T.S. Eliot on Culture

This post is based on the second essay from Christianity and Culture by T.S. Eliot which is called Notes towards the Definition of Culture. I covered the first essay The Idea of a Christian Society  last month. After finishing both, it is clear that they both fit very well together in a single volume as the ground they tread is very similar. Eliot sees very clearly the relationship between religion and culture. This second essay is slightly longer than the first and also includes the transcript of a speech he gave on a similar theme at the end. 

The essay was written during the war years but was published in 1948 at the end of the war unlike the first which was completed shortly before what is generally considered the beginning of the Second World War. This essay first wrestles with the definition of culture, noting the different way the word is used (and more often misused), when discusssed with regards to sociology, religion, politics and education. It is mostly considered with regard to the British Isles but also considers Europe and beyond. He considers religion to be unavoidably intertwined with culture and that any culture requires friction to survive. By the latter, he means that by being to closed, the culture will decay but by being to open, it will simply evaporate. These are not all his exact words but I don’t think I’m misrepresenting him and I am frankly finding the whole thing pretty hard to summarise. That he uses “Towards” in his own title suggests he was not satisfied he had reached a firm conclusion.

As with the previous essay, I mostly just want to include exerts that jumped out at me along with some commentary of my own.

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Moral Order in Moral Ambiguity

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, Bantam Spectra, August 6th, 1996

After re-reading and re-reviewing A Throne of Bones recently, I decided I would follow-up by reading A Game of Thrones while waiting for the physical release of A Sea of Skulls. Like many, I was introduced to this series through the HBO television adaptation and was not previously familair with the books even in name. I really only started reading fantasy works beyond Lewis and Tolkien in my thirties; so am relatively new to much that has been written since (and even before). 

I also did this with some trepidation as the series remains unfinished and the last release was back in 2011 when the television adaptation began. Like Patrick Rothfuss, George R. R. Martin doesn’t seem to have it in him to finish what he started and by most accounts I’ve read, the latter books waffle on and introduce far more characters than can be easily kept track of. This was also true from memory of the television series, which became more and more convoluted before I stopped watching it around the seventh season.

Although they are both overweight gammas who haven’t finished their fantasy series’; these comparisons end when it comes to writing as Martin can certainly tell an engaging story with an interesting setting and characters. The world-building in this first book alone is incredible. Without slogging readers with long-winded exposition, it introduces fascinating histories, characters and a believable group of Houses vying for power and influence in the land of Westeros. Rothfuss’s book was a painful slog that imagined his otherwise uneventful days in university in a fantasy setting with him as the hero he certainly was not.

The only reason I have no plans to read past the first book, is because I know it will only get worse and that there will probably never be a proper ending. There is also the moral turpitude to consider which was certainly present in this book and only gets worse if the television series is anything to go by. Indeed, I have previously mentioned my decision to generally avoid such material. This book is thankfully much tamer than I expected though is still unecessarily crude in a number of places. I certainly won’t be watching the series again and likely never would have had I not started watching it before my conversion to Catholicism in 2017.

What is more important here is not what the series is but what it could have been. Because their are the seeds of a fantasy series that would have been loved well beyond the death of the author. Even in the event the author comes to finish it, I don’t expect it will be well-remembered by generations yet to be born though one can hardly deny it hasn’t been extremely popular in his lifetime. 

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T.S Eliot on Christian Society

Recently I have been reading some of T.S. Eliot’s poetry. I am not particularly fond of poetry as the scant mention of it on this blog should indicate; but I do certainly appreciate it. I like hearing a good poem recited and the best prose is also usually somewhat lyrical. This recent exposure put in mind one of the many books that have long sat on my shelf unread: Christianity and Culture by T.S. Eliot. This is actually two essays, one which began as a series of lectures and the other, a series of articles. The first called The Idea of a Christian Society and the second Notes towards the Definition of Culture which are neatly combined in the title. The subject of this post will be the former essay which I believe I did previously read some years ago. The second may also be the subject of a future post. 

I should add here that Eliot frequently refers to the cultural historian Christopher Dawson who was a Catholic and contemporay of Eliot. I also have an as yet unread book by him on my shelf which I really must get to. 

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We Wuz Samurai

Recently Ubisoft announced Assassin’s Creed Shadows, the next title in their overly-long-running series. This would normally attract little to no attention from me as I don’t particularly like the series and never have. The only two I played through to the end were the original game and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag which was set in the Caribbean and so was a refreshing departure from what had come before. This announcement was interesting for a couple of reasons. The first was that there was finally going to be a game set in Japan which is such a perfect setting for the series that I’m surprised it wasn’t done a decade ago. The second was that one of the game’s two protagonists was revealed to be a samurai of African origin. This latter piece of information overshadowed the former and has been the source of understandable controversy.

I wouldn’t normally bother with this as this absurd race-swapping is happening so much now that it is best to just ignore it. This one at least is based on a thread of historical evidence though it is a tenuous one indeed. What is more interesting, and so worth discussing, is that this is the first time to my knowledge it has happened in a non-European context. Continue reading

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Trouble in Babylon

I have held off writing about the incident in Australia’s Parliament House involving two staffers Brittany Higgins and Bruce Lehrmann that became public in 2021. As I have repeatedly stated in other posts, I don’t follow mainstream news so this is yet another example of something I only hear about piecemeal. Despite this, being familiar enough with how those in the media, government and indeed the legal profession operate, it is not hard to read between the lines and understand something of what has actually happened.

