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Wednesday, April 30, 2003

A Bit of Self-Mockery, a Lot of Stamina: "durability is a Wagnerian virtue, and in middle age this "Meistersinger" has by general agreement all its moving parts still in workable shape. I can think of no other performing challenge in which the comedic heart and sheer physical endurance are so inseparable. Friday's cast was admirable for its quality, depth and staying power. How many tenors have we heard using their talents in the early scenes only to be caught desperate and panting at Walther's defining moment before the final curtain? Johan Botha's voice rang with as much life and beauty at the end as at the beginning.
   ... The nice thing about the Met's "Meistersinger" (staged this season by Peter McClintock) is a certain self-mockery. Beckmesser is by definition made fun of to his face, but we can also smile at Eva (dumb blonde) and Walther (woozy swain) behind their backs. Mr. Morris's Sachs presides over them all with a quiet, forbearing irony.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Chicks against the machine: Offered the chance to take it all back and make nice, the Dixie Chicks instead chose to turn the interview around. Sawyer wanted answers; the Chicks offered questions, hard questions. Sawyer wanted to talk about the damage they may have done to their career; the Chicks talked about the damage being done to America in an era where Vice President Dick Cheney has proclaimed "You're either with us or against us." The band may have gotten more attention posing nude for the cover of the current Entertainment Weekly, with phrases like "Dixie Sluts," "Saddam's Angels" and "Traitors" stamped on their bodies. But it was the stubborn refusal they showed Sawyer that cut deepest.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Tim Robbins: Speech to National Press Club: "A chill wind is blowing in this nation. A message is being sent through the White House and its allies in talk radio and Clear Channel and Cooperstown. If you oppose this administration, there can and will be ramifications. Every day, the air waves are filled with warnings, veiled and unveiled threats, spewed invective and hatred directed at any voice of dissent. And the public, like so many relatives and friends that I saw this weekend, sit in mute opposition and fear. "

Monday, April 21, 2003

Nina Simone, 70, Soulful Diva and Voice of Civil Rights, Dies
   Although she was most often characterized as a jazz singer, Ms. Simone, who usually performed with a rhythm section and always accompanied herself on piano, was almost impossible to classify.
   "If I had to be called something," she wrote in 1991 in her autobiography, "I Put a Spell on You," "it should have been a folk singer because there was more folk and blues than jazz in my playing."
   But her piano playing also revealed her classical training more clearly than most jazz pianists', and her singing — at times rough and raw, at other times sweet and pure — owed an unmistakable debt to black gospel music.
   ... Ms. Simone was as famous for her social consciousness as she was for her music. In the 1960's no musical performer was more closely identified with the civil rights movement. Though she was best known as an interpreter of other people's music, she eloquently expressed her feelings about racism and black pride in those years in a number of memorable songs she wrote herself.
   "Mississippi Goddam" was an angry response to the killing of the civil rights advocate Medgar Evers. "Young, Gifted and Black," written with the keyboardist Weldon Irvine Jr., became something of an anthem, recorded by Aretha Franklin and many others. "Four Women" painted a subtle but stinging picture of the suffering and the strength of African-American women.

Today Show Goes Dark on Tim Robbins: A conversation about free speech. An anchor asking reasonable questions. A guest responding in equally reasonable tones. No attempt to close out the discussion - to say "Well thank you Tim". This was not a filibuster. Robbins was not hogging the spotlight. Someone in the control room simply decided that it was time to pull the plug. And without grace or ceremony, or even the face saving of letting Lauer say "We're out of time" as morning shows do on so many occasions. A conversation about free speech and free expression was cut off mid sentence as the network went to black.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Old Words on War Stirring a New Dispute at Berkeley: "In an unusual showdown over freedom of expression, university officials have refused to allow a fund-raising appeal for the Emma Goldman Papers Project to be mailed because it quoted Goldman on the subjects of suppression of free speech and her opposition to war. The university deemed the topics too political as the country prepares for possible military action against Iraq. In one of the quotations, from 1915, Goldman called on people "not yet overcome by war madness to raise their voice of protest, to call the attention of the people to the crime and outrage which are about to be perpetrated on them." In the other, from 1902, she warned that free-speech advocates "shall soon be obliged to meet in cellars, or in darkened rooms with closed doors, and speak in whispers lest our next-door neighbors should hear that free-born citizens dare not speak in the open." Berkeley officials said the quotations could be construed as a political statement by the university in opposition to United States policy toward Iraq. Candace S. Falk, the director of the project and author of the appeal, acknowledged that the excerpts were selected because of their present-day resonance. But Dr. Falk said they reflected Goldman's views, not the university's policies."

