Monday, July 31, 2006

Economic, Tourist, And Cultural Development Join Human Collateral Damage Of State-Backed Economic Terror Campaign

"Much of what has made Beirut appealing in recent years, at least to adventurous travelers, are the handful of Phoenician, Roman and Crusader ruins in Baalbeck, Sidon and Tyre, a boisterous night life and a naughty reputation. But beyond the ruins and the rowdy image, Lebanon’s artistic expression, after years of neglect, was also blooming.

“The city was thriving,” said Ramsey Short, the British editor in chief of Time Out Beirut, a four-month-old publication that had become an indispensable tool to navigate Beirut’s busy cultural and entertainment scene.

The July issue, with its cover story on Lebanon’s summer festivals and its 114 pages, has become a memento of a time that never happened: all the events and shows have been canceled. The next issue has been postponed until further notice.

“Just like that, it’s all gone,” Mr. Short said. “And I don’t think we’ll return to that world any time soon.”

The war caught most people by surprise. Dozens of festivals, concerts and shows have been canceled, including elaborate months-long programs in Baalbeck; in Beiteddine, south of the capital, where open-air concerts are held in a 19th-century palace in the Chouf mountains; and in Byblos, a coastal town north of Beirut. Ticketholders are being reimbursed. Organizers of Liban Jazz, scheduled for September, are trying to keep that festival alive, perhaps as a charity event in Paris. Along the bombed-out coastal highway in the south between Beirut and Tyre, dozens of fancy resorts are deserted, their once-pristine beaches polluted by an oil slick.

The Baalbeck International Festival, set inside stunning Roman ruins in the middle of the Bekaa Valley, east of Beirut, was to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. Organizers had scheduled performances by Lebanon’s national diva, Fairuz; the Ballet Theater of St. Petersburg; and the Budapest Symphony Orchestra and Opera of Nice in a joint production of Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor.”

Thousands of well-to-do Beirutis had bought tickets and were prepared to drive two hours to attend these open-air productions between the temples of Jupiter and Bacchus. Instead, in the town of Baalbeck itself, away from the historic ruins, Israeli Air Force planes have leveled dozens of buildings in recent days. Baalbeck is a stronghold of the militant Shiite group Hezbollah; the Israeli military campaign in Lebanon began after a Hezbollah raid into Israel on July 12.

“I feel stupid because I was so optimistic,” said Carole Ammoun, a 27-year-old actress who had been performing in a local version of Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues,” called here “Hakeh Nesswan,” or “Women’s Talk.” The play, which was originally scheduled for five nights, had been extended for three months straight.

“It was such a compliment to perform in something that was successful and that people enjoyed,” said Ms. Ammoun, a bubbly woman with a large flashing smile. “We broke so many taboos talking about sexuality in an Arab country. There was a real sense that we were opening new doors.” ...

Some artists have channeled similar feelings into their work. Mazen Kerbaj recorded a musical piece with his trumpet and the sound of bombs falling on Beirut in the background for a duet he called “Starry Night.” ...

In Hamra, Beirut’s faded former commercial district, Hania Mroué had been looking forward to July as she opened the Metropolis, a theater for art-house movies. For the premiere, attended by the culture minister and the French ambassador, she picked “Les Amitiés Maléfiques” (“Poison Friends”) by the French director Emmanuel Bourdieu, which won the Critics’ Week Grand Prix in Cannes. The next day the war began.

Now about 40 people from Beirut’s bombed-out southern suburbs sleep in her movie theater and offices, which are two floors underground. During the day she shows films and documentaries to keep the children busy.

Last Monday she decided to reopen the theater to the public for daily screenings at 6 p.m.: early enough, she said with grim Lebanese humor, so the audience can go home before the bombing begins.

“It’s important to be able to talk about other things than Israel and Hezbollah,” said Ms. Mroué, 31, whose soft features belie her steeliness. “We will have all the time to analyze, to argue and even to cry about all this later. This is why theaters like this are important: so that you can live, even during a war.”

Last week she asked two doctors from the nearby American University of Beirut hospital to vaccinate the children in the theater. At the same time she somehow managed to obtain a Sri Lankan movie — “The Forsaken Land” — that had been stuck in Damascus for three weeks. Next she plans to show movies by the late Lebanese filmmaker Maroun Baghdadi about the country’s civil war.

“It so hurts my heart to admit this that words fail me,” she said. “We had such a promising year. I don’t think we’ve realized what we have just lost.” ...

As everywhere, the war dominates discussions. Many talk about feelings of loss, abandonment or despair. What seems to rankle most, though, is the sense that a huge collective bubble has been pricked without warning.

“It took a long time to get to where we were,” said Mr. Abdel Baki, the musician, as the sun slowly dropped into the sea. “Things won’t be the same anymore. It’s the uncertainty that’s unsettling. It shows how precarious our lives were.”

Jad Mouawad "In Beirut, Cultural Life Is Another War Casualty" New York Times, July 31, 2006

The ruins of the Greek temple at Tyre, Lebanon. Situated on the coast, this site has been important since Phoenician times. Alexander the Great passed this way. But the area has been prone to devastation, not only caused by earthquakes local to Lebanon but also by tsunamis. These can be triggered by submarine slides on the Levant continental margin or by other geological events (earthquakes, eruptions) elsewhere in the eastern Mediterranean.

Photo and caption credit: © 2000 Rob Butler, The Dead Sea Transform in Lebanon, School of Earth Sciences, Leeds University, United Kingdom. With thanks.

State Terror Revisited ... Or What You Can Learn From Humanist Bloggers That You Cannot Learn From The Washington Post

"Hazardous material bound for Israel is believed to have been landed at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk (United Kingdom), after flights were diverted from Prestwick airport in Scotland in the wake of planned protests. A member of staff at RAF Mildenhall told the Press Association that one plane operated by US cargo firm Atlas Air was on the runway - but they could not say what was inside it. Atlas Air is being used for two hazardous material flights from Texas to Tel Aviv, and planes were due to fly into Prestwick over the weekend - but they were diverted to a military base elsewhere in the UK, according to a source at Preswtick.

An official operations spokesman at RAF Mildenhall, which has one of the biggest runways in Europe, later refused to confirm or deny the hazardous material flights had been diverted from Prestwick to Mildenhall. It is not sure exactly what is on board the planes, but their dangerous contents needed a special exemption from the Civil Aviation Authority, which was approved.

Two chartered A310 Airbuses carrying bunker-busting bombs for Israel previously stopped over for refuelling at Prestwick, apparently without following proper procedure. It led to calls for US planes to be banned from using the UK as a staging post for arms transport during the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon -although the government has made clear it was the breach in protocol rather than the fact of the flights that was at issue.

US president George Bush apologised to Tony Blair over the previous use of Prestwick to refuel planes carrying bombs to Israel.Tony Blair defended allowing the use of Prestwick for US aircraft ferrying bombs to Israel. Speaking on an official visit to San Francisco he told Sky News last night: "What happens at Prestwick airport is not going to determine whether we get a ceasefire in the Lebanon."

From the Eastern Daily Press, July 30, 2006 via On An Overgrown Path, the music and humanities daily blog, July 30, 2006.


Die stille Stadt

Liegt eine Stadt im Tale,
Ein blasser Tag vergeht.
Es wird nicht lange dauern mehr,
Bis weder Mond noch Sterne
Nur Nacht am Himmel steht.

Von allen Bergen drücken
Nebel auf die Stadt,
Es dringt kein Dach, nicht Hof noch Haus,
Kein Laut aus ihrem Rauch heraus,
Kaum Türme noch und Brücken.

Und als dem Wandrer graute,
Da ging ein Lichtlein auf im Grund
Und durch den Rauch und Nebel
Begann ein leiser Lobgesang
Aus Kindermund.

-- Richard Fedor Leopold Dehmel (1863-1920)

The silent city

A town lies in the valley;
A pale day fades.
It will not be long
Before neither moon nor stars
But only night shall rule the heavens.

From all the mountaintops
Mists descend upon the town;
No roof nor yard nor house
Nor sound can pierce the smoke,
Not even a tower or a bridge.

But as the traveller felt fear
A tiny light shone below,
And through smoke and mist
And a soft song of praise began
From the mouth of a child.

-- Translation from German to English copyright © 2001 by Hyperion Records. With thanks.

Poem set to music by by Alma Mahler (1900-1?), Hans Erich Pfitzner (1921), Jean Sibelius (1906), Felix Wolfes (1951), Henri Zagwijn (1915, published 1950), and others.

Via the The Lied and Art Song Texts Page. With thanks.


The original Kindertotenlieder (Songs on the Death of Children) were a group of 425 poems written by Friedrich Rückert in 1833–34 in an outpouring of grief after two of his children had died in an interval of sixteen days.


Friedrich Rückert (May 16, 1788 - January 31, 1866) was a German poet, translator, and professor of Oriental [especially Middle Eastern] languages.

Rückert was born at Schweinfurt, the eldest son of a lawyer. He was educated at the gymnasium of his native place and at the universities of Würzburg and Heidelberg. For some time (1816-1817) he worked on the editorial staff of the Morgenblatt at Stuttgart. Nearly the whole of the year 1818 he spent in Rome, and afterwards he lived for several years at Coburg (1820-1826). He was appointed a professor of Oriental languages at the University of Erlangen in 1826, and, in 1841, he was called to a similar position in Berlin, where he was also made a privy councillor. In 1849 he resigned his professorship at Berlin, and went to live on his estate Neuses near Coburg.

