Maestro and Music
The conductor, pianist and composer was 89
The Economist | Print edition | Obituary | Mar 7th 2019
WHEN CRITICS had a go at André Previn in his heyday, the word “showman” was an easy gibe. The maestro seemed bigger than the music, and that was no surprise. After all, his background was in Hollywood scores, turning out reams of stuff for Lassie to bark at or Debbie Reynolds to talk over. Some of that glitz and schmaltz seemed to hang around in his gentle American voice, as well as in his soft spot for Rachmaninov and the too-lush sound of his string sections. In his spare time, for many years, he played jazz with his own trio in smoky dives. He liked television and was often on it in Britain in the 1970s, presenting orchestral music as light entertainment and even as comedy. The conductor at various times of several of the world’s great orchestras, the London Symphony, the London Philharmonic, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Vienna Philharmonic, took a lifetime to shed that label of lightweight Los Angeles Romanticism.
It clung to him well before he arrived in London in 1968, with his dark mop of hair, mandarin jackets, Swinging Sixties ways and the air of a casual, if reserved, film star. He had been fired as music director of the Houston Symphony partly for parading round town in blue jeans with Mia Farrow, an elfin actress who became his third wife, while he was still married to his second, Dory, who poured out desperate songs about him. There were more wives, many flings. For years the press swarmed after him like flies.
Yet he was more than capable of defending himself. On the subject of the women, they were all the best of friends. On taking classical music down market, the figures spoke for themselves. When he conducted the Houston Symphony in its dollar concerts at the Sam Houston Coliseum, he would pack 12,000 in. Each time he hosted “André Previn’s Music Night” on the BBC, chatting informally to the audience since he was sitting in their living rooms, he probably drew in more people in a week than the LSO, his chief orchestra, had managed in 65 years of performances. And when he appeared on “Morecambe and Wise” with the LSO as “Andrew Preview,” letting Eric Morecambe lift him by the lapels for questioning the comedian’s “playing” of Grieg’s Piano Concerto, he made the orchestra so famous that it was saved from bankruptcy, and himself so instantly recognisable that taxi drivers hailed him with “Hallo, Mr Preview!” This made him very happy.
As for Hollywood, he had loved it. His Jewish family had fled to Los Angeles from Berlin, via Paris, in 1938 when he was ten; Hollywood was where he plunged into life. Who wouldn’t like to go to work each day in glorious sunshine, with all those pretty girls, and noodle a little Jerome Kern at parties? When he was 17 Ava Gardner tried to seduce him; two years later, he was confident enough to try the same with her. (Result: zero.) He won four Oscars for his film music, which included “Gigi” and “My Fair Lady” and was nominated for nine more. If he could have kept laughing at the idiocies of producers who demanded, like Irving Thalberg, that “no music in an MGM film is to contain a minor chord”, he could have spent the rest of his career in that swimming-pool life.
And it could never have satisfied him. For under that peripheral glamour he was deeply committed to music for its own sake, a commitment he entered into at five, by asking his father for piano lessons. At six, he was in the Conservatory. Piano remained the deepest part of his multi-layered career. . .
The definite shift to conducting came in 1968, at 39 when the LSO recruited him for a spell that lasted 11 years. . .
But music directing too had its infuriating sides: politicking and socialising, ladies’ committees, truculent boards, shop stewards. None of that had anything to do with the music, which always stayed several steps ahead of him. He could spend his life chasing a great symphony, and never catch up. No performance could ever be as good as the work itself. Straggling behind, he composed many pieces of his own: sonatas, trios and songs, with a violin concerto for his fifth wife, the violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. In older age, as in his Hollywood film-score years, he would pick up his pencil every day. It was not a question of waiting for the muse to kiss him, though that would have been nice. He wanted to understand the engineering of perfection: how Debussy could write “L’après midi d’un faune” without a single note put in for show; how the beginning of Brahms’s Fourth Symphony could reduce him to tears; how the unsurpassable serenity of the second movement of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto could change the way he saw the world. Before something as beautiful and frightening as music, he could only efface himself.
This article appeared in the Obituary section of the print edition under the headline “Maestro and music”
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To the Heights of Parnassus Obituary: Marcel Azzola died on January 21st
France’s most doughty champion of the accordion was 91
The Economist | Print edition | Obituary | January 26th 2019
THE HISTORY of the accordion is not a happy one. For decades serious musicians have mocked it as the discordant, breathy, vulgar voice of peasants, clowns and fairground hucksters: an endlessly jovial or sentimental repertoire of folksy tunes. The wheeze of this “piano with braces” has become the sound people dread to hear in restaurants or at railway stations, accompanied by the hopeful chink of coins in a hat. So when Marcel Azzola was asked, in September 1968, to play his accordion to accompany Jacques Brel, the great Belgian chansonnier, at a recording of his song “Vesoul” (listen here), he was hardly surprised by a line in the lyrics: “I can’t stand accordions.”
But of course he played, because he liked Brel, with whom he sometimes drank a beer or two after recordings. And he unleashed such a torrent of notes, at such speed, to illustrate the potential of his own instrument to dazzle as well as annoy, that Brel was astonished. “Chauffe, Marcel, Chauffe!” he cried, in that voice raddled with ennui and four packs of cigarettes a day. Hot it up, take it away. The phrase passed into the language, and after that Mr Azzola, to his surprise, found himself famous.
