Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Black-robed Narcissus

Leon Wieseltier has a terrific piece up at TNR (open to all, I think), on the recent Decalogue opinions. I especially loved this:

"Scalia's cordiality to Judaism and Islam is owed to their resemblance to Christianity. This is not tolerance. This is narcissism"

But there is much more, and bracingly written. Go.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

I Regret Nothing.... Posted by Hello

They Can't Take That Away from Me

Before it disappears into PPV, check out Charles Taylor's review of Corinne Maier's Bonjour Laziness in the Newark Star-Ledger of June 19. To excerpt, Taylor says the book:

"...[O]perates from basic, sound assumptions, the truth of which will be obvious to anyone who has spent time in the corporate world and not been body-snatched. Briefly, these truths are: 1. The corporate world prizes obedience over intelligence. 2. While corporations play lip service to ethics, their behavior (Enron, Parmalat, et al) reveals they have no use for or belief in them. 3. Belief in the free market is blind faith with no basis in science. Thus, Communists (with their dedication to dialectical materialism) and capitalists are linked by their faith in systems that are little more than voodoo, just as they are linked by ... their contempt for language."

And this, which I found over the weekend because I trawl for Charley's stuff since he left the fading Salon (before all the bodies are snatched, so perhaps fortunately), provided some armor against FatBoy Rove last week, and Rumsfeld's Alfred E. Newman imitations this weekend. Rove gets a bang out of being feral. Rumsfeld I can't figure, because for such a hands-on, visionary guy, a hard-head who's going to shake up the military and retool it for a New Age of American Glory (or some such bullshit), he's remarkably out of the loop, on his own word; I don't even have to bother to make a list of the evasions and lies - they are transcripted from here to the moon. But, damn, he sure as hell talks the tough manager talk, has the grooming down flat. A man my Dad can trust - a straight-shooter.

Except that my Dad (and I suspect many self-described Independents like him) know that they've been burned yet again, and pride is about the only thing that keeps them from saying it. The Bushies go far beyond spin - they shit on meaning. That's not an insight; anyone who's been paying attention has known this for years, but the continuing audacity of it has yet to be accepted by - fuck - what lefty bloggers call the Kool Kidz in the DC Press Corps - or the Gang of 500 per The Note - and by all those who ride their coattails, looking for solace and a return to the Old Ways.

Dad and I had a date last Friday, and we talked about 50 years of transformation in maritime labor (that's what he did, as an LR professional, before he retired). In his apprentice days, if the Port was full and busy, and there weren't enough union members to fill the gang allocation, they'd sweep the fucking streets for casuals. Labor and management reps and staff drank huge amounts of booze (probably to dull the discontinuities Taylor describes above). When I was a kid, I still remember the crisis of "containerization" - prepackaged cargo that would demand fewer longshoremen to empty a ship. I am oversimplifying for sure, but I'd say my Dad oversaw a transformation of longshoring from scruffy bluecollar to virtual whitecollar in a single generation, salaries and benefits keeping pace. Now, we have a tiny fraction of the workers we used to have at ports (and, on the Pacific Coast, 10 times the freight - outships the East and Gulf Coasts), and, quite certainly, no casuals.

It's very funny. When I was in LA and learning the "Life of the Courtier" intricacies of the movie industry guilds, I'd occasionally call Dad; "In violation of all labor statutes!", he'd tell me, but it didn't help (and, remember, he repped the employers). A sense of humor is a wonderful thing.

That incomprehension of just how Bad It Can Be has yet to sink in for guys like him. He's old now, and I hope he doesn't have to see the collapse of everything he spent his working life create, but I am thinking that it's the casuals - Cheney sending copies of Ken Burns's Civil War series to generals in the field, for example - who are now running the show. Bottom of the barrel, and dragging us all down.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Sweeten My Imagination

Patient duties have been monstrous the last few days, and exhausting, so no posts. It's been Lear-like, actually, except the family is so much nicer. And I'm playing the Fool (I should say, not for the first time). More later this evening.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Roy's Quotes-o-Rama

Alicublog (aka, Roy Edroso) is having a Truest Quotes festival - not to be passed on as a meme, just add your own to the thread. I posted mine over there already, but here it is for this record:

And worse I may be yet: the worst is not
So long as we can say, "This is the worst."
Edgar, King Lear, IV, i.

I take great hope from this, for some reason.

