Thursday, September 29, 2005

Finland's Classical Music System and Competitiveness?

"Nordic countries have some of the world's most competitive economies, despite high taxes and extensive social security systems, with Finland in the lead, according to a study issued Wednesday.

In the study, the Geneva-based World Economic Forum set the United States second after Finland in its annual competitiveness league but recorded growing business concern over the Bush administration's handling of the nation's finances.

Apart from Finland, four other Nordic nations -- Sweden at third, Denmark at fourth, Iceland at seventh and Norway at ninth -- were among the top 10 in the table issued with the Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2005.

The others in the top 10 were Taiwan, Singapore, Switzerland and Australia."

Reuters "Study: U.S. economy not most competitive" via

Those classical music composing -- and highly competitive -- Nordic reindeer?

Photo Credit: Fred Grinberg/United Nations Environmental Program/Topham

'Last remaining population of reindeer (30,000) in Norway share their range with 2 million sheep. Dependent on migration their traditional routes are disrupted by infrastructure development and over grazed.'

View From My Office Window ... (I Wish)

St Peter Mancroft Cathedral, Norwich, England; viewed from the new Norwich Millenium Library.

(With thanks to Bob Shingleton at On An Overgrown Path.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

"It's The Economics, Stupid!"

"If interest in classical in waning, why then, when BBC Radio 3 offered Beethoven symphonies online a few months ago, did Beethoven draw an astonishing 1,369,893 downloads? How can we downgrade classical to esoteric when the Philadelphia Orchestra drew an estimated 8,000 listeners for its neighborhood concert at Montgomery County Community College in July? That's three times the capacity of Verizon Hall [in the Kimmel Center, Philadelphia]. What these two happy events have in common is a characteristic that's inconvenient for classical music presenters to consider: Both were free....

Given the escalation of ticket prices for orchestral concerts in the last few decades, plus the expanding number of entertainment options, the mystery in classical music is why times aren't even tougher than they are. Quite by accident a couple of months ago, I came across a routine Philadelphia Orchestra press release from Nov. 23, 1975, announcing a subscription program. Tickets were listed at $2, $3.50, $4, $4.50, $5, $7, $7.50, $8 - with the top ticket price a big $8.50. A complete listing for the season shows the highest ticket for a regular subscription concert was $10.50. Converted into 2005 dollars, that would mean the top ticket price to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra today should be $39.33. Of course, it's not. The highest ticket price next season will be $122 - an escalation three times the inflation rate."

Music Critic Peter Dobrin "Only Costs Can Stop the Music"
Philadelphia Inquirer September 4, 2005.


I guess that when I used to attend the Philadelphia Orchestra, at the old Academy of Music during college in 1972-75, I was paying about $1.50 for my upper balcony ticket. Today, an upper balcony ticket for the National Symphony Orchestra, at the Kennedy Center, costs from $20 to $44. The obstructed view, and behind the orchestra, $20 tickets sell out first. (A prime orchestra seat to the Opera in Lviv, Ukraine costs less than $10.)

Lviv, Ukraine Opera House (1895-1900, arch. Z. Gorgolewski). On the façade in the bays are situated allegorical figures by Popiel and T.Baracz: Comedy on the left, and Tragedy on the right. The bas-relief composition by A.Popiel "Joys and Suffering of Life" is in the three-cornered tympanium. The pediment is topped with copper statues by W. Wojtowicz. The theater, as generously decorated on the inside as on the outside, became the centerfold of the achievements of sculpture and painting of Western Europe at the end of XIX century, beginning of the XX century.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Savagery, Empire, and the Occult

"Invasion," ABC's new prime-time drama about the arrival on Earth of mischief-making aliens, reminded me that the new TV season is full of shows about the supernatural. You've got, well, "Supernatural," and then there's "Surface," and "Threshold," and "Ghost Whisperer." The Emmys were in fact dominated by "Lost," ABC's cash cow, a frenetically popular series in which plane-crash survivors stranded on a deserted island are, maybe, being stalked by something not human. A few months ago, the network also broadcast a "news" special that made a case for UFOs.... As for the movies, two recent films, White Noise and Birth, are about the possibility of life after death; Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds is about big-time alien visitation. And if you still haven't had your fill of the supernatural and the occult, you can transubstantiate yourself over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where starting next week you can see "The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult," an exhibition about photographers at work from the 1860s to the brink of the Second World War who attempted to catch ghosts on film.