He had always been a great player, but in the background way of many accordionists, in concerts or in film. His playing accompanied Edith Piaf in “Sous le Ciel de Paris”, especially in “L’Accordéoniste”, where “this strange little guy” with his “long wiry fingers” got under the singer’s skin; and Jacques Tati, as Mr Hulot, riding his Solex in “Mon Oncle”. His sound, therefore, had already woven itself into the consciousness of France. But apart from “Vesoul”, which he later turned into a solo concert piece, he was not a grandstanding player. His style was modest, impulsive and intense, full of concentration, but also touched with wonder, as though the instrument he played every day could still surprise him. He was less fond of its festive, glittery mood than of its quieter register. Although he was friends for 60 years with André Verchuren, “the king of the accordion” in its street guise, that sharp, discordant quality, “anti-musical” to his ears, did not truly appeal to him. His aim was to take the accordion very much higher up the slopes of Parnassus, towards serious respect.
“Noble” was a good word: the noble tradition, since the 19th century, of Italian immigrants settling in France, bringing their accordions with them and setting up workshops to make more. His own family were immigrants, from a village near Bergamo. His father, a builder, was also a once-a-week mandolin-player, and put young Marcel on the violin first, like his sisters. But accordions were plentiful in the mean streets of the 20th arrondissement, and he soon switched over. Some of his favourite instruments, Crosios and Cavalognos, came from the old workshops. His teachers, too, Attilio Bonhommi and Médard Ferrero, were Italian émigrés. Ferrero’s method for accordionists was as celebrated as Czerny’s for the piano, and he found in him all the seriousness of classical musicianship, even without a classical repertoire. Ferrero dedicated to him his “Mazurka du Diable”, as if he already anticipated breathtaking turns from him.
Nonetheless, the main point of a young man learning the accordion (as his father kept telling him) was to earn a living, and this he just about did round the brasseries and dancings of Paris, becoming a player of the people’s accordion despite himself. He grew expert at transposing favourite classical pieces to the accordion, as drunken customers requested them. For years his recordings on the Barclay label were of popular tunes and chansons; his producers told him that customers expected only that from his box of bellows and reeds. But he never ceased taking in other, more fascinating styles. From the jazz clubs he frequented he soaked up bebop, swing and a whole new universe of improvisation for the accordion, until he was playing for Django Reinhardt and with Stéphane Grappelli. A stand-in gig led to a chance encounter with tango, which so enchanted him that he bought a bandoneon, though he could barely afford it, to study it himself.
The accordion and its variants, he often pointed out, were honoured more in Argentina than anywhere else in the world. But he fought his corner in France, and it paid off. As a professor for 20 years at the national music school in Orsay, he campaigned mightily for accordion to be included as a course at the Paris Conservatoire. He had the delight not only of achieving that, in 2002, but of sitting on the jury that chose the first prof d’accordéon.
Rosewood and gold
If anyone felt that was not quite right and proper, he had only to show them his collection. He possessed dozens of accordions, many rich and rare. Most came from Parisian antique shops, some were presents; one, a small Crosio, was given to him by a taxi driver who would take it to play while he waited for customers. He displayed them in brass-framed glass cabinets, and online he gave virtual tours. All the latent nobility of the instrument was on display there: its ancient lineage, from Laotian and Chinese metal-reed pipes, and its aristocratic birth in the early 19th century, as an instrument for fashionable drawing rooms. These accordions had bodies of rosewood, tortoiseshell and walnut, inlaid with ivory, copper and gold; they bore mythical scenes and bas-reliefs of great composers. He would walk among them marvelling, stroke them, play them carefully, overjoyed and moved to make music on them. . .
On Brel’s last sea-tinged album, “Les Marquises”, Mr Azzola played again, this time in a different mode. His accordion could still sting, but was often softer, naturally taking its place within and alongside the woodwinds and the strings. And that was as it should be.
This article appeared in the Obituary section of the print edition under the headline “To Parnassus” https://www.economist.com/obituary/2019/01/26/obituary-marcel-azzola-died-on-january-21st
Caroline Hunt, Heiress to Oil Riches, died Nov. 13, 2018, in Dallas
Daughter of Oil Tycoon H.L. Hunt, Owned Luxury Hotels
and Clung to Frugal Habits
She led Bible study group and advised:
‘Never get emotionally attached to any one line of business’
By James R. Hagerty | WSJ | Nov. 23, 2018
Caroline Rose Hunt, who inherited hundreds of millions of dollars, overcame an advantaged upbringing to lead a surprisingly quiet and productive life.
A daughter of the Texas oil tycoon H.L. Hunt, she raised five children, picked tomatoes at the family farm, did volunteer work and steadily expanded her fortune. The financial managers she hired launched a chain of luxury hotels and spurred redevelopment in a blighted area north of downtown Dallas. She wrote a novel and two cookbooks, led weekly Bible study sessions and became the first female deacon at her Presbyterian church.
Her grandchildren called her “Moozie,” a name she invented. Despite two divorces, she didn’t feature in tabloid gossip. Wealth, she said in a 1983 interview with Parade magazine, was “sort of like having good looks: It’s not something you’ve earned, but you don’t go out and scar your face, either.” . . .
