Monday, October 05, 2015


Reflecting Light has been reflecting lightly for 10 years, since September 2005. I'm suspending it now -- I say "suspending" because I don't know, sometime I might want to revive it, but it's only fair to readers to acknowledge that the thrill is gone, the amusement is gone, and there's no point keeping the blog on a drip feed of occasional posts.

I've decided on this course for various reasons, but I suppose the main one is that it no longer serves any purpose. Quite a bit of what I wrote some years ago was satire on then-current events, often political. But today's reality is so twisted that it's beyond my ability to satirize. I am hardly alone in thinking Western civilization is in existential peril: we will be lucky to escape being saturated by government control, including of speech and self-expression, or subjugation to the forces of jihad, including jihad by migrant invasion and massive birth rates among the migrants. I can't laugh at such prospects and poking fun at rampant madness seems now like a futile gesture.

Of course there are other subjects besides the geopolitical, and maybe I will (after a suitable respite) take them up as I often have in Reflecting Light, maybe in a new blog. Right now I don't feel up to it.

Is any hope left? Of course: God, love, wisdom. May you experience one or all.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Next week's headlines -- today!

9.7.15: Okay, the first headline is wrong. The Triple Crown Winner in the Vatican would never get as close to practical reality as to suggest new taxes, or anything else, to implement His Holiness's desire to help Africans/Muslims outbreed relatively sane populations. Our political and "spiritual" moral exhibitionists don't live in the same world we do. Their world is all about symbolism, you dig? So Il Papa is going to allow, what is it, two "migrants" to live in the Vatican State? Yeah, big flipping deal, Pope, you stupid asshole.

Pope Francis Says All Mankind Responsible for Feeding Africa: "New Taxes Needed"

Fences Can't Stop Migrants

Merkel Reaffirms "No Border Controls" Essential for European Unity

David Cameron Says Calais Crisis "Unacceptable," Proposes More Resettlement Aid for Migrants in U.K. ["David Cameron confirms Britain will act with its 'head and its heart' and accept thousands of refugees" -- The Telegraph, 9/4/15]

Indigenous Population of France to Dwindle to 20 Percent by 2025

GOP Can't Win Without Hispanic Votes, Jeb Bush Says

28,000 Migrants Rescued at Sea, Greek Govt Requisitions All Cruise, Freighter Ships to House Them

Family Values Don't Stop at the Mediterranean: Jeb Bush

Germany Must Welcome 2 Billion Africans, Merkel Says: "Otherwise We're Just Like the Nazis" ["No Limit to Refugees Germany Can Take In" -- The Local, 8/31/15]

Professors Sign Manifesto Calling Camp of the Saints "Racist Book," Demand All Copies Be Destroyed

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Hold the applause

This isn't, actually, another post about music except incidentally. It's about audiences.

The other day I was listening to Bill Evans Trio at Shelly's Manne-Hole, recorded at a club performance in 1963. Bill Evans hardly needs a plug from me. Aside from the playing, one thing that struck me about the recording was ... the audience.

At the end of each number, they applauded. That's all: they applauded. No shouting. No whistling. No "Yeah!"s. No foot stomping.

The bassist, Chuck Israels, did a fine extended solo on "All the Things You Are." (This was a different trio from the one with which Evans had become famous. That earlier line-up had ended with the tragic death in a car accident of the bassist Scott LaFaro.) There were only two or three seconds of mild applause for the solo, which today would have sent the crowd wild.

You might argue that the audience wasn't sophisticated enough to understand what now passes for correct receptivity. I say ish kabibble to that. A trio date in a Los Angeles club would not have had a bunch of rubes for customers. They were more likely some of the keenest listeners around. They expressed their appreciation through treating Evans and his crew as artists, not circus performers.

So they didn't ecstatically applaud Israels's solo. Could it have been because they understood it was a component of the song as a whole, not a personal exhibition?

The behavior of audiences has worsened considerably in my lifetime. Rock music started the breakthrough, or breakdown. ("More! More!") I've been to some great rock concerts, but almost always felt distaste for the shrieks and "participation" of the listeners, if they really were listening that is.

