Quotulatiousness

January 27, 2015

“Well, I certainly didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition…”

Filed under: Britain, Humour, Media, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Shakespeare’s tender treatment of Catholicism

Filed under: Britain, History, Media, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

David Warren explains how he deduced that William Shakespeare was probably a Catholic:

Long before I became a Catholic, I realized that Shakespeare was one: as Catholic as so many of the nobles, artists, musicians and composers at the Court of Bad Queen Bess. I did not come to this conclusion because some secret Recusant document had fallen into my hands; or because I subscribed to any silly acrostic an over-ingenious scholar had descried, woven into a patch of otherwise harmless verses. My view came rather from reading the plays. The Histories especially, to start: which also helped form my reactionary politics, contributing powerfully to my contempt for mobs, and the demons who lead them. But with improvements of age, I now see an unmistakably Catholic “worldview” written into every scene that is indisputably from Shakespeare’s hand. (This recent piece by another lifelong Shakespeare addict — here — will spare me a paragraph or twenty.)

That our Bard came from Warwickshire, to where he returned after tiring of his big-city career, tells us plenty to start. The county, as much of Lancashire, Yorkshire, the West Country, and some other parts of England, remained all but impenetrable to Protestant agents and hitmen, well into Shakespeare’s time. Warwick’s better houses were tunnelled through with priest holes; and through Eamon Duffy and other “revisionist” historians we are beginning to recover knowledge of much that was papered over by the old Protestant and Statist propaganda. The story of Shakespeare’s own “lost years” (especially 1585–92) has been plausibly reconstructed; documentary evidence has been coming to light that was not expected before. Yet even in the eighteenth century, the editor Edmond Malone had his hands on nearly irrefutable evidence of the underground commitments of Shakespeare’s father, John; and we always knew the Hathaways were papists. Efforts to challenge such forthright evidence, or to deny its significance, are as old as the same hills.

But again, “documents” mean little to me, unless they can decisively clinch a point, as they now seem to be doing. Even so, people will continue to believe what they want to believe. In Wiki and like sources one will often find the most telling research dismissed, without examination, with a remark such as, “Against the trend of current scholarship.”

That “trend” consists of “scholars” who are not acquainted with the Bible (to which Shakespeare alludes on every page); have no knowledge of the religious controversies of the age, or what was at stake in them; show only a superficial comprehension of the Shakespearian “texts” they pretend to expound; assume the playwright is an agnostic because they are; and suffer from other debilities incumbent upon being all-round drooling malicious idiots.

Perhaps I could have put that more charitably. But I think it describes “the trend of current scholarship” well enough.

Now here is where the case becomes complicated. As something of a courtier himself, in later years under royal patronage, Shakespeare would have fit right into a Court environment in which candles and crucifixes were diligently maintained, the clergy were cap’d, coped, and surpliced, the cult of the saints was still alive, and outwardly even though Elizabeth was Queen, little had changed from the reign of Queen Mary.

The politics were immensely complicated; we might get into them some day. The point to take here is that the persecution of Catholics was happening not inside, but outside that Court. Inside, practising Catholics were relatively safe, so long as they did not make spectacles of themselves; and those not wishing to be hanged drawn and quartered, generally did not. It was outside that Queen Elizabeth walked her political tightrope, above murderously contending populist factions. She found herself appeasing a Calvinist constituency for which she had no sympathy, yet which had become the main threat to her rule, displacing previous Catholic conspirators both real and imagined. Quite apart from the bloodshed, those were interesting times, in every part of which we must look for motives to immediate context, before anywhere else. Eliza could be a ruthless, even fiendish power politician; but she was also an extremely well-educated woman, and in her tastes, a pupil of the old school.

Indeed the Puritans frequently suspected their Queen, despite her own Protestant protestations, of being a closet Catholic; and suspected her successor King James even more. A large part of the Catholic persecution in England was occasioned by the need to appease this “Arab spring” mob, concentrated in the capital city. Their bloodlust required human victims. The Queen and then her successor did their best to maintain, through English Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, the mediaeval Catholic inheritance, while throwing such sop to the wolves as the farcical “Articles of Religion.”

