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Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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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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Thursday, 18 March 2004

Topic: Music

More on Shostakovich and Stalin

As I see from my "hit counter" not many people read the piece in my magazine last Sunday on Shostakovich and Stalin. That's here.

Well, my friend Kevin, who wrote a few film scores himself, traded some email with me about Shostakovich and politics. The question really is this - what was the net effect of Stalin hammering Shostakovich so hard, for political reasons that had little to do music?

From Brian Micklethwait (London) writing in we get this.

Oh yes, Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Here's the core of why Uncle Joe actually did some good, according to Micklethwait.

Shostakovich was almost certainly a better composer after Stalin had given him his philistine going-over following the first performances of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, than he would have been if Stalin had left him alone. Although both are very fine, I prefer Symphony Number 5 ("A Soviet Artist's Reply to Just Criticism") to Symphony Number 4.

Had Shostakovich continued unmolested along the musical path he was traveling before Stalin's denunciation of him, I don't think he would merely have become just another boring sub-Schoenbergian modernist. He was too interesting a composer for that already. But I do not think his subsequent music would have stirred the heart in the way his actual subsequent music actually does stir mine, and I do not think I am the only one who feels this way.

Thanks to Stalin, if that is an excusable phrase, Shostakovich was forced to write what is now called 'crossover' music, that is, music which is just about entitled to remain in the classical racks in the shops, but which also gives the bourgeoisie, such as me, something to sing along to and get excited about. Shostakovich had always written film music as well as the serious stuff. What Stalin and his attack dogs did was force him to combine the two styles. He might well have ended up doing this anyway, but who can be sure?

What Stalin also did for Shostakovich was to make his music matter more. Thanks to Stalin (that phrase again!) every note composed by Shostakovich became a matter of life and death - while it was being composed, and whenever you listen to it.

Stalin turned Shostakovich into a kind of musical gladiator, a man who knew that every day might be his last. Not many composers get that kind of intense attention....
Everyone needs to be challenged now and then, it seems. Being attacked makes one respond, or might make one respond. And that response can be transforming.

Thus Michael Powell and the FCC might make Howard Stern into an important and insightful political voice in America.

Well, maybe not.

Posted by Alan at 18:41 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Photos

A note on having the right attitude...

When the morning sun comes through the window...

Los Angeles at 8:30 am local time
59?F Light Ground Fog
Feels Like: 59?
Dewpoint: 55?
Barometer: 29.95 in and steady
Wind: calm
Humidity: 88%
Visibility: 150 mi
Forecast High: 79? Partly Cloudy

Posted by Alan at 09:09 PST | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Wednesday, 17 March 2004

Topic: The Law

The law is what you say the law is...

In a companion piece to the item below regarding Dayton "Scopes Trial" Tennessee, one might note this.

LGBT Federal Workers Lose Job Protections
Paul Johnson, Newscenter Washington Bureau Chief - Posted: March 17, 2004 2:01 p.m. ET

Here's the scoop:

(Washington, D.C.) Gay and lesbians in the entire federal workforce have had their job protections officially removed by the office of Special Counsel. The new Special Counsel, Scott Bloch, says his interpretation of a 1978 law intended to protect employees and job applicants from adverse personnel actions is that gay and lesbian workers are not covered.

Bloch said that the while a gay employee would have no recourse for being fired or demoted for being gay, that same worker could not be fired for attending a gay Pride event.

In his interpretation, Bloch is making a distinction between one's conduct as a gay or lesbian and one's status as a gay or lesbian.

"People confuse conduct and sexual orientation as the same thing, and I don't think they are," Bloch said in an interview with Federal Times, a publication for government employees.

Bloch said gays, lesbians and bisexuals cannot be covered as a protected class because they are not protected under the nation's civil rights laws.

"When you're interpreting a statute, you have to be very careful to interpret strictly according to how it's written and not get into loose interpretations," Bloch said.

"Someone may have jumped to the conclusion that conduct equals sexual orientation, but they are essentially very different. One is a class . . . and one is behavior."

It is the first time that Bloch has explained his position on the issue of gay workers despite pressure from unions and Federal Globe an organization that represents LGBT government workers after the OSC began removing references to sexual orientation-based discrimination from its complaint form, the OSC basic brochure, training slides and a two-page flier entitled "Your Rights as a Federal Employee."

Bloch's position is a marked departure from how the previous special counsel, Elaine Kaplan, enforced the law. "The legal position that he is taking, that there is some distinction between discrimination based on sexual orientation and discrimination based on conduct, is absurd," Kaplan told Federal Times.

Bloch indicated that he may amend his position. He said he is initiating a review of the issue and plans to meet with the Office of Personnel Management and congressional staff to hear their opinions before making a final decision on how his office will handle complaints alleging sexual orientation discrimination. The review will not get completely under way until next month, when Bloch's senior legal adviser begins work, he said.

Bloch was appointed by President Bush to a five year term beginning in January.
Clear enough?