As the catalogue for the Metropolitan's show observes, the rage for photographs revealing the living presence of the dead began in France after its defeat and brief occupation by Prussia in the 1870s. In this country, occult photographers grew popular following the Civil War's unprecedented savagery and mass destruction. That period saw the rise of theosophy, a mystical system formulated by Madame Blavatsky, who established the Theosophical Society in New York in 1875....

Lee Siegel "Occult Following" The New Republic On-Line September 21, 2005.

Still from Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan (1964)

Cross Cultural Ghost Stories

"Arguably Masaki Kobayashi’s greatest film, Kwaidan was based on four Japanese ghost stories by Anglo-Greek writer Lafcadio Hearn, who lived in Japan from 1891 until his death in 1904. Originally released in the U.S. without the second episode (The Woman of the Snow), the film is presented here in its complete form. Takemitsu is credited on screen with “sound and music,” highlighting the fact that the entire soundtrack consists of electronically manipulated sounds, whether of musical instruments, human voices, or less common contrivances (e.g. the hollow clink of stones used to produce a spine-tingling gust of wind). The composer was allowed an unusually long period of four months to record and edit the score, producing one of the milestones in the history of film music."

Kwaidan = Kaidan (Ninjin Club/Bungei for Toho, 1964). Dir Masaki Kobayashi. Wrt Yoko Mizuki, based on stories by Lafcadio Hearn. With Rentaro Mikuni, Michiyo Aratama, Misako Watanabe, Keiko Kishi, Tatsuya Nakadai, Mariko Okada, Kazuo Nakamura, Ganemon Nakamura, Noboru Nakaya. (164 min, 35mm)

Sources: Library of Congress and Columbia University cu/ealac/jfm/

Monday, September 26, 2005

Symphony In Seven Months -- The Battle Of Stalingrad: August 1942 - February 1943

"The battle of Stalingrad [now Volgograd] was fought between the invading forces of Nazi Germany and the forces of the Soviet Union who were defending the city. The battle was fought from August 1942 to February of 1943. This was the decisive battle of World War II because it ended the German offensive as well as destroying much of the German armies. Though the early stages of World War II focused on Western Europe, Hitler had diverted his attention to Russia by 1941. At first the huge German war machine focused on Leningrad [now (Saint) Petersburg] and Moscow. This attack failed and so by the summer of 1942 Hitler wanted to invade southern Russia [focusing on Rostov and the vast Caucasian oil fields]. Against the advice of his generals Hitler attacked Stalingrad. The German forces took much of the city [ approximately 90 per cent]. German armies surrounded the city and so the Russians were trapped and would remain so for several months. When reinforcements arrived for the Soviets they surrounded the Germans and forced them to surrender. The battle of Stalingrad not only destroyed much of the German [Sixth] Army, but also ended their offensive in Russia and ultimately resulted in Germany’s defeat in the second World War."


The battle of Stalingrad was filmed by German and Soviet filmmakers (partially in color in the case of the German military filmmakers) and edited into the 50 - minute Part Nine of London's Thames Television's "The World at War" narrated by Sir Laurence Olivier (1973-74) and produced by Jeremy Isaacs, in association with the British Imperial War Museum.

Sources: text by Arno Alarcon; Thames Television "The World At War"

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Library of Congress Celebrates Creativity: The 2005 National Book Festival

The 2005 National Book Festival, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress, will be held on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2005, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., between 7th and 14th streets from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (rain or shine). The festival is free and open to the public.

A portrait of St. Luke (1360-65) painted by Master Theodoric, from the "Prague: The Crown of Bohemia, 1347-1437" exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum, New York City.