Mrs. Hunt, as she liked to be known, died Nov. 13 in Dallas, two weeks after suffering a stroke. She was 95.
Though she didn’t get involved in the day-to-day management of her assets, she helped promote her hotel chain, which at one point included the Bel-Air in Los Angeles and the Carlyle in New York. She had empathy for guests who, like her, were wealthy without being spendthrift. “I got a letter the other day from someone who had ordered two after-dinner cognacs, and he felt $96 was a little expensive,” she said in the 1983 interview. “I agree.”
She sent notes to friends on the back of used envelopes and avoided flashy cars. Offered a Japanese-made Lexus, she said, “You know, we had a war with them once.”
She was born Jan. 8, 1923, in El Dorado, Ark., the third of seven children born to H.L. Hunt and his first wife, Lyda. Her father used money he won playing poker to acquire oil fields in Texas. He moved the family to Tyler, Texas, and then to Dallas. As a girl, she told the Dallas Morning News, she once made cinnamon fudge and sold it to neighbors for 10 cents a bag. She was later informed that the ingredients cost more than 10 cents. “So that was my first lesson in economics,” she said.
Another lesson came at 16 when she was driving a Chevrolet to school while studying for a Latin test. Distracted by her Latin book, she hit a guardrail and flipped the car into a stream. After emerging muddy but unhurt, she found a ride home with a passing truck driver. Her father calmly gave her a few dollars to tip the driver, according to the Morning News.
Caroline Rose Hunt in 2009. Her chain of luxury hotels at one point included the Bel-Air in Los Angeles and the Carlyle in New York. She also invested in oil, gas and ranches. Photo: Associated Press
She studied for two years at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Va., and then completed a degree in English and art history at the University of Texas in 1943.
Along with hotels, she invested in oil and gas, ranches and real estate. For a time, she owned a stake in the maker of Van Heusen shirts. With a friend, she created a line of Lady Primrose bath oils, soaps and lotions. . .
In 2011, her company sold the hotel business to New World Hospitality of Hong Kong for $230 million. One of her children, Laurie Harrison, recalled asking her mother how she could sell a business she loved: “She said, ‘Laurie, you should never get emotionally attached to any one line of business. Business is cyclical. There’s a time to buy and a time to sell.’”
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Carlene Roberts, vice president of American Airlines in 1951
Carlene Roberts Rose Into Management When Female Executives Were Nearly Unknown
JOURNALISTS IN 1950S NOTED THE AIRLINE VICE PRESIDENT AS MUCH FOR LOOKS AS SKILLS; ‘A VERY HOT-LOOKING DISH’
By James R. Hagerty | WSJ | Nov. 9, 2018
When Carlene Roberts was named a vice president of American Airlines in 1951, newspapers treated her as a freakish phenomenon—a female executive. They were as likely to comment on her looks as on her skills as a lobbyist overseeing the airline’s Washington, D.C., office.
Ms. Roberts was “as glamorous as they come,” gushed a columnist in the Miami News. She was “a very hot-looking dish,” reported a Washington columnist. In the Los Angeles Times, Dorothy Chandler described her as petite, brilliant, feminine and quick-witted. The writer added: “An Oklahoma girl, she started up her ladder to fame by the secretarial approach. Girls, take note and work on that shorthand.” (more…)
Wanda Ferragamo, who expanded family shoe business into a fashion empire, dies at 96
Wanda Ferragamo, who took over her husband’s shoe-design and manufacturing business after his death and, with the help of her six children, expanded the company of Salvatore Ferragamo into a global fashion empire, died Oct. 19 at her home in Fiesole, Italy. She was 96.
Mrs. Ferragamo had no experience in business or in designing shoes when her husband, more than 20 years her senior, died in 1960. She had six children, the youngest of whom was 2, when she assumed the presidency of the company her husband had founded.
“In those early days I felt an energy like a lion,” Mrs. Ferragamo told People magazine in 1983. “Everyone was surprised, but I realized it was no use to be alone crying about my destiny. I wanted to keep alive all the efforts my husband made.”
Salvatore Ferragamo learned the cobbler’s trade as a boy in Italy, making his first pair of shoes for his sister when he was 9. He later moved to the United States, working in Boston and later in Hollywood, where his elegant designs for women’s shoes became renowned during the early years of moviemaking. (more…)
William Kistler Coors, 1916 to 2018
Monday’s New York Times obituary by Robert McFadden for American beer pioneer William Coors (of the brewing company that carries his name) violated the usual tasteful norms for an obit, starting with the headline and the text box: “William Coors, Ultraconservative Leader Of Brewery Based in Colorado, Dies at 102.” (more…)
Sir Charles Kao: Fibre optics genius passes away 26 September 2018
Tributes have been paid to Sir Charles Kao, the scientist whose work in Essex “transformed the world”.
Sir Charles, who won the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physics, died in Hong Kong on Sunday, aged 84.
Sir Charles Kao received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from University College London in 2010
In the 1960s, he worked at Standard Telephones and Cables in Harlow and it was here that he laid the groundwork for fibre optics, making inventions such as the internet possible. (more…)
John Sidney McCain III – 1936-2018 | JohnMcCain.com
Senator John McCain‘s remarkable record of leadership embodies his unwavering lifetime commitment to service. The son and grandson of four-star admirals, he was raised in the navy and in a tradition of military service that began before the American Revolution.
