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The Silence of the Lambs and the Problem of Evil

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From Shakespeare’s Macbeth to modern serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer (1960 – 1994), history and literature has been filled with stories of savage and inhuman evil. Those acts of evil that have most captured our imaginations have been those committed out of resentment, sexual frustration, ideology, or religious belief.

Carl Panzram’s (1891 – 1930) murderous rampage was fuelled by the resentment he felt over the poor treatment he had experienced as a child. The Neo-Nazi and Marquis De Sade devotee, Ian Brady (1938 – 2017) murdered five people with his girlfriend, Myra Hindley (1942 – 2002). Ted Bundy (1946 – 1989) expressed his dark fantasies by raping and murdering dozens of young women. And Richard Ramirez (1960 – 2013) presided over a sixteen-month reign of terror, was dubbed “the Night Stalker”, and claimed to worship Satan.

The 1991 film, The Silence of the Lambs explores the dark corners of the human psyche from which such evil emerges. Its two principle antagonists, Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) and Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), are motivated to commit their crimes for purely psychological reasons. They are not motivated by money or power or sex.

Hannibal Lecter and Buffalo Bill are able to rationalise their behaviour because they do not see their victims as human beings. Since they are both materialists (that pernicious philosophy that supposes all phenomena is composed of material elements and material interacts), they fail to see the spirit infused within the flesh and bone of a human being. It never occurs to them that there may be more to their victims than just their corporeal form.

Buffalo Bill mistakenly believes himself to be transgender. In reality, years of systematic abuse has made him hate his own identity. And because he is a materialist, he has come to believe that he can change his identity by fashioning the skin of his female victims. He believes that he can possess the power he perceives women to have because, in his mind, all there is to being a woman is having breasts and long hair.

Hannibal Lecter doesn’t believer in the human spirit, either. As a psychiatrist and an intellectual, he is driven by an incessant need to consume people on an intellectual level. Once he has finished consuming them intellectually, he kills them so he can consume them physically.

Lecter is the modern intellectual par excellence. However, his appreciation of the intellectual and the aesthetic are rendered insufficient by his lack of warmth and humanity. As the crime novelist, Andrew Klavan (1954 – ) wrote in City Journal:

“The name Hannibal Lecter implies – as the fictional killer’s behaviour illustrates – that the modern intellectual (lector means “reader” in Latin) has become, like Hannibal of old, a threat to Western civilisation.”

Stories of evil have captivated the human imagination ever since our ancestors began telling stories. The Silence of the Lambs reveals the limitations of the materialist philosophy and highlights the evil that it can create. As a consequence, it has joined a great pantheon of stories by standing as a testament of what happens we reduce mankind down to mere flesh and bone.

Stop Getting Bond Wrong: A Review of Never Say Never Again

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Fans of the James Bond film series remember 1983 as the year that brought two James Bond movies to the silver screen. The so-called “Battle of the Bonds” pitched the official EON Produced Octopussy against the unofficial Thunderball remake, Never Say Never Again. But aside from the obvious contest between Sean Connery and Roger Moore, how should Never Say Never Again be regarded?

Fundamentally, Never Say Never Again ought to be compared to its contemporaries. By the late-seventies, early-eighties, the quality of the Bond films had become inconsistent. EON seemed incapable of deciding whether they wanted to produce thrillers or action comedies. Thus, for every The Spy Who Loved Me, there was a Moonraker.

None of this is to say that Never Say Never Again is a good movie. Ultimately, it is an average movie – and a bad James Bond movie. Part of the problem is that the film cannot decide whether it wants to be a “Bond” movie or not. There are clear attempts to emulate the official Bond series. Bond asks for a “vodka martini, shaken not stirred”, Lani Hall’s song “Never Say Never Again” replaces the traditional title song, and it is hard not to see the superimposed “007” logo at the start of the movie as anything less than a substitute for a gun-barrel.

The film’s plot is average, at best. Never Say Never Again’s plot mirrors that of Thunderball. Bond is sent to track down the whereabouts two nuclear bombs stolen by SPECTRE. Along the way he encounters the beautiful Domino, a femme fatale in the form of Fatima Blush, and the psychotic Maximilian Largo. There is plenty of sex and violence, and the film ends with Bond recovering the bombs and saving the day.

Despite making some minor improvements, Never Say Never Again fails to live up to its source material – both literary and cinematic. The film is filled with the kind of ridiculous shenanigans that could make Moore’s adventures so unbearable for fans of the Connery era. It is not possible to alter your eye to match someone else’s. Not now, and certainly not in 1983. The sequence with the remote-control sharks pushes the suspension of disbelief beyond breaking point. And Bond’s presence in the Bahamas serves absolutely no purpose.

Most of the film’s characters are boring and one-dimensional. James Bond (Sean Connery) is presented as a veteran character ravished by time (and an extremely poor lifestyle). But even this isn’t wholly original. Both For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy had leant into Roger Moore’s advancing years. The difference was that Moore’s Bond was presented as an elder stateman: a wiser, more dignified man who mostly pursues relationships with age-appropriate women. Connery’s elder Bond is merely an older version of Connery’s younger Bond, just with greyer hair.