Photo credit: National Institute of Historical Monument Care, Prague, Czech Republic

Stephen de Staebler and Contemporary Humanism

"Two Women Walking", bronze, 75 1/2 x 31 1/2 x 31", 1992

Photo credit: Andy Brumer and Lizardi/Harp Gallery, West Hollywood, California

In the mid - 1970s, my parents' Berkeley home was graced by the loan from Stephen de Staebler of one of his beautiful, earlier, low horizontal earthenware sculptures. Today, one of Stephen's very small figural ink drawings graces a wall of my music room in Washington, D.C. Stephen had donated the work to the Robin Hood Foundation, in New York City, after September 11; and I purchased the work from the Foundation as a benefit for victim's families of September 11.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Mozart and Leadbelly

"A lady friend of mine in Washington, D.C., once told me that she knew a young African American male who would always get in an elevator whistling a tune of Mozart. I, too, like Mozart; I like Haydn, Bach, Brahms, Schubert, Chopin. I like Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky, A Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams--I like them all. And though Mozart and Haydn soothe my brain while I write, neither can tell me about the Great Flood of '27 as Bessie Smith or Big Bill Broonzy can. And neither can describe Louisiana State Prison at Angola as Leadbelly can. And neither can tell me what it means to be bonded out of jail and be put on a plantation to work out your time as Lightnin' Hopkins can. William Faulkner writes over one hundred pages describing the Great Flood of '27 in his story "Old Man." Bessie Smith gives us as true a picture in twelve lines. I am not putting Faulkner down; Faulkner is one of my favorite writers, and what Southern writer has not been influenced by him in the past fifty years? What I am saying to that young man who found it desirable to whistle Mozart in the elevator is that there is some value in whistling Bessie Smith or Leadbelly."

From Ernest J. Gaines "Mozart and Leadbelly: Stories and Essays" Random House/Knopf October 2005

Source and photo credit:;

Art in the Twenty-First Century - - Structures

"How do we organize life? What are the ways in which we capture knowledge and attempt greater understanding? The artists in this episode -- Mathew Ritchie, Fred Wilson, Richard Tuttle and Roni Horn -- create systems, shift contexts and engage with perception, utilizing unconventional devices. Sam Waterston hosts."


"Teresita Fernández is a sculptor who integrates architecture and the optical effects of color and light to produce exquisitely constructed, contemplative spaces. In her sculptural environments, Fernández alters space to create illusions, subtly modifying the physical sensations of the viewer and dramatizing the role architecture plays in shaping our lives and perceptions. Her room-sized installations evoke quietude and mystery, reflecting such diverse aesthetic influences as Roman and Ottoman architecture and Japanese gardens. In other works, she creates large-scale, referential constructions, such as a pool, a waterfall, and a sand dune stripped of specific context. With these pared-down pieces, she invites viewers to draw from their personal memories and observations."

Source and photo credit: MacArthur Foundation;

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Renaissance Humanism -- And Verrocchio Makes Three

Andrea del Verrocchio (1435-1488), Christ and St. Thomas (1466-1483), Orsanmichele, Florence.

Currently on display at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Verrocchio’s greatest masterpiece was commissioned in 1466 by the Mercanzia, a supervisory organization that regulated the Florentine guilds. After a long somewhat contentious gestation, the bronze group consisting of two interlocking figures, Christ and Saint Thomas, was finally unveiled to much acclaim in 1483. Looking back to the Quattro Santi Coronati for the idea of a sculptural group, Verrocchio’s statues break free of their niche with Saint Thomas on the lower outside ledge pushing off his right foot, caught in mid-motion as he moves forward to touch Christ’s wound. For the first time, at Orsanmichele, there was real narrative and dramatic tension.

Source: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

In Memorium, Simon Wiesenthal

Photo credit: Associated Press

Renaissance Humanism Redux

Nanni Di Banco (c.1380/1385-1421) - I quattro santi coronati (Four "Crowned" Martyred Saints) (c.1409-1416), Collection of Orsanmichele, Florence

Currently on display at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Originally created for the exterior of Orsanmichele in Florence, this work represents the highest achievement of 15th-century Florentine sculpture. During the Renaissance, Orsanmichele, one of the most important though less well-known Renaissance structures, functioned both as a church and a grain storage and market facility; the Florentine trade guilds chose it as the site for statues of their patron saints. Since 1984 the statues have been undergoing much-needed restoration. The four heads of these saints are modeled on 3rd c. C.E. Roman marble portrait busts, similar to those now on display at the Dresden antique sculpture gallery.

