“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, July 05, 2010

Yes, We're Open

trish said... I remind you, it's a holiday for federal employees. Not for Bar proprietors.



Someone asked me yesterday, "How did the 1812 Overture end up being the July Fourth anthem?

It's a good question.

So I later went Googling and wound up at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:


the overture, written by famed composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, depicts Napoleon's retreat from Russia in 1812, not America's battles against the British, as many might think.

That's right -- at the height of most Independence Day ceremonies, Memorial Day pageantry or other fireworks displays, the "1812 Overture" blares strains of the French national anthem "La Marseillaise" and the old Russian national anthem "God Save the Czar "across our amber waves of grain. But this bizarre twist is not as unpatriotic as it might seem.

The obvious reason why the piece found a home during America's annual firecracker festival is that gunpowder loves company.

"It is one of the few pieces with good musical content that has cannons exploding," says Leon Botstein, president of Bard College and a conductor and music scholar who has written about Tchaikovsky.


One of the few?

You mean...There are actually others?


  1. Ah, it's 4:00 in the morning, and we're in Miami.

    What could go wrong?

  2. [...]

    But can the popularity of the piece be tied only to cannon fire? Bard's Botstein, for one, feels that although Tchaikovsky disparaged the "1812 Overture" as "very loud and noisy," the music should be given more credit:

    "Tchaikovsky knew how to write a barn-burner, and they are really hard to write."

    Tchaikovsky's popularity in America also played a role. "Tchaikovsky had a foothold in the late 19th century in the broadening public taste for classical music," says Botstein.

    "He came to open Carnegie Hall in 1891 and was a kind of pop figure when he arrived in the United States."

    While America was developing an affinity for Tchaikovsky, it was not having much success creating patriotic music of its own.

    "With the exception of 'America the Beautiful,' the U.S. is short of patriotic hymns," says Botstein. "'The Star-Spangled Banner' is a tongue-twister; then you have 'America,' which is really the British national anthem. Being an immigrant nation, we are not offended by using another country's national anthem."

    These developments set the stage for the Russian overture's remarkable transformation in America in the midst of the Cold War.

    Though some ensembles had played the "1812 Overture" earlier -- Chicago's Grant Park Orchestra performed it on Independence Day 1935 -- most had done so only sporadically before the '70s. The PSO, for one, played it only four times prior to that decade. In 1974, however, the "1812 Overture" came into its own as a pan-American tradition.


    The Star Spangled Banner is a tongue-twister? A novel criticism to me.

    There *are* those who'd like to replace our national Anthem with some less vocally challenging piece. That frankly strikes me as lame and therefor somewhat un-American.

    We do not shrink from challenge; we warmly embrace it.

  3. wound up at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

    So, just curious, did Mr. Botstein say what he was doing at the paper?

  4. Knowing the words and being able to sing the National Anthem (on key) should be a requirement of citizenship. At least the naturalization ceremonies could be livened up with some karaoke.

  5. Continuing right along:


    That July 4, famed Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler decided to perform the overture with fireworks, real cannons and a coordinated steeple-bell choir to increase attendance at the Pops' summer concerts on the Esplanade, says Bridget Carr, archivist of the Boston Symphony.

    Also, the nation's bicentennial was around the corner and the desire to have a spectacular show outweighed Cold War conniptions.

    "He was a good musician but the ultimate showman," says PSO clarinetist Thomas Thompson, who toured with Fiedler in 1962. "Audiences loved him, and he was a genius at marketing."

    A massive, celebratory outdoor piece pushed by the nation's premier outdoor orchestra, whose July 4 concert was broadcast across the country, captured the public's imagination. Countless orchestras began performing the work outdoors, quickly solidifying the tradition and the piece's connection to American patriotism.

    Annual performances became customary in the '80s and '90s; the PSO's tradition of performing it yearly on the Fourth at Point State Park started in 1981.


    Arthur Fiedler: You da man!