When Rückert began his literary career, Germany was engaged in her life-and-death struggle with Napoleon; and in his first volume, Deutsche Gedichte (German Poems), published in 1814 under the pseudonym Freimund Raimar, he gave, particularly in the powerful Geharnischte Sonette (Demanding Sonnets), vigorous expression to the prevailing sentiment of his countrymen. During 1815 to 1818 appeared Napoleon, eine politische Komödie in drei Stücken (Napolean, a Political Comedy in Three Parts)--only two parts were published; and in 1817 Der Kranz der Zeit (The Wreath of the Times).

He issued a collection of poems, Östliche Rosen (Eastern Roses), in 1822; and from 1834 to 1838 his Gesammelte Gedichte (Collected Poems) were published in six volumes, a selection from which has passed through many editions.

Rückert who was master of thirty languages made his mark chiefly as a translator of Oriental poetry and as a writer of poems conceived in the spirit of Oriental masters. Much attention was attracted by a translation of Hariris Makamen in 1826, Nal und Damajanti, an Indian tale, in 1828, Rostem und Suhrab, eine Heldengeschichte (Rostem and Suhrab, a Story of Heroes) in 1830, and Hamasa, oder die ältesten arabischen Volkslieder (Hamasa, or the Oldest Arabian Folk Songs) in 1846.

Among his original writings dealing with Oriental subjects are:

Morgenländische Sagen und Geschichten (Oriental Myths and Poems) (1837)
Erbauliches und Beschauliches aus dem Morgenland (Establishments and Contemplations from the Orient) (1836-1838)
Brahmanische Erzählungen (Brahmin Stories) (1839).
The most elaborate of his works is Die Weisheit des Brahmanen (The Wisdom of the Brahmins), published in six volumes from 1836 to 1839. The former and Liebesfrühling (Spring of Love) (1844), a cycle of love-songs, are the best known of all Rückert's productions.

He continues to exert a strong influence on Oriental studies in Germany.

Rückert's poetry was a powerful inspiration to composers and there are about 121 settings of his work - behind only Goethe, Heine and Rilke in this respect. Schubert, both Robert Schumann and Clara Schumann, Brahms, Mahler, Richard Strauss, Hindemith, Bartók, Berg, and Hugo Wolf are probably the greatest of the composers who set him, and there are several others.

Source: Wikipedia

A fragment of the US-Made Bomb used in the Israeli raid that killed 37 Lebanese children -- and 20 other Lebanese civilians -- on the early morning of July 30, 2006.

The bomb is marked "FOR USE ON MK-84 GUIDED BOMB BSU-37/B"

The Innocent Lebanese Civilians were killed at Qana by using MK-84 Laser Guided Bombs (LGB) with BSU-37/B (Bomb Stabilization Units). These Bombs are Precision-Guided Munition (PGM) and were manufactured by the U.S. Company Raytheon for the U.S. Navy and Air Force.

The MK-84 LGB, which weights 2000 lbs (907 kg) and has 948 lbs (430 kg) explosive power, features accuracy, reliability and cost-effectiveness previously unobtainable in conventional weapons.

Are these MK-84 LGB the New "Smart Bombs" that were rushed recently from USA into Israel via Scotland?

Photo credit: QANA MASSACRE #2 BY "ISRAEL" JULY 30, 2006 [Photo gallery of dead children].

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Indian Composer Wins Best Composer Crown With Popular Music Homage To Early Indian Emperor Who Renounced Imperialism And Terror As State Policy

"'Ashok' is the top Telugu album of the fortnight. For Mani Sharma, the success comes immediately after the musical hit he scored with 'Pokiri'.

The top five Telugu albums are:

1. 'Ashok' - 'Gola gola' and 'Jaabilikie' stand out among the racy numbers of this mass-oriented album.

2. 'Pokiri' - The film's stupendous success has helped the audio set a sales record. Mani Sharma calls it 'the right film at the right time', with his numbers 'Dole dole' and 'Gala gala paruthunna' topping every countdown show.

3. 'Vikramarkudu' - Unlike their previous musical hits, the hit team of director S.S. Rajamouli and composer M.M. Keeravani seems to have failed this time. 'College papala' and 'Jum jum maya' are just bearable.

4. 'Amma Chepindi'- Keeravani proves his class yet again with an offbeat score. 'Vasthava natho' and 'Evaremyna' are melodious.

5. 'Godavari' - Composer Radhakrishna regains a slot in this list with 'Manasa gelupu' and 'Manasavacha'."

B. Anuradha, Indo-Asian News Service "Mani Sharma wins best composer's crown with 'Ashok'" July 27, 2006

King Ashoka, the third monarch of the Indian Mauryan dynasty, has come to be regarded as one of the most exemplary rulers in world history. The British historian H.G. Wells has written: "Amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history ... the name of Asoka shines, and shines almost alone, a star."

Ashoka's Empire in 250 BCE.

Photo credit: Monique Vincent, France. With thanks.


The Rock Edicts of King Ashoka, in an English translation by Ven. S. Dhammika (spiritual director of the Buddha Dhamma Mandala Society in Singapore), via DharmaNet International, Berkeley, California, United States.


Telugu people -- a Dravidian people with a population of about 80 million -- are primarily located in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India and neighbouring areas like Pondicherry, Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra (the areas bordering Andhra Pradesh).

Many have emigrated to countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Mauritius, Fiji and Malaysia.

See link for Prominent Telugu Personalities

1.1 Historic Poets, Playwriters and Dance Composers
1.2 Emperors, Kings and Queens
1.3 Music Composers
1.4 Religious leaders and philosophers
1.5 Warriors, Martyrs and Freedom Fighters
1.6 Democratic India Politicians
1.7 Modern Authors/Poets
1.8 Sports Personalities
1.9 Film Artists and Writers
1.10 Film Celebrities

Source: Wikipedia


Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières is an independent humanitarian medical aid agency committed to two objectives: providing medical aid wherever needed, regardless of race, religion, politics or sex, and raising awareness of the plight of the people they help. In 1999 Médecins Sans Frontières was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 'in recognition of the organization's pioneering humanitarian work on several continents'.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Vietnam To Stage Huge, Traditional Opera [Cai Luong] Gala In Ho Chi Minh City Sports Center Just Before Winter Solstice

"A program for Cai luong (kind of traditional Vietnamese Theatrical Art) Gala 2006 is being prepared by the Tran Huu Trang Theater.

It is expected to make a breakthrough in this performing art, finding the new way for long-established arts in the competitive environment between folk and innovative performing arts.

The famous Truyen Kieu (Kieu Story) of poet Nguyen Du will be presented in the program under the direction of Hoa Ha.

It will include seven scenes, each with a different actor playing the role of the main character Kieu, describing the life of Kieu from young to old. Each scene is directed by by a different directing teams, coordinated by Director Hoa Ha.

The cost for the program is estimated at VND1.8 billion, of which VND1.2 billion is provided by Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee and the rest from sponsors, ticket, TV rights, publications, and disk sales. In July, the theatre leader will submit the program project to the committee for approval.

The program will be held at the Phan Dinh Phung Sports Center in early December.

“The theater plans to gather artists to rehearse for this programme from this month. All famous actors, including gifted ones living abroad, will be invited to join the program,” said Mr Phan Quoc Hung, director of the Tran Huu Trang Theatre, “Stunt men and hundreds of figurants will take part in the scenes of periods of unrest . Some kinds of arts such as dancing, songs in chorus, light music and opera will be included in the program.”

Vietnam Net Bridge "VND1.8 billion for traditional opera gala 2006" July 26, 2006

Scene from Vietnamese Cai luong performance.

Select a song and listen to Cai luong [Eight audio samples].

"Cai Luong (Renovated Opera) appeared in the southern part of Vietnam in the 1920s. This relatively modern form combines drama, modeled after French comedy, and singing. Scenes are elaborate and are changed frequently throughout the play. Cai luong is similar to the Western operettas and more easily depicts the inner feelings of the characters. Songs of the Cai luong are based on variations of a limited number, perhaps 20, of tunes with different tempos for particular emotions - this convention permits a composer to choose among 20 variations to express anger, and as many to portray joy.

The principal supporting songs in Cai Luong is the Vong Co (literally, nostalgia for the past). Cai luong owes much of its success to the sweet voices of the cast, much appreciated by the audience. Upon hearing the first bars of the well-loved Vong Co, the audience reacts with gasps of recognition and applause.

The Cai luong performance includes dances, songs, and music; the music originally drew its influences from southern folk music. Since then, the music of Cai luong has been enriched with hundreds of new tunes. A Cai luong orchestra consists mainly of guitars with concave frets, and danakim.

Over the years, Cai luong has experienced a number of changes to become a type of stage performance highly appreciated by the Vietnamese people as well as foreign visitors."

Other Renaissance Theater links:

Cheo (Vietnamese popular opera)

Tuong (Vietnamese classical opera)

Roi nuoc (Vietnamese Water puppetry)

Text and photo credits: Vietnam Style: Vietnam Traditional Theater Vietnam Datacommunication Company (VDC) With thanks.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

University Of California San Francisco Mission Bay Biomedical Campus Experiments With Early 21st Century American Urban Renaissance

Aerial view of UCSF Mission Bay that shows the completed Genentech Hall in the foreground and the second building, Genetics, Development and Behavioral Sciences, nearing completion. [Click on image for enlargement.]

