Saturday, October 27, 2012


“Polyphonia”, Christopher Wheeldon’s ballet set to piano music of György Ligeti, which we saw Wednesday night, danced by New York City Ballet.

Wheeldon created “Polyphonia” in 2001 expressly for New York City Ballet.

New York City Ballet’s visit to Minneapolis this week was the company’s first appearance in the Twin Cities in 28 years.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Harvest Time In Minnesota

The crop in question is sugar beets.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Another Outtake From “A Slave Of Love”

“A Slave Of Love” is one of very few films from the Brezhnev years with any kind of reputation.

“A Slave Of Love” is not a masterpiece, but it is well worth watching.

An Outtake From “A Slave Of Love”

An outtake from Nikita Mikhalkov’s 1976 Russian-language film, “A Slave Of Love”.

Saint Louis, 1904: The Louisiana Purchase Exposition

The 1904 Saint Louis World's Fair is considered to be the greatest International Exhibition ever mounted, on a scale and breadth never attempted before or since.

The buildings were pretty remarkable, too.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Not According To Plan

This week has not proceeded as planned.

Andrew and I were supposed to go to New York on Tuesday. Andrew was to attend a conference on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and I had received permission from my firm to go to New York, too, and to work out of the firm’s New York office.

On Sunday afternoon, Andrew took ill. As things turned out, he had come down with influenza.

Andrew has not yet decided who is to blame for his travails: my sister, visiting us last weekend from Chicago, where influenza has stricken; Tim, several of whose first-grade classmates have taken ill with influenza; or pianist Simone Dinnerstein, whose Sunday afternoon recital, according to Andrew, would have made anyone ill.

Andrew has been bedridden since Monday morning. In almost seven years, I had never seen Andrew sick until this week.

Andrew’s mother has come over every day this week to stay with him while I am at work, always to be at hand in case he needs something. She brings the dog, and she stays all day—and, late each afternoon, she even prepares dinner.

All week, when I have come home from work, my dinner has been ready—and Alex (who lives next door) joins us for dinner, as does Andrew’s father. As soon as dinner is over, everyone returns home, leaving me to look out for a patient who does little else but sleep twenty hours a day and drink a cup of hot tea now and again.

Andrew and I had tickets for several New York performances, and on Monday we gave the tickets to a friend able to make use of them.

Our friend had already arranged to take vacations days for this shortened workweek in order to resurface the floors of her condominium. When we had asked her whether her sister (who lives and works in New York) might want some or all of our tickets, her response was, “Let me see if I can use miles to get a reasonable last-minute fare to New York—if so, I’ll take the tickets myself, and go and visit her.”

And that’s precisely how things resolved themselves.

We had tickets for a Metropolitan Opera performance of Verdi’s “Otello”. The scheduled conductor was Semyon Bychkov, whom some persons believe has become good in the last ten years and whom we were eager to hear. The scheduled Otello was Johan Botha, a singer supposedly in possession of a glorious voice (but a singer not known as much of an actor). The scheduled Iago was Falk Struckmann, a fine Central European artist. The scheduled Desdemona was Renee Fleming, whom I have not heard. Although I am not an opera fan, I am sorry we missed “Otello”. I was actually looking forward to the performance.

We had tickets for three performances of New York City Ballet. It was to be our primary bout of ballet-going for the year.

One of the programs was to feature two rarely-performed high-modernist masterpieces I have never seen (current practice at NYCB is for the two ballets to be performed back-to-back on the same program): the Balanchine/Stravinsky “Momentum pro Gesualdo” (1960); and the Balanchine/Stravinsky “Movements For Piano And Orchestra” (1963).

The program also was to include the Balanchine/Stravinsky “Duo Concertant”, which I already know from a previous NYCB performance (and which NYCB will perform in Minneapolis in two weeks); a Jerome Robbins’s ballet without a musical score, “Moves” (1959), a ballet entirely new to me; and the Balanchine/Bizet “Symphony In C” (1947), which I have seen performed by Miami City Ballet.

The second of the programs was to feature a new Wheeldon/Bizet ballet, “Les Carillons”, premiered in January of this year; a repeat performance of “Moves”; and the Balanchine/Stravinsky “Stravinsky Violin Concerto” (1972), a seminal Balanchine masterpiece I have never encountered.

The final program involved three Balanchine/Stravinsky ballets: “Apollo” (1928), which I know from a Boston Ballet performance; “Agon” (1957), another high-modernist masterpiece I have not seen and which Andrew says is one of the most important works of art from the last 60 years; and “Rubies” (1967), which I have seen danced by Boston Ballet and Miami City Ballet.

