Sunday, May 29, 2011

Beethoven's Fidelio

Whenever you read about Fidelio, it is invariably followed by the words "Beethoven's only opera." For years I thought the piece was titled Fidelio, Beethoven's Only Opera. Just kidding.

Recently a friend sent me a wonderful gift: a DVD of a live performance of Fidelio. I am embarrassed to admit that I had never even heard the music, much less seen a performance. Well, this DVD has filled the deficit, and in a thrilling way.

This is more than only a splendid production, but it is that. What an eye-opener for me.

The story takes place in Beethoven's own time, the early 19th century. I'll simply copy the program notes from the booklet accompanying the DVD:
Leonore, wife of the high-born Spanish state official Florestan, believes that his sudden disappearance two years earlier was the result of political machinations which he was determined to expose. Florestan's friends, among them the Minister of State Don Fernando, are convinced that he has been murdered by his enemies, but Leonore refuses to accept this, despite its near certainty, and goes in search of her missing husband.

The few remaining clues have led her near Seville, to a state prison, whose governor is Don Pizarro. Leonore suspects that it was Pizarro's crimes that Florestan was intending to reveal. With no one to help her, led by instinct, courage and her unshakeable love for Florestan, she has managed to gain admittance to the prison: disguised as a young man, named Fidelio, she has persuaded the jailer Rocco to take her on as his assistant. 
That is not, of course, the end of the story. Leonore/"Fidelio" insinuates herself into the confidence of the jailer, Rocco, and eventually manages to free her imprisoned husband, whom Don Fernando marked for death, as well as other political prisoners in the stony depths of the underground cells.

I've often heard and appreciated Gundula Janowitz on recordings; Karajan cast her several times. But it never got through my head that she was an opera star, a singing actress. Probably her voice was a little past its prime in this 1977 staging, but it is still fine, and she characterizes the role movingly.

I've also heard René Kollo (who plays Florestan) on recordings, never saw him. He, too, is impressive as the devastated prisoner who is on the verge of his last breath, resigned -- perhaps -- never to see his loving wife again. The supporting roles, including Lucia Popp as Marzelline, the jailer's daughter, are well sung and played.

Leonard Bernstein conducted this performance in Vienna. I've always found him exhilarating and annoying in almost equal measure. His immense musical talent can't be denied, and sometimes it works in favor of the music, sometimes only for showing off and interpretative eccentricity. This is a video, so you get to see his podium histrionics. For me, they are entertaining and sometimes enhance the mood, sometimes  over the top. But I have no complaints about him here. He does the score proud.

I have to confess I've never thought much of Beethoven's music for voices. It's been a while since I've heard his Missa Solemnis, and I guess it says something that I've not been keen to revisit it. Maybe I just haven't heard the right performance. As for his famous choral finale to the Ninth Symphony, give me a break. It's high-class circus music. People go bonkers for it because of its "message."

Yet ... hearing the quartet early in the first act involving Marzelline, Leonore, Rocco, and Marzelline's admirer Jacquino, it was clear that Beethoven could command multiple voices as brilliantly as Verdi, Puccini, or ... even Richard Strauss!

It was obvious to me even on first viewing that Fidelio is a masterpiece, and not only because of its sonic beauty. I'm not an opera buff, so I could be wrong about this, but this is the only opera I know that goes beyond, way beyond, the conventions of any music drama before or since. This isn't another retelling of a story from classical antiquity, of the sort that was popular in the 18th century and well into Beethoven's time. Nor is it a melodrama of sexual passion in the later Italian/French mode. 

Beethoven won't settle for that. He deals with the timeless themes of human life. Injustice. Freedom. The loyalty and love between a man and woman.

The scene where the prisoners are briefly allowed out of the dark cavernous cellar where they have been chained for what must have seemed forever to them, to briefly taste sunshine and space so long denied them before being returned to their confinement, is enough to rake your heart with pity. As is their ultimate liberation.

I emerged from this immersion into a great work of art with a new appreciation of Gundula Janowitz, René Kollo, the Vienna State Opera, and Leonard Bernstein. As well as, of course, Beethoven.

