Thursday, October 16, 2014

Andrew Targowski - The Limits of Civilization

The Limits of Civilization

any colleagues or libraries having an interest in the field, they can apply a special 20% discount on all prepublication orders as well. If they would like to take advantage of this offer, please have them email Tricia Worthington at contribcopy.hub@novapublishers.com and enter Special20 in the subject line of the email.

Authors: Andrew Targowski (Western Michigan University)
Book Description:

This book has been inspired by Dennis Meadows's (et al.) The Limits to Growth, published 41 years ago, in 1972. It forewarned the general public about the exhaustion of strategic resources of the planet as known at that time, unless economic and population expansions were halted.
This resulted in the world becoming aware of the crisis of civilization. Measures were taken to reduce the consumption of the strategic resources, including the promotion of recycling resources used. Efforts were made internationally to introduce the practice of climate and environmental protection, to little avail.

The present book has a wider scope of analysis and synthesis, and even gloomier conclusions than those found in the two pioneering books.

This author has arrived at the following conclusions:

• The plight of civilization is doomed by the sun expiring within 4.5 billion years. It is also determined by the exhaustion of the known and the potential resources of the small planet Earth around the year 5,000. The future of civilization (considered in the time frame imaginable to man) is swayed by its current crisis, which results from the Triangle of Civilization Death (the combination of the “bombs” of population, ecology and depletion of strategic resources), which will be felt around 2050.
• The future of civilization is dependent on its capability of entering the phase of Wise and Universal Civilization in the years to come. This is conditioned upon the abandonment of the known socio-political and economic systems: capitalism, socialism, communism and their hybrids. These systems are based on the constant growth of population and the economy, which is unsustainable any longer.
• Democratic Ecologism ought to be the new system, securing a wise and sustainable functioning of civilization; it would prioritize the ecosystem in the choices made by man and societies. What must be observed, too, is tolerance based on Spirituality 2.0. It is based on the Decalogue of Complementary Values derived from the main religions 1.0, which the world is now practicing.

Is it possible to introduce these solutions to practical life? This is up to people becoming wiser. Alas, so far people do not even know what wisdom is since wisdom is not taught at school or college. And without wisdom, no civilization stands any chance of success in the universe of systemic chaos. (Imprint: Nova)


Prof. Dr. Andrew Targowski
WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49008, USA
andrew.targowski@wmich.edu
President Emeritus of International Society for
the Comparative Study of Civilizations
www.wmich.edu/iscsc

Evy Johanne Haland - Rituals of Death and Dying in Modern and Ancient Greece: Writing History from a Female Perspective.

a new book that might be of interest to Civilitas subscribers (and especially for the theme of the next ISCSC-conference):

Rituals of Death and Dying in Modern and Ancient Greece: Writing History from a Female Perspective. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014, see

http://www.cambridgescholars.com/search?Q=h%C3%A5land&As=true&As=false&Mid=0&Sid=true&Sid=false

All the best,
Evy Johanne Håland

See also: http://uoa.academia.edu/EvyJohanneHaland

http://www.inth.ugent.be/?page_id=2368

Who's Counting?


Laina Farhat-Holzman
Pajaronian
October 18, 2014

One issue of the San Francisco Chronicle, August 23, 2014, was representative of what is going on globally. “Hamas kills 18 suspected spies in Gaza;” “Shiite gunmen kill 70 in attack on Sunni mosque;” “Nation mourns Flight 17 victims (295 of them); “Civil War deaths top 191,000 after 3 years of conflict in Syria;” “Ebola outbreak grows nationally with two new cases” (2,615 cases and 1,427 deaths reported). There is a horrific death toll in South Sudan, where ethnic tribal hatreds are killing a hoped for the new republic. Nobody is protesting Sudan's still-ongoing slaughter of the people of Darfur, who, although Muslim, are black.

The government of the Ukraine is desperately trying to keep their country together as Russia works to split and destroy Ukraine's independence. In this defensive war, 2,000 civilians were killed in just two days. Tunisia is also arresting (and probably executing) at least 1,000 people as Tunisia tries to save itself from falling in the hands of ISIS. Unfortunately, the press and naïve fundraisers are fixated on Gaza.

Numbers give us the feeling that we are getting facts, but this is not always the case. When you learn that 295 people were on board the Malaysian plane shot down by Russian agents, you can believe that. But for any figures from the lesser-developed world, be skeptical. Nobody in Muslim countries takes a census; it is culturally lethal to do so. Numbers coming out of Gaza are particularly suspect.

