Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A world elsewhere

I wanted to write something more cheerful, and this seems like the moment since Blogger is getting more difficult to deal with every time.  This is from Norman Lebrecht's contentious, wildly opinionated Who Killed Classical Music? the very title of which assumes that it's dead:

That Pavarotti loyalists should have felt the need to smear Domingo was proof itself of the Spaniard's potency.  Unable to malign him vocally, the Pavarotti camp attacked the weak spot in every artist's make-up -- his age.  A whispering campaign alleged that Domingo had been born before his admitted birth date, 1941, and was probably older than Pavarotti and closer to the final curtain.  A fake date of 1934 crept into at least one standard music dictionary.  Domingo, distressed by the aspersions, produced an authenticated copy of his birth certificate from the registry office in Madrid, but failed to quell the rumour-mongering.  (page 270)

So you start a rumor, the object of the rumor produces documentation to show it is baseless, and then you refuse to accept the documentation.  Lebrecht's book was published in 1996, which means that Jerome Corsi is a big fat plagiarist.  Now I have to wonder what other political phenomena originated in the weird and wonderful world of opera.  Were Fafner and Fasolt the models for the Koch brothers, ready to kill for their horde of gold but using it for no useful purpose?  Is Tosca's leap from the parapet inspiring the budget quagmire?  Did Bill Clinton base his career on the Duke of Mantua?  Puts it all in perspective, doesn't it?      


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Silence of the lambs

This was bad.  This was so bad, Rupert Murdoch has called for a ban on assault weapons.  It remains to be seen which of his minions will get in line, and which will accuse him of joining the Obama conspiracy to disarm America and sell us into UN slavery.  I. Do. Not. Care.

Friday afternoon I turned on the local CBS affiliate to watch Jeopardy!  Instead I saw pictures of a suburban elementary school, children being led away with their eyes closed, and a graphic reporting that more than twenty people had been shot inside.  Beneath that was a crawl about two Memphis police officers being shot, one fatally, and the dead officer a mother of four.  At first I thought it was one story.  Try processing this when you have expected to eat a sandwich and watch an innocuous game show.  ("I'll take the Second Amendment for two hundred, please, Alex.")  It should come more easily, after so much slaughter.  But this was bad.  Little ones, none older than seven.  Little white caskets where the Christmas presents ought to be.  Teachers who died trying to save them.  The brain shuts down. 

It wiped everything else off the screen:  last week's eruption of violence at an Oregon mall (the gun jammed, apparently, only -- only two dead.)    The persecution and character assassination of Susan Rice by the cowards McCain and Graham.  The suicide of a nurse pranked by a couple of radio "comedians."  The love life of General Petraeus.  The endless game of chicken being played by alleged adults charged with working out the tax code.  And let's not forget the abuse hurled at Bob Costas for daring to suggest that gun violence ought to be discussed as seriously as the Heisman Trophy or the hockey strike.  When the President's silence is deafening, we rely on sports commentators to speak truth to madness.

I don't entirely blame Obama.  His mere re-election drove the tinfoil hat community to binge-shop for guns and ammo and call for secession from a country they no longer recognize.  If he follows up on a call for "meaningful" action, the owners of assault weapons may decide they have nothing to lose.  The gun lobby will maintain that it's really a mental health issue.  The people who believe in logic, bless them, will point to the deranged man who ran amok in a school in China; many were stabbed but no one died.  "Guns kill people.  He didn't have a gun."  "Guns make you free.  The Chinese are not free because..."  As Huck would say, I been here before.  May I go now?

And grief sifts down on a New England town, falling alike upon the living and the dead.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Something in the air

Last week the United States warned the Assad regime not to use chemical weapons against Syrian revolutionaries.  At around the same time, police in Lansing, Michigan, were using chemical weapons to disperse unarmed demonstrators.  Hundreds of union members filled the state capitol to protest anti-union legislation being rammed through by the Mad Tea Party; since the new law shrewdly exempts police and firefighters' unions, the cops could deploy pepper spray without compunction.

Of course, pepper spray is not Sarin nerve gas, just as Michigan is not Syria.  Michigan is part of the United States, whose Constitution protects the rights of free speech and assembly.  It's the sort of constitution millions of people in Syria, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere admire and would probably give their lives for.  I wish they could see it in action.