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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Sunday, 30 November 2003

Topic: Music
New Jazz Releases the week of November 25, 2003 from Billboard Magazine
Comments? Mine are in Just Above Sunset at This Week's Music Notes

Posted by Alan at 08:42 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 9 December 2003 13:43 PST home

Saturday, 29 November 2003

Topic: World View
An interesting take on things as seen from Bangladesh ...

It's not anti-Americanism, it's anti-Republicanism
Zafar Sobhan, Assistant Editor of The Daily Star
The Daily Star (Bangladesh) 21 November 2003

After a discussion of the politics of Dennis Miller and Charles Krauthammer, and a discussion of the Krauthammer piece in Time Magazine: The US Gets No Sympathy. Should It Care?, this fellow explains a bit.

Krauthammer: "The fact is that the world hates the US for its wealth, its success, its power. They hate the US into incoherence. The search for logic in anti-Americanism is fruitless. It is in the air the world breathes. Its roots are envy and self-loathing -- by peoples who, yearning for modernity but having failed at it, find their one satisfaction in despising modernity's great exemplar."

[ The Krauthammer Time piece - November 17, 2003 - To Hell With Sympathy. The goodwill America earned on 9/11 was illusory. Get over it. - is no longer available on the net. ]

Well Krauthammer pretty much dismisses out of hand the notion that anyone could conceivably have a legitimate grievance against the US or have a problem with the way it conducts its foreign policy. The only possible reasons he can see for dislike of the US are the envy and self-loathing of all those losers in the world who are just sick with jealousy that they have failed where the US has succeeded. Yes, the position of my conservative friends.


The America that most people dislike is the America that is arrogant and xenophobic and says to hell with the rest of the world.

It is the America that conducts its foreign policy in a tone that seems calculated to offend and has nothing but disdain for world opinion.

It is the America that dismisses all criticism of America as the product of envy and self-loathing.

In short, what most people dislike is not Americans so much as it is the attitude that is embodied by a certain kind of American. And this certain kind of American has found a home for the past half century in the Republican party.

Now, this is not to say that all Republicans are rabidly anti-foreigner. But the party does pander to the electorate's basest instincts and just as it is home to the bigots and racists and homophobes so it has also opened its arms to the arrogant and intolerant xenophobic America-firsters who despise anything non-American and feel that the US should do as it pleases and not be constrained by opinion beyond its borders.

It is this kind of American that most people around the world have a problem with.

Most people have no grievance against the US as a country per se or Americans as people in general. Bill Clinton was hugely popular around the world because he embodied a face of the US that people found reassuring, and, not coincidentally, America's stature in the world was never higher than during his presidency.

Under Clinton people felt that the US saw itself as a part of the world community. Under Clinton people felt that the US respected world opinion and that it could potentially use its massive power for the common good.

But the kind of American I am writing about wants nothing to do with what Krauthammer contemptuously dismisses as "the Clinton administration's hyperapologetic, good citizen internationalism."
And it is this attitude -- not being American per se -- that people around the world don't like. It is the Republican mind-set that pours scorns on multilateralism and sensitivity to world opinion and takes comfort from the bullying and the bluster of the Bush administration.

It is important to make this distinction between anti-Americanism and anti-Republicanism. If the sole problem the US faced in the world today were the anti-Americanism of those who are filled with envy and self-loathing, as Krauthammer imagines, then he would be correct in his belief that there isn't much Americans can or should do about it.

But that's not the only problem. The US is facing a huge problem of lack of support in the twin wars it is waging against al-Qaeda and in Iraq, and if it wants to win these wars then it needs as many people on its side as it can possibly muster. If it takes the attitude that people who are opposed to it are opposed to it through blind hatred then it will never make the adjustments necessary to win people over.

To win hearts and minds, the US must understand that many of the people who oppose it are not anti-American but merely anti-Republican, and that it would not be difficult at all to enlist their help. All that is necessary is little less hubris and a little more respect.

