Of our living poets—to my mind—no greater one exists than James Matthew Wilson. A prominent and energetic professor of the humanities at an Augustinian university by day, Wilson edits and writes poetry with equal prominence and energy by night. Not only does he write excellent (make that brilliant) verse, but he also encourages the art of others.
His latest book of poetry, The Hanging God, brings together more than thirty of his poems, all of which were originally published elsewhere but none of which appeared in precisely the form they do in this collection. In other words, context matters, and Wilson understands this more than most. Not surprisingly, given Wilson’s vast interests, the topics of the poem range from pure love to diabolical Nietzsche. Some of the poems take place then, and many now. Some never. Some take place here, and others elsewhere. Some nowhere.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/06/hanging-god-james-matthew-wilson-bradley-birzer.html
Our standard textbooks, sadly, tell a false story. Not only do they claim “religious freedom” from the beginning of colonial settlement, but they also attempt to do so by identifying each colony as a place of refuge for a particular denomination. New England for the Puritans (Calvinists), Pennsylvania for the Quakers, Maryland for the Catholics, Virginia for the Anglicans, etc. What our textbooks fail to note, however, is that these colonies which might very well offer complete religious freedom to one denomination rarely do the same for competitor denominations. Virginia, for example, encouraged the members of the Church of England to the nth degree, but they persecuted Calvinists, Baptists, and any other dissenters. New England despised Catholics, but they hated the Baptists even more.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/06/americas-uneven-legacy-religious-freedom-bradley-birzer.html
Two things in particular surprised me about this movie, striking me in different ways. First, it is genuinely funny. There were several times where I had to stop myself from laughing at the shenanigans in the film, especially when the Turtles find their way into the Batcave. Some of the best gags from the comic make their way over to the movie (my personal favorite being Mikey’s wipe-board presentation on why Batman may and may not be a cool dude), and there are tons of little throwaway lines that have a great payoff. Have you ever wondered why Gotham has so many blimps flying around? Rest assured, the Turtles do too, and they find out their purpose in one of the movie’s best jokes.
Batman also has some fun in the movie, as he’s presented as terse and gruff, but not without a sense of humor. It’s refreshing to see a Batman who isn’t a jerk and lets the sillier personalities of the Turtles win him over. Sure, he’s not cracking wise alongside them, but he doesn’t treat them like they’re idiots for being goofballs either. In fact, he shows each of his allies great respect in different ways, from Batgirl to Robin to each of the four Turtles. Like I said, it’s nice to see Batman value and cherish the presence of others in his war on crime, and even more to see him relate to them on a personal level.
— Read on batman-news.com/2019/06/07/batman-vs-teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-review/
Russell Kirk’s Forgotten “Intelligent Citizen’s Guide to Conservatism” ~ The Imaginative Conservative
Not surprisingly, it’s beautifully written. But, more importantly, it anticipates almost every major contribution the Vatican II Council would offer with its understanding and doctrine of personalism. As such, it holds its own when compared to the works of Thomas Merton, Josef Pieper, Etienne Gilson, Jacques Maritain, Gabriel Marcel, Romano Guardini, and Max Picard, all of whom influenced Kirk mightily in the 1940s and 1950s.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/06/russell-kirk-intelligent-citizens-guide-conservatism-bradley-birzer.html
Cicero never hid the fact that he wrote his own On the Republic in imitation of, and as a corrective of, Plato’s more famous Republic. Indeed, Cicero reveled in the idea. Yet, his own work is never slavish. In book four of Cicero’s version—of which, sadly, very little survives and much of it only in fragments quoted in other works—Cicero openly criticizes Plato for several things. Even in his criticisms, though, Cicero is playful, with the participants of the dialogue noting that Plato seems to be exempt from all wrong doing.
Not so, Cicero declares
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/06/cicero-no-slave-plato-bradley-birzer.html
Second, real law comes not from the mind of man but from the essence of creation itself. That is, man does not create law, he discovers it. It has always been there, though man has ignored, mocked, distorted, or forgotten it. And, as it is always there, it can never be destroyed, while it can always, critically, be remembered. A people might go two thousand years in ignorance (willful or not) of the true law, but the true law remains. If it fails in Troy, it can be remembered in Rome. If it fails there, it can be remembered in London. And, if it fails there, it can be remembered in Philadelphia. Truth, after all, is permanent and nothing man does can destroy it, no matter how vicious our intentions.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/06/cicero-republic-true-law-right-reason-nature-bradley-birzer.html
As Cicero critically notes, during all of its history, Rome came about by trial and error, custom and habit, not by design. “Our commonwealth, in contrast, was not shaped by one man’s talent but by that of many; and not in one person’s lifetime, but over many generations.” Livy, later, argued the same point, but in Polybian fashion. Cicero notes that through On the Republic he hopes to “show you our commonwealth as it is born, grows up, and comes of age.” By implication, of course, Cicero anticipates the decay, corruption, middle-age, and eventual death of the republic. Unlike in the American experience, the Roman republicans could not appeal to its “founders” or its “founding” or its specific constitution. Instead, all things came into being over time and through incredibly difficult and painstaking work. America’s Republic might be a mighty fortress, but Rome’s was poetic. Only in the divine, Cicero claims, could one find an origin of Rome. The rest was, simply put, experience and tenacity.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/05/natural-foreign-republics-rome-america-bradley-birzer.html