Go take a look at the rest, though - Hi-Lo, and very cool.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Good Evening, Mr. Dearlove.... Posted by Hello

Daggers, Lies & Cloaking Devices

From Froomkin (read down) I got directed to a terrific post by Tom Engelhardt from yesterday, wrapping up DSM coverage to date (smartly) and including an exchange between Mark Danner and John Walcott of Knight Ridder papers that will be in the NYRB 6/20 issue. Go!!
Then, this evening (here in PDT), Hardball spent its second 30 minutes on the DSM, under not-bad sub-hosting by David Gregory, with Michael Smith of The Times (London), who broke the story, followed by David Kay and James Woolsey. Kay and Woolsey tried to shore up the fuckup - Woolsey tried to parse "fix" again - but sieving for small fry when they clearly knew the big fish had escaped. The entire UN gambit was a feint - on the UK side to provide legal justifications to what seemed inevitable US aggression, on the US side an accommodation to insure British participation (and staging areas) - with no hope that, despite dubious intelligence, Saddam (feinting in his own megalomaniac way) would be found to lack the pretext for invasion - no WMDs.

The Great Game, folks - watch it play out!

Belated Dad Post

For the Record - I missed the multi-Dad celebration at my sister's house Sunday (Old Lady Patient job duties), but there were lots of fathers there whom I admire, not least my own, and he also has my love. So temperamentally different - and I know I still perplex and confuse him - but there are few people I'd rather spend time with. The man never reads fiction, but I sat at his feet while he read dictionaries and recorded words he liked in steno pads, and I caught the language bug. He didn't go to college, but he loved Whitehead's transcribed dialogues, and Russell, and Mill...too bad he flipped a bit conservative, but that was the 60's in action, I guess. Change of rules he wasn't ready for.
His own childhood and youth is a relative mystery to me - there are clues that it wasn't happy, without much documentation. I wanted to be like him, and I think he wasn't well-prepared for that - and we are built so differently that it was a doomed ambition, but not entirely. He was in the middle of redesigning himself when I was a kid, and he planted in me the most exciting parts of that work, because he shared them with me, the child at his feet, treated as an equal. Thanks, Dad!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Saturday Recipe Blogging

I don't have any cat or dog recipes, so this will have to suffice. Feedback (heh!) is welcome.


Green Chicken Enchiladas

These are rich but light. Heat will depend on your choice of canned sauce and how much pepper jack cheese you include - it gives a nice bite, but front-end - the other ingredients are quite mellow.
1 large roasting chicken (at least 5 lbs)
1 large yellow onion
1 medium carrot
4-5 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, stems trimmed, tied with string
8 whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 whole cloves garlic
Water to cover
1 large can green enchilada sauce
Flour tortillas - 8 inch size
1 lb. (or so) quesa fresca (Mexican cheese somewhat like feta in texture, but milder)
Sliced pepper jack cheese
2 poblano chiles (the very dark green big ones) - roasted over a gas flame and peeled
1/3 - 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 - 2 tsp. roasted cumin seeds, ground
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream and guacamole as garnish
Poach the chicken in a big pot with the onion (very coarsely sliced), the carrot (peeled and chunked), the parsley, peppercorns, bay leaf and garlic. Wash the chicken thoroughly, then salt in the cavity and the skin. If the pot is deep, it can go in as is - if not, smash the chicken with your fist or a mallet so it can be covered by the water. Include the neck and giblets (but not the liver) if you have them. Put everything in the pot, add water to cover the chicken (just), and heat to the simmer. It should NOT boil hard - just check the heat from time to time. Do not cover.
I turned the bird a few times to ensure even poaching, and when it started to get tender, split it with tongs so it would stay down (they stiffen up and don't want to stay submerged otherwise). Once the water is simmering, allow about 20 minutes per pound. When done, the chicken should be very tender - off the bone tender; turn off the heat and let it cool in the stock until you can handle it comfortably.
Lift out the chicken (it will now have disjointed itself!), and carefully remove all the meat from the bones, discarding skin and bones and cartilage. Unless you are making a couple of platters, there will be plenty left for a lovely chicken salad or anything else you want to do with it, but it's important to have a big bird for the flavor.
Strain the stock, pressing out the juices from the vegetables and herbs. Return the strained stock to the pot, and allow to cool further - either refrigerate when it has reached room temp, or let it sit overnight (if your kitchen is cool). The fat will rise and congeal, after which you can skim it off easily. Reduce the de-fatted stock gently until it has good flavor and body - I got 2 quarts from about 7 quarts of original water. Use for anything!!! :-))
For the poblanos - roast over a gas burner, naked, turning with tongs so they get black and blistered all over. Put in a paper bag and let them sit for a while until cool enough to handle. Take off the skin, cut them open and remove the seeds and the stems. Cut into strips or dice and reserve for the filling.
The Filling!
Shred the poached chicken into a big bowl. Half the meat will make 6-7 enchiladas. Crumble the quesa fresca and add that. Add the sliced/diced poblanos. Chop some fresh cilantro fine and add that (this is sort of to taste, but it needs to be in there).
For the cumin, put a tbs whole seeds in a cast iron pan, heat until they start to darken and release their aroma, then grind in a spice grinder. Add to filling mixture.
Season with salt and pepper to taste - it should have a light texture and complex but gentle flavor.
Assembly -
Need a sizable baking dish for this. Spread a thin layer of the canned green sauce on the bottom of the dish. For each tortilla, put a couple of generous spoonfuls (big spoon!) down the center. Slice the pepper jack cheese and lay the pieces over the line of filling - roll up the tortilla around the filling and put seam-side down in the dish. Quite OK to put the jack cheese down first and then the filling - experiment! Fill the dish closely with the rolled and filled tortillas, then pour over the remaining enchilada sauce.
Bake in a 375 deg oven (preheated), for 30 mins, or until bubbly and just begining to color around the edges - the filling is all precooked, so you are after the melt and marrying of flavors. Remove from oven and let rest for at least 20 mins - they need to pull themselves together.
Serve with sour cream and your favorite quacamole. Or salsa, green or red - or all of them!

