Category Archives: Republic of Letters

Joe Biden’s endless wars | Spectator USA

But the only thing coming on if Biden wins is another round of hopeless foreign interventionism and nation-building. His individual votes are damning enough. Still more damning is the philosophy behind them. Joe Biden is an archetypal liberal interventionist of the post-Cold War variety. He understands war in the same terms as domestic policy: as an occasion to expand the power wielded by experts in Washington, whose moral and rational qualifications are beyond question — no matter how disastrous the consequences of their policies.
— Read on spectator.us/joe-biden-endless-wars-afghanistan-serbia/

Tolkien’s “On Fairy Stories”: The Setting ~ The Imaginative Conservative

It should be remembered that 1938 had been a difficult year for Tolkien. While he had written much for his Hobbit sequel, he had suffered through deep depression in August and a nasty flu in December. Tolkien had also just finished the first several writing phases—as his son Christopher has labeled them—of what would become The Fellowship of the Ring, when he began research and thought regarding his proposed lecture, “On Fairy Stories.” He had hoped to deliver a paper on the same topic to an undergraduate society at Oxford in 1938, but that had fallen through.[3] This would be his chance to rectify that, and with the added benefit of serious academic legitimacy. On the evening of March 8, 1939, Tolkien delivered his lecture at the University of St. Andrews.

To state that the lecture was important to Tolkien and, frankly, to the world of literary criticism, would be a gross understatement. Coming when it does in Tolkien’s writing career, “On Fairy Stories” reveals more about the mind and soul of the man than any other non-fiction work he produced throughout his lifetime. It is, to be certain, seminal and beautifully so. Like his own Stoic and mystical understanding of Faerie, his talk was, in turns, excellent, insightful, and brilliant. It also offers, at its most fundamental level, a counterrevolution of ideas, an image of the world directly counter to that held by the fascists, communists, and ideologues of all varieties of the twentieth century
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/10/tolkien-on-fairy-stories-setting-bradley-birzer.html

Burke on Monstrous Revolution and Regicide Peace ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Of Edmund Burke’s (1729-1797) four Letters on a Regicide Peace—his final work, written while he rested on his deathbed—the fourth is, by far, the weakest. Unlike the other three, it was written out of order, and it is unclear whether Burke himself ever intended to include it. It was more of a personal letter written to Earl Fitzwilliam than it was a letter for the public. It did not appear in Burke’s works until after the author’s death, and so we are left with it as somewhat of an interesting mystery and enigma. Despite these caveats, though, it is a letter written by Edmund Burke, and this means, of course, that there are fascinating aspects to it.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/10/burke-monstrous-revolution-regicide-peace-bradley-birzer.html

A Method, Not a Subject: Liberal Economics and the Classics

“A liberal curriculum can and should include liberal economics.  Both make sense only if we refuse to interpret the past under the assumption that our ancestors were morons.  Committing to rational choice, which in my framework is synonymous with liberal economics, is how we treat the Great Books with the respect they deserve.”

https://egnatiavia.blogspot.com/2020/10/a-method-not-subject-liberal-economics.html

The Astounding Pop of Max Parallax

A few weeks ago I received a pleasant surprise in the mail–an actual tangible CD submission. Being in my early 50s, I’m a huge fan of my music being real, touchable, and moveable. The CD arrived with funky, innovative layout, and I was immediately intrigued by the packaging.

As it turns out, the music is even better than the packaging.

This is pop-rock, but pop rock in the vein of Mazzy Star, Patty Smith, and Sixpence None the Richer. The music is equal parts driving and equal parts playful.

Infectious pop, the opening track “Bugs Away”–with some hilarious lyrics–grabs the listener immediately. The wall of sound on “Swell,” the second track, is perfect in every respect. Song three, “Out of Body: No Experience,” is, once again, driving, and the sound production is glorious. At a little over five minutes long, “No Time for Caution,” is the longest of the tracks, and like its fellow tracks, it’s tight and purposeful. “Amoebas,” the fifth song, is the most straight-forward in terms of being a rocker. I’m reminded a little of Pat Benetar. “What Happens in the Future Stays in the Future” is as wonderfully quirky as it sounds–packing more into two minutes and twenty-five seconds than allowed by law!

Max Parallax is a band that is here to stay, and the statement they make on this short album, NO TIME FOR CAUTION, fits perfectly with the title.

We’re in a helluva mess, and urgency must reign in our world. This is reflected in the lyrics as well as the music.

All four members of the band sing, but the real star here is Uma deSilva, lead vocalist. It wouldn’t be too much to state that her voice is divine.

Max Parallax should be in every music collection.

The Giant Achievement of Days Between Stations

Giants cover

It’s been 7 long years since we have heard from Oscar Fuentes Bills (keyboards) and Sepand Samzadeh (guitar), the duo who go by the moniker Days Between Stations. They have a new album out, Giants, and it is a contender for best of 2020. I love this album. It is produced by Billy Sherwood of Yes fame, who also plays bass, drums, and handles lead vocals on most of the songs. Colin Moulding, who sang The Man Who Died Two Times on their last album, returns to sing on Goes By Gravity, while Durga McBroom, who sang on several Pink Floyd songs sings lead on Witness the End of the World.

While their second album, In Extremis, was very good, Giants is a huge step forward for DBS. Did I mention I love this album? It kicks off with a clanging guitar chord reverberating from one speaker to another, and before you know it,  we’re on a rollercoaster of an epic named Spark

Spark of life
Soul expansion
Coming in waves
Point of view
Taking chances
You’re an act of God

Even though Spark lasts nearly 17:00 and is nonstop high energy, it never seems too long or forced. Samzadeh unleashes some terrific guitar solos worthy of David Gilmour, while Bills answers with vigorous organ fills.

