As noted in a couple of quick hits, Van Jones has resigned from the Obama Administration:White[...]
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You don't need an atlas to know that the music is Russian, and the musicians too. The Borodin Trio -- violinist Rostislav Dubinsky, cellist Yuli Turovsky, and pianist Luba Edlina -- plays the first half of the first movement of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Trio élégiaque in D minor, written in memory of Tchaikovsky. (The second half of the movement is here. The rest of the trio is also posted. By the way, if you're wondering about the geishas used for illustration, a commenter already has asked. I can't even concoct a theory.)
I had just about finished a post built more or less around the wry story of How the Borodin Quartet Got Its Name, designed to be a pleasant stroll down memory lane joining the Borodin Trio clip above to the Borodin Quartet one below. As usually happens, the thing kept growing, until finally I pulled the plug. Every word of it was riveting to me, but I decided that nobody was going to care about who succeeded whom in the second-violin chair, or even how the "Soviet" violinist Yaroslav Alexandrov came to replace the talented idealist Vladimir Rabei. So I just chopped it all out and dumped it in a file for deposit in my personal time capsule.
I mentioned already that Rostislav Dubinsky, the founding first violinist of the group that eventually became officially the Borodin String Quartet, seems to me one of the great musicians of the 20th century. Dubinsky remained with the quartet for nearly 30 years, until he and his wife, the excellent pianist Luba Edlina (a frequent collaborator with the quartet), finally unable to endure any more of the harsh effects of official Soviet anti-Semitism, emigrated to the West in 1975, settling in Bloomington, Indiana, at Indiana University's School of Music, and then enlisting fellow émigré Yuli Turovsky, a cellist who had settled in Montreal, to form another world-class ensemble, the Borodin Piano Trio.
Here, in condensed form, based on the account in Dubinsky's 1989 memoir Stormy Applause: Making Music in a Worker's State is the story of --
HOW THE BORODIN QUARTET GOT ITS NAME
(A LESSON IN THE POLITICS OF SOVIET CULTURE)
In 1954, the quartet that still didn't have a name, and had only half of its original personnnel, Dubinsky and the half-Jewish cellist Valentin Berlinksy, the departed Jewish second violinist and violist having been replaced, on the advice of practical advisers, by the "Soviet" artists Yaroslav Alexandrov and Dmitri Shebalin, still had no prospect of the official support they would need to get both domestic bookings and in particular the possibility of foreign tours, the only way they could make enough money to support themselves as a string quartet. They couldn't even get approval for a name, which required all but impossible-to-obtain government clearance.
I remembered that it was from the venerable and politically well-connected Beethoven Quartet that they got the crucial advice as to how to wangle a name for the quartet, but I until I was able to replace my lost copy of Dubinsky's book this week, I had forgotten the circumstances under which that advice was given.
Dubinsky, in his telling, was generally reluctant to engage in the obeisances to the Soviet regime that everyone assured him were obligatory, like attending Communist Party functions (both Alexandrov and Berlinsky were Party members) and kissing up to Party cultural commissars and musical favorites like the Beethoven Quartet members (who were not Party members, by the way, but their lineage, which went back almost to the immediate post-Revolution period, seems to have been a satisfactory substitute). For once, though, he acted "sensibly," going along when Berlinsky took a broad hint from the Beethoven's second violinist, Vasily Shirinsky, and offered to play the string quartet Shirinsky mentioned he had just written, which "by some strange coincidence" he happened to have in his briefcase! When the quartet played the piece at the Composers' Union, and Berlinsky stepped up the ass=kissing by offering fulsome praise for the piece in the discussion that followed, the grateful Shirinsky invited them to a celebration at his apartment, where they were treated like the patriarch Shirinsky's dearest comrades.
As by Dubinsky remembered it decades later, the quartet's enthusiastic patron Shirinsky was telling them that it was time for them to take the crucial step of getting a name, and a good one. Berlinsky responded:
"But how can we get one? The road to the ministry is closed to us."
"I'll teach you how. In the spring there will be a widely celebrated Glinka jubilee. Ask Khrennikov [Tikhon Khrennikov (1913-2007), the powerful secretary of the Union of Soviet Composers, who rose to become a member of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party] to write a letter to the minister, and we'll ask Shostakovich to sign it. He won't refuse, and after him everyone will sign. It will be difficult for Anisimov to ignore that, especially now, after giving Tchaikovsky's name to another quartet right now."
"The Glinka Quartet?"
"Well, I don't think they will give you the name of Glinka, but any other name will do."
""Glinka is a good name," Berlinsky said dreamily.
"What's wrong, for example, with Borodin? Two beautiful quartets."