Variations and Additions:
The jalapeno bits in the jack cheese are the principal source of heat here, but if you like more, I'd recommend a couple of very finely chopped serranos - bright, hot in a different way, and a good fresh green flavor that will go will with the rest. I made a garlicky quacamole to accompany, and the garlic was very harmonious with the rest. Remember, this had to please the Old Lady Palate (and did), so if you don't have one of those around, let 'er rip. I should also note that most of the enchilada recipes I looked at for reference and comparison included corn - not sure how I'd add that, but I'd cut it off the cob and prep it a bit so as not to extend the baking time too much. Be nice cooked up with the serranos, I think - dash of cream in there???
And, of course, for the hardcore, your very own enchilada sauce would be great!

Giant Zit

About to pop...
I don't know exactly why I'm feeling (and it's only a feeling) that one or another of the national infections is going to need lancing soon, but I do. I have a naive confidence in facts eventually devouring lies - a silly faith, contradicted daily, but, fuck, I hold out hope.
It's not just falling poll numbers - it's the nervous rats - Martinez on Gitmo, for example. Or the incipient panic of Sensenbrenner in last week's PATRIOT Act hearings - do the confident commonly go into such snits? The Conyers hearing, pushed out of quarters but sufficiently well-attended to go into overtime - I thought Milbank had better judgment.
More later this weekend.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

3 for 5

I guess I missed out on Detroit....

American Cities That Best Fit You:

70% Boston
70% Los Angeles
70% San Francisco
65% Chicago
65% New York City

Pretty neck in neck - Chicago and LA are the ones I've lived in the longest, and I loved my year in Boston, but it was a tad small, and didn't have the energy I seem to need. Which is, of course, why I am in Beaverton now.....!

I got this from Lance, and there's a nice thread over there - very passionate about the places we love!

[Update: As it happens, Neal Pollack has a few things to say about Chicago. He should know.]

War On Stuff....

Great Digby post, linking to The Medium Lobster, as well. O, what a beautiful morning....!
Truly, I am not sure that even the architects of this mess really know why they did it - the rationales seem to shift under their feet every time they are pressed to explain. There are clues in the PNAC agenda I posted below (Shorter: "We must have the world's Biggest Balls!"), but the enterprise has been spectacularly counterproductive. It's interesting to me that "moral clarity" was a PNAC rhetorical trope (see the very last paragraph) all the way back in 1997, quite a long time before the 9/11 attack made that phrase a tin drum. History - that thing that Dear Leader thinks we will all be dead before it speaks - is going to pee on them.

Shelter from the storm Posted by Hello

Mr. Badger

A bit out of season for the weather, but there is no off-season for hospitality, generosity, tolerance and charity. Or so we should hope.

THEY waited patiently for what seemed a very long time, stamping in the snow to keep their feet warm. At last they heard the sound of slow shuflling footsteps approaching the door from the inside. It seemed, as the Mole remarked to the Rat, like some one walking in carpet slippers that were too large for him and down at heel; which was intelligent of Mole, because that was exactly what it was.
There was the noise of a bolt shot back, and the door opened a few inches, enough to show a long snout and a pair of sleepy blinking eyes.

`Now, the very next time this happens,' said a gruff and suspicious voice, `I shall be exceedingly angry. Who is it this time, disturbing people on such a night? Speak up!'

