Month: September 2014

Sacred Harp 52: ‘Albion’

Come, we that love the Lord,
And let our joys be known;
Join in a song with sweet accord,
And thus surround the throne.

Let those refuse to sing
Who never knew our God,
But servants of the heav’nly King
May speak their joys abroad.

The men of grace have found
Glory begun below;
Celestial fruit on earthly ground
From faith and hope may grow.

Want to see something really scary?

The horror genre is much bemoaned for its tendency toward artistic bankruptcy. Filmmakers are content to adhere to cliché in the form of gore, scare chords and contrived suspense. If these cinematic temptations are defied by a sophisticated auteur who understands the nuances of audience manipulation, the result is a film to be remembered. Indeed, meticulous attention to detail is among the most celebrated aspects of Stanley Kubrick’s legacy. Even for a Stanley Kubrick film, the production of The Shining was long and painstaking. The film took almost a year to shoot at 51 weeks, while it was only intended to take 17 weeks, and it had very long workdays — rewrites of the script would happen several times a day.

The sense of space is a basic subconscious instinct that all human beings have and rely on every day. This is the pressure point that Kubrick chooses to strike at in order to disorient and ultimately disturb viewers on a level that conventional horror technique cannot approach.

An obviously intentional example of this is the scene where Halloran is leading Wendy through the kitchen. The Steadicam precedes them as Halloran winds through counters and tables, taking twists and turns that that camera and the gaze of the audience moves with. Ultimately, we see him from behind opening the freezer with his right hand – we cut to the camera inside the freezer, and Halloran is seen opening what is supposed to be the same door with the other hand, and the door is now hinged and swinging from the wrong side. When they exit, they, the door swings from the original hinging, giving the impression that they are on the same side of the hall, but this time the kitchen is flipped in front of them and they walk towards it in the wrong direction. In the scene where Jack is interrupted by Wendy, we have a depth of field shot there is a chair clearly in-focus behind Jack. The camera cuts to Wendy then to Jack, and the chair is gone. Geoffrey Cocks notes in the documentary film Room 237 that this disappearance could have been intentional, or could have been just been a continuity error. A third intriguing possibility is that it could have been a continuity error that Kubrick chose to keep. A similar phenomenon occurs with the typewriter changing colors between shots. The third possibility raises interesting insights into the nature of The Shining and of choices in films in general, where even films with meticulous production are fertilized by the unintentional. The interior of The Overlook hotel itself is replete with physical impossibilities, which are, in line with the movie being a psychological horror, instinctually disturbing on a less than conscious level to the viewer. The constant spatial challenging of the psyche is noted by Juli Kearns in Room 237:


How benign is the pink police state?

The University Bookman has published two responses to James Poulos’ pink police state series over at the Federalist, one from Pascal Emmanuel-Gobry and one from myself, in which I make a few points already covered here, and talk about lighting a friend on fire, but not in the pentecostal sense:

One thing that came to mind reading James Poulos’ series on the pink police state is an incident, in eighth grade I believe, in which a friend, with his permission, was dressed up in several layers of old sweatshirts, a smiley face painted in kerosene on his back, and lit on fire. We took pictures, of course, but this being the days before YouTube, we weren’t aiming for a viral video. Call it youthful nihilism, or the establishment of what Poulos calls a “zone of transgression,” at any rate he is fine now and has gone on to a promising career in multimedia. But he damn well could have died.

Poulos has gotten very close to a diagnosis most of us can agree on, and that’s a fine thing. The Tocquevillian notion that things are getting better and worse is something that much of the right could probably do with hearing more often. But it’s hard to read Poulos’s essays and not conclude that the worseness is accelerating. Moreover, despite the distributed nature of the new regime, it is possible to observe a certain logic to it. …

Hipster capitalism and metapolitical (hipster) fascism

Abigail, an evil wind is blowing through the land
and they need every man to drive it away

As Rorschach-like interpretations of the hipster phenomenon continue to pile up, one interesting feature is that certain segment of the left is very uncomfortable with what Will Self called this week a global “seisdick shift.” The classic example is this Adbusters essay from 2008, which in a momentary lapse of concern for Western civilization, proclaimed hipsters the dead end of it, for having turned all our once-subversive countercultures into saleable parts of an ever-changing consumer identity:

An artificial appropriation of different styles from different eras, the hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture lost in the superficiality of its past and unable to create any new meaning. Not only is it unsustainable, it is suicidal. While previous youth movements have challenged the dysfunction and decadence of their elders, today we have the “hipster” – a youth subculture that mirrors the doomed shallowness of mainstream society. …

With nothing to defend, uphold or even embrace, the idea of “hipsterdom” is left wide open for attack. And yet, it is this ironic lack of authenticity that has allowed hipsterdom to grow into a global phenomenon that is set to consume the very core of Western counterculture. Most critics make a point of attacking the hipster’s lack of individuality, but it is this stubborn obfuscation that distinguishes them from their predecessors, while allowing hipsterdom to easily blend in and mutate other social movements, sub-cultures and lifestyles. …

An amalgamation of its own history, the youth of the West are left with consuming cool rather that creating it. The cultural zeitgeists of the past have always been sparked by furious indignation and are reactionary movements. But the hipster’s self-involved and isolated maintenance does nothing to feed cultural evolution. Western civilization’s well has run dry. The only way to avoid hitting the colossus of societal failure that looms over the horizon is for the kids to abandon this vain existence and start over.

