All posts by bradbirzer

By day, I'm a father of seven and husband of one. By night, I'm an author, a biographer, and a prog rocker. Interests: Rush, progressive rock, cultural criticisms, the Rocky Mountains, individual liberty, history, hiking, and science fiction.

Tolkien Begins the Sequel to “The Hobbit” ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Yet, as much as Tolkien kept the story a Hobbit story, unanticipated persons and scenes and moments inserted themselves into the story, as did Tolkien’s larger legendarium. “The sequel to The Hobbit has now progressed as far as the end of the third chapter,” the author informed Stanley Unwin, however, “stories tend to get out of hand, and this has taken an unpremeditated turn.”[4] Tolkien repeated this news to various letter recipients over the next several months, recognizing that his own children—for whom The Hobbit had been originally written—had aged, and thus too had the storytelling. Somehow the sequel was growing in dark and perplexing ways. The whole story, he feared by October 1938, “was becoming more terrifying than the Hobbit.” Most worrisome, “it may prove quite unsuitable” as it becomes more and more “adult.” Clearly, Tolkien admitted, though never allegorical, the story of the sequel—and its depth and intensity—reflected the “darkness of the present days.”[5] In particular, the Necromancer (that is, Sauron) was playing a much bigger role in the sequel, and he, by his very nature, “is not child’s play.”[6]
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/09/tolkien-begins-sequel-hobbit-bradley-birzer.html

Tocqueville and a New Science of Politics ~ The Imaginative Conservative

When we fail to understand the choice that God has given us with democracy—that is, a science to guide, attenuate, and hone democracy—the baser instincts will rise to the fore. “So democracy has been abandoned to its wild instincts; it has grown up like those children, deprived of paternal care, who raise themselves in the streets of our cities, and who know society only by its vices and miseries. We still seemed unaware of its existence, when it took hold of power without warning.”

As such, democracy, thus far, has grown wild and licentious, on the verge of untamable. Though this process is stoppable and alterable, it will take some doing to make it work. As of the 1830s, Tocqueville fears, the material changes of democracy had far outpaced any of the spiritual restraints, customs, traditions, norms, and mores that make a thing good and acceptable, especially when dealing with a way of life. Many critics, understandably, thus see only the ills that democracy brings, failing to note its higher qualities. Habits, especially, have shown throughout history, the propensity to limit the ills of a thing, to make it acceptable to a population and to the stability of society.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/09/tocqueville-new-science-politics-bradley-birzer.html

19 Years After 9/11

September 11, 2020

19 Years Later, We Still Remember

Brad Birzer

Today, we celebrate—and remember, as we promised we would never forget—the 19th anniversary of the tragic events; that is, the brutal attack on American lives, on American rights, and on American soil led by a fundamentalist terrorist.

19 is an odd number, and yet an important number.  As I give this talk, I’ve been at this college 21 years.  My oldest son, Nathaniel, is a senior and 21 years old.  My oldest daughter, Gretchen, is 19 years old and a sophomore.  

19 years, indeed, has been a lifetime for many of you standing here.

Not atypically, I was teaching back-to-back Western Heritage courses the morning of the attacks.  One 8:00 section, one 9:30 section.  We were most likely on Pericles or Socrates. In between the two, a flustered student told me about the events in New York, but, of course, everything was confused.  Later that morning, my wife, Dedra, and I ran into President Arnn in the old Ethen Allen Room—who informed us quite rightly that Hillsdale would continue the day in class, as it’s exactly what the terrorists would NOT want.  

I’m sure no one in this crowd is shocked by Dr. Arnn’s strength of character.

2,977 Americans died on 9/11.  Lives were silenced, then; and, by executive order, the skies were silenced.  On that day, there were victims, there were first responders, there were heroes; all were American.

My favorite story—one that never ceases to get to me—is about one of the passengers on Flight 93: Tom Burnett—a 38-year old Wall Street Banker, father of three girls, husband to a beautiful wife, and a devout Christian.  This man, a former college football player for St. John’s College in Minnesota, a lover of business as well as of ancient Greek philosophy, helped two other courageous American men drive a jet airliner into rural Pennsylvania soil on a clear September morning, 2001.  “We’re all going to die, but three of us are going to do something about it.  I love you honey.”  These were his last words to his wife on his cell phone.

Liberty and sacrifice.  I was teaching that in Western Heritage that morning, and I was witnessing it all around us.

And, here we stand at Central Hall, September 11, 2020.  Right there, is our moment to men who died on Pennsylvania soil.  

