Re: Stephen M. Davis's Symphony Flags:
I enjoyed Stephen M. Davis's "Symphony Flags," where he complained that, "[a]side from talking, cell phones and coughing, nothing mars a performance more than applause between movements. And, other than cowboy hats and tractor hats, nothing marks a community more as a backwater of the beaux arts than such a robust expression of rubedom."
I generally agree with both of those sentiments; during a recent performance of Beethoven's Ninth, I had the grim pleasure of tapping a disruptive nine-year-old seated in front of me on the shoulder and, when he turned around, hissing at him, "Knock it off!" He managed to behave during the rest of the performance.
But unfortunately, you can't tell thirty or forty people in a concert hall to stop clapping.
All that having been said, I have to admit to having broken that rule once myself. Last year, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg performed the Tchaikovsky violin concerto with our local Alexandria Symphony Orchestra. While waiting for her first entrance, she had all the appearance of a sprinter preparing for a 100-yard dash; she shifted from one foot to the other, shook her arms as if relaxing them, rolled her head around as if working any stray kinks out of her neck. Then she made her entrance.
The movement was a European high-speed train careening full tilt down a mountain. The tempo was -- well, "breathtaking" is too mild a word; "terrifying" really describes it. The sound was full-bodied and robust. You held your breath the entire movement, expecting the inevitable catastrophic derail -- which never came. When the movement's final chords crashed through the hall, everyone immediately burst into thunderous applause -- not the usual desultory scattered claps you generally hear. When the noise had died down, Salerno-Sonnenberg, looking a little embarrassed, remarked to the audience, "I'm sorry to have to tell you, but there are still two more movements."
-- Bernie Gilbert
I could never understand the objection, often colored with a sneering condescension, as Mr. Davis's article so aptly illustrates, to applause between movements of a symphony. Think of opera. After a beautifully sung aria, applause is de rigueur. What an insult to do otherwise!
Why not for symphonic music?
WAR AND VALUES
Re: George H. Wittman's Losing Hearts and Minds:
This is a letter invoking concern over the article "Losing Hearts and Minds," by George H. Wittman.
On the whole, I found this an excellent read that fully exemplified what is essentially a Catch-22 that applied to Iraq as it did in Vietnam: when occupying a foreign country, you can easily open yourself to grinding, pointless guerrilla war unless conditions on the ground have already been met that will preclude it, such as liberating that country from another foreign occupier. This in itself is exemplified in the differences in the situation with Afghanistan and Iraq.
However, I did note some concern over the last few paragraphs where Wittman describes the world "not waging war in a manner consistent with American values." I found this section a blind spot on what was an otherwise insightful article.
Did Tecumseh Sherman wage war consistent with American values when he moved through the south? One wonders. As I see it, when resources, funding and security are scant, values can be a very tricky phrase. American values are unlikely to be incredibly different in this respect from British, French, Indian, Japanese... yes, even Iraqi values, and even in warfare. The difference is that America currently faces an undisciplined force that is still learning in many ways how to fight, and exists only to fight, and fight dirty. They have no reliable base of operations with not a tank nor aircraft to their name and neither the capacity to build or operate one if they could. Were America invaded and overcome -- whatever the stated reason of the occupier -- no doubt similar ruthless groups would appear determined to stop what was observed as the enemy. This would happen even if the invader were Christian and spoke English. Even more so if they were of different religion, language and ethnicity. And this would be the same anywhere, different mostly only in non-essential details.
Iraq, as anywhere, has its share of racists, its share of anti-western patriots, its share of bull-headed religious adherents. These will always be the people who will not be bothered to understand the nuanced argument, or care for it -- people who favor action for action's sake, more concerned with appearing to be manly than actually doing it. You can find this on the streets of Fallujah as readily as on the streets of Detroit. And in the corridors of power in Baghdad as easily as in Washington or Paris. The difference is that in Washington, these people understand there is little to gain and much to lose by violating the status quo of society.
In Iraq, when one considers the uncertainty and distrust inherent in the situation, naturally these same people -- malcontents and ignorant even in peacetime -- see the inverse. Iraq is similar now to France in the grip of the revolution, and as then, everyone is lost in the scramble to see who's going to make up the new power base.
-- Brandon Butler
Thanks for George Wittman's excellent article, "Losing Hearts and Minds." He is absolutely correct! Americans want to be loved, but before others can love us they have to have respect for us; no one can love someone they don't respect. In war, that means killing the enemy and winning military victories first. That is especially true in Arab societies in which people respect and admire strong, even ruthless, leaders while despising any sign of weakness. Signs of weakness include a willingness to negotiate and fear of harming civilians.
I can understand Americans shrinking from the brutality required to win wars. But I would ask the American people to please stop getting into wars if they don't intend to win them.
-- Roger D. McKinney
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
"Gaining the Iraqis' good will can come only after they have exhausted their societal bellicosity."
In other words, until they've killed enough of one another, for enough generations, and shed their spiritual and ethnic racisms and stopped their blood feuds -- and until true peace comes at whatever price, whenever it comes, to whoever's left for it to come to -- we're wasting our time in trying to win their hearts and minds?
