Something I've been meaning to mention for a while: a prayer book has been compiled for use by the Anglican Ordinariates*, and it's very good. If you have any liking for the language of the older versions of the Book of Common Prayer, you should get this. It's inexpensive, very nicely produced, and full of rich prayers, including the laity's parts of the Mass.
And here is one of my very favorite prayers, from the Devotions for Evening.
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give thine angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for thy love's sake.
* We are not supposed to use that term. It can be taken, it is taken by some, to suggest that we aren't Catholic But dang it, just saying "the Ordinariates" is not necessarily clear to a lot of people. And saying "the personal ordinariates created under the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus" gets pretty tiresome.
It's really good. At least as good as the first one, and arguably better. It's somewhat similar in broad outline: the murder of a child, and two detectives who fail to solve the case at the time it occurs and pursue it over a period of many years. It's set in the South again, this time in Arkansas. The first crime also includes the disappearance, presumed abduction, and possible murder of the murder victim's sister. The action takes place in three distinct time periods: that of the crime, ten years later when the case is reopened and again not solved, and 2019.
Once again it features seriously impressive acting in the detective roles, Mahershala Ali as Wayne Hays and Stephen Dorff as Roland West. (I think Ali's first name is pronounced as if the "e" werent there--"Mahrshala," accent on the second syllable.) It also involves some downright amazing makeup trickery to turn the detectives, young men in 1980, into old men forty years later. There's an extra bit on the DVD that describes how this was done. (And by the way, one of the extras on either the first or second DVD contains a major spoiler. It should have been on the last DVD.)
Once again the personalities of the two detectives, and the relationship between them, are at the center of the story. This time it's complicated by the fact that Hays is black and West is white. In Arkansas in 1980, the end of segregation was only fifteen years or so in the past. It was probably more or less by force of law that the state police in Arkansas, as in many places, was racially integrated. Hays's position is difficult. And it's one of the great strengths of this production that West's position is also difficult, though of course in a different way. Racial matters are handled with great subtlety and insight into the complexities of the situation, very different from the usual crude, clumsy, and stereotype-driven approach of the entertainment industry on that subject. Both Ali and Dorff are completely convincing in this respect. And a special nod goes to Ali for his work in the 2019 segments, because Hays at that point is beginning to slide into dementia.
Suffice to say that it's brilliantly written, brilliantly acted, brilliantly directed, brilliantly produced. T-Bone Burnett's musical direction and writing are pretty close to perfect. I have a mild reservation about the ending, but as I can't discuss it without giving it away I'll have to leave it at that. I don't think anyone who thought highly of the first series will be disappointed in this one.
I'm sure he would be distressed by the level of deliberate and strenuous efforts to ratchet up racial animosity that are prevalent among certain classes of people now. At least I hope he would.
The shocking thing, the thing which I at any rate certainly did not anticipate in the '60s when the major civil rights legislation was passed, is that the most visible manifestation of this effort now comes from the putatively anti-racist side, in the form of the frenzied rhetorical attacks on white people and "whiteness" coming from the left. Much of it is is open and unashamed racism and would be recognized immediately as such if the terms were reversed. The most alarming aspect of it is that it isn't the work of obscure and generally disdained cranks and yahoos but of respected academics and journalists who wield a great deal of influence. Respected by each other, anyway. And in any case fairly powerful.
King's ideal of a color-blind society is now considered to be an expression of racism, at least if advocated by white people. It wasn't supposed to be like this.
So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don't even know that fire is hot.
I probably wouldn't have gone to see it if I didn't have grandchildren who are very interested in it. I'm interested, too, but not all that interested; I would have waited till I could see it on Netflix or Amazon.
I haven't read many reviews, but I have the impression that most reaction, at least from people who care enough to review it or discuss it on the internet, has been on the negative side. And if you read the commentary of a true fan, you'll find all sorts of details and disputes about whether this or that aspect of it was good or bad. There seems to be a lot of discussion about whether this last trilogy is coherent, as the second film in it was directed by a different person from the one who did the first and last. And there's a lot of discussion about whether this trilogy completes or defaces the original.
