Posts Tagged 'current-events'

Ojai Music Festival…the aftermath

My sweet neighbor June is busily washing towels and sheets. They were used by her friends who I graciously allowed in my guesthouse this past weekend. Friends who came from as far away as the East Coast to revel in the glories of the Ojai Music Festival.

June is not only in the laundry business, she cooks for her friends, edits the Festival program and attends nearly every minute of the five days of the Festival. During all that time I never heard a complaint emanate from her lips. Nor did she ever appear tired. A major accomplishment when compared to my napping during much of the Festival’s sturm und drang.

Thursday night started innocently enough when Patricia Kopatchinskaja, this year’s music director, made her way through the throng of concert goers gathered near the entrance to the Bowl. Much like a stalking lion, she moved stealthily from station to station, stopping only long enough to call forth indecipherable shrieks from her violin. Like lemmings, her ardent followers tracked her, were mesmerized by her, and undoubtedly felt that this was something to write home about. I, on the other hand, worried about things that were yet to come.

I entered the Bowl and found my seat about halfway down the aisle. I have learned the importance of sight lines. Without going into nauseating detail, a “theater with good sight lines” means that most, if not all of the viewers, can actually see what’s going on in front of them. Unfortunately, my sight line was partially blocked by a tall, middle-aged gentleman who also had the unfortunate habit of moving laterally left to right causing me to continually re-adjust my fanny and head position. He was like a camera shutter, opening for one hundredth of a second while staying closed most of the time.

Mindful of others, I found my seat movements constrained by the good neighbor policy. I visualized those behind me, those behind them, etc. moving like a wave in unison to my shifts. I therefore sheepishly limited my movements to very teensy ones. This permitted periodic glimpses, like treats, of the on-stage action. Most of the time I might as well have been listening to the radio.

Toward the end of the Friday concert, I weighed the pros and cons of asking the gentleman to be more mindful of the minions behind him (I thought it might help if I told him it wasn’t just me who might as well have been blindfolded.)  I tapped him on the shoulder, explained my plight and asked for special dispensation. He grudgingly obliged, but not before he launched into a scathing evaluation of the construction of the bowl, the placement of the seats, and the Bowl management’s reluctance to make major structural changes proposed by him. I later discovered that this gentleman was Mark Swed, classical music critic for the Los Angeles Times. He is what he is.

Friday night brought us the world premiere of Michael Hersch’s elegy, I Hope We Get to Visit Soon. As Mark Swed described it in his LA Times review, a relentlessly grim musical immersion in a cancer ward, was the weekend’s major world premiere. After enduring the 77-minute performance for two solo singers and instrumental ensemble, without a trace of grace one woman stood on the lawn repeatedly shouting, “I hated that so much I want to fight with someone”, as we funereally filed out of the Libbey Bowl.

The elegy is based on Michael Hersch’s experience with a friend who endured what could be described as a plague of attempted cancer cures. The onstage dialog of false hope and failures was artfully accompanied by some twenty musicians who produced intermittent, painful screeching. The performance took me from a state of disbelief (why would someone put this to music) to sadness, then to despair and finally numbness of all my limbs. When it ended, what seemed like an eon of silence gave way to a mild smattering of quiet hand clapping. Fearful that the composer might do away with himself, I joined in the merriment and was comforted by the bravos and bravas that finally issued forth from those who had regained the use of some of their bodily functions.

Jackie’s turn arrived on Saturday. A first-time Festival goer, she was treated to, as she put it, a unique, one-time experience. Not wishing to burden herself with the mid-day emanations from the Bowl stage, she immersed herself in her own world through clever use of her iPhone X. Getting with the program, I too searched for other ways of occupying my own time.

The Bowl is partially covered with shade cloth that tends to mercifully diminish the sun’s onslaught. The shade consists of three long pieces of fabric that are hooked together. When we took our seats at 1pm, we were covered and protected by this marvel of man. However, as any schoolboy knows, the earth rotates. Continuing my alternative exploration, I noted a six-inch gap between each of the long shade strips. I also noted the sun’s relentless approach to the gap. My sextant and compass predicted that the sun’s rays would be on me before the end of the afternoon concert. And they were. First my big toe, then my foot, then my ankle. I felt like a vampire who, when fully exposed to the sun, would explode and shower Mark Swed with my innards. Fortunately, the concert ended at my thigh.