Oh, and I had never realized that the accomplished Slovak soprano, Lucia Popp -- who died long before her time should have been up -- was so cute.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Faceful of Lies, continued yet again

I have no Deep Thoughts about any of the disasters, present and in the foreseeable future, that should occupy a serious blogger. Therefore it is your misfortune -- and I hope nothing worse comes your way today -- that this posting resumes A Faceful of Lies, an account of the latest case of private detective David Pflug. Earlier episodes can be deplored here and here.

Chapter II

Anne-Lisa Cato and I parted on the best of terms, with her check for my extravagant retainer fee in my desk drawer -- even I wasn't gormless enough to take out my wallet and stick it inside -- making me feel like a Person of Substance. We had concluded our interview with my probing for more information about her late husband Sigismondo and his executive secretary who, according to Anne-Lisa, was also his very personal assistant. Nothing very helpful turned up but it gave me a chance to share another pour of Côtes de Fort Lee '99 and survey her ferociously lovely eyes.

There was still the matter of whether to address her by her first or married name. It was like the French trying to decide whether the tutoyer moment has come around. Well, why not, this isn't a Henry James novel. "Anne-Lisa, where can I touch you -- I mean, get in touch with you?"

If she noticed my gaffe, she didn't give any sign. Nor did she draw herself up like a cat stretching after a nap and say, "You can call me Mrs. Cato if you like." She said, "The phone number, and even the address, are on the check I just signed. You'll probably remember to remove it from the desk. If you don't, you're not the man I take you for."

Was that a compliment to my powers of recollection or a dig at my shameless money grubbing? By the time she and I would conclude our business (pleasure?), I expected to be able to update William Empson's Seven Types of Ambiguity with new discoveries.

Just to make sure the information would be secure, I took the check out and wrote down her address. Not surprisingly, she dwelled on the East Side in the 70s, where the condo doormen deliver their best Christmas-bonus smiles to residents. I understand they no longer carry whistles to summon taxis, but use these new phone cell things.

So far my only lead was the alleged suspect, Olympia Fibonacci. Wait a minute. A suspect doesn't have to be "alleged." Suspect contains the built-in uncertainty. "Alleged suspect" is as redundant as "potentially dangerous." And as I was to learn in time, this suspect was potentially very dangerous.

There were 14 Fibonacci numbers in the Manhattan phone book, none prefixed by "Olympia," or even "O." The online White Pages gave me an additional three Fibonaccis. To judge strictly by addresses, at least half seemed unlikely as the setting for a love nest where a president and CEO would frolic with his mistress. I called all 17 numbers anyway. Got 17 answering machines with no names in the greeting, just a welcoming, resigned, or surly voice reciting the phone number and allowing a message to be left. Manhattan isn't a place where people run to answer their phones themselves, or give out classified information like their names.

Well, they don't call me a detective for nothing. Except "they" don't call me anything usually. I call myself a detective. I picked up my desk phone and rang a guy I knew on the force, an official detective, the kind with a badge attached to his belt. The phone rang a long time before someone answered. This soon after what people were starting to call "nine-eleven" the police were as busy as juggling octopi, fielding calls from distraught relatives desperately hoping for some news about their relatives who'd been in the Twin Towers and other problems connected in one way or another with the attack.

Eventually I was connected to Detective Bentley Yugo, who made a costly effort to be polite though his voice revealed an aggravated assault on his nervous system. "David," he said. "You okay? Your office is only a few blocks from the towers, isn't it?"

"Actually, I was on the 91st floor of the South Tower when the plane went in," I said. "Luckily, I'd brought my parachute with me. Like to keep it handy, you never know. Still, the air around my office -- "

"You must be breathing in more people than you've bought drinks for in your life. Look, I gotta million things ... what's up?"

"Bent, I'm looking for a woman -- "

"You and me both, pal. You heard me and Marilyn have irreconcilable differences, she says? The main difference is, she wants more money than I got, ha ha."