Indeed, numerous Hillsdale men sacrificed their lives at the Battle of Gettysburg (in and around a little Lutheran town).  The 24th Michigan on July 1; the 4th Michigan on July 2.  Each day, Hillsdale College men sacrificed themselves for something greater than each of them.  They sacrificed for each other, for the college, for the republic.  They sacrificed for us.

Liberty and sacrifice—these words, these themes, keep coming back to me and, I hope, to all of us.

And, I am reminded of one of the greatest of republican martyrs, Marcus Tullius Cicero, murdered by his executive in 43BC.  He wrote, profoundly,

“Before our own time, the customs of our ancestors produced excellent men, and eminent men preserved our ancient customs and the institutions of their forefathers.  But the republic, when it came to us, was like a beautiful painting, whose colours, however, were already fading with age, our own time not only has neglected to freshen it by renewing the original colours, but has not even taken the trouble to preserve its configuration and, so to speak, its general outlines.  For what is now left of the ‘ancient customs’ one which he said ‘the republic of Rome’ was ‘founded firm’?  They have been, as we see, so completely buried in oblivion that they are not only no longer practiced, but are already unknown.  

And what shall I say of the men?  For the loss of our customs is due to our lack of men, and for this great evil we must not only give an account, but must even defend ourselves in every way possible, as if we were accused of capital crime.  For it is through our own faults, not by any accident, that we retain only the name of republic, but have long since lost its essence” [Cicero, The Republic, Book 5, Section 1]

As we live in a season of confusion, I wonder if we could write this not just of 43BC but of 2020AD.

And, yet, no matter what, the sacrifices remain. . . the voices are not silent. . . the sky is not silent.

Let us remember—those voices silenced on 9/11.  Let us remember the victims.  Let us remember the first responders.  Let us remember the heroes.  Americans all.  And, let us be like Cicero.  Let us be like the 4th and the 24th Michigan regiments.  Let us be like Tom Burnett.

May our colors never fade, may our voices never cease, may our skies rage: liberty and sacrifice.

God bless, America.

[I had the grand privilege of giving this talk to the Hillsdale College community at noon on September 11, 2020.]

The Flower Kings Announce Islands

THE FLOWER KINGS – release first single/video from new double album ‘Islands’!Photo: Lilian ForsbergOn October 30th, 2020 progressive rockers THE FLOWER KINGS will release their new double album “Islands” on InsideOutMusic, just a year after the group’s much celebrated “Waiting For Miracles”. With ‘Broken’, the group now presents a first track from this opus and the band has the following to say about the track:
 
“Howdy people – how is life on your islands and in your isolation? Good news is – there is music – and even better –  there is NEW music from THE FLOWER KINGS. Here is ‘Broken’ –  first song from our new double album/triple LP !! ‘Broken’ is a song about addiction, stress and confusion – Not a typical song  for the album, because the album has no ‘typical’ style –  it is just a wild ride of  styles and influences. We’re super excited about you to hear ALL of it, but here is a first glimpse of the progressive smorgasbord. There is more waiting. Get your pre-orders going!  Much love from Jonas – Mirkko – Zach – Hasse & Roine!”
 
Watch the video for ‘Broken’ here: https://youtu.be/z3vktAkbeREThe 92 minutes long “Islands” features artwork by legend Roger Dean (Yes, Asia, Gentle Giant, Greenslade, Uriah Heep) and all trademark sounds and melodies, the band is renowned for. From vintage keys to epic guitar solos, from odd drum patterns to symphonic elements, THE FLOWER KINGS present a dynamic and complex record that is bold, bombastic and beautiful.
 
“Islands” is now available as massive Limited 3LP & 2CD box set with slipcase and 180 gram vinyl housed in one gatefold, one single sleeve; as Limited Edition 2CD Digipak and Digital Album.
Presales are available now!
https://theflowerkings.lnk.to/IslandsID
 
Strictly limited coloured vinyl editions are available from these outlets:
100x orange
200x creamy white
www.insideoutshop.de
 
200x transparent light blue
www.justforkicks.deDisc One (49:40)
1 – Racing With Blinders On 4:24
2 – From The Ground 4.02
3 – Black Swan 5:53
4 – Morning News 4:01
5 – Broken 6:38
6 – Goodbye Outrage 2:19
7 – Journeyman 1:43
8 – Tangerine 3:51
9 – Solaris 9:10
10 – Heart Of The Valley 4:18
11- Man In A Two Peace Suit 3:21
 
