Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Terry Teachout wishes Stephen Sondheim a happy eightieth.

Later: Lots of interesting observations from Mark Steyn, who's less of an admirer:
Stephen Sondheim knows more about Herbert and Romberg and Friml and Kern and Berlin and Gershwin and Porter and Rodgers and Hart and Hammerstein and DeSylva, Brown and Henderson and Yip Harburg and Burton Lane and Dorothy Fields than anybody else alive, and what does he tell us [in his music]? That [their] songs are lies.

* * *

At a basic level, Sondheim lacks the courage, the courage to have his characters let rip with…

I’m in love!
I’m in love!
I’m in love!
I’m in love!
I’m In Love With A Wonderful Guy!

Why can’t they write ’em like that any more?

Says Sondheim: Because we aren’t like that any more.

* * *

He likes the harmonic language of Ravel and Debussy, which, on Broadway, seems daring and adventurous But how theatrical is it? George Gershwin knew Ravel, and once asked him for lessons. Ravel asked Gershwin how much money he’d made last year. When Gershwin told him, Ravel said: ‘My friend, it is I who should be taking lessons from you.’

* * *

‘If a listener is made rhyme-conscious,’ said Hammerstein, ‘his interest may be diverted from the story of the song. If, on the other hand, you keep him waiting for a rhyme, he is more likely to listen to the meaning of the words.’ ‘Ol’ Man River ’ is a powerful, memorable lyric, and there’s no rhyme until the eighth and tenth lines. Hammerstein rhymes when the song requires it; Sondheim is an exercise in rhyme.

* * *

On March 22nd 1948, Stephen Sondheim celebrated his eighteenth birthday. At the time Oscar Hammerstein was giving him a one-man masterclass in theatrical adaptation. Far away, on the other side of the world, a son was born to an English music professor and his wife. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim would share birthdays but not much else. Sondheim, born to the old disciplines of fixing and rewriting and rewriting the rewrites, has his merest trifles hailed as high art; Lloyd Webber, whose scores aspired to the inviolability of opera, is routinely despised as crowd-pleasing schlock. But, with the exception of
Sweeney Todd, Sondheim has never initiated any of his shows. [. . .] It was the pap-peddling Lloyd Webber who found himself consumed by obsessions that, for better or worse, he had no choice but to write out: he had, in a word, passion.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Allies are learning to mistrust us, adversaries to despise us.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tips to tourists, from Dave Barry:
Miami has a large Spanish-speaking population, so it's good to know some basic conversational Spanish. Here are some expressions that will come in handy:

-- ``¿Donde el heck está mi coche?'' (``Where the heck is my car?'')

-- ``Lo dejé con el ayudante de cámara.'' (``I left it with the valet.'')

-- ``¿Cómo? ¿El no era ayudante de cámara?'' (``What do you mean, he wasn't a valet?'')

-- ``¡Hey! ¿Es ella una hermana de Kardashian?'' (``Hey! Is that a Kardashian sister?'')

-- ``¡Su extremo es del tamaño de un Lounger de Barca!'' (``Her butt is the size of a Barca-Lounger!'')

-- ``¡Ha ha!'' (``Ha ha!'')

-- ``¡Perdoneme! No sabía que era su esposa.'' (``Sorry! I didn't know that was your wife.'')

-- ``Eso es un arma muy grande.'' (``That is a very large gun.'')

Monday, March 15, 2010

Barry Rubin summarizes the endless diplomatic obstacles Israel faces:
For more than four months the U.S. government has been celebrating Israel agreeing to stop construction on settlements in the West Bank while continuing building in east Jerusalem as a great step forward and Israeli concession deserving a reward. Suddenly, all of this is forgotten to say that Israel building in east Jerusalem is some kind of terrible deed which deserves punishment.

Israelis are used to this pattern: give a big concession and a few months later that step is forgotten as Israel is portrayed as intransigent and more concessions are demanded with nothing in return.
(Via Noah Pollak.)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

They're right, we're hypocrites: "The World Trade Organization has given Brazil the go-ahead to impose tariffs on U.S. products in retaliation against U.S. farm subsidies."


"Hey, at least he’s still got his head."


Daniel Pipes, reacting to widespread if cautious optimism on Iraq's prospects:
Tehran has aspired to seize effective control of Iraq since the U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. With many levers at hand, from mosques to schools to militias to politicians, the Iranian despots are well placed to inherit the country. . . .

