I wish to quote Charles Moore, whom I could quote all day, every day, on almost everything:
“It is often said that anti-Israeli feeling is growing in the West because Israel does not, despite its claims, live by Western values. I sometimes wonder if the opposite is the case: Israel, because of the constant threat to its existence, reminds us of the high cost of defending our freedoms. And that, to Western wishful thinkers, is intensely irritating.”
Oh, yes. I remember Norman Podhoretz making this point, a long time ago. Famous essay in Commentary
. And it is still, stubbornly, acutely true. (For the Moore column in which the above sentences appear, go here
I read a headline, over this article: “Gorbachev, at 80, gets Russia’s highest honor.” I’m thinking, “Well, can’t be the Lenin Prize. Sure can’t be the Stalin Prize. Putin Prize?” Turns out it’s the Order of St. Andrew. I somehow think of Scotland and golf.
Incidentally, remember how we used to call the Soviet leader “Gorby”? (Also, expressions of extreme Western enthusiasm for him were called “Gorbasms.”) The address of his website — I’m not sure “address” is the right word — is www.gorby.ru.
Not long ago, I was in Norway, talking with some politicos — right of center. (Well, in Norway, you could be a socialist, and still be right of center. I mean “right of center” even in American terms.) I said, “Obama is the perfect American president for the Norwegian political culture, isn’t he? I mean, no wonder they gave him the Nobel prize. He’s left-wing, he apologizes for America, he wants a more Norwegian-like state, he’s pro-abortion, he’s anti-Israel, he venerates the U.N. — he’s even black. He’s perfect.”
One of the Norwegians said, “No, he could be gay. Then he’d be perfect.” I said, “I stand corrected, my friend.”
In a recent column — or some Corner posts, or both — I spoke of graciousness among colleagues (basically). Tell you what I mean. I recalled what the pianist Gilels said, when he first toured the United States: “Wait’ll you hear Richter.” And I told the story about Caruso and McCormack. (One says, “It’s an honor to meet the world’s greatest tenor.” The other says, “I was just going to say the same thing.”)
My friend Robert Marshall, the eminent musicologist, sent a note about Haydn and Mozart. They admired each other tremendously, and praised each other to the skies. Marshall thinks there may be nothing else quite like it in history. Often, a big artist feels comfortable praising someone long dead — not someone alive, kicking, and working.
You remember Haydn’s famous praise of Mozart, expressed personally in 1785 to Leopold [Mozart’s father] (who naturally — and surely expectedly — passed it on to Wolfgang): “Before God and as an honest man, I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me,” etc. That same year, Wolfgang published those six incredible string quartets, accompanied by a most flattering dedication to Haydn — the kind of public tribute musicians typically addressed to patrons and aristocrats, not to colleagues.
I then recalled something Lorin Maazel said to me, in an interview. (Maazel is one of the leading conductors in the world.) (Not talking trains.) I forget how this came up. But Maazel said, “At the highest level, there is no envy or rivalry, only mutual esteem.” Marshall then remembered a colleague of his at the University of Chicago: Edward Lowinsky.
The issue was faculty recruitment (which can be very, very touchy). Lowinsky said, “First-rate people want first-rate colleagues; second-rate people want fifth-rate colleagues.”
That strikes me as very true.
Several years ago, I met a bright and interesting young man from Mississippi, with the excellent name of Lucien Smith. (If I were a Smith, I’d want a first name like Lucien.) He is still a bright and interesting young man from Mississippi: and is running for treasurer of his state. I hope he has a long, fruitful, beneficial career in public office. (His website is here.)
You know how I sometimes write about the rise of Indians in America? (I’m talking about Indians of the South Asian kind.) I was reading about Rajat Gupta, the corporate titan who is in deep doo-doo. Here is the last paragraph of the article:
While Gupta and at least two other managers of Indian origin are under the gun, it turns out that the investigation and prosecution of the case is also in the hands of Indian-Americans. The SEC probe is being handled, among others, by Sanjay Wadhwa, of the Commission’s Market Abuse Unit in New York. Rajratnam, meanwhile, is being prosecuted by Preet Bharara, who is the Justice Department’s Attorney for Manhattan.
Indians, Indians, everywhere you look. Good.
I’d like to share with you an interesting observation by Ignat Solzhenitsyn (middle son of the writer; a pianist and conductor):
When I was growing up, I loved reading, in adventure books such as The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, about passwords. They seemed to breathe an olden time, a time of secrets and gallantry and bravery and intrigue, a time that would never come back. That was my only contact with passwords.
Who knew that, a few short years later, one’s whole life would seemingly revolve around passwords, and that any Joe Schmo, presumably without mediaeval gallantry in his mind, would have several passwords just to get through one day?
Funny. Interesting. True. (And it’s very Solzhenitsyn to spell medieval the old-fashioned way. I like it.)
Finally, I have a great name for you — supplied by a reader in Tennessee, who met the veterans-affairs commissioner of that state: Many-Bears Grinder. Our reader describes her as “a delightful lady.”