National Review / Digital
The Week

(Roman Genn)


The Cobb County school system in Georgia says that two of its high-school choruses were denied the chance to perform with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra because those choruses weren’t “diverse enough.” The president of the orchestra said, “We want the stages of the Atlanta Symphony . . . to reflect the diversity of Atlanta.” But can an orchestra always mirror the community in which it plays? Can a sports team? Should they? Parents of the choral students say that what the orchestra has done is unfair: The kids just wanted to make music — and why should color enter into it? Years ago, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra approached James DePreist about being its music director. It seemed clear to him that the orchestra was interested in him because he was black. He told them to get lost. “People mean well, but you fight for years to make race irrelevant, and now they are making race an issue.” In every imaginable venue.

She is very old now, and had to be tugged out into Boston harbor, then tugged back. But the USSConstitution sailed unassisted for ten minutes and fired her guns, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the battle that gave her her nickname. On August 19, early in the War of 1812, she met the HMSGuerriere in the western Atlantic, south of Newfoundland. In half an hour the Guerriere had lost its rigging and was forced to surrender. When a cannonball dropped, harmless, off the Constitution’s hull, a sailor cried that she was made of iron — hence “Old Ironsides.” An American frigate had beaten a frigate of the greatest navy afloat. “The echo of those guns,” wrote historian Henry Adams, “startled the world.” Sixty years later, “Old Ironsides” was saved from decommissioning and destruction by a stirring poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. “Her thunders shook the mighty deep.” Even so. Long may she ride at anchor.

Baseball without Yale would still be baseball, but not as we know it. In 1910, an Eli, William Howard Taft, became the first president to toss the first pitch on opening day. He played third for the Bulldogs in his student days, according to legend or, as A. Bartlett Giamatti might have said, in poetic truth. Another Republican president, George H. W. Bush, played first for them in prosaic truth. His Yalie son, part owner of the Texas Rangers in the 1990s, might have become commissioner of baseball, but his career took a different turn. Smoky Joe Wood, Ron Darling — the list goes on. Now add to it Craig Breslow and Ryan Lavarnway, pitcher and catcher, respectively, for the Boston Red Sox. They recently became the first two Yalies to play together on the winning side of a major-league game. “I got a lot smarter having them out there,” Sox manager Bobby Valentine said afterward, in a nod to the value that Yale-caliber intelligence brings to the game, which, in Yogi Berra’s widely accepted formulation, is 90 percent mental, the other half physical.

Does a bear drink in the woods? In Norway it does. And bears are mean drunks, or at least rowdy ones, if a recent incident in Finnmark, the country’s northernmost province, is any guide. When a family arrived at its summer cabin there, it found that a gang of bears had broken a window, climbed inside, consumed approximately 100 beers, eaten most of the stored food — honey, jam, marshmallows, and chocolate were particular favorites — and smashed the furniture, leaving footprints on the walls and floors and a bed in disarray, presumably after being used to sleep off the hangover. Wildlife officials believe they have identified the culprits as a local mama grizzly (somewhat derelict in her maternal duty, if you ask us) and three cubs. The cabin owner told a newspaper, “It was almost like the fairy tale about Goldilocks and the three bears.” Last time we read that story, we somehow missed the hundred cans of beer.

September 10, 2012    |     Volume LXIV, NO. 17

Republican Convention Special
Books, Arts & Manners
  • Sean Trende reviews An American Son: A Memoir, by Marco Rubio, and The Rise of Marco Rubio, by Manuel Roig-Franzia.
  • Ross Douthat reviews The Queen of Versailles.
  • Richard Brookhiser evaluates the transatlantic exchange.
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .