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July 17, 2012 - July 10, 2012

Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter approaches...

Parsifal, Act III, Good Friday Music

ANOTHER YEAR HAS PASSED. Say what you want about Wagner, the man could write some portentous music. The source of the translation below has plenty more to say about the composer, pro and con, but I suggest you just listen and take the cues of your own hearts.

In Wagner's poem it is on Good Friday that Parsifal arrives at the edge of the forest with the Spear and with a burden of guilt. Here Wagner seems to be following his sources, in which Perceval or Parzival, who had not been inside a church or made confession in several years, met some pilgrims who were shocked to see him wearing armour on the holiest of days, Good Friday. They directed him to an old hermit whom they had just visited. In Wagner's drama the old hermit is identified with the knight Gurnemanz. Parsifal's guilt is only increased when Gurnemanz tells him of the death of Titurel and of the decay of the Grail community.

Und ich, ich bin's
der all dies Elend schuf!
Ha! Welcher Sünden,
welches Frevels Schuld
muss dieses Toren Haupt
seit Ewigkeit belasten.

And I, it is I,
who brought this woe on all!
Ha! What transgression,
such a load of sin
must this my foolish head
bear from all eternity.

Soon after, however, Gurnemanz blesses the new Grail king and cries out to heaven:

Du - Reiner!
Mitleidsvoll Duldender,
heiltatvoll Wissender!
Wie des Erlös'ten Leiden
du gelitten,
die letzte Last entnimm nun
seinem Haupt!

O - Pure One!
Pitying sufferer,
all-wise deliverer!
As the redeeming torments
you once suffered,
now lift the last load
from his head!

Have a joyful Easter, one and all.

P.S. I know Wagner isn't everyone's cup of tea; he isn't mine, either. But I try. You know. Don't always make it. For those of you don't make it either, a reminder that a German-speaking composer can still write celestial music appropriate for this most dire of days in the Christian calendar and its glorious aftermath.

Good Friday:


Mozart. Eternal Light. What I wish for you.

Now I feel better.

I can cheer you up for $5.30

Ring Lardner. Yuk. He smoked.

NOTHING NEW. Depending on who you are, of course. Exploring my Kindle, I've found four books that are funny, not in the contemporary way, but in the old-fashioned way, meaning they are not mean, obscene, or politically charged, but, uh, funny. You know, they just make you laugh.

Here they are:

Nonsense Novels by Stepehen Leacock. $0.99 on Kindle

My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse. $0.99 on Kindle.

Selected Short Stories by Ring Lardner. $0.99 on Kindle.

The Informal Execution of Soupbone Pew by Damon Runyon. $2.30 on Kindle.

And if you should fall into the habit of liking actual humor, here are some others that cost more but are definitely worth their price in gold. Masterpieces all. And all for (mostly much) less than $15.00 apiece.

The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody by Will Cuppy. *****

The Thurber Carnival by James Thurber. ****

The Benchley Roundup by Robert Benchley. ****

Max Shulman's Large Economy Size (3 novels) by Max Shulman ************

I won't say anything more right now. If you're curious about who is who and why anyone is on the list, query me in the comments. I promise I'll be far more forthcoming then.

I'll give a teaser, though. All these men were great writers, great souls. Here's what F. Scott Fitzgerald had to say about Ring Lardner upon his death at age 48:

"At no time did I feel that I had known him enough, or that anyone knew him - it was not the feeling that there was more stuff in him and that it should come out, it was rather a qualitative difference, it was rather as though, due to some inadequacy in oneself, one had not penetrated to something unsolved, new and unsaid. That is why one wishes that Ring had written down a larger proportion of what was in his mind and heart. It would have saved him longer for us, and that in itself would be something. But I would like to know what it was, and now I will go on wishing - what did Ring want, how did he want things to be, how did he think things were?

A great and good American is dead. Let us not obscure him by flowers but walk up and look at that fine medallion, all abraded by sorrows that perhaps we are not equipped to understand. Ring made no enemies, because he was kind, and to many millions he gave release and delight."

Humor requires love. Something we seem to have lost. Somewhere along the way.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Breitbart's Folly

WHAT WE'RE UP AGAINST. By all means watch the whole thing, but the critical moment comes at 9:45 into the clip, when MSNBC's BBC-bred hitman springs the chimp photo. Good God. It's hard to decide whether the photo or the interviewer's smarmy request for a "reaction" is more offensive. Yet the actual worst moment is at the end when Breitbart reiterates his past defense of the partisanship of MSNBC, as if it were in some way comparable to what conservative media outlets are doing. It isn't. I can't speak to Breitbart's intentions, though he certainly seems offended and outraged by what he's experiencing in the interview, but I can speak for an awful lot of us who do not engage in deliberate misrepresentation of facts and opposing viewpoints. We think they're wrong and we say so. That's far different from the cheap, doggedly programmatic ambush we're witnessing in this clip.

