Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Standing on a Soapbox in my Living Room

Today an obnoxious blog post showed up in my living room via my Facebook feed. A friend commented on a bit of detritus, and, voila, courtesy of the FB algorithm, there it was, staring me in the face. I see the headline ("I'm Done Apologizing for Israel") and I try to avert my eyes.  But it's too late. Somehow, when someone stands on a soapbox in my living room to make provocative statements, I feel compelled to respond.  I can't help it. Friends don't always appreciate it. They get all excited because I state a dissenting view when they share on FB; I speak up and they complain "why are you raining on my parade?"  Well, I say, because you are standing on a soapbox in the middle of my living room, that's why.  

Today's offender does not know me.  He probably means me no harm. Yet, surely by posting on the Internet, he must have known he was acting with reckless disregard that his provocation might show up in my living room and disturb an otherwise perfectly peaceful evening.   

He's a rabbi, this particular offender.  And not just any rabbi, but a rabbi recognized by Newsweek magazine as one of America's 50 most influential rabbis. He's from Berkeley; a self-professed "progressive" in favor of gay rights, gun control, pro-choice, and granting refuge to illegal immigrants.  He considers himself a spiritual leader.  So he says, when it comes to Israel, we might expect him to "react to Israel's military actions in Gaza with scorn and criticism."

Well, actually no.  Anyone who is awake and paying attention has surely noticed that lefty spiritual leaders in America these days are the most mindless, reactionary apologists for Israel on the planet.  If you haven't been paying attention, read Peter Binart's "The Crisis of Zionism."  So here's my first peeve with this rabbi on his soapbox in my living room:  for him to suggest that because he's a lefty I should expect him to be critical of Israel killing in excess of 630, and injuring in excess of 3,700 Palestinians in 10 days by bombing densely populated areas, means he is implicitly assuming that I'm a moron--that I haven't been paying attention.  

So, no, although annoyed, I am not surprised that this "spiritual leader" is sitting on his soapbox in my living room spouting the standard Israel apologist talking points:  (1) how can you say it's wrong for Netanyahu to bomb civilians--just look at the anti-Semitic chants at protests in Los Angeles, Paris, Antwerp, and Boston; (2) how can you say Netanyahu is over-reacting when Israel is treating wounded Palestinians in this conflict, when (just in the last 48 hours) Israel has let 10 tons of supplies into Gaza, when Israel has agreed to two humanitarian cease fires while Hamas has rained down rockets on civilians?  How indeed. 

For every anti-semitic chant last week in Los Angeles, Paris, Antwerp, and Boston, there have been chants of "death to Arabs" in Jerusalem.  Our "spiritual leader" does not deem this worth mentioning.  Contrary to what our "spiritual leader" says, of course, no Hamas rockets have rained down on civilians:  virtually all rockets have been intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome (developed with American aid and ingenuity and money, thank you very much) or have fallen on empty fields.  How can we be critical of killing 630 Palestinians and wounding 3,700 when Israel treats some of the wounded?  Really?  Our "spiritual leader" might benefit from reading the Thomas Mann short story Tobias Mindernickel.  It's about a highly disturbed fellow who mercilessly beats his dog, only to take great pity on him and nurture him lovingly back to health--repeatedly, until the dog finally dies, at which point the man is very sad.  

Why do we need to apologize for Israel's killing of Palestinians, asks the "spiritual leader," when Hamas is using building materials to build smuggling tunnels instead of schools? Isn't it o.k. for Israel to kill women and children and old people when Hamas has such obvious disregard for them?  "I am done trying to apologetically explain Jewish morality," says our spiritual leader. "I am done apologizing for my own Jewish existence."  He says "I have lost 20 of my sons in the last three days." He refers to IDF soldiers.  Soldiers who were party to the murder of 630 Palestinians, mostly non-combatant civilians. 