`Oh, Badger,' cried the Rat, `let us in, please. It's me, Rat, and my friend Mole, and we've lost our way in the snow.'

`What, Ratty, my dear little man!' exclaimed the Badger, in quite a different voice. `Come along in, both of you, at once. Why, you must be perished. Well I never! Lost in the snow! And in the Wild Wood, too, and at this time of night! But come in with you.'

The two animals tumbled over each other in their eagerness to get inside, and heard the door shut behind them with great joy and relief.

The Badger, who wore a long dressing-gown, and whose slippers were indeed very down at heel, carried a flat candlestick in his paw and had probably been on his way to bed when their summons sounded. He looked kindly down on them and patted both their heads. `This is not the sort of night for small animals to be out,' he said paternally. `I'm afraid you've been up to some of your pranks again, Ratty. But come along; come into the kitchen. There's a first-rate fire there, and supper and everything.'

He shuffled on in front of them, carrying the light, and they followed him, nudging each other in an anticipating sort of way, down a long, gloomy, and, to tell the truth, decidedly shabby passage, into a sort of a central hall; out of which they could dimly see other long tunnel-like passages branching, passages mysterious and without apparent end. But there were doors in the hall as well -- stout oaken comfortable-looking doors. One of these the Badger flung open, and at once they found themselves in all the glow and warmth of a large fire-lit kitchen.

The floor was well-worn red brick, and on the wide hearth burnt a fire of logs, between two attractive chimney-corners tucked away in the wall, well out of any suspicion of draught. A couple of high-backed settles, facing each other on either side of the fire, gave further sitting accommodations for the sociably disposed. In the middle of the room stood a long table of plain boards placed on trestles, with benches down each side. At one end of it, where an arm-chair stood pushed back, were spread the remains of the Badger's plain but ample supper. Rows of spotless plates winked from the shelves of the dresser at the far end of the room, and from the rafters overhead hung hams, bundles of dried herbs, nets of onions, and baskets of eggs. It seemed a place where heroes could fitly feast after victory, where weary harvesters could line up in scores along the table and keep their Harvest Home with mirth and song, or where two or three friends of simple tastes could sit about as they pleased and eat and smoke and talk in comfort and contentment. The ruddy brick floor smiled up at the smoky ceiling; the oaken settles, shiny with long wear, exchanged cheerful glances with each other; plates on the dresser grinned at pots on the shelf, and the merry firelight flickered and played over everything without distinction.

The kindly Badger thrust them down on a settle to toast themselves at the fire, and bade them remove their wet coats and boots. Then he fetched them dressing-gowns and slippers, and himself bathed the Mole's shin with warm water and mended the cut with sticking-plaster till the whole thing was just as good as new, if not better. In the embracing light and warmth, warm and dry at last, with weary legs propped up in front of them, and a suggestive clink of plates being arranged on the table behind, it seemed to the storm-driven animals, now in safe anchorage, that the cold and trackless Wild Wood just left outside was miles and miles away, and all that they had suffered in it a half-forgotten dream.

When at last they were thoroughly toasted, the Badger summoned them to the table, where he had been busy laying a repast. They had felt pretty hungry before, but when they actually saw at last the supper that was spread for them, really it seemed only a question of what they should attack first where all was so attractive, and whether the other things would obligingly wait for them till they had time to give them attention. Conversation was impossible for a long time; and when it was slowly resumed, it was that regrettable sort of conversation that results from talking with your mouth full. The Badger did not mind that sort of thing at all, nor did he take any notice of elbows on the table, or everybody speaking at once. As he did not go into Society himself, he had got an idea that these things belonged to the things that didn't really matter. (We know of course that he was wrong, and took too narrow a view; because they do matter very much, though it would take too long to explain why.) He sat in his arm-chair at the head of the table, and nodded gravely at intervals as the animals told their story; and he did not seem surprised or shocked at anything, and he never said, `I told you so,' or, `Just what I always said,' or remarked that they ought to have done so-and-so, or ought not to have done something else. The Mole began to feel very friendly towards him.
`Well, it's time we were all in bed,' said the Badger, getting up and fetching flat candlesticks. `Come along, you two, and I'll show you your quarters. And take your time tomorrow morning -- breakfast at any hour you please!'

He conducted the two animals to a long room that seemed half bedchamber and half loft. The Badger's winter stores, which indeed were visible everywhere, took up half the room -- piles of apples, turnips, and potatoes, baskets full of nuts, and jars of honey; but the two little white beds on the remainder of the floor looked soft and inviting, and the linen on them, though coarse, was clean and smelt beautifully of lavender; and the Mole and the Water Rat, shaking off their garments in some thirty seconds, tumbled in between the sheets in great joy and contentment.

