Sunday, February 08, 2009

A List Seems To Be In Order

Since Joshua has been busy of late, compiling lists and posting them on his blog, I thought perhaps I should do a list of some sort, too.

My list is designed to provide packing assistance for persons who, against their wills, must travel to Russia on business on Friday, February 13, 2009.

The items on my suggested packing list should make their trips surpassingly memorable.

I wish the travelers Godspeed, safe journeys, and happy reading and happy listening.


Suggested Reading


A Likely Story: One Summer With Lillian Hellman
by Rosemary Mahoney
Comprehensive Catalog Of The Houdini Historical Center
by The Appleton, Wisconsin, Parks Commission
Ernie: The Autobiography
by Ernest Borgnine
Know Your Power
by Nancy Pelosi
Macramé Celebrations: A Macramé Craft Guide
by Judy Palmer
Marie Dressler: The Unlikeliest Star
by Betty Lee
Mass Production Cooking: Institutional Recipes For 30 Or More
by Glen L. Davis II
sTORI Telling
by Tori Spelling
Things To Do In Dayton
by The Dayton, Ohio, Chamber Of Commerce
by Martha Stewart


by Arthur Hailey
Biography Of Kunta Kinte
by Alex Haley
Dear Miss Newell
by Hayley Mills
Drums Along The Mohawk
by Walter D. Edmond
Jonathan Livingston Seagull
by Richard Bach
Once Is Not Enough
by Jacqueline Susann
Once Is Twice Too Many
by Gore Vidal
Peyton Place: The Return
by Grace Metalious
Recollections Of A Life
by Alger Hiss
The Rest Is Noise
by Alex Ross

Suggested Listening

Audio Books

Recollections Of A Life
by Alger Hiss
read by Alex Ross
The Rest Is Noise
by Alex Ross
read by Alger Hiss
The Return Of Depression Economics (May 1999 Edition)
by Paul Krugman
read by Sammy Davis, Jr.
Sister Wendy In Conversation With Bill Moyers
by Bill Moyers
read by Wendy Beckett and Bill Moyers
Tony And Me: A Story Of Friendship
by Jack Klugman
read by Katie Couric, Oprah Winfrey and Norman Mailer
Why Me? The Sammy Davis, Jr., Story
by Sammy Davis, Jr.
read by Paul Krugman


Beethoven: Missa Solemnis
performed by the SWR Radio Symphony and Roger Norrington
Helmut Eder: Piano Concerto
performed by Melvin Tan and Roger Norrington
Mahler: Symphony No. 2
performed by the SWR Radio Symphony and Roger Norrington
Nicholas Maw: Violin Concerto
performed by Joshua Bell and Roger Norrington
Vangelis: Mythodea
performed by Kathleen Battle, Jessye Norman and Vangelis
Let’s Get Together With Hayley Mills
performed by Hayley Mills


If travelers heed my packing suggestions, they will find their Russian travels to offer more laughs and more mirth than anyone ever thought possible in Putin's Russia.


  1. Andrew,

    Thank you so very much for the lists! I especially appreciate the Hayley Mills recommendations, as she was one of my favorite actresses growing up as a kid. (I remember wishing in 1963 that I WAS Hayley Mills, after watching her slide dangerously down a snowy Andes mountain slope on an rock.) I will do a lot of smiling on the plane.

    I can't pack ALL that, however. Ironically, I had already decided to tote Alecks Moss' "The Rest is 'Roids"; this will make for a good companion piece to the Ross. I'm impressed, Andrew, that you included such a stalwart literatary figure as Susann. Truman Capote, you know, practially bend over backward, analizing his own head, in discussing her singular talents; but, alas, she is now old fashion among the intelligensia. Pity.

    Can you believe I've already read Marie Dressler's biography?

    Mahler 2 by Norrington? Really, Andrew. Kaplan rules!

    I'd decided already to take Sister Wendy's newest museum tome, "Pubic Spaces in Public Places", which is so large that I won't have room to include any of the other, wonderful recommendations on you lists.

    But I deeply appeciate the time and thought that you took to compile these lists. That's what counts to me more than the items themselves.

    Again, thank you, my friend!


  2. (Obviously, in the course of his analysis, Capote "analized" it, as well.)

  3. I cannot believe you plan to leave behind a copy of "Mass Production Cooking"!

    The book's recipes will prove invaluable should you ever decide to open a prison.

  4. Believe me, Andrew, the cookbook was tempting. But, although I think the recipes would be perfect for prison cooks in the West, where facsimiles of Stolypin Cars ("Stolypinskie vagony")can carry as many as thirty prisoners, I know from rather bitter, first-hand experience that in Russia such transports can accomodate up to 60 or 70 "dining guests" at a time - down, actually, from the 100or so in Soviet times. (If the window-redressed oligarchy has its way, however, that number will climb back up to 100 soon.)