Eight vital, essential Balanchine works, danced by the world’s finest ballet company: we shall miss everything. We both are very disappointed.

We also had tickets for two shows on Broadway: a new production of Ibsen’s “An Enemy Of The People”; and a revival of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, “Evita”—which, for inexplicable reasons, both of us had wanted to see.

We also were in possession of sixteen complimentary tickets to four different performances of a single program at the New York Philharmonic—we had four complimentary tickets for each night of this week’s subscription concerts.

The New York Philharmonic is papering Avery Fisher Hall like crazy these days for nights on which Alan Gilbert is on the podium. The organization is so desperate to get people into the hall that anyone and everyone can obtain unlimited complimentary tickets to New York Philharmonic concerts on Alan Gilbert nights.

We were almost certain NOT to use the NYPO tickets on account of principle. A couple of years ago, a summer music camp in Scandinavia founded and formerly run by this week’s NYPO guest artist had been quietly seized—it was first taken over, and later shut down entirely—by the musician’s national government on account of pedophilia allegations (for which the musician, his nation’s most prominent instrumentalist, has not been prosecuted). We had retained the tickets in the event we were to experience an unlikely change of heart and wished to see—and photograph—a Jerry Sandusky-like figure playing a musical instrument while Alan Gilbert beat time alongside.

Our friend who took our various tickets ended up throwing away all sixteen NYPO tickets yesterday. Her sister, who works for a Big Three Accounting Firm, had tried to give the tickets away at her office on Tuesday and Wednesday. There was not a single taker—not even for the Friday and Saturday night concerts.

Last night’s concert and tonight’s concert played to virtually empty houses, as one may see from numerous Twitter photos tweeted by concertgoers.

For instance, tonight a NYPO concertgoer tweeted a photo showing that the orchestra level was less than one-fifth occupied. A second concertgoer tweeted a photo showing that tonight’s left-side balcony boxes were occupied by only a handful of persons.

It was not a good night for Alan Gilbert.

Nor for pedophiles.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Nagasaki: 9 August 1945

Photograph of the bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. The photograph was taken from one of the B-29 Superfortresses used in the attack.


I have always viewed Truman as a monster because of his authorization of the use of atomic weapons. Only a monster—and a boob—would have approved the use of such an inhuman weapon at a time most military observers believed Japan was close to surrender.

However, the issue is a complicated one.

On July 29, Japan had refused to accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, issued by the United States, Britain and Russia, demanding Japan’s unconditional surrender on threat of “prompt and utter destruction”.

As a result of Japan’s refusal, the first atomic bomb was unleashed on Hiroshima on August 6.

And yet Japan, after Hiroshima, still refused to surrender—to the surprise of the West.

It was only upon the unleashing of a second bomb, dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, that Japan announced its surrender.

Many American military figures were appalled at Truman’s actions—and said so, publicly, for the rest of their lives.

Eisenhower, in particular, viewed Truman as a villain—and a boob—for using atomic weapons. Eisenhower displayed utter contempt for Truman for the remainder of Truman’s presidency—as well as throughout the eight years of the Eisenhower presidency that followed (eight years during which Truman totally disappeared from public view).

Truman’s place in history will be a black one.

His reputation, in the eyes of some, was partly rehabilitated by the foolish and unscholarly David McCullough hagiography—dismissed by one reviewer as “Harry Of Sunnybrook Farm”—that appeared in 1992.

Genuine historians, however, have not yet had a serious go at Truman.

Fresh appraisals will begin in another twenty years, perhaps slightly sooner.

It will not be pretty.


Still, without the mist, the rosy lenses, and the theme music, neither Truman's career nor his administration was quite so inspirational. He stumbled into politics after years of business failure, advanced by loyal service to a corrupt machine, became president by inheritance, unleashed the atom bomb without seriously considering alternatives, instituted a witch-hunt program within the federal government, proposed a doctrine that inspired decades of ideological crusades, involved the nation in a war with China that he could neither win nor end, and presided over the transformation of a political contest with communism into a global struggle for military supremacy that consumed the nation for the next forty years.