This is no spiritual leader, this is one of stout Cortez's chaplains. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Vision for Gaza

 On Sunday afternoon, July 20, 2014, the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco sponsored a “stop the sirens in Israel: emergency community gathering” to show solidarity with Israel.  Nearly 1,000 showed up.  The crowd marched nine blocks in festive, flag waving manner from the Jewish Community Center on California Street to the temple on Arguello, where they heard from rabbis, students, Dr. Andy David, Israel’s general consul to the Northwest, Congressman Jared Huffman, members of the Board of Supervisors, and others. 

There was a call from one speaker, without a hint of irony, that Hamas “stop the senseless killing,” and pious declarations by others that “not a single Israeli soldier would shoot if they had a Civilian in their sights; not one.”  The organizers were well prepared to stamp out dissent and disruptions.  Large lettered signs at the entrance warned that anyone disrupting the proceedings would be promptly escorted out, and a large contingent of security guards efficiently manhandled the four or five protesters from the sanctuary as they stood, at strategic intervals, to express their solidarity with Palestinians.  The crowd was prepared for this.  They jeered, hollered, and blew instruments that looked like a cross between a Shofar and a Vuvuzela to drown out what was said. “He’s an Arab; he’s obviously an Arab” an elderly man behind me remarked to his wife as one of the protesters was led away.  “Should we bet how many there will be tonight?” laughed one.  They did not hear the message the protesters would bring. They did not feel the pain or predicament of Gazans. 

The crowd was there to share the pain of Israelis.  And it’s true, sirens and rockets flying, are disturbing.  The rockets have larger range than in the past, and you never know when one of them will do real damage.  Yet, for now, there can be no doubt that the real victims are in Gaza.  Israelis have a ringside seat to the festivities, with beer and pretzels. 

 What does it all mean? No matter how we got here, no matter how this will eventually be resolved (and all conflicts come to an end), for now there is the stark fact of the rockets stockpiled and fired by militants from Gaza. Like hijacked airplanes, like suicide bombings, rockets cry out to be stopped.  Is there a vision for what comes next?

U.S. House Resolution No. 167, co-sponsored by Jared Huffman, and adopted by the House of Representatives on July 11, 2014 points out that the U.S. has provided $235,000,000 in fiscal year 2014 for Iron Dome research, development, and production.  Jared Huffman noted that this technology has granted considerable strategic latitude to Israel of how and when to respond to rocket attacks.  The fact that all rockets (surely it’s not just luck) heading for populated areas can be intercepted at will, means Israel can decide when and how to respond.  Huffman noted, carefully, that Israel has in fact shown considerable restraint in responding to rocket fire over past couple of years—until now.  It was a soft reminder that, perhaps, the option was there for Israel to continue not to respond. 

It’s worth noting that, assuming Israeli bombing has degraded 1/3 or so of the rocket arsenal, after 60 days of rocket attacks, the arsenal in Gaza would be effectively depleted.  There is no risk that this rocket barrage would go on indefinitely.  Had Israel stopped its bombing campaign and abstained from a land invasion into the densely populated areas, it seems certain that the rocket barrage would soon have ended.  Hamas would not fire at its current rate to the last rocket.  There is reason to doubt, therefore, the proposition that “of course” Israel must “do something” about the rockets.  It’s not at all clear that the killing of ~430 and injuring of ~3,000 to date is morally justified—and we’re only part way through.

Yet, even with the effectiveness of the Iron Dome, it is difficult to quarrel with action designed to stop a rocket barrage for days on end. If we put it in U.S. rocket/per capita terms, it would be like the U.S. absorbing 4,200 rockets per day: it’s hard to imagine we wouldn’t do something about this.  And so, morality aside, world leaders concede the point. 

Gabriel Scheinmann and Raphael Cohen have an article in The National Review on July 17, 2014.  They place Operation Protective Edge in the context of a very long war of attrition with the Palestinians. 

“While it may frustrate many, “mowing the grass,” as Israelis call it, is a strategy, just one for a different kind of war—a Long War. These conflicts are protracted and grueling battles of attrition. There are no quick political solutions. There are no big decisive battles. There are no victory parades. With this perspective, Israel’s ongoing operation is shaping up to be a solid victory in its extended campaign against Hamas on three counts. ….

