Monday, November 30, 2015

A Thankful heart

This from the local news about a thankful heart.  Been very thankful that I've known the Lewis Sisters for ten years.  Caroline the dancer has been my dance teacher and in recent years has been an adviser for me when I consider food, and her sister Joanna is just as much the foodie.  Their mother died two weeks after my father, and it's been a blessing to know both of them.  The elder of the two has mobilised the flood response campaigns in our area.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Flashback Friday: Opera for the masses

Since I've been known to have an affinity for German opera, it shouldn't be a surprise that I'm dipping into the Germanic oveure today. However, rather than Wagner, or even Strauss, I'm looking at an underperformed opera, one that should be performed more often than it is. It's Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny) by Kurt Weill and Bertold Brecht, who more famously brought you "Mack the Knife" from the aptly named Threepenny Opera. (Which is in fact an opera, and not just a part of Bobby Darin's songbook.)

This is one of those pieces I think ought to appear more often; certainly it should be in the crosshairs of opera companies that would rather commission productions that, with few exceptions, won't see the light of day again. Mahagonny was written in 1930, but it's only been in the last 40 years or so that it's gotten anything like significant visibility. (It didn't premiere at the Met until 1979.)

Here's one of the signature moments from the opera: the "Alabama Song" ("Oh, moon af Alabama") from Act I, which is typically performed in English even when the opera is done in German. Valentina Valente is the lead, with Jonathan Webb conducting the orchestra of Teatro Valli.

Of course, you mmight remember the Alabama Song this way instead:

Ah, who says opera can't appeal to the masses?

Originally published March 24, 2011

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A title from the weekend's headlines

This is a title that could have come from the headlines this weekend:

"Son of Indy 500 Champion Marries Drag Queen" 

Congratulations Graham and Courtney!  

Monday, November 23, 2015

Wish I'd written that

These are mediocre times. People are starting to lose hope.”

- Elijah (Samuel L. Jackson) to David (Bruce Willis) in M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Entitlement generation

Much has been said of a nationwide campus walkouts by college students starting in Missouri and Yale, claiming discrimination and demands of equality, which includes "sexual" equality (re: men in women's bathrooms, elimination of prohibitions on sex offenders, and of course, illogical thinking that requires us to pay for all forms of sexual perversion), racial equality (certain people are allowed to loot, dismissal of leaders opposed to their extremist views, and permanent repatriations that everyone else must pay certain people for slavery from over 150 years ago, and other types of absurd ideology that we are seeing in academia from such wicked worldviews.  They are demanding a "safe space" for their antics -- and the courts have forced the entire country to be a "safe space" for sexual perversion though majorities nationally (and over 75% in many states) have said no.  Now they are pushing it on every view they demand.  This is why ENDA and other "discrimination" laws are designed to force conformity with the sexual elites' demands for sexual freedom as the only freedom, and create a worldview apartheid that is worse than racial apartheid of South Africa.

The unruliness of the left's activists everywhere shows no boundaries.  They have automatic excuses for everything, and anyone opposed to them must be removed from campus.  In effect, they are using the campus to develop, in accord with the courts on their side packed with urbanites as noted by Justice Scalia, a dictatorship where all opposing views must be erased from the area and replaced with the one view these crybabies demand must be obeyed by everyone else, even if over 85% oppose it.  Isn't this what led to the Declaration of Independence?

The latest in protest rage has been against college professors such as Carol Swain, who called the modern extreme Islam a threat to security (see the rash of homicide bombers in Paris, Hannover, and other European cities), and other similar professors.  The protesters do not want anyone to read and think about the issues. Rather, they demand a total obedience to the left-wing orthodoxy that they see in Hollywood and certain academics, and most notably, the Executive and Judicial Branches of the government.  And if you do not believe in their ideology, you will be shouted down by the left wing activists in ways you would never believe.    It has become an expansion of Occupy Wall Street to a new generation of college students.

As I simmered over dinner, it dawned on me.  For the past 25 years, since Zell Miller's victory in Georgia, and his idea of expanded government by making the state a bookie through the form of state-run gambling, called a "lottery for education," where the money does not go to academics but instead goes more to the gambling service providers, states have been riding the bandwagon of "gambling for education".  Many states voted a certain way to push the state-run gambling racket.  They have been massive failures, and the result is with more "free" money for kids to attend college, the price of graduate schools and tuition for college as a general rule has gone up considerably because of gambling money funding certain students.  Add to that the Obamacare funding ruse where the government controls all student loans, and we have the perfect storm for disaster in academic funding.  This entitled generation that has been told government is everything demands the government forgive their loans.