There are no demonstrations in the US or Europe by people outraged by these other horrors, but the rent-a-mobs are always available to demonstrate against Israel and, better yet, Jews, who are told to “go to the ovens.” Santa Cruz (my local metropolis) is infamous for its counterculture enthusiasms. You can always find demonstrators willing to go forth for causes abhored by the majority of grownups in the county. During both Gulf Wars, these intrepid demonstrators marched with banners supporting Saddam Hussein.  Today, they march in support of Gaza, outraged by Israel's self-defense. That Gaza lobbed thousands of missiles hidden in mosques and schools was fine with them. If Gaza were an innocent victim, why did it beat and expel reporters who found otherwise?

Nihad Awad, spokesman for CAIR, the American propaganda wing of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, insists that “Israel is the biggest threat to world peace and security.” This is the height of cynicism. Israel does what we would do if Mexico were lobbing missiles into San Diego. Militant Islam is a bigger problem.

Malaysia has arrested 19 ISIS sympathizers planning to attack nightclubs and bars in Kuala Lumpur. Indonesia has raided ISIS where thugs were planning major mayhem. Thousands of jihadists around the world have sworn allegiance to ISIS. The Philippines are threatened by ISIS recruits trying to join up with the terrorists already there. Spain and Morocco have arrested nine men suspected of recruiting jihadists to join ISIS. Jordan faces 6,000 members of a group that could become a fifth column within the country. Arrests are in process.

The US is well aware of these dangers and is watching who comes and goes from the war zones in the Middle East. On August 22, the FBI arrested Donald Ray Morgan at Kennedy Airport on gun charges, but then interrogated him and found much more serious activities going on. One wonders how much Islamists will benefit from converting such dim bulbs.

Morgan spent 8 months in Lebanon where his ex-wife lives. His twitters caught the Fed's attention. This fool called himself “Abu Omar al Amreeki” (“Amreeki” being “American”) and asked Allah for martyrdom. Allah has not yet obliged.  In April, a painfully stupid Colorado woman converted to Islam, but was arrested before she could travel to Syria to marry a fighter she had met online. We saved her from herself.

Federal police have estimated that at least 100 Americans could be fighting along with the ISIS in Syria.  With luck, none of them will live long enough to spawn more fools. Demonstrators need to rethink their focus and learn to count.

678 words

Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com or www.globalthink.net.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

What Makes a British Muslim An Executioner?


Laina Farhat-Holzman
Sentinel
October 11, 2014

Are radicalized Muslim youth more dangerous to Europe than to the United States? It is far easier for immigrants to be absorbed in the US, a country created by immigration from its onset, than in Europe. But even in Europe, where immigrants benefit from generous welfare and possible absorption, many of their children are rejecting these values. Why?

The children of Muslim immigrants are becoming radicalized, some of them in groups and others as lone wolves. What they all have in common is that they detest and reject the very values that made the first generations prosper; they turn instead to literalist interpretations of Islam.

The Boston Marathon attack by a pair of Chechen brothers who had received nothing but kindness and advantages in their adopted country, demonstrated such rejection.  One was in college and the other did well in his chosen sport, wrestling, and had a lovely wife willing to convert for him.  Why did these two choose to indiscriminately murder fellow citizens during a marathon? And why should an Army psychiatrist, Hassan Nidal, the beneficiary of education and rank, turn on his country and fellow soldiers and commit mass murder?

A suggestion comes from an excellent historian of the world of Islam, Raymond Ibrahim, in the April 16 FrontPage Magazine, whose article says that the very elements that make up western society are transformed when put into the context of Islam. Human freedom, human dignity, and universal justice, when put in an Islamic framework, give us very different values: Muslim Freedom, Muslim dignity, and Muslim justice, none of them having any relationship to freedom, dignity, or justice. They only justify “radicalization.”

We value rule of law, they want their law, Sharia. We value democracy, they value theocracy and Islamic dictatorship. We value dignity and pride for all, but they value only their kind of Muslim pride. We value gender equality; they find women abominable. Autonomy and personal freedom of choice are used by them as the right to “choose” jihad and get away with it.

