‘Death to America,’ &c.

Burning the American flag in Tehran on November 4.


Speaking of Cuban Communism: There have been “Che sightings” lately. That was the phrase of one of my e-mailers: “Che sighting.” There are always such sightings, I’m afraid: Ernesto “Che” Guevara, that old Communist killer, that old totalitarian butcher, is one of the most “sighted” people in the world — defacing a billion, two billion, three billion T-shirts.

Richard Branson, the British entrepreneur, was dressed up like Guevara recently. (See this.) I think he was promoting cellphones or something. If Guevara were around, and Sir Richard were under his control? Guevara would crush him like a bug. He did not like entrepreneurs, or “Sirs.”

Then there is a report from Brazil. A soccer team put Guevara’s face on its jersey. The jersey is a huge hit with fans, who want one of their own. The factory is unable to keep up with demand. Isn’t that sweet?

If only Lavrenti Beria or Heinrich Himmler had taken a better picture. If only their cheekbones were so lovely.

Let’s break away with a little language: In recent days, I have had occasion to write about Fiorello La Guardia, one of New York’s legendary mayors. To my knowledge, he spelled his name like that: “La Guardia,” with a space. But the airport? “LaGuardia.”

I always have to pause, before writing the name of the mayor or the name of the airport that honors him.

Care for a name? (Another name, I should say.) I was reviewing a Tosca the other night — and in the cast was a baritone named Ryan Speedo Green.

Wonder if he swims.

On the subject of music: For my “New York Chronicle” in the current New Criterion, go here. For a review on TNC’s website, go here. That one is of a New York Philharmonic concert, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. Among the composers on the program was Salonen himself.

This is kind of interesting: My friend and fellow critic Sedgwick Clark wrote about variability in conducting, and other music-making. Sometimes a guy’s up, sometimes he’s down; some nights he’s on, some nights he’s off. If a conductor gives four concerts of the same program, those four experiences may be very, very different.

I think Salonen gave five concerts of the aforementioned program. Sedge heard the last concert, and I and other critics heard earlier ones. He had a much different experience from the ones we had. I had no trouble believing it.

I quoted to him an old song that I often have cause to quote: “What a difference a day makes, 24 little hours . . .”

An old golf buddy used to sing that, when he was having a bad round — a bad round that followed a good one. “But I was hitting it so well yesterday!” he’d cry. “What the . . .?” Then he’d sing, wistfully, annoyedly, mystifiedly, “What a difference a day makes . . .”

Of course, the song works both ways: You can hit it well, after hitting it poorly — right?

One more item from The New Criterion’s website — a post I did on double standards in the media. Some themes are oldies but goodies. In any event, they’re old . . .

In an obit of Gérard de Villiers, the French spy novelist, I found something hilarious. The obituarist said that he had “struggles with fidelity.” I just love that. “Mr. Smith, a liar, had struggles with honesty.” “Mr. Jones, a burglar, had trouble staying out of other people’s houses and keeping his hands on his own property.”

A few years ago, it was announced that Tiger Woods was struggling with “sex addiction.” Some of us said, “Oh, you mean he’s a man?”

Let’s end with a letter from a reader — who writes,

Hi, Jay,

I’ve seen a couple of bumper stickers that say “Ready for Hillary.” I always think of such phrases as meaning that one is ready for a change. “Ready for spring” means that you’re tired of winter.

I know that these people don’t mean they’re tired of Obama, but it makes me chuckle nonetheless.

Hadn’t thought of that! That sticker probably means, in part, “Horrible, racist America has had a black president. Maybe horrible, sexist America can tolerate a female president.” Or it may mean, “I’ve waited for this glorious Progressive Woman to be president for so long! Don’t make me wait any longer, please!”

Anyway, we can worry about her later. See you!


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