The question is not whether Shakespeare was one of the many secretly “card-carrying” Catholics. I think he probably was, on the face of the evidence, but that is a secondary matter. It is rather what Shakespeare wrote that is important. His private life is largely unrecoverable, but what he believed, and demonstrated, through the media of his plays and poems, remains freely available. He articulates an unambiguously Catholic view of human life in the Creation, and it is this that is worth exploring. The poetry (in both plays and poems) can be enjoyed, to some degree, and the dramatic element in itself, even if gentle reader has not twigged to this, just as Mozart can be enjoyed by those who know nothing about music. But to begin to understand as astute an author as was ever born, and to gain the benefit from what he can teach — his full benevolent genius — one must make room for his mind.

Maddy Prior’s “The Sovereign Prince”

Filed under: Britain, History, Media — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

Lyrics:

The mariner is sailing
Sailing across the sea
Seeking out the enemy
Bringing spices back home to me

Spanish gold for the taking
At the harbour of Cadiz
Their fleet they left a-blazing
On the Ocean bed, stone cold, her cannons lie

Eldorado lies a shimmering
Shimmering like a mirage
Luring the merchant venturers
On a brutal grim and overlong voyage

Treasure laden galleons
Lemons, melons and quince
Strange exotic cargo
Gift and garlands fit for the Prince

And Gloriana rules with a woman’s wiles
Plays the coquette with politics and smiles
A computer for a brain in the body of a child
All temper and guile

And the girls on the beach
They are lying out of reach
They rub oil on their skins
And roll in the sand of hated Spain

And the girls in sidewalk bars
Drink their coffee, smoke their cigars
And laugh at the waiting maid
Who covers afraid of the Prince

And Gloriana in stiff starched lace
With pearls in her hair and thunder on her face
Screams with rage: Has God left this place?
There’s no God in this place

And the girls on the phone
Ring collect when they call home
And talk inconsequent
Will pass in a moment a thousand miles

And the girls in the airport lounge
Are awaiting the tannoy sound
For the flight to Brazil
With a couple of weeks to kill in the sun

And Gloriana so harsh and chaste
The soldier in her breast is raging at the waste
Of Victories lost and battles left unfaced
For want of such haste

And the girls in high-strapped shoes
With a tan they never lose
Wear the cross of gold
In memory of stories told in Sunday School

And the girls without the Church
Leave their lovers in the church
But seldom sleep alone
And think no more of Rome than a tourist town

And Gloriana sits slumped on the throne
Her head in her hands is weeping alone
Dreaming of the past and times that are gone
Dreams of time to come

And the mariner is sailing
Sailing across the sea
Seeking out the enemy
Bringing spices back home to me

Bring me my scallops shell of quiet
My staff of faith to walk upon
My scrip of joy, immortal diet
My bottle of salvation
My Gown of glory, hopes true gauge
And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage

(Raleigh)

January 26, 2015

Al Stewart performs “Year of the Cat” at the Royal Albert Hall

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 25 Sep 2014

On October 15, 2013 Al Stewart performed his classic “Year Of The Cat” album in its entirety for the first time ever in London at the Royal Albert Hall, with a band containing many of the musicians who played on the original recording.

Here is Al performing the title song with original band members Peter White (piano, musical director), Tim Renwick (el gtr), Stuart Elliott (drums) and Phil Kenzie (alto sax)- along with Mark Griffiths (bass), Dave Nachmanoff (gtr) and Joe Becket (perc).

January 25, 2015

QotD: TED

Filed under: Business, Media, Quotations, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Take the curious phenomenon of the TED talk. TED – Technology, Entertainment, Design – is a global lecture circuit propagating “ideas worth spreading”. It is huge. Half a billion people have watched the 1,600 TED talks that are now online. Yet the talks are almost parochially American. Some are good but too many are blatant hard sells and quite a few are just daft. All of them lay claim to the future; this is another futurology land-grab, this time globalised and internet-enabled.