In a year or two, the current elections will be looked back on as a cosmetic episode that somehow deceived otherwise savvy observers.


"But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it": Nancy Pelosi is a scary, ruthless idiot.


A suggestion to fiction writers.


Hans A. von Spakovsky:
If you want to understand how the Civil Rights Division is being run in the Obama administration, imagine for just a moment what would happen if the most radical, ideologically left-wing advocacy organizations in Washington took control of it. Because that’s exactly what happened.


Thomas Sowell on the administration's economic policies:
Why aren’t the banks lending, with all that money sitting there gathering dust?

You don’t lend when politicians are making it more doubtful whether you are going to get your money back — either on time or at all. . . .

This is not another Great Depression, at least not yet, and the economy may recover on its own, if the government will let it. But Obama today, like FDR in the 1930s, cannot leave the economy alone. . . .

[I]n an atmosphere where nobody knows what the federal government is going to come up with next, people tend to hang on to their money until they have some idea of what the rules of the game are going to be.


A chilling consequence of socialized medicine, via Richard Miniter (4/28/01):
As the cost of socialized medicine in the Netherlands grew, doctors were lectured about the importance of keeping expenses down. In many hospitals, signs were posted indicating how much old-age treatments cost taxpayers. The result was a growing "social pressure" from doctors and others, says Arno Heltzel, a spokesman for the Catholic Union of the Elderly, the largest Dutch senior-citizen group, which favors voluntary euthanasia. "Old people have to excuse themselves for living. When they say that all of their friends are dead, people say, 'Maybe it is time for you to go too,' rather than, 'You need to find new friends.'"
(Prompted by this post from Mark Steyn.)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Terry Teachout on artists' insecurities:
"A bad word from a colleague can darken a whole day," Orson Welles once told Peter Bogdanovich. "We need encouragement a lot more than we admit, even to ourselves." Remember those words the next time you see someone basking in the sunshine of a standing ovation. What looks to you like a polite formality might just be the only thing capable of giving him the courage to pick up his pen tomorrow morning and face the music all over again.


Did a Congressman distort and alter evidence against Toyota to strengthen the appearance of guilt?


In a great piece on health care, Thomas Sowell reiterates one of his favorite points:
The confusion between lowering costs and refusing to pay the costs can have a real impact on the supply of doctors. The real costs of medical care include both the financial conditions and the working conditions that will ensure a continuing supply of both the quantity and the quality of doctors required to maintain medical-care standards for a growing number of patients. . . .

Paying doctors less and hassling them more may be some people’s idea of “lowering the cost of medical care,” but it is really just refusing to pay the costs — and taking the consequences.

Monday, March 8, 2010

But let's trust them with health care.


It's because they see the danger up close:
70 percent of respondents in France, 65 percent in Spain, 63 percent in Italy, 57 percent in the U.K., and 50 percent in Germany express support for a ban on the burka (though not as part of a general ban on all religious symbols), whereas only 33 percent of Americans share this sentiment.


Theodore Dalrymple:
It is not intrinsically unjust to say to someone who killed 13 people over a period of years that his life as a free man in society was over for ever. Indeed, it would be grossly unjust to say anything else to him.


Jonah Goldberg via newsletter (subscribe):
I listened to a story on the local NPR station about the legalization of gay marriage in D.C. I don't have much energy to argue the pros and cons of the issue, but I did find NPR's interview with a lesbian woman pretty hilarious. She and her partner (wife?) moved from New Jersey to D.C. so they could be legally married to one another. Fine, fine. If I were gay, I might do something like that, I guess. But what struck me as funny was the woman's statement (quoting from memory) that she and her partner cared so much about getting married that "we were willing to sacrifice congressional representation."

I hear these sorts of things all the time on local radio and TV, and, as someone who thinks D.C. statehood is one of America's dumbest "major" issues, I always find it hilarious. . . .

Now, I admit I may be the odd one here. I've never had a congressman I liked, or even the opportunity to vote for anyone I liked who had the slightest chance of winning, although I guess Daniel Patrick Moynihan was pretty cool as my senator in my youth. But when I hear someone say that they love someone so much and are so desperate to get married that they're willing to "sacrifice" their ability to vote for their congressional representatives (from New Jersey!), I don't see it as a heart-wrenching expression of true love. Quitting your job, leaving your family, donating a kidney: that's the stuff of true love. Giving up your ability to send Rodney Frelinghuysen back to Congress, meh, not so much. It reminds me more of Anthony Michael Hall in
The Breakfast Club, explaining that he got a fake I.D. so he could vote.


