Sunday, March 29, 2015

Beauty in Unexpected Places


Old photograph of a Victorian Gentleman, from the
Victorian Parlour at Failte Irish Pub, in Mississauga
[Photo by KPA]


It seems appropriate to commemorate Larry Auster's second year of his death at Failte Irish Pub, here in Mississauga.

I had a 1/2 pint of Harp, which he told me was his favorite Irish beer. I posted on Irish beer and poetry, and Larry, here.

And here's a post I wrote in April 2013 (just about a year ago).
Larry's New York: Beauty in Unexpected Places

The first time I met Larry was in 2009, when I went to New York to participate in an event for the Danish Cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. I went with a group from Canada called the International Free Press Society. Larry knew about my trip to New York, and he and I met separately. He gave me a spot to meet in the middle of Manhattan, a small diner called The Red Flame. He had never met me before, but I had my blog up with my photo for a couple of years by then. He politely came up to me and asked "Are you Kidist?" rather than make a rude assumption. He ordered a hamburger, which I found out is a favorite of his, while I had a chicken salad. He was impressed with my dietary choice, and it was one of the best chicken salads I've had.

After lunch, we walked for many blocks up Fifth Avenue, with Larry pointing out various New York landmarks and spots. He was especially keen to show me Rockefeller Center, which clearly still surprised him even though he was a long-time resident of New York. The Christmas tree and decorations were up, and skaters were pirouetting beneath us.

We kept walking down Fifth Avenue and at some point we found a beautiful courtyard interior. I cannot find the name of this place, but New York is filled with such unique surprises. We got some refreshments, to take a break and to enjoy this interior. I ordered a diet coke, and Larry talked about ordering a whisky. But he was too polite to do so, and we sat drinking diet cokes together.

We met again almost two years later, in 2011. Larry planned a VFR Christmas dinner for his readers and friends. The group met at an Irish pub/restaurant in mid-town Manhattan called Kennedy's. I was honored to have been included in this list, and made every effort to attend. I was able to attend, and at the same time spend a few days in New York.

This time, our cultural visit was to the Metropolitan Museum. Laura Wood, from The Thinking Housewife also came. The attraction was the annual Christmas Tree with a Neapolitan Baroque Crèche. We looked at the figurines with amazement. How could such small sculptures be crafted so perfectly? We looked for Baby Jesus, and found his tiny, perfect form. After the visit, which included rushing through various exhibits in the museum, we went down to have a snack in the restaurant/cafeteria. Larry said he liked coming there for a meal. I agreed that the food was of high quality. I suspect it was also the cultural environment that Larry liked, when he went just for a meal to the museum.

I traveled again to New York in August 2012. I stayed about a week. This time, I went to try and get some sponsorship for my book project. I also did my usual rounds of shopping and museum viewing. I telephoned Larry to say I was in New York (I had emailed him about my trip), and he suggested we meet at the lovely Straus Park, which is near his home, as well as near where I was staying. I had bought my (computer/portable) tablet then, and Larry, with his perennial curiosity, wanted to look up more about the Park, while we sat on the bench in front of the statue "Memory."

According to this site, on the background of the Park:
In 1912, the City named this park after the Strauses, who had lived in a frame house at 27-47 Broadway, near 105th Street. Public subscriptions of $20,000 were raised to commission this monument. The work consists of a granite curved exedra, a central bronze reclining female figure of Memory (for which the celebrated model Audrey Munson posed), and a reflecting pool. The monument was dedicated three years to the day after the Titanic sank.
We nonetheless had cheerful things to talk about. I told Larry I went to Macy's earlier in the morning, and he asked me what I'd bought. It was a pink polka dot blouse which, I proudly told him, I'd gotten for half price on sale. Larry was in tune with clothing and fashion, and would notice small things like hats, bracelets and the patterns and colors of dresses, which he wasn't shy about commenting. I showed him a catalog of Carolina Herrera's evening gowns whose flagship store in mid-town Manhattan I'd also visited. He had some very clear preferences, and didn't like the low cut, "one-sleeve" evening gowns, and said it spoilt otherwise beautiful dresses. I agreed with him, that all this skin exposure was diminishing the beauty of the dresses, and the beauty of women.