Attorney General Eric Holder has said that “the threat of terrorism has changed…to worrying about people in the United States, American citizens---raised here, born here, and who for whatever reason, have decided they are going to become radicalized and take up arms against the nation in which they  were born.” Except in the case of the blue-collar-class Somalis in Minnesota who have been lured into suicidal adventures in Yemen, the majority of American wanabe jihadis have been educated and were economically successful. So were all the 9/11 terrorists. Poverty is not the issue.

Another explanation for the radicalization of the second generation is the structure of pious Muslim families: dictatorship from the top. Second-generation young men (and girls) are smothered by this, and very bored. A jihadi adventure is a way out.  In Europe this is particularly so, and thousands have joined jihadis in Syria, and if they don’t die, they will return home trained for mayhem. We had better worry about this too. One British Muslim treated the world to a decapitation of three hostages. How does one learn that in England?

Fear of “offending” Muslims muzzles the British press, an example of which was the Rotherham child abuse arrests (1,400 children trafficked), manned almost exclusively by British Pakistanis. The thugs running this horror were motivated initially by disdain for British teenage girls (whores anyway, they said). Now authorities must determine if this enterprise was also funding ISIL, already funded by other criminal activities. The intimidated press reluctantly identified these monsters as “Asians,” fearful of saying Pakistani Muslims. But other “Asians,” Indians and Bangladeshis, have protested this designation since they are not involved.

Our great illusion is that by exposing the Muslims to our freedoms, democracy, and economic benefits, they will gradually give up their hostility to the West. The fever roiling Islam today has not yet run its course. They are not underdogs whom we must not “insult,” as the naive politically correct imagine. They are making a last ditch effort to resurrect a brutal, violent, medieval ideology.

682 words

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com or www.globalthink.net.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Reception of Macro-History in Sweden

CENTER
FOR RESEARCH
ON GEOPOLITICS          C R G
                                                   
______________________________________________________



Research Paper No. 1996

RECEPTION OF MACRO-HISTORY IN SWEDEN

Bertil Haggman


2009

________________________________________________

Center for Research on Geopolitics (CRG), SWEDEN.
Director: Mr. Bertil Haggman, LL.M., author. E-mail:
bertilhaggman@hotmail.com


Introduction

My personal view was that macro-historian Oswald Spengler did not have a very positive response in Sweden if any. This was partly based on the fact that his great work The Decline of the West was not translated into Swedish until 1996.

Now at last we know better. James Cavallie, author and former with the Swedish National Archive, has documented the Spengler reception in Sweden in a very detailed book, Spengler i Sverige – Den svenska reception av Oswald Spenglers teser om världshistorien och Västerlandets undergång (Spengler in Sweden – The Swedish Reception of Oswald Spengler’s Theories on World History and the Decline of the West), Stockholm: Hjalmarson & Hoegberg, 2009, 304 pages). Cavallie has extended his presentation to the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland and it covers the period from the 1920s to the present day. The author shows that a large number of leading Swedish cultural personalities have published about the German macro-historian. He has even had some influence on Swedish fictional works and on Swedish architectural theory.

Another recently published book by Per Landin, an author and liberal journalist also partly deals with Spengler in Dietrich Eckharts onda oega – essaeer (The Evil Eye of Dietrich Eckhart – Essays), Stockholm, Atlantis, 2009, 228 pages. In typical liberal fashion he assures the readers that conservatism presently is looked upon as reactionary. Maybe so in Landin’s own liberal circles in Sweden. In the new book Landin deals with several conservatives in what in Gerany is labelled as “revolutionary conservatives” in the Weimar Republic. Spengler was of course never a part of  “revolutionary conservatism”. He was a pessimistic individualist and Landin’s view of Spengler is not only negative. The author admits that it is hard to classify the German macro-historian. There is a certain connection to Nazism, according to Landin (although he does not go deeper than that. Spengler does not belong to any political ideology.

Spengler's Baltic Journey

It had been a hectic year for Oswald Spengler. In February 1924 he had published "Politische Pflichten der deutschen Jugend" and in May "Neubau des Deutschen Reiches". In the beginning of October he lectured at the Orientalist Conference in Munich. Then also in October he published "Altasien" and "Nietzsche und sein Jahrhundert", a lecture at the Nietzsche Archive at the 80th birthday of the philosopher. These were only a few of his activities that year. Already before Spengler’s visit to Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Latvia in 1924 there had been a number of reviews of his work The Decline of the West.

When he undertook the Baltic journey he probably wanted to continue to Russia but was prevented from that by erupting violence there.