"No, no, I'm talking about a professional -- " 

"Jeez, David, your social calendar's not exactly full, huh?" I wondered if he ever let anyone finish a sentence. New York. Time is money. Even if you don't have much money, and no one has time. "All right, listen, I'm up to my eyeballs but I owe you a couple favors so I want to wipe the balance sheet clean 'cause I don't like owing nobody. You'll owe me for this, big time.

"I know this place, classy like, almost in Gramercy Park, where they specialize in Korean-Italian broads. Best of both worlds, you know what I'm sayin'? Only Korean-Italians, and they'll show you a time you'll remember even after they've read you the last rites and put you in the ground. You gotta have a reference like, but I'll introduce you."

He probably would have warmed to his subject even further if the post-9/11 turbulence wasn't raging in his patch. It took a few more sentence fragments but I finally made him understand I was looking for a woman called Olympia Fibonacci. No, as far as I knew, she was not a Korean-Italian. Just a name in a case I was working on. He didn't have time to be curious about details.

Detective Yugo promised to use the search capabilities of the New York City Police Department for finding what he could about Olympia Fibonacci. "If she ever stepped on a street in New York, even Staten Island, ha ha, I can serve her records up for you like the Blue Plate Special."

And, within a couple of days, he did. That was when trouble really started.

To be continued sometime


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Deconstructing Frankenstein's president

Al-Obama is a genial fellow. He has the best interests of the world at heart, he's a friend to all mankind, excepting only the United States and Israel.

That invites an obvious retort, that he was not elected president of Israel. True. And I'd be the last to argue that Israel has the right to unqualified admiration or support. But it has the right to exist.

This week al-Obama sent a message to the Arab world that the U.S. was pitching Israel over the side. And like it or not -- I don't -- Israel probably cannot survive without U.S. backing. Despite a capable, even fearsome, military and nuclear armamentarium, Israel is surrounded by billions of people who have no place for it on their maps.

Not that al-Obama wants to pull out of the Mideast Destruction Derby. The International Business News notes:
The Obama administration announced last November it is seeking a massive $60 billion, 20-year weapons sale to the Saudis, which would reportedly include 84 F-15 fighter aircraft and almost 200 helicopters, as well as trainers, simulators, generators, spare and repair parts, and other related elements of program support. And yet Saudi Arabia is indisputably an authoritarian regime.
There is no elected parliament, public protests are banned, and the media is controlled by the state and has maintained a very poor human rights record. Human Rights Watch summarized the situation in its annual report: "Authorities continue to systematically suppress or fail to protect the rights of nine million Saudi women and girls, eight million foreign workers, and some two million Shia citizens. Each year thousands of people receive unfair trials or are subject to arbitrary detention. Curbs on freedom of association, expression, and movement, as well as a pervasive lack of official accountability, remain serious concerns."
In 2008, Americans elected a mystery president with a hazy past, a staunch record of courageously voting "present," and a gift for extravagant, empty rhetoric. It no longer has that excuse for failing to see him as he is.

Al-Obama's opponents have often described him as a blank screen on which the populace could project whatever they wanted to see. Fair enough, but the Frankenstein metaphor is just as apt. In Mary Shelley's famous novel, you will recall, Dr. Frankenstein was gaga to "bestow animation on lifeless matter."

I do not know who the president's animators are -- a globalist New World Order group, a leftist cabal, or just plain old machine-politics string pullers. But he seems a perpetual work in progress, an assemblage of vague images floating around the American psyche, right out of a PBS documentary run every Black Heritage Month. Lincoln. George Washington Carver. W.E.B DuBois. Paul Robeson. Selma. To Kill a Mockingbird. King Luther Martin. All captured and glued onto a framed vacancy and given the spark of life by the captive-liberal mass media.

Once in a while, Dr. Frankenstein's creation assumes a life of its own, confounding the blueprint. Israel brings on those times. Even al-Obama's godlike builders may never have planned on this.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

No, but maybe


I thank the readers who responded to the previous posting, and hope even those who didn't choose to comment found it a useful mental exercise.

My answer to the question, "Would you support a 'temporary' dictatorship?" is no.

