Monday, December 30, 2013

Creighton’s Doug McDermott

This McDermott guy is GOOD!

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Man Had A Good Head On His Shoulders

I was against it on two counts. First, the Japanese were ready to surrender, and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing. Second, I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon.

Dwight David Eisenhower, 11 November 1963

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Quiz Time

The first person correctly to identify the individual that took this famous photograph of Nikita Khrushchev and Richard Nixon during the “Kitchen Debate” in Moscow in 1959 will be awarded two tickets to The Royal Edina Opera Company’s January 2014 presentation of Othmar Schoeck’s “Penthesilea”.

Bonus Prize: Two tickets to The Royal Edina Ballet Company’s February 2014 presentation of George Balanchine’s “Roma” (to music of Bizet) will also be awarded if the winner can name the member of the Politburo that attempted to interfere with the taking of the above photograph.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christian Dior Models In Moscow In 1959

The U.S.S.R. allowed Christian Dior models (and Dior designs) to tour the U.S.S.R. that year, part of a minor and insignificant (and very short-lived) cultural exchange between the French and the Soviets.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Arrangement In Black

James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Arrangement In Black: Portrait Of F.R. Leyland
Freer Gallery Of Art, Washington

Oil On Canvas
77 1/8 Inches By 36 3/4 Inches


Five years after completion of “Arrangement In Black”, Whistler was to portray shipping magnate Frederick Leyland a second time—but without the subject’s authorization for the latter painting—in “The Gold Scab”.

In the intervening years, of course, there had been that little business about The Peacock Room—as well as the fact that Leyland, Whistler’s largest creditor, had been appointed to preside over Whistler’s 1879 bankruptcy proceedings.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Oink, Oink

Cellist Alisa Weilerstein, in an official publicity photograph.

As may easily be observed, the photograph has been photo-shopped to death: the artist’s stomach has been significantly reduced in order to give the illusion that she is of normal weight. (That chunky backside should have been photo-shopped, too.)

The S.S. uniform is, I think, a nice touch. It instantly tips off everyone that this woman is to be avoided at all costs.

And I LOVE the zippers.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Packing It In

We skipped Bloomington Civic Theatre’s production of the Claude-Michel Schönberg-Alain Boublil-Jean-Marc Natel-Herbert Kretzmer musical, “Les Misérables”, which played in October and November.

I was told that the production was excellent. (The extended run sold out.) The production team had received authorization from the show’s licensers to convert the original instrumentation (with its extensive use of synthesizers) into a genuine full-orchestra arrangement—and I was told that the new orchestration was masterly, and the BCT orchestra work exceptional.

For whatever reason, “Les Misérables” has never appealed to me, and I’ve never seen a production of the show. By the time we gave some thought to attending one of the BCT performances, BCT had long since sold all tickets to all performances.

Back in July and August, the current National Touring Company production of “Les Misérables” had also hit town, surely the 500th visit to Minneapolis of a National Touring Company production of “Les Misérables”. We skipped that “Les Misérables”, too.

I think I’ll hold out on seeing “Les Misérables” until the show’s 50th-anniversary presentations, due to pop up everywhere in the 2030s, no doubt.


Likewise, we shall skip Theatre In The Round’s production of Agatha Christie’s “Spider’s Web”, a production that closes this coming weekend.

In each of the past two seasons, we had caught productions of Christie plays at Theatre In The Round—“The Hollow” and “Appointment With Death”—and a third Christie play in three seasons was too much for us to contemplate.

I believe Theatre In The Round devotes too much attention to mystery plays.


Jungle Theater’s current production of Alfred Uhry’s “Driving Miss Daisy” is proving so popular that the run has been extended until year-end.

I do not know what accounts for the popularity of “Driving Miss Daisy”—it seems to come around as often as “Les Misérables”—and sometime I shall have to sit through a production of the play.

I have seen the film version, which may be enjoyed, but the material itself is thin and maudlin—as well as manufactured and blatantly commercial—and we are too busy with work and holiday preparations to waste time on something like “Driving Miss Daisy”.


The new Guthrie production of Garson Kanin’s “Born Yesterday” received a mixed press—which in the Twin Cities is the same thing as a bad press, since negative notices are banned here.

I am not an admirer of the play, which is hopelessly formulaic . . . but a superb production might get me in the door.

The Guthrie production, I am told, is inept, badly-cast and badly-played—and we shall not be going.

Joshua and I saw an undistinguished production of “Born Yesterday” over Labor Day Weekend in 2009 at Canada’s Shaw Festival. I recall we had trouble sitting through the play.


Yesterday The Guthrie announced a fiscal deficit for its 2012-2013 season, its first such deficit in twenty years. The company also announced that total attendance for the 2012-2013 season had been 375,000 persons, 50,000 persons fewer than the previous season.