Disc Two (43:01)
1 – All I Need Is Love 5:48
2 – A New Species 5:45
3 – Northern Lights 5:43
4 – Hidden Angles 0:50
5 – Serpentine 3:52
6 – Looking For Answers 4:30
7 –Telescope 4:41
8 – Fool’s Gold 3:11
9 – Between Hope & Fear 4:29
10 – Islands 4:12
 

Line-Up:
Roine Stolt – Vocal, Ukulele, Guitars, Additional Keyboards
Hasse Fröberg – Vocal & Acoustic Guitar
Jonas Reingold – Bass, Acoustic Guitar
Zach Kamins – Pianos, Organ, Synthesizers, Mellotron, Orchestrations
Mirko DeMaio – Drums, Percussion
Guest: Rob Townsend – Soprano Saxophone
 THE FLOWER KINGS online:
https://www.roinestolt.com/
http://www.facebook.com/TheFlowerKings
https://www.instagram.com/roinestolt8112/
https://www.facebook.com/pale.rider.127

INSIDEOUT MUSIC online:
www.insideoutmusic.com
www.insideoutmusic.store

www.youtube.com/InsideOutMusicTV
www.facebook.com/InsideOutMusic
www.twitter.com/InsideOutUSA
http://spotify.com/progrockessentials

Ezekiel 33 DRB

1And the word of the Lord came to me, saying: 2Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say to them: When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man, one of their meanest, and make him a watchman over them: 3And he see the sword coming upon the land, and sound the trumpet, and tell the people: 4Then he that heareth the sound of the trumpet, whosoever he be, and doth not look to himself, if the sword come, and cut him off: his blood shall be upon his own head. 5He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not look to himself, his blood shall be upon him: but if he look to himself, he shall save his life. 6And if the watchman see the sword coming, and sound not the trumpet: and the people look not to themselves, and the sword come, and cut off a soul from among them: he indeed is taken away in his iniquity, but I will require his blood at the hand of the watchman.
— Read on biblehub.com/drb/ezekiel/33.htm

Nock and Nisbet on Society and State ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Both Nisbet and Nock find this sad state of affairs very human, but also very counter to the American tradition of strong societies that take care of alcoholism, crime, homelessness, and mental illness. In its expanded role, the State becomes a kind of Nanny, a mothering hen. Further, as the State grows, it reshapes the rules of society, giving itself the advantage in all conflicts with parts (or wholes) of the population. As Nock understood it in the 1930s, and Nisbet in the 1960s, the State desired—whether it openly admitted this or not—to assume all power over society and thus render society—and its myriads of conflicting authorities (in and through which the human person found freedom)—obsolete in the long run. Indeed, the State wanted to take the place of the Church as the only glue that holds all together. This was just as true, both Nock and Nisbet feared, in collectivist societies, whether they called themselves republican, fascist, or communist.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/09/nock-nisbet-society-state-bradley-birzer.html

Brass Spittoon: Bradley Birzer on Christian Humanism | Front Porch Republic

Stewart: One of the goals for your book is to rescue the term “humanism” for Christians who are suspicious of it based on the dominant strand that traces its lineage to the Humanist Manifesto of 1933. You offer five “canons of humanism” in order to recover an alternative variation of the tradition. Briefly, humanists are bonded by the following: 1) belief in human dignity; 2) defense of liberal education; 3) affirmation that humans are irreducibly spiritual and material; 4) citizenship in the Republic of Letters; 5) belief in “a power of some supernatural order” (1-11). What have Christians lost by holding this word in suspicion? Has suspicion of the word itself prevented the tradition as well?

Birzer: Great question, Matthew. Words matter, and, of course, as has happened so often in the English tradition, words evolve. Humanism became a serious “god-like” term—equivalent to liberty, democracy, etc.—in the nineteenth century. It became so popular by the 1890s and early 1900s that everyone wanted to claim humanism for their own. Like our current use of democracy, it had come to mean “everything that is good.” The height of such cultural capture of the term came in the late 1920s, when a wayward Protestant minister adopted the term for his own form of “religion.” That form of religion—devoid of anything supernatural and really, frankly, not so kind to the natural—eventually evolved into the powerful Humanist Manifesto of 1933, which its professions of desired secularism. Simply put, the writers of that manifesto captured the word and have held it in captivity—by their allies and their opponents—for nearly a century now. At its most simple definition, being a humanist means believing in the humanities, the liberal arts. At its most simple definition, then, being a Christian means being a follower of Jesus Christ. A Christian humanist, properly understand and at the most fundamental level, means being a follower of Jesus Christ and being a lover of the liberal arts. Of course, the implications for these things are immense, especially when one starts getting into the Word and the Incarnation
— Read on www.frontporchrepublic.com/2020/09/brass-spittoon-bradley-birzer-on-christian-humanism/