What's going on? I think at the most primitive level concerts are one of the few occasions now where people feel they can express themselves without fear of getting into trouble. In everyday life, they must pre-censor every word. Better to stick to sports and weather. You never know who might be offended. Heavens, they might innocently utter a politically incorrect formulation that would cause some identity freak to screech, "That's racist! Xenophobic! Homophobic! Patriarchal!" etc., etc. But who can criticize you for going over the moon about musicians? 

And it's not just rock or jazz performances anymore. Classical concert audiences have their own buffoons. While only a small portion -- so far -- applaud between movements, once the piece is over they go ape. Always, always a standing ovation for a concerto or symphony. A standing ovation used to mean something, that this wasn't just a good performance, but something truly extraordinary. Now the standing is routine.

Classical audiences like to imagine how deeply they appreciate what they heard. Oh, do they appreciate it. They desperately show the world their "sensitivity": "Yeah!" "Bravo!" (They're too ignorant to know that if you must use this word, it should be "Brava!" when directed at a woman.) "Woh!!!!" What dolts they are.

But that's not enough for a writer in Britain's The Telegraph, within living memory a conservative paper, now a mouthpiece for that sad country's cultural Marxist Establishment.

"Are young people scared of the Proms [the annual Promenade concert series] -- or the audience?" asks the headline. Jonathan McAloon writes:
The classical music establishment has never been more desperate to shake its elitist image. The Proms is especially conscious of making space for fresh musical combinations to entice people who might feel alienated by the repertoire: Gabriel Prokofiev’s Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra saw traditional instruments remixed live by DJ Switch in 2011. This year, the late slot opened its arms to dance icon Pete Tong and grime duo Krept & Konan. No one could fault the on-message Proms programmers for their inclusivity. But it isn’t the repertoire that’s forbidding to newcomers: it is the audience.
While on the surface there is a pressure to modernise, there is also a deep-seated coldness and snootiness in the attitude of many – though of course by no means all – hardened Prom-goers. 
He doesn't give many examples of the alleged "snootiness" except for some traditionalists glaring at audience members applauding inappropriately and making too much noise.
There needs to be an incentive for new audience members to take seats in the stalls. Perhaps a limited number of seats could be reserved for those who have never attended before. Or there could be a special offer for Proms regulars who bring first-timers, thus encouraging the passing on of tradition and knowledge [Huh? Tradition and knowledge are exactly what McAloon despises]: in this way, newcomers could quickly learn how best to avoid annoying the unforgiving killjoys. 
Of course, the first timers might need to learn something about manners. But that would mean they'd have to, my God, restrain themselves. Oh, the poor dears. Imagine some ancient mossback looking askance at them for whooping, dancing in the aisle, or maybe taking their clothes off and doing cartwheels. If classical music is to have any future (according to this McAloon character) the audience must feel comfortable expressing itself, any time, any way. 

I, an unforgiving killjoy, hope McAloon's attitude is mainly limited to degenerate London. But I wouldn't bet on it. Waive, Britannia! Britannia, waive the rules! Those are for snooty old people. Why don't they just f-f-f-ade away?

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Karajan's Bruckner 8th on video

I have long praised Herbert von Karajan's performance of the Bruckner 8th with the Vienna Philharmonic as one of the most sublime recordings ever. Until recently, I had not watched the DVD of him in charge of the same music (made a few years earlier than the studio CD). The DVD was taped at St. Florian in Linz, Austria, with an audience present.

Is there a reason to acquire, or at least watch, the DVD? I am not expert enough to comment on any interpretative differences between the performances, and am not even sure whether they are quite the same version of the symphony (all Bruckner's symphonies except the 6th were revised by the composer and later editors). Musically, I hear no cause to choose one over the other. The sound is surprisingly good on both video and audio discs, though not up to the best to be had today.

