As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.
Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces. — Gerard Manley Hopkins, via Weekly Standard
That time Thomas Edison electrocuted an elephant to smear Westinghouse
The Once Great City of Havana -
The fund-raiser drew hundreds of attendees, including many of the city’s political elite, allowing for the awkward collision of the Democratic powers-that-be and the strident, anti-establishment rhetoric of some of the event’s speech-makers. Chris Shelton, a vice president with the Communication Workers of America, urged the attendees noshing on brie cheese to join a “revolution” against the “bankers, billionaire and brokers of Wall Street. — Lulzy news story in the Observer
Ever watch the ending of “The Wild Bunch” and think, ‘suppressing Kronstadt or the Vendee was probably even more fun’? At the end of “Braveheart,” did you think, ‘Whatever the history says, William Wallace being a neoconfederate, he should have been castrated, flayed, and kept alive until a confession is extracted, because structural Anglophobia is real and these messages need to be reinforced.’ I think Jonathan Chait has:
I understand it not merely as the greatest film about slavery ever made, as it has been widely hailed, but a film more broadly about race. Its sublimated themes, as I understand them, identify the core social and political fissures that define the American racial divide to this day. To identify 12 Years a Slave as merely a story about slavery is to miss what makes race the furious and often pathological subtext of American politics in the Obama era.
He goes on to dissect a column by longtime Washington Times editorialist-turned-Alabama congressional candidate Quin Hillyer, whom he doesn’t think is racist (Hillyer worked against David Duke) but he thinks repeats a lot of racially charged tropes about Obama.
White supremacy, to Chait as with most similarly-minded liberals, is a pervasive, subtle and miasmatic “residue,” (his word) embedded in all sorts of nondeliberate and subconscious contexts. And to the degree that it can be interrogated and rooted out, I’m all for that.
But I think Chait would admit that the vast majority of art that attempts to tackle race is extraordinarily self-conscious about it. As evidence, witness the changes to the original Solomon Northup story, and the previous screenplay, both of which are more or less the same, just far shorter on the brutal violence:
12 Years A Slave is a remake. What’s more, the original television film was directed by the celebrated Gordon Parks. Why no one seems to remember this is a mystery to me, yet all too typical of what I’ll call media amnesia. It first aired on PBS in 1984 as Solomon Northup’s Odyssey, reached a wider audience the following year when it was repeated as an installment of American Playhouse, and made its video debut under the title Half Slave, Half Free.
Steve Sailer digs up a portion of Northup’s ghostwritten memoir that undercuts the portrayal in this year’s movie of Northup as a bourgeois pillar of the community:
"Though always in comfortable circumstances, we had not prospered. The society and associations at that world-renowned watering place (Saratoga, the home of American horseracing), were not calculated to preserve the simple habits of industry and economy to which I had been accustomed, but, on the contrary, to substitute others in their stead, tending to shiftlessness and extravagance.”
In McQueen’s often baffling movie, this upper-middle-class family man suddenly decides to run off to join the circus with two fast-talking white men without even leaving a note for his wife. While dining in an elegant Washington, DC restaurant with his new friends, he suddenly takes ill (perhaps from being slipped a Mickey Finn) and wakes up in chains.
I saw the movie and enjoyed it, but it’s full of distortions like this: Solomon Northup speaks like Cicero, all slaveowners are Calvin Candie sadists, and so forth. The best one can say is that it’s a very, very pious take on Northup’s memoir.
Consider Chait’s outsized praise in comparison to the suspicious, if not outright hostile coverage of “Copperhead” — a view Alyssa Rosenberg helpfully summed up before she even saw the movie. (My interview with the screenwriter and director here.)
What explains the suspicion, if Rosenberg and Chait agree that “Copperhead” is not a racist film?
To sympathize with Ron Maxwell’s subjects, and to be skeptical of the pious mythmaking of “12 Years a Slave,” is to violate the egalitarian dogma to which Chait subscribes. Race is part of it, but it’s not the only part.
It’s as if they want a chance to (re)play the part of emancipators.
Edit: Sonny Bunch on this whole stupid thing
… with all the new pieces on neoreaction lately
On meeting Alexander Solzhenitsyn in Soviet Russia -
From Open Letters Monthly
Every correspondent in Moscow wanted to be the first to find Solzhenitsyn after he won the Nobel Prize in 1970. Michael Johson had that honor - but the great Russian writer wasn’t altogether pleased so see him.
I then inquired whether Alexander Solzhenitsyn was living there. “I have never heard the name,” she said, “but there’s a man with a beard living in the garage over there,” pointing to the outbuilding across the property. Hmmm, we thought. A beard. Could it be him?
We thanked the maid and set out across the snow-covered lawn to the garage. More imported building materials and a cement mixer littered the driveway. I approached the door and knocked a few times. When no one responded, I called out “Alexander Isayevich?”. A pause of a few seconds ensued, then came a piercing voice, none too inviting, “Kto eto?” (“Who’s there?”) I replied that we were foreign journalists from Moscow who had come to congratulate him on his Nobel Prize.
The door burst open and we were transfixed by this little man with a magnificent head of reddish hair that spread down his face into a bushy beard. He gave us the once over with his beady blue eyes. We recognized him immediately from photographs as the author of a series of literary masterpieces, all banned in Russia. When he was satisfied in his own mind that we were not KGB operatives in disguise, he confirmed his identity.
Solzhenitsyn spoke rapidly, like a man with a lot on his mind, in a strange, high-pitched voice. I started by asking him for his reaction to being selected for the Nobel (probably some inane question such as “How does it feel?”). He avoided the question, perhaps dreading headlines around the world that might make his situation even more difficult.
He replied that he regretted he could not invite us into his humble quarters because he was a guest himself in the apartment owned by Rostropovich. It seemed like a poor excuse to turn us away but we understood the real reason.
We could see inside that he was housed in a partially completed apartment being constructed inside the garage. The danger that this represented for Rostropovich — harboring an outspoken critic of the regime — was not lost upon us. Both of these men were heroic figures willing to risk their liberty, perhaps their lives, to speak out for human rights in Russia. Since 1966, when a show trial sentenced two writers to hard labor in the gulag, most Soviet intellectuals had kept their liberal views to themselves.
The conversation that followed was brief and to the point. Solzhenitsyn confirmed that he knew about the prize but felt he could not comment on it because his host was away.
Sensitive types can, of course, have a dark side of self-indulgence and evasion of responsibility — and if you doubt that, try reading a biography of E.E. Cummings. On the other hand, his Romanticism saved him from several of the intellectual mistakes of the age. Just as his generation was falling for the Soviet Union, Cummings visited the place and saw straight through it. And the only thing he loathed more than Communism was the belief-now known as scientism-that the supreme kind of knowledge comes from scientific measurement. It was for others to show why this is bad science and worse philosophy. Cummings just launched himself against it, armed with love, gratitude and sheer contempt. As far as he was concerned, a flower in springtime, a kiss, a newborn child are each intrinsically more valuable and interesting than every scientific investigation put together. — Daniel Hitchens, “Both Ancient and Avant-Garde”
Saw this marvelous 1934 photo of Thomas Mann by Edward Steichen at the Phillips Collection today.