A 43-acre campus for teaching and research, UCSF Mission Bay is the latest addition to the University of California, San Francisco, a public institution dedicated to saving lives and improving health. UCSF Mission Bay welcomed its first wave of students, faculty and staff in January 2003. Construction continues apace as the campus literally springs to life near downtown San Francisco.

Genentech Hall (24A/B), a six-story, 434,000-gross-square-foot biomedical research facility, broke ground in October 1999 and was completed in October 2002. Scientists began moving into the building in January 2003 and will continue to move in through May 2003. Designed as a model for interactive research, the $223 million research building will contain programs in structural and chemical biology and molecular, cell and developmental biology, as well as the Molecular Design Institute and the Center for Advanced Technology. The building features an atrium, outdoor amphitheater, a library and café.

As it develops, the public is invited to tour the Mission Bay campus. Weekly tours meet Wednesday at 12:00 noon in the lobby of the Community Center near the concierge desk. Reservations are required. Tours begin at 12:00 noon and last approximately 45-60 minutes. It's a walking tour, so it is suggested that you wear comfortable shoes.

Proto-Renaissance Public Sculpture at the UCSF Mission Bay Campus:

A sculpture by Stephan Balkenhol was installed in the community center on Oct. 21, 2005. Photo by Christine Jegan.

Hammering Man at 2,903,440 by Jonathan Borofsky, on loan to UCSF from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Photo by Mark Citret.

Standing 133 feet apart, Ballast, designed by American sculptor Richard Serra, was erected on March 22, 2005. Photo by Majed.


Aerial photo credit: (c) Mark Defeo 2003. With thanks.


Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières is an independent humanitarian medical aid agency committed to two objectives: providing medical aid wherever needed, regardless of race, religion, politics or sex, and raising awareness of the plight of the people they help. In 1999 Médecins Sans Frontières was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 'in recognition of the organization's pioneering humanitarian work on several continents'.

Catholic Church-Backed Polish Nationalist Neo-Conservatives Loudly Reject European Project-Backed Liberal Globalization

..."[N]early 17 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and two years after Poland and other former [Central European and Baltic] Soviet bloc states joined the European Union, it is a surprising time in Europe. On the very heels of what could certainly be deemed a historic achievement, the defeat of Communist dictatorship and the merging of [parts of] Eastern and Western Europe into a 25-member club of peaceful, secure, and solidly democratic countries, Europe is in a strange and sour mood.

In the West, ever since the rejection by France and the Netherlands of a proposed constitution that was supposed to put enlarged Europe into its next phase of integration, there seems to be no energy and no political will directed toward what used to be enthusiastically called the European project.

Instead, the European Union is experiencing what the Center for European Reform in London has called an unprecedented malaise, signaled by a retreat into a narrow defense of national interests.

Meanwhile, members of the former Eastern bloc, though objectively in better shape economically and politically than at any other time in their histories, appear to feel lost, bereft of the purpose that inspired them when their only goal was to topple the Communists and, with that accomplished, to join the Western clubs open only to fully democratic countries.

The paradox is that neither the old members of the Union nor the new ones seem to be celebrating what really is a historic achievement, uniting a continent that for centuries was rent by war. Instead, in several countries — Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in particular [as well as non-EU Ukraine] — the politics of lofty ideals and general high-mindedness has been replaced by a politics of bickering, accusations of corruption and ever changing coalitions.

“That was a very romantic time in Eastern Europe,” Krisztian Szabados, director of Political Capital, a political analysis organization in Budapest, said of the immediate post-Communist period. “But the romantic time is over. Now politics is more professional, and professionalism means corruption and the dirty side of politics.”

In Poland, a lesser zeal for Europe has coincided with an increased commitment to tradition ...

Workers have restored the ruins of a ninth-century Romanesque church that was a predecessor to the Gothic basilica [in the small Polish city of Wislica]. A small museum depicts Wislica’s history as one of Poland’s medieval settlements, a crossroads visited by early kings.

But the government itself is not so solid. The coalition in Warsaw has had a rocky tenure since it came to power last fall. Some moderates fled the government as the Law and Justice Party eventually linked up with populist and far-right parties to stay afloat.

In early July the moderate prime minister, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, stepped down. To fill the post, President Lech Kaczynski appointed his twin brother, Jaroslaw, the leader of the Law and Justice Party, which the brothers created several years ago. The move gives the Kaczynskis a dominance in Poland unseen since the days of Communist rule.

President Kaczynski is well remembered in more liberal Europe for having banned a gay pride parade in Warsaw when he was mayor there two years ago. But more recently he reacted so vociferously to a parody of him in a leftist German newspaper — demanding that the German government investigate the newspaper and apologize for the article — that some German commentators argued that it had been a mistake to have allowed Poland into the European Union.

“The new Polish leadership stands for a negative trend in European politics,” Süddeutsche Zeitung editorialized after Mr. Kaczynski’s comments about the parody. “Nationalism and chauvinism are on the rise.”

At home, Mr. Kaczynski has put loyalists into key government commissions supervising radio and television, and he has declined to speak out against what many people here have described as the growing power of a conservative Catholic nationalist radio station, Radio Maryja, which some people say is broadcasting a message of coded anti-Semitism.

And then there was the coalition with two populist parties that gave their leaders the Ministries of Education and Agriculture and made them deputy prime ministers to boot.

For some people inside and outside the country, the conservatism and pugnacity being shown in Poland signal an abrupt step backward in the direction of an aggrieved Slavic nationalism that was supposed to have disappeared with European Union membership.

The European Parliament, disturbed by the presence in the Polish government of the League of Polish Families, which echoes the Poland-equals-Catholicism nationalism of the 1920’s and 30’s, and noting a rightward turn in other parts of Central Europe, blasted the government for what it called “the general rise in racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic and homophobic intolerance in Poland.” It also accused the leaders of the League of Polish Families of “inciting people to hatred and violence.”

That statement was rebuffed by the Polish leaders and Parliament as exaggerated and alarmist. Indeed, while some league officials have made statements highly derogatory of homosexuality, and while the country’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, was assaulted on a Warsaw street this spring, many Poles say those are isolated instances of bigotry that are not representative.

“The general tone of Polish opinion is that this was an overinterpretation of the situation,” said Andrzej Jonas, editor of the English-language Warsaw Voice, referring to the European Parliament’s resolution.

But while they think the European Parliament may exaggerate the degree of public intolerance and the government’s complacency about it, many people say something worrisome is taking place.

“It’s true that some of the demons of the past have returned,” said Zbigniew Lewicki, a professor of American studies at Warsaw University. “I blame the leadership for it. They keep talking about the last 17 years as a time of dishonesty, a time that has to be accounted for, a time we should be ashamed of, and when these words come from a president, people say, ‘Well, maybe they are right.’

“And people also ask, ‘What do I believe in?’ If they can’t believe in the last 17 years, and they can’t believe in the Communist tradition, they turn to the prewar tradition. And the only strong prewar tradition is nationalism, a sense of Polishness.”

Indeed, the new government led by the Law and Justice Party has railed almost constantly against its predecessors, charging that they were corrupt domestically and failed to defend Poland’s interests properly abroad, especially in the negotiations leading to European Union membership. The new government has evinced a good deal of animosity toward Poland’s two larger and more secular neighbors, Germany and Russia.

And there are almost daily calls for a parliamentary investigation of the entire process by which Poland was transformed into a free-market economy.

A member of the coalition government, Andrzej Lepper, head of the Self-Defense Party, is emblematic of the complaints. He bitterly opposed Poland’s joining the Union and argued that Poland’s state assets had been sold off to private individuals and companies for “peanuts.” He has criminal charges pending against him connected with anti-European Union, anti-globalization campaigns in the past.

Other shifts in the mood have resulted in some small but important changes in matters of everyday life, like a pledge to include questions about religion, meaning Catholicism, in the test that high school students must pass to get their diplomas. There is also a proposal to use government funds to build churches, but that is being contested in court.

It is the adoption of Catholicism as a sort of unofficial state religion that may have changed Poland’s atmosphere the most.

“The reality is that we are like other European countries with our low birthrate, our divorces and abortions and all that,” said Marek Ostrowski, an editor at the weekly magazine Polityka. ...

Mr. Ostrowski said, “Many people are happy that we finally we have a president who goes to church, and who doesn’t avoid a church connection with major ceremonies,” in contrast to recent past presidents, who were thought to represent the secular and international values of Western Europe.

For 17 years, he said, the political mainstream did not pay attention to the resurgent religious values. “Now that has changed,” he said."

Richard Bernstein "After Reaching Outward, Poland Looks Back to Its Roots" New York Times July 25, 2006

Sculptural detail from Romanesque Church, founded in the ninth century C.E. -- the predecessor of the later Gothic church on the same site-- in the small Polish city of Wislica.

Wislica, Kolegiata na rynku, podziemia Rytowana posadzka romańska z XII wieku, ok 1170, wykonana z gipsu jastrychowego zapewnienie odpowiednich warunków klimatycznych dla odsłoniętej w czasie prac archeologicznych posadzki.

Photo credit: Inter-Academy Institute of Conservation and Restoration of Work of Art, Warsaw - Krakow. With thanks. [Click on link for multi-media introduction to the Institute's work.]