The film’s most interesting character is its villain, Maximillian Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer). Largo is a man who appears personable, even charming, on the surface. This affable facade, however, hides the psychotic individual lurking just beneath the surface. The film critic, Roger Ebert praised Brandauer’s decision not to turn Largo into a cliché. It is a compliment I largely agree with. Brandauer’s sense of subtle evil is far more menacing that Adolfo Celli’s Emilio Largo in Thunderball.

After Largo, the film’s most interesting character is Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera). She is a manic psychopath – a Class A lunatic who dances in joy after she’s killed people, keeps snakes as pets, and pursues Largo as a romantic interest. Even then, Fatima Blush does not possess the same level of nuanced malevolence that Thunderball’s Fiona Volpe possessed. Blush may not be Lady Macbeth, but she’s certainly fun to watch.

By contrast, the most boring character in the movie is Domino Petachi (Kim Basinger). The only thing that defines her as a human being is her troubled relationship with Largo (which is handled better here than in Thunderball). Their relationship is defined by Largo’s possessiveness and punctuated by his pathological bouts of paranoid jealousy. He refers to her as his possession and even tells her that he will kill her if she tries to leave him.

The biggest downfall of the film, however, is that it represents a missed opportunity. Those who watch the film know they are not getting a regular James Bond movie. The film’s director, Kevin McClory could have used this as justification to do something original with James Bond. He could have revived the danger, conviction, and sex appeal of the original films by making Never Say Never Again more ruthlessly violent and sexually explicit. McClory could have chosen to produce a film along the lines of From Russia with Love or The Day of the Jackal. Instead he chose to produce a bland James Bond movie.

I’m Done with Modern Movies

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For the life of me, I cannot remember the last time I saw a contemporary movie that was memorable in any way. Despite having access to both television and Netflix, I have found it virtually impossible to find a movie that I actually thought was worth watching.

It would be wrong, however, to lay the entirety of the blame on either mainstream television or Netflix. (Although it is entirely fair to argue that the litany of rubbish offered by television is a symptom of a dying medium). Rather, it is indicative of a problem that has pervaded the entire filmmaking industry. Modern filmmakers appear to be content with making defective movies. Movies that feature predictable stories, two-dimensional characters, and an over-reliance on visual effects.

This was not always the case. For years Hollywood was known for producing great, culture-defining films. The classical period of American cinema (which lasted from the 1930s to the 1960s) produced films like Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, and Ben Hur, among many, many others.

Similarly, the 1960s and 1970s saw a renaissance in film as filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and many others reinvented and reinvigorated motion picture. This became the era that produced films like the Godfather, the French Connection, and the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Hollywood’s total lack of artistic brilliance has been caused by three problems: the lack of originality, the lack of artistic merit, and the saturation of progressive politics in the industry.

Modern Movies Lack Originality

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The most conspicuous problem inflicting Hollywood today is a total lack of originality. Neither their stories nor their characters appear to have any originality or depth whatsoever. Most films today are either remakes, reboots, sequels, are based on comic books, or are about superheroes. Now there is nothing wrong with these films in and of themselves, but when every single movie made is one of these five things, it starts to get a little tiresome.

The problem doesn’t stop at just narrative, either. Modern film characters are often two-dimensional and, as a result, rather dull. They are mouthpieces for certain ideological beliefs and are therefore often presented in entirely black or white terms. The problem with this, of course, is that people in real life are usually complicated. They make mistakes, hold contradictory views, and often behave in irrational ways. One would never see an obvious racist like Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) in The Searchers or Jett Rink (James Dean) in Giant. These characters, though they reflect real life, are just too politically incorrect, too human to be presented in any real or sympathetic manner.

A lot of this comes from the travesty that was Star Wars and the litany of ‘blockbuster’ movies it left in its wake. Taken on its own merits, Star Wars is an excellent movie. However, it convinced Hollywood’s film producers that they should devote more time and money to producing shallow, unsophisticated movies that movies of genuine depth and meaning.

Big blockbuster movies are all well and good, but I am an adult and I would like to see movies with a certain level of maturity.

Modern Movies Lack Artistic Merit

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The next glaring problem (though it is one that many people without a knowledge of film or film history would fail to notice) is the total lack of artistic merit in modern filmmaking. The films of the past often prided themselves on their creative and technical brilliance. Modern filmmakers, by contrast, seem more than happy to rest on their laurels and make easy cliched movies.

With the possible exception of Martin Scorsese’s, The Aviator, I cannot remember the last time I saw a movie that made me marvel at its cinematography or that had a score which riled my spirit. I can, however, remember classic movies that managed to do all those things and more. I can remember marvelling at the cinematography in Lawrence of Arabia and sitting in awe of the chariot race – which utilised real stuntmen – in Ben Hur.