Just to be clear, you’re reading about the suicide of the West in the publication popularly credited with starting Occupy. Hopefully the author was taken out back and shot for his counter-revolutionary thinking.

Because many of Adbusters’ readers are hipsters, they did run a “acknowledgment of potentiality” by Ilie Mitaru to qualify it a little later. The poor sap wants to believe in hipsters’ “revolutionary potential” sooo badly you feel bad for him:

Haddow approaches hipsters as a potential revolutionary group, and when they fail to uphold characteristics of previous groups – cohesive ideology, symbolism and behavior – the lack of historic parallels leads him to conclude that the hipster holds no revolutionary potential. If hipsters are to evolve into anything meaningful, however, they will adhere to no historical pattern and must be given the benefit of the doubt, the opportunity of the unknown. …

Formed by the empty promises of our predecessors, history has dealt hipsters more defeats than triumphs, more distractions than direction, and abandoned them to the hollow embrace of commodity fetishism.

But they are collectively filtering through the facade. Evidence of this can be found in the adoption of bike culture, urban gardening and art/music-based activism and even in rallying for Obama. Many are also acting on their distaste for corporatism by starting businesses and nonprofits, engaging in progressive work both locally and internationally. …

Still new in respects to movements, the hipster is groping in the dark for authenticity. He does not claim to be an activist when he rides his bike, buys used clothes or works as a freelance designer, though he may have labeled himself as such a few decades ago. His path may not have been inspired by revolutionary ideas as much as a search for personal meaning. But ultimately, motivations matters little if the roads lead to the same place.

Au contraire, mon frere! Nothing could be further from the truth! Whether he’s simply not been presented with the argument that waving signs for Obama has revolutionary potential, or rejected it as daft or irrelevant or passe, is of great importance indeed. If it’s the first case, we need only sell more Adbusters subscriptions.


Secession lagniappe


Hope you’re not getting tired of these, but there’s a lot to keep up with. In the wake of Scotland’s vote for dependence this week, let’s revisit the Portland Declaration on subsidiarity. I’m a sucker for a good manifesto, but you ought to read the whole thing:

The State is always in danger of morbidly multiplying its cells, of assuming functions which properly belong to the person, the family, or to Society. (Society also can occasionally encroach on personal rights.) Whatever a person can do, he or she should do; the next step would be to turn to the family and then to the community. Only finally should the State be asked for aid — and the central power of the State asked only as the very last resort. This is called the “principle of subsidiarity.”

Therefore, it should also be understood that the ideal State is a federated State composed of political units with far-reaching autonomy (“states” in the American sense, Lander in German, regions or provinces in French). Regions, as well as persons, have a unique value; regions are often a more organic unit with a sharper profile than the Big State.

The gigantic, centralizing Provider State, wrongly called the Welfare State, takes over all functions of life with its inherent drive toward an increasing and swollen bureaucracy, and turns (in the words of Alexis de Tocqueville) “men into timid animals” bereft of all initiative, thus weakening the fiber of every nation to a deadly degree. A great catastrophe — history has them always in store for us — then leaves the people unable to rise again.

Here’s the Jacobite’s take:

I find it interesting that Glasgow and its surroundings, the area where Catholics of Irish descent predominate, was the region where the ‘Yes’ vote was strongest. What we see on the map this morning is almost a modern-day equivalent of the divide that existed in the eighteenth century between the Catholic Highlanders (supporters of the Stewarts) and the Presbyterian Lowlanders (supporters of the Union).

Failure and defeat in Jacobite history are so frequent as to have become a defining feature of Jacobite identity. We strive and then get heavily defeated – that’s just the way it happens, and we might as well accept it. That does not make the original striving any less worthwhile, because we stand on principle, not for any advantage.

It’s pretty obvious clickbait, but I’ve nevertheless been surprised by the sheer number ofthesesecessionistsarealsowatchingScotland‘ stories. The big difference between Scotland and most others, as David Boaz points out in a piece for TheDC after the referendum, central governments elsewhere rarely grant them. And if it’s magnanimous enough to do so, as in Scotland, the case for seceding in the first place is not as strong. Madrid, for example, seems to be trying the opposite approach, declaring Catalonia’s referendum illegal and said it would “take any measure possible” to keep it from happening. Or in Malaysia, where people are being threatened and jailed for expressing pro-secession viewpoints on social media. The EU is still nervous despite the outcome, though David Frum won, so the world lost.

And Huffpo was running this above the fold on Friday:

Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 11.11.04 AM