Monday, July 24, 2006

Song Without Words Pieśń Bez Słowi Песня Без Слов שִׁיר, זֶמֶר


© Dzimitry S. Samoussevitch

Images of Lakhva, Belarus, formerly Łachwa, Poland; including the former Wooden Synagogue [possibly dating from the 18th century], the Slavonic Orthodox Church of 1870 or 1889, and a Soviet-era painting from 1957 depicting Nazi SS Officers overseeing the Nazi's total destruction, by burning, of the pre-World War II wooden Shtetl sheltering, in 1942, over 3,200 Jews. The town was originally founded in 1493. Today's population is about 2,100; with few, if any, Jews represented among the residents. A Monument to the 1942 Łachwa/Лахва [Lakhva] Jewish Ghetto uprising was established in 1994.

Photo and image credits: and © Татьяна Конопацкая [© Мишпоха-А. 2005 г. Историко-публицистический журнал] for archival image of Synagogue and 1957 Soviet-era painting of Nazi burning of Lakhva; for 1997 photo of Lakhva and marshland; Polish Border Protection Corps via Wikipedia for archival photo of Łachwa, Poland in 1926; and Dzimitry S. Samoussevitch and for contemporary photo of Lakhva's Slavonic Orthodox Church. With deep thanks to all.


Médecins Sans Frontières is an independent humanitarian medical aid agency committed to two objectives: providing medical aid wherever needed, regardless of race, religion, politics or sex, and raising awareness of the plight of the people they help. In 1999 Médecins Sans Frontières was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 'in recognition of the organization's pioneering humanitarian work on several continents'.

Westward And Westward The Course Of Beethoven, Schinkel, And Empire Takes Its Way

National symphony orchestra marks 50th founding anniversary 

BEIJING, July 22 (Xinhua) -- "China National Symphony Orchestra (CNSO) Saturday held a concert at Beijing Concert Hall, in the center of this national capital, to celebrate its 50th founding anniversary.

Li Changchun, member of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee Political Bureau, was among the 1,000 audience to attend the concert. Leading officials Liu Yunshan and Chen Zhili were also watching.

At the concert, Chinese artists performed Chinese songs and orchestral works, and at the end, the triumphant Beethoven Symphony No.9 -- The Choral.

CNSO was found in 1956 when it was known as Central Symphony Orchestra. In 1996, the orchestra got its present name.

Over the past five decades, CNSO has composed or performed a large number of foreign and Chinese classics and modern works."

Xinhua News Agency "National symphony orchestra [of China] marks 50th founding anniversary" July 23, 2006

New National Grand Theatre of China, in Beijing, 2006. Designed by French Architect Paul Andreu.

Photo: © Hervé Langlais. All rights reserved.

"The National Grand Theatre of China in Beijing by architect Paul Andreu is one of the most talked-about architectural projects for years, both because of Andreu's audacious and innovative design, and for the grand scope of the project itself; the Theatre will be Beijing's foremost cultural center, situated in the heart of the capital, symbolizing all that is exciting about the new China. It will be, in the architect's words: "A new district of spectacles and dreams open to one and all."

Over 6,355 m2 (68,400 ft2) of insulated laminated glass incorporating DuPont™ Butacite® PVB interlayer is used by the architect for a clear curtain wall to the building that aesthetically portrays just that: a grand, invisible curtain, a shimmering mirage that looks as though it has just been parted this instant to reveal the stage inside. The laminated glass was supplied by Northern Glass of Shanghai.

This stunning laminated glass curtain wall, which continues symmetrically over the top of the building to open up at the north and south-facing façades, is enclosed by the remainder of the elliptical titanium façade. Visually, this opaque, titanium covering frames and highlights the clear laminated glass space that it surrounds, a space from whence can be seen, at night, all the light, movement, action and excitement of a busy theatre, music and arts complex from the street outside. By day, the clear, laminated glass façade soars upwards to form a grand skylight to the upper dome of the building, flooding the interior of the Grand Theatre's atrium lobbies with natural daylight.

The Theatre, due to be completed in early 2006, is situated on Chang'An Avenue, next to the Great Hall of the People and about 500 m (1,640 ft) from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. It is a curved building with a total surface area of about 149,500 m2 (1,609,205 ft2) that emerges like an island at the center of a lake. The titan-ium shell is in the shape of a super ellipsoid with a maximum span of 213 m (700 ft), a minimum span of 144 m (472 ft) and a height of 46 m (151 ft). The building houses three performance auditoria - a 2,416-seat opera house; a 2,017-seat concert hall and a 1,040-seat theatre - as well as art and exhibition spaces open to a wide public and integrated into the life of the city.

Architect Paul Andreu said: "The National Grand Theatre of China is divided into two by a curved, laminated glass covering, which is 100 m (328 ft) wide at the bases of the north façade and the south façade. During the day, light flows through the glass roof into the building. At night, the movements within can be seen from the outside.

"The building is connected to the shore by way of a 60-metre (197 ft) -long, transparent underpass. This entrance leaves the exterior of the building intact, without any openings, and remains mysterious-looking, while providing the public with a passage from their daily work to the world of opera, fiction and dreams.

"A viewing lounge on the highest level of the building, under the laminated glass skylight roof, affords the general public and theatre-goers alike with a 360-degree view of Beijing that varies with the light according to the time of the day. From the laminated glass window/façades of this viewing lounge, the city can be rediscovered from a hitherto-unseen perspective." ...

Text and photo credit: Laminated Glass News. © 2006 E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. With thanks.


Karl Friedrich Schinkel

(b. Neuruppin, Prussia 1781; d. Berlin, Germany 1841)

"Karl Schinkel was born in Neuruppin, Prussia in 1781. He studied under Friedrich Gilley at the Bauakademie in Berlin. Between 1803 and 1805, he travelled through Italy and France. He returned to a French controlled Prussia where he worked as a painter and stage designer.

After the French were driven out of Prussia, Schinkel was appointed Surveyor to the Prussian Building Commission. As surveyor he redesigned the city with a series of buildings that expressed Prussia's cultural ambitions and national pride.

General disenchantment with France turned most Prussian architects against the classical Roman manner favoured by the Ecole des Beaux Arts. This national rejection led Schinkel to design in a Neo-Greek style that symbolically recalled the political and moral freedom of Athenian Greece.

Although he preferred classic architecture, Schinkel created designs in both Classic and Gothic manners. His drawings suggest a continuous analysis between Neoclassical Prussia and Periclean Athens.

Schinkel died in Berlin, Germany in 1841."

Dennis Sharp. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Architects and Architecture. New York: Quatro Publishing, 1991. ISBN 0-8230-2539-X. NA40.I45. p137.


Learning One's History And Geography ... In English, Belarusian, Polish, Russian, Hebrew, And Yiddish

"Lakhva (or Lachva, Lachwa) (Belarusian: Лахва) (Polish:Łachwa) (Russian:Лахва) (Hebrew:לחווא) (Yiddish:לאַכװע) is a small town in southern Belarus, in Brest voblast, approximately 80 kilometres to the east of Pinsk and 200 kilometres south of Minsk. The population is approximately 2100.

Before the Second World War, Lakhva was a shtetl in eastern Poland with a sizeable Jewish population of about 2,300. The Jewish population increased by 40% between 1939 and 1941, when Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned Poland, and Jewish refugees fled German-occupied areas to those lands incorporated into the Soviet Union.

Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, and German troops occupied Lakhva on July 8, 1941. On April 1, 1942, the town's Jews were forcibly moved into a ghetto consisting of two streets surrounded by a barbed wire fence.

On September 2, 1942, the local populace became aware that the Nazis were digging pits outside the town. Later that day, 150 German soldiers (the Einsatzgruppen) and 200 local police surrounded the ghetto. Dov Lopatyn, the head of the local Judenrat, refused the German request for the ghetto inhabitants to line up for deportation. On September 3, members of the ghetto underground attacked the Germans as they entered the ghetto, using axes, sticks, molotov cocktails and their bare hands. This battle represented one of the first ghetto uprisings of the war.

Approximately 650 Jews were killed in the fighting, and another 500 or so Jews were taken to the pits and shot. The ghetto wall was breached, and approximately 1000 Jews were able to escape, of whom about 600 were able to take refuge in the Pripet Marshes [of southern Belarus/northern Ukraine]. Although an estimated 120 of the escapees were able to join partisan units, most of the others were eventually tracked down and killed. Approximately 90 residents of the ghetto survived the war.

Lopatyn joined a communist partisan unit, and was killed on February 21, 1944 by a landmine. Lakhva was liberated by the Red Army in July 1944.

At present, there are few, if any, Jewish inhabitants in Lakhva, although a small memorial to the 1942 Jewish uprising was erected in 1994."

Suhl, Yuri. They Fought Back. (New York: Paperback Library Inc., 1967), pages 181-3.


"Pinsk Marshes (Пинские болота) or Pripyat Marshes (Pripet Marshes, Припятские болота) is a vast territory of wetlands along the Pripyat River and its tributaries from Brest, Belarus (West) to Mogilev, Belarus (Northeast) and Kiev, Ukraine (Southeast).

The Pinsk Marshes mostly lie within the Polesian Lowland and occupy most of the southern part of Belarus. They cover roughly 38,000 sq. miles surrounding the Pripyat River. Drainage of the eastern portion began in 1870, and has been cleared for pasture and farmland.

