law & Order show I watched — and that, compulsively — was the series which featured the brilliant Vincent D’Onofrio as the tortured, driven detective who eventually falls apart because of the continuous horrors of his job. Absolute genius, both the writing and D’Onofrio’s performance.

Finally, just to prove how irredeemably out-of-touch I am with modern culture as it pertains to TV: I’ve never watched a single episode of The Simpsons all the way through, ditto South Park (the latter because I can’t understand a single word the characters say).

I have watched every episode of the espionage satire Archer, however, because I love all the characters, and especially Sterling Archer himself. Archer‘s very first episode nearly caused me to pee my pants, I was laughing so hard, and the shows since have seldom faltered in that regard. No other TV cartoon show has ever featured characters and scenes such as the samples below:

,..and let it henceforth be known that I have a massive crush on Sterling’s mother, Mallory Archer:

One last thought: please don’t recommend any of your favorite TV shows to me: watching TV is so peripheral and inconsequential an activity in my life that I probably won’t take you up on it. If I’m going to watch any TV at all, it’ll be Formula 1 Grand Prix, English football (Chelsea wins the league!), international cricket and the occasional major golf tournament. Oh, and the Men’s Championship match at Wimbledon. Other than those, you’re more likely catch me at the range instead.

The Pursuit Of Happiness

The problem with “happiness” is not just that it’s a personal issue: it’s largely an unresolved personal issue. As individuals, if asked whether we’re happy, we might just say “Yes” without really thinking about it. Then we think about it — not always a Good Thing, by the way — and might realize that we’re not really happy, because someone else seems happier than we are, therefore we’re not as happy as we could be.

Worse still, we think we’re somehow entitled to happiness. We aren’t. Here’s writer Tom Utley:

“If you think of life as a series of duties — and of happiness as an undeserved blessing, rather than a right — you are likely to be much happier than if you think happiness is yours by right.”

He’s absolutely correct. If we think about it — this time, a Good Thing — we can come to realize that performance of that series of duties brings its own happiness: not the joyous ecstasy kind of happiness (which I think too many people seek, thinking it’s the ideal), but the quiet contentment of a job done to the best of one’s ability.

Raising children is an excellent example of one kind of duty which, when performed properly, brings to the parents not just satisfaction of a job well done, but a profound sense of contentment, nay even joy.

Yet we live in times when almost all the leaders of Western Europe are childless, and have never experienced that joy. When they have never held their own child in their arms, watched them walk unsteadily across the room, or marveled as that child does something remarkable, is it any wonder that such people are beset with inner conflict and ignorance of what most people need to be happy?

I’m not suggesting that bearing children is the sine qua non of happiness, of course; yet it would be foolish to ignore that fact that as procreation and survival of the species are so deeply ingrained in the genetic code, that the individual’s success in the accomplishment of so basic, so elemental a need must surely bring at least a foundation of happiness to a man or woman?

And that’s just one of the “series of duties” of which Utley speaks. There are many more — a man’s duty to provide for his family, a woman’s duty to look after her children, a duty to protect the family from harm, a duty to protect one’s community from harm, a duty to provide support to one’s true friends… the list goes on and on, and the beauty of all these duties is that they are largely self-generated, and the fulfillment thereof creates a different happiness for each individual.

There is no universal definition of happiness. Happiness is how each individual defines it and where he chooses to find it. I would take this even further: that when we are unhappy, it’s often because we have allowed other people to define the terms of our happiness, and allowed them to dictate where we may find it.

To end this little thought, take a look at this picture:

It’s a very old one of a family picnic, taken in a simpler era — sometime in the early 1950s, I think —  but as simple as the activity is portrayed, I defy anyone to deny that at this particular moment, every single person in that picnic is unbearably happy. It may not last, and probably won’t: the father may have problems at work the next day, the wife may have some household accident, one of the little girls may get bullied at school the next day, whatever. But at this particular moment in time, there is happiness. Moreover, it is happiness that hasn’t been mandated or defined by any authority or even by society; it is happiness that didn’t need to be pursued, only found.

May your happiness, may all your happinesses be that simple, and enjoyable.

