Friendly, or at least tranquil


More about unhappy airline pilots:

Commercial pilots in the United States are grounded by Federal Aviation Administration regulations if they are taking certain prescription drugs, including all sedatives, tranquilizers, anti-psychotic drugs and most antidepressants — with the exception, since 2010, of four: Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa and Lexapro.

Quis custodiet, and so on


The likelihood of a pilot’s mental illness or suicidal feelings resulting in a crash in the U.S. is low; the Federal Aviation Administration maintains very strict guidelines for evaluating the mental health of aircrew. Under FAA rules, no one suffering from psychosis, severe personality disorder, manic-depressive illness or substance dependence can be issued the medical clearance to fly an airliner. Captains are required to renew their clearance every six months and first officers every year. Hundreds of people get refused every year.

That last sentence intrigues me. One would like to be a fly on the wall at a few of these proceedings.

Would you buy a used opera from this man?


That’s Peter Gelb, above, who’s running the Metropolitan Opera these days. Running it into the ground, by all accounts, and not a minute too soon.

Don’t get me wrong: some of my best friends are opera fans, in spite of the old musicians’ joke to the effect that there are music lovers, and then there are people who are into opera. I’ve spent a few pleasant nights at the opera meself. Admittedly, it was mostly Handel and Mozart. Wagner is fun, up to a point, but one wants to take a shower afterwards. Verdi is a fine composer but he should have confined himself to oratorio. And dare one say it, Monteverdi is at his least interesting in the medium he is said to have invented. Mozart’s most lovable opera(*) is also the least operatic. And so on.

My opera-fan friends are buzzing just now about an item in The New Yorker (yes, The New Yorker) about the woes of the Met, under the mad Mussolini-like diktatura of Mr Gelb — who bears more than a passing resemblance to the late unlamented Steve Jobs, don’t you think?

I was delighted to see Eustace Tilley taking a swipe at a Ring cycle I also mocked, to the best of my ability, back in the day: one of Gelb’s satrap spectacles.

It should surprise no one that Gelb & Co. are now attempting to fund their overblown follies by cutting the salaries of the fiddlers in the pit and the singers in the chorus. The New Yorker piece linked to above gave some numbers about their pay. I was shocked. These are people who have spent years mastering a difficult craft and have succeeded brilliantly at it. They ought to be a lot better-paid than I am. They’re not. This is just obscene. But Gelb, like every other corporate executive, wants to reduce them to beggary. Gelb, I should say, and his board of economical billionaires.

I wish the Met every ill that could possibly befall it. I want to see it shuttered and dark: the dull tennis-court sized Chagalls relocated to a Masonic hall or a skating rink somewhere, the trashy tawdry building — Robert Moses’ work — crumbling like moldy icing sugar under the wrecker’s ball.

Opera fans will still go see opera in a garage, or a barge, or an abandoned derelict warehouse; and opera would be much more lovable under those circumstances, not to mention more affordable. The divine fiddlers in the band and more-than-competent singers in the chorus, I think, will find a way. We are a depraved and unamiable species but at our worst we retain a love for music, the dulce laborum lenimen, and I hope and believe that we shall never lose it.

(*) Zauberfloete, of course. Let’s put on a show!

O treason most vile!


Golly, liberals really love to call the cops, don’t they?

It seems that just about everybody I know is mad as a wet hen about the Republican senators’ childish, fatuous letter to the ayatollahs. A bizarre legal curiosity called the Logan Act has been exhumed — by liberals! — from two hundred years’ worth of well-deserved oblivion. Charges of treason are being proffered, prosecution demanded, garments torn, hair set afire….

Not surprisingly, the most insightful, rational, and adult response I have seen to the senators’ silly letter came from the heir of an ancient and sophisticated civilization, namely Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif, who was kind enough to give this imbecile stunt more careful consideration than it deserved from anybody.

Perhaps hysteria evokes hysteria. As the Republican loons increasingly take flight from reality, it appears that their liberal counterparts feel obliged to keep pace.

It’s a depressing spectacle to see the enlightened, well-educated libs and the ignorant, obscurantist Yahoo flat-earthers scrambling for the same brass ring. Who’s the traitor? Who’s the patriot? Who’s the law-breaker, who the law-enforcer?

Of course one expects reactionaries to call people traitors — it’s a fundamentally reactionary concept — but it says something about the latent physiognomy of liberals when they show themselves so eager to do the same. There are, of course, precedents: see for example the American postwar Red Scares, organized respectively under the Wilson and Truman administrations.

One cannot, of course, leave this topic without observing that there are exactly two parties whose noses would be put out of joint by a rapprochement between the US and Iran: namely, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Accent on the ‘yahoo’


You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard that fifty-some Congressional soup hounds — including eight senators! — had actually boycotted Netanyahu. Truly we live in an age of miracle and wonder.

Liberal commentary on this startling phenomenon has been self-stultified to a degree. The only thing that seems to matter is that Boehner, by inviting Bibi without consulting an individual always respectfully referred to as ‘the President’, had been guilty of disrespect to the latter. The fact that Bibi, who was of course applauded to the echo by the rest of Congress, is a mass murderer and also, remarkably enough, a crashing bore, was apparently of no consequence.

Rachel Maddow, needless to say, was the wettest of the various media hens who took a peck at this topic. The good part starts at 2:50 or so:

A fine example of the essential authoritarianism of the respectable liberal mind.

Netanyahu is an odd-looking fellow, isn’t he? Was he assembled out of Legos? A sort of prefab Golem?

Surely Obie could have prevented him from coming. Just say no, eh? No such luck, of course. It would have been fun to see Bibi’s big cinderblock of a head barking at the Congressional applause machine via Skype: projected on a screen, ten feet high, like Oz The Great And Terrible, each plug-ugly twitch and glare and grimace taking up more space than a frisky Labrador in a studio apartment.