It must be nice to live in as simplistic a world as Krauthammer's. It must be nice to be able to determine that if no one likes you then it is their fault not yours. It must be nice to be so certain of your own rectitude and so contemptuous of others that you never have to question yourself or your own actions.

But the problem with this attitude is that it precludes the possibility of anything ever changing and is ultimately self-defeating. It isn't a particularly helpful or illuminating perspective to take if one is truly serious about addressing so-called anti-Americanism.

Really? I thought they hated us just because they hated us.

Let's see, from the left... this is a worry. From the right... what a bunch of whining losers!

Posted by Alan at 21:53 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 9 December 2003 13:53 PST home

No blogging at present...

The weekend is given over to production of the next issue of Just Above Sunset.
Volume 1, Number 25
Sunday, November 30, 2003

That will hit the web - well, it will be posted online - late Sunday evening.

Coming soon:

Posted by Alan at 17:15 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 29 November 2003 18:37 PST home

Friday, 28 November 2003

Topic: The Culture
A bit more on the gay marriage issue...

I'm not a fan of George Will, the somewhat dyspeptic (ill-humored) conservative (not neoconservative) columnist. But he speaks often of baseball and writes about the game, so he has at least one other side to his soul. In this Sunday's Washington Post he has a column on the gay marriage stuff that is quite good.

Here's the link:

Culture and What Courts Can't Do
By George F. Will
Sunday, November 30, 2003; Page B07 of The Washington Post

Will opens with this:

When Massachusetts' highest court asserted that same-sex marriage is a right protected by the state's constitution and entailed by recent U.S. Supreme Court reasoning about the U.S. Constitution, the president vowed to "do what is legally necessary to defend the sanctity of marriage." His vow implied two empirical premises for which conclusive evidence is lacking.

One is that law can do what the culture - immensely powerful and largely autonomous - has undone.

The other is that the social goods and individual virtues that marriage is supposed to buttress are best served by excluding same-sex couples from the culture of marriage, lest that culture be even more altered than it recently has been.

More than 40 percent of first marriages in the United States end in divorce. Cohabitation by unmarried heterosexual couples has risen rapidly, from 523,000 in 1970 to 4.9 million today. Procreation outside of marriage, although the seedbed of millions of individual tragedies and myriad social pathologies, has lost much of its stigma now that 33 percent of births -- including about 60 percent of births to women younger than 25 -- occur to unmarried mothers.

So the "sanctity" of American marriage is problematic. ...

Well. That got me thinking. How many laws do we have that were developed to "do" what the culture has, in fact, pretty much undone? I'll have to think about that. Certainly such laws are often proposed. Some are enacted into statutes that are enforced. One might think of America's great experiment with prohibition in the last century. People were drinking. Tell them they can't. Didn't work out.

Much of the law regarding marijuana is, similarly, an attempt to lock the barn door after the horse has run off - as the stuff is widely and generally used - and the efforts by the Republican right to use federal law and the full force of the federal government to trump state law in any state anywhere that seeks to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes strikes me as a type of the same foolishness. And I am by no means a big "states rights" kind of guy. It just seems to me like spitting in the wind. People know better - at least most people do. Yeah you can make it illegal. Won't do much good. People will use it. Marijuana is, under federal law, a Schedule One narcotic - just like heroin. Oxycontin, the "hillbilly heroin" that got Rush Limbaugh is such trouble, is a Schedule Two. Go figure.

As for gay marriage, we can indeed pass a Constitutional Amendment to overturn what happened in Massachusetts, and what might happen in other states, with a federal change that overrides such "local decisions" - and thus make "gay marriage" entirely illegal. But I suspect gay couples will still commit to each other, and form households, and make do with what they can arrange by way of fiddling with the system. It's a pain to work around the tax and insurance and inheritance issues, but people manage. And many of us will still recognize these two particular folks are together and wish them well, and treat them as one would any friends. A good number of people will shrug at the "illegality" of the "committed relationship," just as they shrug at a number of other laws.

