Lawrence Auster is a traditionalist blogger and, agree or not with his ideology, a very clever man and extremely eloquent writer. He has recently been diagnosed with cancer and he may not survive. He has been very public about the whole issue, and seems in good spirits despite the terrible news. A sample of letters that he received, including one by me, show in how much he is esteemed by those who read him. Wish there was something to be done, but I’ll just post a poem by Yeats, a poet that he seems to love, and I do too.

The Four Ages of Man

He with body waged a fight,
But body won; it walks upright.

Then he struggled with the heart;
Innocence and peace depart.

Then he struggled with the mind;
His proud heart he left behind.

Now his wars on God begin;
At stroke of midnight God shall win.

(W.B Yeats)

However, I should add that he does not seem to be fighting God, but willfully accepting his destiny such as it is. And then again, some people have survived cancer, and some healthy people have died unexpectedly, so, we never know. May we all be able to use our short time down here more wisely now than ever.

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There should be a special place in Hell reserved for Baby Boomers, the generation which came of age in the fateful year 1968, and which still acting out its last shenanigans.

Thanks to them, the world is a much worse place for us, their sons and grandsons. Today it is much harder to get married and have children, it is much harder to have a stable job that lasts for a lifetime, it is much harder get into a good University and not get indebted for life, it is much harder to buy a house, it is much harder to obtain all the things that people before 1968 took for granted. Yes, we have iPods and iPads and all forms of entertainment, and there was (they say) a lot of “social progress”, but is that really such a great deal?

TV series such as “Mad Men” focus on life in the pre-Boomer period, and while there is a superficial criticism of the “sexism” or “racism” of the period, what fuels the show is really nostalgia for a better world.

But we cannot blame exclusively the Boomers, for the following generations haven’t done much better, they just continued the deconstruction process that started to roll from the 60s onwards. Even today, new “fight for your rights” movements come and go, but in the end, they are just there to distract us from noticing that the situation is getting harder and harder for regular people.

Young people today fight for “gay marriage”, “immigration amnesty”, “pro-choice” and other irrelevant social issues, but, in the end, does any of that put food on the table? Does that change things that much for the rest of us? Not really. In fact, things such as illegal unchecked immigration only make things worse for the youth of today, reducing even more the opportunities of employment, and feminism has been bad for most men and women, except for a few. I mean, weren’t relationships much more stable back then?

Still, we mustn’t complain that much. Life is made of cycles, of ups and downs, and things one day will change back again, we will just have to pass through some social upheaval, economic crisis, war, or some other minor discomfort.

A recent study suggests that many people suffer from Facebook envy: they tend to feel more miserable after seeing pictures of their friends (or “friends”) in vacations or having fun with their loved ones. I can attest to this feeling because I also have felt it on occasions. Everybody has a perfect life but me, right?

Said H.W. Thoreau that “most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” That might be true, but still, most people want to pretend to their social circle, when not to complete strangers, that their lives are meaningful and interesting. It is a reinforcing illusion, because if the others believe it, you start to believe it too. And, let’s face it, there are even some freaks who really do have meaningful and interesting lives, far from the humdrum realities of mine or yours.

That would be just a minor inconvenience, were it not for the fact that I am starting to think that Facebook is a negative social phenomenon in many other aspects, promoting bad social behaviours, such as status mongering, consumerism, wasting of time that could be better used in interaction with actual human beings, and an increase in the sense of isolation of those who have 500 “friends” but few real friends.

Why do we have the need to flash our lives and our thoughts before others? I believe it is part of human nature, but, as I have learned the hard way, it is something best done in moderation. Now I like to use Facebook just to chat and to keep up with a few relevant news, but I haven’t posted pictures in a long time. It seems now that there is only a handful of people who matter to me, and I’d rather not bore them with unimportant details.

Another problem with Facebook is that it became full of irrelevant and obnoxious ads (by Facebook and its sponsors) and by political campaigns (by friends) in which I am not interested. It has become an echo chamber of stupidity more than a relevant space to keep in touch with friends, which, I like to think, was the original idea.

Still, I am not out yet. Plus, I’ve became addicted to online Scrabble.

A shocking morning: the Pope announced his retirement. It is the first time that a Pope renounces in more than 600 years.

Contrary to popular opinion, I liked Benedict XVI. His statement about Islam was right on the money, even if he backtracked later, and he spoke forcefully against the relativism of modern times. He seemed an honest man facing unprecedented issues and unrelenting media attacks. Just read right now the delighted response of progressives to the announcement.

He alleged health problems for his decision, and there is no reason to speculate otherwise. He is after all an 84 year old man, and traveling through the world at that age performing massive ceremonies certainly take its toll.

Still, that leaves the Catholic Church with a problem. The forces that seek to liberalize it (that is, to end it) will probably see his resignation as a victory, and push for a black pope, or a gay pope, or for a pope that favors gay marriage, abortion and female priests. It is the Church’s task to find a worthy successor, younger and perhaps even stronger than Benedict in his defense of traditionalism.