The notes underneath are from Spengler's own hand on cards preserved at the Spengler Archive now at the Bavarian State Library from a visit of mine in Munich. The English translation from German is mine.




" 27.10.1924

Early Berlin

29.10.1924

Lund

10.29 in the evening arrival after an enjoyable see journey.

30.10.1024

Lecture: [d.] The Origin of the Great Cultures. (Academic Society) "German-Swedish Academic Union." Introduction by Professor E.A. Kock.

31.10.1924

Lecture: The History of Language in the History of the Development of Human Life (?) (Philosophical Society)

In connection discussion: Nilsson, (?), Larsson, Ljungdahl, (?).

1.11.1924

Lund

Postcard to me via Halle and Berlin (?)
Lectures in Lund.



11.1924

Uppsala

Lecture at the "Aesthetic Society" with the couple Cornell (?), Dr. Stavenow and Dr. Mannheimer.

Photographed (newspaper).

7.11.1924

Back at the end of November.

7.11.1924

Interview with Svenska Dagbladet.

9.11.1924

Lecture on peoples, spaces and languages.

In the evening with Sundwalls ?

Newspaper of 10.11.1924

10.11.1924

Helsingfors

Arrived in the evening from Aabo. Rommen. Gave interview.

12.11.1924

Helsingfors

Lecture "How the Great Cultures Originated".

13.11.1924

Received postcard.

On 15th crossing to Reval.

Lecture at the Finnish-German Society about the Fate of the Cultures of Antiquity. Afterwards
Banquet.

14.11.1924

Helsingfors

Last lecture: Races, Peoples, Languages in the Great Hall of the university

16.11.1924

Reval. Car journey into "the interior of the country"

18.11.1924

"Tomorrow Riga"

24.11.1924

Riga

Received Postcard.

27.XI.1924

Trotzki is deposed

1.12.1924

Communist coup in Reval, Estonia. General Laidoner given martial law powers. Executions. 17 Dec. new cabinet.

2.12.1924

4.12.1924

Munich"

In February-March 1925  Spengler travelled to Italy.

My research in the list of names of the Spengler Archive has produced indications that Spengler exchanged letters with a few Scandinavians:

Knut Hamsun

Sven Hedin

Martin Persson Nilsson

Johann Sundwall

Cavallie describes Spengler’s Swedish and Finnish lecture tour in great detail and points out that the Baltic tour was the last lecture tour of the German macro-historian outside Germany. Later tours to Argentina and Spain were cancelled.

In a short concluding remark Cavallie points to Francis Fukuyama and Samuel P. Huntington (who recently passed away) as possible modern successors of Spengler and Arnold Toynbee (who is also treated in a fair way in “Spengler in Sweden”. Fukuyama claimed that the questions had been solved with the collapse of the Soviet empire and the free enterprise had been victorious. There were no greater problems in the world unsolved. What Cavallie does not say is that Fukuyama could well be correct. The present onslaught on the West by islamofascism could well be a rearguard fight of reaction and autocratic extremists in the Arab world. If the creation of market economies in Afghanistan and Iraq are successful they could well be further steps of global liberty and democracy. In the long run American policies between 2009 and 2012 could just be a short term pause in the dominating ongoing American that started with Wilsonianism after the First World War.

On Huntington Cavallie is equally careful in his remarks. He notes that  Huntington believed that after the collapse of the Soviet tyranny there will be new tensions and conflicts this time between the seven or eight civilizations described by the American professor. The somewhat pessimistic view of Huntington was that the influence of the West will decline. Perhaps those views makes for a Spengler Redivivus in America. Unfortunately we will not be provided with more visionary views from the American Spengler. He passed away at 81 in December 2008.  Huntington was of course correct when he wrote about the coming new phase of world history. The question is if the future clash between America and China will be a clash between two civilizations. There is much evidence today that there is a separate American civilization that in many respects has surpassed European civilization. The coming clash will more likely be between American civilization as the hegemon of the West against a communist regime in Peking that desperately clings to power and uses nationalism as a tool. The conflict has already begun to heat up. In March 2009 China called for a new global currency to replace the dollar. In late March 2009 a new Chinese book, Unhappy China, singled out the United States for special scorn and called for Chinese strengthening of reliance on technology and innovation as well as bolstering the military.