Because I am not gay - by nature I am actually rather morose and gloomy - I suppose this should not bother me. But it does.

The special counsel here is reversing the position of the federal government. You can be fired for being a homosexual - it's quit legal. The previous special counsel had it wrong? Guess so.

For the sake of argument, let's assume homosexuality is a condition one finds one simply has, like left-handedness or having red hair. That is to assume homosexuality is not something one chooses as a "lifestyle" - it is simply what is. Should "having that condition" be necessary and sufficient cause for dismissal from your job - even if having "that condition" alone is the one, and only, determining cause? It would seem so.

Well, it doesn't seem fair. But then again, homosexual folks seem to make the majority of mainstream, born-again Christian Americans very uncomfortable. Something must be done, they believe.

It seems to me we live in a dangerous world. There are the terrorists out to get us. Forty-four million folks are without health insurance. Thirty-five million folks live below the poverty line. Jobs are hard to get - the percentage of adults working is the lowest it has been in forty or fifty years. And there's global warming and AIDS (SIDA) and lot of things to worry about.

Worrying about gay marriages and spending time making sure we can fire folks for being born a bit different than John Ashcroft - or so I'm assuming about him - just seems pointlessly mean.

Or maybe I just miss the point.

Posted by Alan at 20:47 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: The Culture

Tennessee is such a nice place, really. Green mountains, deep valleys, lots of wide open space...

In the news?

Tenn. County Wants to Charge Homosexuals
Associated Press - Wed Mar 17, 1:37 PM ET

What this about?

DAYTON, Tenn. - The county that was the site of the Scopes "Monkey Trial" over the teaching of evolution is asking lawmakers to amend state law so the county can charge homosexuals with crimes against nature.

The Rhea County commissioners approved the request 8-0 Tuesday.

Commissioner J.C. Fugate, who introduced the measure, also asked the county attorney to find a way to enact an ordinance banning homosexuals from living in the county.

"We need to keep them out of here," Fugate said.

The vote was denounced by Matt Nevels, president of the Chattanooga chapter of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

"That is the most farfetched idea put forth by any kind of public official," Nevels said. "I'm outraged."

... Rhea County is one of the most conservative counties in Tennessee. It holds an annual festival commemorating the 1925 trial at which John T. Scopes was convicted of teaching evolution. The verdict was thrown out on a technicality. The trial became the subject of the play and movie "Inherit the Wind." ...
Oh well.

Over at Pandagon Jesse Taylor comments:

Is there some law that says every reactionary moron in America has to do a tour of duty in Dayton, Tennessee?

"Yeah, I was there in '78 when we tried to bar restaurants from serving Jews, man...those were the days."

"That's nothin'! I was there in '65 when we tried to get black people banned from public schools on account of their not being God's people!"


"Yeah, that's where I got this dent in my head from."
Tennessee is Bush country.

Posted by Alan at 16:57 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 17 March 2004 16:58 PST home

Topic: The Culture

Mel Gibson is NOT anti-Semitic after all.

And to prove Mel Gibson is not anti-Semitic - really?

Check out this Reuters item:

Mel Gibson: Hanukkah tale next?
Director of 'The Passion of Christ' admits fascination with heroism of the Maccabees.
March 17, 2004: 5:12 PM EST

Reuters reports Gibson says he is now "intrigued" by the revolt of the Maccabees. You know that one - the story behind Hanukkah.

Well, strange things happen when you appear on Fox News and chat with Sean Hannity. Gibson is quoted as saying to the pious and noble Sean, "The story that's always fired my imagination ... is the Book of Maccabees. The Maccabees family stood up, and they made war. They stuck by their guns and they came out winning. It's like a Western."

Huh? Well, maybe so. The background given is that the Maccabees led a three-year war, some two hundred years before the birth of Jesus, against Antiochus, a king who forced the Jews to worship what the Jews considered false gods. And this war led to the liberation of Jerusalem and rededication of the Temple that is celebrated in the Hanukkah holiday.

I'm not sure I remember a western much like that. But you have to give Mel the benefit of the doubt. He's a film guy. He makes lots of money. So if he thinks this is like a western, well, it must be like a western.

And the film he might make here could be epic, and bloody and gruesome. We're talking BIG box office, baby!

Reuters reports also that the Anti-Defamation League national director Abe Foxman is not impressed with Gibson's interest in Jewish history. His view? "My answer would be 'thanks but no thanks.' The last thing we need in Jewish history is to convert our history into a Western. In his hands we may wind up losing."

Jewish comedians.... Abe is channeling Woody Allen. But it is a good line.

So Abe doesn't like Mel, I guess. Or at least he doesn't trust him.

But Mel's film is doing great business. Mel gets the last laugh.


Oh yes, do check out the two best selling books from Sean Hannity.

Deliver Us from Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism

Let Freedom Ring: Winning the War of Liberty over Liberalism

A little light reading like this will make you love Mel.

Posted by Alan at 14:57 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 17 March 2004 15:02 PST home

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