The walls are going up all over Europe; we shall not see them lowered in our lifetime. The dream of "ever-closer union," and the eventual merging of nations into a United States of Europe, is over. From the white cliffs of Dover in the west, where David Cameron refused to follow Brussels's orders to grant welfare payments to working migrants, to the east, where Hungary's border with Romania is marked with razor wire; from Athens in the Mediterranean south, where a populist government mocks Germany, the architect of the union's fiscal policy, to Stockholm in the Baltic north, where the government has closed its borders to immigrants: The European Union has not only stalled on the road to union—it is coming apart.
Here isRead more
Sleepless and sweaty in the “great heats” of July 1840, Ralph Waldo Emerson reached for something sublime and sensual: “There was nothing for me but to read the Vedas, the bible of the tropics.” The problem was that the “grand ethics” of Vedic mythology, and the “unfathomable power” of Vedic cosmology, were traduced by a fetish for sacrificial rites. A modern seeker had to sift “primeval inspiration” from “endless ceremonial nonsense.”Read more
The eighties, as the hipsters among us know, are undergoing a revival. The music and fashion of the decade have been disinterred, and its politics too. Where, the pundits of America ask, is our Reagan? Meanwhile in Britain, the Labour party has revived its eighties’ follies by choosing an unelectable leader. Jeremy Corbyn is one of the hardest of the hard left, an ideological relic. His surprising success in Labour’s leadership election represents an unsavory turn in European politics.Read more
Europe’s migrant crisis, the continent’s greatest humanitarian disaster since the aftermath of World War II, continues to worsen. The summer began with mass drownings in the Mediterranean and bickering between the European Union and the governments of its member states over who should foot the bill for search and rescue patrols of Europe’s southern coasts. The summer is ending with a series of appalling images that have galvanized public opinion, especially in the northern European states, and forced both national and supranational authorities to act.Read more
All royal families are alike; all are unhappy in their own way. Most of their unhappiness is as common as their subjects, but the best of it has the resonance and unworldliness of a fairy tale. Royalty, as the proverb says of the Jews, are like other people, only more so.Read more
Friday morning, David Cameron returned to Downing Street as Britain's prime minister. After a campaign of unsurpassed tedium, the General Election came alive last night with the first exit poll, and a Conservative victory out of nowhere. For weeks, the incumbent Conservatives and the Labour opposition had been neck and neck.Read more
Springtime in the Mediterranean: The skies are clear, the waters are calm, and the migrants are drowning. In 2014, the U.S. Border Patrol estimated that 307 people died while being smuggled into the United States from Mexico. So far this year, more than 1,650 people have drowned as they attempted to cross Europe’s most porous and dangerous border, the Mediterranean. In 2014, the Border Patrol “rescued” 509 migrants along the Mexican border.Read more
"Who,” asked Hitler in August 1939, “speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” Raphael Lemkin did, and in 1944, Lemkin, a Polish-born Jew, published his theory of genocide. Lemkin’s models were the ongoing Holocaust of Europe’s Jews and the Meds Yeghern, or “Great Calamity,” of 1915-16: the systematic murder of Armenian Christians by the Ottoman Turkish state and its local helpers.Read more
There he is on the cover of Sgt. Pepper, tottering between Carl Jung and Fred Astaire, breathing fumes over Marilyn Monroe’s bare back and William Burroughs’s bald pate. Edgar Allan Poe, the original Man in Black—before Johnny Cash, before the Beatles in Hamburg, before the bohemians in Paris. The first American rocker, the steampunk wild man, bound for death or glory, and getting both.Read more
"The winner,” ABBA advised in 1980, “takes it all. The loser has to fall.” But not in Swedish politics, where proportional representation has created a smorgasbord of parties and has now contributed to a crisis of democracy.Read more
If a cultured American is one who can hear the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger, then an educated Briton is someone who gets the jokes in 1066 and All That, W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman’s 1930 pastiche of patriotic legends and schoolroom clichés. In that loving spoof, history is the struggle of the English to become “top nation.” All actors and events are judged Good or Bad.Read more
Under the peak of Mount Taygetus, the wooded Vyros Gorge tumbles into the Gulf of Messinia at the small port of Kardamyli. Around the headland is a blue cove and the hamlet of Kalamitsi. A flock of low, white houses, their pantiled roofs the color of burnt orange, huddle under stripes of gray-green olive trees. A stony track declines sharply from the road. Then, as stones turn to sand, a narrow path forks uphill along the flank of a promontory.Read more
In Tim’s Vermeer, a 2013 documentary film about Tim Jenison, an inventor of digital software, Jenison cracks the technical code of Vermeer’s art. Inspired by the theories of David Hockney and physicist Charles Falco, he builds a replica of Vermeer’s Delft studio in Las Vegas and, with a camera lucida and a concave lens, produces an accurate copy of The Music Lesson (ca. 1662-65).Read more
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