Senator McCain graduated from the Naval Academy in 1958, and served as a Naval aviator for 22 years, including in North Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
On October 26, 1967, during Senator McCain’s 23rd bombing mission over North Vietnam, a missile struck his plane and forced him to eject, knocking him unconscious and breaking both his arms and his leg.
Senator McCain was taken as a prisoner of war into the now-infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” where he was denied needed medical treatment and subjected to years of torture by the North Vietnamese. He spent much of his time as a prisoner of war in solitary confinement, aided by his faith and the friendships of his fellow POWs. (more…)
Iconoclast, Legendary CEO Marchionne Dies
Wednesday, July 25, 2018, age 66
Posted on July 25, 2018
In 2009, in his first address to employees at Chrysler, Sergio Marchionne invoked the Zulu greeting “sawubona.”
It means “I see you.” And the traditional response is “sikona,” or “I am here.”
“The sequence of the exchange is important,” Marchionne said. “Until you are seen, you do not exist. From my end, I can simply tell you that I see you. I am glad you are here.”
They were glad he was there, too.
Charles Krauthammer, MD
When Charles Krauthammer died last week, tributes poured in from colleagues and fans of every ideological persuasion. It’s hard to think of another contemporary commentator or journalist who inspired such widespread, bi-partisan, affectionate regard.
What earned him this special place in the worlds of media and politics?
First, Krauthammer’s columns unmistakably reflected his character—brilliant, reasonable, witty, warm and utterly sincere. Those of us who were privileged to know him well could recognize the real Charles in every sentence he published.
Second, the public marveled at his heroic personal story: a quadriplegic from age 21, he never allowed his physical limitations to interfere with his positive, passionate life.
In today’s world, even when you agree with a politician it’s commonly hard to respect him. But with Krauthammer, even when you disagreed with him, you had to admire him.
Tom Wolfe The man in the white suit
AT SOME convenient point in any morning, Tom Wolfe would put on his working clothes. Over a silk shirt, maybe ultramarine, maybe striped, he knotted a silk tie. A proper Windsor knot! No plastic cheaters, like Marshal McLuhan! Then a perfectly tailored white suit of linen or silk tweed…with double-breasted vest…dark blue trim of the matching square peeking from the breast pocket… cream socks . . . leather spectator spat boots…the summer passeggiata gear of Richmond, Virginia, his home town, transposed to New York. A glance in the mirror—the face fine, a china doll’s, with hardly a suggestion of shaving. The underlip puppet-stiff, but the hair floppy in the English style, falling almost to the intertragic notch of his ear. (more…)
Barbara Pierce Bush
June 8, 1925 – April 17, 2018
Barbara Pierce was born to Marvin and Pauline Pierce in Flushing, Queens of New York City. Her father was president of the McCall Corporation, which published the well-known magazines McCall’s and Redbook. Growing up in an Episcopalian family in the bedroom community of Rye, New York, Bush was an athletic and witty child who loved—above all things—to read. (more…)
Remembering Peter G. Peterson
The Concord Coalition mourns the loss of its founding President Peter G. Peterson, who died today (Tuesday, March 20, 2018) at the age of 91. Executive Director Robert L. Bixby issued the following statement:Pete Peterson lived the American Dream. As a depression-era child of Greek immigrants, Pete rose from dishwasher at his parents’ diner in Kearney, Nebraska to become one of the nation’s top business leaders, a presidential cabinet member and a best-selling author. (more…)
Billy Graham (“I detested going to church”) 1918 –2018
Evangelist Billy Graham died today at 7:46 a.m. at his home in Montreat. He was 99.
In 1973, Graham addressed more than one million people crowded into Yoido Plaza in
Seoul, South Korea—the largest live audience of his Crusades.
Throughout his life, Billy Graham preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to some 215 million people who attended one of his more than 400 Crusades, simulcasts and evangelistic rallies in more than 185 countries and territories. He reached millions more through TV, video, film, the internet and 34 books. (more…)
Barefoot to Billionaire
Gave $1.5Billion to find cures for cancer through genetics.
Jon M. Huntsman Sr. Created Clamshell Hamburger Package and Funded Cancer Research
Founder of the company that became Huntsman Corp.
worked in the White House in the early 1970s
Jon M. Huntsman Sr. made his fortune partly by creating the clamshell packaging used for Big Macs and over his lifetime gave away what his family tallied as more than $1.5 billion to humanitarian causes, notably by making it his mission to find cures for cancer through genetics.
The founder of chemical maker Huntsman Corp. and former aide to President Richard Nixon died Friday at his home in Salt Lake City. He was 80. His family said he died of “long-term health challenges.” (more…)
Bernard Bond McGinity, M.D.
December 1, 1928 – January 20, 2018
Dr McGinity was born in Wallasey, England on December 11, 1928. Passed away on January 20, 2018 at the age of 89 surrounded by his family. Bernard was preceded in death by his devoted wife of 56 years, Arlene. He will be lovingly remembered by his sons, Brian and Michael and daughter Teresa (Bryan). (more…)
Sound of Music’ Actress Heather Menzies-Urich Dead at 68
Heather Menzies-Urich, who played Louisa in The Sound of Music died on Sunday, December 24, 2017
The widow of Vegas actor Robert Urich, who died in 2002, had recently been diagnosed with cancer, Variety reports.