Moeller van den Bruck and Macro-history

The works on the Weimar Era German conservative Moeller van den Bruck (1876 - 1925) have generally taken little notice of his interest in the philosophy of history. He did not believe in the decline of the West and thought it necessary to refute Oswald Spengler in his historical-philosophical works. It was important, he believed, to popularize a "metaphysics of reality", which implied synthesis of the main traditions of western philosophy. Van den Bruck was a nationalist and therefore primarily saw the different peoples as the agents of history.

Landin in his Dietrich Eckart’s Evil Eye devotes an essay to van den Bruck but concentrates on the Weimar author’s creation of the term The Third Reich, which appropriated by the Nazis. They later, however, found out that the author in no way represented Nazi views on history. Already in 1922 he had taken a stand against Hitler. The Nazis took their time to discover the real van den Bruck. As late as 1933 he was still described as the Prophet of the Third Reich. After a few months, however, Bruck’s books on Russia were forbidden and confiscated.

In Das Recht der jungen Völker (1919) van den Bruck established a new outline of history. It was not only a struggle between young and old peoples. There was also a spiral movement without end. Van den Bruck based his new model on older ones. A source was Geschichte der Farbenlehre by Goethe, who also claimed that there was a spiral development in world history. But the most important influence was that of the German historian Kurt Breysig.

The rotation of world history resulted in geopolitical changes. Van den Bruck's model also provided indications of migration of history northwards, which gave it a spatial, geopolitical essence. Later, however, van den Bruck expressed the belief of migration toward the east (in which he differed from a general myth of history that civilization had from Babylon migrated in a westerly direction, eventually to America). But the view of the easterly direction had taken root among 'conservative revolutionaries' in Germany after World War I. It was a pretty common understanding among them that after the Russian revolution the center of gravity of world history would be placed in the European east. In the coming decades development would be based on what was happening in the western part of this area (Germany was after World War I still a country to a great extent based on its eastern territories: Pommerania, Brandenburg, Silesia and East Prussia).

The rotation had gained speed and the south had already joined the west as periphery. The change was turning into revolution. In the pessimistic climate of Weimar Germany  it was important to the conservatives to instill confidence in the future. Thus Germans and Russians were described as "young peoples" of the future. The Germans had a great will to life. This would be important in the coming era of the world revolution. Overpopulation was working to the advantage of Germany and would strengthen her during the 20th century. The decline of the West was not Germany's decline. The future was determined by the "young peoples" which were throwing off their shackles. Thus the Germans were described in reality to be in the same category as the colonial peoples.

Conclusion

It has been claimed that Oswald Spengler’s great macro-historical work, The Decline of the West  caused a stir similar to that caused by Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. The great men were about the same age when rising to fame (Spengler was born 1880 and Einstein 1879). Both stood for changes of the way the world was viewed. Spengler’s book in Germany has been published in more than a quarter million copies and is widely translated.

Spengler in his great work did not set out to describe the death of Western culture. Instead the work is Spengler’s views on the end phase of our culture (rising around the year 1000 AD) as it turns into civilization. Neither is it a prophecy of the death of mankind. Man will live on without the West. What was shocking for the readers in 1918, most of them believing that the 19th and 20th centuries represented the height of development, was that someone could describe the West as being in a final phase.

Dr. John Farrenkopf, an American scholar, has recently provided the academic community and all interested in Spengler’s work with Prophet of Decline: Spengler on World Politics and History (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001, 304 pages). After the attacks of Muslim terrorists of al Quaeda on the United States on September 11, 2001, this book is of increasing value, although the manuscript was completed and the book published before the attacks. Muslim terrorist actions and views are a threat to the present state system and ultimately the West.

Spengler is timely in 2009, both internationally and in Sweden, and especially Cavallie has provided a fine overview of the legacy of Spengler in the one Scandinavian country that has treated him seriously.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Will Islam Address Its Internal Crisis?


Laina Farhat-Holzman
Sentinel
September 27, 2014

Muslims have lived so long with governments they cannot trust that the rumor mill serves as their source of information. Conspiracy theories are the favorite explanations for all the horrors in the world. If you cannot blame Allah, you must find someone you can blame.

The latest conspiracy theory comes out of the Netherlands, where a Muslim woman, Yasmina Haifi, who works in the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security, has given us the following: “The Islamic State isn't Islamic at all. Actually, it's a Jewish plot.” [http://www.investigativeproject.org/4535/isis-a-jewish-plot-propaganda-and-islamic-jihad]. She tweets that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is an agent of Mossad and that the conspiracy was created to make Islam look bad. If I were Dutch, I would ask: Who hired this dim bulb?