  6. Too much week left at the end of the check
    NEW ORLEANS – BP's costs for the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill climbed nearly half a billion dollars in the past week, raising the oil giant's tab to just over $3 billion for work on cleaning and capping the gusher and payouts to individuals, businesses and governments.

    London-based BP PLC, the largest oil and gas producer in the Gulf, released its latest tally of response costs Monday. The total of $3.12 billion was up from $2.65 billion a week earlier. The figure does not include a $20 billion fund for Gulf damages BP created last month.

  7. Don't remind me.

    I was up till 3:30 am and planned on sleeping in this morning.

    At about 8:00 am I get a call from the neighbor letting me know that the trash guys had already been through and picked up the re-cycling and we could expect the other truck by anytime to pick up the regular garbage.


    I have tried to get back to sleep and it's impossible. Tried some coffee and am still not feeling any better.

    This sucks.

    My wife is pissed because she is big into re-cycling and we missed that truck. "Not recycling" is one of the things I get bitched at the most and since it is me we are talking about you can imagine how serious she takes this.

    The garbage guys are dicks.

    This country has gone to hell in a hand basket.

    And fuck Botstein.

    I could just spit.


  8. That's two years worth of BP's profits, and the spew has not been staunched, yet.

    Maybe, at best, thirty more days of rude crude spewing into the Gulf of Mexico at ever increasing volumes.

    Or was the management of BP telling US falsehoods, from the start, about the volume of their spew?

    Regardless, the costs have not yet begun to mount. We're still in the middle of the event, not even close to the start of the recovery.

  9. New York's fireworks on the Hudson river (sponsored by Macy's) were spectacular. Can you imagine watching from the deck of the Norwegian Epic as it prepared to weigh anchor for the next cruise.

    Next Year!

  10. "Knowing the words and being able to sing the National Anthem (on key) should be a requirement of citizenship. At least the naturalization ceremonies could be livened up with some karaoke."


    I've always been a Star Spangled Banner fan.

    Since about my mid-thirties I've not been able to sing it because, honestly, I'm almost always struggling just not to get weepy.

    And I have discovered this afflicts many who also must choke it back every time.

  11. Those type of emotions will no longer be a problem if you give in to your latent liberal tendencies.

  12. I saw that Mr Feinberg, again, this time on FOX News. You know the fella, he's the one that is administrating the $20 Bn fund that the President jawboned BP into creating.
    Mr Feinberg, of the Washington, DC-based Feinberg Rozen law firm, seems like a capable administrator.

    Anyone that would call that $20 Bn fund an Obama "slush fund", well, they just have to be anti-Semitic.
    To disrespect Mr Feinberg so.

  13. "This sucks...

    The garbage guys are dicks.

    This country has gone to hell in a hand basket.

    And fuck Botstein.

    I could just spit."

    We're here for you, Quirk.

  14. "Regardless, the costs have not yet begun to mount. We're still in the middle of the event, not even close to the start of the recovery."

    Determining oil spill's environmental damage is difficult

    “Right now," said John Valentine, who studies the gulf from the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama, "we should be more impressed by what we don't know than what we do know."

    Known Unknowns?

    With the spill, have we even reached the point of the known unknowns, or are we still in the land of the unknown unknowns?


    Kenneth Feinberg, who was named by President Obama to independently manage the $20 billion Gulf disaster compensation fund, tells Jeffrey Brown that "time is the enemy" for people who need their claims processed. He also said his independence cannot be challenged and that's it's too early to tell whether the fund is big enough.

  16. rat and obama sittin' in a tree.

    K - I - S - S - I - N - G.

  17. And for we 1812 Overture lovers, there was that memorable Calvin and Hobbes exchange:

    In an episode of the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes, Calvin and his imaginary tiger friend Hobbes finish listening to the 1812 Overture. When Hobbes tells Calvin about the use of cannons during the finale, Calvin exclaims, "And they perform this in crowded concert halls?? Gee, I thought classical music was boring!"