Reflections on Tocqueville: The Pervasiveness of Equality ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Several years ago, I read Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France and offered here at The Imaginative Conservative seventeen separate essays (observations) on that grand work. I now propose—over the course of the next half year—to do the same with Alexis de Tocqueville’s masterwork, Democracy in America. I will be reading it from page one and proceeding through both volumes. If you’d like to follow along, I’ll be using the two-volume 2012 Liberty Fund edition, available in a print edition as well as (free) in a download PDF/ebook edition.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/09/reflections-tocqueville-pervasiveness-equality-bradley-birzer.html

The Psychedelic Furs are Back!!

Until roughly 24 hours ago, I had no idea that The Psychedelic Furs even existed any longer.  After all, the last official TPF album, the outstanding World Outside, came out in 1991.  That was twenty-nine years ago!  

After that, Richard Butler formed the extraordinary pop outfit, Love Spit Love.  Then, he more or less disappeared.  Well, it turns out—a huge thanks to Bill Huber for letting me know—The PF released a new album, Made of Rain, on the last day of July.  So, the album is just at a month old now.

I’ve listened to almost nothing else since downloading a copy from amazon.

Let me be blunt.  While this is no rehash of previous work, Made of Rain is everything a TPF album should be: odd; mysterious; cacophonous; fetching; catchy; deep; quirky; soulful; angry; melancholic; joyous; driven; clever; seeking; achingly beautiful; guttural; punctuated; jazzy; playful; and convicted.

I don’t have the lyrics in front of me, but Richard Butler sounds as good as ever.  Indeed, if there’s a difference in his vocal quality from 2020 to 1991, I can’t hear it.

Twelve tracks make up the album, and each one of them is a gem.  While some songs are immediately more striking than others, there’s not a dud track on the album.  All of the music is smart pop, intricate and compelling.  As with all TPF, there’s great guitar, bass, drums, and sax.

Made of Rain is a extraordinary achievement, and I’m so very glad to have Butler and Co. back in the music world.

Profoundly Tangible: Nick D’Virgilio’s Invisible

Being a fundamentally HUGE (yes, it’s that large!) fan of Big Big Train, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Nick D’Virgilio’s solo album, Invisible.  I proudly own his first album, Karma, his first EP, Pieces, every Spock’s Beard album, and Rewiring Genesis.  To be sure, I presumed I would like Invisible, as I consider NDV our greatest living drummer, armed not only with rhythm (Holy Moses–that drum kit!) but with vocal prowess as well. And, from what I can tell from social media, he seems like a truly good and genuine person.  

All of this adds up to high expectations for Invisible.

Well, it is even better than I expected. And, I expected a lot.

If you asked me to sum it up in a few words or even analyze it track by track, I couldn’t do it.  This is a whole work of art—something to be digested in one sitting. Relentlessly captivating, it mixes progressive rock with classical with (ok, I was surprised by this one) with 1960’s style R&B with some mid-1970’s Styx with some punk-tinted Rush with broadway musicals with electronica with funk with straightforward rock and pop.  Frankly, Invisible has it all. In this sense, it fits Andy Tillison’s definition of progressive—basically, “whatever I damn well want to throw in, I throw in” (my words, not Andy’s).

What most captures my imagination with the album, though, is NDV’s lyrics—so utterly earnest and so uplifting.  In every song, NDV calls us to be our best. That NDV loves life is a certainty as certain that the sun will rise tomorrow, and his joy comes through every song.

If you’re looking for a new BBT or Spock’s Beard album, this isn’t it. And, that’s perfectly fine.  Frankly, it doesn’t even really seem like a simple evolution from NDV’s previous solo efforts.

Invisible is . . . beyond all of this in ways that are very difficult to put into words.  

But, if you’re looking for something gorgeous, something meaningful, something real, something inspiring. . . look no further.  If anything, NDV has proven that real life is quite the opposite of being invisible. Rather, NDV calls us to be our best, to be tangible, and, frankly, to be the incarnate souls we’re meant to be.

To find out everything about NDV, click here: https://www.nickdvirgilio.com