    Thanks, anyway.


  5. Andrew, did you happen to see Peter Dobrin's self-serving notice of last Sunday's concert at the Kimmel Center?


  6. I had to do a search to find out what you were talking about, Dane.

    Yes, I have now read that Philadelphia review of Cleveland.

    Well, the first two paragraphs started out well . . .

    Dobrin likes conductors who put on a flashy choreographic show and “act out” the music. Welser-Most would not be his kind of conductor.

    Would you like to make a prediction about which American orchestras are most likely to fold in the current economic environment?

  7. I apologize, Andrew, for not being more specific in my question. I hate the waste of time, particularly if it's my own fault.

    In answer to your question, Andrew, right off the bat I would guess that the St. Louis Symphony tops the list of the most fiscally vulnerable orchestras in America at this time. I sincerly hope that the Philadelphia Orchestra is not on that list. I know that the Cleveland Orchestra balanced its budget last fall; that's a relief. But I am ignorant of the financial health of any other major ensemble. One more guess, however: The Boston Symphony, based on your dire attendance reports this season from Symphony Hall.

    Would it be correct for me to presume that those orchestras with the richest endowments, like, for instance, the Boston Symphony (the largest of all, I understand), are all on the list? I have often worried about those arts institutions that depend too heavily on returns from investment interest.


  8. Boston’s giant endowment will guarantee the survival of the orchestra for at least another fifty years, I believe. At some point in time, however, the orchestra will have to switch cities, just like a sports franchise, and head south or west.

    Short-term, Saint Louis has its financial house in order, although attendance is non-existent. For the ENTIRE 2007-2008 season, only 97,000 seats were sold for ALL classical programming. Those numbers are shocking, but they were reported by the orchestra to the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch as if they represented some kind of triumph.

    My guess is that two orchestras are in imminent danger, and could very well be out of business within the next three years.

    One is Milwaukee, where attendance, too, is non-existent and where there is no meaningful endowment.

    The other is Baltimore, where the orchestra has to give away tickets for $20.00 and $25.00 just to get people in the door, and where the endowment has shrunk to $47 million. Baltimore has totally lost its core Baltimore audience, and is hoping to hold on by establishing a Washington presence. I doubt that it will work.

    Long-term, I do not think that Atlanta, Detroit and Saint Louis, among major orchestras, can survive, and simply because all three orchestras lack the sizeable audiences needed to sustain operations.

    Among second-tier ensembles, I suspect there will be many orchestras that will go under, following the path of the Columbus Symphony. For instance, I do not see how the orchestras in Buffalo and New Jersey can survive, just to pick two examples.

  9. Andrew, it will be a sad day for me when Buffalo folds. Buffalo was my home for most of the nineties (where I taught applied mathematics) before I became completely disenchanted with liberal academia.

    My partner Parker has been pressing me for a couple of days now to address a rhetorical, grammatical “error” in the first paragraph of my first comment in this block. I agreed to do so only if he allowed me to explain why I never mentioned him in any comment I’ve written during the past year; he said “okay”.

    The late novelist and critic John Gardiner (author of “Grendel” – not the OTHER Gardiner) said once that every writer is expected, of course, to know the rules of his language; but a real smithy knows also when it is appropriate to BREAK the rules. To write the verb form “were” with emphatic caps in the syntactic context would grate on the mind’s ear more, I wagered, than “WAS”, the form I exploited in order to evoke the level of my education at the time I first saw Disney’s “Search for the Castaways”: at age eleven I was disrespectful, if not oblivious, to the vestigial English subjunctive.

    And now, regarding Parker: We began reading “AndrewandJoshua” and “JoshuaandAndrew” in 2007 and discovered a pair of kindred souls, whom, as you know, the brilliant Andrew Patner has more recently described as “Bates Motel”. (Well, Parker and I run “Kate’s Motel”. We know every word to “God Bless America,” and we oppose gay marriage and, some would say oxymoronically, pre-marital sex; liberalism, Obama, and friendly-neighborhood, garden-variety, American idiocy.) I wanted to post comments immediately, especially on your blog, Andrew, since you possessed a similar passion for concert music; but Parker believed at that time, despite his admiration for both writers, that all bloggers were “weird” and that anyone who would post a blog comment was equally weird. So, he asked me if I ever logged on to blogger that I never mention him.

    (Of course, he told me the day we met in Monterey, California in 2000 that I was “weird”, too. I just shot back, “Well, you’re WEIRDER!” It was a match – some 21 years between us, notwithstanding – made in heaven. We’ve been inseparable since – well, since 2004, anyway: I came to Houston in 2002 and he went first to Geneva to work for the WIPO, where he translated German and Russian patent applications into English. Today he has his own free-lance business, which allows him to accompany me wherever I go. Without him, I would certainly not be able to function at all in Moscow.)