Since its 2005 Disengagement, Israel has previously conducted three limited military campaigns in the Gaza Strip in order to quell rocket fire: Operations Summer Rains and Autumn Clouds in 2006, Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, and Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. Each operation led to an immediate and precipitous decline in rocket fire. ….
Israel, widely presumed to have a lower pain tolerance than Hamas, may now be able to win a war of attrition. To be sure, continued rocket fire still imposes a psychological, economic and human cost on the Israeli population. That said, by minimizing civilian casualties and limiting infrastructure damage, Iron Dome has leveled the battlefield.  ….
To date, Protective Edge can claim a modest series of victories, with the potential to achieve even more. Looking beyond the Palestinian arena, the operation serves as a deterrent to other terrorist groups poised along Israel’s northern and southern borders and Iron Dome’s effectiveness may cause Iran and Hezbollah to reevaluate their missile-centric strategies. Protective Edge may also cause the death-knell of the Palestinian unity government. These are solid, yet fragile, steps forward in a long war. It is easy to imagine how these gains can be reversed if Israel overplays its hand.

“Mowing the grass” will not produce singular, stunning victories, but it is a mistake not to recognize it as a distinct strategy—namely, attrition. Over time, by achieving modest gains, at an acceptable cost, and with wide international support, Israel can hope to exhaust Hamas. Attrition may not be crowd-pleasing, but it has kept Israel safe, successively neutralizing the airline hijacking, the suicide bomb, and perhaps one day soon, the rocket. As the unstated takeaway from Israel’s counterterrorism experience makes clear, tactics alone have actually served Israel pretty well.”

This raises the question, what comes at the end of this war of attrition against Hamas?  What does defeat of Hamas look like? Can Gaza hope to become a vibrant city state?  What kind of support would it need to succeed?  Would Israel and the world community come up with, say $3 billion/year, or more as needed?  If the Gazans stopped making rockets and set about to develop sophisticated infrastructure, develop industry, agriculture, I don’t think Israel would stand in the way. 

The annoying way Israelis have of putting this to Palestinians is to say: “If only you loved your children more than you hate ours….” Yet, it’s not totally crazy to ask why don’t Gazans devote themselves to building up a city-state.  Can visionaries be found for Gaza as a Singapore of the eastern Mediterranean?  Could such visionaries win out over the visionaries who are aiming to have Gaza join ISIS and conquer Israel?  Why not? 

For Gazans to accept defeat in a war of attrition with Israel, and to find the internal vision and leadership to build a shining City on the eastern Mediterranean would be a huge shift, perhaps on the order of Israel giving up on Zionism.  Yet, Gaza has gas reserves it could fight for in the ICC.  Gaza would be recognized as a separate state by the UN in a New York minute?  They would be able to marshal world support with the right non-corrupt leadership.  I know, it’s crazy.

Note, this has the usual solution backwards.  It separates Gaza from the West Bank, and says, perhaps, Gaza is easier to solve than the West Bank.  Perhaps Gaza becomes a separate state, and the West Bank becomes absorbed by Israel?  Crazy.

What Israelis need to recognize is they owe a great debt to Palestinians.  And they owe a great deal of empathy to Gazans for the challenge facing them today, empathy and understanding that was totally absent at the gathering I attended yesterday.   

Saturday, July 19, 2014


You bragged how once your men In savage mood,
Butchered some Saxon prisoners.
That was good!
I trust you felt no pity when they stood
Patient and cowed and scared, as
prisoners should.

How did you kill them?
Speak and don't be shy:
You know I love to hear how Germans die,
Downstairs in dug-outs. "Camerad!" they cry;
And squeal like stoats when bombs
begin to fly.

I’m proud of  you.
Perhaps you’ll feel as brave alone in no man’s land
when none can save or shield you
From the horror of the night
There’s blood upon your hands.
Go out and fight.  

