Thursday, April 20, 2006

Turandot: Go See It

Posted By on Thu, Apr 20, 2006 at 2:32 PM

The Nashville Opera, a rising company on the national scene, will stage Puccini's Turandot tonight (4/20) and Saturday night (4/22). If you're missing out on opera, you're really missing out.

Turandot is set in Mandarin China and involves a ploy by the princess Turandot to kill her suitors. She says that she will marry any man who can answer three riddles, but that whoever tries and fails will be executed. Prince Calaf, a refugee from Timur, accepts the challenge and therein the opera is launched. The production is filled with color and movement-- with a very large cast-- and it contains the famed tenor aria "Nessun Dorma" which Pavarotti has made into a popular favorite as his signature piece.

Puccini was the most lyrical of opera composers, but he died before Turandot could be completed (it was finished by a journeyman composer named Franco Calfano). As such, it is the last of the great man's operas and the summit of his achievements. At one of the debut performances, in 1926, Puccini's friend and famous conductor Arturo Toscanini stopped the production at the point where Puccini's work left off, laid down his baton, and said, "And here the master laid down his pen." And everyone went home.

Ticketmaster has tickets, and you really should go see it.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Confessions of an American Idol Junkie

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2006 at 3:59 PM

I'm asking for a wailing, I know, as my TV tastes can be almost disturbingly pedestrian, but for the sake of promoting a girl from my hometown—Albemarle, N.C.—I make the following confession: Tonight, I'll be watching American Idol and rooting for 19-year-old Kellie Pickler. After her performance last night, the small town Southern belle—Albemarle only got liquor by the drink a few years ago—conceded her performance was below par and didn't flinch when the judges said as much. Pickler is humble, honest and hard not to like, and here's hoping that ridiculous guy with the gray hair (Taylor?) gets booted off tonight instead of her. Pardon me, I'm scheduled now to return to planet Earth.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Omaha Experiment

Posted By on Tue, Apr 18, 2006 at 9:47 AM

Cities like Nashville should be paying attention to what's happening in Omaha: A bill passed by the Nebraska legislature and signed into law last week splits the Omaha school system into three districts, one mostly black, one mostly white, and one mostly Hispanic. Supporters say that with schools already essentially segregated because of segregated housing patterns, this is about giving minorities local control over school system resources and outcomes. Opponents see it as a throwback to the days before Brown v. Board of Education, a move that is neither morally tenable nor constitutionally acceptable.

The Omaha move can be viewed as a referendum of sorts on our half-century national experiment with school integration (with the sad realization up front that after 50 years we would still refer to it as an "experiment"). This angle is pursued in a brief essay by NYU law professor Jack Balkin, who argues that more than just racism is at stake:

I don't think we can reject what Nebraska has done as simple racism. Nebraska's law should be applauded if it in fact secures equal funding for black and white school children and gives black parents real voice in the education of their children, the sort of voice that many white parents have long had. But before we can embrace Nebraska's plan to create special black and Latino districts, we first have to decide whether to give up on the integrative ideal behind Brown v. Board of Education-- the idea that the public schools belong to everyone. I don't think we've given up on it quite yet, nor should we.

Nor, I'd like to think, will the Equal Protection Clause allow us to. Nor should it. Omaha is doing the wrong thing, even if for some of the right reasons. Others cities will watch their experiment with interest, but, one hopes, without an impulse to imitate. On the other hand, all we may end up watching is a successful court challenge.

Friday, April 14, 2006

On Hobbs

Posted By on Fri, Apr 14, 2006 at 12:47 PM

The Nashville Post and Channel 2 have both reported that local blogger Bill Hobbs has resigned from his position at Belmont University following a Scene column this week that reported about an inflammatory anti-Muslim cartoon Hobbs drew and posted on the Internet. Former Scene contributor Roger Abramson's thoughtful take on the situation, which I happen to respectfully disagree with, is here. I would say first -- and I can't emphasize this enough -- that we didn't set out to hurt Hobbs professionally, and second, he is not just a regular Joe. He has spent the last few years relentlessly working to create a name for himself with blog-based commentary and reporting, arguing that citizen journalism is a serious medium. He's succeeded. So suddenly, when he's called on the carpet, he's a regular Joe? I don't buy it. But I also don't think the guy should have been fired or forced to resign. Belmont's action here -- assuming this was a forced resignation, and I think everyone believes it is -- is cowardly. I mean, Hobbs' political views haven't been a secret. Why is the school suddenly putting stock in what we have to say about one action by one individual? The school shouldn't sacrifice him just because we happen to think that something he did was pretty tacky. That's my peace.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Posted By on Thu, Apr 13, 2006 at 1:56 PM