Saturday afternoon began with Kafka Fragments. A series of forty-one snippets artfully performed by a high-pitched soprano and a manic violinist. Have you ever done the Countdown Experience? This requires the musical knowledge to know when a movement, or in this case a snippet, ends. Then you maintain your sanity by counting the number of snippets yet to be played before the whole thing ends and you can go home…or the nearest bar. Forty, thirty-nine, thirty-eight…

The Saturday evening finale applied a heavy-handed touch to exploring the chaos and misfortune of the world. Incorporating the best of drought, famine, state collapse and mass migration, we were treated to a cleverly staged presentation of all the worst of life. The highlight performer was a woman who reminded me of a character from Rocky Horror Picture Show. Though slight of arm, she wielded massive hammers on a coffin, while pictures of death and desolation populated the surrounding Bowl walls. The crowd went wild with appreciation. The sounds of applause, whooping and bravos echoed through my ears all the way to the parking lot. I placed Jackie’s limp body in the passenger seat and we went home.

I can’t wait to buy tickets for next year.

Grumpy Old Men

Has anyone else noticed the resemblance between Clint Eastwood and John McCain?

Dirty Hairy was, at one time, my hero.  Didn’t give a shit about the rules.  Just went after the bad guys,  ignored protocol and left political niceties to politicians.  He cleaned up on the evil doers and crooked cops.  I couldn’t wait for his next movie, and a big fist in the mouth or a 45 magnum for anyone who crossed him.  A real American idol.

John flew planes for his country, shot bad guys out of the air, got caught in Nam, spent serious time in the worst of all places and came home a hero.  He found his way to Washington and became a maverick who only cared about what was right and honorable.  Party politics be damned, he tweaked the noses of his own colleagues.  I’d probably have voted for him.

How things have changed.  Both Clint and John have become grumpy old men.

Clint at 82 probably plays the same role in the movies that he does in real life.  His latest run of pictures depict someone who is all too ready to thumb his nose at anyone who gets in his way.   His character, Walt Kowalski, spits on his next door neighbors in Gran Torino while his Gus Lobel smart mouths the baseball world in Trouble With the Curve.   As further evidence of Clint’s grumpy man metamorphosis, he occasionally speaks incoherently  to empty chairs.

John at 76 hasn’t recovered from the 2008 election when he and the Snow Queen were decimated by the Black Guy.  Finding his vision of the world moving further into obscurity, he has become the Senate minority standard-bearer responsible for carrying out Banzai attacks on the guy who bested him four years ago.  No surrender for John.  Instead, a last desperate attack before he falls on his sword.

But there is one important difference between Clint and John.  We can avoid Clint by not buying his movie tickets.  But we’re stuck with John in our face until at least 2016.

John’s current grumpiness is reflected in his dogged determination to show that Obama was the guy who led the attack on the Benghazi embassy.  Raising the terrorist event to the level of the sinking of the Lusitania, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the destruction of the Twin Towers,  John insists that not enough information has been provided to allow him to declare that the Black Guy was not, in fact, the perpetrator of the event.

He also warns that he will block the nomination of Susan Rice to the position of Secretary of State, a nomination that has not and may not occur.  Blaming Ms. Rice, currently our U.N. ambassador, for providing false information on Benghazi, John  offers to temper his approach only if Susan will publicly reveal that the Black Guy was in fact responsible for supplying arms to the terrorists, pointing them in the direction of Benghazi, and giving them the spare key to the embassy.

Seeking the pole position on administration harassment, John insists that a Watergate style inquisition be started immediately.  The lack of credible information and probable complicity by the Black Guy seemed an appropriate start to Obama’s second presidential term of office.  Visions of impeachment, ala the Clinton and Monica show, float like sugar plums through John’s head.  Failing to achieve Mitch McConnell’s stated goal of a one term presidency, maybe this is the answer to hobbling the Black Guy for the next four years.

Alas, John got off to a poor start.  First he holds a news conference blasting the White House for not being forthcoming.  But then given the opportunity to attend a bi-partisan briefing on the Benghazi caper, John chose to thumb his nose at it.  When CNN reporter Ted Barrett asked why he missed the briefing, John said “I have no comment about my schedule and I’m not going to comment on how I spend my time to the media.”  Asked why he wouldn’t comment, McCain huffed “Because I have the right as a senator to have no comment and who the hell are you to tell me I can or not?”