I hope those Huns will haunt you with their screams
And make you gulp their blood
in ghoulish dreams

You’re great at murder.
Tell me, can you fight?  

Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)

And here is Samuel West reading the poem.  

This poem was censored and was known by a much tamer version for a long time.  I ran across it when Harry Brighouse linked it on Crooked Timber. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Operation Protective Edge and What I See When I Look at Hany Abu-Assad’s Film "Omar."

Standing on a traffic island in the heart of The German Colony in Haifa this spring my traveling companions and I met three high school sisters and their aunts from El Makr, an Arab town east of Akko. We jostled deferentially, taking pictures of the lights up in the Baha’i Gardens. Although El Makr is just a few miles up the road, this appeared to be a special outing for the girls.  Like us, they were tourists and we formed that quick and uninhibited bond that only travelers can experience.

The girls were eager to share. We spoke two, three times as we meandered past the cafes up David Ben Gurion Boulevard. They danced around the elephant in the street: “The Jews,” they said, “we have a problem with them.” It was not said with animus, but rather to hint at a central existential fact about their lives. 

A couple of days ago, as Israel and Hamas were slouching towards Operation Protective Edge the girls directed us to Hany Abu-Assad’s new film, Omar. “This explains everything,” they said in a Facebook message.  So we watched the film, and indeed, it explains much. 

The current tragedy playing out in Israel started with a reconciliation pact between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which Netanyahu hated and has tried to sabotage.  It appears that a rogue faction of Palestinian actors attempted to sabotage the pact from the Palestinian side with the kidnapping and murder of three Yeshiva students in the West Bank.  This was followed by a massive, overly broad crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank by the Israeli Defense Forces, the discovery and burial of the three dead students, a massive funeral, and a retaliatory abduction and murder of a 16 year old Palestinian boy in East Jerusalem by six soccer hooligan, religious nationalist zealots.  This was followed by rocket attacks from Gaza and retaliatory strikes from Israel. 

As of this writing, 80 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, many houses have been destroyed, and rockets have exploded over Tel Aviv, near Be'er Sheba, and up near Haifa--without any Israeli casualties thus far.  And they are just getting started.  As I watch this tragedy unfold, I can't help but think--this is the dynamic portrayed in the film Omar writ large.

Here is A. O. Scott’s sketch of the film in the NYT:

Amjad, Omar and Tarek, militants affiliated with the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, carry out a sniper attack on an Israeli military outpost. This … leads to a series of tragic and sometimes absurd events that ensnare everyone … in a web of conflicting loyalties and motives. … Arrested and imprisoned, Omar is told by Rami (Waleed Zuaiter), the Israeli officer handling his case, that he can either cooperate and inform on his friends or spend the rest of his life locked up far away from Nadia and everyone else he cares about. Though Omar tries to find a way out of this predicament, the Israelis are always a step ahead of him, and everyone back home assumes that he has already turned collaborator.

….Mr. Abu-Assad shows a world from which all trust has vanished, where every relationship carries the possibility — perhaps the inevitability — of betrayal and where every form of honor is corroded by lies. Omar grows increasingly dependent on Rami, and correspondingly suspicious of Tarek, Amjad and even Nadia. The future he had originally envisioned for himself, as a fighter in the Palestinian cause who could marry his sweetheart and take her to Paris on a honeymoon, comes to seem almost ridiculously naïve.

Omar is so completely trapped that it becomes difficult to imagine how his story will end, a narrative blockage that symbolizes the larger impasse in which Jews and Arabs, whatever their specific allegiances, now find themselves. “Omar” does not offer the promise of a just or satisfying resolution, a fatalism all the more devastating given its realistic methods and humane, understated performances. The film’s final scene feels shocking and abrupt, but also chillingly inevitable, consistent with the logic of a situation that defies all reason.