Is that the problem in a nutshell?  An entitled generation protesting in college today has not had to work for their tuition; they have had their college allegedly paid by the state-run casinos and the the state-run bank under the socialised medicine programme that prohibits your local First Citizens Bank (North Carolina), South State (the only two banks where I live, I hold shares in both), Toronto Dominion, credit unions, or other well known banks from financing education.  When they learn they must work for it, they refuse and demand more.  Now think about it.  A state-run casino funds students' education, and state-run student loan financing is a monopoly.  They are taught government is their deity, and no education into the free enterprise system, but the virtues of the CCCP by the state-run everything, has created an entitlement generation.  When will they learn the government is the problem?

These students protesting need to be expelled, and the federal monopoly on student loans imposed in Obamacare must be abolished, along with the state casinos that fund education.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Flashback Friday: Our candidate for President

Has the political landscape got you down? Are you dismayed by your candidate's performance? Have falling poll numbers, garbled rhetoric, and missed opportunities driven you to the point of dispair? Are you just so cynical about the whole thing that you're not even sure you're going to vote?

Fear not. For those of you depressed, disenchanted, or otherwise disgusted by the whole thing, we have the change you can believe in.

Go here to read the true story of Car and Driver magazine's epic semi-mock 1964 presidential campaign for the great American race car driver Dan Gurney. David Davis says in his editorial, "As we sit in our office watching the parade of poltroons, charlatans, earnest amateurs and fuzzy idealists that constitutes the current assortment of presidential aspirants, we rebel. We will not let the major political parties lead us down the garden path again this year." Which once again goes to show that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Originally published October 13, 2008

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wish I'd written that: why the internet is not the root of all evil

It's not that the internet has made us crazy. It's that the internet has allowed the crazies to make the debate crazy, because they are the loudest and the most loutish, even when they're dribbling thier bile-froth over the most exquisite pastry in amusing and fascinating designs."

- Lileks, today

Friends, it's as I keep saying: technology, at least most technology, is neither good nor evil, but morally neutral. It's how you use it, along with (sometimes) who it is using it.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Throwback Thursday: The race hucksters

I promise you that none of what I'm about to say is made up. My opinions are my own, and as such they can't be taken as absolute fact, but as for the rest, I kid you not. Anyway, you've probably encountered this as well.

Apparently, although I was unaware of this until quite recently, there are people out there who think that everything – that’s right, every single thing there is – is somehow related to race. (I know, call me naïve. Or call me a cab.)

Proponents of this viewpoint – for the sake of our discussion let’s call them, oh, race hucksters – will steer you to something such as the following ad which Volkswagen ran a few years ago.

In case you can't make out the captions, the one below the black car reads, "Naughty?" while underneath the white care is the word "Nice?" According to the race hucksters, “what is quickly evident [from the ad] is that the ad at some level willingly plays on racial stereotypes. This is simply one tiny example of how pervasive race is embedded in society.” As support for this position they refer to comments from people who were shown the ad and were asked what conclusions they drew from it. “Black is naughty while White is nice,” said one, “Black is bad and White is good,” offered another, and “Black is evil,” opined a third. The moral of the story, such as it was, was that the ad was either racist or insensitive to those who might perceive a racial subtext to it.

Who knew? Me, I saw two cars: a black one and a white one, and wondered which one would be easier to keep clean. (Hint: black shows spots, white shows dirt.)

My most vivid experience with the race hucksters came a few years ago, when I was introduced to the concept of Unearned White Privilege. This is when I worked at the YMCA in Minneapolis, and I'm not entirely sure why we were subjected to the series of sessions at which we discussed these and other burning topics, such as how members of minorities can't be racists, even if they admit they hate people of other colors and creeds, and want to see them all dead. You see, racism is really oppression; ergo, only people in positions of power - white people, in other words - can be racist. Search me; I always thought being a racist meant you thought one race was inherently inferior to another, and deserved to be treated accordingly.

Actually, and I'm going to digress for a minute here, I do know why the employees of the YMCA were put through this Inquisition (like the one in Spain, except not as funny). It's because the daughter of the chairman of the board of trustees of the Minneapolis YMCA was the facilitator for this particular series of seminars, and he cajoled the Y into hiring her company to do this training in order to boost her sales. I don't think they really approved of my attitude toward the whole thing, since I managed to maneuver myself into the group that considered themselves discriminated against on the grounds that as a white man I was subjected to more quotas and obstacles than other employees. My boss at the time said that many people found it a life-altering, cathartic experience. Personally, I think they were probably having convulsions from vomiting, based on the bilge they were being fed.  Or maybe not; my lasting memory of these sessions was a sensitive, bearded young white man weeping and begging for forgiveness from his colleagues for having been so insensitive as to have been born white.