    About four months ago Parker made a deal with me. If I let him translate my memoir, “A Cotyledon Debridement,” into English, he would allow me to mention him in my comments. I declined. I didn’t want anything to do with that book. I continued to reject his proposal until last Christmas Day, when I finally gave him full authorization – BUT only with the proviso that he never show any of his work to me, nor ask me any questions about the manuscript, or utter any comment, critical or otherwise, to me about the work.

    That’s why Parker's name suddenly appeared in my comments.


  10. I bet you really enjoyed those Buffalo winters!

    I’ve never been to Buffalo.

    I have, however, tried to read a John Gardiner novel, and managed to make no headway whatsoever. I do not even remember which novel it was.

    If you want to see what someone else has to say about liberal academia, you should read what Josh had to say on the matter in a few posts he wrote back in early 2008. He addressed that issue a few times when writing about law school versus grad school.

    I think most bloggers are nuts. Most bloggers are weird, dumb and uneducated, and I suspect those bloggers use their blogs as a means to let off steam. There are about ten idiot blogs I read every couple of weeks, all of which are written by total morons and all of which are abjectly embarrassing, and I read those blogs just to keep in touch with how many rabid Leftists, dumbos, weirdos and losers there are in America. (Most of those particular bloggers, by the way, have lost their jobs over the last six months, or were unemployed or underemployed in the first place. All were rabid Obama supporters. I have itched, for months, to enter comments on their blogs, pointing out to them that they were the very ones destined to be in the unemployment lines in an Obama world. I have managed to restrain myself.)

    One of the reasons I have persisted in blogging as long as I have: to demonstrate that not everyone in America is insane, stupid, uneducated and carries a grudge against the world.

    My blog undeniably is boring, but I like it that way. Moreover, the very purpose of my blog is to preserve memories and impressions of what is a very happy time of life for me. I write for myself and no one else.

    There are some very interesting and very smart bloggers out there, and there are a few blogs I read for enjoyment. For instance, I know an attorney in South Dakota who writes a truly excellent and quite original blog (history, politics), and I know a professor in Wisconsin who writes an even better blog (books, cinema). There is also a lady in Delaware who writes a blog I very much like (politics, her life), a lady in Missouri who writes a blog I very much like (the field of education, her life and her family’s life), and two men in Texas (who have no connection with each other) who write about current affairs. The two Texas bloggers possess commands of history, statecraft and military affairs that are practically unrivalled. Further, both write on a scholarly level.

    I think “A Cotyledon Debridement” should definitely be translated, and published as soon as possible.

    Martha Stewart may want to incorporate portions into her next “Weddings” book, which will make you and Parker rich—plus you may receive a most surprising and welcome early-morning call from the Nobel Committee at some point in the future!

  11. And I would be curious to hear what you thought of the Buffalo Philharmonic during your days in Buffalo. Bychkov was gone by the early 1990’s, was he not? I do not even recall who was the conductor between Bychkov and Falletta, and I am not sufficiently interested to bother to look it up.

    I assume read you read about the art museum in Buffalo selling off most of its non-modernist collection a year or two ago?

    That was one of the most disgraceful episodes in American museum history.

  12. I couldn't stand it, and I had to look it up.

    The answer: Chilean Maximiamo Valdes.

  13. Can I you loan me the Nancy Pelosi book? I have a crooked table, and I need something to put under one of the legs.

  14. Paul, I'd love to send you my copy, but I already mailed it to Alex Rodriguez, who desperately is in need of something to bash with a baseball bat.

    The book hit the remainder bins on the third day after publication, so you should be able to pick up a brand-new copy anywhere for around a buck.

  15. Andrew,

    No one goes to Buffalo to enjoy the weather. I liked the city for its ethnic diversity, small-town feel, and proximity to other areas important to me. I was only about 500 miles or so from NYC; but honestly, I didn’t go to the “big city” very often. If I did go, it was usually to attend Carnegie Hall or to visit Lincoln Center, but I only caught four Met performances during those nine years and two concerts by the Philharmonic. That’s the reason I missed out on the NYC Ballet, and I regret that now.

    It is no wonder, Andrew, why you forgot about Maximiamo Valdes because the conductor was most forgettable, indeed. Yes, Bychkov left before I arrived in 1991. The Buffalo Philharmonic, nevertheless, played better, I thought, than the New York Philharmonic. BPO musicians seemed to evince more enthusiasm and character their more fabled colleagues. Standards began to slip in Buffalo, however, under Valdes, and I didn’t attend very regularly after my first season, for which I had had a full subscription. (Keep in mind, however, that I had been spoiled by European music making for almost two decades.) In 1992 I began taking three and one- half hour drives, twice a month (weather permitting) to Little Italy in Cleveland, in order to hear Dohnanyi and Welser-Moest, whose very first Cleveland concert I attended in 1993 (he lead Martinu’s Symphony Nr 5, a wonderful work which you and Josh have enjoyed on CD). Boston was a little out of reach in those days, and I never revisited Symphony Hall; but I was aware of the rumblings going on at the time regarding Ozawa and the deteriorating condition of the ensemble. (I remembered a 1977 TIME issue featuring Ozawa on the cover and the headline, “Why Ozawa will Leave the Boston Symphony,” or something like that. Well, in 1991 he was STILL there.)