Modern filmmakers seem content with spending all their time and money on hey-wow visual effects and completely neglect the most important elements of film: story and character. As a consequence, they cheat their audience by offering sub-par films.

Modern filmmakers rely on visual effects because it is easier than trying to create compelling storylines and memorable characters. They choose to rely on computer-generated-imagery and blue screen because it is easier and safer (cowards) than using real stuntmen and practical effects.

The problem with all this is that the audience knows it’s being cheated. The car chase in Bullit looked so realistic was because, well, it was realistic. It used real cars driven by real people on real streets. A lot of modern movies, by contrast, look fake because, well, they are fake.

Modern Movies are Left-Wing Propaganda

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The third problem, and the one most egregious, is that Hollywood has become a propaganda outlet for progressive politics. They produce films that are so ideologically driven that one can virtually predict everything that is going to happen before it occurs. And, much like people who have been ideologically possessed, these films tend to be so boring they’re not worth wasting your time on.

The fact that Hollywood has become infected with ideologically possessed, far-left individuals is, to some extent, understandable. Filmmaking is an enterprise that attracts highly creative people who, for the most part, tend to be on the political left. The problem, rather, lies in the fact that all the films Hollywood now produces carry a left-wing bias.

Hollywood has become an echo chamber in which “woke” vies are communicated and no other views are allowed to get in. Those associated with the movies compete at the Oscars and at the Academy Awards to see who can be the most virtuous. And they criticise and demean anyone who doesn’t agree with them. They are like Marie Antoinette saying “let them eat cake” as the peasants starve to death in the streets. They are completely out of touch.

The problem with the films being produced today is that their left-wing bias has made them completely shallow and totally predictable.

No, Masculinity is Not a Problem

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The War on Masculinity is intensifying. Just a few weeks ago, the American Psychological Association released Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men, a far-left, neo-Marxist inspired document that essentially aims to stigmatise masculinity.

The APA’s guidelines are filled with anti-masculine ideas and opinions. It is designed, so the APA tells us, to aid mental health professionals in their dealings with boys and men. Masculine ideology, the APA claims, is a “set of descriptive, prescriptive, and proscriptive of cognitions about boys and men. Although there are differences in masculine ideologies, there is constellation or stands that had held sway over large segments of the population including anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence.” They claim that the research had revealed that “traditional masculinity – marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, aggression – is, on the whole, harmful.”

The first guideline states that psychologists should “strive to recognise that masculinities are constructed based on social, cultural, and contextual norms.” According to the guidelines, “traditional masculinity ideology can be viewed as the dominant form of masculinity that strongly influences what members of a culture take as normative.”

From this, it is evident that the APA has bought into the social constructivist philosophy. The authors deny any natural – whether it be biological, chemical, or otherwise – basis for gender. Rather than defining masculinity as an independent entity in and of itself (which would be to acknowledge that it is largely universal), the APA has instead decided to use the term ‘masculinities’ to “acknowledge the various conceptions of masculine gender roles associated with an intersection of multiple identities.” They implore psychologists to “understand the complex role of masculinity in boys and men” and inform them that it is “critical to acknowledge that gender is a non-binary construct.”

The second guideline states that “psychologists [should] strive to recognise that boys and men integrate multiple aspects of their social identities across their lifespan.” Aspects of identity, according to the guidelines, include age, race, gender, class, ethnicity, spirituality, immigrant status, ability, and sexual orientation. Everything is the product of social influence. Even gender development in unborn children is caused by the “expectations that parents and other significant adults have for how a boy should be treated and how he should behave.” After birth the indoctrination continues:

“Boys (and girls) begin to make distinctions between males and females during infancy and increasingly assign certain meanings to being male based on their gender socialisation experiences. Over time, a boy’s gender identity becomes crystallised and exerts a greater influence on his behaviour. By the time he reaches adulthood, a man will tend to demonstrate behaviours as prescribed by his ethnicity, culture, and different constructions of masculinity.”

The third guideline states: “psychologists [should] understand the impact of power, privilege, and sexism on the development of boys and men and on their relationship with others.” The guidelines state that:

“Although privilege has not applied to all boys and men in equal measure, in the aggregate, males experience a greater degree of social and economic power than girls and women in a patriarchal society. However, men who benefit from their social power are also confined by system-level policies and practices as well as individual-level psychological resources necessary to maintain male privilege. Thus, male privilege often comes with a cost in form of adherence to sexist ideologies designed to maintain male power that also restricts men’s ability to function adaptability.”

And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, the APA takes it one step further by claiming that men are deeply ingrained with sexist attitudes purely because they are men. “Although the majority of young men may not identify explicitly with sexist beliefs”, they argue, “for some men, sexism may become deeply ingrained in their construction of masculinity.”

The fourth guideline states that “psychologists strive to develop a comprehensive understanding of the factors that influence interpersonal relationships of boys and men.” Despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary, the APA places the blame for the male proclivity towards promiscuity squarely at the feet of culture rather than nature.