His record, like that of most presidents, was a mixed one, and it does no good either to our current politics or to a useful history to embellish him as a plaster saint. He was a decent man of limited talents who surmounted handicaps of temperament and parochialism to perform honorably in a job for which he was little prepared. It is a mark of our present distress that we have hoisted him to levels that he neither claimed nor deserved. Somewhere deep beneath the surface of Truman the icon lies another, more interesting Truman the man: angry, insecure, obstinate, ambitious, resentful, short-tempered, gutsy, determined, honest, shrewd, vain, and wily. But the key to that Truman will have to be found elsewhere than in the thousand pages of this genteel entertainment.

Ronald Steel, Professor, School Of International Relations, University Of Southern California (writing in 1992)

The Hillbilly Swedish Royals Are In Town

One of the hazards of living in the Western Hemisphere’s largest conglomeration of persons of Scandinavian descent is that the various hillbilly royals of Denmark, Norway and Sweden are prone to insist upon making periodic appearances here (Finland has no royal court).

The hillbilly Swedish royals are currently in town.

By and large, everyone has ignored them, although the Star-Tribune did publish one brief news article about the royal visit.

Andrew and I would have asked the Swedish royals over for dinner—but my sister is visiting this weekend, and we had other plans.

Friday, October 5, 2012

When People Don’t Do Well On Standardized Tests . . .

They are prone, in their stumbling travels through life, to make idiotic statements, eager at every turn to reveal themselves—into perpetuity—to be total boobs.

And then these very same individuals wonder why no one takes them seriously . . .


In a statement released Monday, American Federation of Musicians President Ray Hair denounced the [Minnesota Orchestra] lockout, describing the decision as an “ongoing campaign of economic terrorism that management is waging against the musicians of this great orchestra.”

“Economic terrorism”?

Mr. Hair appears to be the unfortunate victim of some cruel brain-cell-outflow disease that has now reached a critical stage.

Or perhaps he’s simply having a bad-Hair lifetime, one long-term effect of which is to have caused his brain to shrink to the size of a three-year-old’s.

Whatever the cause of his malady, I wish Mr. Hair all the best in finding a remedy for what clearly has become a most dire situation.


If you want to know who’s responsible for the contract stalemates with both major orchestras in town, [the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra], point your fingers at Rupert Murdoch, the Koch Brothers and every other hand twisting the screwdriver of economic conservatism.

Matt Peiken, “editor” of a website,, and former reporter for the Saint Paul Pioneer-Press (until his discharge from the latter publication), authored the above bit of profound foolishness.

A photograph of Mr. Peiken appears on the website.

The photograph explains everything. Any further comment from me would be superfluous.

I would reproduce the photograph here as a courtesy to readers, but to do so would be a violation of Blogger’s “Terms Of Service”. I agreed, in setting up my Blogger account, not to publish offensive materials, including offensive photographs.

The photograph of Mr. Peiken is very, very offensive.


When asked what might be an ideal piece for the show, [Anthony Ross, Principal Cellist of the Minnesota Orchestra], smiled wryly.

"Shostakovich Five?” he said. "You know, there was so much great art that came out of Russia when Stalin was abusing its population. Do we feel abused? Maybe.”

Ah, there’s nothing classier than comparing the annihilation of tens of millions of innocent persons by one of the 20th Century’s greatest monsters with the actions of the Minnesota Orchestra Board Of Trustees, is there, Mr. Ross?

You certainly know how to keep things in proper perspective!


And I hope never to see you again on the stage of Orchestra Hall, Mr. Ross. Your presence would soil the very ground on which Orchestra Hall rests.

Perhaps, at long last, Mr. Ross, it is time for you to move on to a position more in keeping with your talent level? And allow a better musician and better instrumentalist to occupy your chair? The Minnesota Orchestra is in dire need of a fresh infusion of talent. It surely is unnecessary for me to have to point out to you, Mr. Ross, that such ensembles as the Cleveland Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony put the Minnesota Orchestra to shame.

Might I suggest, Mr. Ross, that you look at the Toledo Symphony? Or the Tulsa Philharmonic? If necessary, I would be happy to recommend additional ensembles suitable for your particular—and limited—skill set.

No matter where you end up, Mr. Ross, please move on—and please do so without delay.

I would never be able to attend another Minnesota Orchestra concert with you onstage.

You are vile.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Musicians Of The Minnesota Orchestra Take A Daily Pasting In Star-Tribune Comments

Wow, I had no idea how much they make! Maybe I should have paid more attention in band class!


So it turns out being a harpist isn't the fast-track to a six-figure income? Amazing!


Well, on the upside, we'll finally get to meet these prima donnas when they bring us our next pizza. There is a major gulf between employed, professional musician and unemployed oboe player.