Consider that a mild form of "civil disobedience" - one just simply refuses to take a blue-nose law about what is "moral" very seriously. You do what you feel is right. And you are careful to avoid notice - and keep out of confrontation and trouble. And you work quietly to get the law changed, or let it implode from its on weight (its inherent mixture of profundity and absurdity).

[ Recommended Reading: Alexander Pope (1688-1744) Peri Bathos: On the Art of Sinking to the Profound, 1727-28 ]

George Will goes in another direction:

Amending the Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman would be unwise for two reasons. Constitutionalizing social policy is generally a misuse of fundamental law. And it would be especially imprudent to end state responsibility for marriage law at a moment when we require evidence of the sort that can be generated by allowing the states to be laboratories of social policy.

Opponents of same-sex marriages argue inter alia that such marriages will weaken marriage and injure society's interest in stable family units. Proponents argue inter alia that giving same-sex couples the choice of marriage, with its presumption of permanence expressed in a network of responsibilities and privileges, will reform not only homosexual life but society as a whole by strengthening the virtues that marriage is supposed to sustain.

Evidence is inadequate to confirm either proposition.

Yeah, yeah. We see this. So?

George Will then goes on to get really quite upset about polygamy. I'm not sure how he got there, of all places. Maybe that's logical. Add a comment if you follow what he's up to.

Try the whole thing. It's a good read.

Posted by Alan at 21:52 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 9 December 2003 14:26 PST home

Topic: Oddities
You saw it here first! Well, maybe.
France's art world is in a flap!
Claude Monet's legendary "Water Lilies" causing trouble once again!

Odd news from l'Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Sudden Archeological Find Near Louvre Upsets Monet Museum Renovation
PARIS, Nov 28 (AFP) -

France's art world is in a flap. The discovery of a massive 16th century wall buried under the Tuileries gardens flanking the Louvre, has halted a vast and costly scheme to revamp the old Orangerie museum in order to give Claude Monet's legendary "Water Lilies" a better home.

The Orangerie, set in an obscure corner of the Tuileries gardens by the Seine, was closed in 2000 and due to reopen late next year after a 25-million-euro facelift aimed at putting Monet's mammoth works back in the limelight -- precisely by giving them new light.

The museum, originally a 19th century hothouse for oranges, was to be given a newly refurbished glass roof and galleries for the "Water Lilies" as well as freshly-dug underground exhibition space for its other prestigious collections.

But workmen scraping away to clear room for the new underground space last August hit a major obstacle -- two metres (six feet) sticking out of the ground of a fortified outer wall almost three metres (nine feet) thick that is 59 metres (yards) long and a total seven metres (21 feet) high.

"L'horreur!" (Horror!) reportedly exclaimed museum curator Pierre Georgel, who was forced to suspend the works the following month pending a decision by the authorities -- expected by year's end -- on whether to maintain or to raze the wall.

All the details at the link provided, of course...


Monet was over 80 and losing his sight when he put the finishing touches to the eight giant panels making up the "Water Lilies" in the early 1920s, works inspired by his water garden at Giverny, outside Paris.

Hailed by critics as the culmination of his life's work, he donated them to the French state to celebrate the victory of World War I.

The government in turn offered Monet a special museum to house them -- the Orangerie -- placing the panels in two spacious oval galleries opening onto the gardens, with natural light pouring through the glass dome overhead.

But in the 1960s, the Orangerie was given one of the most fabulous private collections in existence -- the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume collection comprising 144 works by Cezanne, Renoir, Rousseau, Matisse, Picasso, Derain, Utrillo, Modigliani, Soutine and others.

The donation however was made on condition it be exhibited permanently and in its entirety at the Orangerie. So a concrete floor was put in above the "Water Lilies", shutting out their sun but providing an extra floor of space for the new treasures.

Visitors from 1965 thus had to go upstairs first to see the Walter-Guillaume collection before descending to see the former centre-piece of the museum, the Monet panels, deprived of natural light and airy exit-ways, relegated to a kind of backstairs second-best position.

Oh well.

Posted by Alan at 16:53 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 9 December 2003 14:30 PST home

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