Wake up, Mr. Breitbart. They're not advocates. They're assassins.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I Was Wrong.

Twice the gravitas (er, avoirdupois) of Ronald Reagan

SPEAKING THE TRUTH. No, it's not a rare event. But I thought it would get your attention because I so rarely admit it. I had occasion to reread my own post about the Republican candidates (somebody insisted), and I was forced to the not terribly brilliant conclusion that if the ones who intend to run are all there is, we're going to be stuck with Obama for another four years of American freefall.

Contributors to my epiphany. A Gallup poll showing that Americans favor NOT cutting Medicare expenditures by a two-to-one margin. Two to one. Another poll showing Obama with a 47 percent approval rating. With gas prices sprinting toward record levels and absolutely no U.S. policy for domestic drilling? Nothing hits the American pocketbook faster and harder than gas prices. 47 percent approval?  Watching Hannity twice in two days. Big mistake. First was the Frank Luntz debacle of focus groups confronting congressmen. The new Tea Party guys already sound like DC veterans, shucking and jiving with empty promises. I wanted to slash my wrists. Then Hannity, last night, championing Donald Trump (!) while Bob Beckel (somebody please stick a pin in this guy's zeppelin-sized pomposity) and I did slash my wrists. [All bandaged and on the mend now, thank you for asking.]

I give up. All is lost if we don't run Chris Christie.

He's The One. The Only. All the poll support for Trump is simple transference. What people want is a blunt, plain-spoken man with enough testosterone to be a real bruiser in the fights that have to be fought. Christie is the guy Trump is pretending to be. I've been telling myself, and all of you obviously, that there's no way he can climb down off his disavowals of presidential ambition without losing his credibility. But I'm rethinking that.

We can nominate him and he can win if we go about it in the right way. He has to be drafted. We need dozens of websites demanding that he run. We need grass roots organizations springing up across the country telling people how to write in his name in all the primaries he won't be entering. We need to force him to accept the mandate of a people who will not accept his demurrers.

If the hue and cry reaches critical mass, he will accept the popular mandate because he already knows no one else can do what he can. Which is the definition of leadership. And if we draft him, the ill impacts in New Jersey -- and there will be gravely ill impacts, make no mistake -- cannot be held against him. He will be a Jersey-boy version of Cincinnatus, called from his fields to become a hero of his nation.

I'm not a blind idolater here. He's got some ethics issues that always go hand-in-hand with Jersey politics the way they do in, uh, say, Chicago politics. (Chris Christie is Irish AND Sicilian but not actually a Soprano. Ba-Da-Bing) And he's also far too liberal from my political perspective. He's squishy on unions and other conservative issues I care deeply about. But that's also part of why he's such a formidable opponent for Obama. The independents have no social or cultural reasons for vetoing him. And the man knows a fiscal and financial crisis when he sees it. Which is absolutely, positively the most important issue we're facing right now. If he can put our economic house in order, I'll grin and bear the rest of it.

What else? Pundits have already started talking about the debates -- the gravitas of a sitting president against a challenger who automatically appears a lightweight on the same stage.

Christie is never a lightweight. He's a great big, fat, booming presence on whatever stage he chooses to set foot on (take that how you will), and given the slenderness of Obama's own credentials, inexperience cannot be a successful campaign issue against him.

In some ways it's just too obvious to see. We need a BIG MAN to take down the midget who's shrinking the country into ruin. Christie is that big man, in terms of both character and physique. Everybody else is just a sad demonstration of what small, ineffectual, and impotent also-rans look like.

You have your marching orders. I'm from the place where his loss will be most keenly felt. But the country needs him more than the Garden State does. We offer him up to you. Get to work.

Draft that great big gigantic loudmouth sonofabitch. I said a long time ago we needed the opposite of Obama. Now that we know our president is a small-minded, vicious little pipsqueak, we have a clearer idea what the anti-Obama looks like. It looks (and sounds) like Chris Christie.

Do your very best and we'll have something to celebrate in November 2012.

How to think of it? Make the voters an offer they can't refuse. Somebody needs to reestablish control over Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi. The Jersey Way is probably the only way that will work.