(If you are not familiar with Star Wars: the main storyline is covered in three trilogies, episodes 1 through 9, which tell a story in chronological order. Discussion of these is sometimes confusing because that is not the order in which they were released, which was in sets of three: 4, 5, 6; 1, 2, 3; 7, 8, 9. Complicating the discussion are a few movies and other "product" which are not directly part of that main story.)
I don't really care very much about all that. The Star Wars movies are not great art. I don't think they will be regarded as such a hundred years from now. And the critics who complained about all the plot devices that have been recycled from the first trilogy are right. This is at least the third time that the resolution has hinged on a desperate mission (apart from the furnishings, a reprise of World War II air combat dramas) to stop the Most Evilest People Ever from using the Most Ultimatest Weapon Ever to rule the galaxy. (If I had been one of the writers, I would have tried to sneak a muttered "Yeah, that's what you said last time" into one of those conversations.)
So are those who complain about plausibility. That's a bit like complaining about Jack and the Beanstalk because as far as we know there are no magic beans. Still, as the characters in Rise of Skywalker talked of "making the jump to lightspeed," I kept wondering if any of the writers knew what a light-year is and how many of them separate the stars from each other. If I understood the opening, most or all of the action of this movie is supposed to take place in sixteen hours.
And the space combat sequences are tiresome. And so are the light-saber duels. And after eight movies in which the storm troopers' armor protects them from nothing, and they are able to hit nothing with their blasters, there's no reason to change now. And I really don't care about the race-'n'-gender tallying that popular art today is obliged to acknowledge.
All that said, I enjoyed it, I was even touched by it, and will probably see it again. Part of the reason for that is nostalgia. Here's what I said a few years ago, after seeing Rogue One (which is not one of the nine, but fills in the narrative immediately preceding Episode 4, i.e. the original movie):
Princess Leia appears briefly at the end, and the filmmakers somehow gave her the face of the young Carrie Fisher. I was oddly and surprisingly touched by that, as I had been by her recent death. In trying to figure out why, I concluded that it was partly because the original movie had seemed such a breath of fresh air to me. I remember very well the night my wife and I had gone to see some other movie--I have no idea what it was now--and saw the Star Wars preview. We looked at each other and said "We have to see that." And we did, and it was delightful.
The '70s had been a fairly dark time in some ways, a come-down from the crisis of the '60s and at the same time a sort of consolidation and solidification of some of the more negative things, and movies especially had grown considerably darker: the Dirty Harry movies, for instance, and more artsy works like Taxi Driver. And for me personally it had been a difficult period. Star Wars was a complete departure from all that, with its young and brave heroes and heroine and its simple (or simplistic) war of good and evil. It was also witty and imaginative, which may be hard to remember now that it's become such a part of our culture. It was simple fun, but it also celebrated virtue with no irony at all.
And part of it is what is suggested by that last sentence: beneath all the often-silly trappings, there are profound truths at the heart of the whole saga: the power of love, renunciation, and sacrifice; the potent but self-destructive lure of hatred; the understanding that one must not do evil in the service of good. Those are the things that touched me in the movie, and if there are logical and narrative holes in the way these are worked out, I was not bothered by them. Maybe that's one advantage of not being a true fan.
Related: also because of the grandchildren I've watched several episodes of a Star Wars spinoff series, The Mandalorian. So far it's entertaining, but I wouldn't say much more. It was mentioned in the comments here a week or two ago, and I noted that the Mandalorian is essentially the Eastwood character from a spaghetti Western, even to the point of having Eastwood's voice. It seems I'm not the only one to notice this:
The publisher's description doesn't say, but multiplying rows and columns in that image gives me ninety-nine for the number of volumes. I think that covers all the fiction, though apparently sorting that out is complicated--the order and titles differ somewhat between British and American printings, for instance. This treasure can be yours for only $1975.00, and probably worth every bit of it. I say "probably" because I don't have much acquaintance with Wodehouse's work apart from the Jeeves and Blandings books.