In accordance with the kindly Badger's injunctions, the two tired animals came down to breakfast very late next morning, and found a bright fire burning in the kitchen, and two young hedgehogs sitting on a bench at the table, eating oatmeal porridge out of wooden bowls. The hedgehogs dropped their spoons, rose to their feet, and ducked their heads respectfully as the two entered.
`There, sit down, sit down,' said the Rat pleasantly, `and go on with your porridge. Where have you youngsters come from? Lost your way in the snow, I suppose?'

`Yes, please, sir,' said the elder of the two hedgehogs respectfully. `Me and little Billy here, we was trying to find our way to school -- mother would have us go, was the weather ever so -- and of course we lost ourselves, sir, and Billy he got frightened and took and cried, being young and faint-hearted. And at last we happened up against Mr. Badger's back door, and made so bold as to knock, sir, for Mr. Badger he's a kind-hearted gentleman, as everyone knows -- -- '

`I understand,' said the Rat, cutting himself some rashers from a side of bacon, while the Mole dropped some eggs into a saucepan. `And what's the weather like outside? You needn't "sir" me quite so much?' he added.

`O, terrible bad, sir, terrible deep the snow is,' said the hedgehog. `No getting out for the likes of you gentlemen to-day.'

`Where's Mr. Badger?' inquired the Mole, as he warmed the coffee-pot before the fire.

`The master's gone into his study, sir,' replied the hedgehog, `and he said as how he was going to be particular busy this morning, and on no account was he to be disturbed.'

This explanation, of course, was thoroughly understood by every one present. The fact is, as already set forth, when you live a life of intense activity for six months in the year, and of comparative or actual somnolence for the other six, during the latter period you cannot be continually pleading sleepiness when there are people about or things to be done. The excuse gets monotonous. The animals well knew that Badger, having eaten a hearty breakfast, had retired to his study and settled himself in an arm-chair with his legs up on another and a red cotton handkerchief over his face, and was being `busy' in the usual way at this time of the year.


[Too long to go into here, but please note that Mr. Badger's hospitable lair is built in, on and of the ruin of a great human city, an empire that failed - from what the animals don't know and don't much care. N.B., for those who care about these details.]

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Hijacking Catastrophe

Thanks to Shakespeare's Sis for this link.
Even the intro will give you the chills....fucking liars.

PNAC Brunch Posted by Hello

Why Are We In Iraq?

Is there any better explanation - and Digby asked, than the following, with its list of signatories?


June 3, 1997
American foreign and defense policy is adrift. Conservatives have criticized the incoherent policies of the Clinton Administration. They have also resisted isolationist impulses from within their own ranks. But conservatives have not confidently advanced a strategic vision of America's role in the world. They have not set forth guiding principles for American foreign policy. They have allowed differences over tactics to obscure potential agreement on strategic objectives. And they have not fought for a defense budget that would maintain American security and advance American interests in the new century.
We aim to change this. We aim to make the case and rally support for American global leadership.
As the 20th century draws to a close, the United States stands as the world's preeminent power. Having led the West to victory in the Cold War, America faces an opportunity and a challenge: Does the United States have the vision to build upon the achievements of past decades? Does the United States have the resolve to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests?
We are in danger of squandering the opportunity and failing the challenge. We are living off the capital -- both the military investments and the foreign policy achievements -- built up by past administrations. Cuts in foreign affairs and defense spending, inattention to the tools of statecraft, and inconstant leadership are making it increasingly difficult to sustain American influence around the world. And the promise of short-term commercial benefits threatens to override strategic considerations. As a consequence, we are jeopardizing the nation's ability to meet present threats and to deal with potentially greater challenges that lie ahead.We seem to have forgotten the essential elements of the Reagan Administration's success: a military that is strong and ready to meet both present and future challenges; a foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad; and national leadership that accepts the United States' global responsibilities.
Of course, the United States must be prudent in how it exercises its power. But we cannot safely avoid the responsibilities of global leadership or the costs that are associated with its exercise. America has a vital role in maintaining peace and security in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. If we shirk our responsibilities, we invite challenges to our fundamental interests. The history of the 20th century should have taught us that it is important to shape circumstances before crises emerge, and to meet threats before they become dire. The history of this century should have taught us to embrace the cause of American leadership.
Our aim is to remind Americans of these lessons and to draw their consequences for today. Here are four consequences:

• we need to increase defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future;
• we need to strengthen our ties to democratic allies and to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values;
• we need to promote the cause of political and economic freedom abroad;
• we need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.