The Guthrie’s Artistic Director, Joe Dowling, specifically mentioned three productions that had proven deeply disappointing at the box office: Christopher Hampton's “Tales From Hollywood”; Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”; and a stage adaptation of Ivan Turgenev’s novel, “Home Of The Gentry”.

We attended all three productions specifically cited as reasons for last season’s box-office woes. Indeed, the three cited productions were the three productions we had most wanted to see last season.

What is the significance of yesterday’s revelations?

To begin, I would suggest that the size of the Guthrie’s serious audience has declined, perhaps to the point of imperiling the institution’s long-term viability.

Further, the information released by The Guthrie supports the proposition that anything remotely challenging does not find an audience in Minneapolis—which undercuts the often-mouthed local platitude that Minneapolis is a theater center. If only commercial twaddle sells here, Minneapolis has become an entertainment center, a very different thing than a theater center.

According to Dowling, The Guthrie has lost almost 50 per cent of its subscribers since 2000—a decline Dowling attributes to a fundamental change in theater-going habits.

I might be inclined to accept Dowling’s premise if commercial fluff sold as poorly as the good stuff.

However, it is commercial fluff that now sells, while the good stuff plays to empty seats—which tells me that The Guthrie has been an active participant in the dumbing-down of its mission, consciously cultivating a popular audience instead of a serious one.

This season, The Guthrie is giving the musical, “My Fair Lady”, a two-month run. This season, as in every season, the deplorable “A Christmas Carol” is receiving a lengthy Christmas run. (What kind of person actually GOES to “A Christmas Carol”?) Commercial comedies like “Born Yesterday” and “Crimes Of The Heart” are receiving unwarranted attention.

Commercial theater has no rightful place in a state-subsidized enterprise—and if only commercial vehicles are keeping The Guthrie afloat, the company might as well shut its doors, as it no longer serves the purpose for which it was established.

The Guthrie will be losing more subscribers. After almost forty years, my parents, who use their tickets less and less each passing year, are—once the current season concludes—packing it in.

Sunday, December 08, 2013


U.S. sailors killed at Pearl Harbor were buried the following day.

Remembrance ceremonies were held the following year. This photograph, an official photograph of the U.S. Department Of War (long since renamed), is from May 1942 or June 1942. Even the U.S. Navy is uncertain of the date of the photograph.

As a matter of curiosity, I would like to know whether the photograph precedes or follows the Battle Of Midway.

The Battle Of Midway occurred in the first week of June. Only six months after Pearl Harbor, the final outcome of the war in the Pacific was determined at Midway—and both the U.S. and Japan knew, on the spot, that Midway had been outcome-determinative.

Japan, in the final stages of planning and launching its attack on Pearl Harbor, was aware that all U.S. aircraft carriers were at sea. Japan nonetheless carried out the attack, believing that destruction of the great U.S. battleships moored at Pearl Harbor was the more vital objective.

Japan realized its error within weeks if not days, as the U.S. Navy near-instantly recovered from Pearl Harbor. The era of the giant battleship was over; naval operations had become primarily support mechanisms for the exercise of air power.

When Japan lost its carriers at Midway—five incredible, dramatic minutes that changed the course of the war, five minutes so unlikely that a writer of fiction would never dare create such a scenario—Japan’s naval leaders knew, before the enflamed carriers even sank beneath the surface, that the war was no longer winnable.

As soon as Japan’s fleet returned home, the Japanese Admiralty informed the Japanese Army and the Japanese civilian government that the war was lost.

Japan’s Army and Japan’s civilian government concurred.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

7 December 1941

The forward magazine of USS Arizona explodes.

A sailor on board USS Solace took color motion pictures of the destruction of USS Arizona; a frame from the sailor’s film appears above.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Sounds Like Today . . .

This fantastic state of mind, of a humanity that has outrun its ideas, is matched by a political scene in the grotesque style, with Salvation Army methods, hallelujahs and bell-ringing and dervish-like repetition of monotonous catchwords, until everybody foams at the mouth. Fanaticism turns into a means of salvation, enthusiasm into epileptic ecstasy, politics becomes an opiate for the masses, a proletarian eschatology; and reason veils her face.

Thomas Mann (1930)

Mann was writing at the very beginning of the decade. He had no idea, at the time, how truly bad things were to become, everywhere, within the next two and three years. France, Germany, Russia, China, Japan, the U.S.: all devolved into insanity.

Britain stood apart. For the first half of the decade, Britain had sane policies and sane leadership. By early 1936, however, it had become unmistakably clear that Britain no longer wished to deal with reality.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

“I Basically Prefer The Movie Rabble In Hollywood”

Thomas Mann, at his writing desk in his Pacific Palisades home, his residence from 1942 until 1952.

Mann and his wife moved to the Los Angeles area from Princeton, New Jersey. In a letter to one of his sons, Mann, comparing the academic community in Princeton with the film community in Los Angeles, wrote: “I basically prefer the movie rabble in Hollywood.”