Of course:
General Motors has blamed a supplier partly owned by Toyota for a faulty car part that led to the recall of 1.3m Chevrolet and Pontiac cars in North America.
(Via Greg Pollowitz.)


Well, this proves it.


From Christopher Caldwell, a lovely remembrance of Arnold Beichman.


"[A] reminder that some jobs never stop."


We're asking too much of our military. If "kill[ing] or hurt[ing] civilians . . . risk[s] setting our strategy back months, if not years," then our strategy is hopelessly flawed, and our troops will continue to die for worse than nothing.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Mark Steyn:
I’ve been saying in this space for two years that the governmentalization of health care is the fastest way to a permanent left-of-center political culture. It redefines the relationship between the citizen and the state in fundamental ways that make limited government all but impossible. In most of the rest of the Western world, there are still nominally “conservative” parties, and they even win elections occasionally, but not to any great effect (let’s not forget that Jacques Chirac was, in French terms, a “conservative”). The result is a kind of two-party one-party state: Right-of-center parties will once in a while be in office, but never in power, merely presiding over vast left-wing bureaucracies that cruise on regardless. . . .

Look at it from the Dems’ point of view. You pass Obamacare. You lose the 2010 election, which gives the GOP co-ownership of an awkward couple of years. And you come back in 2012 to find your health-care apparatus is still in place, a fetid behemoth of toxic pustules oozing all over the basement, and, simply through the natural processes of government, already bigger and more expensive and more bureaucratic than it was when you passed it two years earlier. That’s a huge prize, and well worth a mid-term timeout.
Later (I mean I'm posting it later—actually it appeared earlier):
In a private meeting with House progressives, President Obama said that this bill is just a foundation for future reform, and could pave the way for a later push for the public option and even single-payer systems at the state-level.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Accurate, I'm afraid, from Jennifer Rubin:
There was a running debate as to Obama’s true political nature — hard leftist or reasoned moderate. That has been definitively answered. Some confusion remains, of course, because Obama’s leftism is tempered in a sense by his incompetence.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A lot of fun: the Partridge Family (2/3 of it anyway) reunited. Links to other tv-cast reunions too. (Via Victorino Matus.)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Typically excellent posts by David Pryce-Jones on Turkey ("the country to watch right now"), European intellectuals ("worse than useless"), and the Dubai assassination ("a whole lot of riddles").


From the 9/9/69 issue of National Review, a perceptive report on the Woodstock music festival.


William Kristol:
As one wag commented, Obama turned out to be quite an effective community organizer. But the community he organized was a majority of the American people in opposition to his agenda of big-government liberalism.


Jay Nordlinger, prompted by the global-warming debate: "Sometimes one of the 'extreme' positions is the correct one." I know many people who consider "centrist" a compliment and proudly apply the term to themselves and their political opinions. Would it be good to be centrist on slavery, or civil rights, or honor killing, or forced female circumcision?

I like Nordlinger's conclusion:
[I]f global warming did indeed prove to be a crock, the world would just glide on, as though nothing had happened — just as it did when the coming ice age proved to be a crock, when the mass food shortages proved to be a crock, when the . . [.]

Always, always, on to the next alarm, without a murmur of apology, or moment of self-reflection, or backward glance.


A perfect illustration of why I pay no attention to Paul Krugman. He simply can't be trusted.


Great piece from Mark Steyn on ethnic pandering and arbitrary authoritarianism by Canada's "Diversity Pansies."


The way spring training should be.


A bit more on gays in the military. I think General Conway is exactly right, but that train has sailed; too much of American society finds his position morally unacceptable.

Later: To clarify, I don't mean that most of the country supports letting gays serve in the military. I mean that many Americans oppose judging military policy mainly by its effect on military proficiency.

Later still: To clarify again (!), where I think General Conway is exactly right is in making the issue whether a policy "enhance[s] the war-fighting capabilities of the United States Marine Corps [or other branch of the armed forces]." On whether the military should admit gays I remain dubious but agnostic and deferential.


Mark Steyn:
We hard-hearted small-government guys are often damned as selfish types who care nothing for the general welfare. But, as the Greek protests make plain, nothing makes an individual more selfish than the socially equitable communitarianism of big government: Once a chap's enjoying the fruits of government health care, government-paid vacation, government-funded early retirement, and all the rest, he couldn't give a hoot about the general societal interest; he's got his, and to hell with everyone else. People's sense of entitlement endures long after the entitlement has ceased to make sense. . . .