Such a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity may not be fashionable today. But it is necessary if the United States is to build on the successes of this past century and to ensure our security and our greatness in the next.

Elliott Abrams Gary Bauer William J. Bennett Jeb Bush
Dick Cheney Eliot A. Cohen Midge Decter Paula Dobriansky Steve Forbes
Aaron Friedberg Francis Fukuyama Frank Gaffney Fred C. Ikle
Donald Kagan Zalmay Khalilzad I. Lewis Libby Norman Podhoretz
Dan Quayle Peter W. Rodman Stephen P. Rosen Henry S. Rowen
Donald Rumsfeld Vin Weber George Weigel Paul Wolfowitz

Shouldn't we hold them to account for their success?

Friday, June 10, 2005

CT Returns!

It's labeled as monthly (and that's not enough), but it looks like Charles Taylor has a new column in the Newark Star-Ledger - High & Low - check it out. Wow, a new Carroll Ballard movie with minimal distribution - maybe some noise will help that situation....
He also gives the lie to David "The Cabbage" Brooks's contention that there are no offshore movies worth talking about. Go.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

"Frozen Assets" was the original title.... Posted by Hello

The Beloved Country

Obsidian Wings has a post by hilzoy that so thoroughly voices my own feelings over the past couple of years that I have nothing to add to it. (And thanks to Barbara for pointing me to it this morning.)
O - except for Lance's takedown of the hotheads who seem to combine fight and flight in one messy package - superior and invincible, as long as they are under the bed or inside the cardboard fort, from which shelter they can sneer at cooler heads. All pumped up and totally useless.
There are some very real things to fear, of course, and some of them are laid out in Elizabeth Drew's NRYB piece on corruption in Republican Washington. Grover wants to make sure even K Street secretaries are GOP stooges. Fawn Hall clones, I suppose; wasn't she lovely?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Time for a Nipper Treat! Posted by Hello

The Nipper Legacy

There's a wonderful Alex Ross piece on the effects of recording on music performance (and sometimes vice versa) in the 6/6 New Yorker (but go look at it via Ross's blog, which is excellent in itself). Just after quoting Mark Morris below, it seemed fortuitious - like these guys, I love my CDs and DVDs and MP3s (the few hundred of the last that I have, anyway), but they exist in parallel with my experience of live performance. Ross, in reviewing a few books on the subject, brings his own critic's experience to the job, and I think he's right on target.

He notes, for example, on the Early Music front:

In at least one area, though, performance style has undergone a sea change. Early music has long had the reputation of being the most pedantically “correct” subculture in classical music; .... But the more dynamic Renaissance and Baroque specialists—Jordi Savall, Andrew Manze, the Venice Baroque Orchestra, Il Giardino Armonico, William Christie’s Les Arts Florissants—are exercising all the freedoms that Philip [one of the authors under review, ed.] misses in modern performance: they execute some notes cleanly and others roughly, they weave around the beat instead of staying right on top of it, they slide from note to note when they are so moved. As a result, the music feels liberated, and audiences tend to respond in kind, with yelps of joy.

To which I would add that it's precisely because this repertory is relatively new to audiences - live or in recordings - that its performance practice hasn't been set in stone; our ears are open because we aren't sure what it should sound like. Be nice if we weren't so sure about more familiar stuff, too.

In Chicago and LA I had opera series tickets - even very good seats in Chicago - and I'd do my prep with recordings so I'd know what was going on without having to read supertitles too much. It was all wonderful, though a few seasons will teach you how miraculous a really good night can be, when everything - design, staging, conducting, singing - comes together and you are swept away. Critical experience (and disappointment) make you value those moments all the more. Still, you worry about drifting into the Voice Camp - those operagoers who've seen all the shows before (they think) and just go to hear new or favorite singers and fill out the scorecard. (This is not confined to opera, btw.).

So, a reminder. My roomies and I had a series at the LA Opera, and they were doing La Cenerentola with Frederica von Stade - a matinee, too. Not a staging I liked - tricked up with a framing conceit that didn't help the story (it's Cinderella - ought to be simple enough) and that didn't mesh with the end - but von Stade was in superb woodwind-voice - touching and brilliant by turns. In an intermission, we went out to the Music Center plaza for a break.

Patti, it seems, had never been to a live opera before:

"What I can't figure out is where they are wearing the microphones."

I looked at Pete (she's his gf, after all), and tried not to laugh.

"Patti, they don't wear microphones. Those are their real voices."

Patti's jaw dropped - really! - I don't think it had crossed her mind that that sound was possible without help.

I wished I was Patti at that moment, a veil lifted from my eyes (and ears). I'm quite sure it didn't make her an opera fan, but it expanded her idea of what humans can do, and it had all happened in her presence. So cool.