I have a firm notion of personal responsibility, and I've always considered myself dedicated to maintaining a good reputation (because, after all, you never get a second chance to make a first impression). However, my idea of personal responsibility does not extend to the actions which a segment of an element of society with which I happen to share the same skin color happened to do something horrible a couple of centuries ago.

In fact, what is quickly evident to me from this whole discussion is that some people simply don’t have enough to do, while others try their hardest to make a living from race-baiting. Think of it – if race weren’t an issue, they’d be out of a job.

We know who these people are. Think Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton – where would they be if they actually succeeded in their agendas? It’s actually to their advantage to fail – it keeps them employed. That's even better than being a TV meterologist. Show me a job like that and I’ll sign up in a heartbeat.

We know these people have an agenda, and what that agenda is. We’re not here today for an in-depth discussion of that agenda; it probably requires a book to even scratch the surface of it. But we are going to look at one small aspect – the infusion of everything with the stain of racism – and why it doesn’t hold water. For the sake of time, let’s focus on this ad, the ad that “at some level willingly plays on racial stereotypes.” So, white and black = good and evil = racial stereotype. True or false?

Far from being an example of racial stereotyping, the use of white and black as symbols of good and evil is one deeply ingrained in the human psyche, going back to the Bible. One need look no further than Psalm 51, in which the psalmist says, “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." What better color against which to demonstrate the stain of sin than white? It may be difficult to tell the cleanliness of a colored background, but there can be no mistaking the dazzling brilliance of a clean white background.

To the extent that white and black are identified with light and dark (and anyone with eyes to see can make that link), the metaphors associated with these colors are unmistakable. For instance, in Matthew 6:22-23, Jesus says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

Jesus seemed to think a lot of this symbolism; in Luke 11:33-36 He says, “No man when he lights a candle puts it in a secret place; neither under a bushel; but on a candle stick, that they which come in may see the light. The light of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is single or healthy, your whole body also is full of light, but when your eye is evil or diseased, your body is also full of darkness. If your whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle gives you light.”

Look, darkness is not in fact a metaphor for racism, but it refers to the ability to hide from the light of truth. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out, let alone a scriptural scholar. All it really requires is a little common sense.

In one of his early 60s television shows, Bishop Fulton Sheen recalls Christ’s words, “He who follows me shall not walk in the darkness" (John 8:12). Using his famed chalkboard, Bishop Sheen illustrates this point with a practical demonstration of the effects of light and shadow: when one walks away from the sun (or the Son, if you will), the light will be at your back, casting a shadow before you. The darkness from this shadow is twofold; it serves both as a cloak to hide your activities (and why would you hide them unless they shamed you?), and it also acts to block you from the illumination of grace and truth. On the other hand, the one who follows Christ walks toward the light. This means the shadow is now behind you rather than in front; you are casting off the darkness, exposing yourself to the brilliance of truth, living your life in the open rather than in hiding.

Thus endeth the theological lesson for today. (Want more? Go here.)

Could white and black be used in a racial context? Of course they could; nowadays, words can mean just about anything you want them to mean. But in challenging the basic symbolism linking white and black with good and evil, these race hucksters want to make you think there is something wrong with the whole analogy. Common sense will tell you otherwise. It will tell you that there are strong reasons for this symbolism, reasons that go beyond politics. It will tell you that the hucksters who peddle this nonsense have their own agenda, and in fact they’re hoping that the moral authority in which they cloak themselves will cast a shadow large enough and long enough to hide that agenda from you. And why not, for as John 3:19 says, “men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

In short, people who see this kind of thing in a racial subtext do so only because they want to. Or because it profits them to do so.

Portions of the preceding were originally published on May 14, 2009.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The students who suffer from SBS

Pardon the language in the graphic at right; I apologize if you're offended, but there seems to be no better way to describe the escapades of those wacky college kids nowadays. Rod Dreher and others - I mention him because I first heard it used by him - call them SJW, Social Justice Warriors.  You know, they way they're shutting down free speech on campuses, along with substantial help from their instructors. SJW.  That's good, but I think they suffer from SBS - Spoiled Brat Syndrome.  (There's also the fact that the last two letters make up BS, which is what I think their rhetoric is. So bonus points for that.)

This isn't the first time we've seen it, of course; in more recent times, the 60s gave us an epidemic of know-it-alls on campus.  This could be the last time, though, at least in the way we think of it. If they're successful in their goals of eliminating any and all opposition, the only revolutions we'll be seeing (if we're allowed to view them at all) will be of the internecine type; the revolution consuming its own. If you think SBSers are paranoid now, just imagine what they'll be like when they start being persecuted by their own kind for not being ideologically pure. Now that's paranoia\ - just ask Robespierre how that went. And since it's Veterans Day today, I'll just add that many men and women over the centuries have died to preserve freedom of speech. They are heroes. Those who try to destroy that freedom should be called by what they are; totalitarian monsters.

