‘Downton Shabby’: A Commoner Takes on an English Castle

A Los Angeles actor and producer moved across the pond to restore his crumbling ancestral home. But fixing up a 50,000-square-foot manor isn’t easy.

People who search genealogy websites often find birth and marriage records, newspaper clippings, faded photographs or maybe a long-lost relative.

Hopwood DePree found a 60-room English manor.

As a child growing up in Holland, Mich., in the 1970s, Mr. DePree was transfixed when his beloved maternal grandfather, Pap, a history buff, told him about a huge slice of rolling land across the ocean where his forebears had a grand house called Hopwood Castle.

A castle in Britain owned by his family? Named for his family? No way. [ . . . ]

Full story at New York Times: ‘Downton Shabby’: A Commoner Takes on an English Castle

GasLit Nation: Fight Back with “The States Project”

June 15, 2022


In a two-part discussion, this week we’re joined by two experts on the frontlines of fighting for our democracy on the all critical state level. If you want to fight for our democracy and prevent the slide into authoritarianism, clean up your local state government! How to proceed? Two experts from The States Project – Melissa Walker, a widely read author for teen novels turned democracy defender, and the Head of Giving Circles, and Aaron Kleinman, the Director of Research – are here to tell you. Walker and Kleinman address structural impediments to democracy – including gerrymandering, voter suppression, and the composition of the Senate – as well as challenges from dark money shadow networks and astroturf protests. They also give advice on navigating state politics and staying strong in the midst of this onslaught on our rights. We need all hands on deck for 2022, and an informed public is a powerful public!

“Unconscionably excessive” prices for oil? Hell, yeah!

Heather Cox Richardson | Letters from an American

Heather Cox Richardson

June 14, 2022

Today the White House announced that President Joe Biden will visit the Middle East next month. His first stop will be in Israel, and then he will go to Saudi Arabia, where he will meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the man responsible for the murder and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. MBS recently invested $2 billion in Jared Kushner’s new investment fund against the advice of the funds’ advisors.

In 2019, Biden promised to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” in part because of the Khashoggi killing, but administration officials have been quietly visiting for months, in part to urge Saudi Arabia to increase oil production to help ease gas prices in the U.S. While the White House maintains that it is looking for a “reset” with the Saudis in order to promote peace talks between Israel and Palestine, end the war in Yemen, and address human rights violations, it acknowledges that oil production is on the table. 

Inflation is high in the U.S., as it is all over the world, because of demand, supply chain problems, the soaring costs of transportation as the world’s few carriers jack up prices, and so on. But that inflation is driven in large part by higher oil prices, which have driven up the price of gasoline and diesel in the U.S., which in turn makes everything more expensive. 

Since the first public hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol last week, much of the traffic on right-wing social media has been about gas prices, blaming them on President Biden. Republicans see gas prices and inflation as key issues both to distract from the hearings and to enable Republicans to take over control of Congress in the November midterm elections. 

In fact, according to a piece by E. Rosalie in the newsletter Hoaxlines, U.S. production of crude oil during Biden’s first year was actually higher than it was in Trump’s first year. To encourage production, Biden’s officials have issued more permits on federal lands than were issued in the Trump administration’s first three years, at a pace that approaches that of George W. Bush’s administration. Only 10% of all U.S. drilling takes place on federal land, but the Bureau of Land Management confirms that more than 9000 drilling permits on public land are currently approved. Not all would be productive if they were developed, and none of them could start producing immediately, but this undercuts the argument that gas prices are high because the Biden administration has choked off permits.  

Russia’s war on Ukraine has also driven up global oil prices, but the U.S. gets less than 2% of its oil from Russia. 

What appears to be driving U.S. gas prices is the pressure investors are putting on oil companies, whose officers answer to their investors. Limited production creates higher prices that are driving record profits. In a March 2022 survey of 141 U.S. oil producers asking them why they were holding back production, 59% said they were under investor pressure. Only 6% blamed “government regulations” for their lack of increased production. 

Oil companies are seeing huge profits and are using the money for stock buybacks to raise stock prices. BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, TotalEnergies, Eni, and Equinor will give between $38 and $41 billion to shareholders through buyback programs this year. As EOG Resources wrote to its shareholders: “2021 was a record-setting year for EOG. We earned record net income of $4.7 billion, generated a record $5.5 billion of free cash flow, which funded record cash return of $2.7 billion to shareholders. We doubled our regular dividend rate and paid two special dividends, paying out about 30% of cash from operations…. This period of high oil prices allows us to further bolster the balance sheet. To support our renewed $5 billion buyback authorization and prepare to take advantage of other countercyclical opportunities, we plan to build and carry a higher cash balance going forward….”

But congressional Republicans appear uninterested in adjusting the disjunction between supply and demand that is creating such high consumer prices. In May the House passed the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act by a vote of 217 to 207 with only Democrats in the yes column and all Republicans and four Democrats voting no. The bill provided a vague warning that it is unlawful to charge “unconscionably excessive” prices for consumer fuel during presidentially declared energy emergencies, and it gave the Federal Trade Commission more power to punish price gouging. 

The Senate has not moved forward with the bill. Republicans there can kill it with the filibuster and will do so, despite the fact that a Morning Consult/Politico poll shows that 77% of registered voters—including 76% of Republicans—like such a measure. Only 13% of voters outright oppose such a law (10% have no opinion). 

Biden has sought to address the issue with the tools at his command. After trying to ease pressure by releasing oil from the strategic reserve, he has set out to reduce the nation’s demand for oil products by identifying the conversion to clean energy as a national security issue. On June 6 he vowed to “continue…pushing Congress to pass clean energy investments and tax cuts” but also authorized the use of the Defense Production Act to speed up the domestic production of solar panel parts, building insulation, heat pumps, and power grid infrastructure like transformers. He will also lower tariffs on solar technology coming to the U.S. from Southeast Asia for two years. These measures should ensure a reliable supply of solar panels while creating more jobs in the green energy sector, which currently employs more than 230,000 people in the solar industry alone.  