-- C. Kenna Amos
Princeton, West Virginia
Re: Jeff Emanuel's Political Points at Any Cost:
Thank you for printing this article. Mr. Emanuel has put into words my exact thoughts on the present Democratic leadership. Winning at any cost is the fighting words of Mr. Reid but they refer to the political arena and not the reality of the world. I would like to also input that if the Democrats would back the President even a little bit this war would have less causalities. Therefore, I would lay at least two-thirds of the casualties since Jan. 2007 at the door of the Democratic Party. With their constant nay saying they have given the enemy reasons to die for their cause. They know they can win this war if they just keep killing. By the way, my total causality list also includes two-thirds of the Iraqi civilians that have been killed. The Democratic leadership really do not care about other people in the world. If they did, they would not want to cut and run. Thereby causing more deaths when Iran/Al-Qaeda bring about there form of government. But people like Reid will use their deaths to his advantage. Only a very, very, very low class person would do something like that. Are you sure this man is an adult? He does not act like one.
Thanks for listening.
-- Rich Oros
Bridgewater, New Jersey
Mr. Emanuel's essay ought to be required reading at every breakfast table in America. The people now running the country are the same people who gathered in the streets in the '70s to shut down freedom of expression; close universities; fornicate, and aid the North Vietnamese in keeping their resolve in the face of enormous causalities.
These are the same people responsible for about 30,000 of the names on the Vietnam Wall, that black slash through the soul of a Nation. They are the same people who are responsible for murder of millions of Cambodians and the enslavement of millions more.
These are the people who are trying to make us believe that in cowardice there is honor; that in censorship of words and thoughts there is freedom; and that Muslims really will love us if we only make nice with them.
These are the people who are bringing us the end days of the United States of America.
-- Jay Molyneaux
Denver, North Carolina
Re: "Political Points" and Harry Reid's recent bizarre behavior. I can't do a Lexis-Nexis search, but didn't the mild-mannered maniac have what was described as a "slight stroke" leaving him "un-impaired" around the beginning of his ascendancy to leadership?
I worked in the Medical Department of a large airline and when we were hiring a new wave of pilots as our military service trained ones approached retirement age, you would not believe the psychological and physical testing required to sit in the cockpit and deliver a planeload of souls from point A to point B.
How is it we can have certifiable loonies running for and getting elected to lead a nation of nearly 300 million souls and make life-altering decisions for us? Goons Gone Wild!
Goon: A grotesque or stupid person.
I'd say Harry qualifies on both scores. In addition to being stupid, he cannot keep his hair on straight. Don't know what to call him, but he's mighty lachrymose.
-- Diane Smith
South San Francisco, California
Thanks for the reminder of how the perpetually power-lusting donkeys operate. But "victory at any cost" -- and the impact on all of us, our allies and whoever else happens to get in their way be damned -- appears to have been the overarching tenet of their party since way back when.
Of course, President Bush's and the Republican Party's having gone AWOL from their leadership roles sustain such chose-defeat-over-victory, America-is-always-to-blame, emasculate-America's-strength behavior.
Makes you wonder if we have the societal will and common sense to stay a free people.
-- C. Kenna Amos
Princeton, West Virginia
I would like to identify myself with every single word of Mr. Emanuel's article. He has absolutely nailed the complicity of the Democrats in becoming determined to defeat our nation, to hold our nation captive before the whole world.
I hope that Mr. Emanuel will follow up this excellent article with an equally forthright article on the failure of Bush, the White House staff, or any in the administration to take on these traitors in the Congress. We can add this to the list of things that Bush refuses to take on the Democrats about. Failure to actively defend his judicial nominations comes immediately to mind.
I guess that Bush is too busy castigating the people that voted him into office for their bigotry in not wanting to throw open our borders to Mexico, to take on the Dems who are with him on his Bush-Kennedy Amnesty bill.
-- Ken Shreve
Harry Reid would have to improve by 1,000 percent to rise to the level of despicable.
-- W. B. Heffernan, Jr.
TAKE ME OUT OF THE BALL GAME
Re: Lawrence Henry's Race and Sports:
As a black man in my 20s, I can't help adding my two cents on this one. Just to get this out of the way, sure, the black community has some huge problems, many of them stemming from the breakdown of our families and a general lack of commitment to success. But don't blame our lack of interest in baseball on that, or really give too much credence to anything that Gary Sheffield has to say. Sheffield (and apparently Lawrence Henry) believe that our refusal to submit to authority has pushed us away from baseball. Having played baseball, football, and soccer, I firmly believe that coaches are coaches (that is to say, pushy and demanding). It doesn't matter what the sport is, or what level you play it on. Team sports require submission to authority, cooperation, and sacrifice for the good of the team. So we can't handle being told what to do on a baseball field but we can take it on a football field? I don't get it. I played baseball for almost ten years as a kid. And then I quit. You know why? I honestly found it boring after a while. Why is it so hard to accept that many people find the game boring? Just because baseball used to be America's game doesn't mean that it always will be, or even that it should be. Things change. Get over it.
-- H. Pippins
DOWN ON THE FARM
Re: Ann & Jim Sage's letter (under "A Bushel and a Peck") in Reader Mail's Getting Along:
Well, Goodie Goodie for the Sage Family. Our tax dollars at work. If they were so all fired conservative, they wouldn't live off of a government subsidy.
They should be ashamed to take my tax money for their family's needs. It's disgusting to read of their special interest lobbying for farmers, a crowd which does not need any help. When will farmers subsidize my lost accounts receivable or my failed clothing store? Never.
So, why should I -- or any other taxpayer -- help them?
-- Jim Sweeney
CONQUEST OF KYL
Re: Jeffrey Lord's The Senator and the Anchor:
That covers one of Robert Conquest's Three Principles: Any organization not explicitly right-wing will eventually become left-wing.
Jeffrey Lord offers a good description how that is so.
-- James Wilson
Re: The Washington Prowler's Shadowing Rahm:
A very truthful article. I have been saying that for the past few years and thought that I was the only one who thought so.
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