Brooks, though a 49-year-old Canadian-born, suburban New York-raised, Chicago university-educated and now so much of a stellar New York Times columnist that the White House sometimes rings him to ask what he's planning to write about, is deeply Anglophilic.
Brooks hails British rather than French Enlightenment thinkers as the guys who really understood what makes the social animal tick. While Voltaire, Condorcet and Descartes used reason to confront superstition and feudalism, thinkers across the Channel – Brooks cites Burke, Hume and Adam Smith – thought it unwise to trust reason. ..... Most success stories stress academic ability, IQ, hard work, he argues. Brooks rather stresses non-cognitive skills, which, he writes, is "the catch-all category for hidden qualities that can't be easily measured, but which in real life lead to happiness and fulfilment." ..... Brooks thinks his book, written with the US in mind, speaks to British problems. He quotes the jeremiads of self-styled Red Tory Phillip Blond about Britain having become a bipolar nation in which a bureaucratic, centralised state presides over a fragmented, disempowered and isolated citizenry. "I get to where Blond is by arguing that there have been two individualist revolutions. Conservatives embraced the individualism of the market and reacted furiously if the state impinged on individual economic choice." Brooks writes that one consequence of this is chains such as Walmart closing local shops, destroying networks of community those shops created.
I recently attended a performance of Play Deadat the Greenwich Village off-Broadway theater, The Players Theatre. While I was on stage the dead spoke to me and I had my entrails pulled out.
Teller and Todd Robbins invite Death out to play in PLAY DEAD, a new spirit-shaking Off-Broadway show inspired by “Midnight Spook Shows,” an American institution from the 1930s to the 1970s. As the guide for the evening, Robbins draws audiences into an unknown haunted world full of frightful surprises and diabolical laughter. Although very much a theatrical work, it is hardly a typical “play,” but rather a dramatic, unnerving thriller – here and now in an “abandoned" theater, illuminated by a single ghostlight – in which audiences test their nerves and face their fears as they are surrounded by ethereal sights, sounds and even touches of the returning dead – all achieved by wry, suspenseful storytelling and uncanny stage illusions.
When you see a good show, you like to come away with a keepsake: the ticket stub, the program, perhaps a T-shirt purchased in the lobby. The people behind “Play Dead” apparently know this, because they make every effort to send you home with a fellow audience member’s entrails stuck in your hair....
(Image from Richard Kornberg & Associates. That's not me on the left, but let's just say that I know how he feels. So does Robbins.)
Friday the 13th phobia is called friggatriskaidekaphobia. (Frigg/Frigga, the Norse god Friday is named after.) But really, unless you're a Poor Fellow-Soldier of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (a Templar), you probably needn't worry.
At dawn on Friday, October 13, 1307, scores of French Templars were simultaneously arrested by agents of King Philip, later to be tortured in locations such as the tower at Chinon, into admitting heresy in the Order. Over 100 charges were issued against them, the majority of them identical charges that had been earlier issued against the inconvenient Pope Boniface VIII: accusations of denying Christ, spitting and urinating on the cross, and devil worship. The main interrogation of the Templars was under the control of the Inquisitors, a group of experienced interrogators and clergy who circulated around Europe at the beck and call of any European noble. The rules of interrogation said that no blood could be drawn, but this did nothing to stop the torture. One account told of a Templar who had fire applied to the soles of his feet, such that the bones fell out of the skin. Other Templars were suspended upside-down or placed in thumbscrews. Of the 138 Templars (many of them old men) questioned in Paris over the next few years, 105 of them "confessed" to denying Christ during the secret Templar initiations. 103 confessed to an "obscene kiss" being part of the ceremonies, and 123 said they spat on the cross. Throughout the trial there was never any physical evidence of wrongdoing, and no independent witnesses; the only "proof" was obtained through confessions induced by torture. The Templars reached out to the Pope for assistance, and Pope Clement did write letters to King Philip questioning the arrests, but took no further action.
Image: The Burning of the Templars at Paris. Original owned by the British Library.From the Grandes Chroniques de France ou de St. Denis (British Library Royal 20 C. VII, f.48r) (late 14th century)
I enjoy reading the medieval murder mysteries of Michael Jecks; their protagonist is a Keeper of the King's Peace in Devon in the 1300's, Sir Baldwin de Furnshill, a former Knight Templar forced to keep his Templar past a secret following the order's betrayal by the French king and the Pope. Frequently assisted by his friend Bailiff Simon Puttock, Baldwin helps solve murders and expose wrong-doers in the English West Country and beyond.
When you lean back to check out the night sky, you’re only getting part of the picture. What would it take to get the whole picture? It would take six cameras, lugged over 60,000 miles to shoot 37,440 photos that would then be digitally stitched together to create a “360-degree view of the Milky Way, planets and stars in their true natural colors.” And that’s exactly what 28-year-old Nick Risinger spent the last year doing. I read about his project, which is called skysurvey.org and went live a few weeks ago, in the paper this morning.
You can then zoom in on parts of the larger 5,000-megapixel photo to locate specific constellations. There’s even an interactive feature that outlines the constellations and links to more information about them.
The principal driving force in the development of the financial system of pre-industrial Europe was not lending per se, but payments. Trade among strangers required the development of methods of payment that did not require mutual acquaintance and trust. The two principal financial innovations of pre-industrial Europe—the deposit bank and the bill of exchange—evolved to address this need. Lending initially developed as an adjunct to the payments system and then expanded to fill other functions.
In the medieval economy, most trade took place within communities of people who knew one another well—either local communities or communities of merchants who traded with one another on a regular basis. Within such communities trade was largely conducted on the basis of credit
She said she was shocked to hear that many Americans weren't aware that millions of Jews had died until after World War II ended.
Bachmann said the next generation will ask similar questions about what their elders did to prevent them from facing a huge tax burden.
"I tell you this story because I think in our day and time, there is no analogy to that horrific action," she said, referring to the Holocaust. "But only to say, we are seeing eclipsed in front of our eyes a similar death and a similar taking away. It is this disenfranchisement that I think we have to answer to."
Shorter Michele Bachman: "Expecting me to bear a fair share of my civic responsibility is like gassing me to death!"