My museum trip this time around was to the Cloisters. I had read about them in my tourist guide, and in an article a while back in some magazine, and was intrigued by them. I've written about them here. Larry was not so well by then, and I told him the trip is long. We'd have to take an uptown bus all the way to Washington Heights, then change buses to take us to the Cloisters. Once there, we would have to do a shortish walk on cobbled stones to get to the museum. He was hesitant, and I made the decision. "Let's go," I said. "We can always take the bus back, or catch a cab, if it is too difficult." We made it. It was a lovely trip. The Cloisters feel like a remote, hill-top castle. Even though they are technically in New York City, they feel like they're miles (geographically and culturally) away from the city. One lovely spot of repose is by the compound's walls, with a view of the Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge.

Larry lived off Riverside Drive, which has a beautiful path by the Hudson River. We walked along the drive to view the various luxury homes, with their elegant mouldings and brickwork, and to experience some of the natural paths that are part of New York. There was a cool breeze coming from the river, a welcome respite from the hot August sun.

Recently, in December, I was in New York once again, and once again I attended a Christmas dinner for friends and readers of VFR. We met again at Kennedy's. Larry was weaker this time, and I think the dinner tired him. But he was good company. I met with him a couple of times after the dinner. This time, our cultural visit was to the Morgan Library and Museum, which houses Pierpont Morgan's collections (later expanded by his son J. P. Morgan) of books, manuscripts, sculpture and paintings in mid-town Manhattan. It is an eclectic and interesting place. Once again, I had gone earlier, and suggested to Larry that this would be a good place to visit. There were seats all around the museum for resting, and it is not overwhelmingly big. Larry seemed to acquire energy from somewhere, because we stayed viewing the collections longer than I thought we would.

Larry always liked to experience things, staying a little longer at an especially beautiful spot, or walking down an interesting curve in a path, or spending time before a sculpture or a painting. New York is a haven for beauty in unexpected places. Even the subways and buses were places for this unexpected beauty. In order to take his mind off his ill-health, Larry would recite poetry he had memorized. During one subway ride, he recited poems by W. B. Yeats to me. He said reciting these poems (aloud or silently) refreshed him and helped him to absorb his attention and put him in a calm state. He posted many poems by Yeats at View From the Right. I read and studied these poems over the years, and grew to know and to somewhat understand them.

One of the most enchanting places we visited was the Plaza Hotel near Central Park. I had visited it earlier and again told Larry we should go there just for coffee (a meal would just be too expensive). We entered the lovely lobby and went into the Palm Court. It was late afternoon, and the staff was closing down (tea can only be served for so long, after all). Larry asked if we could just sit at the edge for a little while, and the staff obliged. We also dared to walk around to view the "marble caryatids representing the Four Seasons on the westwall." The wait staff patiently left us alone. Covering the Palm Court is a spectacular, restored art deco stained glass ceiling, which gave a regal and grand air to our brief stay.

We went downstairs to the "food court" for a quick snack. For some reason Hamentash, a Jewish delicacy traditionally eaten during Purim, was available. Larry suggested I try one with apricot filling. It was a dry, sweet pastry, and the apricot gave it a distinct and sophisticated taste. So we did get our tea (or coffee) at the Plaza after all.

Later that week, we had dinner at West 107 on Broadway, where I had one of the best pork chop meals. There was enough left over to take home. Rather than have dessert, Larry suggested that we go to his neighborhood restaurant, The Broadway Restaurant (which is really a diner), for hot chocolate. It was a real treat, with whipped cream piled on top of the rich chocolate drink.

My last visit with Larry was at a hamburger meal in a restaurant called Toast, where we went after our visit to the Morgan Library. "Cook it rare" he told the waiter. He educated me on the best way to eat this American tradition: "I don't know how people eat the dried up, over-cooked hamburgers that has become normal fare. The meat has to be moist, and to do that, you need very good meat, and you cannot over cook it." And it was the best hamburger I have eaten.

At Toast, Larry decided to have a glass of his beloved whisky. He was very particular about the kind he wanted. The brand he chose he said was lighter and more delicate. I ordered the house wine, to keep him company, and to enjoy a glass. It was a lovely fruity, light wine. Larry picked up my glass and said he just wanted to smell it. He did so with relish. This episode encouraged me to write (and research) about wine. Here is the article I posted which I titled The God of Wine.