During most of the year, the marshes are impassable to major military forces, thus influencing strategic planning of all military operations in the region. During World War II, the marshes divided the central and southern theatres of operation, and also served as a hideout for Soviet partisans.

At one stage during the war, the Nazi German administration planned to drain the marshes, cleanse them of their 'degenerate' inhabitants, and repopulate the area with German colonists. Konrad Meyer was the leader in charge of the Pripet plan. However, Hitler scuttled the project late in 1941, as he believed that it may entail dustbowl (Versteppung) conditions."

Blackbourn, David. (2006). The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape and the Making of Modern Germany. Jonathan Cape.

Map of the ghettos in occupied Europe, 1939-45, showing the location of Lakhva (south of Minsk, east of Pinsk).

Map credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.

Lakhva in 1926 (then Łachwa, Poland), ulica Lubaczyńska (Lubaczynska Street). Photographed by: Pracownia fotograficzna Poleskiej Brygady KOP (the photography lab of the Polish Border Protection Corps).

Photo credit: The former Polish Border Protection Corps via Wikipedia. With thanks.

Text source: Wikipedia. With thanks.


And with many thanks to friends, old and new, in Minsk, Pinsk, Lviv, Zhytomyr, Drohobych, Kyiv, San Francisco, Detroit, and Tel Aviv who generously offered me assistance in this inquiry.


Médecins Sans Frontières is an independent humanitarian medical aid agency committed to two objectives: providing medical aid wherever needed, regardless of race, religion, politics or sex, and raising awareness of the plight of the people they help. In 1999 Médecins Sans Frontières was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 'in recognition of the organization's pioneering humanitarian work on several continents'.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

"I Want To Encourage Young Audiences Truly To Appreciate Past Masterpieces" -- Renaissance Artist Luchino Visconti (1906–1976)

Luchino Visconti and Suso Cecchi d'Amico, Renaissance Artists

July 21, 22, 23, and 29
August 2, 3, 5, 13, and 19
September 2 and 4, 2006

One of the most productive creative partnerships in film history was that of Italian screenwriter Suso Cecchi d'Amico (b. July 21, 1914) and [film, opera, and theatre] director Luchino Visconti (1906–1976). Not only were they close personal friends, but Cecchi d'Amico was also the principal writer for most of Visconti's films, as she understood the director's passion for historical detail. To celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of Luchino Visconti's birth as well as Suso Cecchi d'Amico's ninety-second birthday in July, five of their films are presented during July and August. An additional work by Visconti (not written by Cecchi d'Amico), Death in Venice, closes the series as a complement to Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting, sponsored by Bracco. Special thanks to Michele Giacalone, Istituto Italiano di Cultura of Washington, Luca Verdone, and Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, Cinecittà Holding for loaning restored 35 mm prints. Cinecittà Holding and Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia — Cineteca Nazionale with the support of Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali present the Luchino Visconti Retrospective.

Luchino Visconti

The Innocent (L'innocente)

The Leopard (Il gattopardo)


Rocco and His Brothers (Rocco e i suoi fratelli)

Ludwig [Richard Wagner's Patron]

Death in Venice (Morte a Venezia)

(Details for each film.)

Still from Rocco and His Brothers (Rocco e i suoi fratelli),
Luchino Visconti and Suso Cecchi d'Amico, 1960
Courtesy of Museum of Modern Art
Showing August 13 at 4:30 p.m.

Text and photo credit: ©2006 National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. With thanks to NGA Film Curator Peggy Parsons and her staff.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Home-Grown Urban Terror Stalks Twenty-First Century American Renaissance Cities: 19% Of National Capital's Residents Live Below Poverty Line

"Last week, Washington, D.C.'s police chief, Charles Ramsey, declared a "crime emergency" after the city registered its 14th murder since July 1, and a spate of violent robberies around Washington's most famous monuments on the Mall. As well as the steep rise in homicides, robberies are up 14% and armed assaults 18%. ...

Twelve of the 14 murder victims so far this month were African-American males, shot dead in poor areas of the city rarely visited by tourists. The other two were an African-American woman and Alan Senitt, [a] Jewish activist.

Senitt, 27, had his throat slashed as he walked a female friend home from the cinema in the early hours of July 9. His friend was sexually assaulted. The Briton had been planning to spend the summer working for a Democratic presidential hopeful, the former governor of Virginia Mark Warner.

There was nothing to suggest it would be unsafe to walk his friend home. Georgetown, with its genteel rows of houses, tucked-away mansions and smart shops, is one of the richest neighbourhoods in Washington.

The suspects in Senitt's murder had set out that evening saying they wanted to cut someone, police said. Two adult males, a juvenile and a woman were arrested within hours of the killing, in bloodstained clothing and carrying Senitt's identification papers. The men are suspects in at least two previous such attacks.

Mr Ramsey's emergency declaration, announced shortly after Senitt's murder, led to the beefing up of patrols around national landmarks.

For those Washingtonians whose live in a clearly defined quadrant of the city that is mainly white and affluent, Senitt's killing exposed a vulnerability. But it was, say some, a warning that a city known to outsiders for its monuments and harbours has some of the cruellest inequality in America.

Last January, a veteran journalist from the New York Times, David Rosenbaum, was beaten by robbers as he took an after-dinner stroll around his own upper-class neighbourhood in Washington DC. His treatment by ambulance attendants and emergency room personnel, who left him on a gurney for an hour without medical care, exposed a callous and shambolic emergency system. Rosenbaum died from his injuries.

William Chambliss, a sociology professor at George Washington University, notes that crime rates, in Washington as in other American cities, are cyclical. A few years of declining incidents will be followed by a few years of increased crime. But he believes Senitt's murder is a product of other forces. Over the past 25 years, as the gulf between rich and poor has widened, the divisions between rich and poor, black and white, in Washington have grown more acute.

A property boom has turned the city into the third most expensive in America - good news for homeowners, but a blow to the 19% of Washingtonians living below the poverty line. (The national rate is 13%.)

In a city that is 60% black, African-American students have the lowest performance levels in the country; overall 37% of Washingtonians cannot read well enough to fill out a job application. Four percent carry the HIV virus - a higher rate of infection than any other American city. Mr Chambliss argues that such divisions find an outlet in violent crime. "It creates an anger and a callousness towards those people who benefit from society," he says. "There is a parallel with terrorism where the upper-class white people become the enemy just as the western infidels become the enemy of Islam. I see this as a pattern that could be the beginning of a very serious change in crime, and where it is committed, and how it is committed."

For a city that is the custodian of America's heritage, the prospect of a migration in violent crime to the Mall or Georgetown is disturbing. Hours after Washington's police chief declared his determination to make the streets safe again, two groups of tourists were robbed at gunpoint near the Washington monument by men wearing dark clothes and ski masks." ...

Suzanne Goldenberg "Fear and loathing on DC's streets as summer crimewave reaches the elite: Widening gap between rich and poor blamed for rise in violence, with 14 murders in two weeks" The Guardian Unlimited (UK) July 20, 2006,,1824518,00.html

The Lincoln Memorial, The Nation's Capital, built 1915 - 1922.

"The Lincoln Memorial, on the extended axis of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is a United States Presidential Memorial built for United States President Abraham Lincoln.

The building is in the form of a Greek Doric temple, and contains a large seated sculpture of Lincoln and inscriptions of two well-known speeches by Lincoln. The memorial has been the site of many famous speeches, including Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered on August 28, 1963, during the rally at the end of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Like the other monuments on the National Mall, including the nearby Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, and National World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial is administered by the National Park Service under its National Mall and Memorial Parks group. The National Memorial was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. It is open to the public from 8 a.m. until midnight all year, except December 25."

Text and photo credit: Wikipedia and With thanks.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Twenty-First Century State Terrorism: Israeli Military Kills One Hezbollah Guerrilla Fighter And 57 Lebanese Civilians

"Lebanon on Wednesday suffered its worst day of violence since Israel began its bombardment last week with at least 58 people killed in airstrikes.

All but one of the dead were civilians.

The greatest number of deaths occurred in the south of the country, with at least 17 people, including several children, killed and 30 wounded in a strike that destroyed houses in the southern village of Srifa, according to residents.

There were also reports that some people had been buried alive in their homes following attacks in the south and east of the country.

Hizbollah rocket attacks on Israel killed two children and wounded 14 in the predominantly Arab city of Nazareth while other northern Israeli cities such as Haifa were again targeted by the Islamist group.

Elsewhere two Israeli troops were killed and nine wounded in ground fighting after they crossed the Lebanese border to raid guerrilla posts.

Ehud Olmert, Israeli prime minister, ruled out a ceasefire and reiterated on Wednesday that the Lebanese offensive would last “as long as necessary”.

Israel says it has no plans so far for a full invasion of southern Lebanon but aims to clear a 1km zone and prevent Hizbollah deployments there.

Mr Olmert said after meeting Javier Solana, European Union foreign policy chief, in Jerusalem that the Lebanese offensive would continue until the return of two captured soldiers and implementation of United Nations resolutions on the disarming of Hizbollah. Wednesday’s deaths mean that 15 Israeli civilians have been killed in the fighting over the last eight days while 300 Lebanese have died.

The rapidly increasing civilian death toll is radicalising Lebanon’s population, especially the Shia community that bears the brunt of the Israeli attacks, according to a Beirut pollster.