At the very least -- yes, the DVD is worth viewing and hearing. Part of the reason is the venue. St. Florian monastery is, like so many Austrian churches and cathedrals, a Baroque visual knockout.
An explosion of color and ornament, yet restrained and balanced. You don't get a lot of close-ups of the performing space in the video disc, but it's there in the background adding beautiful atmosphere. In this monastery Bruckner studied and taught before his date with immortality in Vienna. His human remains are buried here.

Karajan is the most controversial conductor of all time. To over-generalize a bit, listeners love his performances, critics hate them and him. In the U.K. especially, to get your Critics Union card, you must demonstrate a longtime history of Karajan bashing. Their den mother is the noted loon Norman Lebrecht.

The maestro doesn't go in for histrionics on the podium. No making faces à la Bernstein. No jumping and arms raised to the skies. He doesn't jab a finger or his stick at the orchestral section about to make a big statement.

Karajan does use his hands, albeit with restraint. But his face is mask-like, unsmiling. As usual in his later years, he conducts with eyes closed. Watching Karajan in this DVD would probably drive Lebrecht and his colleagues to new heights of loathing. "Look at him, he must be angry at the orchestra! Self-centered impudent snob!"

On the contrary, I think he is telling the orchestra members something like this (and from the evidence, they get the message):

While you are playing this symphony, nothing else on earth matters. Not me, not the audience, not the decor of the hall. Every cell of your being will concentrate on the music until we get to the final note. Every phrase you draw from your instrument will be a prayer directly to Heaven. You are privileged to be expressing one of the great works of the human soul. In it, Anton Bruckner was striving to reach God. I don't care what you believe or don't believe when you get home; for now, you will do whatever is in your power to realize God in sound. A musician can have no higher calling.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

The Fires of Vesuvius

This is how a history book should be written -- to inform, to encourage the reader to think, and to entertain. Anyone planning to visit Pompeii who wants to get beyond the standard guidebook clichés should read The Fires of Vesuvius beforehand, taking it along on the trip as well. It will be equally riveting for anyone with a serious interest in the world's most famous historical ruins.

The coach tours instruct their captive audiences that Pompeii is an ancient Roman town "frozen in time," a step back into A.D. 79 when it was buried by ashes from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Obviously there is some truth in that, but as author Mary Beard shows in various ways, it is by no means entirely true.

For one thing, even motor coach lecturers point out that most of the murals and other artwork decorating the Pompeiian villas are no longer in the ruins, but on display in the Naples archaeological museum. And a damn good thing that is. Few would have survived had they been left in situ

Beard includes reproductions of several old drawings of ancient wall paintings and sculptures. The originals are now gone or severely faded. Archaeologists, historians, and art lovers mourn them.

When first excavated in the 18th century the buildings were in considerably worse shape than they are now, after much restoration. Damage from an earthquake in 62 had not been completely fixed when Vesuvius erupted, and the volcanic ash collapsed roofs, which in turn destroyed many interior furnishings. Frozen in time, but a time when a lot of the city had been trashed.

We don't know how much of the evidence uncovered was looted or lost after seeing the light for the first time after some 1,800 years. As if that weren't enough, the city was literally bombed by Allied aircraft in 1943! Why? Beard doesn't say. Of course many sites of historic importance were also blown up in the world wars, the most famous being the abbey Monte Cassino (founded by St. Benedict in 529)  in the campaign to take Rome. But at least Monte Cassino was a military target, believed occupied by the German army -- although there has been controversy about whether that was so at the time of the destruction. Were there German units touring the temples and brothels of Pompeii?

But such considerations make up only a small part of The Fires of Vesuvius. The author concentrates on what is still available to see now, with a historically informed enthusiasm. She seems to have read everything ever written about Pompeian history by ancient and modern authors, although she says her lists of sources are "inevitably selective"; the impressive bibliography includes works in several languages.