... Unless the only alternative becomes so extreme and pathological that there is nothing to lose -- for instance, a totalitarian leftist dictatorship. If it comes to that, then there are no good choices, and we must do what we have to and are risk what we are willing.

But while I don't think I underestimate the Left's domination of the centers of power and influence, we are not at that point.

As long as we still have the liberty to legally denounce and resist cultural Marxism, overthrowing the traditions of a free society is not the way to go, no matter how much a coup might promise to restore limited government within strong borders.

Our present liberal and neocon elites are wrong-headed and oppressive, but we are not without recourse. Much of our resistance will need to take new and imaginative forms; standard politics -- electoral campaigns, manifestos, petitions, "issues" -- isn't going to cut it. We must be revolutionaries, a tradition not unknown in these United States.

If it takes imagination and unorthodox strategies to restore the people's sovereignty against the statists and globalists, then so be it: we have to earn our liberty. When has it been any different? For some years after World War II, we thought we could take liberty for granted, and that's one reason we're in peril of losing it. There is no default option except becoming serfs who live by government regulation of every corner of our lives, with only the freedom to choose among brand names. If we have greater aspirations, then we must live them, not hire a dictator to set us right.

Besides, a dictator -- however much we might want to see him as benevolent or promoting our values -- is a politician. Like any politician, he will tell us what we want to hear and do the right thing so long as it serves him. As bad as things are today, when the powerful are malevolent, there are checks and balances, constitutional counter-moves. Once the established order of society is abolished, those are gone. Only power remains, with its inevitable accompaniments: intrigues, plots, factions, rebellions, ultimately degenerating into tyranny for the dictator's self-protection.

No to cultural Marxism. No to population replacement. No to politicians herding minorities into a welfare plantation. No to demented military actions with impossible self-imposed rules. No to buying the world's friendship. We are better than all those. And despite our disorganization, our confusion, our disagreements, our mistakes, and our fears, we are better than Caesar.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Would you support a "temporary" dictatorship?

This is a thought experiment and a gut check. Hypothetical, okay? Okay.

Historians will argue forever about whether Julius Caesar was a hero or a villain, probably because he was both. There isn't much doubt in my mind that the Roman republic was dysfunctional before Caesar's forces killed Pompey in the civil war and he became dictator. The republic was bitterly divided among the hereditary aristocracy of the Senate, an out-of-touch oligarchy; an often corrupt business class, the equites (literally, those who were rich enough to afford to ride on horses); and a lower class, the populares, frequently incited by reformers and demagogues.

Julius Caesar, as painted by Rubens

Rome's class warfare and political paralysis drove Caesar, a man of action (but also intellect) to doing what he felt he had to do to break the deadlock. He was not the first military leader to become a dictator; Sulla had done so some 40 years before and, probably to everyone's surprise, resigned his dictatorship, dismissed his legions, and left Rome to get on with its republican ways.


We will never know if Caesar would have done the same after satisfying himself that he had rearranged Roman affairs for the better. Ruthless he could be, but he was not the kind of fanatic we associate with the idea of a dictator today. Even Cicero, defender of the Constitution and Pompey supporter, could be charmed by Caesar, and Caesar didn't hold a grudge. In December 45 BC, four months before the Ides of March, Caesar (and 2,000 of his soldiers) dropped in on Cicero at his villa at Puteoli, where they talked about literature and philosophy. I feel sure Caesar would never have had Cicero murdered, as Caesar's slimy successor Mark Antony connived in.

If I haven't lost you already, you may be wondering if this is of purely antiquarian interest. What's wrong with antiquarian interest? We could use more of it. Anyway, no, I think it is relevant to our present purposes.


Today's United States is in desperate straits, not unlike the chaos of the last days of the Roman republic. We have problems, political, financial, and cultural, that it often seems no conceivable partisan maneuvering can solve. The political landscape consists of meaningless skirmishes along the front lines between the Evil Party and the Stupid Party, both concerned exclusively with keeping their own offices. They cater to lobbyists, ideologues, and ethnic grievance groups to win their support.