Her son Ryan Urich said his mother died on Christmas Eve, surrounded by her children and family members.
“She was an actress, a ballerina and loved living her life to the fullest,” her son said in a statement to Variety. “She was not in any pain but, nearly four weeks after her diagnosis of terminal brain cancer, she had enough and took her last breath on this earth at 7:22 p.m.” (more…)
Charles Manson Dies at 83
Wild-Eyed Leader of a Murderous Crew
The Tate-LaBianca murders
Charles Manson, one of the most notorious murderers of the 20th century, who was very likely the most culturally persistent and perhaps also the most inscrutable, died on Sunday in a hospital in Kern County, Calif., north of Los Angeles. He was 83 and had been behind bars for most of his life. (more…)
Life of Luther – 1483 – 1546
The 500th Anniversary of the Reformation
October 31, 1517 to October 31, 2017
Martin Luther was born in Eisleben Germany in 1483, nine years before the discovery of America. His father Hans Luther was a rather prosperous miner and his mother, Margaretta, was a strict disciplinarian. Because his son was so brilliant, Hans enrolled Martin at the University of Erfurt to study law.
On returning to the university, after a visit home, a lightning bolt knocked him to the ground. Thinking this was a sign from God, Luther cried out, “Save me, St. Anne!” “I will become a monk!” He sold his law books and entered the Augustinian monastery at Erfurt.
His father Hans was furious, hoping to have a wealthy lawyer in the family. Martin didn’t want to displease his father, but only to lead a holy life to obtain forgiveness and go to heaven. Martin prayed long hours, worked hard, studied constantly. He was surprised and saddened that the harder he tried to keep God’s commandments perfectly, the more he felt like a failure.
The monastery thought that maybe it would help to send Brother Martin to Rome, the church’s headquarters. But when he saw how worldly and sinfully the leaders behaved, his despair deepened.
Vera Rubin Opened Doors in Astronomy, and for Women
Vera Rubin, 88, Dies; Opened Doors in Astronomy, and for Women
By DENNIS OVERBYE DEC. 27, 2016
Vera Rubin, who transformed modern physics and astronomy with her observations showing that galaxies and stars are immersed in the gravitational grip of vast clouds of dark matter, died on Sunday in Princeton, N.J. She was 88.
Her death was announced by the Carnegie Institution of Washington, where she had been a longtime staff astronomer.
Dr. Rubin, cheerful and plain-spoken, had a lifelong love of the stars, championed women in science and was blunt about the limits of humankind’s vaunted knowledge of nature. (more…)
William Frasier Fortner, Col, USAF, Ret
Colonel William Frasier Fortner II
1942 – 2017
The Hero’s Legend
[William Frasier Fortner made an appt in my office in October 2001. He stated that he had no medical problems and was just evaluating this office and our relationship to his several consultants. He returned for annual examinations yearly through 2015 when this office closed at my retirement. He came by the office a number of times between his annual exams to tell his favorite story and deliver his favorite drink. Many times, he called to tell his latest story on the phone which always brightened up the day for my wife and me. He was a B52 pilot. I had served at Mather AFB which had a Sac Bomb wing. I saw B52’s take off every morning. I had the privilege of sitting in the IP seat on a 14-hour mission across N. America with the two pilots in front of me and two Navigators behind me. His wife Catherine, a 747 pilot, was usually with him on his appointments. I called his home in September 2017 for disposal of his x-rays. His wife informed me of his death and that the memorial would be that week in his school auditorium. It was a pleasure to meet his family and see the parade of military service men, many in uniform, paying their respects and citing a number of remembrances. It was truly a privilege to serve such an honorable American, an Air Force Colonel and a 52 pilot.] (more…)
John Skinner, Trumpet Player
Carmichael-based John Skinner was an iconic Sacramento band-leader.
Carmichael, CA (MPG) – Carmichael resident and musical legend John Skinner died last weekend. He was 71.
For decades, the trumpeter powered the most go-to band organization in Sacramento. An Air Force veteran and airline pilot, Skinner juggled two long and successful careers. He was also a champion for music education and supported many local community causes. “Johnny Trumpet” (as he jokingly dubbed himself) had fronted bands since teenage days as a trumpet prodigy in Orland CA. His bands also backed shows with show-biz giants like Ray Charles, Luciano Pavarotti and Ann Murray.
In recent years, mobility issues forced the leader offstage. His popular Skinner Band nevertheless played on, with Skinner cracking the whip from the sidelines. At a Carmichael Park concert this month, he was greeted affectionately by hundreds of fans. Playing his trumpet from the audience, Skinner performed a vibrant final solo. (more…)
Richard Wesley Rowland
Richard Westley Rowland | 1943 – 2017
Served as a Navy Frogman in 1960-61 (Which later became the Navy Seals)
Rowland was a warrior who survived the jungles of Vietnam, three bullet wounds, was captured, escaped, served time in America’s most notorious prisons and served on Big Oil boards. Abandoned as a toddler, Richard Rowland learned woodsman skills from the man who raised him in the California Sierra Nevada foothills.