Beard wears her learning lightly. Although writing with enough detail to satisfy the curious non-specialist reader, she's no show-off. Her style avoids academic jargon, using ordinary but evocative language. Here's a sample:
One of the hardest things to recapture [for the modern visitor] is the combination of gaudy brightness and dingy gloom that characterised Pompeian houses of this type. The vast majority were originally painted in vivid colours, which have in many cases now faded to, literally, pale imitations of what they once were: deep reds to washed-out pinks, bright yellows to creamy pastel. 

And it was not just a matter of coloured walls. Though the original ceilings rarely survive, where they have been reconstructed (by piecing together the fallen plasterwork found on the floor) they also are sometimes ornately decorated and coloured in rich hues. ... Like the Pompeian street, many a Pompeian house would have been, in our terms, an assault on the visual senses.

The assault was perhaps mitigated by the general darkness. For while the sunlight would have streamed into the atrium through the open roof, and into the peristyle garden, many other rooms had little or no access to light -- except what they could borrow from those internal sources.
External windows, she says, were generally few and small. No wonder we have found so many once-hanging oil lamps.

The Fires of Vesuvius examines Pompeii, and a few nearby areas, from many angles -- streets, shops, residences, religious rites, fun and games, politics (even managing to make the last more interesting than you might think). The famous houses of ill repute (probably not scandalous at the time, although sited in their own "red light district" so to speak) and the gladiatorial games are given their due but not emphasized for the sake of sensationalism. 

Graffiti seem to have been scrawled all over town, including on the internal pillars of the Basilica in the Forum. Some were electioneering "posters," some sexual boasting, some silly jokes, pretty much like what might appear today on billboards or rest room walls.

Mary Beard is a professor (or whatever the proper term may be) at Newnham College, Cambridge. Newnham, incidentally, is where one of the distinguished early leaders of the Society for Psychical Research, Eleanor Sidgwick, taught.

Beard is a media celebrity in the U.K., where she has written and presented the BBC TV series Meet the Romans.

Friday, July 24, 2015


I was planning to continue my sabbatical from blogging for a while, but I feel like I ought to elaborate a little on a note I have placed on the blogroll. Specifically, there are now asterisks following the links to Sultan Knish (Daniel Greenfield) and Gates of Vienna. Here is the note they refer to:
*Courageous on Islam. But also cowardly PC liberals who refuse to print comments about other threats to civilization (e.g., genocide of whites). 
The hosts of both those sites would sooner go on a permanent halal diet than hint at the highly disproportionate black crime rate. (Tip o' the lid to Steve Sailer)

Sultan Knish has two topics that he recycles endlessly with variations: Islam and support for Israel. Fine. Lots of bloggers have their specialties. One might wish, however, that he would at least recognize that the worldwide jihad is not an isolated phenomenon. It is one facet of an all-encompassing movement, the Hard Left's drive to make whites ashamed and guilty, the better to subjugate them as quickly as what remains of the rule of law allows. The militant advance of Islam that so disturbs Mr. Knish would not gain the slightest foothold if Western today's white people had the self-confidence and pride of earlier days.

But Mr. Knish will have no parley with the heathens. In my experience, he allows no comments from readers that fail to track his party line and obsessions. Presumably he believes that if only Israel's enemies were wiped out we would have heaven on earth.

Just try sending him a comment about another intifada -- of black criminals preying on whites in huge numbers and the mainstream media blackout (pun intended, as usual) that tries to prevent the word from getting out. Has he ever, ever uttered a peep about white farmers in South Africa tortured, killed, and driven off their land? About the Wichita massacre? About the Knoxville torture-killings of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom? Not to my knowledge, and I've read him for years. Too bad the villains weren't Muslims and the victims Jews; descriptions of the events would be part of his standard repertory.

Mr. Knish will remain in the "Worth Your Time" category, because he is worth your time. He writes decently and sometimes better than that. It takes guts to call out Muslim outrages in our politically correct, suicidally tolerant culture, especially with Buraq and his mob in power. Too bad his compassion boundaries don't extend past Jews and Israelis. And heaven forbid offending any blacks (or immigrants, unless they're Muslims)! 

He's a New Yorker, after all.