“Narrative blockage” seems like an apt metaphor. As Richard Falk has recently pointed out, no one has a narrative with enough plausibility to challenge the status quo. There is no agreement on strategic goals. For years now, the world community has paraded the two-state solution like a corpse. In the meantime, Israelis speak of “mowing the grass” and Palestinians feel trapped between suffering quietly or carrying out sniper attacks on IDF outposts like the protagonists in Omar, kidnapping the vulnerable, or launching ineffectual rockets from Gaza—which all seems to amount to the same thing, with predictably tragic consequences. 

Even absent a convincing narrative, however, there is the question of tactics for both sides. On the Israeli side, as Marc Ellis has noted, “mowing the grass” works. To the extent that Israel is satisfied with its military Spartan existence, there is nothing on the horizon to topple this state. Military power won’t do it, terrorism won’t do it, and it seems unlikely that BDS will get the job done either. Marc Ellis is not idly belittling the Presbyterian’s BDS resolution, and the fact that Noam Chomsky is muddled on the concept does not bode well.  But surely Chomsky is correct that meaningful sanctions by the U.S. or the UN are not in the cards any time soon, and BDS without the S doesn’t amount to much. If Israel ever decides it wants peace for real, tactics will change, but until then no outside force is on the horizon to make it change. 

What about the Palestinians? Do they have tactical options?  Looking at Omar it seems clear enough within the confines of that film that joining the Aksa martyrs brigade and killing one soldier in a sniper attack was a poor tactical life move on the part of Omar and Amjad. Tarek is a special case because he gets to enjoy some personal power for a while.  But none of them accomplish anything positive for Palestinians as a whole. What’s more, it’s clear they had no hope of accomplishing anything positive for Palestinians as a whole by what they did. It was an idiot move, plain and simple. Getting shot at while climbing the wall to visit your girlfriend, and being arbitrarily abused and forced to stand on a wobbly rock one-legged by roaming border guards, makes the choice understandable. It doesn’t make it better.

It was the Tareks in the West Bank that did the damage with the kidnapping and murder of three Yeshiva students.  By all accounts their goal was to undermine a working relationship between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. They have been spectacularly successful. It is the Tareks in Gaza that are firing the rockets. By all accounts the very purpose of their rocket attacks is to invite an Israeli invasion because sympathy for another 1,000 innocent Palestinians dead will raise the stock of Hamas, lower the popularity of the PA, and maybe bring the Egyptians back into the picture. These people are not Palestinian patriots. They are not freedom fighters. They are the few looking to enhance their power at the expense of innocents.

It's time to put an end to the open air prisons that are Gaza and the West Bank, but it's not going to happen while Hamas is intent on stockpiling rockets and firing them indiscriminately at Tel Aviv.  In the meantime, the Israelis are a much too-compliant tool in this cynical game. This Operation Protective Edge will do nothing to protect Israel, but it will work to provide an edge to the worst elements within Hamas. That’s what I see when I look at Omar.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Is There a Future for Jazz?

No matter what they say, the Bay Area jazz scene remains vibrant.  Between the Monterey Jazz Festival, Yoshi’s in Oakland and San Francisco, the Jazzschool in Berkeley, numerous middle school and high school jazz programs, the newly constructed $63 million SF Jazz Center,  house concerts, the SFJazz High School All-Stars program, college jazz programs, as well as the many smaller clubs and restaurants that host jazz, you can hear jazz of the highest caliber in the Bay Area.  

Some say "Yes, but not vibrant like it used to be!"  They say that in the 1950's there were two dozen thriving jazz clubs in the Fillmore area.  The queen bee of them all was the Black Hawk at Hyde and Turk, slightly aloof at the edge of the Tenderloin.  There, famous Jazzmen recorded albums, including Miles Davis, Cal Tjader, Thelonious Monk, Shelly Manne, and Mongo Santamaría.  Billie Holiday and Lester Young played their last West Coast club dates at the Hawk and the Modern Jazz Quartet played its first.  On any given night you could find Charlie Parker, Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Chet Baker, Vince Guaraldi, Stan Getz, Mary Stallings, Johnny Mathis, Art Blakey, Shorty Rogers, Art Pepper, Art Farmer, Gerry Mulligan,  Horace Parlan or Russ Freeman holding court at the Hawk.  Notable recluse Art Tatum played the Black Hawk in 1955.  San Francisco was a Mecca of Jazz.  Today, however, the few jazz clubs that exist are barely hanging on. 