Needless to say, I stand steadfastly opposed to these guidelines and the insidious philosophies that have inspired them. As Toby Young of The Spectator rightly observed, these guidelines will affect the lives of boys and men for years to come. These guidelines will be used by education institutions, the American justice system, the medical system, and human resources departments for years to come. (And, mark my words, it’s only a matter of time before something similar makes its way to Australia). I concur with Young when he writes that these guidelines suggest that it is the “ethical duty of psychologists, as well as parents, teachers, coaches, religious and community leaders, to root out these masculine pathologies and help men become… well, less manly.”

The entire APA’s guidelines are imbued with the post-modern, feminist, identity politics ideologies of the social-justice left. From the opening paragraph, the influence of neo-Marxist philosophy is strongly evident. Rather than treating individuals and their problems on an individual basis as psychologists are supposed to do, the APA is advocating a collectivist approach to people and their problems. Those who are white, Christian, and male are accused of having unearned social privilege.  The introductory paragraph states that the way a man’s masculine identity intersects with his race, ethnicity, culture, migratory status, class, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and religious belief. And they claim that all this creates both positive and negative psychological, behavioural, and relational health outcomes.

These views, of course, are contradictory. In the opening paragraph, the APA writes:

“Although boys and men, as a group, hold privilege and power based on gender, they also demonstrate disproportionate rates of receiving harsh discipline (e.g. suspension of expulsion), academic challenges (i.e. dropping out of school, particularly among African American and Latino boys), mental health issues (e.g. completed suicide), physical health problems (e.g. cardiovascular problems), public health concerns (e.g. violence, substance abuse, incarceration, and early mortality), and a wide variety of other quality-of-life issues (e.g. relational problems, family well-being).”

On the one hand, the APA accuses men of benefiting from their unearned social privilege. On the other hand, they also accuse men of being the victims of their own masculinity.

I believe there are two reasons why this is happening. First, western civilisation has lost faith in the masculine ideal. Masculinity has been reduced to a negative caricature. Masculinity is no longer symbolised by the heroes of folklore and mythology or by the father figure of yesteryear. Rather it has reduced to a beer-swilling, sloppy, unintelligent Neanderthal. Male sexuality has been stigmatised as predatory, male aggression is seen as primitive, and competition between men has been characterised as evil (presumably because it marginalises lesser men).

Second, certain social movements – feminism, in particular – have produced a culture that psychologically emasculates men and boys by stigmatising traditional masculinity. These social movements see men as predatory and have therefore taken the logical step of emasculating them to make the world as a safer place.

And this cultural shift has had a negative impact on young men. It has produced a crisis which has seen many young men drop of out of society and turn their backs of meaningful employment, sex, or relationships. These young men have instead decided to feel their lives with escapist and expedient pursuits. Video games may be fun, but they are not a substitute to achievement in the real world. Masturbating to pornography may provide brief sexual pleasure, but it is a rather inadequate substitute for a real relationship with a real woman. It is not good for a society to have its young men forego personal responsibility and genuine achievement so easily.

Men’s problems do not come from an overabundance of masculine ideology, but rather from a lack of genuine masculine virtue. In a society plagued by fatherlessness, many young men lack the male role models to teach them how to be good men. These men have turned to the culture to find their male role models and find that a superhero, action star, or rapper is a poor substitute to the presence of a real father in their lives. And then they find themselves trapped in a society that punishes them for their virtues.

The remedy to the problems men face is not the denigration of masculinity, but to encourage men to develop masculine virtues by embracing personal responsibility. Wisdom, bravery, integrity, and self-restraint are the best antidotes to the toxic aspects of masculinity. A prudent society will provide a young man or boy with positive male role models who exude positive masculine virtues, these men will include his father, older brothers, sports coaches, scout leaders, and male mentors, in addition to the heroes of film and literature. Society needs to encourage men to be the best they can, not punish them for their virtues.

OUR OBSESSION OVER FOOD IS RIDICULOUS

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Sometimes a civilisation can become so sophisticated that it believes it can overcome truth. We have become one of those civilisations. As a consequence of our arrogance, we have come to believe that we can circumvent some of the most fundamental truths about reality. We blame inequality on the social structure even though most social animals live in hierarchies. We believe that primitive people are noble even though mankind in its primitive state is more violent than at any other stage. And we believe that we can change the way human beings eat despite the fact that it is making us unhappy.

It is our modern obsession over diet and exercise that I would like to focus on. This obsession has arisen from a society that is too safe, too free, and too prosperous for its own good. This is not to say that safety, freedom, and prosperity are bad things. Indeed, we should get down on our knees and thank God every day that we live in a country that has these things. However, it is also true that too much safety, freedom, and prosperity breeds passivity and complacency. The hardships our ancestors faced – war, poverty, disease – are no longer problems for us. Therefore, we lack the meaning that these hardships bring to our life. As a result, we have come to invent problems. Among these has been a tendency to render the consumption of certain food as something unhealthy, unethical, or both.