Meanwhile, we squander lives and billions of dollars in wars half a world away and cannot, will not, even defend our own borders against mass colonization by foreigners. If any political figure or group threatens the status quo, equal parts international corporations and political correctness, the bought and sold mass media instantly wheel into action to brand them as racists and extremists.

Let's say a modern Julius Caesar, disgusted to his back teeth, somehow engineers a coup d’état. He is in charge and you'd better believe it.


Here is his first speech to the nation:

"Ladies and gentlemen, many of you are upset. I don't blame you. This is not how our country is supposed to work. If there were some alternative, I wouldn't be in this position. But I am determined to restore the greatness of the United States while there is still a country to restore.

"I will rule for four years, the equivalent of a single presidential term. After that I plan to get in some gardening and catch up on my reading. Meanwhile, here is what you can expect.

"To begin, the immigration window is closed. We have more than 300 million people and don't need any more. We are as diverse as any country on earth and don't need any more diversity. As of this moment, the borders are borders. I am sending five divisions of the U.S. Army and Marines to replace the border patrol with orders to capture or kill anyone trying to enter the country illicitly. I feel confident that it will not be necessary to kill many border jumpers.


"We will have affirmative action for white people, to make up for the discrimination they have faced in the labor market for the past four decades.

"Our so-called school teachers, with rare exceptions, are going to be fired. They will be replaced by subject matter experts, not experts in educational theory. Our children are going to learn how to read and write and think before they 'express themselves.'

"According to my advisers' best estimates, at least 10 percent of those now working in the federal bureaucracy will retain their positions. If you have spent your career writing memos and drawing flow charts and are not sure you will be among that 10 percent, you might want to review your options.


"A word about foreign policy. First, we're going to mind our own goddamn business and stop trying to export democracy at gunpoint to the rest of the world. We're going to take care of our own people first and last. If Lower Bimbambong has a civil war or a famine or gum disease, Lower Bimbambong can deal with it. Probably a lot better than we can.

"There has been some unpleasantness with Muslim states and organizations. I am hitting the reset button. We start from scratch. Don't give us trouble, we won't give you any.

"I realize that there are departments within Islam that believe we are suckers, losers, pushovers. Based on the previous efforts to accommodate the world's bad boys, they have every reason to. However, those days are over. If there is any reaching out, Muslims will be reaching out to win our trust.


"Of course there will probably be some who want to carry on with the old games. Right. The first terrorist act on U.S. soil or causing casualties to U.S. citizens anywhere will draw a response. It may not be swift, but it will be sure. That first time, we will be sensitive to the feelings of the Arab Street. Perhaps 50 Tomahawk missiles addressed to the right targets.

"The next time, should there be a next time, it will be a little different. I will not reveal our reaction to a second terrorist attack. As they said when I was a youngster, 'That's for me to know and you to find out.' However, believe me: you do not want to find out.

"It's late. Why don't we all get some sleep? Good night."


Now, here's our little experiment.

Never mind whether you agree with our modern Caesar above. Rewrite the script to suit yourself. Make it your wish list.

Would you be on Caesar's side? If not, whose side would you be on?

What is your first, gut, reaction? Not what you think you ought to feel, but what you actually feel at the prospect of a supposedly temporary dictatorship dedicated to putting into action your own beliefs?

Over to you.


The posting vanishes

I was half through a new posting when Blogger went on the blink, and even though I had saved everything I wrote, it has now vanished. I'll rewrite it, or something like it (as Heraclitus said, you can never step in the same blog twice). But it could take awhile, as it was relatively elaborate.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gold strike in Ireland: private pensions

When Irish smiles are eyeing ... pensions.
Which thumb do you want, in which of your eyes?

There are not enough prosperous businesses to tax. Houses sit empty. Even government can't hire enough of the population to keep people off the dole. Where does The State turn for revenue?

In a move many distinguished paranoid conspiracy theorists predict will soon be standard operating procedure in the United States, the Irish government has shown the way. It has found its shamrock: private pension plans.

