Driven to Blackface?

Rachel Dolezal, Credit 93.1 WZAK

Driven to Blackface?

by Ilana Mercer

Nkechi Diallo was recently charged with welfare fraud in Spokane, Washington State. Back in 2015, Diallo was better known as Rachel Dolezal. She has since rechristened herself. Rachel Dolezal, if you’re from Deep Space, is the lily-white woman who, in 2015, dared to “identify” as a black woman.

The “Racism Industrial Complex” is populated with frauds, shysters, imposters, phonies and morons; black, white and 50 shades of gray. Ms. Dolezal had been posing as all of these, teaching Africana Studies at the Bush college of Eastern Washington University. Our American Idiocracy confers the respect and the authority of a pedagogue on many like her, allowing them to spread the disease to college kids and beyond. So, why not Rachel?

Why, the Age of the Idiot sees killers exculpated, just because they kill. As the faulty reasoning goes, if an individual has murdered, raped, robbed or defrauded—then he or she must have been abused, neglected, racially oppressed (if black or brown); not wealthy enough, mentally ill, lacking in self-esteem. Anything but plain bad, slothful, sociopathic or parasitical. The more aberrant the crime; the more thrill-seeking, vulgar, immoral or wicked the conduct—the more elaborate, fanciful and scientifically baseless the excuse-making. Continue reading

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ENDNOTES, July 2019

 

Amsterdam Concertgebouw

ENDNOTES, July 2019

A great conductor at 90, by Stuart Millson

A packed auditorium, whether in London, Amsterdam, Boston, Berlin or Chicago and sustained applause which continues for much longer than is usual – the chances are that the conductor is Bernard Haitink, the Dutch maestro who – this year, at the age of 90 – announced his retirement. A commanding, yet curiously self-effacing presence on the podium, Haitink began his career in 1954 in his native Holland, with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, studying and performing the essential core repertoire. Noted for his inspired and detailed performances, he soon approached the pinnacle position in his country’s musical life – the Concertgebouw, later, Royal Concertgebouw, whose role as principal conductor he held for nearly 30 years.

During these decades, thanks partly to an extensive and prominent recording schedule for the Philips label, the Concertgebouw became the natural rival to the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic orchestras; with Haitink setting down masterly interpretations of the Beethoven, Bruckner and Mahler symphonies – the two latter late-romantic composers becoming the figures with which the conductor would be so associated. In fact, Haitink contended that the musical world should place a limit on the number of Bruckner and Mahler performances – as the fashion for this repertoire, especially during the 1980s and 1990s, threatened to diminish its standing. Continue reading

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Topsy-Turvy

Sabine Devieilhe as Maria. Photo by Tristram Kenton

Topsy-Turvy 

Review of La Fille du RégimentOpéra Comique in two acts, music by Gaetano Donizetti, libretto by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges & Jean-François-Alfred Bayard, conducted by Evelino Pidò, directed by Laurent Pelly, fourth revival of the 2007 production, Royal Opera House, Monday 8th July 2019, reviewed by Leslie Jones

Exuberant conductor Evelino Pidò elicited a spirited performance of the compelling prelude to La Fille du Régiment from the orchestra of the Royal Opera House. It was a portent of the riches to come.

In comic opera or farce, we are a long way from verismo. As Zoë Anderson points out“…we know how things are likely to go” and, “We recognise the characters as types…” (‘Don’t be a Duchess’, Official Programme). Marie, played with gusto by the feisty French soprano Sabine Devieilhe, is one such stock type, to wit, the mislaid baby, brought up in this case by soldiers. This lends itself to a classic opera device, the attempt to transform her into a lady via a music lesson. And to a trading riches for happiness trope. Marie’s mother, La Marquise de Berkenfeld (mezzo-soprano Enkelejda Shkoza), is also a stock type, “a grand dame with a past”. Essentially frivolous and egotistical, she turns out to be Marie’s mother, the product of an affair with Marie’s late father. Sulpice Pingot (baritone Pietro Spagnoli, heavily made up), the sergeant with a heart of gold who found Marie on a battlefield as a baby, is another recognisable archetype. Continue reading

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Ivanka the Terrible, Part 2

Georg Baselitz

Ivanka the Terrible, Part 2

by Ilana Mercer

It’s obvious who the odd one out is in this embarrassing clip of Ivanka at the G20 Summit. Allow me to set the scene:

Two mature women are in the thick of a policy discussion. The two heavy hitters are British Prime Minister Theresa May and International Monetary Fund Director Christine Lagarde.

