[VIDEO] Anthony Esolen gives the Medieval Era its due

When I worked at the Bancroft Library at Berkeley, one of my great pleasures was to head to the basement stacks and look at the illuminated manuscripts kept down there. That may explain why I always see the Middle Ages in blazing, gilt-edged color, whereas when I think of the 1920s and 1930s in America I see a rather dark, black-and-white world. Perhaps that’s part of the reason I’ve never underestimated the Middle Ages.

The other reason is my passion of medieval church architecture. After all, how primitive can an era be when it’s capable of the magnificence of St. Chapelle in Paris, which is unequaled by anything else I’ve ever seen:



Prager University has produced a short video explaining that the Dark Ages weren’t dark at all. What the video doesn’t say, but I’ll pass along here is that part of why we look back upon them is because Western history was written by Protestants, who had a vested interest in making the Catholic Church look more repressive than it actually was.

The Bookworm Beat 1-25-15 — the “Fresh off the Spindle” edition and Open Thread

Woman writingAnother productive Sunday: six loads of laundry, two dishwasher loads emptied and filled, one grocery shopping trip, one dinner cooked, one visit to my Mom, and one complaint drafted. I’m going to try to wrap it up with one Bookworm Beat, since I have around sixteen articles sitting on my cyber-spindle, waiting to be shared with you.

No, Boehner did not commit a felony and, yes, Bibi is doing the right thing

A meme making the rounds amongst my Progressive Facebook friends is that Boehner, by inviting Bibi Netanyahu to speak before the House committed a felony by “negotiating” with a foreign power:

How dumb do you have to be not to be able to distinguish between inviting someone to give a formal and public speech, and actually negotiating with a foreign power? Don’t answer that. Not only is it a rhetorical question, but we’re asking it of people who are on board with John Kerry’s boast that, as a young naval lieutenant, he was engaged in top secret peace talks with the communists during the Vietnam War. Even if our government didn’t routinely give passes to Democrats who work against American interests, I suspect Kerry would never have been charged with treason because the whole story is an obvious confabulation, although the wishful thinking behind it is disturbing.

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Run, don’t walk, to see American Sniper

308555id1i_TheJudge_FinalRated_27x40_1Sheet.inddUnusually for me, I saw a first-run movie tonight. It was, as you’ve already realized, American Sniper. Also unusually, the Century Cinema, which is Marin’s premiere movie theater, with a big screen and a George Lucas-installed sound system, had an almost completely packed house on the second weekend of a January movie. One expects packed houses for the first week or two of a Star Wars or Harry Potter franchise movie during the summer, but it just never happens for any other type of movie, especially in January. Never. And for the first time in my admittedly experience seeing a movie in Marin, about half the theater broke into applause when the movie ended. Marin’s conservatives are creeping out from undercover to see this one.

Not being a professional movie reviewer, I’m not quite sure where to begin with this one. You already know the story: Texas good ol’ boy Chris Kyle leaves the rodeo circuit, joins the Navy, becomes a SEAL, and heads off to Iraq, where he becomes a legend as the most successful sniper in American military history. After four tours of duty, he returns home and begins helping vets who suffered physical or emotional injuries during the war (or, of course, both). One of those vets, a Marine, murders both him and a neighbor, Chad Littlefield. Throughout it all, Kyle and his wife love and fight and love some more, and have two children who make both of them proud. It’s a simple story, really.

When Chris Kyle died, America mourned.  His funeral cortege and memorial service drew thousands of people, although his former Commander-in-Chief (and still current Commander-in-Chief of the American military) was never heard to mention Kyle’s name. I guess Kyle just didn’t look enough like the son Obama never had — although it seems that Hugo Chavez, Whitney Houston, Robin Williams, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown did look like that son, at least if one is to judge by the encomiums Obama poured upon them and the representatives he sent to the hoodlums’, er sons’ funerals.

Unlike me, Clint Eastwood’s film is carefully apolitical. It keeps a very tight focus on one man and the people around him. Just as they were in Kyle’s autobiography, his family by blood and marriage vie for first place in his heart with his SEAL family. Kyle is enormously patriotic. He’s repulsed by the sadism and immorality he sees amongst the Iraqis he fights. He lives to protect his fellow servicemen. And he has troubles transitioning rapidly between war in Iraq and peace at home.

In this regard — the profound disconnect between wartime on Monday and peace on Tuesday — Kyle’s situation reminded me strongly of British WWI fighters who also made almost painfully rapid transitions between home and war. Just as Kyle talks on the phone with his wife while sniping on a rooftop, British troops sometimes received by the afternoon post the mail their loved ones had sent that morning. (For other interesting similarities and differences between the British experience in WWI and the American experience in Iraq, I recommend this book.