Tonsor adopted the fusionist project but ultimately transformed it into a civilizational mission that went far beyond American politics. He believed that the Roman and Anglo-Catholics who comprised the traditionalist wing of the post-World War II conservative movement in the U.S. represented the last hurrah of Catholic humanism in the West to that point. In previous ages, Catholic humanists had risen up to help the Church prevail against the Roman Empire, Germanic invasions, Protestant Reformation, and Modern Age. Beginning in the 1960s, as late modernity began transitioning to postmodernity, Catholic humanists were called on, once again, to fight a culture war – this time in a battle of the books that drew in positivists, Marxists, nihilists, statists, and postmodernists. When Tonsor and other Catholic humanists confronted modern and postmodern movements, they did not just reject them outright. Rather, the task was to sift and weigh and test contemporary thought for what was wheat and what was chaff. Whatever was true, good, and beautiful in modern-postmodern thought could be – should be – baptized and redeemed.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/05/fusionist-mind-stephen-tonsor-gleaves-whitney.html
Its own kind of debating society, the TCBS considered almost any question as long as it avoided relationships with girls. “Oh, we [TCBS] discussed everything under the sun except girls I should say. Oh, yes. That was what bound us together. Somehow you felt ‘this chap and I can talk about anything.’” Wiseman later remembered, “And we also shared the philosophy that, number one is at the top. And I don’t know why those things impressed me so that now you’re sitting there and they sort of come out again. But there it is, and I feel sure that I’ve got it right. . . . But as I say, we formed the TCBS because it—when we had a gap in these exam programs we pushed off to Barrow’s stores in order to have some tea.” And, yet, it wasn’t just girls. Though current events were not prohibited, Tolkien avoided them. “I mean to say that Tolkien was a very constructive person, in a narrow line,” Wiseman explained. “You ask him about Norse poetry, he’s bound to get it right. You asked him about Calvin Coolidge, he might quite easily get it wrong.” Still, if Wiseman remembered correctly, Tolkien dominated the discussions, not just because of his personality, but because of his penetrating intelligence and knowledge. “Well, you couldn’t [feel comradeship] with John Ronald. He wasn’t the comrade of anybody except himself. . . . Oh yes, and he deserved it, too.” Several other students at King Edward’s joined the TCBS as well, but Tolkien, Wiseman, Gilson, and Smith remained the core four of the group.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/05/immortal-four-tolkien-barrovian-society-bradley-birzer.html
Though I consider myself rather patriotic—especially to the West of Socrates and Augustine and to the America of Washington and Jefferson—I have often found public liturgies, such as Memorial Day, distasteful. There’s too much contrivance in them, and they always feel too “new and improved” and yet sterile even in their flashiness.
At an aesthetic level, who wouldn’t choose to wear black and pour a bottle of tequila on a grave on All Soul’s Day under a grim November sky rather than be mesmerized by the gaudy reds and blues displayed around blossoming spring flowers and under a glittering May sun?
Mea culpa, but death in this world is not a pretty thing, though many die well. Death should be somber, contemplative, and prayerful, not jingoistically and superficially triumphant. Our victory in death comes from He who died on a Hill of Skulls, not from the soldier of a nation-state.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/05/real-memorials-patriotism-jingoism-bradley-birzer-timeless.html
Measuring the Influence of Russell Kirk and Other Conservative Authors ~ The Imaginative Conservative
As noted on the slide itself, this slide compares and considers, arguably, the seven most influential male conservatives of the 20th century: Irving Babbitt; Friedrich Hayek; Christopher Dawson; Eric Voegelin; Leo Strauss; Russell Kirk; and Harry Jaffa. [As a sidenote, had I included Paul Elmer More, his reputation would have paralleled, almost exactly, Irving Babbitt’s, so I left it off for sake of clarity.] This chart makes several things clear. First, and most significantly, the most important conservative thinker of the century came at its beginning, not its end: Irving Babbitt. At his height, Babbitt soared above all others, and he experienced three peaks. Second, the most important conservative as of 2008, without compare, is Leo Strauss. Yet, interestingly, his reputation declined rather shockingly during the Clinton years, and only rebounded with the election of George W. Bush. Third, Christopher Dawson and, to a lesser extent, Eric Voegelin each enjoyed considerable and sustained popularity over decades.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/05/russell-kirk-influence-conservative-authors-bradley-birzer.html
To create a unique atmosphere for his Gotham City, Timm’s team drew all of Gotham on black paper. Traditionally, animators use white, allowing for light to flourish somewhat naturally. That Mr. Timm and company tried, for the first time, black paper was revolutionary in terms of technology and art, but also quite successful. Even the cleanest corners of Gotham possess a brooding darkness, perfect for the entrance of a Dark Knight.“There was an architectural visionary named Hugh Ferris, who did these elaborate, futuristic cityscape architectural renderings,” Mr. Timm explains. “They were just gorgeous—these massive deco buildings rendered very moodily. That was one of our prime influences on the look of Batman: The Animated Series.“ One of the most innovative things the Batman: The Animated Series did, in its first feature animated movie, The Mask of the Phantasm, was an opening, computer generated at the very beginning of the use of CGI in any film, of a camera slowly making its way in reverse through the Gotham skyline as the magisterial music of the tragically unsung but brilliant composer Shirley Walker plays. Walker’s soundtrack employs music from the late classical to early romantic period while incorporating faux medieval chant. As bizarre as this combination sounds, it works beautifully, especially as the camera crosses the Gotham City skyline. Nothing in the comics or the movies made, before or after, has done so much to demonstrate the sheer and inhumane scope and scale of Gotham.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/05/americas-urban-nightmare-gotham-city-bradley-birzer.html