One might expect me to come down on one of the sides involved but that is not my intention in writing about this. The most interesting and important aspect of this public drama is that it has shown the Australian people the ugly face of the ruling class as well as their wretched, self-serving behaviour. I am confident that almost everyone involved in this scandal has been dishonest, cowardly or malevolent in some way. I would like to leave out the security guards but even they might have dirty hands given the interests at stake.

So as this scandal now seems to be coming to a close, I want to share some thoughts on it. 

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The Main Course of Selenoth Begins

A Throne of Bones by Vox Day, Castalia House, December 4th, 2016
(originally published by Marcher Lord Press on December 1st, 2012) 

Back in January I posted a review of Summa Elvetica and Other Stories which I read for the second time over the 2023-2024 holiday period. After letting a few books get in the way, I finally got to A Throne of Bones last month and have now finished reading it. As I mentioned in the previous review, I originally read this before Summa Elvetica back in 2013 so it has been over a decade since I first read it. This means there were a few connections with the previous book that I’d forgotten about that I didn’t include in the previous post. As of writing, I’m still waiting for the physical release of the follow-up A Sea of Skulls which has been available digitally for a few months now.

In preparing for this post, I also want to highlight the somewhat confusing release history. Both of these books have gone through a multiple releases and publishers and both were originally published before Castalia House existed. They were also removed by Amazon for never-explained reasons but are all available again as of writing. The best (and most reliable), way to buy them digitally remains directly through the Arkhaven Store. This all naturally makes publication dates a little confusing and that is reflected above.

This review will include some spoilers for the plot but I will try to keep them minimal.

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The Appeal of Crime Films

Although I’ve seen most of the well-known crime films, I’ve never found the genre particularly appealing. The main reason is I prefer to have characters that I can relate to — or at least want the best for, and such characters are seldom found in the average crime film. And although they rarely end well for the criminal characters, there is certainly an element of glorification of the lives they live in most of them — whether or not the main characters live or die. Most people remember the scenes of Vito Corleone calmly issuing orders to underlings much better than they do the final scene of him keeling over and dying pathetically among grape vines. Similarly, most remember Henry Hill’s rise and success in the criminal underworld much better than the cowardly way he exited it. 

I do understand why people see appeal in the larger-than-life characters and the shadowy parallel world they live in. Beyond that, I think there is a much more concrete appeal that is ironically enough closer to reality than the films I prefer. That is that they live in a world where consequences exist. Where what you say and what you do matters. Where you have to be willing to use force to defend what you have or to obtain more. A world where most of the background characters want to keep out of the frame as much as possible. 

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The new anti-natalist Barbie

I recently watched the 2023 Barbie film and I didn’t like it nor did I expect to. I didn’t pay money to see it but I did waste time watching it. My purpose for watching it wasn’t to “hate-watch” or anything like that. My interest was really only that I had heard Ryan Gosling’s portrayal of Ken was amusing. He was rather hilariously nominated for an Oscar for his role in this while both the lead actress and female director were snubbed. Gosling’s Ken was certainly the best thing about the movie but wasn’t enough to elevate what was otherwise awful. Overall, it was even worse than I expected.

This won’t be a long review but I particularly want to address the overt anti-natalism of the film.

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Dune: Part Two – The Cinematic Battle for Arrakis

I favourably reviewed the 2021 Dune film almost a year after its release in theatres and have watched it multiple times since. I certainly thought it was better than the 1984 David Lynch adaptation which was all I could then compare it to outside of the 1965 novel. Since writing that review, I have watched the 2000 TV mini-series which I’d never seen. I was impressed with it and also watched the follow-up Children of Dune which adapts Herbert’s next two novels. 

After seeing Dune: Part Two last week, I decided to re-watch Lynch’s film for the first time in over twenty years. I still don’t like it but it was better than I remember and would be improved considerably without the grotesqueness. This review will focus on the latest film but I expect I will be writing another post considering all three major adaptations of the original novel now that they are fresh in my memory. I will state at the outset that I already need to watch this again as I’m not sure how I would feel on a second viewing. Although I saw it in the cinema, it wasn’t the experience I had been hoping for as the cinema complex was dirty and smelled like urine. This is more a sign of the times and not the film’s fault but I can’t say that I regret missing the first part on the big screen anymore.

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Doom Guy: Life in First Person Review

Doom Guy: Life in First Person by John Romero, Abrams Press, August 23rd, 2023

One of the better known books about video games is Masters of Doom by David Kushner which was published back in 2003 and which I read over a decade ago. I remember it being an enthralling read that told the story of id Software mostly through the personalities of John Carmack and John Romero; from their early days through to the early 2000s. A special appeal for me (and I’m sure most others), was that I had played many of the games they created including the Commander Keen games, Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM and Quake and so it was fascinating learning about the personalities and creation process behind these games. It also covered Romero’s more notorious and less successful work at Ion Storm which I wasn’t familiar with outside the mockery it received at places like Something Awful.com.

Romero seems to have generally approved of Masters of Doom but his memoir offers differing perspectives on a number of the events as well as delving more deeply into his early years and his life following the failure of Ion Storm through to today. 

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