Impromptus

Home confinement, &c.

Concert pianist Vladimir Horowitz in Amsterdam, 1986 (Dutch National Archives/CC BY-SA 3.0 NL/Wikimedia)
Vladimir Horowitz, Bill Buckley, Manu Raju, George Soros, LeBron James, and more

Vladimir Horowitz, the great pianist, was a complicated person. His life was tough in many ways — depression, etc. He did not leave his house — a townhouse on the Upper East Side of Manhattan — for twelve years.

Sometime later, a guest had the chutzpah to ask, “You mean, you didn’t leave this house for twelve years?” Horowitz, glancing around and gesturing, said, “You don’t like my house?”

When William F. Buckley Jr. heard about this, he loved it. He told the story using an excellent Horowitz impression — dead-on.

(WFB knew the Horowitzes, socially, for a while. So did James Burnham. Some first-rate stories came out of those times.)

• Mrs. Horowitz was Wanda, a daughter of Toscanini — the mercurial Italian conductor, and WFB’s boyhood hero, by the way. When Wanda was difficult in public, Horowitz would shrug and say to those around him, by way of explanation, “Toscanini.”

(I hasten to add that Wanda could be forgiven. She put up with a lot, for Horowitz was impossible.)

• A young woman named Dana Donnelly issued a hilarious tweet this week: “A lot of you were never grounded for an entire summer and it shows!”

• Many years ago, I knew a writer who started working from home. She found the transition difficult. And she hit on a regime of discipline: Before sitting down to her computer, she did her hair and — get this — put on makeup. No one could see her. But it made her feel more civilized and more professional. Her work was thereby benefited.

• Famously, babies are born nine months after blackouts and the like. I wonder: After this is over, will there be a spate of new books (for better or worse)?

• It seems like two seconds ago — and it practically was — that I was griping about a life inconvenience: the new ban on plastic bags in New York . . .

• From what I can tell, Manu Raju keeps getting snapped at by senators. He is the senior congressional correspondent of CNN. On Wednesday, he asked Bernie Sanders about his presidential campaign. Was it still viable? The senator responded, “I’m dealing with a f***ing global crisis.”

Raju pointed out that Sanders was running for president. The senator said, “Right now, I’m trying to do my best to make sure that we don’t have an economic meltdown and that people don’t die. Is that enough for you to keep me busy for today?”

Huh. Is Sanders the one responsible? One Vermont senator? I appreciate his sense of responsibility, maybe, but . . . Also, no one has forced him to run for president all these years.

Back in January, Raju asked another senator, Martha McSally of Arizona, “Should the Senate consider new evidence as part of the impeachment trial?” McSally answered, “You’re a liberal hack. I’m not talking to you.”

Then she took a victory lap on Fox — while still refusing to answer the question (a good one).

I don’t know much about Manu Raju, but, judging from these incidents, he seems like a guy who’s doing his job.

• Speaking of doing your job — here is an article from RFE/RL (the news organization that combines Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty):

Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry says veteran investigative journalist Slavi Angelov has been attacked by unidentified assailants near his home in Sofia.

Angelov, the editor in chief of the weekly newspaper 168 Hours, was beaten with metal pipes late on March 17 and is now in the hospital . . .

Angelov told journalists from his hospital bed that he was attacked by two men wearing masks. He said a third masked man filmed the assault on a mobile phone. . . .

“Most likely it is an attempted assassination,” said Ivaylo Ivanov, the Interior Ministry’s chief secretary.

For the complete article, go here.

All around the world, journalists take tremendous risks, often paying a very steep price (including murder). What do journalists like me risk, in this fair and free land of ours? Mean tweets? Nasty “comments”? A paucity of cable “hits,” at 2 in the morning?

We are so very lucky.

• As you may have read, the Chinese Communist Party has expelled reporters from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. This tells me that those reporters have been doing their jobs — reporting uncomfortable truths (or at least uncomfortable to the CCP).

People like me spend half our lives griping about the “MSM.” Well, let the ChiComs gripe . . .