Rowland was a war-baby born in 1943 in Oakland, CA. He didn’t know his mother; she abandoned him when he was a year old. She handed him over to the woman who babysat for her. Richard didn’t know his father either; he was away in the service. Richard was gone by the time he returned home. (more…)
The Voice of Viet Nam
Trinh Thi Ngo (“Hanoi Hannah”), broadcaster for Voice of Vietnam, was 87
THE voice was faint, for the signal was weak between Hanoi and the Central Highlands.
The Economist | From the print edition | Oct 13th 2016
Nonetheless, at 8pm Saigon time, after a day spent avoiding mantraps and pursuing the ever-elusive Vietcong, GIs would try to unwind by listening to the young woman they called “Hanoi Hannah”. As they cleaned their rifles, smoked herbs and broke out a beer or two, their precious radios, strapped up for protection with ragged black tape, crackled with tones that might have been those of a perky high-school cheerleader. “GI Joe, how are you today?” asked the sweet-sounding girl, of men to whom any girl would have sounded sweet. “Are you confuse d? Nothing is more confused than to be ordered into a war to die or be maimed for life without the faintest idea of what’s going on. You know your government has abandoned you. They have ordered you to die. Don’t trust them. They lied to you.”
The Unknown Warrior
Obituary: Ernst Neizvestny died on August 9th
The sculptor, artist, philosopher and defier of the Soviet regime was 91
The Economist | Print Edition | August 20, 2016
THE two men were about the same size, sturdy and short. Both had fought in the Great Patriotic War, worked in foundries; they could knock each other out. One was broad-faced, gap-toothed and almost bald; the other was swarthy, with bushy black brows and hair. The bald man, Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union, was shouting “Filth! Dog shit! Disgrace!” at the paintings on display, that day in 1962, on the walls of the Manege Gallery beside the Kremlin. The swarthy one, Ernst Neizvestny, had his answer ready: “You may be premier and chairman, but not here in front of my works. I am the premier here.”
Intriguing for peace
HE OUTLIVED all his country’s other founding fathers, but failed in what he most yearned for: to lead it into a lasting peace. Missed opportunities dogged Shimon Peres’s career. He gained the highest offices—prime minister, twice, and president—but the political arithmetic invariably went against him. His forte was foreign policy, but his political nemesis, Menachem Begin, signed the peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, and his arch-rival, Yitzhak Rabin, got most of the plaudits for Israel’s deal in 1993 with the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.
Mr Peres’s imprint was lasting, nonetheless. As a precocious young civil servant, he brokered arms deals which helped his uniformed counterparts to get the weapons they needed. He circumvented arms embargoes with creative ruses, such as buying warplanes as, purportedly, film props, and cannily found leaky frigates and rusty tanks in places where they were no longer needed. He bargained hard, shaming rich countries for charging full price to tiny, beleaguered Israel, and cajoling rich sympathisers. It meant breaking a lot of rules. Jimmy Hoffa, boss of America’s Teamsters union, became a friend, and Israel’s rapprochement with West Germany was cemented with marathon drinking sessions with the arch-conservative Bavarian, Franz-Josef Strauss.
The discomfort of words
Geoffrey Hill, an English poet, died on June 30th, aged 84
The Economist | From the print edition | Jul 30th 2016
IT WAS, he said, like falling in love. When Geoffrey Hill was ten years old he was given a Victorian anthology of English poetry, an award to mark his punctilious attendance at the Sunday school of his local church. It was filled with the kind of high-flown, sentimental stuff he would later scorn. But for the child of a village policeman who had left school at 13, the poetry of past lives suddenly seemed a revelation—and led to his eventual vocation.
The Inarticulate Society
Notable & Quotable: Florence King
From a 1995 Journal review of the book
‘The Inarticulate Society: Eloquence and Culture in America.’
From “Dan Rather and Other Enemies of Civilization” in the July 31, 1995, Journal, a review of Tom Shachtman’s book “The Inarticulate Society: Eloquence and Culture in America” by writer Florence King, who died Jan. 6 at age 80: WSJ | Jan 14, 2016
The book’s pièce de résistance is Mr. Shachtman’s sardonic tracing of the decline and fall of TV news, and how it has destroyed eloquence.
On Aug. 29, 1963, the “CBS News With Walter Cronkite” aired its first half-hour edition. Everyone sounds like an Oxford don, speaking in complete sentences with so many dependent clauses that they have to take a breath before the end. There is almost no action footage or graphics, and the uncreative commercials, mostly written testimonials, always parse.
The edition of Oct. 27, 1972, was Mr. Cronkite’s first lengthy perspective on Watergate. We see more graphics, visual aids and film; one-breath sentences now prevail, but they are still complete, except for the serpent in the garden, Dan Rather, who reports from the White House: “Nine vetoes today, more promised tomorrow.” . . .
On Nov. 9, 1989, “The CBS News With Dan Rather” features the collapse of German communism and English metaphor. “The Berlin Wall is still standing, but it doesn’t stand for much,” Dan begins, explaining against a backdrop of busy visuals that the world is “racing to stay ahead of the curve of history.” Cut to George Bush, who says, “I’m not going to hypothecate that it may—anything that goes too fast . . .” Then back to Dan for the final word: “The Berlin Wall is obsolete tonight.” The commercials are frantic, and the show ends with an invitation to join Dan later on “48 Hours” for a discussion of sex and teenagers. . .