I am a lapsed Catholic, and I am not really a follower of the doctrine, but I like the idea of a strong Church that works as a balance against the exaggerations of secular hedonism. While the easiest way would be to bend down, I really don’t see any role for a Church that adapts itself to modern times. If even the Catholic Church changes to accommodate itself to current prejudices, then there is no reason for it to exist, we might as well just create the Church of Liberalism and get done with it.

I apologize to my three readers for the lack of posts. I feel that I need to rethink the concept of the blog and decide if I want to write about politics or about art and culture or just about random themes. While that clarity doesn’t come, here goes another random post, a mere film review. But I will soon be back with more interesting stuff.

I saw “300” the other day. Yes, the film about “Sparta”, even though it is from 2006 I hadn’t seen it yet. I didn’t like it. I didn’t hate it either, but I cannot say I liked it, and a lot of it has to do with how contemporary films portray historical events.

There is not much that is really historical in “300”. It is, after all, based in a comic book by Frank Miller that I didn’t read and which, while inspired by, did not exactly follow the events of the Battle of Thermopylae. The film is really closer to fantasy flicks such as “Lord of the Rings” than to actual historical epics. It has deformed hunchbacks, persians fighting with Samurai masks, rhinoceros and elephants, impossible CGI scenery and choreographed fights.

That is not really my problem of the film. While I would prefer a more realistic film about the real Sparta, I think that there is no reason why film-makers should not be able to to what they damn well please. Even if, in the present times where ignorance of History is rampant, there might be some viewers who believe that what they see on the screen is a valid and realistic historical portrayal (which was also my issue with Tarantino’s “Django” and its slaves screaming “mothafucka” and “yo black ass”).

The film is kitsch. In fact, it probably elevates kitsch to a whole new level. Dialogue is unrealistic and uninspired, mostly consisting of platitudes such as “Freedom isn’t free”. I find it hard to believe that the ancient Spartans thought or talked like American neocons. And, while the message is uplifting, I am pretty sure that “freedom”, at least how we understand it, was far from being the ancient Spartans’ priority. Also the subplot with the Queen, in fact the character of the Queen, is irrelevant, and I supposed was only included because of a complain by feminists, since it seems it was not even in the original comic book.

I suppose my main problem with the film is that it follows a pattern of exaggeration in American cinema, which I don’t know if is related to the growing use of CGI, to the overuse of superhero-type characters in popular culture, or to the fact that most filmgoers today are teenagers. From “Avatar” to “Batman”, films are just getting closer and closer to videogames.

Would a more historically accurate and more realist film be as successful? Hard to say. It might, but it also might not, and producers usually prefer to play safe and to reach for the largest audience possible. As H. L. Mencken said, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public” — but some may have lost money overestimating it.

The secret to having a successful blog is to focus on one specific subject in order to find a captive niche. Alas, since I am more fox than hedgehog, I write about all kinds of stuff, and not with particular originality or a consistent ideology either, this blog seems to be condemned to irrelevance. But since I am not being paid to do it either way, I might as well go on.

Today what called my attention was a mad scientist who wants to clone a Neanderthal. He says he already has the genetic material, all he needs is a “willing woman” to be the surrogate mother.

To be honest, I find the idea shocking and at the same time fascinating, but not very ethical, particularly to the poor Neanderthal. Where would he fit in today’s crazy society? Still, the good scientist says that he considers creating not only one specimen, but perhaps even a whole new race of cavemen:

“When the time comes to deal with an epidemic or getting off the planet or whatever, it’s conceivable that their way of thinking could be beneficial. They could maybe even create a new neo-Neanderthal culture and become a political force. The main goal is to increase diversity. The one thing that is bad for society is low diversity.”

That seems a pretty odd comment. When Stalin tried to cried an army of hybrid ape-men, he was not thinking about “diversity”. Yes, the plan failed and was harebrained (apebrained?) to start with, but, still, there was a military idea behind it, which made some sense in the context of the Cold War.

Today, no scientist would be crazy to mention that his objective is the creation of a super-army: pacifists and human rights organizations would end his career in no time. But see that our scientist mentioned that his goal was to “increase diversity”, and voilà, I don’t doubt that he might even get funding from the appropriate sponsors.

It seems that today, anything that increases diversity is seen as good, even if it’s a diversity of Neanderthals. Then again, since according to recent research a large part of humanity still has Neanderthal genes, this might not even be something completely new.

However, I still think that the scientist should try to focus on more useful and practical research, such as cloning dinosaurs for amusement parks.

Next: affirmative action for the Neanderthal?

Mencius Moldbug has an interesting post about Aaron Swartz, and how he was poisoned by Noam Chomsky, the wealthy promoter of revolutionary socialism as long as it doesn’t affect his interests.

Many young people of today believe far-fetched things, such as that being in the left is being “against the system”. That is all well and good as long as it doesn’t harm or bother the Powers That Be. But some of those activists, either by accident or because they cannot contain their revolutionary urges, end up contradicting the real interests of the system, and as such have to be silenced.