Their buttoned-up, officious attire fits the occasion. It’s how Theresa May and Christine Lagarde, both born in 1956, have always dressed. The pearls, the tweed and gingham suits: these are as old-school and as dear as Margaret Thatcher’s made-in-Britain, “ten-a-penny” “humble handbag.”

Whether you like their politics or you don’t—and I don’t—Theresa May and Christine Lagarde are sharpshooting, politically hefty women.

May graduated from Oxford, which has a “jealously-guarded admissions process.” In other words, May was not admitted to that elite school for being a woman, and she did not make her way in the word of politics because she was the daughter of a celebrity. Continue reading

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Twitter Block

George Baselitz, Drinkers and Orange Eaters

Twitter Block

By Ilana Mercer

Twice have the censors at Twitter kicked me off their anything-but-neutral platform. When these arbiters of right and wrong periodically block my Twitter account, visitors to the site will be greeted with a stark warning:

“Caution. This account is temporary restricted.” The snowflakes will be forewarned of “some unusual activity on the account. Do you still want to view it?” Naturally, the worded choice offered—to view or not to view—ultimately doesn’t exist. I am told that when you click to avail yourself of the “choice,” my account is nowhere to be seen. Once blocked, you’re invisible.

When sent to the Twitter doghouse, one is typically barred from accessing Twitter at all, except for fleetingly seeing the notice, “Your account has been blocked.” Continue reading

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Separation Anxiety

Maria Callas in Bizet’s Carmen, 1945

Separation Anxiety

Carmen, Opéra Comique in three acts, music composed by Georges Bizet, libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy after Prosper Mérimée’s 1845 novella Carmen, revival of the 2018 Royal Opera Production, directed by Barrie Kosky, conducted by Julia Jones, Royal Opera, Friday 5th July 2019, reviewed by Leslie Jones

“Don’t leave me Carmen”, implores Don José, as he begs her to follow him and to start a new life together. In director Barrie Kosky’s production of Carmen, the rope (subsequently the dress train) is like an umbilical cord that fatally connects the doomed lovers. They seemingly cannot survive without each other. And Don José embodies the dominant ideology of sexual guilt and subservience to the mother. As Sarah Lenton observes, his character “…is more straightjacketed than naive, and his obsessive tendencies are… hinted at in his fixation with his mother” (‘Out of Character’, Official Programme). Christopher Wintle, in What Opera Means, goes even further, claiming that Carmen chooses Don José because of a death wish.

What constitutes femininity and masculinity? Kosky, throughout, accentuates gender differences. We see men, stage right, ogling factory girls, who are narcissistically cooling themselves and smoking, stage left. Carmen is ultimately doomed because she will not abide by the rules of this bifurcated, patriarchal society. She represents untrammelled female sexuality. “Love’s a gypsy”, she proclaims and so is she. “Free was she born and free she will die”. In Mérimée’s novella, Don José recalls that Carmen “walked, swaying her hips like a filly from a Cordoba stud farm”. And the matador Escamillo (Luca Pisaroni), likewise, represents another sexual stereotype drawn from what Richard Langham Smith calls the “growing hispanomania” of the 1870’s (‘Carmen’s Rocky Road to Success’, Official Programme). Continue reading

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The Fukuyama Thesis, Thirty Years On

Georg Baselitz

The Fukuyama Thesis, Thirty Years On

by Mark Wegierski

Initial drafts of this response to Fukuyama’s article go back to November 1989.
Francis Fukuyama, ‘The End of History?’, The National Interest no 16 (Summer 1989), pp. 3-1; and Alan Bloom, et al. ‘Responses to Fukuyama’, The National Interest no 16 (Summer 1989), pp. 19-35

Fukuyama’s article caught the attention of those who study political philosophy, and who are interested in the future of the West. His article has been seen as a daring éclat on “the end of history”, but certain aspects of these matters, it could be argued, have been poorly represented in the debate. There is the lack of a perspective rooted in the writings of thinkers such as Martin Heidegger, George Parkin Grant, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Jacques Ellul. Fukuyama has not entered into a dialogue with these thinkers.