P.S. Contrast with Helkenberg's commercial:

Waddya want? Gangstas or Joisey Boyz? No problem for me. I'm from Joisey. How 'bout youse?

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Day (or Two) in the Life...

Funny that he would forget guys don't like being called names by "brains."

WILLIE.33.1-4. It's not all politics. There are the Phillies, the Flyers, and (belatedly) the Sixers. As most of you know, I listen to SportsTalk in Philadelphia, WIP 610. The morning show is burlesque and better than any combination of late night comedy talk shows. The mid-day show is serious sports, featuring author and columnist Glen Macnow and his sidekick Anthony Gargano. Macnow has an almost poetic love of sports backed by an encyclopedic knowledge of Philadelphia sports history. His voice is somewhere in between professional radio host and intelligent conversationalist, learned but friendly and inviting to callers. I actually did call once, when he was remembering Veterans stadium and the current beauty called Citizens Bank Park. I recalled the baroque urban charm of old Connie Mack stadium as a counterpoint to both newer parks, and in pasing I referenced the poor-fielding homerun hitter named Dick Stewart, whom I'd seen smash a grand slam at Connie Mack just prior to its demolition. Glen was pleased by my reminiscence, one old fan to another, and he challenged me to furnish Stewart's nickname, which I did: Doctor Strangeglove.

All just preface to an odd happenstance late last week. I was listening to the beginning of the mid-day show when Glen Macnow suddenly went off on Donald Trump and the "Birthers," pronouncing Trump the worst man in politics he had ever encountered. He went on to damn in the most pejorative possible terms anyone who had any doubts about the origins of Barack Obama.

It was so out of context, so strident, and so ugly that I actually tried to look up Macnow's email address, which was (strangely) not available at the WIP website. I sent the following to the best email address I could find ( a partial with asterisks blotting out key characters):

I heard your tirade about Trump on the midday show. I carry no brief for Trump, but I have some advice. Stay out of politics. That's not why people listen to SportsTalk. I'm well aware that most sports reporters, particularly those who have worked for papers like the Inquirer, are reflexive lefties. That's fine. Just keep it to yourself. Your audience is far more politically diverse than you suspect -- no doubt part of your blind spot about such matters. Which is part of the point.

I'm not being malicious here. I have enormous regard for your sports knowledge, and I enjoy listening to you. (I've also been an on-air caller.) I have zero regard for your political acumen and, if possible, even less interest in it. I'm not a 'Birther' but when you dismiss them all as hillbillies, I can assure you it does you no good professionally. It certainly makes me think less of you. Questions about the birth certificate may be unfounded, but they are symbolic of the fact that nothing about the president's early life is on the record -- not his SAT scores (we know W's, don't we?), his college and law school grades, the courses he took, or the texts of any theses required for his degrees. And no one has ever turned up any childhood or adolescent friends to provide insight about his formative years. That's what drives the suspicion Trump is cynically exploiting for his own purposes.

A cleverer man would tar Trump without bashing a big chunk of his radio audience. But when it comes to politics, you are not clever. Why, once again, you stay the hell out of it.


Not surprisingly, I got no answer. Therefore (being me) I called the show the next day and spoke with the man who was screening calls.

"What do you want to talk about?" he asked.

"I want to talk about Glen Macnow's tirade about Trump yesterday," I said.

The man on the phone said, "I won't put you on the air about that."

"I'm not planning to be abusive," I explained. "I just want to tell him that he shouldn't be talking politics on the air. That's not why we listen."

He was icy in return. "We're well aware of that here. I'm not putting you on the air because we don't want to perpetuate the issue. Believe me, we know exactly what you're talking about, and we are taking it VERY seriously here."

Oh. I wasn't talking to a clerk screener. I was talking to a producer. Interesting.

"I tried to send him an email," I said. "I just wanted to express my opinion as a disappointed fan, let him know that we don't all automatically agree with his views because he has them."

The man on the line immediately gave me Glen Macnow's correct email address and thanked me for calling. Even more interesting.

So I re-sent my email and got a response from Glen Macnow inside the hour(!?):

Thanks for the note, [wrong name]. I appreciate your input, and it's well taken. Although I'm going to disagree.
I rarely, rarely talk politics. And I don't want to bog down our show with partisan debate in an era when this country is as divided as it is.
But Trump went beyond the breach. His campaign now is not a campaign for president. It's a campaign to gain ratings for his TV show (if you recall, my rant began out of Ant saying he watches the show). What he's doing is nothing more than barking like a seal and trying to attract a crowd. Successfully, by the way.
Anyway, before I became a sportswriter in 1987, I was a political writer for a decade. I covered Reagan's 1984 campaign for a month, and I've interviewed four presidents in my career. At the risk of sounding like a snotty dick (and I know this will come off this  way), I won two national awards for political writing back in the day.
It is fair of you to say that's not why you listen. And I respect that. And I rarely get into it, and will aim not to. But I do stand by what I said.
Thanks for the note.

