The Quaintness of the Regia Aeronautica in World War II

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Fascist Poster from 1938 Inviting Young Men to Try Out for the Air Force

Italian participation in World War II started late and ended early.  Italy only entered into combat when the Germans had rolled their Blitzkrieg over France and were conducting the final maneuvers that led to the armistice of 22 June 1940. The members of Benito Mussolini’s Grand Council, with the assent of the king, declared war on their Gaulish neighbors and attacked.  The main action took place in the air with the Regia Aeronautica or Royal Air Force making attacks on French fortifications and airfields.  The bombing and strafing raids were largely ineffective however because while the Italian air arm looked good in propaganda films, it deployed few modern types and of those — few proved themselves efficient in combat.  The obsolescence of Italy’s air-inventory had its roots in Mussolini’s participation in the Spanish Civil War on the side of the Nationalists.  In 1936 the Regia Aeronautica deployed an air arsenal that included up-to-date types, like the Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 trimotor bomber and the Fiat CR.32 biplane fighter.  The latter acquitted itself marvelously against the inferior French and Russian aircraft fielded by the Republicans.  The Cucaracha, as it came to be called, represented the perfection of the biplane interceptor and could also undertake ground-attack and close-support duties.  A Fiat V-twelve with six cylinders in each bank propelled the sleek, streamlined airframe pulled through the air by a two-bladed metal propeller.  The CR.32 had a maximum speed of about 230 miles per hour, fast when Italy introduced the type in the early 1930s.  The Cr.32’s two machine guns stood as adequate for the time.  The SM.81 followed the planform of a Savoia-Marchetti airliner, which meant that it had not begun life as a proposed military type.  Again, SM.81 performed adequately considering the opposition, as it had in the Italo-Abyssinian war of 1935 – 37, against no opposition at all.  Italy sent other types to Spain, including the Breda 65 ground-attack aircraft, which even managed to score a few victories in air combat, a role for which its designers did not intend it.

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Ralph Vaughan Williams – The “London” and “Pastoral” Symphonies and “Sinfonia Antartica”

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Claude Monet (1840 – 1926): Port of London (1871)

The English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958) wrote nine symphonies over his lifetime beginning with the choral-orchestral Sea Symphony of 1910, a setting of Walt Whitman’s maritime verse, and ending with the Symphony in E-Minor of 1957.  Vaughan Williams eschewed a numbering system, designating his symphonic scores, which form the trunk of his compositional achievement, only by title or key signature.  As follow-ups to his Sea Symphony, Vaughan Williams produced A London Symphony (first version 1914; final revision, 1936) and A Pastoral Symphony (1921), both of which exhibit programmatic qualities although their author downplayed these, as have subsequent commentators.  The original version of A London Symphony had its first performance under Geoffrey Toye in its namesake city in March 1914, and A Pastoral Symphony, also in London, in January 1922 under Adrian Boult.  The next three symphonies (F-Minor, D-Major, and E-Minor) lacked titles, but the seventh, which drew on a film-score that the composer had written in 1947, he called Sinfonia Antartica.  The composer completed Sinfonia Antartica, after several years of revision, in 1952.  John Barbirolli then conducted the premiere in January 1953 with the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester.  The final symphony, sharing its key-signature (E-Minor) with the sixth, has literary roots in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891).  It depicts a characteristic topography, in this case the Salisbury Plain, as do A London Symphony, A Pastoral Symphony, and Sinfonia Antartica theirs – but it remains untitled.  In fact, A London Symphony also takes inspiration, at least in part, from a literary source – the epilogue to H. G. Wells’ Tono-Bungay, a novel that saw publication in 1906.  Although professedly an agnostic, Vaughan Williams (hereafter RVW) in his works, including the symphonies, repeatedly and almost obsessively approached the topic, in all its aspects, of transcendence.

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Philosophical Skeleton Keys: The Stack of Worlds

This post supervenes my recent post On Some Happy Corollaries of Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems (so you might want to review that post, and the earlier posts it cites in turn, in order to find yourself quite oriented in what follows (sorry, dear reader: not everything is TLDR)).