Mossad does not have to make Islam look bad. The religion is in crisis, and the reasons for looking bad include decapitating captives and enslaving captive women and children. The “Islamic State (IS)” is just one more faction attracting bored and unemployable young men looking for adventure and being reassured that the violence they are expected to carry out is sanctified by the very origins of their religion.

The other two Westerm world religions have changed over time, evolving from primitive tribalism to religions that promote ethical behavior and rule of civil law (Judaism and Christianity). These religions have experienced reformations and transformations from their darker periods. Islam has not so benefited. It began the process of evolving during the first centuries of its existence with the emergence of many “schools” representing different interpretations of the religion. It started acquiring a legal structure and a way of incorporating methods and ideas from non-Muslims: Jews, Nestorian Christians, Persian Zoroastrians, and even Central Asian Buddhists. These contributors produced the brief “golden age” so boasted about by Muslims today.

Islam's linear evolution was shut down in the 13th century by Mongol invasions from the East and from savage Muslim invasions of Spain by Africa fanatics. Baghdad was burnt down and Spain's Islalmic golden age went dark. These events sent Islam into a five-century sleep in which their once dominant civilization became backwaters ripe for European colonization.

An unacknowleged benefit of European colonization of Muslim lands was an awakening. Some wanted to join the process of modernization that would once more free Muslim talent. Unfortunately, they chose instead the fascist model and now the tribal model. Resentment, revenge, savage violence, and that most hot-button issue of all, the emancipation of women, have created an Islamic monster that cannot ultimately survive.

The Dutch Muslim woman quoted above cannot bear to think her religion can be as terrible as ISIS practices it, yet ISIS is accurately reproducing the deeds of the Prophet Mohammad and his followers, santified, they say, by Allah. The Koran tells us that the Prophet urged followers to “smite the necks of unbelievers” and “cut off their fingertips” (supposedly to prevent their enemies from holding weapons, but unneccessary if they have already had their necks smitten).

The Prophet demonstrated and sanctified the methods of warfare that we are seeing today: deception (guerilla war) and giving the defeated the options of converting, paying a tax, or death. For those refusing his options, he sanctified killing all males and seizing all women and children as booty, using them as “the captors liked.” He also expelled all non-Muslim tribes from Arabia, exactly what ISIS is doing now.

Boka Haram and ISIS are not only following those methods, but are demanding that all Muslims follow or face the consequences. Their momentary successes are giving not only the world, but the Muslim world, a chance to see what 7th century Islam looked like. Without a renaissance, this is all they will have.

The rest of the world will not wait. This is the start of a global war against what Islam has become. Good Muslims everywhere had better fight ISIS, Boka Haram, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas. If they want their religion to survive, they will have to create a modern Islam that can do more than just destroy. It is crisis time.

679 words
Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com or www.globalthink.net.    

Monday, September 29, 2014

Laina At the Movies


By Laina Farhat-Holzman
September 2014

Cantiflas

My movie-going buddy and I were the only Anglo faces in the theater showing this Mexican-American bio-pic about Cantiflas, the delightful Mexican cinema comic who played Passepartout (pass-key), the valet in the great old classic, Around the World in Eighty Days.

Cantiflas (meaning Bar Fly) was the stage name of Mario Moreno (1911-1993), a street clown who through luck and talent became the Latino version of Charlie Chaplain. His particular comedy included sight gags, physicality, and nonstop cheeky improvisation, much like the later Groucho Marx. He punned and delighted audiences in Mexico by boldly sassing the strong and powerful.

With subtitles alternately in Spanish and English, I found myself reading each while listening to the other. It took a few minutes to catch up to the obvious roaring delight of the Watsonville Hispanic audience, but it did happen.

Cantiflas was played by Oscar Jaenada, an actor I have never seen before, but will again. He was delightful, and watching him rise from lowly clown to great film star was great fun. It was illuminating to realize how much interaction there was between the rising Mexican film industry at the same time that American movies were at their best, from the time that sound was introduced. In the movie, we saw a roster of famous Mexican stars who also crossed over into American film, such as Delores del Rio, Pedro Amandariz, Arturo de Cordova, Katy Jurado, and Ricardo Montalban, among many.