I could tell that Larry loved New York; the old, original, artistic New York. His neighborhood gave him a lot of pleasure, and almost every corner was for discovering. I think he enjoyed my company, and was happy to show me his New York. And he was protective. If we went too long without a break, he would suggest a snack or a meal, and he would more often than not pick up the tab. He put me in a taxi one late evening, and paid the driver the fare before I had time to protest.

Back in Canada, I received notice from a group of VFR readers that they were planning an intercessory prayer for Larry. I went to my favorite Irish pub in my neighborhood, Failte's, to toast Larry with my favorite beer, Harp. I emailed Larry photos I had taken of the interior of the pub, and that I had gone there to have a glass of Harp in his name. He wrote back that Harp was his favorite Irish beer. I found that uncanny, and a sign that I had done the right thing, and perhaps these prayers would make a difference.

If we had more time, I am sure he'd have found many places to discover, and to rediscover. And a few more things in common.

He wrote to me in an email in mid-January (2013): "There is something appealing about your semi flow-of-associations writing. Not everything needs to be big and important. What you provide is a feeling of your life, of yourself."

I hope with this account, I have provided a feeling for Larry's life, as I understood it and as I experienced it.
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Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

May Perpetual Light Shine on Lawrence Auster

May Perpetual Light Shine on Lawrence Auster
By: Laura Wood (The Thinking Housewife)
Sunday, March 29, 2015


The tomb of the Count of Urgell at The Cloisters Museum

“JOURNEY” is a much abused and over-used word. So much so that it is almost impossible to use it today without conjuring a New-Agey binge of self worship. But, on the second anniversary of the death of the formidable writer Lawrence Auster, I am drawn to think of his journey.

He was born in New Jersey in 1949. He was born at the right time and at the wrong time. He was constantly at odds with his surroundings. He had a happy childhood, he said, but then plainly didn’t quite fit in anywhere. Hence he was on a constant journey. He left Columbia University after a year and went to Colorado. Later, after graduating from the University of Colorado with a degree in English, he discarded the idea of becoming an academic despite his love of English literature and his obvious skill in analyzing it. He thought being a professor would destroy his love of literature. He returned to New York, a wayfarer still.

For awhile he attended law school in New York and objected to the whole mentality of it. He felt law could be practiced in such a way that it wasn’t so careerist. In other words, the true end and object of legal studies should be justice, not the career.

He deplored the impersonal quality of modern life, which is why he left Columbia as an undergraduate and one reason he could never find a career. He wrote in his journal that he would love to work in some family business that had been run for generations. In other words, he would love to work in some business that wasn’t motivated just by business, but by the preservation of a small, human society.

He decried the lack of manners he saw everywhere, absurdly and unreasonably expecting civility and gentlemanliness in a 21st century city. At the same time, he could be rude himself in that aggressive, New York way.

He was walking down a street in New York one day, when like a bolt of lightning it struck him that European America was dying and being replaced by a modern, polyglot Tower of Babel. He journeyed through poverty, loneliness, lacerating self-criticism and the self-disgust any reasonable person in our world would feel for writing about one of the most sensitive of topics: Race in America. His objection to modern racial egalitarianism flowed naturally from his objection to the impersonal qualities of modern life. Destroy a man’s people, perpetuate the myth of rootlessness, and modern man is truly alone. He is even alienated from God. Mr. Auster was his own harshest critic at times and did not delight in the hard truths. His many readers at his website View from the Right would say he was born at the right time.

“This was the height of Western Civilization!” he said once, with outspread arms on a visit to The Cloisters, the famous museum of medieval art on the Hudson. So you see: He really was an outsider. He admired the tombs of the ancient knights, with their effigies of warriors at rest. He said that the art of no other age expressed the same vivid sense of transcendence.

A child of the sixties, he journeyed theologically, through his childhood as a Jew, astrology, the works of the Indian guru, Meher Baba; Anglicanism and finally, on Palm Sunday two years ago, with an Easter lily on his hospital tray, he formally converted to Roman Catholicism, a few days before he died and after much serious consideration of the issue. He said it was the most important day of his life. I like to think that he was formally initiated into that society of knights, his warrior qualities finding their most appropriate setting.