“The Shia will never forgive the Israelis for this,” said Abdo Saad of the Beirut Centre for Research and Information that carries out surveys in Lebanon. Mr Abdo did an ad hoc poll of the mood among Shia displaced by the fighting and said that they were “defiant”.

He said a proper survey was impossible at this time. The other two main groups in Lebanon, the Christians and the Sunni Muslims, are much more divided in their attitude, said Mr Abdo, but there too, the anger at the rising death toll and the damage to the country’s infrastructure is great.

The Israeli strikes on Wednesday for the first time hit the heart of Beirut’s Christian neighbourhoods, when several trucks carrying drilling equipment were targeted. Defence experts say the trucks can easily be mistaken for missile launchers on radar images." ...

Ferry Biedermann and Sharmila Devi "Lebanon has worst day as 58 die in raids" The Financial Times July 19, 2006

Lebanese woman at the scene of an Israeli attack in Ghazie, south of Sidon.

Photo credit: (c) Associated Press via Financial Times. With thanks.

Musicians Without Borders: Inspired By Husband's Performances In Sarajevo, Galina Vishnevskaya Mentors Young Singers In Grozny, Chechnya

"Galina Vishnevskaya, a famous opera singer [and wife of world renowned cellist and conductor, Mstislav Rostropovich], attended a concert of young singers in Grozny, Chechnya.

"I have visited many nations of the world but I have not seen such talented kids anywhere. I have no regrets that I came to your republic," she said.

Vishnevskaya said she wanted to help children with a talent for singing: "They will receive professional recommendations for their further career."

Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen government, expressed his profound gratitude to the singer for her visit. "I am glad that such respected people come to our republic and say sincere things in the address of Chechens. This proves to us once again that peace and order reign now in the Chechen republic," Kadyrov said."

Interfax News Agency "Opera singer Vishnevskaya visits Chechnya" July 18, 2006

Grozny, Chechnya

Photo credit: Convoi syndical pour la Tchétchénie -- Picture Gallery. With thanks.

Surviving The Grassland Holocaust: The Slow Revival Of Buddhism In Mongolia

"Monastic life, which took hold in Mongolia in the 1500s, was nearly wiped out within 15 years of communist rule, mostly during Stalinist purges in the 1930s when an estimated 17,000 lamas were executed.

But since the country emerged from decades of Soviet dominance, the Yellow Hat sect of Buddhism -- also practiced in Tibet -- is making a comeback.

In 1990, three monasteries were allowed to reopen. The number quickly mushroomed to 170 across the country.

Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has visited Mongolia five times since the early 1990s, most recently in 2002, when he delivered religious discourses to thousands of followers.

The word 'dalai' itself means 'ocean' in Mongolian, and the title of Dalai Lama, or "Ocean of Wisdom" was bestowed in the 1500s by Genghis Khan descendant Altan Khan, who ordered Mongols to practice Buddhism.

Traditionally many Mongolians have practiced Shamanism, which still has a strong following in the north of the country.

Erdene Zuu monastery, in the grasslands on the edge of the ancient capital of Kharkhorin, some 230 miles southwest of Ulan Bator, housed 1,500 lamas before it was destroyed in 1936.

But on the vast plains and valleys of the world's most sparsely populated country, the traditions survived.

"We used to hide the shrine in a big chest. When it was dark we would light the butter lamps," said Baasan-Suren Khandsuren.

At 27, he is head lama at the monastery, whose grounds are marked out from the surrounding grasslands by a border of 108 stupas, which managed to survive the purges.

When he came to the monastery in 1991, shortly after it reopened, there were just 17 monks. Now there are 65. …

Among the tourists milling around the grounds are visitors from Ulan Bator, some are also devoted Buddhists.

"I always have my prayer beads with me," said 50-year-old Tserendulam Tserennad-mid, her sunhat and sweatsuit marking her out as a city-dweller in the country where nearly half the 2.7 million population are nomadic herders. …

As the sun burns off the night chill, a boy blows a conch shell and the monks begin their morning prayers.

Gendenjav Choijamts is glad to be among them.

"This is a good change," he said of the renewed traditions.

"When you don't have religion, you lose your compassion."

Lindsay Beck (Reuters) “Buddhism revives in Mongolia's grasslands” July 19, 2006

Mongolian Buddhist Sacred Musician.

Photo credit: With thanks.

Toward World, Citizen-Empowered Democracy: Crossing The Iron Curtain Of Ignorance

"In its coverage of Russia’s January 1, 2006, cut-off of gas to Ukraine, which would not pay for it, and Ukraine’s subsequent cut-off of Russian gas to Europe, the western media overwhelmingly blamed Russia. In return, Russians responded with bewilderment and anger at this harsh reaction to their effort to follow the market principles long preached by the West. The combination was a stunning display of the strength of the iron curtain of ignorance, inherited Cold War imagery and mistrust between Russia and those outside, as the months unfolded and Russia’s presidency of the G8 took shape. It forced those on both sides of the old iron curtain to take a closer look at the other and to learn more about the other’s faults and achievements, about the wide and deep range of interdependence and shared vulnerabilities, and about how best to induce the other to pull together for the common cause. Due to the dense summit preparatory and follow-up process, the novelty of Russia hosting the summit and the thousands of contacts among ministers, officials, experts, parliamentarians, legislators, youth and others, a dynamic process of direct and deeper learning has been unleashed. Many Russians are thus directly discovering what western democracy, with all its flaws, is really like, and that they like it, suitably adopted and improved, for themselves at home. ...

Russia’s skilled summit leaders, who have lived and worked in the West had an understanding of open democracy and markets that many of their colleagues in the domestic departments of the Russian government often lacked. The unusually vibrant process of G8 ministerial meetings to prepare the summit—featuring unusual gatherings of those for energy, health and education— brought knowledge of how the established democracies did things to those in the domestic departments with great force. Thus Russia’s initial G8 proposal on energy security contained little
recognition of the contribution that free market mechanisms could make. However, by mid-March, the G8 energy ministers “Chair’s Statement” drafted by its Russian host, proclaimed that “meeting energy security challenges will require reliance on market-based pricing…” The summit itself will declare that the democratic, market principles of “transparency” come first."...

Deepening Russia's Democracy: The St. Petersburg Summit Contribution John Kirton, G8 Research Group (Toronto), July 17, 2996


"The G8 leaders’ 2006 gathering at St. Petersburg on July 15-17 was a summit of significant success. It largely delivered its ambitious and innovative priority agenda on energy, health and education, responded effectively to the breaking crisis in Lebanon, and deepened democracy in a Russia hosting a regular G8 summit for its first time.

A. Delivering Priority Agenda

In overall terms, St. Petersburg set new highs on some key dimensions of summit performance (see Appendix A). It produced 311 specific, concrete commitments — the highest of any summit since they started in 1975. It also set several new directions, affirming a large number and broad array of democratic values as the foundation for its work in energy security, education, health and corruption, as well as on Africa, counterfeiting, counterterrorism, UN counterterrorism, stabilization, nonproliferation and the Middle East (see Appendix B). Its documented deliberations approached the historic high set at Sea Island in 2004. While the $4.4 billion in new money mobilized was far less than the $212 billion raised at Gleneagles in 2006, it was still above the sum raised at Evian in 2003. St. Petersburg also created three new G8 bodies to help carry out its work, and received grudging recognition from the leading media across the G8 countries for its good work.

B. Responding to the Lebanon Crisis

St. Petersburg also responded effectively to the escalating crisis in Lebanon, which erupted just before the summit started and took centre stage during its second half. Building on their strong consensus on terrorism, the Middle East Peace Process and the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative, G8 leaders crafted a detailed, balanced and forceful declaration on the Middle East that was endorsed by United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan and the other outreach participants at the summit the next day. The summit’s strong unified statement seemed to have an immediate impact, as the violence in the region levelled off, Israel signalled it would accept a cease fire on the G8’s terms, and world oil prices declined.

C. A Summit of Significant Achievement

Perhaps the largest and most long-lived legacy of St. Petersburg is its impact in deepening democracy in Russia itself. This impact unfolded in the lead-up to and during the summit itself. Given the G8’s core mission of promoting open democracy, individual liberty and social advance, and the many doubts about whether Russia deserved to be in the democratic G8 club, these were of particular significance, as they unfolded in ten specific ways." ...

"A Summit of Significant Success: The G8 at St. Petersburg 2006 John Kirton, G8 Research Group (Toronto), July 19, 2006

Petersburg, the Russian Federation. The historic urban center across from the Hermitage (Winter Palace). The old buildings of the 18th century University are under the trees to the left of center. The Neva River bifurcates and flows into the Gulf of Finland, in the distance.

Photo credit: Associated Press via With thanks.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Solar Powered Boats And Trains Taking London, United Kingdom And Hamburg, Germany By Solar Storm

"It is slow and travels only a short distance, but builders of the Serpentine Solar Shuttle say it's the most advanced passenger ferry on British waters. Britain's biggest solar-powered boat debuted Tuesday on a lake in London's Hyde Park, opening what its developers hope is a door to the future of solar-powered transportation.

The Serpentine Solar Shuttle -- powered entirely by the sun -- cruises at 5 mph and carries 42 passengers.

Beginning Saturday, operators will offer one-way tickets for the half-mile cruise at $2.75, per child and $5.50 for adults.