Our modern obsession with food is causing significant personal problems. On the one hand, the ease in which food, especially that which is laden with sugar, is causing a rise in cases of obesity. (Note: I am using the word ‘obesity’ as a blanket term for people who are overweight). It is a uniquely modern problem. Our ancestors never battled weight gain because they were only able to find or afford enough food to keep them and their families from starving. Now the quantity, cheapness, and, in many cases, poor quality of food means that the fattest amongst are also often the poorest. But obesity is less a problem that arises out of food and more of a problem arising from laziness and gluttony. (Naturally, I am excluding health problems and genetic disorders from this conclusion).

On the other hand, however, our obsession over being skinny or muscle-bound is also causing problems. I have seen plenty of people who are clearly overweight. In rare cases, I have even seen people who are so morbidly obese that it can only be described as breathtaking. However, I have also seen women (and it primarily women, by the way) who can only be described as unnaturally thin. It is as though our society, having realised that being overweight is healthy, has decided that its opposite must be good. It isn’t. Just right is just right.

And it’s not just individuals who are subjecting themselves to this kind of self-imposed torture. And it’s not limited to people in the here and now, either. In 1998, The Independent reported that many doctors in the United Kingdom were concerned that well-meaning parents were unintentionally starving their children to death by feeding them low fat, low sugar diets. These children were said to be suffering from the effects of “muesli-belt nutrition.” They had become malnourished because either they or their parents had maintained had become obsessed with maintaining a low-fat, low-sugar, low-salt diet. The article reported: “Malnutrition, once associated with slums, is said to have become an increasing problem for middle-class families in the past fifteen years. The victim of so-called ‘muesli-belt nutrition’ are at risk of stunted growth, anaemia, learning difficulties, heart disease and diabetes.”

Our obsession over diet is really a sign of how well-off our society is. Our ancestors had neither the time nor the resources to adhere to the kind of crazy-strict diets that modern people, in their infinite stupidity, decide to subject themselves to. It is high time we stopped obsessing over food and got a grip.

HOLLYWOOD STEPS OUT

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There is more to life than just politics. And in the spirit of such a sentiment, this article will take a light-hearted focus on an aspect of popular culture. In specific, it will examine the stars, personalities, and faces that are featured in the 1941 Merrie Melodies cartoon, Hollywood Steps Out.

The cartoon takes place in Ciro’s Nightclub, which is located from 1940 to 1957 on Sunset Boulevard. A neon sign ironically advertises a meal for $50.00 (US$860.00 in today’s money). The first two stars we see are Claudette Colbert (1903 – 1996), famous for playing sophisticated women in light-hearted comedies and emotional dramas, and Don Ameche (1908 – 1993), a film and radio personality who played debonair men. Seated behind them are Adolphe Menjou (1890 – 1963) and Norma Shearer (1902 – 1983), who played spunky and sexually liberated women.

The first interaction occurs between Cary Grant (1904 – 1986), iconic for playing debonair leading men, and the Swedish-American film star, Greta Garbo (1905 – 1990), who is acting as the cigarette girl.

In the next scene, we are introduced to Edward G. Robinson (1893 – 1973), who rose to fame playing gangsters in films like Little Caesar, talking to Ann Sheridan (1915 – 1967). Robinson makes reference to the fact that Sheridan had been voted the actress with the most “oomph” by asking her how her “oomph” is.

The cartoon then pans across a series of tables. At the first table is Henry Binder and Leon Schlesinger (1884 – 1949), both of whom were Warner Brothers staffers. The next three tables are empty. The first is reserved for Bette Davis (1908 – 1989), famous for playing unsympathetic, sardonic characters. The second is reserved for Kate Smith (1907 – 1986), the corpulent American signer. The third is reserved for the cast of Blondie, a radio sitcom that ran from 1939 to 1950. Finally, a fire hydrant has been reserved for Daisy the Dog.

The cartoon then takes us to the cloaking room. Johnny Weissmuller (1904 – 1984), an Olympic swimming champion best known for playing Tarzan (the famous Tarzan yell is his), hands Paulette Goddard (1910 – 1990), a former Ziegfeld girl and film star, his coat. Following Weissmuller is the burlesque dancer, Sally Rand (1904 – 1979). Rand hands Goddard her famous feathers and leaves, presumably naked.

At the bar sits James Cagney (1899 – 1986), famous for playing gangsters, Humphrey Bogart (1899 – 1957), famous for playing cynical and hardboiled characters in film noir pictures, and George Raft (1901 – 1980), also famous for playing gangsters. They are depicted drinking, planning a crime, and pitching pennies.

Harpo Marx (1888 – 1964), the famous prankster of the Marx Brothers, is seen lighting a match under Greta Garbo’s feet.

Next, Clark Gable (1901 – 1960), the undisputed King of Hollywood and star of films like Gone with the Wind, is depicted sitting alone at a table.