His solutions are impossibly idealistic—hire only well-spoken baby sitters, give networks tax writeoffs for cultural programs that do not get high Nielsen ratings—but one at least filled me with venomous glee: “Among the first orders of business ought to be the abolition of teachers’ colleges and teaching degrees.”
This book review is found at http://www.wsj.com/articles/notable-quotable-florence-king-1452815618 .
Jo Cox, The First British MP To Be Murdered Since 1990
She wasn’t a TV Star and wouldn’t dress like one.
Jo Cox, the first British MP to be murdered since 1990, died on June 16th, aged 41
The ECONOMIST | From the print edition | Jun 17th 2016
OUT-OF-TOUCH and self-centered at best; deceitful and crooked at worst:
Britons have developed smolderingly low opinions of their rulers.
Jo Cox—idealistic, diligent, likeable and rooted in her Yorkshire constituency—was a living rebuttal of that cynicism.
Britain’s political class is easily caricatured as an inbred elite. But she was the first member of her family to go to university. True, she found Cambridge daunting: it mattered so much how you talked and whom you knew. Other undergraduates had posh professional parents and had taken sunny gap years. Her only foreign travel had been package holidays in Spain, with summers spent packing toothpaste in the factory where her father worked; indeed she had assumed, until school pointed its head girl farther afield, that she would spend her life working there.
For all her brains and charm, Cambridge jolted her confidence—setting her back five years, she said. But when in 2015 she reached the House of Commons, mastering the ways of that self-satisfied, mysterious and privileged institution was easy.
Also unlike a stereotypical politician, she had a real life. She had been an aid worker for ten years. She had met rape victims in Darfur in Sudan, and talked to child soldiers about how they had been forced to kill their family members. She commuted to the House of Commons by bicycle, from the houseboat she shared with her husband and two young children, its view of Tower Bridge the only luxury she allowed herself to enjoy. (She wasn’t a TV star and wouldn’t dress like one, she firmly told a constituent who wondered if she might like to vary her trademark, unfussy blue blazers and red dresses.)
Principles mattered; tribalism did not. She was Labour “to the core”, but one of the most moving of many tributes after her murder was by Andrew Mitchell, her Conservative co-chair of the all-party Friends of Syria group. He called her a “five-foot bundle of Yorkshire grit”, and recalled her ferocious scolding of the Russian ambassador for his country’s role in Syria’s civil war. She and her Tory counterpart would text each other across the floor of the House of Commons, oblivious to the baying partisanship that raged about them. Other such friendships abounded. . . .
She bemoaned British foreign policy’s missing moral compass. Whereas many Labourites droned or ranted at the prime minister’s weekly question-and-answer session, she asked him, calmly and devastatingly, whether he had “led public opinion on the refugee crisis or followed it”. That unsettled Mr Cameron, and (aides now say) helped change British policy. Her plainly spoken ambition to be foreign secretary one day looked more than plausible.
Helping her constituents was her most rewarding job, yet also prompted the tragic circumstances of her death. Though Westminster and Whitehall are tightly guarded, British politicians have scant protection when they venture outside. Only a handful of senior ministers have police bodyguards. Constituents wanting to meet their representatives simply make appointments for their regular surgeries (advice sessions)—or, as in the case of Mrs Cox’s assailant, wait outside in the street.
Trust and openness come at a cost. Five politicians were assassinated during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the last of them Ian Gow, blown up by a car bomb outside his home in 1990. In 2000 a regular visitor to the Cheltenham constituency office of Nigel Jones, then a Liberal Democrat MP, entered in a frenzy, wielding a sword, wounding the lawmaker and killing his assistant, Andrew Pennington. In 2010 an Islamist extremist walked into a constituency surgery to stab and nearly kill the Labour MP Stephen Timms. A recent survey showed four out of five MPs saying that they had experienced intrusive or aggressive behaviour. Mrs Cox herself had complained to the police about abuse—although not involving the 52-year-old gardener with, seemingly, far-right views and psychiatric problems who is now charged with her shooting and stabbing. . .