"Then let's ask for it right away," I said.
"No, no, my dear fellow, that's not the way things are done. They usually don't give what is requested."
"And how did you get the name of Beethoven? Did you ask for Bach or for God Himself?"
"We never asked anyone for anything. We just named ourselves the Beethoven Quartet from the very first concert. That was back in the twenties, right after the Revolution. The spirit of freedom, so to speak, was still flying over our heads. We couldn't think of a better name than Beethoven."
"And why is it so complicated to get a name now?"
He smiled again. "The Soviet regime is a peculiar thing," he said, squinting his eyes. "Some more vodka?"
"Definitely," Berlinsky said. "I have a toast." He waited while Shirinsky poured some for everyone and then raised his glass.
"Dear Vasily Petrovich, I would like to drink to you, to your health, and through you to the Beethoven Quartet, which we value very much and from which we are always learning."
Shirinksy smiled and replied. "Thank you, thank you, dear friends."
We drank and got up from the table. Shirinksy saw us to the door.
We did everything the way Shirinsky wanted us to. We made an appointment to see Khrennikov and laid before him the whole idea about receiving the name of Glinka in connection with the forthcoming jubilee. Khrennikov seemed relieved that we asked for nothing more and promised to support us with an appropriate letter.
It took him, however, half a year to compose his letter, and when we finally got it, the Glinka jubilee had already been announced. We brought the letter to Shirinksky, who showed it to Shostakovich and got his signature. After this, we could gather as many signatures as we wanted. We sent the letter to Anisimov, the Minister of Culture, and in another month he invited us to see him.
He was kindness itself. He said that he had personally watched our quartet develop, especially appreciated out assistance to young Soviet composers, agreed that our quartet needed a name, that the time for that had arrived, but . . . We had been waiting for this "but."
"But," he said, "Glinka is the father of all Russian music and his name is too great to limit it, so to speak, to the scale of chamber music alone. We are willing to give you a name. There are good names in the Russian musical heritage. Consider them, choose one, we have no objection," he concluded generously.
"What about the name of Borodin?" Berlinsky asked.
"I don't object."
Berlinsky looked at us and we all nodded.
"We agree," he said, as if he had just accepted a life sentence for our quartet.
"Splendid. Write an application and leave it with the secretary. I will sign it."
I had the opportunity this week to visited a home perched high in the scenic hills outside of Austin, TX, stuffed full of enough priceless art exhibits and rare curios to leave the curator of any world class museum drooling. And featured prominently among them were items sure to leave any space-race kid breathless with excitement. For this is the home of Richard Garriott; video game pioneer, Vice-President of Space Adventures, recent visitor to the International Space Station, and most refreshing for ultra successful capitalists, a staunch, unyielding progressive! I've posted pics and a brief description of the tour Mr. Garriott conducted of his spectacular home, and a full length version of the mission interview with more questions and answers, pics, and some video. Below are a few highlights of that discussion.
DarkSyde: When did you first decide you were going to go into space?
Richard Garriott (RG): I can't remember ever not thinking I would go into space. I grew up in Houston, just outside NASA's Johnson Space Center. My father, Owen Garriot, spent 60 days on Skylab and another ten days on a Spacelab, my next door neighbor was astronaut Robert "Hoot" Gibson. Rocket scientists and astronauts lived all around me. So I grew up thinking this is normal, this is what grownups do, they build rockets and fly into space.
What do you think of the term 'space tourist'?
RG: I absolutely abhor it. It pains me it has become the standard nomenclature. There have been civilian astronauts and military astronauts, now there are also private astronauts. And I'm can explain why private astronaut really does apply to my flight.
So, on 12 Oct 2008 you’re strapped into a capsule atop a Soyuz TMA 13. Tell us, what it was like, what went through your mind, at ignition and during ascent?
RG: The night before I was greatly intrigued, and greatly relieved that, finally, all the negotiations were over. The next day I rode on an elevator to the top of the gantry for the first time, and then squeezed, and I do mean squeezed, into a tiny, pitch black compartment with my two fellow astronauts so small and cramped you can barely move. Then we waited ... in the simulations, we skipped through lengthy holds, but in the real thing we laid there through them, one lasted almost an hour, while external checks are performed. When the moment of truth nears -- there is no countdown like in the US -- a switch is thrown and, after that, forget everything in movies or recreations.