''This is the most technologically advanced shuttle in the world right now,'' said designer Christoph Behling, who also designed the world's largest solar boat in Hamburg, Germany.

''It is made of entirely stainless steel which means it never gets old. It will pave the way for future boats and trains and other means of transportation,'' Behling said.

The 48-foot-long shuttle has 27 solar panels on its roof, and the energy generated by the sun is enough to keep the boat running.

Its maximum journey distance is 82 miles.

Almost no pollutants are given off during the trip because the shuttle has two silent engines -- meaning there are no carbon emissions and it is also charged fully by the sun.

Even on those dark, rainy days everyone associates with London, Behling said there will be enough sun to keep the ship running.

It is expected the boat will save nearly 5,000 pounds of carbon-dioxide per year, compared with a diesel boat of a similar size, according to Gavin Gomes, a spokesman for Sputnik Communications, a London-based energy company.

When the ferry is idle, surplus electricity generated by the solar panels will be fed back into the national transmission network.

The Serpentine Solar Shuttle cost $421,000 to build -- 20 percent more than a diesel boat of a comparable size, Behling said.

He is now working on a 300-passenger solar-powered ferry to run on the Thames, and hopes it could be ready in 2008. A 60-passenger solar-powered train for London's Battersea Park is also in the works."

Associated Press "Britain's Solar Boat a Scientific Advance" July 18, 2006

A solar power boat traverses one of Hamburg, Gemany's beautiful downtown artificial lakes.

Photo credit: The United World Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and Big Band -- classical music and technology for sustainable living. With thanks.

Georgian Renaissance Chakrulo Polyphonic Singing To Be Supported By UNESCO World Oral And Intangible Heritage Project


'Chakrulo is a polyphonic song using metaphors and complex musical ornamentation. Popular at festivals, it requires great mastery from its two male soloists and male chorus. The origin of Chakrulo is linked to the cult of wine and the culture of grapes, which developed as early as the 8th century A.D. in the region. The polyphonic singing probably originated in the 12th through 14th centuries, at the time of the Georgian Renaissance.

Threats: The practice of Chakrulo is jeopardized by rural exodus, industrialization and the influence of Western-style music.

Action plan: Old recordings will be remastered and video recordings will be produced. Storage and preservation of the materials will be organized. Recording the techniques of ageing singers and rituals linked with wine are also proposed. The International Centre of Georgian Folk Songs is planning a festival and concerts of folk music.'

Georgian Polyphonic Singing Web-site, prepared by musicologist Ted Levin [with links to audio samples]. Also see Georgian Sacred and Ritual Music.

UNESCO Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity [2001]

Juan Goytisolo "Defending Threatened Cultures" UNESCO Speech May 2001

Photo credit: UNESCO Web site, in Korea. With thanks.

Kunqu Opera -- The 'Mother Of 100 Operas' And An UNESCO World Heritage Art Form -- To Receive Government Support In The City Of Its Birth

"Kunqu, one of the oldest genres of opera in the world, will be protected by regulation in Suzhou, where the delicate art form originated more than 500 years ago.

The regulation will be the first of its kind made by a local government aiming to preserve a special kind of intangible cultural heritage in China. A draft regulation is awaiting approval from the city's legislature and is expected to be enacted by the end of this year.

To retain the originality of the century-old opera, Suzhou's regulations will protect the performing art of Kunqu, the stage arrangement, Kunqu's unique singing skills, and objects relating to the performance of Kunqu, including costumes, musical instruments, props, important literature, and localities.

The regulations also define the city government's responsibility to promote Kunqu in schools and universities, so as to cultivate a new generation of Kunqu audience.

Basic knowledge about the opera will be taught in elementary and secondary schools, while art schools and universities will open classes for young Kunqu fans.

In addition, the government is obliged to develop a favorable environment for Kunqu's revival by setting up special funds, arranging performances, and hosting cultural exchange activities for the opera.

Dubbed as "the mother of 100 operas," Kunqu is known for its superb artistry. It is performed in the local dialect of Kunshan of Suzhou City in eastern China Jiangsu Province and was especially favored by nobles in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

However, the opera has been in decline in the 20th century, when China was jolted by the Japanese invasion and domestic war.

In 2001, Kunqu opera was listed a "masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage of humanity" by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The Chinese government initiated a program to rescue and rejuvenate Kunqu in 2005, planning to allocate 10 million yuan (US$1.25 million) a year to eight major Kunqu troupes in China from 2005 to 2009."

Xinhua News Agency "Home of Kunqu Opera Considers Regs to Protect the Future" July 17, 2006 via [Official Government Briefing and Spokesperson System]

Scene from 600 year old Chinese Kunqu Opera.

While American students study Kung Fu martial arts, Chinese students will be studying Kunqu Opera.

Photo credit: Xinhua News Agency. With thanks.


UNESCO Proclamation on Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible World Heritage


Kunqu is China's oldest and one of its most influential theatrical traditions. It is performed in many areas of the country. A Kunqu play usually consists of more than 24 scenes - accompanied by arias - with a complex plot and subplots involving human or supernatural elements. The performance usually features 12 actors who employ gestures, pantomime, mock combat and acrobatics, as well as stylized dancing and singing. A small ensemble of wind and string instruments, and percussion instruments accompany the singing and stage action.

Legacies of the Kunqu theatre are librettos from the Ming and Qing periods (1644-1911). When the People's Republic of China was established in 1949, the government set up training academies for traditional theatres, as well as research institutes on traditional music and theatre. The Cultural Revolution (1966-76) suppressed these measures, and in the early 1980s, the Ministry of Culture called on all surviving Kunqu actors, as well as actors from other traditional theatres, to resume their acting careers. New actors were also recruited and trained.

Threats: The lack of a consistent programme for Kunqu performances, which, since 1990, have only been staged sporadically.

Action plan: The Opera Research Institute envisages the collection and publication of scripts, photographs, and audio and video recordings of Kunqu performances. The government plans to support th e six existing Kunqu opera houses and the training of new performers, the revival of rarely performed operas, and the organization of festivals."

Monday, July 17, 2006

Rebuilt World Historic Monuments Briefly Noted: Constantine Palace And Park In Strelnya, Russian Federation

"The [Russian Federation] Government’s Palace of Congresses is located on the Gulf of Finland some 15 kilometers away from St. Petersburg. It combines the functions of a modern business center, a historic and cultural monument, and a state residence.

The Constantine Palace and park in Strelnya, a famous monument of architecture, was restored from ruins [inflicted during the 900 day Nazi encirclement and siege of Leningrad, 1941-44] for the celebrations of St. Petersburg’s 300th anniversary [in 2003]. Laying the first stone into the foundation of the Palace, Peter the Great planned to turn it into Russia’s main maritime residence. He wanted the Palace to become a “diplomatic window” to Europe, a Russian Versailles, a symbol of Russia’s power and prosperity. But three long centuries had to pass before this idea was translated into reality.

The Palace of Congresses and adjacent lands occupy 180 hectares and include: the Constantine Palace that plays host to international meetings and major events; a regular park; the Baltic Star, a four-star hotel with 106 rooms; a 20-cottage Consular Village, and a pavilion for summit negotiations. A press center with an 800-meter moorage is located on the Gulf of Finland."

Source: Official Website of the Russian Presidency of the G-8 Summit 2006 in [Saint] Petersburg.

The Constantine Palace and Park in Strelnya are on the route to Peter the Great's earlier Palace and Harbour, on the Gulf of Finland [Petershof or Petrodvorets]. Catherine the Great's Palace was in Pushkin [Tsarskoye Selo] and is shown on the bottom of the map. Russia's first railway connected Petersburg and Tsarskoye Selo.

Image credits: With thanks.

Twenty-First Century Renaissance May Depend Upon Humans Adjusting Their Work Lives To Their Biological Clocks

"Half the people in modern urban societies suffer from “social jet lag” because their body clocks are seriously out of step with their real lives, the Euroscience forum in Munich heard on Monday.

The result was chronic fatigue and an increased susceptibility to disease, researches found. They concluded that employers should tell staff to wake up in their own time and come in to work when they feel ready to.

Till Roenneberg, a circadian rhythm researcher at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, coined the phrase “social jet lag” after a survey of 40,000 people in Germany and Austria – and a more detailed follow-up study of 500 – showed a persistent mismatch of at least two hours between their biological clocks and the demands of their jobs or education.

The reason, according to Prof Roenneberg, is that humans evolved to live out of doors, where full daylight constantly resets their internal clocks. In the absence of strong light, the body clock has a running period longer than 24 hours per day. Interior light levels are hundreds of times lower than daylight, he said, “so we lose our main signal for locking onto external time”.

“During the working week many people with office jobs spend only 10 or 15 minutes per day outside, with no roof over their head,” said Prof Roenneberg. Public transport operators could help by ordering buses and trains with glass roofs, to give commuters maximum daylight on the way to and from work.

He told the meeting it was simple to detect an individual’s “chronotype”, which showed how well or badly his or her internal clock was attuned to the external world. ...

Biological clock researchers say society as a whole pays far too little attention to the stresses caused by the mismatch between modern life and the ancient human body clock.

“It is extraordinary how we marginalise internal time,” said Russell Foster of Oxford University. “Part of the answer lies in better education. In many medical schools today, a future doctor might receive just one lecture about sleep and the circadian rhythm in the course of a six-year medical education.”

