The Spine

Clinton Fashion
October 02, 2006

Back to Bill Clinton and Chris Wallace, about whose pleasant encounter on TV I have not written. I leave that to the Plankers ( here, here, and here). But a friend called my attention to a remarkable lapse in Clinton's carefully tailored persona. This is, mind you, in the middle of the Clinton Global Initiative, his feel-good, do-some-good jamboree with his favorite zillionaires. There, facing Wallace on the tube, was Clinton with the two most vulnerable inches of exposed flesh, the inches between his ankles and his pants.

Opera Buffa
October 02, 2006

I hope you haven't yet thrown out Sunday's papers. At least not the "Sunday Styles" section of the Times. There on page 8 is the "Evening Hours" feature organized by Bill Cunningham, what long ago my friend Margo Howard immortalized in an article she called "Dancing for Disease." The celebrants this past week weren't doing anything quite so depressing, and the big story (with 15 small society photographs out of 33) was the Metropolitan Opera's opening night with a new production, the much heralded new production, of Madame Butterfly.

Low Culture
October 01, 2006

Just in case you do not think there is a poisonous depravity seeping through Iranian culture, here is a report from MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute) about the Tehran International Holocaust Cartoon Contest. Actually it is just a clip of a telecast from Iranian television itself. The cartoon jamboree was held at the Palestine Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran, another alliance of Iran and the Palestinians in a hoax. Be sure to go to the end of the printed text and click on the visuals.

Failed Experiment
September 29, 2006

Will the new production of Mozart's opera, Idomeneo, play in Berlin or not? Mark Landler has been following up his New York Times story--originally discussed in my post "Artistic License"--about the cancellation of the performances due to the decapitated head of Mohammed on stage having offended local Muslims.

Nuclear Ambitions Wanted
September 29, 2006

Al Qaeda in Iraq has put out an audio wanted ad on a popular website, which, as an article by David Rising in today's Boston Globe puts it, "beckons nuclear scientists." Datelined Baghdad, the piece details the call for experts in "chemistry, physics, electronics ... especially nuclear scientists and explosives experts" to join the group's holy war against the West.

Who Needs Recognition?
September 29, 2006

According to a Reuters dispatch in Haaretz online today, Hamas massed a huge rally in Gaza earlier today to "denounce the state of Israel and declare that they would never recognise its right to exist." So what else is new? "We ask God to punish the so-called Israel and the allies of Israel ... We vow to God that we will never recognize Israel even if we would be all killed." In the case of the last contingency, of course, no one would care. This is the rhetoric of nutcases, although I know that since their passions emerge from Muslim religious belief I should treat them with respect.

The Book Of Life
September 29, 2006

The metaphor of "the book of life" or eitz chaim suffuses Yom Kippur, which starts with the threnodic Kol Nidre incantation on Sunday at sun-down and ends with the neilah service Monday night. But the metaphor applies to individuals, and not to the collective.

Make Love, Not War
September 29, 2006

Ramadan is the Muslim daytime fasting month. Among other obligations for believers is that during this period they must make particular efforts to abjure violence. Oops! There was plenty of evidence in The New York Times this morning and in many other news outlets that the Sunni and Shia communities in Iraq are ignoring the injunction.

Golfing For Cats
September 28, 2006

The first time I heard of Uganda it was called Buganda, and a friend's husband, Sir Andrew Cohen, governor-general of the protectorate then ruled by the United Kingdom, had exiled the Kabaka to the top floor of Claridge's in London. Kabaka is another word for king. Still, not a bad exile. But, in 1962, the country became independent, with the Kabaka returning as president. Then, his prime minister, Milton Obote, overthrew the government and made himself president, which is the quaint African usage for dictator. This dictator was deposed in 1971 by Idi Amin. Ah, you recognize his name.

Rat Race
September 28, 2006

Kofi Annan is leaving. Yippee. It's not that he's leaving on his own. His (second) term is up and no one really wants him to stay, except maybe the Arabs, for whom he has done relentless service. In any case, there are seven candidates to succeed him. One of them, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, the president of Latvia who lived for half a century in Canada, has not a chance. One reason is that she's not Asian and, according to the rules by which the United Nations plays, this is Asia's turn. Sorry.