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Wine Bottle Sizes

Sunday, December 29, 2002

Who's Afraid Like Virginia Woolf?: "Interweaving flashbacks from Woolf's life as she was writing "Mrs. Dalloway" with scenes from the lives of Laura Brown (Julianne Moore), a Southern California housewife and mother in 1951, and Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep), a New York book editor living in contemporary Greenwich Village, their stories blend into a lofty, mystical theme and variations on Woolf's novel... Clear eyed and austerely balanced... magnificently written and acted. "

Saturday, December 28, 2002

The 10 Best Movies: By A. O. SCOTT

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Untypically, a Rockefeller Tells the Story of His Life: "David Rockefelle, at age 87, has become the first in three generations of Rockefellers to publish an autobiography, breaking a century-long habit of fierce privacy instilled in his clan by his grandfather. "Memoirs," a candid account of Mr. Rockefeller's life at the busy intersection of global banking, family business and unofficial diplomacy, made its debut from Random House yesterday."

Monday, December 16, 2002

The Never-Ending Wrong June 1977 - Katherine Anne Porter - "For several years in the early 1920s when I was living part of the time in Mexico, on each return to New York, I would follow again the strange history of the Italian emigrants Nicola Sacco a shoemaker, and Bartolomeo Vanzetti a fishmonger, who were accused of a most brutal holdup of a payroll truck, with murder, in South Braintree, Massachusetts, in the early afternoon of April 15, 1920. They were tried before a Boston court and condemned to death about eighteen months later."

US historian stripped of gun book prize: "A US historian whose book on the origins of gun culture caused a furore has been stripped of a prestigious prize after being accused of "unprofessional and misleading work". Columbia University announced that its trustees had voted to rescind the Bancroft prize awarded last year to Michael A Bellesiles for his book, Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture. "

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

A Terrifying Video Becomes a Best Seller: "ANSON W. SCHLOAT, the president of Human Relations Media, has an unexpected hit on his hands, a 26-minute video called "Dying High: Teens in the ER," which has become the hot teaching tool in Westchester County."

Thursday, December 05, 2002

No more going it alone for Uncle Sam: The End of the American Era: US Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the 21st Century By Charles Kupchan. "claims American primacy in global politics will end before the decade is out. The transition to a multipolar world is the paramount issue of international relations, but recent events (read: war on terrorism) only obfuscate it. If the US is wise, it will "design" a liberal world order to accommodate rising powers such as Europe and China. But if America "defaults" and remains a "great power adrift," the consequences will be dire: an aggressive China and Japan; a resurgent Russia; a remilitarized Europe; and the hungry, angry masses of the developing world."

Monday, December 02, 2002

Arguing That Historians Can Be Scientists, Too: THE LANDSCAPE OF HISTORY How Historians Map the Past, By John Lewis Gaddis " the author of several distinguished books on the cold war, both pays homage to Bloch (and with more conditional admiration, to the British historian E. H. Carr) and addresses the challenge of postmodernism. He does all of this in an urbane and eloquent little volume that, in its way, might even be what Bloch himself would have written had he lived."

Seeking a Vision of Truth, Guided by a Higher Power: "I believe creativity is a votive gift, presented arbitrarily by the hand of God, and those who possess it are simply its vessel... I also had to learn that the gift or obsession or neurosis that compelled me to write was one that required a discipline that did not allow exceptions"

Saturday, November 30, 2002

'Lost Discoveries': The Non-Western Roots of Science: "LOST DISCOVERIES The Ancient Roots of Modern Science -- From the Babylonians to the Maya. By Dick Teresi."

'One World': The Moral and Practical Challenges of Globalization: "Peter Singer's timely and thoughtful book, ''One World: The Ethics of Globalization.'' A professor of bioethics at Princeton University and one of the most provocative philosophers of our time, Singer writes, ''How well we come through the era of globalization (perhaps whether we come through it at all) will depend on how we respond ethically to the idea that we live in one world.'' "

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

What Did Poe Know About Cosmology? Nothing. But He Was Right.: "Departing from conventional wisdom of the day, which saw the universe as static and eternal, Poe insisted that it had exploded into being from a single "primordial particle" in "one instantaneous flash." "From the one particle, as a center," he wrote, "let us suppose to be irradiated spherically -- in all directions -- to immeasurable but still to definite distances in the previously vacant space -- a certain inexpressibly great yet limited number of unimaginably yet not infinitely minute atoms.""