Yet things are always in flux.  By 1963 the Black Hawk closed and the jazz scene had relocated to North Beach. There, along one block of Broadway from Columbus to Montgomery you could find the Jazz Workshop, Basin Street West, Sugar Hill, and El Matador.  Nearby at the Cellar (576 Green Street), Kenneth Rexroth and Lawrence Ferlinghetti were mixing up poetry and jazz.  But it was short-lived   Those places, too, are long gone; gone like Jack Kerouac, Ken Keasey, Neal Cassidy, Allen Ginsberg and the rest of the Beats.    

Bill Graham took over at the Fillmore and built an empire.  The Grateful Dead played 51 psychedelic concerts there between 1965 and 1969, and they played another 29 concerts at the nearby Avalon Ball Room.  Phil Lesh, a founding member of the band and their bassist for 30 years was a graduate of the Berkeley High School jazz program.  But the late sixties and seventies were not an era for jazz.  The Vietnam war, free love, cheap drugs, and rock 'n roll moved in.  

The number of Jazz venues where gigging musicians might earn a steady living is much diminished these days.  John Curiel, in a good article in KQED Arts a year ago points to pricey real estate as one factor.  But the main problem, surely, is a lack of demand.  

A few years back, Bobbi arranged a great gypsy jazz gig at a Persian restaurant on Lake Merritt in Oakland.  It paid $150/night and tips.  Pretty good pay ... great music.  But even after four years, there was no perceptible surge in customers at the restaurant on account of the music.  Paying $150/night to a jazz band is an expensive perk for the restaurant on the margin.  In this case it worked out to be mutually beneficial, sort of, only because just enough personal friends of various band members dropped by now and then to have a listen and have a meal and drink some wine.  This is not a "jazz" problem, however,... it's a problem shared by all genres, working musicians, and venues.  

It seems unlikely that those 24 jazz venues on Fillmore in the 50's were thriving because of the music.  It seems more likely that these were inexpensive eating, drinking, and socializing  establishments that thrived in a particular place and time where jazz fit in.  Were the establishments supported by eating, drinking, and socializing, or were they supported by the music? When the crowds went away, was it because the neighborhood changed, or was it because they liked jazz less?  These seem like a rhetorical questions. 

True jazz listening venues do lack an audience. Curiel, in the article linked above reports 30 appreciative patrons at the Savannah Lounge on Mission street taking in top talent flown in from Montreal.  It's not unusual to have similar numbers at iconic venues in New York City, he reported. Such numbers do not pencil out.  

So is there a future for Jazz?  I think the answer is "You bet."  Last night we had the pleasure to hear 17-year old Logan Kane and his "New Music Ensemble”, a Dectet, comprised of five of the Bay Area’s finest young jazz musicians and five classical musicians (arranged as a woodwind quintet) at the Jazz School in Berkeley.  The evening featured mostly original music written by Kane, the upright bassist in the video below, and a lovely longer piece, written by the piano player, Omree Gal-Oz.  Kane is the winner of two Downbeat Student Music Awards for composition.  Bobbi’s nephew, Zev Shearn-Nance, who is studying percussion at USC, anchored the group with inventive and captivating rhythms.   Here are Ken, Omree, and Zev closing out the first half of their concert with a fast Herbie Hancock John Coltrane piece.

The concert was part of the Berkeley Jazz School’s 2014 Rising Stars Summer Concert Series, which continues for the next three Saturdays, starting at 8:00 p.m. at the Jazz School in Berkeley.  Check it out!