Bing Crosby (1903 – 1977), a famous crooner known for songs like “White Christmas, introduces the composer Leopold Stokowski (1882 – 1977) as the evening’s entertainment. Stokowski was best known for his work on Disney’s Fantasia.

In the restaurant, Dorothy Lamour (1914 – 1986), an actress and singer, asks James Stewart (1908 – 1997), known for playing shy, everyman characters, if he would dance with her. Stewart runs away after seeing Lamour dance and leaves behind a sign saying, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (a reference to one of Stewart’s films).

Several famous stars are depicted on the dance floor. Tyrone Power (1914 – 1958), known for playing swashbuckling and romantic leads, dances with the Olympic champion figure skater and film star, Sonja Hennie (1912 – 1969). Frankenstein is depicted dancing mechanically. The Three Stooges, one of the most iconic slapstick comedy groups of all time, poke and slap each other in rhythm. Oliver Hardy (1892 – 1957), the fatter half of the Laurel and Hardy comedy duo, dances with two women at the same time. Finally, Caesar Romero (1907 – 1994), dances with Rita Hayworth (1918 – 1987), star of films like Gilda.

Mickey Rooney (1920 – 2014), who found fame playing Andy Hardy, and Judy Garland (1922 – 1969), a notable singer, dancer, vaudevillian, and film star best remembered for playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Rooney asks Lewis Stone (1879 – 1953), an American character actor, if he can have a “heart to heart talk” with him.

For the next performance, Crosby introduces Sally Rand (he introduces her as Sally Strand, no doubt for legal reasons) and her famous bubble dance. The radio personality and bandleader, Kay Kyser (1905 – 1985), calls to his students. These are William Powell (1892 – 1984), known for playing debonair men, Spencer Tracy (1900 – 1967), known for his natural style and versatility, Ronald Colman (1891 – 1958), Errol Flynn (1909 – 1959), the Australian-American film star famous for playing swashbuckling heroes, Wallace Beery (1885 – 1949), and the English cricketer and film star, C. Aubrey Smith (1863 – 1948).

The Austro-Hungarian born actor, Peter Lorre (1904 – 1964), known for playing creepy and cowardly characters, is depicted sitting at a table by himself. Henry Fonda (1907 – 1982), known for playing characters brimming with heroic integrity, sits at the next table. The voice that calls out “Hen-ree” is a reference to Alice Aldrich of the Aldrich family. Finally, J. Edgar Hoover (1895 – 1972), the legendary first director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is depicted repeating “g” over and over again.

At the next table is Boris Karloff (1887 – 1972), most famous for playing Frankenstein, Arthur Treacher (1894 – 1975), a comedian best known for playing stereotypical Englishmen, Buster Keaton (1895 – 1966), a silent-era comedian who legendary status is bettered only by Charlie Chaplin (1889 – 1977), and the Russian-American film star, Mischa Auer (1905 – 1967).  The man who asks them if they are enjoying themselves is Ned Sparks (1883 – 1957), a Canadian character actor known for playing serious characters.

At the next table is Jerry Colonna (1904 – 1986), a well-known musician and comedian, sitting with the invisible man. Finally, the woman Clark Gable has spent the entire cartoon chasing is revealed to be none other than Groucho Marx (1890 – 1977).

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE MID-TERMS

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So, the midterms are finally over. For months, those of us who like to watch American politics were expecting an epic to the death struggle that would vindicate the winner and devastate the loser.

But, as the Fates would have it, that is not what happened. At the time this article was written, the Democrats held 225 seats in the House of Representatives compared to the Republicans 197 seats (with thirteen seats still to be decided). And in the Senate, the Republicans held 51 seats to the Democrats 44 (with two seats being held by other parties and with four still undecided).

What we got was less an Alien versus Predator fight to the death and something more akin to two schoolboys getting into a schoolyard brawl with each claiming victory because they’d managed to bloody the other’s nose.

For months we’d been told that the Democrats would end up dominating both the House of Representatives and the Senate as the American people voiced their disapproval of the Trump Presidency. But that didn’t happen either. The Republicans may have lost their majority in the House of Representatives (and, indeed, many moderate Republicans did not do so well), they managed to gain a definitive majority in the Senate.

As Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House Press Secretary put it: “anybody that was anticipating a blue wave tonight’s not going to get it.”

Several factors played a role in determining the outcome of the election.

The first thing to note is that the results of the election were not a signal of approval for far-left Democratic policies. It was moderate Democrats who won seats, not radically progressive ones. This would suggest that as many Americans reject radical identity politics as those who feel dissatisfied with the Trump Presidency. And it would suggest that the Democrat’s best strategy for winning the next Presidential election is to put forward a moderate candidate with a moderate platform.

The second thing to note is that the Republican’s triumph in the Senate had as much do with demographics as it did with politics. The electoral map made Democratic Senate seats more vulnerable than Republican ones. That said, however, it also turns out that the Democrats failed to take advantage of an advantageous news cycle. Had they nominated more moderate candidates rather than radically progressive ones they would have found themselves a lot more successful.