Synchronicity

I think it was Jung who coined that word to describe a sequence of seemingly-unrelated events which concatenate and produce what seems an almost inevitable, unstoppable outcome. When it’s only two events, of course, we call it “coincidence”.

So after yesterday’s post about expensive watches, I opened the Daily Mail to be greeted with this headline: “Why the new arm candy’s on your WRIST“…

Vanessa Redgrave recently admitted hers is one of her most treasured possessions. Nicole Kidman’s, meanwhile, is so rare there are only a handful in the world.
Exclusive designer handbags dangling from the arms of A-listers are no longer catching our eye — they’ve been forgotten in favour of something rather more sparkly, not to mention elitist: a luxury watch.
Now that almost everyone is walking around with smartphones, and their built-in clocks, watches may not be the everyday essential they once were.
But with price-tags stretching to £250,000, straps of gold and alligator skin and diamond-crusted faces, these tickers are more status symbols than timepieces.
‘Watches have become much more of a statement than handbags because of their elitist prices,’ says Gabrielle Teare, a celebrity personal shopper and stylist based in London.

For the celebrities, meanwhile, a truly showstopping piece offers them the chance to show off their status — and how much top brands want to dress them — without looking as fussy and overdone as they would dripping in diamonds.
You wouldn’t wear £50,000 of jewellery on a trip to the shops, but you can easily get away with a watch that costs just as much and still look dressed down. It’s a sure way for celebs to raise their profile, particularly if the brand in question decides to return the favour by publicising the star’s allegiance to its famous name.

That’s me, all right: right at the spear point of fashion (for the first time in my life).

Oh gawd… just when I thought it was safe to wear a decent watch on one’s wrist… the fucking celebrities and luvvies have taken it over. Gah. It’s enough to make one wear a frigging Timex, or a discreet “pocket” (okay, belt-) watch like this one of mine, quite easily the unsexiest watch ever made:

Anything to avoid being trendy…

Dinner Guest Extraordinaire

Whenever I get to play the game of “Name the people you’d like to have over for dinner,” I always enjoy other people’s choices, even though many of them would make me leave the house screaming rather than sit at a table with them. Over the years, of course, my own list has changed as my tastes have changed, or as I’ve encountered or read about people who, in my opinion, would make excellent guests at a dinner table. The people I’d want to have over for dinner, it seems, are always temporary members of my list.

Except for one.

My permanent guest is none other than the late David Niven, the classy actor (Academy Award-winner), legendary seducer of women, (anonymous) war hero and peerless raconteur. 

I’d always enjoyed his acting, even though Niven’s golden years were long before I was born. But what turned me into a fan were his memoirs, The Moon’s A Balloon and his stories of old Hollywood, Bring On The Empty Horses. Both are wonderfully written, both are fine insights to Hollywood’s Golden Age, both are in turn side-splittingly funny and dreadfully poignant, and I have both in hardback. They are among the very few books that I never lend out.

I’m not going to do a potted biography of the man here — there’s a workable bio at Wikipedia, and of course his biography Niv (which I haven’t read because I don’t need to).

Then there are his movies — countless dozens of them — which bear witness to his (self-deprecating) talent. If you want a recommendation, try Separate Tables (for his Oscar-winning performance), or Stairway To Heaven (my favorite of his work, a.k.a. A Matter Of Life And Death). None of his movies are on Netflix, which alone is enough to make me cancel my subscription.

Niven is not a household name anymore, certainly not in America, and that’s a shame, because he embodies just about every quality which goes to make a Real Man (despite being an actor): he was intelligent, witty, charming, well-read, resourceful and brave. (The last comes from knowing that during WWII, he served in the Commandos and the “Phantom” unit — which, typically, Niven never spoke about, and would just change the subject when pressed for details.)

Oh, and here are but two of his many conquests, the exquisite Loretta Young:

…and the kittenish Paulette Goddard:

…neither of which he ever boasted about, of course.

So if you have a rainy afternoon with nothing to do, grab a whisky and copy of The Moon’s A Balloon, and settle in for a wonderful time. There’s no need to thank me; it’s all part of the service.

I just wish I’d known him in person.