The engine distantly rumbles for a few seconds while the thrust climbs until the rocket lifts off slowly, gently, quietly. There was no vibration, no deafening roar -- at least there wasn't on the inside of a space suit, inside a Soyuz capsule that's inside a streamlined faring -- I could still hear the fans softly humming away. The g's begin to build smoothly, peaking to about 4, which is not much worse than what you feel on a roller-coaster, and you're laying on your back so it's actually pretty comfortable. It reminded me more of a powerful, elegant ballet than anything jerky or violent. There's not much change for the first few minutes after that, on a Soyuz the second stage is already firing when the first cuts out, so you barely feel it. When the second cuts off there's a moment of weightlessness, then the third fires and there's a gentle thrust. Not long after that, we were in low earth orbit.
So you see the earth from orbit, what was that like the first time?
RG: You know it's funny, the first thing I thought was 'Wow! We're awful close! I sure hope they have this calculated right, because, from my window, it looks like we could be coming back quick ...' Consider that on the scale of a classroom globe, LEO is about as high off the surface of that globe as a nickel is thick. Not much room for error there. But of course, they had calculated it right and we were safely in orbit.
After that, well, no camera or video images you've ever seen can possibly do it justice ...
One way to take your mind off patting the robertson is to penetrate something with long rigid staffs of wood.
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The following entries were found in a diary left behind in a Progressive Cave near the Whaddaguy Gorge dig in North America, unearthed after being hidden for almost ten days. A remarkable discovery, by any stretch. Perhaps even a miracle.
Day 161: Obama came over late. I made dinner, but it was cold by the time he got to it and he threw it against the wall. Told me "social security is in trouble" and I bit my lip. He makes up stories, and if I contradict him he out awesome's me, and then I feel unloved and abused. I did tell him that Krugman called, just to piss him off.
Day 166: Some of my progressive friends came over for our Melt Cheney's Body Completely Away Meditation meeting. Then the news came on that Cheney was hospitalized and we all got scared and I had to burn the Ouija Board and the L. Ron Hubbard Volcanic Tea Tray. Obama came home after everyone left and started "fee-fi-fo-fumming" that he could smell the blood of liberals all over the collective bargaining coffee table. I asked him how his wife is and he just glared at me. I know not to go there. But sometimes...
Day 181: I broke the Star of Bethlehem Christmas Tree ornament, and Obama flipped out, said I did it on purpose, yadda yadda. That I had 'disrespected god and Jesus' and I told him the Christians disrespected Mithras and Dionysus and he came unglued...unglued. Told me that without Jesus we would all be shopping less, and war would look too secular. He stopped talking (briefly) because I think he heard himself, but then started in again on how without faith people would have to have proof and where would that lead us? I answered (I know, I shouldn't have) that we all must become grownups if we are to accept responsibility for our actions, and that if someone wanted to believe in a hereafter that was fine, but the Here And Now needed serious, sober attention. He called me an unelectable atheist and said I couldn't prove that the nebulous theological constructs that he routinely asserts in vaguely populist terms were in fact nothing but swamp gas and moonshine, a useless code for an ultimately empty and divisive world view. He was so mad! Ah, but that grin...
Day 198: Last day with Obama. We had it out. He said he never liked coming over, didn't get anything from the conversation and sure wasn't going to start acting like a liberal progressive. I said that was fine, I only spent time with him because Dennis Kucinich wasn't electable, but I still wished him well. It all happened so fast that when I saw him leave it didn't register, not at first. It was like Obama was here, now the door is open...what's on TV?
Holy smokes, I snapped out of it quickly and jumped to my feet. I ran to the window, and called out to the street from my fourth floor apartment.
"Obama! Obama!" I yelled.
He paused dramatically, then turned around on the snow-driven sidewalk and looked up and back at me.
I yelled: "Enough with the Republican talking points bullshit. You want to dance with old white men at some endless Feast of Plenty? Or do you want to face the reality that the Beast will kill us all, for a few dollars more? Either with a gun or a bank, it's all the same to them!"
He just shook his head, took off his coat, assumed a blast-off position, then flew upwards like a rocket, creating a sonic boom as he ferociously ascended into the sky, disappearing into the gloomy collection of clouds that shrouded the city. Up and down the street car alarms were crying like frightened babies, and standers-by looked up in shock. I wasn't impressed. My thought was: Let's see him do it when it counts. We need more than a miracle: we need institutional changes, and his skyrockets in flight act ain't gonna cut it.
I was mulling over that last thought when Obama came back and hovered outside my fourth floor window, just floating in the air, tapping on the frosted glass while steam came out of his mouth. I opened it back up, and he grinned. "Wait 'till you hear me talk about the Silent Majority!" "You wouldn't dare," I responded. The laugh that next escaped from his mouth would have put the devil to shame!
*Originally posted on January 3rd, 2008 at an old haunt of mine. Posted here for the purpose of group reflection...and also because Austin Cline hasn't showed up yet.