This talent, of course, is not nurtured by a club scene.  It is supported by school programs, and parents who pay for private lessons and university conservatory programs.  The trick is, how will these kids make a living off the music when they are done?  In order to sell out venues like Yoshi's, Savannah Lounge, Zellerbach, or the SF Jazz Center they need an audience willing to shell out $100 plus for an evening to hear them.  This is a bigger commitment than nursing a beer at your local juke joint.  How will they build an audience to fill such venues?  And in the meantime, will there be smaller venues available where they can build a following, a reputation.  Will there be an audience to purchase recordings of such music?  

The new SF Jazz Center was built with large donations from our captains of industry.  It's the classical music model:  support from rich donors who want to be seen to be supporting the arts, even though they may not understand it. Curiel suggests that such donors and centers like the SF Jazz Center carry this one step further, that they provide direct support to clubs.  A jazz farm team system, if you will.  He notes that in Denmark the government subsidizes smaller jazz venues so they can provide a place for talented musicians to play.  

The music business, of course, is discombobulated and in flux.  Is there still a big studio recording industry?  According to this source, album sales for jazz in the U.S. in 2012 were $8.1 million, which is more than for classical music, and about a fifth of country music.  Somebody is making that music.  Somebody  is buying it.  They say "if you build it, they will come."  It seems that must be true to some extent both for players who develop their talents, as well as for jazz venues and music industry executives who need high caliber musicians to fill their concert venues and new albums.  What do the paying customers want?  Therein lies the secret, but thus it ever was. 

With the level of talent, ingenuity and drive exhibited by these young musicians, I have no doubt that some of them will find a way to break through, that jazz will continue to thrive, that jazz audiences and musicians will continue to find each other and that there will be promoters and venues to help facilitate, and maybe even make a buck or two.  As for the rest, well they can always work for a living like the rest of us and keep the music going for fun.  It's all good.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Scoreless at Full Time

Tense times at the Vatican

Update at 18 Minutes of Extra Time.  Scott Murray in the Guardian--"Argentina are dominating possession, pinging it around the back. But can't get it forward to the four men they've thrown up front. It's a stand-off. "How about sending home BOTH teams if a game ends in a 0-0 draw?" wonders Tom Walton. Anyone know anyone with Sepp Blatter's number? Tell them it's an emergency."  


Update at 27 Minutes of ET:  "Messi runs around in a baroque manner, going absolutely nowhere.  "Pope Franics better start saying his prayers for the penalties," says Justin Kavanagh. "He is reputed to always take the side of the poor, and Argentina have been that today."  

But then.... 

Goal Argentina.  Murray ... "This game has been dross, but this goal is pure quality! Palacio wins the ball in the middle of the park. Messi suddenly turns on the burners and dribbles down the inside left channel, drifting inside. Then he rolls a pass out wide right to Di Maria, who meets it and steers a wonderful finish into the bottom left corner! What a stunning finish, and a wonderful run by Messi." 

Followed by a furious finish by Switzerland.  Was it enough?   

Murray .... "Nope. His free kick blooters into the wall, and Argentina are through! Well, well, well, what an appalling game that was for 117 minutes. And then in the final throes, more than enough incident for a whole game! Poor Switzerland. But well done Argentina, who will play either Belgium or the USA in the quarter finals!"  

And that's soccer!  

One down, one still in it.  Off to see the USA v. Belgium.  

Saturday, June 28, 2014

RIP Franz Ferdinand and Sophie Chotek

In Christopher Clark's masterful book about the lead up to World War I, Bismarck is a hero, Kaiser Wilhelm II (who dismissed Bismarck as Chancellor in 1890) a blustering fool who could reliably be talked down from the brink by wise counselors, Lord Gray too much under the sway of the French, the Russians too weak for their own good, and the French goaded everybody on with calamitous consequences for the 20th Century.

The Serbs were war mongering regicides; in-bred dogs.  Princip and his companions were young kids, manipulated like muslim suicide bombers today.

The Ottoman Empire was breaking apart and everyone was in an imperialist mood.

Emperor Franz Joseph was a kindly old man and Austria-Hungary ruled pretty competently over a diverse empire.  Archduke Franz Ferdinand was a promising heir, happily married.  It all could have turned out so much better!  If only ...