There is much talk in traditional cosmology of a stack of heavens above our own, and likewise of hells below. The hierarchy of angelic choirs echoes that stack. Most pagan pantheons feature such hierarchies of gods, with a Most High God above all gods, whom they worship, and who lives in the Highest Heaven which is above all the heavens. There is talk too of other worlds parallel to our own (such, e.g., as Jotunheim in the mythic scheme of the Vikings), that might communicate with each other (as at Ragnarok, when the giants of Jotunheim make war upon the men of Middle Earth and the gods of Asgard), so as to form a world of worlds.

That sort of talk struck me at first as fantastic, and so relatively irreal – despite its irresistible odor of concrete factuality, and its ubiquity in the traditions of Earth, and thus its uncanny tinct of credibility. There is also the difficulty that there is a certain beauty in the notion, that cannot be found in the flat idea that our world (however generously conceived (as with the various sorts of branching cosmoi proposed by this or that metacosmology)) is all there is. Then at last there is the ancient conviction of the Great Chain of Being, no link of which might be concretely missing if any part of the chain were to find concrete instantiation.

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Kristor & Ilíon: Gödel, Creation, Evil, the Satan, &c.

In my last post on some happy corollaries of Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems, I tipped my hat to our long time commenter (and an orthospherean from before there was an Orthosphere) Ilíon, who had corrected some early posts of mine on the topic. Ilíon and I then took up a conversation by email, which he has reproduced at his own blog. I intend to continue my conversation with him there in the comments thread.

Ilíon is – how can I say this? Ilíon is like Auster and Zippy, with whom he tangled, both. He’s one of those sharp edged minds that always manage to teach me, if only by forcing me to get really clear on what the heck I mean, and, so, think. Our converse has always been challenging, and – without fail – charitable and friendly. And edifying.

He is also willing to entertain radical hypotheses, which makes him interesting. But he is just as ready to slice them to bits with an entirely orthodox Christian razor.

I therefore recommend to you my conversation with my longtime friend, Ilíon.


On Some Happy Corollaries of Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems

I shall not now reiterate arguments I here set forth to my own satisfaction in 2012, shortly after we got started – with the corrective editorial (and indeed, therefore, also substantive) help of my old friend and interlocutor (and, as with any true friend, my teacher) Ilíon, an orthospherean and shieldmate for years before there was such a thing as the Orthosphere – but shall rather recommend that any reader of the present post who finds it at all confusing should first recur thereto, and take it, and ponder it in his heart, before adding below any quibbles or queries. Consider the arguments of that post, together with the relatively brief commentary thereto, as praeparatio for this.

The arguments I proposed in 2012 are nevertheless fundamental to what I shall now suggest, so unless you understand them already, dear reader, it would do you well first to review them.

The basic notion is that any orderly system must, as orderly (and, so, qua system, properly so called; to say “orderly system” is rather like saying “rectangular square”), be amenable in principle at least to complete – i.e., to exhaustive – nomological formalization in a logical calculus. Think, e.g., of the System of Nature, which – as Baconian science, and indeed her predecessor of the more expansive Aristotelian sort both presuppose – must be capable of formalization in a system of natural laws, or at least of natural regularities (tace for the nonce on how any given regularity gets to be anything of the sort, or what any such law might be, or how it might operate). If there is truly a System of Nature, then truly her ways must be legated, and so then legible to us, in some order that can at least in principle be set forth in some formal scheme that undergirds and supports – and, somehow, regulates and so enables – her apparent and merely phenomenal orderliness, in such a way as to secure to us in the first place such a thing as phenomena.