click to enlarge wsc2.jpg

"I was thinking the other day that the whole course of American history has been to make the Constitution more consonant with the Declaration of Independence: All people are created equal, in value, that is. The Constitution has 26 amendments. Two of them deal with prohibition. One of them deals with the judiciary. Three of them deal with the presidency. All the others, all 20, whether it's granting freedom to slaves, votes to women, eliminating the poll tax, instituting the income tax, lowering the voting age, allowing residents of D.C. to vote for the president, every one of them mandates an extension of democracy. The whole course of American history can be seen as a whole journey of very difficult social struggles in order to make democracy more vibrant, more just, to make what's legal more moral." (from a 1995 interview)

William Sloane Coffin Jr. died yesterday, a controversial figure with an astonishing biography and lifelong passion for peace and social justice (who happened to spend a few years in the CIA along the way). Coffin was a visiting professor at Vanderbilt's Divinity School in the early 1990s. Vanderbilt emeritus professor Eugene Teselle tells PITW that Coffin, whose visiting stint occurred at the time of the run-up to the first Gulf War, was "a real presence." During a conference on "just war theory," just about everyone thought this was a war that had to be fought on just war grounds. It was Coffin, Teselle recalled, who saw the situation as less about war than "human pride." Teselle said of Coffin: "Any time he went into a room he just took over, but in a generous way."

click to enlarge rev.jpg

Monday, April 10, 2006

Generic Blog Entry About Political Correctness And Its Effects Both Good And Bad

Posted By on Mon, Apr 10, 2006 at 5:35 PM

I saw this on Gawker today and it made me both smile and grimace at the same time.

A bunch of parents become irate over the use of gender-defining nouns when describing inanimate objects.

The grimace, unfortunately, came from my own experience with inane arguments riddled with PC-babble.

Continue reading »

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Vandy Lance and Trainwreck Turnbow

Posted By on Sat, Apr 8, 2006 at 3:32 PM

"Vandy Lance" Smith, Vanderbilt fan extraordinaire and world-class heckler, was featured in a half-page spread in the Sunday, April 2, edition of the New York Times. Anyone who knows Lance and has seen him perform will understand what the Times says about his passion for all things black and gold. Lance is a truck driver for UPS who began his love affair with Vanderbilt when as a boy he saw Watson Brown's 1969 football team defeat Alabama 14-10. Today, a recent opposing team's baseball scouting report said that Vanderbilt had "The top recruiting class in the nation ... and the No. 1 heckler in the Southeastern Conference." Guess who they were talking about? In the meantime, the Commodores are off to an 8-2 start in the conference and are looking like a contender for the College World Series.

The Sounds' parent club, the Milwaukee Brewers, won their first three games of the season, and in all three games Franklin High graduate Derrick "Trainwreck" Turnbow earned the save. After bouncing around in the Angels organization for a few years, Trainwreck has taken his 100 mph fastball to the National League and is blowing the doors off opposing hitters.

Friday, April 7, 2006

The Other Foot

Posted By on Fri, Apr 7, 2006 at 9:41 AM

Vice President Al Gore's chief of staff, under federal indictment for perjury and obstruction of justice, says his leaking of classified intelligence to a reporter in order to make a political case for White House policy was authorized by President Clinton. Conservatives responded with approval. " standard practice for every administration to leak to select reporters in advance information that later will be released to the press corps as a whole. Why? Because that ensures better coverage," says Cliff May at the National Review's blog The Corner. "The President has the authority to declassify information anyways, so, whether or not classified information was leaked in this case is a moot point....[It's] trying to make a mountain out of a molehill," writes conservative blogger Matt Margolis.

Perhaps it has become tiresome to challenge the judgmental objectivity of those who find a way to rationalize just about any Bush administration misstep, but can anyone honestly imagine that a Democratic White House would draw anything like these (actual) reactions from the right to the latest Plibbygate revelations?

