The Hereditary Grand Falconer-Delfico

The  Hereditary Grand Falconer-Delfico
The Model for the Maitre d'Armes

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Never Be Too Proud to be Present--or Too Proud to Stay Away

I don't really do political blogging anymore, but a friend of mine asked recently whether the invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress to denounce ongoing negotiations with Iran was a good or bad idea, which led me to put on my long-discarded hat of political science major and think it through. Certainly reaction has been vehement across the political spectrum, even a bit histrionic. This article rounds up examples of some of the political fallout to the speech. While I don't think flamboyance or outrage is justified on either side of this one, the discussion has been full of both.

Let me begin by noting that as to the merits of any deal, assuming a deal is reached, I'm agnostic--the great rule of bargaining is that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and applies to the talks, so we're in the dark as to what terms, if any, will be reached. But I think that, whatever eventuates, the speech is ill advised in several ways:

1. It provides Iran with political cover if no deal is reached--it can say that it became clear that no deal could pass the Senate (treaties must be ratified by a 2/3 vote of the Senate, after all, which is in GOP hands). Remember, Obama's fallback strategy in doomed negotiations is to make the other party look like the unreasonable one in negotiations (e.g., the GOP repeatedly turning down budget deals heavily slanted to its priorities rather than raise a dollar in tax revenue). If that was the fallback game plan here, the Congress has blown it.

2. Congress inviting a foreign leader of any nation to sabotage negotiations in which the US is curently engaged is just a bad idea. Foreign policy is primarily in the hands of the Executive. This significantly undercuts that principle.

3. The US is not, by the way, the only counterparty in these talks to Iran--a deal could be reached without us, which would have the effect of loosening other countries' sanctions on Iran, and cutting us out of the oversight. Do we really want to leave the negotiations and implementation of an agreement to the rest of the so-called P5+1--that is, the UK, Russia, China, France and Germany? Myself, I'm a firm believer in C.P. Snow's dictum: Never be too proud to be present.

4. It undermines trust between the Israeli and American administrations even further--Netanyahu's leaking of various proposals made in the negotiations as if they were agreed on (remember, nothing is agreed until evrything is agreed) has already caused the Obama Administration to cease sharing details of the negotiations with him. Also, as the article linked up top suggests, it has the potential to erode the longstanding consensus that support for Israel is a non-partisan issue.

5. If a deal is reached, and it's a stinker, the Senate can simply not ratify it. There. Crisis averted.

I should add that I don't think Netanyahu is primarily at fault here--he seems to be relying on his adviser and ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, who is a former GOP operative, and whose familiarity with American politics he is justifiably relying on. I don't doubt that Dermer sincerely feels it is in Israel's best interests to bypass the President under these circumstances, but the appearance of partisanship is worsened by Dermer's background.

On balance, I don't see how it helps--the Obama Administration is scarcely in the mood to listen to the Prime Minister now--and I think it could do harm.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Logic is the Beginning of Wisdom

The death of Leonard Nimoy, at age 83, is drawing forth many well deserved tributes from sources ranging the worlds of art, poetry and acting.

As well, of course, as from those of us who grew up on him in Star Trek. Really, it's impossible, I think, for those who did not grew up on the original, back when it was the only game in town (pre-Star Wars, before Doctor Who was readily available for viewing in the US, to understand its influence.

And Leonard Nimoy's Spock was a huge part of that influence. The outsider, the nerd. The one who was smart but looked down on at times for it. Who didn't quite fit in, but was a hero.

As a once-upon-a-time introverted, bookish kid who had one layer of skin too few (believe me, I came by my empathy for The Hour's Randall Brown honestly), Spock (like Sherlock Holmes) provided reassurance and a model: Roll with the punches. Keep doing what you do--and respect those who pursue diverse paths. And use dry wit as a weapon.

Nimoy was,of course, far more than the role he played on TV and in the films. A gifted director and artist. As an actor, a surprisingly effective Mustafa Mond in Brave New World (1997). A philanthropist.

But for me, I'm grateful that Spock was around when I needed him.

Eternal rest grant unto him,
and let light perpetual shine upon him

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Eve of George Herbert's Day

Tomorrow, we celebrate mystic, poet, and priest George Herbert. One of my favorites, and one set beautifully by Ralph Vaughan Williams, is The Call:
Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
Such a Way, as gives us breath:
Such a Truth, as ends all strife:
Such a Life, as killeth death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
Such a Light, as shows a feast:
Such a Feast, as mends in length:
Such a Strength, as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
Such a Joy, as none can move:
Such a Love, as none can part:
Such a Heart, as joyes in love.
The element of joy in our response to God's call is, I think, an important one. That our calling should not be dreary, or wearisome, but something that we do in service to others, but in the process achieving out own best, truest selves.

One of the things I love about the Episcopal Church is the variety of those who make the calendar, poets as well as prophets.

Sometimes, of course, they can be both.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Are You Hep to the Jive?

The last time I saw Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was at BB Kings, where the above video was taken (not, I hasten to add).

They're back on March 12, and I'll be there, along with (I hope) some of the crew who have gone with me before.

A great band, with propulsive sound and irreverent but loving renditions of swing classics and their own compositions.

Sometimes one must enjoy life. Especially in the grip of a cold winter, bring on Mr Heatmiser.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Lost Masterpiece

Imagine a novel sequence, building to a climax after five preceding volumes, reaching what is meant to be its grad conclusion in volume six.

And then imagine that the publisher made the author cut fully one-quarter of that last volume,solely for production costs purposes.

How good mist the author be to make that last volume a classic of English literature anyway, and what must the full uncut version be?