I hope you will join with me today, on Palm Sunday, which marks the entry of that most miraculous God-Man and Jew into Jerusalem, in praying for the eternal rest of Lawrence Auster. His journey is over. Let us be glad that he never fit into this world. Let us be thankful that it was always alien to him, as it should be to all of us. Let us pray for him and imagine him in heaven, poor no more, but with a golden and bejeweled sword always by his side.

[Note: Friends of Lawrence Auster will be gathering soon for a visit to his grave and lunch to commemorate the second anniversary of his death. This will take place near the cemetery where he is buried in suburban Philadelphia. If you would like to join us, please let me know.]
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Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Palm Sunday



Giotto di Bondone - known commonly as Giotto (c. 1266 – 1337)
Christ Entering Jerusalem. 1304-1306
78 x 72 inches
Fresco: Capella degli Scrovegni, Padua, Italy
(Here is a view of the chapel's interior)


Image posted at Tiberge's Galliawatch

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Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Prepare the Way, and Be Ready


In the Algonquin where the Round Table met
[Image Source]

I sent the following email to my "roundtable" friends in New York:
Dear Friends,

While wishing you Bon Apetit, I send you my posting "The Existential Crossroad" at my blog Reclaiming Beauty which I think relates to Jim's analogy of liberalism bursting its bubble.

I think we are already seeing the cracks, or the bubble hitting some brick wall, or nail, to continue with the analogy.

My business is in observing visual cues. I found both Obama's and Hillary's expressions revelatory these few days, where I say:
"I listened to Obama's and Clinton's various speeches and interviews these past few weeks, and one thing that struck me was how tired they looked."
I think Clinton and Obama, the world leaders of liberalism, are exhausted. I don't know why that is explicitly, but existentially, I think they are tired of the lies and the failed promises that they presented to Americans as expedient paths for establishing their ideological changes. Whatever they say is now such a stretch from the truth that this burden, or this conflict, is showing in their very bodies.

Netanyahu, on the other hand, started with the humility of a sincere person. He put himself, and his political life, on the line by coming to the US to literally beg Americans to stop the devil's pact with Iran. Yet look at him as he presents his position, which I describe as "forceful, strong and convinced." And finally, he won at the Israeli elections, despite the odds.

I don't know how much of a bubble this is bursting, but I think, in unexpected ways, the truth is beginning to come out of the cracks, and liberalism's promises are showing up as the failures they are.

But I take this a step further and write that this is more than political, but existential:
...we are now at an existential crossroad. Obama's and Clinton's inner conflict, their deal with the Devil, can be seen in the way they present themselves (or the Devil projects himself in them), Netanyahu's visit to America, his subsequent win, against all odds, at the Israeli elections, are the signs we should be paying attention to. We are faced with the consequences otherwise.
So it is not enough to merely observe. We have to react, and act, as well. I think that is where our "round table" can garner its force and strength, and its ideas. The challenge is to prepare the way, and to be ready for the burst.

Kidist
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Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Derek Hough is Back



The talented, handsome, charismatic, and nice guy Derek Hough is back on Dancing With the Stars. He was debating whether to come back or not, but I think his overwhelming popularity (tweets, likes, blogs - like mine - and so on) persuaded him to give it one more chance.

His sister, Julianne Hough, is the judge, but she has also danced and won two trophies during her time as a pefromer on the show.

I have posted Hough's video above with his partner Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin. His choreography is reminiscent of Fosse's, although less idiosyncratic, which the crazy Italian judge recognized last season.

I've blogged about Derek several times: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

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Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Existential Crossroad



I listened to Obama's and Clinton's various speeches and interviews these past few weeks, and one thing that struck me was how tired they looked.

I got the photo of Obama from a video screenshot of Obama sending a "message" to Iran. The speech was subtitled in Persian and posted on Whitehouse.gov, the White House's main website! Obama gave the message on March 19th from the White House. He is wishing the Iranians a "Happy New Year." The video has Persian translations scrolling underneath. Here is the video. Amazing! A message for a "Happy New Year" to a country which publicly says it wants to destroy America, and of course Israel! Obama sent his message with a cozy backdrop of a side table with flowers and a pretty lamp, while sitting next to the American flag.

I will say here (repeat what others have already written) that Obama is essentially an anti-Semite. It starts from his desire to undermine, if not destroy, Israel, by supporting those who wish to destroy Israel. Below are writers who have written about this.

