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Impromptus

Passages

From the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers (HBO)

Impromptus today is headed “The X factor, &c.” What is the X factor? I’m talking about the last letter of “Latinx.” I also talk about the Republican Party, Dr. Oz (a new Republican candidate), adoption, abortion, Joni Mitchell, and a host of other subjects. Give it a scan, if you’re so inclined.

If you’d like some music — writing about — try this review of a New York Philharmonic concert, which featured a new work by Joan Tower, and this review of a Chamber Music Society concert, which comprised six Baroque concertos.

You may have seen this headline: “Col. Edward Shames, the last surviving officer of the historic World War II parachute infantry regiment of the US Army known as Easy Company, died Friday at the age of 99.” (Article here.) This is the company about which Stephen Ambrose wrote in his best-selling book Band of Brothers — a book that later became an HBO miniseries.

The only episodes of the series I saw, I saw with Bill Buckley, who enjoyed the series a great deal. (The only episodes of The Sopranos I ever saw, I saw with WFB, too.) I also remember the piece that our Christopher McEvoy wrote about the miniseries. Here it is — published in our September 17, 2001, issue (an issue we had completed before 9/11).

Fred Hiatt, the editorial-page editor of the Washington Post, has passed away. He was pretty much the No. 1 journalist in the country on issues of freedom, democracy, and human rights. He was the dissident’s best friend — and a scourge of dictatorships. He was particularly valuable on China, Cuba, and Iran. And when the Saudi dictatorship murdered Jamal Khashoggi, Fred would not let it go, even as virtually everyone else in our country wanted to sweep the murder under the rug and “move on.”

Two years ago, I did a Q&A podcast with Fred, here. Marvelous, modest, gifted guy.

Charles Krauthammer told me something — something that Meg Greenfield (Fred’s predecessor) had told him. Greenfield wanted to have pieces on Sakharov in the Post regularly, in an effort to help keep him alive. Fred Hiatt had the same spirit.

I saw Robert Bottome as recently as last October — when he attended the Oslo Freedom Forum, which this year was held in Miami. Wonderful gent. It always did my heart good to see him, and his wife, Ruth. Robert — a.k.a. Toby — has just left us. He was a Venezuelan: an editor and writer, with an emphasis on the Venezuelan economy. Of course, that meant entanglement with politics as well.

I wrote about him in February 2019, here. Let me paste a little:

When he ceased publishing his newsletter, VenEconomía, in 2016, there was an article about him in the Miami Herald. Joseph Mann, a colleague, was quoted. “I always asked him, ‘Why haven’t they put you in jail?’ And he would always tell me that he wasn’t important enough, which wasn’t true.” The truth was, “he was very brave to continue for so long.”

I loved Wally Moses — I think everyone did. He was the father of Howard Moses, the president and founder of the Cruise & Vacation Authority, which has handled dozens of National Review cruises. Wally was a businessman and bon vivant from Albany, G-A. He was a great raconteur — one of the best and funniest storytellers in world history. Oh, to hear that splendid southern baritone, in those tales!

A day or two before Howard wrote to inform me that his dad had passed on, I was thinking about him — thinking about Wally. One night, I observed him in the casino — the casino aboard the cruise ship. He played a few hands or rounds of whatever he was playing. Then he said, “I quit.” The pretty young woman behind the table — doing her job and trying to keep him on — said, “Awww, why?” Wally answered — you’ve got to hear the accent, and the sheer breeziness and confidence with which he said it — “Because I want to.”

What is so remarkable about that? Well, in brief: Where I come from, you really didn’t say that. You had to invent some excuse. “I’m tired” or “I told my sister I’d meet her” or whatever. Are you allowed simply to say, “Because I want to”?

I want to be more like Wally when I grow up, and I’m trying.

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