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Wednesday, December 14, A.D. 2011

I recently learnt that Navis Pictures is making a film about the counter-revolutionary revolt in the Vendée, The War of the Vendee. Navis Pictures is a new, low budget production company that uses young actors to make films of interest to Roman Catholics. The other movie that they have made so far is Saint Bernadette of Lourdes.

I wish them well, though I harbor worries about “Christian ghetto cinema.” I have watched enough terrible footage of evangelical Protestant movies to know how quality may be sacrificed when one preaches to a choir undiscriminating in quality. Angry feminists [sic] have Lifetime, the melanically endowed have BET, and evangelical Protestants have TBN. Each of those stations features a sorry showcase of trite tripe because they aim no higher than the soulless satisfaction of pressing ideological buttons or feeding demographically relevant appetites. May the Latins not indulge in the same aesthetic pathea!

Navis Pictures has posted a preview for the Vendée film. For an amateurish production, it looks pretty good. However, when I watched the trailer, I kept thinking that this is the sort of film that would have been made had T.F.P. produced The Goonies:

Any work that shows the wicked sans-culottes as the scum that they really were is worthwhile to me. The film is due to be released in January in the year of our Lord 2012.

Moreover, you may wish to read Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s words delivered at the dedication of the memorial to the Vendée:

Mr. President of the General Council of the Vendée, Respected Vendéans:

Two thirds of a century ago, while still a boy, I read with admiration about the courageous and desperate uprising of the Vendée. But never could I have dreamed that in my later years I would have the honor of dedicating a memorial to the heroes and victims of that uprising.

Twenty decades have now passed, and throughout that period the Vendée uprising and its bloody suppression have been viewed in ever new ways, in France and elsewhere. Indeed, historical events are never fully understood in the heat of their own time, but only at a great distance, after a cooling of passions. For all too long, we did not want to hear or admit what cried out with the voices of those who perished, or were burned alive: that the peasants of a hard-working region, driven to the extremes of oppression and humiliation by a revolution supposedly carried out for their sake—that these peasants had risen up against the revolution!

That revolution brings out instincts of primordial barbarism, the sinister forces of envy, greed and hatred—this even its contemporaries could see all too well. They paid a terrible enough price for the mass psychosis of the day, when merely moderate behavior, or even the perception of such, already appeared to be a crime. But the twentieth century has done especially much to tarnish the romantic luster of revolution which still prevailed in the eighteenth century. As half-centuries and centuries have passed, people have learned from their own misfortunes that revolutions demolish the organic structures of society, disrupt the natural flow of life, destroy the best elements of the population and give free rein to the worst; that a revolution never brings prosperity to a nation, but benefits only a few shameless opportunists, while to the country as a whole it heralds countless deaths, widespread impoverishment, and, in the gravest cases, a long-lasting degeneration of the people.

The very word “revolution” (from the Latin revolvo) means “to roll back”, “to go back”, “to experience anew”, “to re-ignite”, or at best “to turn over”—hardly a promising list. Today, if the attribute “great” is ever attached to a revolution, this is done very cautiously, and not infrequently with much bitterness.

It is now better and better understood that the social improvements which we all so passionately desire can be achieved through normal evolutionary development—with immeasurably fewer losses and without all-encompassing decay. We must be able to improve, patiently, that which we have in any given “today.”

It would be vain to hope that revolution can improve human nature, yet your revolution, and especially our Russian Revolution, hoped for this very effect. The French Revolution unfolded under the banner of a self-contradictory and unrealizable slogan, “liberty, equality, fraternity.” But in the life of society, liberty, and equality are mutually exclusive, even hostile concepts. Liberty, by its very nature, undermines social equality, and equality suppresses liberty—for how else could it be attained? Fraternity, meanwhile, is of entirely different stock; in this instance it is merely a catchy addition to the slogan. True fraternity is achieved by means not social but spiritual. Furthermore, the ominous words “or death!” were added to the threefold slogan, effectively destroying its meaning.

I would not wish a “great revolution” upon any nation. Only the arrival of Thermidor prevented the eighteenth-century revolution from destroying France. But the revolution in Russia was not restrained by any Thermidor as it drove our people on the straight path to a bitter end, to an abyss, to the depths of ruin.

It is a pity that there is no one here today who could speak of the sufferings endured in the depths of China, Cambodia, or Vietnam, and could describe the price they had to pay for revolution.

One might have thought that the experience of the French revolution would have provided enough of a lesson for the rationalist builders of “the people’s happiness” in Russia. But no, the events in Russia were grimmer yet, and incomparably more enormous in scale. Lenin’s Communism and International Socialists studiously reenacted on the body of Russia many of the French revolution’s cruelest methods—only they possessed a much greater a more systematic level of organizational control than the Jacobins.