Source: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Morning in America Redux

"This is a matter of public policy," [former President Bill Clinton] said. "And whether it's race-based or not, if you give your tax cuts to the rich and hope everything works out all right, and poverty goes up and it disproportionately affects black and brown people, that's a consequence of the action made. That's what they did in the 80's; that's what they've done in this decade. In the middle, we had a different policy. ...There is a deep history of injustice that has led to poverty and inequality, and it will not be overcome instantly... Do we think in new and bold ways by focusing on innovative programs that work for all Americans, or do we embrace failed policies of the past which have resulted in too many being left behind?"

Philip Shenon "Clinton Levels Sharp Criticism at the President's Relief Effort" September 19, 2005.

Photo credit: New York Times; Satellite photograph from DigitalGlobe via Keyhole.

Galas, Dancing, And Renaissance Humanism On The Edges Of Disasters

N. and I attended the Washington National Opera's 50th Anniversary Gala Saturday evening -- a production of Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani conducted by Placido Domingo and directed by Paolo Miccichè. I found the production, which featured slowly rotating panoramic photographic views of Sicily as well as projected photographs of Italian old master paintings, often distracting and mannerist. While Verdi transposed the Eugene Scribe source material from the 16th century to the 13th century (I was looking forward to the evocation of 13th century Norman Sicily), the WNO team transposed the opera to the early 19th century. Fortunately, the singing was excellent (if not always the tightness of the ensembles). Maria Guleghina (variously described as Armenian or Ukrainian in the WNO materials -- her official website only states that this "Cinderella from Russia" began her career in Minsk, Belarus) was Elena, American Franco Farina was Arrigo, Georgian Lado Ataneli was Monforte, and Ukrainian Vitalij Kowaljow as Giovanni da Procida.

(Last Wednesday's dress rehearsal to the opera gala was a benefit for Hurricane Katrina Relief, and reportedly raised $20,000.)

On Sunday, we attended, at the National Gallery of Art, the Washington premiere of Dutch filmmaker Jos de Putter's (who was in attendance) "The Damned and the Sacred", a poignant documentary about a Chechnyan youth traditional dance troupe which trains in the disaster zone which is their hometown Groznyy before touring to the 2002 Amsterdam Roots Festival. A quarter of the young dancers in the troupe could not be located after the first Chechnyan War, and many in the troupe have lost fathers, brothers, or boyfriends. (There are now many more young female Chechnayans than young male Chechnayans.) The film program was curated by Peggy Parsons, and will also show at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Humanists will certainly not want to miss the National Gallery of Art exhibition on "Monumental Sculpture from Renaissance Florence: Ghiberti, Nanni di Banco, and Verrocchio at Orsanmichele", which features three large, newly restored early Florentine masterpieces of public art -- one in marble, and two in bronze. This is the first time a work by Ghiberti has ever been exhibited in the United States.

Ghiberti's St. Matthew (1419-1421). It took Ghiberti two attempts to cast this huge bronze figure. The second bronze casting was on top of the partially successful first bronze casting. It was the largest bronze sculpture since ancient Roman times, and commemorated, in part, a Roman guild of stone-carvers martyred by the third century C.E. Roman Emperor Diocletian when they would not carve a Roman pagan image. The powerful faces of all three ensembles in the exhibition were based upon second and third century C.E. Roman models.

Photo credit: Alinari/ Art Resource, NY

(The Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian, in Split, Croatia, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. See

Thursday, September 15, 2005

An American Photographer and Writer in Russia

Photographer David Hillegas and writer Lisa Dickey are creating for the Washington Post and a photo-journal of their 11 week westward trip across Russia from Vladivostok to Saint Peterburg (Petersburg) via Khabarovsk, Birobidzhan, Chita, Ude, Ulan, Irkutsk, Novobirsk, Chelyabinsk, and Moscow. Their journey began September 1.

I was struck by this photo of the Khabarovsk Amur River embankment.

"The walkway down to Khabarovsk's Amur River embankment reflects the order and cleanliness found in the city."