I knew he had been ordered to do what he did, but (being me) I sent him a riposte:

No, you don't sound like a snotty dick. I respect you and your experience.

All I'm saying is that you hurt yourself by ASSUMING  that you're smarter than we are. And declaring it on air. I'm a huge fan of yours, loved your smackdown of Eskin at  the Great Debate, etc, but I was disappointed when you went off topic.

I'm part of your audience too. Harvard graduate. Management consultant. Writer. Conservative. Love your expertise. Just don't needlessly piss me off.

I don't have much influence. But I have some:

Philadelphia's Big Dope

Thank you for responding. I continue to be a fan. Honestly.


To which I received no reply (obviously).

None of this matters, of course. SportsTalk is merely a vice of mine. I know they're all lefites behind the curtain. I'm slightly embarrassed to have pursued the matter, and I wouldn't have told you about it except that I happened to have a conversation with an old decidedly conservative friend of mine who was unfamiliar with my own key points of concern about Obama's origins because he had stopped paying attention to Obama so long ago. Probably to politics the way it is being played now even longer ago.

He thought it would be worthwhile to reiterate points I made way back when, even at the risk of repeating myself, which for a blog as old as this one, has become a constant fear: Thou shalt not repeat thyself because the bloggerees are so easily and permanently bored by Johnny One-Notes. So here goes, restating the obvious.

I'm pretty sure Obama was born in Hawaii. I don't think that's the secret that caused the Hawaiian state legislature to pass a brand new law barring anyone from getting access to that documentation.

What do I think? There's something on the real birth certificate that's embarrassing. I think citizens who don't have anything to hide are suspicious.

I sympathize. I also respect their native suspicion. They don't necessarily understand that there's something fishy about a president of the United States no one knows thing one about beyond the headlines of his resume. And I can tell you it bothers me a lot that we don't know Obama's SAT scores, his LSAT scores, his grades at Occidental College, Columbia College, and Harvard Law School. That we don't know what courses he took at any of those schools or a word he ever wrote at any of those institutions, including his tenure on the Harvard Law Review. It's all a total blank. We don't even have anyone he admits knowing or conversely anyone who admits knowing him at any of those institutions. He's a cipher.

And he's president of the United States.

It's so easy to look down on the average, the ordinary, the common citizens. As Lincoln pointed out, they can be misled.

But it's also easy to conflate "Birthers" with "Truthers." The demographics are different. Obama supporters -- i.e., Democrats as a whole -- represent a two-humped curve. Think of a Bactrian camel. The first hump, the one toward the head, is the progressive elite. What they know is that they're right, morally superior, and should be in charge of the rest of us, because only they can make things right, and damn any inconvenient facts. The other hump is the vast majority of their followers, all the ones who depend on government to make their lives better and know they're Democrats and nothing else, including who's vice president of the United States, how many senators there are, and where Iraq is on the map.

The "Truthers" are creatures of the second hump.

The "Birthers" are creatures of the upside-down Bell curve between the humps.They're the ones who don't have PhDs or media jobs but work for a living, pay their taxes, and have to go to the DMV. For example, my wife has had to produce seventeen different legal documents, at considerable expense, to prove that she was born in the first place, had her name changed by a first marriage (proof of marriage, proof of divorce), changed again by her marriage to me (proof of marriage, proof of my divorce) -- all so she can have her driver's license reflect her current name. So far, she's made three different trips to the DMV, evenings, weekends, blah blah (they're always polite but final), and is still awaiting approval for a name change nobody involved believes is false. All of which is necessary before she can legally grant me financial authority to look after our dogs if she dies first and validate my will which will leave our joint property to her children and grandchildren.

And our president refuses to release his long-form birth certificate.

But we're the hillbillies and idiots for asking questions.

I'm willing to be a hillbilly about his birth certificate. I want to know how he got into Columbia, what he studied there, and how he he managed to be an editor of the Harvard Law Review without publishing anything.

But then I'm an elitist sonofabitch myself.

Not worthy of a second response from Glen Macnow. You know. He worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer once. Enough said.

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