Employers and schools could do a lot to help, by adjusting their working hours, said Martha Merrow of Groningen University in the Netherlands. “Schools should open later; I think 10am would be sensible but no one wants the inconvenience of making the change.”

According to Prof Roenneberg, “those people who suffer the least social jet lag are late types who can choose their own working times. Employers should say: ‘Please wake up in your own time and come in when you are ready.’”

Clive Cookson "‘Social jet lag’ causes fatigue and illness" Financial Times July 17, 2006

The upper canal at Falkirk Wheel holds of boat full of tourists [and future commuters] waiting to be lowered into the canal below.

Photo credit: © 2002-2006, Scott Haefner. Kite Aerial Photography by Scott Haefner. With thanks.

American Public Sculpture In The Early 21st Century ... (Or The Revenge Of Neptune)

"When architect James Ingo Freed set out to conceive a memorial for the Air Force, he faced a problem of weight and wisp: How to design a monumental structure that evokes that most structureless of mediums, the air itself?

Inspiration came while Freed was watching television. He happened upon footage of a team of Air Force jets performing the dramatic bomb-burst formation, in which several planes shoot skyward in unison and then peel off from each other, creating high-rising vapor trails that curl over at their tops.

Three years and more than $30 million later, stainless-steel versions of those tapering trails are rising on a promontory just west of the Pentagon. When the project is completed in September, three towering tendrils -- the tallest reaching almost 300 feet in the air -- will arc with spectacular grace into the wild blue yonder.

That these 17,000-ton fingers of glistening metal seem impervious to gravity is a tribute to Freed, who also designed Washington's Holocaust Museum. (He died in December.) But it is equally a tribute to a battalion of engineers who worked with the architect and his colleagues at Pei Cobb Freed & Partners to overcome not only gravity but also the treacherous forces of wind and vibration.

Early in the design process, it turns out, wind-tunnel tests revealed that those forces could send the silver spires into a series of oscillations that could lead to catastrophic failure. The solution involved an exotic trick of physics.

Hidden high inside those elegant metallic spires are 13 steel boxes." ...

Rick Weiss "Air Force Memorial a Tribute to Flight and Engineering" Washington Post July 17, 2006

Air Force Memorial, the Nation's Capital, as under construction, June 19, 2006.

Photo credit: (c) Air Force Memorial Foundation. With thanks.

2006-2007 American Opera Season To Be Led By World Premieres By American Composers Tan Dun, David Carlson, And Ricky Ian Gordon

..."[Albert Imperato of 21C Media Group]: What are you excited about looking ahead to the new season [of Opera in American] — starting here in New York with the Metropolitan Opera?

[Opera News Editor-in-Chief F. Paul Driscoll]: The Met's new season looks great. The Anthony Minghella production of Butterfly, which I saw in London, is beautiful visually. I'm very excited by Bart Sher coming to the Met to do Barber of Seville; his work has been fantastic. I loved his Don Juan at Theatre for a New Audience a couple of years ago and Awake and Sing and The Light in the Piazza for Lincoln Center Theater were sensational. The Met is taking a bold step by giving him a comedy that has been a Met repertory staple since the 1880s. He'll do a great job.

The First Emperor, the world premiere by Tan Dun, will be very exciting. It's only the fifth time a living composer has conducted his own work at the Met; it's also Plácido Domingo's first world premiere at the house. I think Deborah Voigt in Egyptian Helen is going to be a terrific experience. David Fielding, who is directing the Met production, has gotten excellent reviews for his production of Helen in England. The Magic Flute in English — the 90-minute reduction — I hope it will be the beginning of a great new relationship between the Met and families in the New York area who will bring kids to this event that Julie Taymor has created from her original Zauberflöte production. And the [Puccini] Trittico with Jack O'Brien directing — a total master of the theater — is another interesting thing that the Met has coming. Those three operas haven't been played in the repertory in a long time and the Met's cast is a fantastic collection of artists: Stephanie Blythe is doing all three mezzo roles, Barbara Frittoli is doing Angelica; Salvatore Licitra and Maria Guleghina are the lovers in the Tabarro.

Q: And elsewhere?

FPD: New York City Opera will be doing Handel's Semele with a great cast, headed by Vivica Genaux and Elizabeth Futral. Peter Sellars's Tristan Project is coming to New York next spring, courtesy of Lincoln Center. Looking outside New York to other companies, I am excited by Lyric Opera of Chicago doing Robert Carsen's staging of Dialogues of the Carmelites with Patricia Racette singing her first Madame Lidoine. Chicago's Salome with Deborah Voigt should be amazing — a real milestone for this wonderful artist.

There are terrific things going on at Los Angeles Opera — such as the Mahagonny with Patti LuPone and Audra McDonald. Marcus Haddock is a terrific tenor, an American just coming into his own in this country. He's doing Ballo with Deborah Voigt at San Francisco Opera. Dallas Opera is doing Donizetti's Mary, Queen of Scots [Maria Stuarda] with Ruth Ann Swenson.

Two exciting world premieres by American composers this season are Ricky Ian Gordon's The Grapes of Wrath at Minnesota Opera and David Carlson's Anna Karenina at Florida Grand Opera. There's a lot of activity going on all over!" ...

Matthew Westphal "Q & A: F. Paul Driscoll, Editor of Opera News, on Where Opera in the U.S. Is Headed" Playbill Arts July 16, 2006

Anna Karenina again steps from screen to opera stage (before stepping in front of a train).

It looks like American Opera is beginning to catch up with British Opera. British composer Iain Hamilton composed an opera on Anna Karenina, for the New York City Opera, in 1978.

The libretto to that opera, published by Theodore Presser Company, Philadelphia, is available for $9.50, shipped anywhere in the world ($4.50 for the libretto and $5.00 for shipping). Click here. Next, click on Iain Hamilton for a link to a Britney Spears song.

For those who want to look cool at the beach, the complete text of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, the novel, is available online.

Photo credit: Keith Hamshere and Metroactive. With thanks.

Ready For The Walmart, Or Bill And Melinda Gates, Gallery Of Art (Formerly, National Gallery Of Art) Washington, D.C.?

"THE SMITHSONIAN Institution, our national museum and also a scientific research complex, is at a crisis point. Many of its 20 venues, such as the National Museum of Natural History and the National Air and Space Museum, need tens of millions of dollars in work. Desperate for funds, the Smithsonian has made arguably improper arrangements with big business, and it has accepted funding from corporations with an all-too-obvious interest in what goes on view in the institution's museums. But the real crisis is this: Congress seems to have barely noticed.

How bad is the situation? Last year, the Government Accountability Office, a bureaucracy not given to hyperbole, found "major structural deterioration" in Smithsonian buildings and "chronic leaks." At least two historic aircraft at the Air and Space Museum have been water-damaged. Several buildings are rife with mold. Water has flowed into at least four museums, well before last month's rains.

Smithsonian recently reopened its American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery after a $283-million renovation. That's a good start, but nearly every other Smithsonian museum requires some level of attention. According to the GAO, the Smithsonian will need at least $2.3 billion for building costs, anti-terrorism protection and scheduled and deferred maintenance by 2013. The problems extend beyond capital improvements to the day-to-day as well: In an attempt to lower energy costs, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden recently restricted hot-water use in its building.

The budget pressures have apparently weakened the Smithsonian's ethical foundations too. The Smithsonian's leaders and their congressional overseers are allowing too much of our national museum to be transformed into a series of pavilions where, in exchange for sponsorship money and other deals, corporations may determine what parts of the American story should be told.

Two recent examples are particularly egregious: The Smithsonian sold to CBS Corp.'s Showtime network what amounts to the right of first refusal for all documentaries dependent on Smithsonian archives or staff time. Independent historians and filmmakers howled. Congress held a hearing, threw a public tantrum, but then effectively shrugged. The deal remains intact.

One of the problems with corporate involvement is the appearance of influence in exhibition programming. Recently the National Museum of American History removed the pioneering EV1 electric car from an exhibit. Perhaps not surprisingly, the museum's new transportation wing is being sponsored by General Motors, the same GM that has been excoriated for discontinuing the EV1 despite consumer demand for the car.

You might think that corporate sponsorship is no different from private philanthropy. The Smithsonian was built, in part, with gifts from wealthy industrialists. Yet once someone has donated a collection, his or her influence on the programming is effectively complete; the influence is reflected in what they donated. But with corporate funding — and the possibility of more — independence comes into question. Do we know for a fact that GM's involvement with the Museum of American History caused the EV1 to disappear from the exhibit? No, but it's the kind of question that shouldn't even come into play.

Sadly, Congress hasn't focused much on these problems. It appropriates roughly 70% of the Smithsonian's basic annual budget; the rest comes from private and corporate donations and Smithsonian businesses, such as its magazine and stores. Infrastructure is generally a separate matter. As the GAO said: "It remains unclear … the extent to which the Smithsonian will secure the funding to carry out all of its planned facilities projects."" ...

Tyler Green "The Air and Space Museum is falling:
Why is Congress ignoring neglect at the Smithsonian Institution?" Los Angeles Times July 10, 2006


Mr Green writes and edits Modern Art Notes, a blog about art at


Also see:

National Capital Planning Commission, Planning Initiatives

National Coalition To Save Our Mall

National Capital Framework Plan, launched by the National Capital Planning Commission and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.

American National Museums In A Time Of Warfare:

The present National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Photo credit: (c) Stian Soiland With thanks.