Photo Credit: David Hillegas via

Mirror Of Tree, Mirror Of Field: A Celebration Of The Life And Music Of Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996)

Toru Takemitsu will be celebrated at the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C., with a round-table discussion and concert on October 8 -- and with screenings of the ten films for which he wrote music beginning September 26. The discussion will feature Mark Swed, Music Critic, Los Angeles Times, Peter Grilli, film producer and president, Japan Society of Boston; Masatoshi Mitsumoto, conductor; Jon Newsom, former Chief, Music Division, Library of Congress; Roger Reynolds, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, Paula Robison, flutist and noted interpreter of Takemitsu's music, and Toshiro Saruya, composer. Special guests at the celebration will be Mrs. Asaka Takemitsu, and daughter Maki Takemitsu.

The program includes Takemitsu's string quartet A way a Lone, Stanza II for harp and tape, Air for flute, and other pieces, featuring flutist Paula Robison, violinist Shoko Aki, violist Maria Lambros, harpist Naoko Yoshino, the Potomac String Quartet, cellist Evelyn Elsing, pianist Audrey Andrist, and others.

The ten films for which Takemitsu provided music are Harakiri (1962) directed by Masaki Kobayashi, Woman of the Dunes (1964)directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara, Kwaidan (1964) directed by Masaki Kobayashi, Empire of Passion (1978) directed by Nagisa Oshima, Toru Takemitsu: Music for the Movies (1994) directed by Charlotte Zwerin, Antonio Gaudi (1984) directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara, Fire Festival (1984) directed by Mitsuo Yanagimachi, Ran (1985) directed by Akira Kurosawa, Onimaru (1988) directed by Yoshishige Yoshida, Black Rain (1989) directed by Shohei Imamura,and The Assassin (1964) directed by Masahiro Shinoda. 06preview.html

Toru Takemitsu at Columbia University. Courtesy Columbia University.

Wind-tossed thoughts: Webern and Women's Summer

Today commemorates the date 60 years ago when
a U.S. soldier accidentially shot and killed Anton
(von) Webern during the late World War II Allied occupation of
Austria. (Webern dropped the aristrocratic "von" from
his name due to his leftest sympathies, and his participation
in the Viennese "art for workers" movement.) Webern was
a major European 20th century artist who sought new means of
musical organization beyond the 1500 year old Western
system of 8-tone modes (and, later, tempered major-minor tonality).

Today also marked the beginning of Slavic Women's Summer --
the last half of September -- a period marked by tempermental weather patterns.

(Many thanks to Bob Shingleton at On An Overgrown Path for the
Webern reminder; and to N. for the Women's Summer information.)

Anton Webern deeply loved and respected European Renaissance music, especially the music of Isaac and Josquin, among other Western Renaissance composers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Art And Religion In A Time of Empire

"[Poet and librettist Alice Goodman] had, she believed, left writing behind, but found herself working again with Adams and Sellars on Doctor Atomic, an opera about the scientists who built the first atomic bomb. However, after a year on the project she quit — the balance of the partnership had shifted, the old sense of equality had gone. "That," she says, good-naturedly, "had to do with the simple fact that John has gone on from Nixon and Klinghoffer to become a very, very famous and powerful composer, and I've gone on to become a priest in the Church of England!"

She is, however, working on a new project with Sellars, a version of The Consolation of Philosophy. And all that experience in opera is helping a lot with the preaching —in literary terms, she says, a sermon is not unlike an aria. The concert halls of the world and the parish churches of England are not as different as they first appear."

Susan Mansfield "Has Her Life Been the Proverbial 'Curate's Egg'?" in The Scotsman [Edinburgh] August 22, 2005 via

Boethius. De consolatione philosophiae (Ghent, 1485). This early printed book has many hand-painted illustrations depicting Lady Philosophy and scenes of daily life in fifteenth-century Ghent. (Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.)

Major Flooding Underway, Week Ending September 12, 2005


"the tragedy that the planet’s best minds are directed at solving the problems of the rich, and not the problems of the poor"

"We need, urgently, to recast the field of “economic development” and the role of development advice. The dominance of the IMF and World Bank in the past 20 years has led to a marginalization of ecology, public health, agronomy, epidemiology, climatology, hydrology, and other critical disciplines that are literally life-and-death issues for the world’s poorest of the poor.

