Politics & Policy

A verboten laugh, &c.

Santas in Sydney’d better watch their back – and I’ll let a wire-service report (found here) tell you why: “Santas in Australia’s largest city have been told not to use Father Christmas’s traditional ‘ho ho ho’ greeting because it may be offensive to women . . .” That sounds like a right-wing parody of modern political correctness. But like most stories that sound this way – this one’s true, apparently.

You just – you just – can’t parody anything.

‐Well, it looks like China’s getting tough – toughish – on Iran. As the headline over this story tells us, “China Calls for Tehran to Work with IAEA.” Isn’t that sweet? But who will get tough on the IAEA? (The “U.N.’s nuclear watchpuppy,” to use a recent favorite phrase of mine.) For that matter, who will get tough on China?

‐At the U.N., a couple of Castro’s agents attended a press conference, where a French journalist was asking pointed questions of a U.N. official about Castro’s regime. The agents were sure to collect information on this disobedient journalist. At home, they could have arrested, jailed, tortured, and maybe killed the rude questioner. But even when abroad, they bully. Sometimes they do worse.

An old, old story. For a report on the incident I have mentioned, go here.

‐Fresh from a round of Medals of Freedom, President Bush has awarded some Humanities Medals. We National Review-niks are already rejoicing over the award to Victor Davis Hanson. Just about every medal there is should be hung around VDH’s neck. But I’d also like to point out the medal for Richard Pipes, the historian of Russia and all-purpose intellectual.

I have written about him in this column many times – Pipes is perpetually citable. And I might remind you of my review of his memoirs, Vixi, here.

It’s awfully nice when the recognition-worthy are recognized.

‐In the issue of National Review out today – at least digitally, here – Roman Genn has a delightfully wicked caricature of Jimmy Carter. You remember the story of Carter and the cat – how he killed his sister-in-law’s cat, and then wrote her that note? (I included it in this column.) Well, Roman takes off from that.

And it reminded me of something. Years ago, Jeff MacNelly did a portrait of Carter for the cover of The American Spectator. And, in a subsequent issue, Thomas Sowell wrote a letter to the editor, saying something like this:

“Dear sir: MacNelly’s portrait of President Carter is the most merciless, cruelest thing I’ve ever seen. Where can I get a copy?”

‐A little golf? I love something that George O’Grady, chief executive of the European tour, said. He was talking about the announcement by the PGA Tour that they would begin drug testing next year. And, as we learn in this article, O’Grady said that only one golfer really needs to be tested: Tiger Woods. “If he’s clean, what does it matter what the rest of them are on?”

Marvelous.

‐A little language? This also relates to golf, in a way. Maybe you have heard Americans turn a “th” – as in “mother” or “brother” – into a “v.” And you have surely heard them turn another kind of “th” into an “f.” A man might say, “I’m going to celebrate my muhver’s [mother’s] birfday.”

Okay. We know that everything comes from the United Kingdom (pretty much). And I was at the golf range the other day and met this very charming, very good golfer from London. He did not speak the kind of English you hear on the BBC. He duly turned a “th” into a “v” or an “f,” depending.

Which was a nice piece of linguistic confirmation. (Allow me to recommend to you David Crystal’s Stories of English, which I reviewed for NR some time ago.)

‐Have a couple of music reviews from the New York Sun. For a review of the Berlin Philharmonic, under Sir Simon Rattle, go here. And for a review of Bellini’s Norma at the Metropolitan Opera, go here.

‐Earlier this week, I was reviewing the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, under Gustavo Dudamel. And I reflected a little on nationalism. Americans are generally taught to fear and loathe nationalism – certainly in themselves, and in some others, too.

I myself am anti-nationalism. I have frequently quoted WFB to the effect that, “I’m as patriotic as anyone from sea to shining sea, but there’s not a bone of nationalism in me.”

Many Americans, however, are apt to thrill to some other people’s nationalisms. Toward the end of this concert, the orchestra played a group of Latin American pieces. And, before they did so, they shed their formalwear to don a Venezuelan national jacket: a kind of windbreaker, featuring the Venezuelan flag, and the name of the country on the back. The audience in Carnegie Hall screamed and screamed its pleasure and approval.

And, at the very end, the players were dancing around, jubilantly, swaggeringly, exuberantly.

I think a person could have had one of two main reactions to all this. Reaction No. 1: “What a joyous occasion, to see these young musicians expressing a natural patriotism and a justified pride – and having a great deal of fun.” Reaction No. 2: “At least they weren’t goosestepping. (And those other guys had better uniforms. Better music, too.)”

I’m inclined to the first reaction, or view. But I wonder about the second . . .

‐In my Impromptus yesterday, I had a little meditation on the misuse of “fascism.” A reader wrote,

In college back in the ’90s [“back in the ’90s”!], I took a public-speaking class. We had one young lady who passionately devoted each of her speeches to the environment, to the annoyance of most everyone in the class, including the professor (southern school) [ah]. So, for my final speaking assignment, I decided to give a speech refuting her views and suggesting that the best thing for the environment would be limited government and property rights. (I was, of course, funded by Big Oil.)

The young lady was none too pleased, and, during the Q&A, she called me, among other things: an “anti-government fascist.”

An anti-government fascist. I believe I’ve heard it all now, and can retire.

‐I don’t want to get into too much record-recommending – am reluctant to open floodgates – but I thought I’d answer a reader’s recent inquiry. He says, “Do you have a favorite recording of Handel’s Messiah?” I do: Colin Davis’s, with the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, and Heather Harper, Helen Watts, et al. Amazon has it here.