Benjamin Bratton, a professor of visual arts at the University of California, San Diego, has an astrophysicist friend who made a pitch to a potential donor of research funds. The pitch was excellent but he failed to get the money because, as the donor put it, “You know what, I’m gonna pass because I just don’t feel inspired … you should be more like Malcolm Gladwell.” Gladwellism – the hard sell of a big theme supported by dubious, incoherent but dramatically presented evidence – is the primary TED style. Is this, wondered Bratton, the basis on which the future should be planned? To its credit, TED had the good grace to let him give a virulently anti-TED talk to make his case. “I submit,” he told the assembled geeks, “that astrophysics run on the model of American Idol is a recipe for civilisational disaster.”

Bratton is not anti-futurology like me; rather, he is against simple-minded futurology. He thinks the TED style evades awkward complexities and evokes a future in which, somehow, everything will be changed by technology and yet the same. The geeks will still be living their laid-back California lifestyle because that will not be affected by the radical social and political implications of the very technology they plan to impose on societies and states. This is a naive, very local vision of heaven in which everybody drinks beer and plays baseball and the sun always shines.

The reality, as the revelations of the National Security Agency’s near-universal surveillance show, is that technology is just as likely to unleash hell as any other human enterprise. But the primary TED faith is that the future is good simply because it is the future; not being the present or the past is seen as an intrinsic virtue.

Bryan Appleyard, “Why futurologists are always wrong – and why we should be sceptical of techno-utopians: From predicting AI within 20 years to mass-starvation in the 1970s, those who foretell the future often come close to doomsday preachers”, New Statesman, 2014-04-10.

January 24, 2015

Hey, young’uns? Wanna feel old? It’s over 20 years since Nirvana’s last concert

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

At risk of alienating some of my younger friends — it’s already more than two decades since Nirvana’s final concert:

Yes, it’s been over 20 years now since Nirvana played their last show, and if you’re old enough to have been there, go ahead and take a moment of silence to mourn your lost youth. Given the relative paucity of raw, authentic-sounding guitar rock these days, it’s tempting to romanticize the nineties as halcyon days, but that kind of nostalgia should be tempered by an honest accounting of the tedious flood of grunge-like also-rans the corporate labels released upon us after Nirvana’s mainstream success. In a certain sense, the demise of that band and death of its leader marks the end of so-called “alternative” rock (whatever that meant) as a genuine alternative. After Nirvana, a deluge of growly, angsty, and not especially listenable bands took over the airwaves and festival circuits. Before them — well, if you don’t know, ask your once-hip aunts and uncles.

30,000 lbs of Bananas live

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

January 22, 2015

Rickspeak, end of season edition

Filed under: Football, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

The Daily Norseman‘s Ted Glover goes into another deep trance to help explain to the masses (that’s us) just what the heck Vikings general manager Rick Spielman was really saying in his end-of-season talk with the local Minneapolis/St. Paul sports media:

Spielman met with the local Vikings beat writers on Wednesday, and covered a wide range of topics, from Adrian Peterson, to everything else. So, what did he say?

Well, you know it’s not what he said … it’s what he meant. And how do we know what he really meant?*

It’s simple.** You just need to know how to read between the lines and interpret accordingly.***

*We have no idea what he really meant

**It’s not simple, because I’m making everything up. And making this up is hard, man. So freaking hard.

***Again, there’s no reading between the lines. If I could read minds, dude, I’d use that power for evil and rule the world. Let’s all be thankful I’m just an idiot with a keyboard instead.

So, thanks to the local beat guys, we bring you Rickspeak, the post season edition. What Rick was actually quoted as saying will be first, and then our ridiculously satiric and completely made up interpretation* will follow.

*Or is it completely made up? (Yes. Yes it is.)