Mark Levin states in an interview: "anti-semitism reeks from your [Obama's] administration."

The Jerusalem Post recently posted the article titled: "Fundamentally Freund Is Obama Stirring Up Anti-Semitism."

Ben Shapiro at Breitbart News discusses "The Antisemitism of the Obama Administration."

Lauri B. Regan at The American Thinker has an article titled: "President Obama and Naked, Blind Anti-Semitism"

And in a less dramatic manner, Elliott Abrams at the National Review Online writes: "Obama Tries to Invent Whatever Excuse He Can to Break with Israel."

The recent impassioned accusation which Obama has been receiving is that he is "America's first Anti-American President." Many writers are saying similar things, including, for example Bob Barr at Townhall.com in his article: "America’s First Anti-Exceptionalism President." And David Horowitz at his Truth Revolt site has the article: "Obama An Anti-Semitic, Anti-American President."

The screenshot of Clinton's image is from her United Nations press conference on March 10 (here is the video). The UN has always vacillated between supporting Israel, or supporting Israel's enemies, and Clinton was either opportunistic or covertly showing her disdain for Israel by choosing this venue during these contentious times.

Still, both Clinton and Obama are trying to project conciliatory, if not friendly, images (peacefully united, personally approachable).

Netanyahu went directly to the United States Congress. The background in his photograph is clearly of Congress, and the image is found at this site.

Netanyahu has it right. Congress is the platform from which these American leaders should have given their important messages. And I think it is appropriate that world leaders wishing to communicate important messages with Americans, as did Netanyahu, should use this forum.

Despite his many hours of travel and his stressful presence as a foreign leader, Netanyahu looks forceful, strong and convinced. I wrote about this a few weeks ago here. And here is the video of Netanyahu's full speech.

Both Clinton and Obama used locations through which they tried to soften their messages. Obama sits in the cozy background of a living room set-up, and Clinton goes to a body that appears to "unite" the world with words of peace. Whereas Netanyahu goes to the politically difficult, if not hostile, environment of the United States Congress. But, he is the most honest. None of these messages can be softened. Netanyahu dealt with his in that forthright manner.

What a difference.

I realized just as I was about to post this entry that Obama sent this New Year's message to Iran during the dark days of Lent. This introspective time, "a special time of prayer, penance, sacrifice and good works in preparation of the celebration of Easter," was when Obama decided to "observe" another holiday, foreign both in national and Christian terms, to betray his own country and make a pact with the Devil.

I've written here that we are now at an existential crossroad. Obama's and Clinton's inner conflict, their deal with the Devil, can be seen in the way they present themselves (or the Devil projects himself in them). Netanyahu's visit to America, his subsequent win, against all odds, at the Israeli elections, are the signs we should be paying attention to. We are faced with the consequences otherwise.

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Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tip of an Irish Hat, And a Happy St. Patrick's!


An Irish Hat
[Photo By: KPA]


I went early to my local Irish pub, Failte's, thinking it would be quiet, and there would be just the decorations. I was wrong. However strange it may sound, there was a St. Patrick's party for children (in a pub) at this particular Failte's. I went in the back and watched the merriment.

The place was a little cheesyly decorated, cardboard hats, glittery leprechauns, and green beer. But why not? Festivals are hard to come by these days where everything is political correctly sterilized. St. Patrick's hasn't got that "inclusive" poison yet. All the patrons were refreshingly Irish-looking, and the music wonderfully Irish (as far as I could tell).

"I'm not Irish," I told the waitress. "But can you still get me a hat and some lucky clover?"

I now have a hat, and a necklace of sparkly beads with a large three-leaf piece of luck. I'll hang on to the luck of the Irish!

I also asked for a "small" (I think that means a 1/2 pint) of Harp beer.

On a more serious note, here is a post of mine on Failte, my humble take on the Irish, Yeats' poetry, and memories of Larry Auster and his serious work to keep his beloved America from turning into a Babylon.

I posted this poem, posted by Larry at the View From the Right:

THE WILD SWANS AT COOLE

THE TREES are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine and fifty swans.

The nineteenth Autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold,
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes, when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

This is the illustration he posted at the end of the poem, in his entry "Update":



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Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat