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June 30, 2007
The Latest Iraq Surge
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:12 AM * 74 comments

Have y’all noticed that over the last two weeks the word from everyone (Bush, at the Naval War College for example, where everyone in the audience already knew better) is that we’re fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq. Everyone who’s resisting is Al Qaeda. Everyone who’s fighting is Al Qaeda. Everyone who’s killed is Al Qaeda.

What’s with that? They aren’t insurgents any more. Or Sunni fighters, or Shiite militias. Or even Baathist dead-enders. All the bad guys are Al Qaeda.

Kinda reminds me of Vietnam:

“How do you know he’s Viet Cong?”

“He’s dead, isn’t he?”

Six years after 9/11 this is the only card left in Bush’s hand.

If he’s so hot on Al Qaeda isn’t it time to find Osama bin Forgotten? Y’know, the guy who actually attacked us?

June 28, 2007
Open thread 87
Posted by Teresa at 05:52 PM *

Yes, things are afoot—
which accounts for my absence.
Avi? Patrick? Jim?

June 22, 2007
Open thread 86
Posted by Patrick at 12:00 AM *

Since Teresa is off to Foo Camp, I’ll maintain her virtual presence hereabouts by quoting her recent observation that “you can respond appropriately to absolutely anything a hamster does by choosing the right inflection of the word ‘dude.’”

June 20, 2007
Digby!
Posted by Patrick at 07:56 AM * 105 comments

We’re delighted to see that the eminent pseudonymous liberal blogger looks and sounds exactly as we imagined she did.

June 19, 2007
Les Indes Galantes
Posted by Teresa at 12:30 PM * 33 comments

Found on YouTube: scenes from a reconstructed performance of Les Indes Galantes (1735), a Baroque* opéra-ballet by Jean-Philippe Rameau. It has Turks, Incas, Conquistadores, beautiful Indian maidens, long-separated lovers recognizing each other under improbable circumstances, a superfluity of mythological personifications hanging from the flyloft on ropes, and an exploding volcano. (The libretto.)

Specimens:

Les Sauvages, Rondeau des Indes Galantes. This is the one to watch if you’re only watching one. It isn’t all just buffalo mudheads, amusing though they are. (If you’re on a slow connection, here’s the short version.)

Les Sauvages, Régnez plaisirs et jeux.

Da Capo, ensemble of Les Indes Galantes, avec chief reconstructor William Christie.

From the first entrée, Le Turc Généreux: Panzarella and another Panzarella, or perhaps another portion of the same Panzarella. It involves Turks, shipwrecks, and long-separated lovers. Matelotes dance with harem girls. Possibly Rameau & Co. were making their budget by recycling props from other Baroque theatre pieces involving Turks, shipwrecks, and long-separated lovers.

Nex, scenes seven and eight of Les Incas du Pérou, starring the Inca ruler Huascar, Don Carlos the Conquistador, and Princess Phani. If you’re having trouble following the action in the latter part of the video, understand that Huascar is commanding a volcano to erupt and bury him. It goes like this:

HUASCAR
Non, non, rien n’égale ma rage.
Je suis témoin de leur félicité.
Faut-il que mon coeur irrité
Ne puisse être vengé d’un si cruel outrage?

(Le volcan se rallume, te le tremblement de terre recommence.)

HUASCAR
La flamme se rallume encore,
Loin de l’éviter, je l’implore …
Abîmes embrasés, j’ai trahi les autels.
Exercez l’emploi du tonnerre,
Vengez les droits des immortels,
Déchirez le sein de la terre
Sous mes pas chancelants!
Renversez, dispersez ces arides montagnes,
Lancez vos feux dans ces tristes campagnes,
Tombez sur moi, rochers brûlants.

(Le volcan vomit des rochers enflammés qui écrasent le criminel Huascar.)

(“So there,” as one so often finds oneself murmuring at the end of opera scenes and Bible readings.)

If you’d rather just have the music, you can watch les Musiciens du Louvres’ concert performance of the Rondeau des Indes Galantes, i.e. the hit single from the cast album.

Elsewhere, an Amsterdam ensemble plays quite a bit of other music from Les Indes Galantes: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. Warning: they’re adherents of the duck-call school of Baroque instrumentation.

But there’s more.

When I was still in the “What in the world is this?” stage, googling around to find out more about Les Indes Galantes, I found François R. Velde’s charming and informative review of a performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Appended to this was Velde’s A Digression on Les Sauvages:

In September 1725, two “savages”, i.e. Native Americans captured in French-held Louisiana Territory, were exhibited at a fair in Paris. They were about 25, well-built, and in their native dress. They performed three dances, representing Peace, War and Victory: one had the full regalia of a chief, the other was dressed as a simple warrior. Observers found it hard to recognize what was being described by the dances, but then, as one remarked, “perhaps they would have found it impossible to understand us if we had tried to represent the same things to us” (cultural relativism, so early!).

One observer was Jean-Philippe Rameau, who wrote a harpsichord piece a few years later, called Les Sauvages. The piece was published in the Nouvelles Suites of 1728, and re-used in a ballet scene of Les Indes Galantes, as the Dance of the Peace Pipe. The opera-ballet itself was a flop, but the music proved quite popular. In fact, Les Sauvages was one of the most popular pieces of French music throughout the 18th century: it was played every year during the free concert given in Paris on the King’s Feast Day up to the Revolution.

What I find interesting is how this piece travelled: it actually returned to the New World. Around the middle of the century, in the Caribbean island of Dominica, a group of French immigrants were having a party, to which a number of natives [last year’s propaganda led me to believe they had all been killed by Columbus, but apparently a few were left] were present. Rameau’s dance was played, and immediately roused the enthusiasm of the natives, who started dancing in their own fashion to the tune, and danced themselved to exhaustion. Rameau was informed of his success, which he found the most flattering because it was sincere and pure.

It also travelled to the other end of the Earth: about the same time, a French Jesuit priest at the Imperial Court of China gave his hosts a sampler of Western music, and performed Rameau’s Sauvages. The piece met with bafflement…

This odd episode is also referred to in the summary of Les Indes Galantes at Naxos.com, which notes that
…The entrée Les sauvages includes the earlier harpsichord piece of that name, a work with which the Jesuit missionary Amiot unsuccessfully tried to charm the ears of Mandarins in Peking a little later in the century, leading him to form curious biological theories.
But what those theories might have been, it doesn’t say.

June 18, 2007
The Sciuridae Strike Back
Posted by Patrick at 07:53 AM * 222 comments

What is it with the squirrels?

Obviously, we’re in the runup to interspecies war.

June 17, 2007
Also, “stuff it” doesn’t mean exactly the same thing as “get stuffed”
Posted by Patrick at 12:07 PM * 313 comments

First, the verbs “to whine” and “to whinge” don’t connote exactly the same kind of behavior, any more than do the verbs “to whine” and “to bitch.” There are no true synonyms, language isn’t a code, and most common verbs refer to a range of actions, rather than something precise. Meaning emerges from usage; language is a negotiation, not a set of rules and definitions handed down from on high.

Second, there’s a repeated claim in the thread below that Americans who pick up Briticisms like “whinge” or “wanker” do so only in order to be “pretentious.” This is ridiculous. It’s 2007. British people—at least, British people who aren’t in a coma—are immersed in American vocubulary, slang, and idioms; and, increasingly, Americans are constantly exposed to British English. Unsurprisingly, this means that lots of Brits and Americans are picking up one another’s language quirks in a process of linguistic cross-fertilization exactly like the way language has always been transmitted throughout the entire history of the world. If you really want to insist that this makes those people “pretentious,” you’re a pinhead.

June 16, 2007
Yes, a little fermented curd would do the trick
Posted by Avram Grumer at 02:59 AM *

Anyone else wondering what the deal is with Americans using the British whinge instead of the perfectly good American whine? I’ve been seeing it more and more often the past couple years.

June 15, 2007
“The triumph of time, experience, and understanding over fear and prejudice”
Posted by Avram Grumer at 01:42 AM * 150 comments

Equal marriage rights are safe in Massachusetts for at least another five years:

A proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was swiftly defeated today by a joint session of the Legislature by a vote of 45 to 151, eliminating any chance of getting it on the ballot in November 2008. […]

Because fewer than 50 of the state’s 200 lawmakers supported the amendment, it will not appear on the 2008 ballot, giving gay marriage advocates a major victory in their battle with social conservatives to keep same-sex marriage legal in Massachusetts.

Opponents of gay marriage face an increasingly tough battle to win legislative approval of any future petitions to appear on a statewide ballot. The next election available to them is 2012.

(Boston.com has already hidden that article behind a subscription wall. BugMeNot worked for me. I use the Firefox extension version.)

And a shout-out for Wikipedia: I was confused about the legislative details of this story. I knew that amending the Mass constitution requires at least 50 votes in favor in two consecutive legislative sessions, and I was confused about how the first vote could have taken place in January and the second now. I checked a bunch of different news sources, no clarity. A Wikipedia entry gave me the missing info. And further news:

Currently, the legislature is considering whether to submit a proposed constitutional amendment to the voters that, if passed, would prohibit ballot initiatives dealing with the curtailment of “civil rights” or “matters of equal protection.”

Though I can easily see such an amendment opening up further cans of worms.

Anyway, it seems that one of the things changing people’s minds on this issue is just getting to know gay couples, and seeing them as people instead of some weird, demonic other. That, and lawn care:

Most moving, she said, were older constituents who first supported the amendment, but changed after meeting with gay men and lesbians.

One woman had “asked me to put it on the ballot for a vote, but since then a lovely couple moved in,” Ms. Candaras said. “She said, ‘They help me with my lawn, and if there can’t be marriage in Massachusetts, they’ll leave and they can’t help me with my lawn.’”

June 12, 2007
Wow, you can do anything with DNA these days
Posted by Patrick at 09:27 AM * 141 comments

It’s magic!

June 10, 2007
Sopranos postmortem
Posted by Patrick at 10:11 PM *

I feel a great disturbance in the Force. As if millions of voices suddenly cried out, “The fuck?”

June 09, 2007
“Is this justice served?”
Posted by Patrick at 07:20 AM * 278 comments

The aim, conscious or otherwise, is to make sorting out what is actually taking place in the country more difficult by encouraging a facile and undemanding (and perhaps temporarily cathartic) outrage against a Paris Hilton or some other such figure. The population is intended to feel, falsely, that its cause has been served and blows have been delivered against the rich and powerful, when all that’s happened is a young woman guilty of a misdemeanor has gone to jail for a month or more.
The World Socialist Web Site argues that Paris Hilton is a screwed-up young person who’s been pretty much fitted up for the role of Designated Hate Object, and that her recent misadventures have served largely as an opportunity for politicians who routinely countenance the insupportable to pose as champions of equal justice.

Well, yeah. Good points, World Socialist Web Site.

(Via Will Shetterly.)

June 08, 2007
Robert Bork hasn’t mellowed with age
Posted by Avram Grumer at 11:25 PM * 14 comments

Former US Supreme Court nominee and Batman enemy King Tut lookalike Robert Bork showed up in two unrelated news items in today’s blog reading.

First (via Jim Henley) he’s helping out Scooter Libby by arguing that Patrick Fitzgerald’s appointment might not have been constitutional. As blogger emptywheel points out on the other end of that link, it’s thirty-four years after the Saturday Night Massacre, and Bork’s once again trying to fire a guy investing a Republican White House. (If history repeats itself, Bush’s impeachment proceedings should start next March.)

But the case I really wanted to blog about was this: Bork’s suing the Yale Society for a million dollars because he fell trying to mount a dais to speak at one of their events. This is funny (both weird and ha-ha) because Bork’s one of those anti-tort activists who thinks there should be limits on how much people can sue for.

Which is itself funny (just weird) because Bork’s also well-known as an originalist on Constitutional matters — he supposedly believes that the Supreme Court should interpret the Constitution as the Framers would have meant it to be read. But he’s willing to compromise that principle for the sake limiting non-incorporated people’s right to financial redress. Here’s Bork in 2002, writing in a Federalist Society journal:

Even if Congress would not, in 1789, have had the power to displace state tort law, the nature of the problem has changed so dramatically as to bring the problem within the scope of the power granted to Congress. Accordingly, proposals, such as placing limits or caps on punitive damages, or eliminating joint or strict liability, which may once have been clearly understood as beyond Congress’s power, may now be constitutionally appropriate.

So much for originalism!

I’m aware that Bork’s 80 years old, and that his injury is no laughing matter; I know how at that age just about anything can knock you into a death spiral. I wish he had a bit more sympathy for all the 80-year-olds who aren’t wealthy lawyers with lots of powerful friends, or the 30-year-olds without medical insurance who are one bad day away from bankruptcy. I figured this was the common hypocrisy of the wealthy and powerful, till I realized there might be a deeper method behind this, and I wondered if that guy suing the dry cleaners for $65 million was also an anti-tort activist.

See, by launching these big-money lawsuits, they generate their own anti-tort propaganda. And then, if they win, they get big bucks on top of it! Hypocritical like a fox! There have been a bunch of right-wing propagandists claiming that the ACLU does the same thing, which cements it, because the right always projects its own tactics onto its enemies.

The fluorosphere bends back in upon itself
Posted by Patrick at 09:26 PM *

From the current Open Thread:

#237 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 05:49 PM:

2007: Am stranded in Mesa, Arizona with a dead laptop and very little connectivity.

#244 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 06:25 PM:

My widowed uncle is marrying a long-time friend who lost her spouse many years ago in Mesa tomorrow, if you’re in the mood for a wedding.

#258 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 08:35 PM:

Linkmeister (244):

“My widowed uncle is marrying a long-time friend who lost her spouse many years ago in Mesa tomorrow, if you’re in the mood for a wedding.”
What is your uncle’s name? Unless there are two weddings tomorrow morning in Mesa that answer to that description, he’s marrying my mother.

#260 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 08:48 PM:

Teresa @258, Oh, no. That would be way too big a coincidence. His name is Dowell.

It’s a jawdropping coincidence, but it appears to be true. The fellow Teresa’s mother is marrying is the uncle of one of our longtime commenters.

I think there are exclamations appropriate to this, but my mind is so blown that I can’t think of any of them.

UPDATE, dictated over the phone from our Arizona bureau: Linkmeister, Carol and all the cousins say hello, and thanks for the flowers!

June 07, 2007
Open thread 85
Posted by Patrick at 10:10 AM *

22 + 92 and 62 + 72.

In A.D. 85, the emperor Domitian appointed himself perpetual censor.

In binary, it’s 1010101.

In A.D. 1985, Ronald Reagan began his second term; Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union; Teresa and I visited Britain for the first time; Windows 1.0 and New Coke were both released; the Third World War did not actually happen in August; Neuromancer and Terry Carr won Hugo Awards; Theodore Sturgeon, Marc Chagall, E. B. White, and Teresa’s father died; and Arctic Monkeys Nick O’Malley and Jamie Cook, plus Michelle Trachtenberg, were born.

Bonus free association: “She may be right, she may be fine.”

Discuss.

June 06, 2007
The latter half of a pale horse
Posted by Teresa at 07:16 AM * 417 comments

Wonkette says the Giuliani campaign has sort of apologized for widely e-mailing a Salt Lake Tribune story about how nutbar Mormon fringe types have dug up and been circulating an old Mormon legend, which tells how Joseph Smith prophesied that in the Last Days the Constitution “will be hanging by a thread,” and a Mormon or Mormons will save it. The nutbars have been speculating that this refers to Mitt Romney.

If I had to make a guess as to why Giuliani’s campaign repented of this, it would be that one of them finally gave the Salt Lake Trib article a close reading, and discovered it was debunking the story.

I don’t much care about Mitt Romney. What interests me is that everyone’s referring to the legend in question as the “White Horse prophecy.” There are a number of spurious prophecies circulating in Mormon folklore, and the one about the Constitution’s probably the oldest of the lot. I heard it myself as a kid. But when did that horse get into the story? It was never there before.

June 04, 2007
If you can make it here…
Posted by Avram Grumer at 09:09 PM * 23 comments

you can make it anywhere!

New York Magazine has an online article, “The Profit Calculator”, about how various NYC businesses make money, from big names like MoMA and the Yankees, to little guys like a cabbie and a copy shop and your friendly neighborhood crystal meth dealer. From the page on Random House, we learn that only one book out of eight published is significantly profitable. A private investigator says that 30% of his business is women who suspect their men of cheating (and they’re almost always right), while 10% is men who suspect their women (and they’re almost always wrong). Macy’s loses $12-24 million a year in lost or stolen goods. And 55% of NYC’s budget goes to education and children’s, health, social, and homeless services.

By the pricking of my thumbs
Posted by Patrick at 07:17 PM * 293 comments

Claiming that “we’ve never had censorship in this country” (scroll down; click on “Bradbury on Censorship/Television”), Ray Bradbury wants us to understand that his classic novel Fahrenheit 451 is “not…a story about government censorship” but rather about “the moronic influence of popular culture” and the way television dulls our appreciation of fine literature.

But as an acquaintance on LiveJournal Will Frank points out (in a friends-locked post, so I can’t properly credit him), in 1979 Bradbury wrote a “Coda” for a new paperback edition of the novel, in which he began by discussing the the dangers of letting outraged “minorities” determine what may and may not be published—

There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist / Unitarian, Irish / Italian / Octogenarian / Zen Buddhist, Zionist / Seventh-day Adventist, Women’s Lib / Republican, Mattachine / FourSquareGospel feel it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse….Fire-Captain Beatty, in my novel Fahrenheit 451, described how the books were burned first by the minorities, each ripping a page or a paragraph from the book, then that, until the day came when the books were empty and the minds shut and the library closed forever.
—and then went on to claim:
Only six months ago, I discovered that, over the years, some cubby-hole editors at Ballantine Books, fearful of contaminating the young, had, bit by bit, censored some 75 separate sections from the novel. Students, reading the novel which, after all, deals with the censorship and book-burning in the future, wrote to tell me of this exquisite irony. Judy-Lynn del Rey, one of the new Ballantine editors, is having the entire book reset and republished this summer with all the damns and hells back in place.
According to Amazon’s “Search Inside This Book” feature, this “Coda” is present in the 1987 mass-market reissue, still on sale.

It’s hard to avoid observing that Bradbury, an enthusiastic fan of George W. Bush (“He’s wonderful. We needed him”), appears to share with his political hero a rather situational notion of what words mean. Then again, we are talking about the guy who pitched a first-class fit over a certain filmmaker calling his documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, an act of callous expropriation completely different from naming your story collection I Sing the Body Electric.

When you work for a long time in literary affairs, you get used to the idea that people who write brilliant books sometimes say foolish things. But you never entirely stop wincing. Very likely, all of us will need posterity to forgive our stupidities and remember our better moments, so it’s best not to be completely judgmental. But it’s also important to point out the truth.

June 02, 2007
We were afraid of this
Posted by Patrick at 05:18 PM * 22 comments

Steve Gilliard has died, after (as readers of The News Blog were aware) a long illness.

We didn’t know him well but we met him several times and we liked him a great deal. He was irascible, smart, and dryly funny. We’ll miss him at meetings of the NYC political-blogger barbecue cabal, and we’ll miss his presence online. All sympathy to Jen and to everyone else who was close to him.

[Photo credit: HM.]

June 01, 2007
Welcome To Hurricane Season
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:01 AM *

MIAMI, Florida (AP) — Most people along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts still lack a hurricane survival plan and don’t feel vulnerable to storms, despite Katrina’s dramatic damage and pleas from emergency officials for residents to prepare before the season starts, according to a poll released Thursday.

The six-month Atlantic season starts Friday, and forecasters have predicted an above-average year: 13 to 17 named storms, with seven to 10 of them becoming hurricanes and three to five of those major ones of at least Category 3 strength. One forecaster said odds were high that a major hurricane would hit the U.S. this year.

Well, today’s the first day of hurricane season. Now through November anywhere on the Atlantic coast could get nailed, and the incompetents are still in charge over at the Department of Homeland Security. Chertoff wasn’t fired after Katrina. There’s no indication that any of the political appointees in the current administration could find their own asses if you gave them written directions and a full-color map. The intelligent, serious people who are still around in positions of power have their hands full trying to clean up the rest of the Frat Pack’s messes; their attention is distracted overseas.

So, stand the heck by.

Pick up a supply of water and non-perishable food. Store an axe in the attic. Get a weather radio. Keep the car gassed up and be ready to evacuate at the first hint of trouble.

Time for me to tout my own jump kit inventory lists again.

See also: Fidelio on Flooding. The Flood Bucket inventory list. (Beat the rush! Get your supplies now!)

Researcher William Gray, based at Colorado State University, said Thursday there was a 74 percent chance of a major hurricane hitting the U.S. coast this year. His updated forecast still predicts 17 named storms and nine hurricanes, five of them intense.

There is a 50 percent chance of a major hurricane making landfall on the East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula, according to the new forecast; the long-term average is 31 percent. The chance of a major hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast between the Florida Panhandle and Brownsville, Texas, is 49 percent; the long-term average is 30 percent. There is also an above-average chance of a major hurricane making landfall in the Caribbean, Gray said.

The most important thing you can do right now? Make a plan. (You know that FEMA hasn’t….)

Stay safe.

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