January 21, 2015

Al Stewart, Lord Grenville, Royal Albert Hall October 15th 2013

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 25 Oct 2013

Al Stewart, Lord Grenville, Royal Albert Hall October 15th 2013

From the Facebook page:

You simply don’t want to miss Al Stewart with a full band, led by musical director Peter White, at the Royal Albert Hall in London – 16 May & the second night, 22 May 2015. They added the second night due to the high demand for tickets. They’ll perform the albums “Past Present & Future” and “Year of the Cat” in their entirety. Grab those tickets now.

January 20, 2015

Mark Knopfler on twenty musical milestones

Filed under: Media — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

Mark Knopfler talks to Paul Sexton about some significant way markers in his life and career:

2. On how his love of guitars developed as a boy:
“I knew what the Fender catalogue smelt like, what the grain of paper was like, I wanted this thing so badly. I was always in trouble at school. I would be making metallic noises at the back of the class and playing ‘Wipeout’ runs on my desktop”

3. On his first guitar, a twin pick-up Höfner V2:
“I managed to get my dad to buy that, bless him. It cost him 50 quid, which was a big stretch for him. I didn’t have the nerve then to ask him for an amplifier, so I used to borrow friends’ acoustic guitars. Looking back, they were pretty bad, pretty often, but I learned to play on them”

4. On teaching himself to play:
“I learned to fingerpick on acoustic guitars, and playing with a flat pick on the electric, so I had that sort of dual education. Being self-taught, you can really go off in the wrong direction for years. It’s a guitar teacher’s nightmare”

[…]

16. On playing the old Dire Straits hits:
“People will always want you to play songs from the songbook, that’s part of what you’re doing playing live. You’ve got to please yourself, but at the same time it’s a celebration. You’re all there to have a good time together. I enjoyed writing the songs, I enjoyed recording them so I’m going to enjoy playing them. If I get up there and play ‘Romeo & Juliet’ or ‘Brothers In Arms,’ it’s because I want to play them. It’s important to me that it’s important to people, that you’ve created milestones in people’s lives”

QotD: Neuroscientific claims

Filed under: Media, Quotations, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

One last futurological, land-grabbing fad of the moment remains to be dealt with: neuroscience. It is certainly true that scanners, nanoprobes and supercomputers seem to be offering us a way to invade human consciousness, the final frontier of the scientific enterprise. Unfortunately, those leading us across this frontier are dangerously unclear about the meaning of the word “scientific”.

Neuroscientists now routinely make claims that are far beyond their competence, often prefaced by the words “We have found that …” The two most common of these claims are that the conscious self is a illusion and there is no such thing as free will. “As a neuroscientist,” Professor Patrick Haggard of University College London has said, “you’ve got to be a determinist. There are physical laws, which the electrical and chemical events in the brain obey. Under identical circumstances, you couldn’t have done otherwise; there’s no ‘I’ which can say ‘I want to do otherwise’.”

The first of these claims is easily dismissed – if the self is an illusion, who is being deluded? The second has not been established scientifically – all the evidence on which the claim is made is either dubious or misinterpreted – nor could it be established, because none of the scientists seems to be fully aware of the complexities of definition involved. In any case, the self and free will are foundational elements of all our discourse and that includes science. Eliminate them from your life if you like but, by doing so, you place yourself outside human society. You will, if you are serious about this displacement, not be understood. You will, in short, be a zombie.

Bryan Appleyard, “Why futurologists are always wrong – and why we should be sceptical of techno-utopians: From predicting AI within 20 years to mass-starvation in the 1970s, those who foretell the future often come close to doomsday preachers”, New Statesman, 2014-04-10.

January 18, 2015

The Origins of Spinal Tap

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

From Open Culture, the original clip that got the Spinal Tap movie greenlighted:

When This is Spinal Tap came out over 30 years ago, it went over a lot of people’s heads. “Everybody thought it was a real band,” recalled director Rob Reiner. “Everyone said, ‘Why would you make a movie about a band that no one has heard of?’”