The World Bank will have to divert its almost single-minded obsession over “governance” and “institutions” to focus more systematically on helping bring to bear the science on how to grow more food, use information and communications technology, adjust to ongoing climate change, and promote control of infectious diseases ranging from malaria to avian flu. These are not tasks that economists can solve on their own."

Jeffrey Sachs blogging for the Financial Times, September 14, 2005.

Romanian flood aftermath, August 2005

Waiting for the Barbarians - Galerie

Twenty-eight beautiful rehearsal photos for the world premiere,
in Erfurt, Germany, of Philip Glass's (and Christopher Hampton's)
operatic version of J.M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians,
taken by Lutz Edelhoff, are available at:

(With many thanks to Charles Downey at


"Between 1900 and 1902, the Wright brothers built and tested a series of unpowered aircraft. The brothers used these aircraft to flight test some of their ideas concerning the control of aircraft, to learn the fundamentals of aerodynamics, and to learn to fly. The aircraft were flown both as kites and as piloted gliders... The 1900 aircraft was the first large aircraft built by the Wrights. It was flown repeatedly at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, during 1900 to verify and demonstrate roll control by using wing warping. Kitty Hawk was chosen as the flight location because of the steady breeze which blows in from the Atlantic and because the sand dunes provided a "soft" landing during crashes and very few "kite-eating" trees."

Source: Tom Benson, Glen Research Center, NASA.

Art in the Twenty-First Century: Memory

"How does memory function? Who creates history? Whether commemorative, critical or irreverent, the artists in episode two -- Susan Rothenberg, Mike Kelley, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Josiah McElheny -- delve into the past, transforming it and remaking it in their work. Isabella Rossellini hosts."


Oleg Kudryashov "Saint Nicholas Stopping the Execution" 1986
Courtesy Robert Brown Gallery, Washington, D.C.

Mediation and the United Nations

"We must recognize that in the six decades since its founding in San Francisco, the United Nations has performed magnificently in addressing some of the world's most pressing problems.

U.N. peacekeepers have traveled the globe to prevent conflicts and end wars, saving many millions of lives while relieving the United States from shouldering such a burden alone. For example, Sweden has deployed 80,000 peacekeepers in support of such missions. And in the last 15 years, more civil wars were ended through mediators than in the previous two centuries."

U.S. Representative Tom Lantos writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, September 14, 2005

Bridge Covered with Abandonned Shoes, Baghdad, Iraq, 2005
Photo credit: Reuters

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Order Of Saint Andrew The First Called

The first Russian Order of Saint Andrew the First Called was created on the initiative of Tsar Peter the Great. Apostle Andrew was chosen as the patron saint for the order, who, according to legend, was the first to preach Christianity to the Slavs. Although conceived by Peter I as the highest order bestowed by the Emperor for outstanding merits, it would later become more of a symbol of nobility or royal blood. The current movement in Russia is to restore the order as an award for outstanding merit.

Order of Saint Andrew the First Called. Petersburg, 19 c. Master Johan Wilhelm Keibel. One of two complete Orders from the Lviv History Museum, Lviv, Ukraine. Formerly, from the Princes Lubomirski Museum in Lviv. [Click image for greater detail.]

Monday, September 12, 2005

Waiting For The Barbarians

"Composer Philip Glass has received a 15-minute standing ovation at the world premiere of his new opera, Waiting for the Barbarians, in Germany. The US composer earned the appreciation of the audience in Erfurt, as did his librettist Christopher Hampton.

Based on the novel of the same name by [Nobel Laureate] South African writer JM Coetzee, it was Glass' 21st work for the stage....

Examining state-sponsored torture and repression, the opera explores the way in which modern-day white society is coming to terms with its legacy of centuries of repression of indigenous black cultures.

The "Barbarians" of the title are nomadic people deemed by the "civilised" whites to be socially and racially inferior.

Glass previously said he saw the opera as a critique of President Bush's administration and its war against Iraq...."

BBC News September 12, 2005

Ancient Greek ruins in Chersonesus, Ukraine. Ancient Chersonesus was the last Greek colony to emerge on the north coast of the Black Sea --it was founded in 422 B.C.E. In the words of Cicero it was "like a border sewn on the barbarian lands."

It was to Tomi on the the northwest Black Sea region of ancient Ukraine that the Roman Emperor banished P. Ovidius Naso (Ovid) in C.E. 8, at the height of his career.