Think of Greece as California: Every year an irresponsible and corrupt bureaucracy awards itself higher pay and better benefits paid for by an ever-shrinking wealth-generating class. And think of Germany as one of the less-profligate, still-just-about-functioning corners of America such as my own state of New Hampshire: Responsibility doesn't pay. You'll wind up bailing out, anyway. The problem is there are never enough of "the rich" to fund the entitlement state, because in the end it disincentivizes everything from wealth creation to self-reliance to the basic survival instinct, as represented by the fertility rate. In Greece, they've run out Greeks, so they'll stick it to the Germans, like French farmers do. In Germany, the Germans have only been able to afford to subsidize French farming because they stick Americans with their defense tab. And, in America, Obama, Pelosi and Reid are saying we need to paddle faster to catch up with the Greeks and Germans. What could go wrong?


Alan Reynolds (emphasis in original):
[A]s Federal Reserve policymakers noted, the evidence is overwhelming (see here and here) that extending unemployment benefits from six months to nearly two years has raised the unemployment rate by a percentage point or two. I’ve waited since 1991 for someone to prove I’m wrong about that. Nobody has, because nobody can.


Evelyn Gordon finds in a ruling by the European Union high court "a perfect example of the law of unintended consequences."


Jennifer Rubin:
The health-care summit didn’t turn out to be a waste of time. The country learned a lot about its president (mostly not favorable), about what’s wrong with ObamaCare, about the Republicans (mostly favorable), and about the Democratic congressional leadership (mostly awful to the point of being cringe-inducing). Compared to most of what politicians do, you would be hard pressed to find a better use of their time.


The three reasons the Crusades failed. (I have no idea if he's right, but it's interesting.)


Theodore Dalrymple, in an essay adapted from his forthcoming book The New Vichy Syndrome: Why European Intellectuals Surrender to Barbarism:
God is dead in Europe, and I do not see much chance of revival except in the wake of catastrophe. Not quite everything has been lost of the religious attitude, however. Individuals still think of themselves as being of unique importance, but without the countervailing humility of considering themselves as having duty toward the author of their being, a being inconceivably larger than themselves. Far from inducing a more modest conception of man, the loss of religious belief has inflamed his self-importance enormously. . . .

So what is left for Europeans? The present being all that counts, it remains to seek the good life, the enjoyable and comfortable life, for themselves alone. Europeans are fearful of the future because they fear the past; they are desperate to hang on to what they have already got, what the French call
les acquis, because it represents for them the whole of existence. So important is the standard of living that they see children not as inheritors of what they themselves inherited, but as obstructions to the enjoyment of life, a drain on resources, an obstacle to next year’s holiday in Bali.

Dean Acheson said that Britain had lost an empire and not found a role. You might say of Europe that it has lost its purpose and not found any to replace it.
And a warning to the U. S.:
The United States finds itself at a historical conjuncture when its relative power in the world has weakened. To be sure, no decline in power comparable in extent to that of Europe in the 20th century is in view; nevertheless, the realization of this weakening, that the United States is re-entering a world in which it is only primum inter pares and not utterly dominant, might cause disappointment to those who see the cup of power dashed from their lips. Self-hatred and self-denigration might then take hold with disastrous wider effect. . . .

[A] defense of all that is best, and of all the achievement, in U.S. history is necessary. That is why the outcome of the so-called culture wars in America is so important to its future. A healthy modern society must know how to remain the same as well as change, to conserve as well as to reform. Europe has changed without knowing how to conserve: that is its tragedy.


This is Islam. I understand and am glad that many Muslims want to practice their faith differently, but they don't drive the religion these days. Barrak and those who think like him have the power and the conviction.

Also, this observation from Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of one of the founders of Hamas, expresses what should be obvious to all but somehow eludes most of the left: "Hamas cannot make peace with the Israelis. That is against what their God tells them." The "peace process" can't succeed, and whenever Muslims talk about it (as here) they dissimulate.

(Second link via Max Boot.)


When I read Charles Krauthammer's column Friday one detail seemed wrong to me, and in fact it was wrong. (Great post title.)


From Max Boot, praise for Colombia's president, and a lesson of the French Indochina War.


Partisanship then and now; or, The evolution of E. J. Dionne.

Monday, March 1, 2010

I met T-Bone Wolk years ago. He was a kind, soft-spoken, generous man, and a spectacularly good musician. RIP.