Of color and candidates, &c.


So, I’m in Zankel Hall the other night — the basement of Carnegie Hall (and a very pretty basement too) — covering a concert of the Artemis Quartet. They are playing a Ginastera work. And I read this, in the program notes:

The first performance took place on April 19, 1958, at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, as part of the first Inter-American Music Festival. The festival, in turn, was sponsored by the Pan American Union, a Cold War-era organization formed “to promote closer relations and understanding among the American republics by recognizing and stimulating the development of music of the Americas.” (American policymakers saw hemispheric solidarity as a strategic imperative to counter the perceived global communist threat.)

Perceived, huh? You get the idea the writer doesn’t consider the threat very real. Also, American policymakers saw “hemispheric solidarity” as desirable for its own sake, the Cold War aside. This has been true since at least the time of Theodore Roosevelt and Elihu Root. (Root, who had been TR’s secretary of state, won the Nobel Peace Prize for 1912, in part because he had worked on pan-American harmony.)

A little more music? A friend of mine saw the Metropolitan Opera’s Parsifal recently. (I have written a review for the next New Criterion.) He e-mailed me, “The man to my right had never seen or heard Parsifal before, and at the end I asked him how his first was. He said, ‘I’m undone. Utterly.’”

What a great response — common. Not the wording, but the feeling.

A reader comment has come to my attention, and I thought I’d address it — not to get on my high horse, although it may sound that way, but because it may be kind of fun. In a column last week, I wrote about Tony Campos, the almond grower in Fresno (Greater Fresno). I discussed some of the obstacles his company faces: mainly absurd, costly regulations. I wrote,

Wrap your mind around a regulation in the pipeline — a regulation that is apparently coming: A kit fox wanders into your almond orchard and takes a dump next to a tree. You have to quarantine off a sizable area around the tree. You have to “cleanse” it, destroying all the trees within.

Well, why not keep Mr. Fox out in the first place? You can’t — he’s on the endangered-species list.

Okay. The reader’s comment goes,

Hey, Jay … love your stuff, but … please do a bit more fact checking before you post:

The Kit fox is not on the endangered species list. It’s in fact very common (IUCN Least Threatened). This from a simple check with Wikipedia.

I say this because it’s the sort of thing the Left loves to hammer us with. (Anti-science! Factually challenged!)

Carry on.

Well, I was pretty sure that the people at Campos Brothers knew what they were talking about — they deal with these issues every day — but I went to Wikipedia, just as the reader suggested. And found,

The San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica) was formerly common in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Its 1990 population was estimated to be 7,000, and it is now considered endangered.

To borrow a phrase, carry on. (Does that sound snotty? I mean, snottier than necessary?)

Let’s end with a little language — not so snotty. Well, actually, pretty snotty. In another column last week, I addressed some common American mispronunciations: “mischievious” for “mischievous,” “asterik” for “asterisk.” A reader wrote in, “Don’t forget ‘verbage’ for ‘verbiage.’” I heard another one yesterday: “eck cetera” for “et cetera.”

But that’s not what I want to talk about here. A reader sent in a classic poem, and several variations upon it. I’ll give you just the classic. (Not that the others are dirty or inept.) The poem teaches you to say “asterisk.” Here goes:

Pretty Mary bought some skates
Upon the ice to frisk.
Wasn’t she a silly girl
Her little * ?

Thanks for joining me today, skaters and non-skaters, riskers and non-riskers, and I’ll catch you soon.

To order Jay Nordlinger’s book Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World, go here. To order his collection Here, There & Everywhere, go here.