‐Speaking of plugging things . . . below is my book spiel, and have a great weekend, y’all.

Friends, I’m afraid I have a book to flog. At the beginning of December, National Review will bring out Here, There & Everywhere: Collected Writings of Jay Nordlinger. The book contains almost 100 pieces, on a great variety of subjects. It’s a little over 500 pages long, with a generous – and, I hope, useful – index. It is dedicated to Bill Buckley. It costs $24.95 – but we’re running an “NRO Special”: $21.95.

If you would like the book inscribed, that’s free. Or – to use an old line – you can have a “rare uninscribed copy”!

To order, please go here.

Maybe I should tell you a little about this book. It’s a grab bag, with eight chapters: “Society,” “Politics,” “People,” “The World,” “Cuba and China,” “Music,” “Golf,” and “Personal.” The pieces were written over the last dozen years: 1995-2007. Most are from National Review, but many appeared in The Weekly Standard, and some appeared in yet other publications. There are speeches, too. (Speeches, but no pontificating – I think.)

What’s in Chapter 1, “Society”? Let’s see: my bit on the honorific “Dr.” A piece on racial identification (boo, hiss!). A piece on rap and guns. A piece on the prevalence of Spanish in America. A piece on the verbotenization of “Christmas” – that sort of thing.

“Politics” contains an account of Election Night 2000, a couple of look-backs at Clinton, a piece on the New York Times, an essay called “The Joy of Tokenism.” (That springs from a visit to “Renaissance Weekend.”)

As for “People,” there are about 20 of them – people, that is. These are profiles of, or interviews with, George W. Bush, Robert Conquest, Natan Sharansky, Phil Gramm, Naguib Mahfouz, Condi Rice, Al Sharpton, Garrison Keillor, Maxine Waters, Bob Shrum, Rosie O’Donnell, Donald Rumsfeld, Cap Weinberger, Rodney Dangerfield . . . You want more? There are more!

“The World” has dispatches from Europe – East and West – and from the Middle East. A lot of Davos stuff; a speech on Solzhenitsyn. “Cuba and China” is what you’d expect. People say, “Why do you write so much about human rights in those countries?” And one answer is – because others do not.

“Golf” is a shortish chapter, but – I like to think – one of the best. I talk about Tiger, Hogan, the movies (Tin Cup, etc.) . . . “Music” contains no criticism – no pure music criticism, or practically none. Instead, these are feature pieces, largely about personalities: Pavarotti, Marilyn Horne, Meredith Willson (the composer of The Music Man), Birgit Nilsson, and so on. There are several dispatches from Salzburg. And there’s even a piece on the music of political conventions and presidential campaigns.

Finally, that chapter called “Personal” – which is autobiographical and (consequently!) often a little offbeat.

Anyway, the book, again, can be ordered here. And do you mind if I throw some blurbs at you? This is a terribly immodest act, but . . . so’s book promotion. The blurbs are from Paul Johnson, Mark Helprin, Norman Podhoretz, Mark Steyn, and Rush Limbaugh. Here you go:

Paul Johnson: “Jay Nordlinger is one of America’s most versatile and pungent writers. He is at home in geopolitics and sociology, in sport and music and literature, and to all these topics he brings an inquiring mind, deep knowledge, and an engaging style. This collection shows him at his wide-ranging best.”

Mark Helprin: “Like all great reporters and essayists, Nordlinger seizes upon the essential details that give a story life in the present and years after. What is most striking about these essays is not their integrity, fearlessness, wit, superb craftsmanship, and the long view they reveal, but that Nordlinger is a man in full. When he writes, ‘For me, the personal transcends the national, historical, and political,’ you know immediately how his portrait of our age has transcended contemporary affairs to read like history. And though always written in pursuit of the enduring and the true, his pieces are so dense in fact and sparkling anecdote that to read them is like opening one present after another. A good man is hard to find: You have found him.”

Norman Podhoretz: “No matter the subject – and what subject has he not touched upon? – Jay Nordlinger writes like the great conversationalist he is. The easy informality of his style never fails to engage and delight, the wide-ranging cultivation it reflects never fails to enlighten, and the energy that propels it never fails to amaze.”

Mark Steyn: “Unlike most of us political pundits, Jay Nordlinger has many other strings to his bow. In fact, most of us don’t even have a bow, but Jay does: You’re as likely to find him at Bayreuth or Salzburg as at a political convention. Or at Augusta National. He has what British politicians term a ‘hinterland’ – a vast array of interests beyond politics that most normal people call ‘life.’ He writes brilliantly about music, and profoundly about golf, and very perceptively about those strange little linguistic tics that seem to pop up out of nowhere and catch the spirit of the age. For his fans, this long overdue Nordlinger reader is a virtuoso display of his rare versatility, on subjects from Rummy to Rosie, Cuba to comedy, ethnic cleansing in Iraq to ‘erotic vagrancy’ in Hollywood. He is a Jay of all trades and a master of . . . well, almost all (we have a few musical differences).”

Rush Limbaugh: “Jay Nordlinger is a Renaissance man, and this book proves it. It’s witty, grabbing, and fun. Nordlinger tackles an array of issues, big and small, with rare humor and insight. He also says nice things about me – which counts for a lot. I couldn’t put it down.”

Is there any other personality like Rush’s? Thank heaven for him.

I’m done book-flogging, for now . . .

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