The third thing to note is that voter motivation played an enormous role in determining the outcome of the election. One of the reasons the Republicans lost the House of Representatives was because the Democrats were more motivated to vote than they were.

Actually, this was recognised early on. Bill Stepien, the political director for the White House, urged President Trump to motivate his base by making the election a referendum on his own performance. Clearly, Stepien recognised that President Trump has a special talent for rallying his supporters. And, as the Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro noted, every district Trump visited ended up voting Republican.

The fourth things to note is that the Democrats managed to do better in the suburbs than the Republicans did. The Democrats managed to win suburbs all the way from the eastern seaboard to Nevada and even managed to expand into Houston, Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Richmond. As Liesl Hickey, the executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2014, said “Republicans have lost the suburbs. I don’t know if they’ve lost them forever, but we’ve definitely lost them for now.”

That the outcome of the midterms will have political implications should be obvious to everyone. On the negative side, a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives will make it difficult for the Republicans to enact their legislative agenda over the next two years. It puts Trump’s immigration and economic policies in danger. It puts his administration’s goal to build a border wall, deregulate business, and cut taxes in jeopardy.

But, on the more positive side, however, the outcome of the midterms may inspire more transparency from the Executive as President Trump negotiates trade deals with Japan and the European Union. And as much a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives puts the Republican agenda in jeopardy, a Republican-controlled Senate creates a roadblock for the progressive agenda indicative in the Democrat’s more radical policies.

And there are the long-term implication, as well. The Republican’s control of the Senate will make it difficult for the Democrat’s to gain control over it in 2020. However, it also revealed the necessity for the Republican Party to expand its conservative base, especially in lieu of the 2020 Presidential election. In the 2000, 2004, and 2016 Presidential elections, a switch of only 150,000 votes would have nullified all of them.

The midterm election resulted in a victory for neither the Democrats nor the Republicans. It did not deliver the much-prophesied blue wave for the Democrats and it didn’t allow the Republicans to retain control of Congress. What the midterms produced was a balanced, moderate Congress. The manner in which people choose to interpret the results of this election will depend largely upon their political orientation. Both Democrats and Republicans have the choice to see the results as either a triumph or a defeat. And exactly how they react will determine how well their party does at the next Presidential election.

Who knows what will happen at the next Presidential election. Two years can be a lifetime in politics.

 

REFERENCES:

1. https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/11/midterm-election-split-decision/
2. https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/11/republican-senate-control-frightens-democrats/
3. https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/10/16/17951596/kavanaugh-trump-senate-impeachment-avenatti-democrats-2020-supreme-court
4. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/07/opinion/democrats-midterms-house-senate.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fopinion&action=click&contentCollection=opinion&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=6&pgtype=sectionfront
5. https://www.nationalreview.com/news/republicans-win-senate-control-midterms/
6. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/11/07/trump-democrats-2018-elections-midterms-972254
7. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/11/07/please-stop-saying-red-wave-inside-democrats-takeover-of-the-house-222228
8. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/11/07/midterm-elections-2018-top-takeaways-970328
9. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/11/07/trump-2020-elections-campaign-968942
10. https://spectator.org/a-much-much-better-gop-night-than-had-been-forecast/
11. https://spectator.org/gop-knocks-off-four-senate-democrats/
12. https://spectator.org/florida-survives-category-5-liberalism/
13. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/take-it-from-this-conservative-republicans-disappointed-in-the-midterm-elections
14. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/christian-voters-were-key-in-gops-midterm-victories
15. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/editorials/blue-wave-turns-out-to-be-ordinary-election-rather-than-an-extraordinary-rebuke-to-trump
16. https://www.dailywire.com/news/38084/democrats-are-going-about-house-and-senate-popular-ashe-schow
17. https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/liz-peek-midterm-elections-prove-trumps-critics-still-underestimate-him-as-blue-wave-becomes-a-ripple?cmpid=NL_opinion
18. https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/midterm-elections-democrats-it-would-be-a-cataclysmic-error-to-make-pelosi-your-next-house-speaker?cmpid=NL_opinion
19. https://www.redstate.com/brandon_morse/2018/11/06/ted-cruz-defeats-beto-orourke-texas-stays-red/
20. https://hotair.com/archives/2018/11/07/midterm-result-push-2020
21. https://hotair.com/archives/2018/11/07/trump-dems-investigate-youll-find-works-ways/
22. https://finance.townhall.com/columnists/danieljmitchell/2018/11/07/five-takeaways-from-the-2018-elections-and-implications-for-liberty-n2535487?
23. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/polls-close-in-six-states-as-dems-look-for-telltale-signs-of-potential-blue-wave
24. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election/democrats-aim-to-restrain-trump-after-seizing-u-s-house-idUSKCN1NB1CW
25. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election/democrats-aim-to-restrain-trump-after-seizing-u-s-house-idUSKCN1NB1CW
26. https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2018/11/07/donald-trump-defends-big-victory-for-republicans-in-midterm-elections/
27. https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2018/11/06/live-updates-2018-midterm-election-results/
28. https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2018/11/07/republicans-make-senate-gains-as-america-rejects-gun-control-again/
29. https://www.dailywire.com/news/38075/klavan-democrat-voters-explain-were-stupid-and-andrew-klavan
30. https://www.dailywire.com/news/38089/8-big-takeaways-midterm-elections-ben-shapiro