We had no Thermidor, but to our spiritual credit we did have our Vendée, in fact more than one. These were the large peasant uprisings: Tambov (1920-21), western Siberia (1921). We know of the following episode: Crowds of peasants in handmade shoes, armed with clubs and pitchforks, converged on Tambov, summoned by church bells in the surrounding villages—and were cut down by machine-gun fire. For eleven months the Tambov uprising held out, despite the Communists’ effort to crush it with armored trucks, armored trains, and airplanes, as well as by taking families of the rebels hostage. They were even preparing to use poison gas. The Cossacks, too—from the Ural, the Don, the Kuban, the Terek—met Bolshevism with intransigent resistance that finally drowned in the blood of genocide.

And so, in dedicating this memorial to your heroic Vendée, I see double in my mind’s eye—for I can also visualize the memorials which will one day rise in Russia, monuments to our Russian resistance against the onslaught of Communism and its atrocities.

We have all lived through the twentieth century, a century of terror, the chilling culmination of that Progress about which so many dreamed in the eighteenth century. And now, I think, more and more citizens of France, with increasing understanding and pride, will remember and value the resistance and the sacrifice of the Vendee.

Memory eternal, Alexander Isaevich! Memory eternal, Vendéen martyrs!

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, December 14, Anno Domini 2011
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Thursday, September 29, A.D. 2011
Up House

As we are both fans of Pixar’s Up, my brother Aaron notified me of a house that was built in Utah that replicates the film’s balloon carried home. Gizmodo features the curiosity: “Video Tour Inside the Up! House Looks Exactly Like the Real Thing.” We are a quirky people, indeed.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, September 29, Anno Domini 2011
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Friday, July 29, A.D. 2011
Captain America Responds to Julius Streicher

Last Saturday, I watched Captain America: the First Avenger at a beachside movie theater. What says summer more than sand, the Shore, and adolescent movies where good guys beat up bad guys in ever more imaginative ways? I never read comic books growing up, but I enjoy fantasy and morality tales where good conquers evil. Hollywood’s recent decade of bringing comics to the screen has therefore provided me with several opportunities to indulge in low brow entertainment, though my comic book ignorance probably keeps me from appreciating much of the films’ eye candy and allusions.

So far, The Dark Knight has been my favorite “superhero” movie, though the comic purists that I know dislike its departure from the DC Comics original. I would not know, but I love the movie’s portrayal of how the city relates to its savior. It is a creative instantiation for fanboys of The Republic, The Apology, and the gospel of Saint Mark. I also like its predecessor, Batman Begins, for producing the genre’s most admirable villain, Ra’s al Ghul, who delivers some delicious lines, including “Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society’s understanding.”

While Captain America lacks the script and depth of the “dark” Batman movies, it has a great look. Anything set in the 1930’s and 1940’s automatically has a style advantage. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was a rather stupid movie, but it satisfied us lovers of sights and sounds. Combine that sharp looking period with a good lead, competent direction, and a fun story, and you strike adventure gold with Indiana Jones.

Furthermore, the cast of Captain America does a fine job. Evans deftly plays the ideal American soldier—likeable, unassuming, fair, steadfast, loyal, and brave. This avatar of our national spirit artfully incarnates Americans’ obsession with power and superiority as well as our paradoxical commitment to the underdog. Steve Rogers cum Captain America satisfies both cultural desires, and Evans handles himself well blending and transitioning between both roles. Tommy Lee Jones and Hayley Atwell delight, too.

Another thing that I really like about the movie is the character Dr. Abraham Erskine, played by Stanley Tucci. Dr. Erskine strikes me as the antithesis of judenhasserisch propaganda—a walking stereotype of positive Jewishness. He is a brilliant, mild mannered, self-effacing scientist with a sense of humor, great compassion, and firm moral principles. In a movie that features Nazis as the bad guys, the Jewish refugee is surprisingly stoic and thoughtful. He notes that the first country that the Nazis invaded was their own. Of course, the National Socialists rose to power constitutionally. Yet, in a metaphorical sense, they invaded Germany by supplanting the traditions, culture, and regime of the previous and contemporary Reiche. In addition, Erskine repeatedly baits Steve Rogers by asking him if he wants to join the army so that he can kill Nazis. Rogers finally responds: “I don’t want to kill anyone. I don’t like bullies. I don’t care where they’re from.” This pleases Erskine, and his pleasure pleases me. We do not see the vengeful, hateful Jew of Nazi posters but rather a magnanimous Jew who exemplifies humanist and common decency.

Tucci is, as far as I can tell with the palantír of Google, of non-Jewish Italian stock. He portrayed Adolf Eichmann in Conspiracy as well as many less genocidal characters such as Paul Child in Julie & Julia and Nigel in The Devil Wears Prada. However, Jews are indeed behind Dr. Erskine. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (Jacob Kurtzberg), both of the tribe, created Captain America during the Second World War. I do not know if the comic book Erskine comes across as nobly as the film’s character. If he does, Simon and Kirby’s comic book vision was good for the Jews.