Things calm down a bit for Witness the End of the World. Over an acoustic piano, guitar, and violin, McBroom delivers a sensitive vocal performance. This is a beautiful and tender waltz that mourns the inevitable loss all humans suffer.

Everything we once knew
Winding down
Witness the end of the world

Another Day begins with a slow tempo that gradually adds layers of instruments and vocal harmonies until it is a juggernaut of sound. It features an incredibly catchy chorus that gets in your head and won’t leave.

Goes By Gravity, sung by Moulding with his trademark wry vocals, is the poppiest song on the album, and is another earworm.

The title track is another epic, clocking in at 13:00, and is Bills’ tribute to his deceased father, the “giant” of his childhood, and a man he deeply admires. This is a tremendous song, with lots of space for Sherwood, Samzadeh, and Bills to stretch out and play off each other. Sherwood’s massed vocals are spine-tingling as he sings, 

Shaking the sky
Holding on to the reins
The Great Divide
Between memories and 
What remains

After the emotional experience of Giant, we are treated to an instrumental interlude that begins with a Bill Evans-like jazz passage on piano, transitions to a Bach-like fugue on acoustic guitar, and ends up with a guitar/synthesizer duet that reminds me of classic Genesis. (Side note: the cover art is by Paul Whitehead, who painted several classic covers for Genesis.)

The album wraps up with the magnificent The Common Thread. This is, hands down, the best song I’ve heard this year. Full of tricky time changes but always staying accessible and engaging, it progresses upward inexorably, gaining power with every bar. By the time we get to the final minute and the triumphant conclusion, I feel like I’ve reached the top of a mountain. This song is as good as anything Yes recorded in their classic incarnation.

Days Between Stations have only released three albums, but I’ve never seen such growth in group like they’ve accomplished with Giant. Billy Sherwood definitely deserves a lot of the credit, with his production, bass and drum work, and vocals. Their debut was all instrumental, their second was about half instrumental, whereas Giants is a full-bore progrock vocal tour de force. Album of the year? There are some strong contenders from Glass Hammer, Bardic Depths, Pendragon, Katatonia, Pain of Salvation, and Pineapple Thief, but right now Days Between Stations’ Giants is at the top of my list.

I ordered a CD from their website for my collection, and they included some DBS pencils and guitar picks. How’s that for customer service!

DBS picks

The video below is a nice sampler of the album:

IN THE DROPBOX: aYREON, flOWER kINGS, AND sHORT-hAIRED dOMESTIC

This week, I feel like the DropBox is in a holding pattern (with one exception). We have two well-established prog artists with new albums, but neither one indicates much artistic growth. Both are solid efforts that will certainly please die-hard fans, but I don’t see them attracting many new ones.

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Arjen Lucassen, the king of prog operas, has released a new magnum opus, Transitus. This is the first of his operas that isn’t tied to his Ayreon world in some way (although there is a sly reference the “The Human Equation”). Transitus is a Victorian ghost story/morality play that tells the story of two doomed lovers – one a wealthy young man and the other a servant of his – and how they overcome the barrier of death to be together.

If you’re an Ayreon fan, musically this fits in with everything Lucassen has done previously. There’s not a lot of new ground broken, but it’s hard to fault an artist for being so consistently good. Tommy Karevik (Kamelot) sings the lead role of Daniel, and Cammie Gilbert (Oceans of Slumber) takes the role of Abby. 

islands

The Flower Kings are never ones to stint their fans when it comes to providing music, and Islands is no exception. It is a big 2 CD album that features Roine Stolt’s trademark guitar work and laconic vocals. On this outing, I actually prefer the songs bandmate Hasse Froberg sings – he is a little grittier. According to Stolt, all of the songs revolve around the theme of isolation, hence the title. There are some beautiful moments in this sprawling set, particularly All I Need Is Love. Fans of the Flower Kings and Transatlantic will not be disappointed with this one.

short-haired-domestic-album-cover

This album is the most interesting one of this week’s batch. Short-Haired Domestic is Tim and Lee Friese-Greene, and their offering is not exactly prog, but it is some of the most delightfully quirky artpop I’ve heard in a long time. Every song is sung in a different language – Japanese, Bulgarian, Italian, German, Hindi, even Latin. It is funky, catchy as hell, and just plain fun. Tim is best known for his extraordinary production of Talk Talk’s last few groundbreaking albums, and Short-Haired Domestic makes clear he still has a few tricks to share with us.

Here’s the first single, A Song In Latin About The Importance Of Comfortable Shoes (yes, that’s the actual title):

Latest E-Book: A Biography of Miami Chief J-B Richardville

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Spirit of Cecilia Books is pleased to announce its latest ebook, Entangling Empires, Fracturing Frontiers: Jean-Baptiste Richardville, 1760-1841, the life and times of a Franco-Miami Indian Chief.


Reigning in the western Great Lakes, Richardville controlled what is now known as Fort Wayne, and he navigated the Miami Indians through the hazards of the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and forced removal to western lands.


If you’re interested in a review copy (to review at amazon or elsewhere), just let us know.


https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08KSDNFRC/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&qid=1602015670&refinements=p_27%3ABradley+Birzer&s=digital-text&sr=1-1&text=Bradley+Birzer