So, rather than focusing on our real problems, the grumpy guy tries to hobble the black guy while the rest of us say…get a life, John.”

What would President Romney do?

—A president would be sure of the facts before broadcasting his story.

—A president would strongly condemn the murder of innocents.

—A president would avoid language that further incites violence against his citizens.

—A president would assure other nations that he does not condone the repellent actions of bigots, racists  and troublemakers.

—A president would insist on the cooperation of other nations to control violence against our citizens.

—A president would inform those nations of the consequences of their inaction.

—A president would  instill the confidence of the nation in his judgment.

—A president would calm the nation and the world.

—A president would not seek political gain at the expense of doing the right thing.

Some folks, like that self-proclaimed foreign policy guru Paul Ryan, don’t think that my formula for handling things like riots precipitated by morons whose sole objective is to create a riot, is a fitting prescription for a president.

Speaking in De Pere, Wisconsin, the Bernard Baruch of the 21st century said…“It is very important that a president speak with a singular voice representing our principles and our values.  If you show weakness, if you show moral equivocation, then foreign policy adventurism among our adversaries will increase.”  He promised that a Romney administration would lead with “peace through strength.”  He might have added the watchword of his faith…shoot first, think later.

It reminded me of Ryan’s running mate, the ever ready to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, Mitt Romney.  The Washington Post chronicled the Mitter’s all too frequent politics comes first approach to crises.  The Post said…there have been too many cheap shots and miscues that have only called attention to Mr. Romney’s inexperience in foreign affairs.  The Post included Mitt’s knee jerk attacks on the administration while in the midst of delicate negotiations over the fate of the Chinese human rights lawyer, and his blatantly political accusation that Obama sympathizes with rioters.

The Post continued by labeling his jeering at Russia as “unbecoming a great power “ and his threats of a trade war with China as “both unconvincing and unproductive.”  The paper concluded  with  “He appealed to the worst in the American people when he failed to stand up for religious tolerance by condemning the bigoted anti-Muslim movie trailer that incited riots this week, even as he rightly condemned the violence itself.”

Perhaps secretly embracing  the riots in the Middle East as a welcome respite from being roundly criticized for failing to offer up his tax returns or, for that matter, anything else of substance to public scrutiny, the Mitt began to prepare a methodical, high-minded approach to the upcoming debates with the President.  In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopolous, he revealed the secret weapon that he will use in dealing with Mr. Obama…“I think the challenge that I’ll have in the debate is that the president tends to, how shall I say it, to say things that aren’t true,” Romney said. “I’ve looked at prior debates. And in that kind of case, it’s difficult to say, ‘Well, am I going to spend my time correcting things that aren’t quite accurate? Or am I going to spend my time talking about the things I want to talk about?”

Oh, that Mitt.  What a guy.  Confronting Obama with the schoolyard liar, liar, pants are on fire approach will give him the cover he needs when falsely disputing any facts offered by Mr. Obama during the debates.  It will also let him focus on the things he knows best, like foreign policy and, uh…

Mitt continued regaling George…” I believe that when the final decisions are being made by the American people, they’re going to ask themselves, “Who do I have confidence in to keep America safe? And who do I believe can get our economy doing what it needs to do?”  No shit.

Pressed on his plan to continue the Bush tax cuts while balancing the budget by closing as yet unspecified loopholes, our aspiring tax expert pointed to several studies including one by Harvard’s Martin Feldstein.  But Stephanopolous noted that Feldstein’s study said balancing was only possible if tax deductions for home mortgage interest, charitable deductions and state/local taxes were eliminated for everyone earning at least $100,000.  Romney sheepishly admitted that he actually hadn’t read the Feldstein report that he and his Pancho Sanza  traveling companion prominently cite on the campaign trail.  Big surprise.

Even reliable Republican pundits seemed on the verge of tears.  George Will lamented “If the Republican Party cannot win in this environment, it has to get out of politics and find another business.” Laura Ingraham said “If you can’t beat Barack Obama with this record, then shut down the party, shut it down.”  Good idea.

Finally, the Wall Street Journal offered…”The GOP candidate might try explaining his policies.  Just a thought.”   As a fresh start in that direction, I give Mitt permission to use the list at the top of this blog.


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