The trick to be a good (and alive) social activist is to know in which side to be (the winning side) and to understand your limits. So if you are an activist for gun control, that is good, but if you start noticing that politicians and the elite are very well protected by the same guns that they want to forbid for the rest of us, you’re entering into dangerous territory. If you are an activist for environmental causes, that is also wonderful, but if you notice that the illegal immigration of millions seems to be pretty bad for the environment, better keep silent. And so on and so forth.

Remember, kids. Better to be safe than sorry.

If you must speak truth to power, bring flowers.

Just a brief musical interlude: David Bowie, now 66, released a haunting new song and video, “Where are we now?“, which rapidly reached the 6th place in the UK charts. Bob Dylan, at 71, has just released “Tempest”, an album that is being considered by critics as one of his best; here one of the catchiest songs, “Duquesne Whistle“, which also has a strange video. Leonard Cohen is right now on a world tour at 78 years of age promoting his latest album.

Rock’n’roll is not dead, it’s just very old.

Whatever happened to “live fast, die young”? Many of the singers of the 60s died from drug overdose or suicide or choking on their own vomit. The smartest ones, however, seem to have realized that their audience would grow old too, and if they slowed down on the drugs and booze, they would manage to extend their careers for much longer.

But will current artists manage the same long careers? I can’t imagine Justin Bieber at 70 still on the stage.

Maybe what is happening is that we as a culture are not creating many new interesting things, and that is why these older artists still remain relevant and popular. And that goes for all aspects of contemporary culture: in commercial movies, for instance, the most popular franchises are Batman and Superman and Captain America and other superheroes; characters that are almost 60 years old.

I for one like it that way. I think that I prefer Bowie and Dylan and Cohen to anything that came up in the new millenium.

I recently wrote an article about women who risked their lives in the Middle East while looking for work in NGOs or attempting radical artistic performances. Now I read the story of a young rich girl who is living in Syria, wich is as of now in the middle of a violent conflict, taking pictures of little girls learning ballet. She’s a brilliant woman, for sure, a Rhodes scholar even, she’s good-hearted, she’s talented and she is even strikingly beautiful, but is there a point in risking her life and her best years in a place as dangerous as a country in the middle of a civil war?

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Cinema started as an unpretentious form of entertainment, and today in the age of superhero megamovies in 3D it might have reached its zenith as a form of massive hypnosis and mindless diversion with merchandising. But there was a brief period, that lasted maybe from the 50 until the 70s, when Film was considered a major form of Art. Before that, no one took film seriously; after that, nobody cared anymore.

During that brief decades the world had Bergman, Fellini, Antonioni, Tarkovski, Kubrick, Wilder, Truffaut, Malle, Kurosawa and several other filmmakers who developed new ways of telling stories and seemed to be expanding the possibilities of cinema in ways not thought before.

Today, what is left of that? There are a few aging French directors. There is Michel Haneke, who seems to be highly praised by today’s critics, but to be honest his films always leave me cold. Spielberg, Coppola, Scorsese and all the great American directors of the 70s seem to either have gotten tired or to have sold out long ago.

Maybe I have aged too; maybe it’s not cinema that lost its power but myself. It is also true that the music I tend to hear even today is not very recent, the most “modern” ones are from the 80s or 90s; can’t stomach much of what came after that. Has the world changed or have I changed?

One thing that certainly took place was a continental shift. Maybe what happened was not so much the decay of art cinema as the decay of European art cinema: Europe became somehow less important in film-making (where are the great Italian masters of today, for instance?) and the United States lost its inferiority complex towards Europe: Woody Allen and Scorsese stopped imitating the European masters and developed their own style, and the younger directors such as P. T. Anderson didn’t even look to Europe as a model anymore. But perhaps the real news of the last decades is the emergence of a new Asian cinema, with Japan, Korea and Taiwan making some of the most innovative films out there.

Still, it seems true that cinema is no longer thought by many as a major form of art. Perhaps the most famous director working nowadays is Quentin Tarantino, and that says a lot. Whatever you think about his work, it can hardly be called serious in the sense that those works of the 60s were. (However, it is also true that many of the films of the 60s and 70s were certainly overvalued and some of them did not age so well.)

The public has also changed, it is true. Most films today are created for an audience of teenagers, or for adults that are still mentally teenagers, which would be the majority of the population of the world today. However, it is also true that we tend to see things in a diverse way nowadays, so maybe it’s not so much cinema that changed but ourselves.

In terms of mere technique, cinema improved a lot. And, because technology also reduced the costs and improved the quality, there is a vast array of independent movies that continue to create more original works, even if having less exposure to the commercial market, or maybe because of that.

Still, I can’t remember any good recent director that could be the equivalent of a Fellini or a Bergman in those earlier times, but I could be wrong. I don’t watch as many films as I did before. Indeed, has the world changed or have I changed?

Here’s an article saying that intelligent movies are dead, another saying that they not dead yet but are dying, and finally a contrary view saying that the death of cinema is just an impression of nostalgic old fools.

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