Monday, November 25, 2002

'Reversible Errors': Presumed Guilty: "''Reversible Errors,'' the latest addition to the Turow oeuvre, may well offer us the richest blend yet. At the center of ''Reversible Errors'' is a confession made by a suspect, Rommy Gandolph, that results in his conviction in a murder case. The plot of the novel moves along on two converging tracks: the events of 1991 leading up to Gandolph's conviction, and the events of 2001 involving his new lawyer's attempt to save him from imminent execution."

A Pig Returns to the Farm, Thumbing His Snout at Orwell: "An American novelist has written a parody of "Animal Farm," George Orwell's 1945 allegory about the evils of communism, in which the exiled pig, Snowball, returns to the farm and sets up a capitalist state, leading to misery for all the animals. The book, "Snowball's Chance" by John Reed, is being published this month by Roof Books, a small independent press in New York. And the estate of George Orwell is not happy about it. "

Saturday, November 23, 2002

Shooting Magda, by Joshua Sobol: "Shooting Magda tells the story of Samira (Robin Kacyn), a young Palestinian woman who has fallen in love with an Israeli law student and whose life is now being captured by an Israeli film crew. Benesh (Brad Schwartz), the film's director, has helped Samira draft a semi-autobiographical script but, as budget issues force a marathon, 24-hour shoot, differences of vision -- both personal and national -- begin to arise. "

Monday, November 18, 2002

British Star Speaks Up for 'Quiet American': "Greene's story, about a middle-aged British correspondent in Saigon who loses his very much younger Vietnamese girlfriend to a seemingly naïve American aid worker (played by Brendan Fraser), casts a harsh light on well-intentioned United States meddling in Indochina that led to bloodshed and war. So the days after Sept. 11, when the United States and the world were rallying around the American flag, seemed an inopportune time to release such a film. Why the film was still being delayed a year later puzzled Sir Michael [Caine].... The Quiet American" premiered at Toronto in September and not only drew a standing ovation but also spawned a series of glowing reviews about Sir Michael's performance that overnight made him among the front-runners for an Academy Award nomination. "

Thursday, November 14, 2002

In the middle of 12th century | ""Baudolino" is a richly rewarding novel, as satisfying as it is stimulating. War and peace, belief and skepticism, false dreams and true, the pleasures of storytelling, and the mysteries of love: Eco handles these themes with an exhilarating blend of profundity and lightness. Long though it is, this a novel that keeps getting better, gathering irresistible force as it sweeps toward its brilliantly inevitable conclusion."

Guardian - Interview with Michael Moore he says, the money is about more than status. He leans close. "Back home we call it fuck-you money. OK? What that means is, the distributor of the film can't ever say to me, 'Don't you dare say this in the interview or you better change that in the movie because if you don't, you're not going to get another movie deal.' Because I already have my home and my family taken care of, and enough money from this film and book to make the next film, I'm able to say, 'Fuck you.' No one in authority can hold money over me to get me to conform."

Update on 'Arming America' - The Nation: "Michael Bellesiles, the historian accused of research falsification in his book Arming America, a study of gun culture, announced on October 25 that he was resigning from Emory University, citing a "hostile environment" [see Jon Wiener, "Fire at Will," November 4]. His resignation, effective at the end of the year, came the very afternoon that Emory released the report of a three-person external board that had been asked to review some of the charges.... if Bellesiles is right in his reply, then those distinguished historians are guilty of some of the same sins they accuse him of committing: suppressing inconvenient evidence, spinning the data their way, refusing to follow leads that didn't serve their thesis.  "

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Silver swindle?: "hallmarked Sterling silver jewellery (925 fineness) being hawked at major US retail outlets and even prominent jewellers is probably little better than stainless steel...  nearly everything clung to his magnet for dear life. Sterling silver doesn't do that."