It’s hard to believe that lines like “You can’t dust for vomit” failed to come off as anything but a joke. But, to be fair, Hollywood comedies were generally straight-forward affairs in the ‘80s. Think Blues Brothers or Fletch. Fake documentaries weren’t a thing. And This is Spinal Tap looks and feels exactly like a rock documentary – the hagiographic voiceover, the shaky camera, the awkward interviews. The movie was just as unscripted as rock docs like Don’t Look Back, The Song Remains the Same and The Kids Are All Right. The film is not only a parody of the generally overblown silliness of rock and roll, it is also, as Newsweek’s David Ansen notes, “a satire of the documentary form itself, complete with perfectly faded clips from old TV shows of the band in its mod and flower-child incarnations.”

January 17, 2015

If anything, Blade Runner was too optimistic

Filed under: China, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:20

Joey DeVilla posted a few images comparing the dystopian future envisioned in Blade Runner with the modern cityscape of Beijing:

Click to embiggenate

Click to embiggenate

The crowded, dirty Los Angeles of 2019 featured in the 1982 film Blade Runner looks rather pristine compared to the real-life Beijing of 2015.

Still nothing to see here, folks, just move along now…

Filed under: Europe, Law, Media, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

David Warren expresses his surprise at the news of police raids in Europe:

“Two die in Belgian anti-terror raid.” … The headline is from the BBC website, yesterday, but these keywords could be found in breaking-news headlines all across Europe. (I checked.)

Gentle reader must have been wondering, who is it this time? The Buddhists, perhaps? (Mahayana or Theravada?) Jains? Angry rampaging Hindu swamis? Prim Confucians? Taoist anarchists? What about the Zoroastrians, we haven’t heard from them in a while. But it might be the Lutherans, no? Or the Presbyterians? Pentecostals more likely, or Fundamentalist Christians from Allah-bama. Hey wait, Belgium used to be a Catholic country, perhaps they were Latin Mass traditionalists? SSPiXies? Dominican monks? Third Order Franciscans? On the other hand, Secular Humanists would be statistically more likely. Wiccans? Druids? Nudists? Maybe we should bet long-shot on Animists of some sort, from the former Belgian Congo. Or from New Guinea: could be, you never know these days.

Well, the answer caught everyone by surprise. Turned out they were Muslims.

As some wag in Washington recently responded, to another “religion of peace” muttering from on high: “How odd that so many are killing for it.”

A correspondent in Alexandria-by-Egypt reminds of Christians slaughtered and churches trashed in his town not so long ago, after rumours circulated that a Coptic priest had said, “Islam is a violent religion.” Turned out he hadn’t said that. But whatever it was, he won’t be saying it again.

The media have thoughtfully spared us from reports of demonstrations in the Muslim world in support of recent actions in Paris, which involved the “execution” of several French cartoonists who had drawn vile, blasphemous pictures of their Prophet Jesus, and his Mother Mary. Also, of the Prophet Muhammad. The media don’t want to abet prejudice against any particular religious community; and Islam is quite particular.

January 16, 2015

Dressing up as a North Korean general is racist … even if you’re Korean

Filed under: Asia, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Margaret Cho gets into hot water with the perpetually offended for dressing up as a North Korean general:

Korean-American comedian Margaret Cho did an impression of a North Korean general at the Golden Globes that many on Liberal Twitter attacked as racist because apparently not even people of Korean descent are allowed to make fun of Kim Jong Un.

In one of many jokes aimed at the recent Sony cyber-hack, Cho wore a Korean general costume and made fun of the lack of spectacle at the event:

“You no have thousand baby playing guitar at the same time. You no have people holding up many card to make one big picture,” she said in a thick accent. “You no have Dennis Rodman.”

Predictably, people went nuts.

The Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner said Cho was “like, totes racist.” Time deputy tech editor Alex Fitzpatrick questioned how anyone could have seen the bit as anything but “broadly racist.” The International Business Times managing editor called the decision to allow it a “bad call.” And that’s just to name a few.

Cho defended herself, tweeting: “I’m of mixed North/South Korean descent — you imprison, starve and brainwash my people you get made fun of by me #hatersgonhate.”

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