I'll have more to say on this tomorrow in our Throwback Thursday feature, but the idea that these people will eventually get what's coming to them is cold comfort for those of us who will get it from them first. I've been around them myself, not on campus but in the workplace, and in a way the thought that they're well-meaning people at heart makes them even more despicable, because they're either dupes, fools, or those who, like our French friend above, believe the ends justify the means. At least those in the third category believe in something; the rest of them don't believe in anything: they just feel.

And so I'll close for today with this quote from Lileks, which I thought was a terrific commentary on what these people are really like, down deep, and what it would be like to have a world full of them:

These people will produce nothing. They will create no great art, write no symphonies, conjure no novels that speak across the decades, sculpt nothing of beauty. The world outside the bubble is irredeemable. It cannot, of course, be remade all at once, but tomorrow's a new day. Rome wasn't wrecked in a day. 

Amen, brother. And that is just the beginning.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Flashback Friday: The integrity of the critic

In case anyone's looking for a story for a new opera, I have a suggestion: Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny. I don't think anyone's done an opera of that yet.  And in the starring role of Captain Queeg, the Caine's insane master with an obsession about strawberries, I have the perfect casting: Peter Gelb.

Peter Gelb, you see, is the General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera, and a couple of weeks ago he made the extraordinary suggestion (read: order) that Opera News, the monthly magazine published by the Metropolitan Opera Guild, stop reviewing productions done by the Met.  It seems as if Mr. Gelb was offended by some critical reviews of recent Met productions, and decided that the best way to combat this was to kill the messenger.

Criticism of Peter Gelb in this space is nothing new - you may recall his appearance on our Enemies List a couple of years ago.  And as a paying subscriber to Opera News, I read the specific pieces that appear to have been in question.  I remember thinking that at the time that hey were extraordinary pieces of criticism coming, as they did, from what many people consider the house organ of the Met.  And not only did I not see them as unfair, I agreed with them almost 100%.  While I'm sure this criticism had to hurt, especially since Robert Lepage's Ring has been Gelb's prize baby, neither of the articles said anything that hadn't been said already by other opera writers in many publications and forums. You'd think that Gelb might have taken this as a sign, but rather than admit he has no clothes, he chose to critics as best he could.

Predictably, the move backfired.  Such was the level of outrage (and, in many cases, vitriol), that Gelb was forced to resind his decision by the end of the day. This can only be good news for Opera News - as Terry Teachout commented, during the few hours that the ban was in effect:

In so doing, [Gelb] has guaranteed that nothing published in Opera News about the Met, be it positive or negative, will henceforth be taken at face value, and that no reputable music journalist will ever again agree to appear in its pages.

Now, I'll admit that Peter Gelb has done some things right.  The HD moviecasts, for example, have been a marvel.  But even within that silver lining there have been clouds, with more than one critic noting that the productions seem to be more and more geared toward the movie audience rather than the live audience at the Met, which makes for a very disappointing (and expensive) night at the opera.

Couple this with Gelb's desire to rid the Met of some of its most classic productions, such as the Zeffirelli staging of Tosca and the Schenk Ring, and replace them with vapid, minimalist settings; and the absence of James Levine, still suffering from poor health, and you have a situation where the Met has become, in the opinion of many, an increasingly stale institution.  Alex Ross discusses the Met's tarnished reputuation here. Gelb may be a brilliant marketer, but he seems singularly incapable of providing a steady hand on the tiller. (I particularly enjoyed critic Norman Lebrecht's suggestion that the men in the white coats may be coming to the door soon.)

And while on some level it's satisfying to see Gelb being savaged, ultimately I take no pleasure in it, because in the end we're not talking about one man alone, but an institution.  The Metropolitan Opera may not be the nation's best, or most creative, opera company - but it is its most visible. For many who were weaned on the Saturday afternoon radio broadcasts, the Met is opera in America.  Perhaps it's time for the board of the Met to take a closer look at Gelb's management of the company, and whether this kerfuffle is just an abberation, or the shape of things to come.  Because when the Met is diminished, all of opera, and all of us, are just a little bit diminished as well.

Originally published June 6, 2012

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Grazie! Fiat gives Doblò to Marsha Familly, whose business was destroyed by flood, to rebuild

he Marsha Family at Forest Lake Fabrics, a fabric store devastated by the floods last month (see above), and good friends of mine both at tailgating and workouts (the daughter is a teacher at a studio owned by the daughter-in-law of a local auto dealer), was surprised by Fiat this morning.

A new Fiat Doblò has been presented to the family for the business.

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