The famous Mike Todd (played by Michael Imperioli) had the vision of producing Around the World in Eighty Days with very little money, famous actors doing cameo roles, trying to conn the moneymen in Hollywood into backing him. Nothing much was coming together until he met Charlie Chaplain at lunch who encouraged the venture. He also met Elizabeth Taylor, after offering her a cameo role, who married him. He approached Cantiflas with a cameo role, was rejected, but after Cantiflas read the script, he offered to play Passepartout, which he played with great genius.

Listening to the laughter of the Mexican-Spanish speakers in the audience, it was apparent that even subtitles did not catch what made Cantiflas so funny: the salty character of Mexican Spanish.

Considering all the other silly extravaganzas in the cinemas this summer, this was a charming, quality little film and I hope it does well.

Calvary

An Irish priest sits listening to a confession: a man who confesses that he was abused during his entire childhood by priests from the age of seven. He tells the priest that he is going to murder him in one week, and that because he knows that this particular priest is a good man, the murder will have even more significance.

The priest does not know whom among his congregation the prospective murder will be, so he spends the next week visiting the usual places: the pub, where he gets very drunk and gets into a fight with the bartender and another client. The two men reveal their enormous distaste for the church and tell the priest horrible stories that would make him question his faith.

He tries leaving town before the deadline, but thinks better of it and returns to meet his killer on Sunday on the beach.

The film is indeed like Calvary, the period during which the devil tempted Jesus to abandon his faith to God and go with him instead.

This is a great little movie with wonderful acting and much to think about afterwards. Brendan Gleeson, who plays the Priest, is a wonder to behold.

Magic in the Moonlight

After seeing the painful Calvary, Woody Allen's latest, Magic in the Moonlight, proved to be a silly creampuff of a movie.  I was mildly amused and equally annoyed, as I always am, at Allen's dialogues.  Somehow, he always writes dialogue typical of how he speaks (a tiresome shtick), even when it seems stilted when his actors speak those lines.

However, for reasons mysterious to me, actors of great stature are eager to work in his movies. This one was no exception. The wonderful Colin Firth played a world famous magician (the setting was Germany and the Provence in the late 1920s) who is also noted as a debunker of mediums and other fraudulent psychics. A colleague asks him to visit a family in the south of France in which a young American medium has enchanted them all: a gullible widow who thinks she is taking to her dead husband and a banjo-playing lovesick heir to the family's wealth.

Of course, this is the usual conflict of reason and feeling. Allen shamefully provides a take on the famous scene in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice in which Mr. Darcey (also played by Colin Firth in the latest film version) makes an obnoxious marriage proposal to the young medium (played by Emma Stone) in which he tells her that despite all reason and despite her lowly origins and mediocre intellect he is madly in love with her and wants to marry her. She responds as did Austen's heroine in her novel.

If you have a few idle hours and if you like the music of the 1920s (as I do) and the scenery of the south of France (as I do), go for it. I wouldn't look for any profundity from the always-nihilistic Woody Allen.

A Walk Among the Tombstones

I remember seeing B-movies in my childhood when an afternoon at the local cinema included the feature, a secondary (B) movie, a newsreel, cartoon, and serial. Whew!  That is movie stamina that only a 10-year-old can have.

A Walk Among the Tombstones reminded me of the old B movies, often called Film Noir (dark movie), except that it was far more explicit and bloody than Hollywood used to permit. For the faint of heart, I cannot recommend this, but  for the toughies among us, it was terrific.

Who wouldn't enjoy watching Liam Neeson, a man who can play President Lincoln and a burnt-out former detective equally well.  The movie is based on a popular detective novel by Lawrence Block, about a former NYPD detective, Matthew Scudder, a recovering alcoholic, haunted by a righteous shooting of bad guys that went astray and killed a child. He became a drunk, left the police force, and then went sober and solitary, taking occasional cases from people who preferred having an un-licensed private eye.

His client is a very prosperous drug dealer whose wife has been kidnapped. Although he paid the ransom, they killed his wife anyway and sent her body back in pieces.  Scudder does a little research and finds that other drug dealers have had the same experience. The serial sadism of the killers prompts him to take the cases.

Kidnapping for ransom is bad enough, but these two monsters are psychopaths whose delight in inflicting pain can only be matched by today's ISIS, who justify their actions through religious sanction. The two psychopaths have no such justification. They just love mayhem.

Having a man like Scudder on your side is certainly a good thing. He administers appropriate justice in this very good thriller.