Television and Culture

pessoas-assistindo-tv-na-dc3a9cada-de-1950

“She’s television generation, she learnt life from Bugs Bunny” muses William Holden in Network, as he confesses his affair with a younger woman to his long-suffering wife. Love it or hate it, television has shaped the way we see the world. And it has been used for years to engineer social change.

It is because of their values that the left has come to dominate the culture. While conservatives value objective facts, those on the left value narrative. This is an important distinction. People develop their worldview based on the stories they are told, not the facts that are presented to them. And while conservatives choose to focus on facts, the left is creating the narrative references that define the world we live in.

As a consequence, left-wing assumptions have come to dominate film and television. And, by extension, it is these assumptions that create the parameters for public discourse. It was through the positive depiction of gay characters in shows like Will and Grace that homosexual relationships came to be more widely accepted. It would be difficult to argue that such depictions played no role in the public’s acceptance of gay marriage. Today shows like Orange is the New Black presents sympathetic transgender characters in an attempt to engineer public acceptance of transgenderism.  The left produces television shows and movies that are anti-capitalism, anti-Christian, and anti-West. Unfortunately, the right fails to produce television shows and movies in their defence.

The left embeds its messages through seemingly innocuous narratives and likeable characters. Otherwise morally reprehensible and disagreeable characters are presented in a sympathetic light. By doing this, the creators of these characters are able to coax us into accepting things we otherwise would not. Max Black, one of the protagonists of Two Broke Girls, is a rude, unmotivated, and immoral drug and alcohol user, but she is presented to the audience as a positive role model for women.

Television’s primary power lies in the fact that it allows individuals and organisations to manipulate images, facts, and stories to suit their own purposes. It is through the distortion of facts, impelling narratives, and the creation of morally reprehensible yet sympathetic characters that those who control television have been able to manipulate the public. Whether or not this trend will continue with the advent of the internet is yet to be seen.

The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church

vatican1

Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, established His Church with a definitive structure. It is the duty of every Catholic to understand this hierarchy and how it helps Christ’s Church lead the faithful at both the local and overall level.

The most basic level of the Church is the local parish. This is where practising Catholics are baptised and confirmed, get married and have their funerals, attend weekly mass and receive the sacraments. Often the parish is named after Christ himself (Blessed Sacrament, Sacred Heart), the Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Mercy, Our Lady of Good Counsel), or a Saint.

After the parish, there is the diocese: an amalgamation of parishes controlled by a local Bishop. The Bishop of the diocese is seen as an authentic successor to the apostles and is not just an ambassador to the Pope. Following from the diocese is the archdiocese controlled by an Archbishop, and finally, the Catholic Church headed by Saint Peter’s successor, the Pope.

The order of precedence for the Catholic Church can be found here.

THE NIGHT WATCH

the_nightwatch_by_rembrandt

This week for our cultural article, we will be examining Rembrandt’s (1606 – 1669) 1642 painting, “The Night Watch.”

“The Night Watch” represents a style of painting that was unique to Holland and the northern Netherlands during the 17th century: the Schuttersstuk. Furthermore, Rembrandt’s rendition is, in and of itself, a highly original rendition in that it does not rely upon the typical rows of figures common to the style. Instead, Rembrandt’s painting featured animated subjects engaged in the various duties and responsibilities of the Civic Guard.

Painted using oils on a 142.9 by 172.0-inch canvas, “The Night Watch” is Rembrandt’s largest painting. Despite its title, the painting is actually set during the day. The reason the painting’s background looks so dark is that the varnish Rembrandt used darkened over the years. It was restored to its original glory in the 1940s, but the name “The Night Watch” stuck. On a side note, it is interesting to observe Rembrandt’s well-known use of the technique ‘chiaroscuror’ (Italian for ‘light-dark’) which uses light and dark to create dramatic contrasts and a sense of three-dimensionality.

Painted during the Dutch Golden Age, Rembrandt was commissioned to create the painting by the Kloveniersdolen – the guild hall of the Amsterdam Civic Guard Company of Musketeers. In the Netherlands, Civic Guardsmen were tasked with the defence of their cities, the maintenance of law and order, firefighting, and forming a strong presence during festivities and parades for visiting royalty. Each company of Civic Guardsmen had its own guild hall decorated, according to tradition, with group portraits of distinguished members. These portraits were designed to evoke a sense of affinity between the members of the company and asserted their power and status within the cities they protected.