From An Roinn Airgeadais -- Ireland's Department of Finance to the non-Gaelic among us -- comes this announcement:
The various tax reduction and additional expenditure measures which I am announcing today will be funded by way of a temporary levy on funded pension schemes and personal pension plans. I propose that the levy will apply at a rate of 0.6% to the capital value of assets under management in pension funds established in the State.

It will apply for a period of 4 years commencing this year and is intended to raise about €470 million in each of those years. The levy will not apply to pension funds established here and providing services and benefits solely to non-resident employers and members. Further details regarding the proposed application of the levy are set out in the Summary of Initiative Measures.
Got that? If you are a son or daughter of Eire, your paycheck has been taxed at some rate that doesn't bear thinking on all your working days. Out of the pension you fondly trust to shelter yourself from the cold winds of old age, the government is going to help itself to 0.6 percent of that (annually, if I understand the statement). Only temporary, for four years. After that it'll be 1 percent. Then ... I don't have to paint you a landscape, right.

"Temporary" is defined, in the Official Government Dictionary, as "until we extend it." Well, it's a "levy" -- feel better now? Sounds a much sweeter note than "confiscation."
Unwilling to budge on the country's low corporate tax rate, Enda Kenny's Irish government has chosen to target pensioners for funds to grow the economy. Whether it turns out to be an example to other countries seeking alternative ways to raise revenues with aging populations is yet unknown.
Don't count on it being unknown in the United States past the next presidential election.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Occupation zone

Following surgery, an American woman in Oregon has begun speaking with various shades of a British accent.

As usual, the journalistic report doesn't even consider that anything paranormal (as distinguished from abnormal) could be involved. It's just "news of the weird."

Though she has not undergone a full battery of neurological tests, Butler, by all appearances, is suffering a rare disorder called foreign accent syndrome. The condition affects only about 100 people worldwide.
“When I talked to my doctor, he said, ‘There’s nothing wrong with you,’ ” Butler told Vieira. “No loss of motor skills, no problem with my eyes.”
Butler and her husband, Glen, are not only taking it in stride — they’re actually enjoying it. “We’ve had more fun with this than anything else,” Glen Butler said. ... Butler is in no hurry to see her distinctive accent altered. In fact, she sort of enjoys it the way it is. “It’s just like a new toy,” she said.
The TV interview above shows how our juvenile-mentality media reduce a tantalizing clue about alternative realities to a feel-good "bonding" story. And I disagree with the reporter who says that the two women are not really speaking in accents, just suffering from "speech defects."If they are suffering from speech defects, it is so only by definition.

As the video narration says, medical science has a simple explanation for foreign accent syndrome: brain injury. It's a "don't bother me" write-off, typical of our age's dominant paradigm of materialist reductionism. But think about it. What kind of brain event would cause a person to start speaking in a foreign accent? Or in Mrs. Butler's case, a brain event that can't be detected?


Granted there are possible explanations that don't involve paranormality. Psychiatrists, especially those with a psychoanalytic bent, might ascribe it to unconscious memories of foreign accents heard long ago and forgotten welling up into consciousness because of crossed wiring in the brain. Or, if the symptom seems to "take over," the diagnosis can be "multiple personality disorder" -- a name but not an explanation. 

It's theoretically conceivable that Mrs. Butler or the other plus-or-minus 99 people with the syndrome are faking. But it is hard to believe many would go to that much trouble for a few minutes of attention (which, apparently, is in short supply from orthodox scientists anyway), or that they could keep the sham going consistently for long.

Another possible -- and, I suggest, not unreasonable -- explanation is that some or all of these newly acquired foreign accents represent the influence of disembodied spirits manifesting through a kind of "open door" in minds that have been affected by a brain injury or abnormality.


Of course most people in our culture think that idea absurd, and that anyone who presents it a very cracked pot. If you believe that the universe consists exclusively of material forces acting on matter, including physical nervous systems, there is no place for spirits of those formerly living on earth or any other kind.