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The State of Working America, at least here on Reality Planet, sucks. Let's hope President Obama is saving his passionate defense of American workers for his big Labor Day speech to the AFL-CIO in Cincinnati tomorrow, because his weekly address proposing new retirement savings incentives is about as Blue Dog pro-Wall Street as it gets.
We'll also build on these steps by working with Congress. As part of my budget, I've proposed ensuring that nearly every American has access to a retirement savings account through his or her job. This plan would make it possible for workers to automatically enroll in IRAs through payroll contributions. And the budget simplifies and expands a tax credit for millions of families, matching half of a family's savings up to $1,000 per year and depositing the tax credit directly into a retirement account.
Soufan we go hard, we go hard[...]
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Soufan we go hard, we go hard[...]
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A lot of us have feared from the get-go that, when it comes to dealing with the viciousness, mendacity and absolute ruthlessness of the wingnuts running the Republican Party, President Obama is bringing a Smurf doll to a street fight, trying to beat shivs and guns with lollipops.
Those fears were fully realized last night:
Van Jones, special adviser for green jobs at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, resigned Saturday, following weeks of pressure from the right and a flurry of revelations about his past statements.
"I am resigning my post at the Council on Environmental Quality, effective today," Jones said in a statement dated Sept 5 released around midnight on Sept 6.
"On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me.They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide," he continued. "I have been inundated with calls -- from across the political spectrum -- urging me to 'stay and fight.' But I came here to fight for others, not for myself. I cannot in good conscience ask my colleagues to expend precious time and energy defending or explaining my past. We need all hands on deck, fighting for the future."
White House officials had offered tepid support last week Jones after he issued two public apologies in recent days, one for signing a petition that questioned whether Bush administration officials "may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war."
So this is what we can expect from Obama: When the right gets into full-froth rabid attack-dog mode, he folds. He'll even throw one of his best friends and most loyal liberal allies under the bus.
Best of all, he's just handed the most rabid of the haters who are undermining his agenda -- namely, Glenn Beck and the rest of the Fox crew -- their biggest scalp yet. The crowing that will follow is just the start.
They certainly won't be satisfied with this. Hell, this is just the appetizer. Beck has already made clear that Valerie Jarrett is the next one in his sights.
If President Obama and Rahm Emanuel think that letting the Fox crew drive out his appointees is going to help him win his legislative battles -- this was clearly the product of a White House more intent on trying to get its health-care reform package passed than dealing with the larger, more pervasive problem that threatens not just health-care reform but all of his initiatives -- he is sadly and badly mistaken.
Indeed, this whole fustercluck is an ill omen for health-care reform as well. It sure looks like Van Jones is just a precursor for the eventual fate of a public option, isn't it?
Well, Obama and Co. may get a white feather for their complete and utter lack of spine on this, but the rest of us don't have to take this lying down.
It's time for all-out political war with these wingnuts. Just boycotting Glenn Beck isn't going to be enough; sure, Jones' old organization, Color of Change, may have convinced 57 advertisers to drop out of supporting Beck, but all they did was shift their advertising dollars to other Fox programs. Rupert Murdoch still got their money, and thus eventually so did Beck.
If progressives want to have any hope of enacting their agenda, they have to do something about Fox News and its advertisers. And we obviously are going to have to do it without any help from this weak-kneed White House.
Given that Monday is Labor Day, I thought I'd take a look at my last Social Security/Medicare statment to see how much I've paid in taxes for both over my working life. The statement says I began paying into to Social Secuirty in 1965 (a part time job during high school) and continued up through the present. Given what I've paid in, and that I won't retire until 65 at the earliest, there's no way I'll get all that money back -- I won't live that long.I wonder how many people, like me, won't get their money back, either because they die, or they end up with reduced benfits due to the meme the Government is pushing that in 2014, SS will begin paying out more than it takes in, and by 2041 will not have enough to cover everyone? Why doesn't the excess paid in go back to our heirs if we die early?
I've also paid a bundle into Medicare, which I'm years away from collecting on. If I die, Medicare too keeps the money it collected from me. Do they use it to pay medical care for someone else?
Medicare and Social Security may be government run programs, but they are being paid for with money workers pay in. And while some workers will use their benefits, the Government gets to keep the money if people die too soon or die shortly after receiving benefits.
Which leads me to conclude, those saying it's a Government entitlement program don't have it quite right.
It's more of a partnership between the Government and its citizens, and in a lot of cases, the Government takes it all.
Maybe that's why seniors want a lockbox on their benefits. Looking at the numbers I've paid in, it's anything but a handout. It's more of a hand-over.