Baron Bodissey and his consort, Dymphna, have created in Gates of Vienna a network of essayists and links about many followers of The Prophet (pbuh) leaving a trail of intolerance and slaughter. Baron and Dymphna are brave, too, living out in the sticks somewhere in Virginia where I doubt they can expect much protection. Their anti-jihad activities put them at great risk, and not only from Buraq's U.S. government forces. 

But "the Baron," as Dymphna likes to style him, is quite overt about squelching comments that don't fit his agenda. Does that remind you of any other media?

The Baron doesn't just hold comments for approval; he stops them cold with a firewall called Securi WebSite. 

What is going on?

You are not allowed to access the requested page. If you are the site owner, please open a ticket in our support page if you think it was caused by an error: If you are not the owner of the web site, you can contact us at Also make sure to include the block details (displayed below), so we can better troubleshoot the error.
  • Block reason: SPAM request was blocked.
He doesn't even know what I was going to say in my comment -- doesn't even know I was trying to send one -- and it's blocked because it's supposed to be spam!

I'll admit I have a grudge against the Baron. Some years ago, before he started hiding behind a firewall, one of my comments temporarily got through. It included a (reportedly true) story about Bozo, or Bono, or whatever pretentious name the U2 guy travels under.

Bono stood on the stage in front of an audience, doing what I have come to learn is his standard holier-than-thou poseur's act. The lights were dimmed for dramatic effect. Amid dead silence Bono repeatedly slapped his hands together. "Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies," he said solemnly. 

Voice from the audience: "Well, then, stop fuckin' doin' it!"

Now I don't normally use or approve of that kind of language. In context, I thought it sounded realistic and made the anecdote funnier.

The Baron did not agree. In an offensively condescending manner, he explained to your poor ignorant writer-editor-blogger than the proper way to have quoted the line would be to have used dashes in the bad word. I should have written "f-----". Home schooled children might have read the spelled-out obscenity! He deleted my comment.

Thank you, sir, I needed that slap! (Hollywood Mummy Museum, circa 1935) Naturally, the Baron's site with its gruesome accounts of beheading, shooting, bombing, crucifying, burying alive, and other imaginative ways of killing infidels must be kept family friendly. 

The Baron's latest rules for commenting run to five long paragraphs. This is typical:
Characteristics of unacceptable responses include, but are not limited to: hostility of tone, reliance on insinuation, the employment of heavy sarcasm, condescension, or hectoring. The determination of the presence of any of these traits in a comment is at the sole discretion of this blog’s owners, as is the presence of logical fallacies. ...
The most important thing to remember about the rules is this: The determination of whether any comment is in compliance is at the sole discretion of this blog’s owners. This may seem unfair, but there is a good reason for the tightening of our standards. We are now under close scrutiny by hostile observers who are eager to find a pretext for shutting this blog down.
Oh, come off it, Baron. "Include, but are not limited to ... ." "At the sole discretion ... ." Maybe you should study to get a job as a junior law clerk. You seem to have a talent for fine-print contract language. 

Why not admit you are afraid (for which no one would criticize you) instead of writing rubbish about how it could get you shut down by "hostile observers"? Do you think Steve Sailer doesn't have "hostile observers"? He says he moderates comments "at whim." That's his total policy for vetting them. But then, Steve doesn't demand a submissive, cultish following, unlike you and a certain politico-religious system.

You can say anything you like, short of libel, in the comments on my blog. I promise not to teach you a lesson about proper decorum, even if I sense a "hostility of tone."

I admire a lot of what you and Dymphna are doing with Gates of Vienna, and respect your willingness to live in some danger for your cause. Even if Gates has had zero success in changing anything so far, it's not your fault. But you too have a one-track mind, and it's a pretty narrow-gauge one. The campaign to make whites feel guilty for breathing aids and abets the jihad and helps destroy civilized life. But no, no, on your turf we mustn't notice. Might bother some of your hostile observers.

Oh, by the way, Baron, in family friendly terms suitable for the home schoolers you imagine are part of your audience: f--- you.