Fingerpost to William Wildblood’s Meeting the Masters

Each of us is a pilgrim on a road that we hope will take us to the Celestial City.  But we must admit this is very often a dark road, haunted by murderous footpads and crowded on either side with the strip malls, billboards and seedy motels of Vanity Fair.  In out of the way places where they have yet to attract the notice of the highway department, one may, however, stumble upon a fingerpost pointing to an inn of godly refreshment.  I recently raised my tired eyes to one such fingerpost at Bruce Charlton’s  Notions, and have since spent some grateful hours supping by the hearth of a five-star inn of godly refreshment called Meeting the Masters. My hospitable host is William Wildblood, author of a book of the same name (which I will be reading) and occasional contributor at Albion Awakening.  Many Orthosphere readers no doubt frequent B.C.’s Notions, and therefore have already turned at his fingerpost and made their way to Meeting the Masters.  I’m setting up this fingerpost by the wayside for those who don’t, and haven’t.  First-rate fare for weary pilgrims!

Reactionary Entertainment: True Detective

If you have not seen it, I cannot too strongly recommend season 1 of the HBO mini-series True Detective. It is the second finest screen production I have ever seen, surpassed only by Band of Brothers. As I told my wife afterward, very few screen entertainments succeed well enough to make me feel as though the time I spent on them was not wasted. Almost all of them are less worthwhile than, say, playing solitaire. Sometimes I come out of the good ones refreshed, or expanded, or reminded of the Good and the Beautiful – as with Monty Python, or In Bruges, or Roman Holiday, or Rio Bravo, or African Queen. Only once every decade or so do I finish a screen production feeling that I have been morally improved. This happens reliably with Shakespeare and the Greek Tragedies, sometimes with Ibsen, Chekhov, Stoppard. Otherwise, almost never.

With True Detective, it happened. I was astonished. I expected a gritty procedural. It was that. But it was so much more.

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That Hideous Strength

Who has read and remembers That Hideous Strength – of the gigantic oeuvre of CS Lewis, the capstone, masterpiece, and summation – and who has lately followed the news in the alternative media must have noticed a horrible semblance of these last weeks to the gathering storm that novel so masterfully presents, of good and evil human, natural, and supernatural rising to a tremendous pitch of intensity and power as they drive each inexorably to a titanic, shattering battle. I do not mean here to specify all the parallels, but they are almost all there: corrupt government agencies with noble sounding names and ends that work in fact deep evil; a cruel fat sadistic lesbian harridan, plaything and willing instrument of obscure Satanic masters; inner circles within inner circles, each more vicious and twisted than the last; sexual sin run amok; young victims; hubris on a vast scale, pretensions to a Babelonian New World Order and a New Man; nominalist obfuscation, nihilism and relativism; sophistical professors and rotten priests; contempt for all that is good, true and holy, old and homely, right, simple, and sweet, or even simply and honestly rational (all in the name of rationality) – the whole nine yards. And arrayed against these Powers, a pitiful few doughty hapless writers and scholars, talking mostly to each other in a remote corner of the world of what is good and right, true and holy, strait and wise, solid and reliable.

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Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress (2011) & the Crisis of Subscendence

Damsels in Distress CD COVER

Filmmaker Whit Stillman has managed with considerable aplomb to avoid the clichés of the romantic comedy, a genre within whose parameters he nevertheless works, not least in his fourth film of five, Damsels in Distress (2011).  In addition to being a romantic comedy, to the extent of transforming itself in its denouement into a 1930s guy-gets-girl musical number, with Fred Astaire’s voice patched into the soundtrack, Damsels in Distress is a college film.  Because Stillman understands the meaning and function of college, his college film is also a film about civilization – or rather about the current degeneracy of what used to be Western Civilization, as made manifest by the decline of higher education.  In Damsels in Distress, Stillman has undertaken to represent what I once, in a casual essay, half-jokingly called subscendence, a kind of active anti-transcendence that seeks the lowest level in everything; but Stillman has also created a set of characters, in his eponymous damsels, who, discerning subscendence and judging it repellent, rally themselves to mount resistance against it.

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