    Yes, I remember Josh’s astute observations regarding the horrid state of academia, and I fully agree with him. I was just fed up with that prissy “little boys’ club”. When I first arrived I was dismayed to find out just how low education standards were for graduate scientists and engineers in the US. It had taken me seven years (including a sad, 14-month interruption) to complete graduate school at MGU, and that was after I had already accumulated nearly a year’s worth of graduate work at the Technical University Berlin. Russian engineering students were required to complete many more courses in mathematics than their American counterparts. My colleagues in New York, therefore, had no foundation, whatsoever, for being smug and condescending toward my conservative worldview.

    I think John Gardiner was a better teacher than he was a novelist. I believe his best work was “Sunlight Dialogues” – a huge, architectonic “baggy-monster,” as he would have called it – that took him years to publish because his editors insisted that he cut a third of the manuscript. He was a professing Christian, and I read his “On Moral Fiction”, but I found his work to be oddly amoral. His worst book was his last, “Mickelssons’s Ghosts”, a ponderous, introspective monster that I was unwilling to finish. He is a generally forgotten writer today.

    Nobel Prize, Andrew? Please! As writers go, Parker is a far better writer than I. He writes and writes all day long, printing reams of copy with nary a typo to descry. In five years he has released only a single error, to my knowledge: he translated the German word “perle” as “pear” in English, his only documented “lapsus anulus”. He is a far better translator, too, though I admit that I’m a pretty competent interpreter.

    I gave up on my project, by the way, to translate Solzhenitsyn’s “March 1917”: I just got bogged down with the author’s neologisms and thorny syntax.

    All this reminds me now of the greatest and funniest botched translation job I ever encountered. Although the following story never appeared in the “Amphisbaena Whisperer”, it SHOULD have. In 1977 I was a Foreign Area Officer attaché stationed in Munich, Germany. Shortly before being transferred to the American Embassy in East Berlin, I visited an old rowing bud from MIT who was serving as an MI Officer in Augsburg. Since I had a military ID, I was allowed access through the gate of Sheridan Kaserne, and I headed over to the post library to wait for my friend. Sheridan Kaserne at the time was home to “Field Station Augsburg”, the largest Soviet voice interception station in the world. Its chief peace-time objective was, in a nutshell, to prevent World War III – that’s all!

    Lance informed me that the Sheridan library had an impressive collection of original-language Russian literature. At the time I was discovering the fiction of Solzhenitsyn; and so, I went over that day to the library card catalogue and pulled out the wooden drawer marked “S”. There were a number of this Soviet writer’s works on file, most of them published by the YMCA press in Paris. One particular card was especially eye-catching. It was titled, “Rakovyi Korpus” - “The Body of a Crayfish” (tr.) by A. Solzhenitsyn. I was stunned. I knew Alexander Isayevich had been a physicist – but an “invertebrate biologist”? After reading the book description, I realized the error. The Russian word, “rak”, you see, means “crab” in some contexts and “crayfish” in some others. But like many words in other languages, it means yet other things in yet OTHER contexts. Such as, for instance, the Latin word “anulus,” (not “annulus”), which sometimes means “ring” and at other times means “ring-FINGER”, as with the case in the preceding paragraph. The Russian word “korpus”, an all-too obvious cognate of the Latin “corpus,” had evidently precipitated this particular translator’s ignoble downfall. I pulled the card from the box, wrote the correct translation under “Body of a Crayfish” and handed to the lady at the desk, explaining the mistake: In medical science terminology “Rak” means “cancer”. The correct title was “Cancer Ward”.

    For four years Parker wouldn’t believe this story. He just clumped it together with my other, “crazy yarns”. But when he returned from Geneva, I showed him the library card. Today the card is framed and hanging on a wall in Parker’s study.


  16. "The Body Of A Crayfish" just doesn't have the same ring to it as "Cancer Ward", does it?

    I'm doing a bit of translating myself: I am presently translating the Alex Ross book into English.

    I have never had the opportunity to hear Valdes. I don't think he gets much work in the U.S.

    I wish you a most pleasant--and safe--Russian journey.

  17. Do the old Sister Wendy programs still air over there? Hers was the most popular art program here since Kenneth Clark's "Civilisation", which doesn't say much for us, does it?