The literary works of P. Ovidius Naso (Ovid)[43 B.C.E. - 17 C.E.] include: Amores, Heroides, Ars Amatoria [The Art of Love], Medicamina faciei femineae, Medea, Remedia Amoris [Cures for Love], Metamorphoses, Fasti, Tristia, and Epistulae ex Ponto [Letters from Pontus].

Life on Earth

"Palestinian teenagers Mahmoud Barbakh and Mohammed Jaroun grew up just a few minutes from the Mediterranean, but had never been to the beach.

On Monday, they waded into the waves with their jeans rolled up, then abandoned all caution and threw themselves into the surf. "It was the sweetest thing in the whole world," said 15-year-old Mahmoud.

The boys' adventure was made possible by Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. In southern Gaza, Israeli settlements took up the beachfront for three decades, and Palestinians in that area were barred by Israeli troops from reaching the Mediterranean."

Lara Sukhtian "Palestinian Teens Hit Beach After Pullout" AP via August 12, 2005

Socotra archipelago, located in the Arabian Sea of Yemen

Please see Yemen's National Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities about/yemens_coast.htm

Oleg Kudryashov's "Katyusha Lives Here?" After Leo Tolstoi's Resurrection

The original large drawing to this large contemporary print is in my private collection.

The Rolling Over Of Our Earth's Barrier Islands

Looking north from the southern tip of Assateague Island National Seashore.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Night's Black Bird

Augustus Saint-Gaudens, The Adams Memorial, 1890-1891, bronze, Washington D.C., Rock Creek Cemetery
Photo credit: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and Jerry L. Thompson

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

And We Thought That The Former Soviet Union Was 50 Years Behind The Times...

"On a cold winter night in 1953, the Netherlands suffered a terrifying blow as old dikes and seawalls gave way during a violent storm.

Flooding killed nearly 2,000 people and forced the evacuation of 70,000 others. Icy waters turned villages and farm districts into lakes dotted with dead cows.

Ultimately, the waters destroyed more than 4,000 buildings.

Afterward, the Dutch - realizing that the disaster could have been much worse, since half the country, including Amsterdam and Rotterdam, lies below sea level - vowed never again.

After all, as Tjalle de Haan, a Dutch public works official, put it in an interview last week, "Here, if something goes wrong, 10 million people can be threatened."

So at a cost of some $8 billion over a quarter century, the nation erected a futuristic system of coastal defenses that is admired around the world today as one of the best barriers against the sea's fury - one that could withstand the kind of storm that happens only once in 10,000 years."

William J. Broad "In Europe, High-Tech Flood Control, With Nature's Help" September 6, 2005.

European Flood Barriers
Photo credit: Corbis/Bettmann

The King Speaks to the Scribe

"Some of the world's poorest nations - Bangladesh, Afghanistan and tsunami-hit Thailand - have offered the United States aid and expertise to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina....Bangladesh, one of the world's poorest countries, where millions of people live on a monsoon - and flood - prone delta, pledged $1 million to Katrina's victims and offered to send specialist rescuers to inundated areas, the Foreign Ministry said."

Rohan Sullivan "Asian Countries Offer U.S. Hurricane Aid" AP via September 6, 2005.

Tombstone, Lychakiv Cemetery, Lviv, Ukraine

Photo credit: Qu (

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Cities and Water in the 21st Century

"Officials of the Army Corps of Engineers said that it would be weeks or months before the city could be pumped dry and that it would take years to rebuild its thousands of homes and businesses, its streets, highways and other infrastructure, an investment that could cost billions of dollars and perhaps never recover the rich cultural heritage of New Orleans.

One paradox, experts said, was that the destruction of a city that has always been vulnerable to water might provide an opportunity to rebuild it to make it more secure, with stronger buildings and with levees capable of withstanding the strongest storms. The present levees are designed to withstand a Category 3 hurricane; Hurricane Katrina was Category 4, one short of the highest category."

Robert D. McFadden and Ralph Blumenthal "Higher Death Toll Seen; Police Ordered to Stop Looters" September 1, 2005.

Photo credit: Digital Globe via Reuters and

In re September 1, 1939