Nipper, above, is, after all, attending to a Voice he knew from a living Master - now in the Limbo of lacquer and a horn. Poor doggie.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

from New Jersey's fabled Pine Barrens.... Posted by Hello

"It's Powered by a Foresaken Child!"

Which would be, of course, the Joy Box -
in whose depths appears a missive from the real Team Venture. Yeah, I know I should be doing BBA right now, but it's been a long night putting the Patient to peaceful beddy-bye, and I was juiced to hear some good news from Jackson Publick about the next season. Can't be all french painting and tapestries and that shit here, you know. And bassoons - don't forget about bassoons.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

My Movie of the Moment - The Lethal Sleeve Posted by Hello

The Great, Rapt, Unwashed

Roy nails another one -
this time the Libertarian fear of rubbing shoulders with jerks like me who just go to the movies to have a - yech - communal experience. I don't really like to go to the movies alone - I will if I must - but it's not because I get creeped by all those other bodies, their sweat, their popcorn, their twitches, their perceived need to clump together. I want a friend I can hash the movie out with afterward, someone to share the (potentially) ovewhelming experience that a movie - still the cheapest form of grand entertainment - can give us.
At least movies can be recorded and be sampled in a technically acceptable way, even by libertarian shut-ins. Mark Morris, the choreographer, has urged all of us to get off our asses and give recorded music and whatever else we use as learning tools a well-deserved rest, because it is live performance that is the essence of the audience experience - One Time Only, Never to be Repeated!!! This is especially true of dance performance (go see more than one performance of the same thing in a company season and you'll see what I mean), but it holds as well for symphonies, chamber groups, theater, opera, recitalists, rockers (without synching). You do not look or listen the same way, knowing that what you sense in that space, that time, will never be repeated. Don't kid yourself that it can ever be the same again - those artists are flesh and blood, just like you, and you try to be perfect, inspired, twice in a row. Good can be wonderful, and some nights may just change your life.

I'm going to copy Morris's remarks here - they are from the Midwest Arts Conference in Cleveland in 1998, and I saved them:

Flash Flashback, 8-25: I Love You, I Love You, I Love You
Fact and Mystery
By Mark Morris

Copyright 1998 Mark Morris

(Editor's Note: The following remarks, originally delivered to the Midwest Arts Conference in Cleveland in September 1998, were first and exclusively published by the Dance Insider, with permission from the Mark Morris Dance Group, in December 1998.)

Thank you for inviting me to speak with you today. This isn't something I usually do. It may actually be the first time I've spoken with prepared remarks since high school. Usually in public, I communicate in a more ambiguous, open-ended and, I hope, musical fashion. But I wanted to talk to you today about the fragile and important thing that we do, all of us in this room. That important, difficult, primitive, dangerous, and non-profit thing.

I'm speaking of the fact and the mystery of live performance.

Fact and mystery are the twin aspects of live performance which have fascinated and consumed me since I was little, standing amazed on the street as the bass drum of a parade passed by. The startling physical fact of the whomp of the drum hitting me in my stomach, in my head, was a surprise, a revelation. It was loud. But more than just loud, it was present, next to me.

And it felt like I was being told something important, something essential, which I didn't quite understand.

It was the same thing that Janet Baker was telling me as she sang one night many years later at Carnegie Hall. Standing in recital, singing song after song in ravishing voice, in languages I didn't understand, I knew her only essential message could be translated as: I love you, I love you, I love you.

The fact and mystery of live performance.

As a child I would go on Sundays to compline, the last evening service before bed, at St. Mark's Episcopal in Seattle, the "music church." This was the first time I heard counter-tenors, the first time I heard plain chant, the first time I sat in the dark alone listening to music. Sitting in the dark alone -- with others. That was the crucial thing: with others; crowded, jammed up beside one another, and yet utterly private. Alone with my own thoughts and feelings, and the music we all shared in the air.

And I recognized an inherent contradiction in that live performance: others felt alone, too. There was a commonality in feeling alone; Bach felt alone. But we were all alone together. And I became more myself, and I felt less alone.

It's a lot of work to put on a show. Everyone here knows that. And it's a lot of work to go to a show: plans, baby-sitters, driving, parking. Sometimes it rains. And, of course, it costs money.

It's taking more and more work to go to a show. Because it's easier and easier to stay at home.

The electronic pull which keeps us isolated in our apartments and houses becomes greater almost every day. Why work only to get stuck in a show you may not like when there are 82 channels at home? Why chance a messy run-in with a friend or colleague who you could easily and discreetly e-mail? Why see a performer who you know couldn't possibly measure up to the agreed-upon-by-experts, best-ever, historical recordings you've amassed in your CD collection?