From the Folio Society:
24th April 2015 is the bicentenary of the birth of Anthony Trollope; commemorative events will be taking place throughout the year culminating in a service at Westminster Abbey in December. The Folio Society will mark the anniversary with the first ever publication of The Duke’s Children in its complete, unabridged form.

The final volume of Trollope’s Palliser novels and widely regarded as one of his finest, The Duke’s Children, in its current form, is considerably shorter than the preceding titles in the series. However, as originally written, it was of equal length, containing additional threads of plot and far richer characterisation. Due to economic constraints, Trollope was instructed to reduce the book by one quarter, cutting no less than 65,000 words.

The original manuscript of The Duke’s Children lay neglected in the Beinecke Library of Yale University for many years. Over the last decade several researchers, led by Professor Steven Amarnick, have been patiently working to restore the book to the original form the author intended. The first page of the manuscript, reproduced here, demonstrates not only the extent of the cuts – almost half the page was lost – but the problem of legibility the researchers had to overcome: Trollope’s handwriting is hard to decipher at the best of times, and even more so when struck through.

No knowledge of the earlier books is necessary to enjoy the plot chronicling the vicissitudes of the Palliser family, and the perilous paths of true – and false – love. To accompany the first complete edition of The Duke’s Children The Folio Society has commissioned essays from those closely involved in the restoration project; Professor Steven Amarnick, Robert F. Wiseman, Susan Lowell Humphreys and, chairman of The Trollope Society, Michael G. Williamson. These are printed in a separate commentary volume.

The new edition, made possible through a partnership between The Folio Society and the Trollope Society, also includes an introductio which has, fittingly, been written by Joanna Trollope, 5th generation niece to the author. The books will be half-bound in Indian goatskin with green canvas sides, gold blocking, gilded top edge, hand-marbled endpapers and a limitation page numbered by hand. Some special copies, forming part of the same hand-numbered limitation, will be made available full-bound in Indian goatskin, blocked in 22-carat gold, with hand-marbled edges and endpapers, and presented in a solander box.
It is an extraordinary literary event, and most fortuitously timed to fall in this bicentennial year.

Of course, I own several copies of the truncated edition--one the Copyright edition published by Tauchnitz, another part of a nice leather-bound set of the Barsetshire and Pallisers novels I picked up, and the 1970s OUP hardcover edition.

But those lost 65,000 words--who knows what they will add, in terms of the in depth characterization Trollope specialized in? 65,000 words--that's almost the entire recommended word count for a contemporary novel. Imagine what Anthony Trollope could do with all that?

Or, better yet, read it.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Battle, Murder and Sudden Death

(Buster T. Katt [foreground] and Giles T. Katt, in 2010)

Odd that I was writing about the Great Litany just a few minutes ago, because we've had, in the immortal line of the Rite I version, "battle, murder and sudden death" here tonight--for I hasten to add, a mouse.

A mouse. A wee, sleekit, cow'rin', tim'rous beastie, the hell he was. We heard some mously piping behind the TV upstairs (that is, in the living room adding our bedroom), and gazed around at our cats. Four more somnolent, disinterested creatures you never saw. Ethan yawned. Betty concurred. Then Giles investigated, and hope bloomed. He then returned to me, and said with his eyes: "Mouse back there. Good luck with that."

Even Elspeth the Mighty Huntress, who once brought down a bat on the wing, did not stir.

I was, it seemed, the last bulwark of defense between this beastie and the bedroom. La Caterina was not thrilled.

I pulled out my trusty rapier (yes, I have one. Don't try this at home. I'm a trained, er, amateur).

As I prepared a lunge into the space (believe me, my heart was bleeding for the poor creature, but what is one to do?), our cat Buster, who has been these past seven months ill and gaunt (though recently reviving a little bit), walked slowly over. Too thin, too frail. Fifteen years old, like all of the others, except Elspeth who's fourteen. What would he--

--oh. He's really in there [piping noise-don'tthink too much about it]. Buster's lithe, if gaunt, frame pushes further in. And out saunters Buster, with a large field mouse (looked him up on Google Image) in his mouth. The mouse struggled, but Buster had this. He took the mouse downstairs, through the kitchen, to the front door, and finished him quickly. (That surprised me a bit.) Then, making sure the mouse was dead. He looked over at me. I disposed of the remains (no blood, thanks, Buster works cleanly), and while sad for the poor mouse--wrong place and time, laddie--rewarded my cat for his work.

Fifteen years old, thin as hell, the fire still burns.

Buster remains a cat among cats.

From the Fury of the Norsemen...

When I was a boy, I read the works of Ruth McKenney, and was particularly caught by her story of reading Dickens's Child's History of England, which taught young Ruth and her sister Eileen little history, but the immortal line of the Great Litany: "From the Fury of the Norsemen--Goo-ood Lord, Deliver us!" (They used it on unwelcome visitors, inter alia).

Some years later, at St Paul's School for Boys, an Episcopalschool, I first heard the Great Litany, and got the joke. I also thought it was one of the most arresting things I had heard in my young life.

This chap is much better than I was, but I had the honor of being the litanist today for the Great Litany.

It was the biggest part I've ever played in any service, as we circumambulated the sanctuary, with me chanting the versicles and the choir (and congregation, but, oh, that choir!) doing the responses.

Jokingly, I had warned the Deacon, that if I got in over my head, she might hear me bellow for help by intoning "From the Fury of the Norsemen---"

But, in fact, I survived. And so did the Great Litany.

Thank you, St. John's in the Village! Thank you, St Pauls. And, yes--thank you Ruth McKenney.