this I believe... oh yeah


Still more about the SOTU. LI stands for very little positive legislation, but we do believe strongly in one law. It should certainly be mandated that before every State of the Union Speech, the opening montage from Seven Beauties should be shown. No commentary from the commentariat, just the montage, those wonderful bombings, the destroyed cities, Hitler and Mussolini shaking hands, the fleeing masses escaping strafing of fighter planes, and that jazzy score, and the Italian chant with the English tag, oh yeah, on the end of every line ("The ones who don't enjoy themselves, even when they laugh. Oh yeah./ The ones who worship the corporate image, not knowing that they work for someone else. Oh yeah. /The ones who should have been shot in the cradle... Pow! Oh yeah. The ones who say 'Follow me to success, but kill me if I fail... so to speak.' Oh yeah.)

It would add a bit of reality to the theatre, blood to the abstract threats of blood. And we would know what it means when a country proclaims itself a force for good.

We hadn’t seen the film in years, and suddenly felt like seeing it again last night. It still has the old death magic, like a joke that gives you a heart attack. Oh yeah.

We did not celebrate Blair’s failure to revive the ye olde practice of the Auto de fe in LI the other day. Belated congratulations to the British for lighting that bill with a match and then stuffing it down the front of the odious P.M.’s pants.

Blair is a curious compound of the worst elements of the two ur-P.M.s, Gladstone and D’Israeli. He possesses Gladstone’s moral unctuousness, and D’Israeli’s unhinged adventurism. The morally vain rogue is not a common figure in literature, but Moliere pretty much patented the type with Tartuffe.

Here’s Lytton Strachey on the D’Israeli, Gladstone and Queen Vic:

Mr. Gladstone had been the disciple of her revered Peel, and had won the approval of Albert; Mr. Disraeli had hounded Sir Robert to his fall with hideous virulence, and the Prince had pronounced that he "had not one single element of a gentleman in his composition." Yet she regarded Mr. Gladstone with a distrust and dislike which steadily deepened, while upon his rival she lavished an abundance of confidence, esteem, and affection such as Lord Melbourne himself had hardly known.
Her attitude towards the Tory Minister had suddenly changed when she found that he alone among public men had divined her feelings at Albert's death. Of the others she might have said "they pity me and not my grief;" but Mr. Disraeli had understood; and all his condolences had taken the form of reverential eulogies of the departed. The Queen declared that he was "the only person who appreciated the Prince." She began to show him special favour; gave him and his wife two of the coveted seats in St. George's Chapel at the Prince of Wales's wedding, and invited him to stay a night at Windsor. When the grant for the Albert Memorial came before the House of Commons, Disraeli, as leader of the Opposition, eloquently supported the project. He was rewarded by a copy of the Prince's speeches, bound in white morocco, with an inscription in the royal hand. In his letter of thanks he "ventured to touch upon a sacred theme," and, in a strain which re-echoed with masterly fidelity the sentiments of his correspondent, dwelt at length upon the absolute perfection of Albert. "The Prince," he said, "is the only person whom Mr. Disraeli has ever known who realised the Ideal. None with whom he is acquainted have ever approached it. There was in him a union of the manly grace and sublime simplicity, of chivalry with the intellectual splendour of the Attic Academe. The only character in English history that would, in some respects, draw near to him is Sir Philip Sidney: the same high tone, the same universal accomplishments, the same blended tenderness and vigour, the same rare combination of romantic energy and classic repose." As for his own acquaintance with the Prince, it had been, he said, "one of the most satisfactory incidents of his life: full of refined and beautiful memories, and exercising, as he hopes, over his remaining existence, a soothing and exalting influence." Victoria was much affected by "the depth and delicacy of these touches," and henceforward Disraeli's place in her affections was assured. When, in 1866, the Conservatives came into office, Disraeli's position as Chancellor of the Exchequer and leader of the House necessarily brought him into a closer relation with the Sovereign. Two years later Lord Derby resigned, and Victoria, with intense delight and peculiar graciousness, welcomed Disraeli as her First Minister.”
This is Gladstone’s response upon hearing that the Conservative government had fallen, and Queen had sent for him to form a new government:

“Mr. Gladstone was in his shirt-sleeves at Hawarden, cutting down a tree, when the royal message was brought to him. "Very significant," he remarked, when he had read the letter, and went on cutting down his tree. His secret thoughts on the occasion were more explicit, and were committed to his diary. "The Almighty," he wrote, "seems to sustain and spare me for some purpose of His own, deeply unworthy as I know myself to be. Glory be to His name."

The Victorian vernacular, which slid easily between laissez faire and the Almighty’s designs, is easy to make fun of, but at least in Victorian times it was not frivolous. Tony Blair is, however, deeply frivolous, a sort of cuckoo conservative in Labour’s nest, singing a song of Thatcher. We look forward to his further humiliating defeats in Parliament.
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Patrick J. Mullins said…
that was all very informative about Disraeli, gladstone, Victoria and Albert; I would have never thought of anything but his clothing otherwise, even if he wasn't quite Mr. America.

Can you think of some other public festivals besides SOTU that could use some of the parts of '7 Beauties' that I can remember? It's been about 15 years, and I've always loved when she says 'You are just saying that because you want something to eat, you Italian pig.' Giannini says: 'Oh, no, you are BEAUTIFUL?' Stoler says: 'You will get your chance to make lofe...'

I used to think America had a dearth of festivals, but that was all wet. The SOTU, the Golden Globes, the Oscars, the Super Bowl are all genuine festivals, they are all even forms of holidays, explaining now to me why Halloween is not so depleted by itself just because All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day are ignored. Hell, and yesterday was Ground Hog Day as well as Boehner Day, there was Medicaid/Medicare Destruction Day on Mon. or Wed., SOTU shared Tuesday with Oscar Nominee Day. so there's just no end to the jollies we get more than countries that take their religions too seriously (it occurred to me today that American Christians, even the extreme ones, don't do a comparable job of that, because much of it is still determined by a concept of their own convenience, although it ignores without guilt anyone else's.
roger said…
Patrick, Boehner day?

Oh please. But only if it is pronounced as any twelve year old boy would pronounce it.

And I'm not even getting into the borrowing of the pole from Mayday...
roger said…
ps -- Rebecca West believed that Prince Albert introduced musical taste into the British aisles. She felt that he was given a bum rap by the Strachey crowd. That he was sort of a Weimar prince.

But sometimes, West was bullheadedly wrong.