In addition to Biden’s measures to ease oil prices, lawmakers are trying to curb inflation by imposing the sorts of limits on carrier prices that they refuse to on oil prices. 

On Monday the House passed the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 to hamper unfair business practices among shipping carriers. The measure passed the Senate in March. Although the bills were introduced by Democrats, the votes that passed them were bipartisan, reflecting, perhaps, that the nine shipping companies that dominate the world market are multinational rather than domestic. According to Representative John Garamendi (D-CA), shippers have raised prices on U.S. businesses and consumers by more than 1000% on goods coming from Asia, enabling them to make $190 billion in profits last year, a sevenfold increase in one year. This bill, he said, “will help crush inflation and protect American jobs.” Biden has praised the bill and promises to sign it. 

And tomorrow the Federal Reserve is expected to announce an interest rate hike of three quarters of a percentage point, its highest since 1994, to combat inflation. Higher interest rates will make it more expensive to borrow money, which should cool down the economy, although getting inflation down to the 2% the Fed prefers will likely slow consumer spending, dampen wage increases, and slow economic growth.

And of course, next month, Biden will visit the Saudis, who can increase oil supplies quickly if they believe it is in their best interest to do so. 

And finally, a heads up: tomorrow’s hearing of the January 6 committee has been postponed. The next hearing is now scheduled for Thursday at 1:00 pm.

Found In Translation: Gwenno’s Baker’s Dozen

Covering all things psychogeography and domesticity, Gwenno talks Ronnie Angel Pope through the albums that capture the atmosphere of the places and communities that matter to her

Photo by Claire Marie Bailey

By Ronnie Angel Pope

So many of Gwenno’s musical influences are rooted outside of recorded music. From being in a Socialist street choir to being an Irish dancer – records make up only one facet of her expe-rience. She riffs, with easy glamour, on music’s myriad uses – as a tool for activism, as a shared experience, as a solitary comfort, but also, as art for art’s sake. Indeed, Gwenno’s Baker’s Dozen touches all of these bases. But what features steadfastly is the work of personal heroes that cue moments of existential resonance and gentle confirmation, which make her go “Oh yeah, I know myself. That’s me.”

For Gwenno, the musical experience is as much about the medium as it is the message. Though it’s not necessarily the medium of sound or analogue recording that we’re talking about here. We’re talking about language as a medium. More specifically, Cornish and Welsh, through which she writes, reads, thinks, and lives.

“Languages have character, and particular uses that really feed into the imagination, and his seemed like something I needed to pursue further,” she muses, when we turn to the subject of her latest album, Tresor.

An experience of Tresor benefits from acknowledging where it sits in relation to her 2018 album, Le KovLe Kov was expressed through the medium of Cornish, but was written in Cardiff, “as a tribute to everything that I’d been taught and had been passed down, despite not necessarily having my own Cornish experience, apart from home life.” As an album, it was made “to get to know Cornwall and the community better – it was a link to the place and to the people.”

Tresor, however, is an emotional response to time spent in St Ives, in January 2020. Though visiting “as a tourist, essentially,” Tresor confirms Gwenno’s ties to the place. As part of the creative process, Gwenno recalls being conscious of not wanting to “project any lived experience of Cornwall” onto the album — a potential challenge that turned out to be “really addictive”.

Another challenge, Gwenno notes, relates to the concern of translating the fullness and truth of human experience, emotion, and atmosphere, as tied to a particular place. “As a musician you use music as your form. And this is always the challenge with language – to convey emo-tion, the language that every human understands.” So, what would it be like to make an album that feels like a week in St Ives? “For the most part,“ Gwenno concludes, “it’s a document of a week in St Ives with all of the spirits of St Ives. It’s about saying ‘I AM HERE, I am committed to this’, it’s not flippant, or about moving on to the next thing.’

Welsh and Cornish have both been crucial “tools for accessing pure imagination,” akin to drawing upon childhood experience, “the time when the imagination is at its most active.” Yet despite finding her native Brythonic languages to be comforting, it is clear that drawing upon childhood tongues is no retreat. Instead, in continuing to write through Welsh and Cornish, Gwenno emphasises the importance of growing through the language, exploring womanhood, and motherhood.

After coming across a poem written in the early 20th century by Phoebe Proctor, the Cornish language poet, Gwenno was struck by “the really intimate day to day experience,” and the way in which Proctor conveyed this experience with such emotion. Proctor’s work opened up questions around would it be like to explore desire, or domesticity, through Cornish — “As an introverted person, as most musicians are, it’s a way of exploring all of these ideas without feeling self-conscious about it because it will take people a while to understand it.”

Thus, the medium is a perfect mediator between sensuality, freedom of thought, and recep-tion. Tresor can tap immediately, lyrically, into desires, fantasies cosmopolitan aspira-tions, whilst operating sonically on the scale of place, space, and time. Indeed, each of these subjects crop up throughout her Baker’s Dozen.

Working in a similar, rhizomatic way, Tresor opens portals to other times, other plac-es, other referents and atmospheres. It is an emotional response to the people she’s met, the conversation’s she’s had, but it is also a treasure and a commitment to a community, and the polymorphic facets of Cornish identity. It is proof that life is lived through language, and thus, language is malleable, able to mutate and accommodate the domestic, the gigantic, the minu-tiae, and the universal too.

Gwenno’s new album Tresor is out on July 1 via Heavenly. 

Source: The Quietus | Features | Baker’s Dozen | Found In Translation: Gwenno’s Baker’s Dozen