These are very, very nice editions. I have all but one of the Jeeves-and-Woosters, and a few others. I thought I had all the former, but discovered the other day that I lack one, Right Ho, Jeeves, and immediately sat down to order it. I came across this collection in the course of searching for Right Ho. It appears that some of the individual titles, perhaps many, have gone out of print. I hope they won't stay that way.
I first became really fond of Wodehouse some years ago after a rather dispiriting Christmas, when I found that he is a very effective mood-brightener. And now reading one of his books around the holidays is...well, not exactly a firm tradition, but something I do most years. This year I couldn't remember which ones I'd read, so I arranged the shelf in order of publication and read the first one, The Inimitable Jeeves. This holiday season was a little on the extra dispiriting side, so I'm having a second helping, Carry On, Jeeves. This one I have read before, and am enjoying every bit as much on this second reading.
A little quote from Evelyn Waugh is featured on the dust jackets of these editions:
Mr Wodehouse's idyllic world can never stale. He will continue to release future generations from captivity that may be more irksome than our own. He has made a world for us to live in and delight in.
It certainly hasn't staled for me. More of Waugh on Wodehouse can be found here. Also, here is what seems to be an authoritative list of the order in which his books were published, in their British editions as far as I can tell, and very handily divided into separate lists for the series. That was how I found conclusively that I was missing a Jeeves title.
I find Kevin Williamson to be the most consistently interesting writer at National Review these days. That's not necessarily entirely a good thing, because when I say "interesting" I also mean "entertaining," and often that entertainment involves scathing language about someone. In principle I do not approve of scathing language about persons and try to resist the temptation to use it, so I guess what it amounts to is that I'm vicariously enjoying his put-downs, which makes me feel just a touch guilty. Not very, because most of the time the put-down is merited.
And I usually disagree with at least some part of any piece he writes, sometimes something minor and sometimes major. His brand of conservatism is definitely more libertarian than mine. But--and this is a little surprising for a libertarian, or at least a somewhat-libertarian--he is really at his best on deeper subjects. This is one:
If we are to resolve something for 2020, then maybe that should be our resolution: to bear always in mind that this is not Donald Trump’s America or Elizabeth Warren’s America but ours and Walt Whitman’s and John Coltrane’s and Herman Melville’s and Toni Morrison’s, and that if we really love this country, then that can only be because we love the people in it, the ones who are with us still and the ones who have been, who are “not enemies but friends.”
This will be our year. It will be the year that we make of it, which is both our great hope and our great, fearful responsibility.
Read the whole thing; it's worth it. One thing I like about him, something he shares with recently citizen-ized Charles Cooke, also of NR, is an appreciation of this country in all its madness and glory. Elsewhere he recently said something to the effect that what works for health care in Switzerland will not work here:
The basic problem with that always has been that Switzerland is full of Swiss people, while the United States is full of maniacs.
Precisely. I always stress that when discussing American politics and culture with someone from another country: you simply won't understand us unless you start with the recognition that we're more than a little crazy. Samuel Johnson's famous remark that "If a man is tired of London, he is tired of life" applies triply to the United States of America. I am often sickened and repelled by this, that, or the other in the U.S., but never not interested.
And, as Williamson says, life in these United States is not defined or limited by politics. I cringe whenever I hear someone refer to "Donald Trump's America." I fear such people live in cyberspace, large parts of which Donald Trump has made his own in the way that is too often effective in cyberspace: by being a troll. A great many people on the left seem to feel that their lives have been almost ruined, or in some cases not even "almost," by Trump's presence in the White House. This is...unhealthy to say the least, and as it's partly a choice, most unwise.
I think the reality of life for the very large majority of us is that politics generally has a relatively small impact on our day-to-day lives, and plays a very small role in our conversation and other dealings with other people. I can recall only a few face-to-face conversations over the past half-year or so with anyone except my wife in which the subject even came up. Two of those were with liberals, and when the conversation drifted into politics--not by my choice--it immediately blew up in my face. The level of rage was disconcerting, and I will certainly try hard to avoid any more of those.