Because we need to. Because of biology. Because we are beings who crave touch. Because we are human animals who need that specific danger inherent in the fact and the mystery of live performance: the danger of truth.

Video is a lie. The compact disc is a lie. The Internet is a lie. Television is a lie. I love them all. All are the past masquerading as the present. All are dead, electronically feigning life. They fool us into thinking that they are contemporaneous with our lives, that they are entertaining us and connecting us, right now, all together.

But they're not. Electronic media separate us, isolate us, make us live in the past. Strip the electronic gloss from your Trinitron and you realize you're staring at the equivalent of crumbling parchment.

Live performance is uncomfortable. Whether sitting on a hard bench or the plushest, velvet-covered cushion, being in the presence of a performing human is somewhat uncomfortable.

It is focused confrontation, not easy co-existence. You can't talk, have a snack, go to the bathroom, or perform any of the myriad acts which make television such a soothing, regressive experience. Immobilized, trapped in the darkness, oppressed by the messiness of possibility, there is unease created by the implicit realization that anything can happen. And it takes work.

But that work pays off. The effort of engagement admits you to worlds of experience which are unique, corporeal and true. Difficult but essential, in corporeality is truth. Music live is radically different from music recorded.

And the difference is this: Live music is music. A recording is a simulacrum, an aide memoire, maybe a guide or learning tool. But music is in the flesh and in the moment, and it joins together those who hear it in a way that's both ancient and inexplicable.

Individuals listening together and feeling less alone. All art aspires to the condition of music. And all art is the same, or at least all great art. I get the same thrill from a Handel oratorio or a dance by Merce Cunningham. Both show me the world, or, more precisely, the manifold worlds within me and in which I live. Both of these artists are, as Allen Ginsberg once said, "angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night."

I work in live theater. I try to do that, too. I was in the fifth or sixth grade in Seattle when I saw the Koleda Folk Ensemble. It was the first time I had seen people singing and dancing at the same time, and I wanted to be part of it. It was welcoming, everybody was invited, and I actually felt like I could do it.

Later, I joined the group and it changed my life. It set me on the path which has brought me here, speaking to you.

And I'm here because I want to tell you how important it is what you do, what we do. It's hard. Conditions are worsening. Live performance is being pushed farther and farther to the fringes of our national culture. At least I get applause; running a theater these days is a pretty thankless job.

But it's necessary, and it's vital that you know how necessary.

Each night that you open your theaters is a miracle. Each night that the lights are turned on, the tickets sold, the programs printed, is a miracle. It is a miracle each night that your community is invited to gather in your buildings and hear music or see theater or dance. And I am deeply thankful for the miracle that I and other artists are given the opportunity to perform and attempt to say what Janet Baker told me that night long ago at Carnegie Hall: I love you, I love you, I love you. Thank you.

And so I thank you, too.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


Heads Up from Sadly, No!
The Rude One is going to perform - in public! Go pony up!
I treasure this guy for saying things I think, but am too fucking nice to publish - and I really do try. He's just better than I'll ever be.

Addendum: Some Blogroll changes, too. Hmmm - TPM Cafe is added, Big Media Matt has been moved over there, Amanda's presence at Pandagon is acknowledged, the Huffington Pot-au-feu is now on. No cuts, yet, but we can think about it.....

From a francophone buddy - Rire! Posted by Hello

After Downing Street

I have been derelict the last couple of days in not posting on the Conyers letter, on the BBA, on the great efforts of Shakespeare's Sister, and much else. These long weekends of patient care wipe me out.

Had to make a Pharmacy run this morning, though, and got to read Mark Danner's NYRB piece (which includes the Downing Street Memo text), so go look at it if you haven't already (it's free). I recall talking to a buddy in UK, just before the invasion, about its seeming inevitability, how every alternate avenue had been shut off not by Hussein, but by - ahem - us. I recall an Op-Ed in the WaPo (which I thought I had saved, but no luck), which suggested, instead of invasion, a massive military presence to back up the UN weapons exams - holding a gun to Saddam's head, in other words. Big enough a gun to encourage his bravado to crumble, especially as we now know it was bravado, without a shot.

Our fucking genius big-balled leaders, of course, couldn't consider that - they'd been stroking hard for months and only a monster load - remember "Shock and Awe"? - would relieve the pressure. That's not wanking - that's rape and pillage. And now, they're spent - spent in blood, spent in wasted seed (all those $80 billion missing bucks), spent in faith, spent in honor.