Posted by Joseph on Friday, July 29, Anno Domini 2011
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Wednesday, March 30, A.D. 2011
Beannachtaí na Féile Páraic oraibh!

It is the feast of Saint Patrick on the old calendar, and I wish all keepers of the blessed man’s memory, both West and East, both Irish and human, many blessings. Níl mé ach ag magadh! To celebrate the feast, I present a charming cartoon about the life of Saint Patrick, based on a recording of a 1960’s school girl who was recounting Patrick’s life to her teacher. Behold, the story of Saint Patrick in Give Up Yer Aul Sins:

Her voice is precious. I fear that the little girl’s Ireland is quickly vanishing. What a loss. Elite Eurocrats and the secularized Irish are accomplishing in decades what the planters could not achieve in centuries.

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, March 30, Anno Domini 2011
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Wednesday, January 12, A.D. 2011
Russia in Fifteen Seconds

How many exaggerated clichés can one fit in a fifteen second movie sequence?

This treat is really for my brother Aaron, who visited Mother Russia with me. I laugh each time that I watch it, as it reminds me of various quirks about the nation. I especially love the boys seesawing on the car. Memories . . .

The video clip, evidently from Охота на пиранью, has offended many YouTube visiting Russkies, who are upset that such a representation is unfair. Obviously, there are many lovely parts to Russia, but there is some comic truth to the clip. An element of humor is based on exaggerating certain features that are recognizable to the audience but in such a way that it surprises them. When Chris Rock does his racialist comedy shtick, people laugh because they recognize the themes that he mentions and because they are both shocked and delighted in the way that he breaks taboos. Jeff Foxworthy’s routine is funny to Southerners (and to those who know them) because he mocks real Southern tendencies that people recognize. Of course, such routines might be exaggerated, and obviously they are not the “full picture,” but that is how the comic works.

I am a committed Russophile, and yet I find this clip very amusing, just as I find The Simpsons’ take on American life amusing. Moreover, like The Simpsons, the clip is full of Easter egg eye candy if you watch closely.

Update: My brother offers this alternate, polished version of the scene:

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, January 12, Anno Domini 2011
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Sunday, December 26, A.D. 2010
The Day Before Boxing Day

Happy Boxing Day to the Anglophone denizens of the world!

To celebrate the day, here is a bizarre retelling of the Christmas story by Robyn Hitchcock and Hannah Bird: The Day before Boxing Day.

I have heard that there are canons against depicting Christ as a lamb, though such religious imagery was prominent in the West. I wonder if there is any legislation against depicting the Messiah as a Brussel sprout. Maybe there should be.

Posted by Joseph on Sunday, December 26, Anno Domini 2010
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Saturday, December 18, A.D. 2010
Chappelle and Murphy on Prince

The following video of Dave Chappelle’s Show is six years old, but it remains a comedy classic for anyone remotely fascinated by Prince. In case you never watched Chappelle’s Comedy Central program, it featured a segment with Charlie Murphy—Eddie’s brother—called “True Hollywood Stories.” Murphy recounted some of the bizarre episodes that he experienced while hanging among the rich and famous with his brother. This video features Prince (rated PG-13 towards R).

It is the best Prince parody that I have seen. It really captures the essence of his wonderful weirdness.

Posted by Joseph on Saturday, December 18, Anno Domini 2010
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Tuesday, December 7, A.D. 2010
Jerry’s Wisdom

I have read many times that Seinfeld was a conservative show in that it took the idiocy of our narcissistic, hedonistic society to its grotesque conclusion. It is a comic display of liberal society’s reductio ad absurdum. I thought of this when I recently encountered one of Jerry’s great lines from “The Baby Shower”:

“Well, Leslie, sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.”

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, December 7, Anno Domini 2010
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Monday, November 22, A.D. 2010
Marsha and Scarlet

Last week, there was a fun discussion on View from the Right about the woman question in The Brady Bunch, which then elicited some thoughful comments about Gone with the Wind: “Feminism and will, as seen in The Brady Bunch and Gone with the Wind.”

Gone with the Wind is my brother Adam’s favorite movie, and I did not get around to see it until a few years ago. I do not know why, but I expected to find it boring. I was pleasantly surprised to find out how wrong I was. The film deserves its fame. Is there a more interesting woman in the history of cinema than Scarlet O’Hara? Usually, books and movies place men in the place of Oedipus, a somewhat admirable creature driven to suffering and torment by the infamous tragic flaw. In Gone with the Wind, O’Hara is the tragic character—a beautiful, tragic woman.

Posted by Joseph on Monday, November 22, Anno Domini 2010
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Saturday, February 6, A.D. 2010
Klavan on Culture versus Reality

Andrew Klavan contrasts American culture with the facts:

See, though, how Klavan’s cultural imperialism keeps him from seeing the superiority of culturally enriching practices like sati, thara, and the sacrifices to Huehueteotl, not to mention the particular rituals of less complex societies.

Posted by Joseph on Saturday, February 6, Anno Domini 2010
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