Generally speaking, the thesis of “the end of history” has been received in two main ways: some persons, while embracing the foreseen triumph of liberal democracy and capitalism, have expressed greater or lesser reservations about its completeness and permanence; while others argued that socialism, for example, was still a worthwhile, viable alternative.

Professor Bloom received the thesis very warmly and celebrated the future triumph of liberal democracy, albeit tempered with a curious reference to the “fascist” threat. Considering how opposed Professor Bloom was to many aspects of contemporary American life, as in his coruscating Closing of the American Mind, his embracing of full‑blown liberal democracy seems odd. Continue reading

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Spellbound

Rosalind Plowright as Madame Arvidson

Spellbound

Un Ballo in Maschera, music composed by Giuseppe Verdi, libretto by Antonio Somma, Investec Opera Holland Park, City of London Sinfonia conducted by Matthew Kofi Waldren, new production of the original, uncensored version directed by Rodula Gaitanou, based on the drama Gustave III de Suède by Eugène Scribe, Friday 21st June 2019, reviewed by Leslie Jones

In a letter to his librettist Antonio Somma, Verdi alluded to the difficult gestation of Un Ballo in Maschera, notably the seemingly intractable problems with the censors, both in Naples and Rome. “I bathe in a sea of ennuis”, he complained. In a contemporaneous missive to the publisher Ricordi, he again struck a note of self-pity, stating that “we poor gypsies and charlatans are obliged to sell our labours, our thoughts, our delirium for gold…” (quoted in Verdi, by Carlo Gatti, vol 1).

However, the premiere in Rome, in February 1859, was a triumph and it coincided with a wave of patriotic fervour (the Franco-Austrian War, plotted by Napoleon III and Cavour at Plombières, was about to commence). Yet as Gatti observes, Un Ballo was no mere “succès de circonstance”, as this splendid new production at Holland Park demonstrates. The score is replete with fine arias, duets and ensemble work à la Donizetti and the plot has echoes of Shakespearian tragedy, notably of Macbeth. Continue reading

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Leaving Sneddonland

Leaving Sneddonland

On Michael Jackson, Margo Jefferson, Granta, £9.99, reviewed by Stoddard Martin

It is unfortunate, if perhaps inevitable, that great creators, not least of music, should morph into personalities to be analysed to death, or beyond. Mozart, Beethoven and Wagner qualify among musicians of a prior age; Michael Jackson stands out among legions in our own. Some bring the destiny upon themselves, knowing that their public craves seasoning for the feast. But music remains the main course and, without substance in it, indigestion arrives.

‘Billy Jean’ seemed an epoch-making pop song in its day; the video of ‘Thriller’ was more than eye-catching. What else remains in memory? Image and scandal perhaps most; pathos; a certain revulsion mixed with compassion, if not sympathy. So innocent, so young, so not for a brute world – these conditions spoke out of the poor mannish fellow’s face and persuaded us of their truth, whatever defiant counter-selves he may have adopted to mask them. Continue reading

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Trump Barters for Borders – and Wins

Trump Barters for Borders – and Wins

by Ilana Mercer

If President Trump doesn’t waver, his border deal with Mexico will be a victory. The Mexicans have agreed to quit serving as conduits to hundreds of thousands of central Americans headed for the U.S.A. Despite protests from Democrats, stateside—Mexico has agreed to significantly increase enforcement on its borders. At first, Mexico was as defiant as the Democrats—and some Republicans. Democrats certainly can be counted on to argue for the other side—any side other than the so-called sovereign people that they swore to represent.

In fairness to the Democrats, Republicans are only notionally committed to the tough policing of the border. And certainly not if policing the porous border entails threatening trade tariffs against our neighborly narco-state. Some Republican senators even considered a vote to block the tariffs. Nevertheless, to the hooting and hollering of the cretins in Congress and the media, Trump went ahead and threatened Mexico with tariffs.

More than that. The president didn’t just tweet out “strong words” and taunts. Since Mexico, the party duopoly, and his own courts have forced his hand, the president proceeded to “retrieve from his arsenal a time bomb of ruinous proportions.” Or so the Economist hyperventilated. Continue reading

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