Saturday, November 09, 2002

Salon | The respectable cult: "The respectable cult A new book asks why Christian Science has gotten away with the kind of paranoid, secretive practices that usually push religions into the kook bin. "

Friday, November 08, 2002

The unlikely career of one of American's most loved poets | "Lucille Clifton is often surprised by the reception she gets from audiences. In September, at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, Ms. Clifton received two standing ovations -- the first for simply walking onstage. "I don't understand it," she says without any pretense. "I just try to write clearly and directly. I try to appeal to the whole human." "
they ask me to remember
but they want me to remember
their memories
and I keep on remembering
["why some people be mad at me sometimes"]

The Saudis' Brand of Islam and Its Place in History: "THE TWO FACES OF ISLAM The House of Saud From Tradition to Terror By Stephen Schwartz" The 4,000 members of the Saudi ruling family are, as he puts it, "a vast mafia of princely parasites." He holds the Western oil companies, especially the Aramco partners and "the American political and media elites that have served them," responsible for "the continuation of dishonesty and injustice in Arabia." Contrary to the standard view of him, Mr. Schwartz writes, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Wahhabi extremism and actually represents "the pluralist face of Islam."

Friday, November 01, 2002

The New York Review of Books: Love in a Time of Revolution: review By Stephen Kinzer of The Country Under My Skin: A Memory of Love and War by Gioconda Belli. "Belli has written the first literary memoir by a Sandinista woman. It tells two stories. One is about a rich girl in a poor country who was carried away by political and physical passion. The other is an account of what went on behind the public façade of the Sandinista regime. They merge easily. Belli's progress through her various love affairs mirrors Nicaragua's history during the same period. "

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Films With War Themes Are Victims of Bad Timing: "After Sept. 11 the wait was significantly longer for several independent films... Among the independents in limbo were "The Quiet American" and the dark military comedy "Buffalo Soldiers." Their already provocative themes became even more so after the attacks and the war in Afghanistan, and distributors fretted that audiences would hardly be in the mood for such sobering offerings... the film made moviegoers uncomfortable because its title character, a charismatic intelligence officer played by Brendan Fraser, sponsors terrorist acts that kill scores of innocent Vietnamese. "There will be people who are sensitive about seeing the American point of view presented as less than sympathetic," said Sydney Pollack, a producer of the movie. "

Saturday, September 14, 2002

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: Sixties Radicals Turn to Lenin, Mao and Che, By Max Elbaum, Review By Tony Platt

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: UMSL still plans to open arts center next year: "The departure of its executive director has left the nearly finished performing arts center at the University of Missouri at St. Louis without a staff, an operating budget and a schedule of events.... A big setback for the center has been the state of Missouri's refusal so far to produce the $1 million in operating funds UMSL had been counting on to help plug the building's projected annual operating deficit of $1,245,000."

Give WU a first-class performing arts center: "Washington University is the richest educational institution in the region. Its endowment (more than $4 billion before the stock market tanked) consistently ranks among the Top 10 for universities in the nation. It has a wealthy alumni base whose members give generously when called on. Its building projects provide seemingly nonstop work for construction companies. One would expect the university to have a performing arts center to match its business school, its law school and its other fine facilities. One would be sorely disappointed in that expectation. Many suburban high schools in the area have better setups."

Friday, August 23, 2002

Scene of the Crime (Gene Santoro): "Everyone knows what happened thirty-seven years ago when Bob Dylan fronted an electric band at the Newport Folk Festival, which is why August 3 saw 100 scribes from all over the country merging into a crowd of 10,000"

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

Sex as a Cosmic Joke, as Demons Are Routed: "[Margaret Cho's] writing is exceptionally lean and accompanied by body language as honed as her verbal delivery. ... She is also a formidable character comic who brings a refined sense of caricature to voices that range from a macho man to an insufferably chirpy colonic hydrotherapist. But her greatest creation is her mother, a proper, devoted know-it-all who refers to herself as Mommy and who delivers her unlikely pronouncements in a half-choked broken English with an oracular pomposity. Ms. Cho's most damning humor is reserved for racism and the insidious stereotyping of Asian-Americans as passive, agreeable servants. "

Monday, July 01, 2002

'follow the reader' in global giveaway with online tracking  "random acts of literary kindness, leaving books in public places for strangers to find and then tracking the book's fate online. ..What started a year ago in Kansas City, Mo., as a way to share books for free has grown into a virtual community of book releasers and finders who would love a world littered with free literature.  More than 10,500 people, who call themselves "bookcrossers," have been united by a love of reading, serendipity and sleuthing. Setting books free is being likened to a modern-day message in a bottle.  By word of mouth, the Web site -- which doesn't charge a fee or accept advertising -- has become the nation's fourth most popular online reading site"

Wednesday, June 05, 2002


In the worst hour of the worst season
     of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking—they were both walking—north.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
     He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.
     Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
     There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
     Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.

Eavan Boland, Against Love Poetry;
also see her essay at W. W. Norton Poet's Workshop

Collected by Jonathan March with Radio Userland software