Thursday, April 6, 2006

The Yellow Dog Snarls

Posted By on Thu, Apr 6, 2006 at 5:10 PM

The Yellow Dog Snarls

Dave "Mudcat" Saunders, renowned Democratic strategist and Southern raconteur, has written a new book, together with his fellow political analyst Steve Jarding (whom Mudcat calls one of the "Dukes of Harvard"), entitled Foxes in the Henhouse: How the Republicans Stole the South and the Heartland and What the Democrats Must Do to Run 'em Out." (Touchstone 2006). The title says it all. Mudcat and Jarding take a wire brush to the Republicans and, believe it, it's not pretty. The book is dense with facts and data, and the evidence Saunders and Jarding pull together is astonishing.

They begin by running an inventory of the accomplishments of the Democratic party since the New Deal. Where would the country be, they ask, without Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, regulation of the "free market" in banking and investing, basic civil rights and voting rights, environmental protection, and a panoply of other programs, all of which were created by Democrats and, for the most part, opposed bitterly by Republicans? The Democratic party, they say, should be proud of itself.

They describe the ascendancy of the Republican party in the South as the immediate result of Democratic passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960s. They say, "Racism was not only the foundation but the taproot" of Republican hegemony in the South. They point out that this basic spirit of the Republican party is still visible in the color of the faces of the abandoned victims of Katrina: remember how Barbara Bush said the abandoned ones had never had it so good living in refugee shelters instead of their own homes, or how Dennis Hastert said New Orleans should be bulldozed? And, of course, there is Trent Lott's famously frank praise for Republican Strom Thurmond's opposition to racial integration. Things haven't changed much in 50 years.

Budget deficits under the supposed "fiscal conservatives," moreover, tripled during the Reagan years as the result of big tax cuts-- something old Bush called voodoo economics. Clinton, on the other hand, erased the deficits with reasoned tax increases and spending cuts, and bequeathed his successor a budget surplus for the first time in decades. Then the new Bush, drunk on voodoo, gave away the store again with enormous pre-9/11 tax cuts for the wealthy, creating the biggest budget deficit in American history and the greatest re-distribution of wealth in American history (did someone say "class warfare?"). Bush now wants to make the tax cuts permanent while the country runs on fumes.

And then there is the mindless war in Iraq which only about 30% of Americans believe is being handled properly or should have been launched in the first place. Most people are finally beginning to understand that the war had nothing to do with 9/11, and still doesn't, despite the administration's fulminating about "the war on terror." Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, in fact, says that toppling Iraq was at the top of Bush's agenda at his very first Cabinet meeting, long before 9/11. Add to that Bush's incredible intelligence bungling, shortsightedness, and (probably) outright deceit and you've got a war with no purpose, no end in sight, and no plan for an end. Notably, as Saunders and Jarding point out, virtually all of the top-level Republicans who have sent 2,400 American soldiers to their deaths and thousands more into crippling disability (not to mention untold thousands of Iraqis) have no combat experience and know nothing of the horror of a human body being blown apart in battle. The one top Republican who did have significant combat experience-- a Viet Nam war hero-- was Colin Powell, who because of his misgivings about Bush's designs was kept out of the loop in the decision to invade Iraq and in due course left the administration.

The Mudcat will be appearing later this month at Mudcat and Cooter's Pickin' Parlor, 2613B McGavock Pike, in Nashville. Call 587-6856 or 872-8358 for details.

Some More Information About Pit Bulls

Posted By on Thu, Apr 6, 2006 at 2:27 PM

So apparently pit bulls are no longer allowed in Nashville's dog parks.

The topic has been covered here with reactions from owners here and here.

I have to say something about this. During the summer of 2004, I had just graduated college and I was obsessed, literally obsessed with getting a dog. I grew up with dogs (the smallest of which weighed 80 lbs) and couldn't imagine living without one. After much searching, I decided I wanted a pit bull.

I knew a bit about owning a "scary" dog breed; I grew up with a Doberman Pinscher who earned his fair share of breed discrimination. Sometimes, this was beneficial ֠my mom knew she could walk the Doberman alone at night in the not-so-safe parts of downtown Chicago and not worry about being harassed֠but mostly, it just caused problems. We had a few run-ins with cranky neighbors, we once found the dog catcher jumping up and down in front of our backyard fence to get our dog to bark so he could fine us, and my elementary school wouldn't let my mom bring the dog when she picked me up from school even though all the other parents were allowed to bring their fluff balls. I also knew that while there were no actual laws against Dobermans, there were certain laws against pit bulls, so I did a little research. I read 2 or 3 books entirely about pit bulls. I talked to a veterinarian about how to raise a pit bull properly. And this is what I learned.

Continue reading »

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