To the extent I notice a director’s touch, Eastwood’s was deft and sure.  Those two simple words count as high praise from me. I usually notice the director’s role in a movie when I hate the movie because of the director’s bizarre, irritating, or offensive decisions. Eastwood makes none of those mistakes. His style is smooth, professional and, when it comes to the fighting scenes, incredibly dynamic, while still being coherent enough to keep the audience engaged.

What really makes the movie, though, is Bradley Cooper’s incredible acting. “Acting” actually seems like the wrong word. Cooper doesn’t “act” Chris Kyle; he “is” Chris Kyle. Admittedly, I’ve never met Chris Kyle, so I’m taking a leap of faith by saying what I did. What I really mean is that Cooper inhabits his character’s skin so seamlessly that there is never, ever a sense that Cooper is acting at all. This is a fully realized character. One has no sense of the actor named Bradley Cooper positioning himself on the set and then, when he hears the word “action!” going through the motions of the character named Chris Kyle. There is no actor named Bradley Cooper.  There is just Chris Kyle.

One of the things that makes it clear just how extraordinarily Cooper fills the role is to watch the other actors. They’re all good . . . but you can see them acting. I have a vague memory of having seen Cooper in some other roles and not noticing him. He apparently was waiting for this role.

All in all, American Sniper is a movie that deserves its accolades and blockbuster revenue. Chris Kyle was one of those great, salt-if-the-earth Americans who emerges in times of war — not a man who loves killing for killing’s sake, which would make him no better than the enemy, but a true sheepdog who is willing to get dirty in the fight to protect his flock.  Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, and the rest of the American Sniper paid Kyle his due by creating this great movie.

Movie Review: “Boyhood” — a celebration of depressive dysfunction in a clever package

Boyhood movieBoyhood, which opened in July 2014 and is currently slated as one of the top contenders for Best Picture, has earned that rarest of rare accolades:  a 100% score on Metacritic.  Critics just love the movie.

The most obvious thing they love about the movie is the movie’s gimmick, which is actually quite clever.  The movie was filmed over the course of 12 years, with the same actors gathering together for a few days each year to shoot that year’s scenes.  It’s seamlessly edited, so you see the children grow up and the parents grow old.  In that way, it’s like watching a very well-produced montage of home movies.  Small wonder that probably 75% of each of the reviews I read centers on this clever technique.

Gimmicks alone, however, are not enough to sustain a 100% score created by looking at 49 different critic reviews.  The critics also really like the movie’s story arc and character development.  [If you're planning on seeing the movie, you might want to stop right about now, because I'm going to go into SPOILER territory.]

Giving you time to think about whether you want to continue. . . .

Tick. . . .

A little more thinking time. . . .

Tock. . . .

Okay, last chance.  After this sentence, a review filled with SPOILERS is about to begin. . . .

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Have any of you ever gone to Battlefield Vegas?

gun control ends well for those controlling gunsWe’re contemplating a trip to Las Vegas.  Since we neither drink nor gamble (and the kids can’t join in those activities in any event) we’re looking for other fun things to do while we’re there.  One of the top-rated activities is Battlefield Vegas.  As best as I can tell, you pay a fixed fee for shooting instruction, and then have the opportunity to fire real guns associated with famous battles or computer games.  It looks like incredible fun (the kids lost interest in any other activities after having heard about this one), but it’s also quite pricey — understandably so, if it’s everything that’s promised.  I’d love to hear from someone who’s actually been to Battlefield Vegas to make sure that it is indeed everything that’s promised.  For a large-ish family, the cost adds up quickly so, while there are no guarantees in life, knowing that it’s more likely than not to be fun would be helpful.

[VIDEO] Lies, damn lies, and statistics, when it comes to guns

More legal guns less crimeOne of my favorite rhetorical firebombs when people start talking about the wonders of socialized medicine, and the fact that it’s soooo much better than America’s pre-Obamacare sort-of free market insurance central medicine, is to tell them the dirty little secret behind infant mortality statistics. Socialized medicine fans like to point out that, when it comes to dead babies, America is so bad that it ranks behind Cuba, Greece, and Slovenia, among other places. They are left slack-jawed when I tell them that, before you can analyze the numbers, you have to know who’s doing the counting and how they’re doing it.

America, you see, is one of the few countries that counts all babies born alive as viable, no matter how likely it is that their desperately bad condition at birth will result in their swift death. Other countries, however, disregard those poor, fragile babies, and count only healthy babies when it comes to calculating infant mortality. A different common denominator makes for very different outcomes.

Keep that in mind as you follow Bill Whittle’s explanation about America’s murder-by-gun statistics:

The Bookworm Beat 1/22/15 — the illustrated edition and Open Thread

Thanks to all who contributed.  (I’ve kind of lost track of where I got these, but I know many are from Caped Crusader.) The last one, incidentally, is particularly riveting.

24 percent of young people in England expect another Holocaust

Paris France v Paris Texas

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