• According to President Trump, you can tell how a governor is doing in this crisis by the number of corona cases in his state — so hurray for the West Virginia governor, and boo to the New York governor.

(Consult, for example, an article plus video, here.)

Does this seem like a reasonable way to measure?

• False accusations of sexual harassment — and that whole Title IX world — can be a nightmare. Want to read a nightmarish story? Fascinating (as well as nightmarish). Here.

I may be getting the wrong impression from the media, but it seems to me — and has for a long time — that college campuses are about the least free, least democratic, most illiberal, and most Draconian places in America.

I think I’d last about a week on a college campus. I’d use the wrong pronoun or something, and I’d be toast.

• In recent months, I’ve been saying that Mitt Romney has replaced George Soros as the Emmanuel Goldstein — the all-purpose bogey — of the American Right. So I was relieved to see this tweet from Sheriff Clarke:

“Not ONE media outlet has asked about George Soros’s involvement in this FLU panic. He is SOMEWHERE involved in this.”

Still champeen, at least with some . . .

• A press release crossed my desk, making me say, “That is a worthwhile Canadian initiative.” You may know what I meant. In 1986, a headline over Flora Lewis’s column in the New York Times was “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative.” At The New Republic, Michael Kinsley challenged readers to find a more boring headline.

Well, the aforementioned press release was from the NAAAB, or the North American Alliance Against Bullying — which was “excited to announce that it is partnering with BullyingCanada to expand access to critical helpline support for bullied youths throughout North America.”

I wish them all the best.

• You know what that Canadian initiative was, that Flora Lewis was writing about? Turned out to be NAFTA.

• Following the latest Democratic presidential debate — Biden vs. Bernie — I published a series of notes. I left something out, which I’d like to relate now. It’s a little strange.

Sanders said that, among the people to worry about in this crisis, this epidemic, were prisoners. I imagine this was not a big vote-getter. Who thinks of prisoners at a time like this? They are the lowest men on the totem pole. And some of them deserve to hang, surely.

But have you ever had a loved one in prison? Maybe you’ve been in prison yourself. I know some good people who have.

I thought that was rather remarkable, from Bernie . . .

• Ever remarkable is LeBron James — and I fixed on a paragraph from this article, headed “How LeBron James evolved to stay on top”:

James turned 35 that week, not so much aging as evolving. James’ old-man strength — dad strength, the kind that accumulates only with years — allows him to pummel through the kids like a modern-day Karl Malone. He creates passing angles with ball fakes and head-swivels, moving defenders three feet by turning his head three inches. “I wanna try to continue to get better,” James said. “Even if I physically lose a step here, when your mind is sharp and you have a big basketball IQ, you can always cover those things.” James is a living encyclopedia. He has seen every play. He can forecast any adjustment. Every look he gets at his opponents is an opportunity for the world’s best information processing system to test new data. His brain improves faster than his athleticism recedes, allowing him to remain among the top.

• On Twitter, Patrick Chovanec — economic analyst, China expert, world traveler — showed a picture of a guide he had in El Atteuf, which Patrick described as “a walled village in the oasis of Ghardaïa in the Algerian Sahara.” The guide said he was a big fan of Bob Dylan, having all Dylan’s songs in his head.

I thought, “That’s fame.”

Where did I get that phrase? Once, Paul Johnson, the great British historian, was in Perth, and heard a car salesman recite a poem by Arthur Hugh Clough: “Say not that the struggle naught availeth.”

Paul thought, “That’s fame” — which it sure is.

• You may recall that, in my previous Impromptus, I linked to a beer commercial, from about 20 years ago. It relates to our present situation — and, in particular, the scarce availability of toilet paper.

Well, a reader has shared this one with me — which features Larry Kert, the original Tony in West Side Story, singing for Schaefer beer, in 1972.

Thanks for joining me, my dear friends, and God bless you.

If you’d like to receive Impromptus by e-mail — links to new columns — write to jnordlinger@nationalreview.com.

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