  18. Anybody that would pick on poor ol' Botstein is a dick.

  19. Mr Feinberg, again, this time with PBS

    An able administrator, he seems to be. Communicates well and is quite understandable as well as articulate.

    Not an Obama lackey, by any means.

  20. whit, are you bad mouthing Mr Feinberg?

    Denying he is both capable and independent?

    You anti-Semite, you.

  21. Even whit, our gracious host, retreats to gratuitous word play, when reality demolishes his straw man of a scare crow.

  22. Quirk, I've had 3 am mornings since Friday night stop complaining.

  23. As of June 24, 2010 at 5:28pm EST, Hugo Chavez had initiated a hostile takeover of eleven oil rigs owned by the American company Helmerich and Payne. Make no mistake this rigs are not remotely mistakable as being the property of the government of Venezuela. But that made no difference to Chavez, and evidently not to the Obama administration, because to date they've taken no action to force Venezuela to return the ownership, and it is now four days into July.

    Kevin McCullough asks the question: Should a foreign power have the right to unilaterally seize American assets with impunity?

    Good question

  24. ...when reality demolishes his straw man of a scare crow.


  25. The problem with the Republicans is: They have identified a Problem, but they haven't identified "The" Problem.

    We're not in Recession because the Government is "spending too much," and we won't get out as a result of the Government spending less.

    The government may be spending too much, and it might be a very good thing if the government spent less on certain things going forward; but there are other things of equal, or greater, importance, "now."

    A little Obama-bashing is fine; that's what the "loyal opposition" does. Even a "Large" amount of Obama-bashing is fine, but, dammit, somewhere along the line the Pubs gotta come up with an "Idea."

    Bitch, bitch, bitch might be self-satisfying, in a depressing kind of way, but Somebody has to identify a couple of "Solutions."

    The people understand that the "Problem" is Jobs, and, so far, the only one that's proposing "Anything" is Obama.

    An unemployed factory worker doesn't care dick about Deficits, or Bond Yields. He wants a Job. Obama says he'll get him a job building wind turbines, and the Republicans vote to kick him off unemployment.

    The Pubs are blowing this deal.

  26. Huh?

    The scare crow you've tried to create is an evil Obama. One that is raping and pillaging the capitalists and oilmen of the Gulf.

    One that is creating political slush funds with BP's escrow account.

    Along with Mr Burton, another apologist for BP.

    Now, perhaps, your posting of the minimal damage to Florida's coastline, while ignoring any reports of the ecological impact in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama was just an over sight.

    Perhaps it was an attempt at spinning the story, to make it appear "over blown", yet "under reported".

  27. Those aren't "American" assets.

    Those rigs are owned by a Private Company that, knowing what Chavez was like, chose to do business there, anyway. Tough titties.

    We fought wars all over S. America on the behest of Private companies for a hundred years. Enough.

  28. You have a bad habit of misrepresenting what others say.

  29. "Quirk, I've had 3 am mornings since Friday night stop complaining."

    Thanks, for the tough love Mel, but I've been at this much longer than you.

    I've found there is one cure (for me) for a late night and too much to drink, lot's of liquids and 8 hours sleep.

    While I can't sleep at the moment, I suspect sometime this afternoon I will make up for the defecit.


  30. "The Pubs are blowing this deal."

    Even a dick like Rufus can get it right twice a day.


  31. Harry Reid, the man you love to hate. A man who was considered gone a few months ago. Next to Nancy Polosi, he tops the GOP hit list. Defeating him should have been a push over.

    Who does the GOP put up against him, Sharon Angle.

    John McCain, even Republicans hate the guy. He could have had a hard time holding on to his seat. Who do the GOP run against him in the primary? J.D. Hayward. Good lord.

    Rand Paul in Kentucky?

    Even when the GOP wins it loses and so does the country.

    What a bunch of dicks.