There is actually a great deal of evidence from psychical research for non-corporeal spirits, which on occasion do "drop in" and occupy the minds of the living ... sometimes far more completely than Mrs. Butler's. Here is where, as in other postings on this site about the paranormal, I run into the problem that understanding the evidence requires a willingness to be open-minded, and to take time and effort to study and evaluate the literature on the subject. And that is what skeptics, from the most hard-headed materialistic scientists to the "man on the street," will not do: why waste time on something so patently silly?


So I won't even try to "make the case," which would require a post so long that neither you nor I would have the patience for it. I'll give a few links for those who want to check it out for themselves.
Colin Wilson has explored the subject in several of his books, and he is no easy pushover for occult belief systems. I recommend him for a fairly succinct overview.

Although no ardent skeptic will take them seriously, most mediums believe
spirits can attach themselves to the living. While mediumship involves its own problems, and no one should naively accept everything that is said via mediums, the evidence from mediumship as a whole is worth factoring in.


And then there's as close as we have to the "smoking gun" -- the case of Lurancy Vennum of Watseka, Illinois. See
here and here. Or read the original report, by Dr. Stevens, who treated Mary Roff/Lurancy Vennum.

Many paranormal phenomena, like many cases of psychopathology, are extreme versions of things that happen to most people in milder form. (The obvious retort is that paranormal phenomena are psychopathology, but intellectual growth involves learning to make distinctions between superficially similar things.) Don't we all have moods come over us occasionally for no known reason? Behave sometimes in uncharacteristic ways ("He's not himself today")? It isn't necessary to be possessed by spirits to be influenced by them.

Happily, being occupied by a spirit or spirits usually lasts a short time, and even especially sticky spirits can be persuaded to loiter somewhere else if treated civilly.


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Paint the streets


"Nissan taxi deal will change look of New York City Streets," says the headline of a story in the Tennesseean ... Tennesseean? Nissan has a good P.R. department.
From Mexico direct to Manhattan, here comes a box-like taxi that could define the iconic yellow cabs of New York City over the next decade and beyond, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday as he announced that a Nissan minivan will become the city’s taxi of choice.
That jolly old Mayor Bloomberg, what a cut-up. Just the other day, he invited the world to come and re-settle Detroit.
DETROIT (AP) — Detroit should take a page from Lady Liberty and shine a beacon of welcome to immigrants as a way to overcome its severe population loss, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Sunday. ... Unlike many of America’s central cities, New York has seen its population inch up, thanks in large part to a steady influx of immigrants.
Perhaps His Honor might spare a thought about why Detroit is a ghost city, why all its productive citizens kicked up dust in their hurry to leave no themselves behind. And whether a wave of Third World peasants is the kind of gene pool to bring Notown back to life. He can't be bothered, though. He has the phrase "nation of immigrants" on repeat play and Emma Lazarus's doggerel is his Bible. This is one Lazarus that should not have been raised from the dead, assuming she wasn't brain dead from birth.

While waiting for Africa to kick start Detroit, His Honor can take comfort that at least New York's taxis will be Mexican immigrants.

Nissan/Mexico received the Bloomberg's seal of approval because of its attention to detail. The New York cabs will be equipped with features and options designed with the city's specialness and vibrancy in mind.

• Subtitles in 216 languages for immediate translation of drivers' speech.

• Specialized moving maps indicating the longest distance to the destination.

• Kwik-Kill™ cigarette smoke detectors for the passenger compartment.

• Pre-dented, pre-scratched body metal.

• Radio receiver with automatic tuning to hip-hop and salsa music stations.

• Runs on AAA batteries. Very slowly, but no matter; you know what cross-town traffic is like.

New York, New York. It's a hell of a town.


Monday, May 02, 2011

Bin there, done that


Brilliant, just brilliant. Congratulations to everyone involved in pronging Osama bin Laden. 

Since all the Western world's dhimmis will continue to insist he was only one of a small group of extremists, an affront to the Religion of Peace -- in other words, not a real Muslim -- it was inappropriate to give him a Muslim burial. An insult to good Muslims everywhere. I wish they'd sewn his body up in a pigskin and tossed it to a pack of hungry dogs, but you can't have everything.