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Pin-Up Art & the Metaphysics of Sex

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Peter Driben (1908 – 1968)

In an age, on the one hand, of renewed, anti-sexual Puritanism and, on the other, of freely available Internet pornography the names of Peter Driben (1908 – 1968), Gillette Elvgren (1914 – 1980), Earl Moran (1893 – 1984), Alberto Vargas (1896 – 1982), George Petty (1894 – 1975), and Earle K. Bergey (1908 -1985) are largely forgotten although from the late 1920s through the mid-1960s they held a place in the American popular imagination and not only among males.  Notoriety attached itself to these men because they produced the cover-art for a plethora of what went by the name of “glamour magazines,” with titles such as Wink, Flirt, Eyeful, and Beauty Parade, to list only a few.  Unlike Playboy and its later offshoots, which would drive them from the newsstands, the “girlie mags” featured no nudity, but limited themselves to what might be called the scantily clad or, on occasion, the accidentally scantily clad – young women in lingerie, bathing-suits, tennis outfits, and short skirts who sometimes by mischance display in public more limb than they would intend.  Whereas the interiors of these periodicals used black-and-white photography, the house always printed the covers in bright polychrome.  Often the poses are humorous.  The young woman is overburdened with packages, her shorts have come unbuttoned, and she bends her body and pins her elbows against her hips to keep her culottes from slipping away.  From the expression on her face, however, her plight and embarrassment communicate themselves, and her struggle to maintain dignity becomes sympathetic.  Ice-skating and roller-skating accidents sometimes occasion a revelatory maladroitness, but the revelation obeys strict limits.  Men never enter the picture.  The artist invariably portrays the female twenty-something as independent and as going – playfully, of course, but sometimes with bad luck – about her own business.  If she flaunted her comeliness, which qualifies as exceedingly comely, it would be in private and with an excusable girlish vanity.

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The Atonement: A Simple Explanation for Children

Son:        Hey, Dad, can I ask a question?

Father:   Sure, kiddo, what’s up?

Son:        Well, I’ve been wondering about the Atonement.

Father:   O, great. Another easy one. At least it’s not about girls, so maybe I can help. What’s the question?

Son:        I can’t see how the death of Jesus helped us. I get that God wanted to help us get back to him, but I don’t understand why he didn’t just make it happen, the way he did when he created light. Why send his Son to Earth, and then have him killed? Why was that necessary? Why did Jesus have to die?

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Proclus, Einstein, & the Logos

Bird 17 Powers, Richard M. (1921 - 1996) - Abstract in Yellow (1960s)

Richard M. Powers (1921 – 1996): Paperback Cover (1963)
“Δέστε τη ζώνη ασφαλείας σας. Πρόκειται για μια ανώμαλη βόλτα.”
 – Συνταξιούχος καθηγητής

In the philosophical school of Neoplatonism, the Late-Pagan intellectual dispensation and its nascent Early-Christian counterpart find common ground.  Indeed – they converge.  They coexist miscibly for a while until the Pagan component seemingly disappears, leaving the Christian component as the sole public face of the movement.  This metamorphosis proceeds so smoothly, however, that in comparing a prose-sample from the one phase with a prose-sample from the other, with the author-names redacted, the reader might find himself hard-pressed to discern which of them leaned toward a fading polytheism and which toward the rising Trinitarian conviction.  But then the Pagan chapter of Neoplatonism hardly deserves the label of polytheism.  To the extent that the Late-Pagan thinkers recognize a multiplicity of divinities, they classify them as refracted manifestations of a single luminous principle; and when they insist on the primacy of “The One,” they tend to couch their discussion in the lexicon of a triple-hypostasis.  A Christian Neoplatonist like Pseudo-Dionysius borrows so much in his basic vocabulary and pivotal tropes from a Pagan Neoplatonist like Plotinus or Syrianus that a paragraph by the former will seem to parrot a paragraph by the latter, but it is in fact more a case of continuity than of parroting.  (To parroting – the reader must maintain his faith – the discussion will eventually come.)  Among the shared, interlocking premises on whose basis these thinkers operate are that the cosmos, by virtue of its perfection, must be the creation of a perfect being; that being good and true, the cosmos is also beautiful; and that the Demiurge or World-Creator, whereas he is apprehensible, is nevertheless not comprehensible.  As to the last, the Neoplatonists willingly expend thousands of words to argue that God, in his infinitude, infinitely exceeds the power of language to grapple with him.

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