Emma Morano, the oldest person in the world, died on April 15th, age 117
The Economist | Print Edition | April 27, 2017 | Obituary: Ancient as the hills
THOSE who live to be very old are never previously famous. Few in the world know them, and they know almost nothing of the world. Emma Morano had never been to Rome, let alone abroad. Her world was Pallanza-Verbania on the shores of Lake Maggiore in northern Italy, stretching to Varallo Sesia in the hills, where she had family. The fading photographs she would lay out, on a lace cloth, for reporters showed herself and her siblings enjoying lunch outside, posing in Pallanza’s main square and on the lakeside promenade, all within a stroll of the tiny flat, down an alley by the church of San Leonardo, where she still lived. For her last 15 years, though she could walk, she did not leave it. (more…)
Obituary: Antonin Scalia Always right
Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court justice, died on February 13th, aged 79
The Economist | Print edition | Obituary | Feb 20th 2016
IF YOU were bold enough to ask Antonin Scalia questions, you had to be precise. Otherwise the bushy black brows would furrow, the chin would crumple and the pudgy, puckish body would start to rock, eager to get at you. Wasn’t he violently opposed to Roe v Wade, the abortion ruling? “Adamantly opposed, that’s better.” Did he have any guilty pleasures? “How can it be pleasurable, if it’s guilty?” Lesser lawyers who were vague in oral argument faced a barrage of sarcasm or, if he agreed with them, constant chiding to do better. (“That’s your strong point!”) Dissenting colleagues at the Supreme Court had their opinions described as “argle-bargle”, “jiggery pokery” and “pure applesauce”. (more…)
Obituary: Johnny Barnes And Datta Phuge
Clothed with happiness
Johnny Barnes, Bermuda’s “greeter”, and Datta Phuge, “the Gold Man of Pune”, died on July 9th and 14th respectively, aged 93 and 48
The Economist | From the print edition | Jul 23rd 2016
IN THE city of Pune in Maharashstra, in 2012, Datta Phuge conceived a desire to display something no one else had. Something, that is, made of pure gold. As founder-floater of the Vakratunda Chit Fund, a slightly slippery credit society, he had any amount of gold in his possession or on his body: rings, bracelets, coins, mobile phone. He was in the habit of wearing 7kg of it a day, here and there. He had given a heap to his wife Seema, who began to find it a little boring to wear. But since gold was his passion and his chief way of showing how happy and fortunate he was, he wanted to flaunt it still more.
After chatting it over with his friends at Ranka Jewellers, he ordered a shirt made almost wholly of gold. It comprised 100,000 spangles and 14,000 gold flowers fixed to white velvet cloth, so that it could be folded away like any other shirt. Accessories were provided, also of 22-carat gold: necklaces, cuffs and a belt. Altogether, the outfit weighed 9.5kg. It took 15 craftsmen from West Bengal, working 16-hour days, more than two weeks to create it. And it cost 1.27 crore rupees, or $250,000.
Almost 13,000 km away, across two oceans in Bermuda, Johnny Barnes in 1986 also decided to put on a prodigal display. He would stand at the Crow Lane roundabout in Hamilton, where most of the rush-hour traffic came past, and tell each passing motorist how sweet life was and how much he loved them. His days had long overflowed with happiness, in his garden and in his jobs as a railway electrician and a bus-driver, where he had taken up the habit of waving and smiling to anyone who passed as he ate his lunchtime sandwiches. He had lavished joy on his wife Belvina, “covering her with honey”, as he put it. But there was plenty left over.
For 30 years he went to the roundabout every weekday morning. He would rise at around 3am, walk two miles to his post, stay for six hours shouting “I love you!”, smiling and blowing kisses, and then walk home again. He was there in the heat, his wide-brimmed straw hat keeping off the sun, and there in the rain with his umbrella. Only storms deterred him and eventually, the creakings of old age. Over the years, he transmitted his radiant happiness to drivers hundreds of thousands of times. . .
Fame came rapidly. Mr Barnes was hailed as an icon of Bermuda, and in 1998 a statue of him was put up near the roundabout. Tourists from Africa and America came to be photographed with him and to buy his dollar postcards; he once waved to the Queen of England. Mr Phuge was on all the Marathi TV channels modelling his shirt, but also had BBC reporters and Canadians lining up at his front door; they were, his wife said, “even more sought-after than royals”. . .
Drawing the moral
On the night of July 14th, on his way to a party—but not, apparently, in the shirt—he was stoned to death by “friends” to whom he owed money. Nothing could have been further from the peaceful death of Johnny Barnes, in ripe old age and in the firm conviction he was heading home. The moral of the tale seems almost too easy to draw: the selfish flaunter of happiness, weighed down by gold, came to an awful end, while the selfless one, wearing his prodigious love so lightly, was praised and lamented.
Both men, though, left behind a deficit of magic. After Mr Phuge died, no one could find the wonderful gold shirt. It was not in the house, nor at Ranka Jewellers; rumour had it that a creditor from Mumbai had taken it away. As for Mr Barnes, people searched up and down, far and wide, for the true secret of his happiness; for that, too, had disappeared with him.
Read the entire Obituary From the print edition . . .
Blessed Are The Peacemakers
Daniel Berrigan SJ, priest, poet and anti-war activist, died on April 30th, aged 94
The Economist | From the print edition | May 21st 2016
TO DO good. On every occasion to do the right thing as he saw it and Christ taught it, no matter how disruptive and no matter what the cost. This was Daniel Berrigan’s motivation. He was not concerned with the outcome of it, let alone success. A good action must go somewhere; do it, let it go. If God willed, it might mean lives saved, swords beaten into ploughshares and the world smiling with peace.
In the febrile America of the Vietnam-war years, however, it more often meant obloquy, humiliation, scorn, the hand of a federal agent on his collar. Between 1970 and 1995 he spent a quarter of his time in prison, in denim garb he liked to think of as the vestments of a new Catholic church. He was declared the enemy both of that church (by Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York) and of the state (by J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI). But then, as he liked to say, if you were serious about Jesus, you had better start considering whether you’d look good on wood.
The best act, one he wished he had done much sooner, was carried out on May 17th 1968 in a parking lot in Catonsville, Maryland. He and eight others, mostly in religious orders, one his priest-brother Philip, made a blaze there of 378 stolen files of young men about to be drafted to fight in Vietnam. The fire was set with napalm they had made at home, from soap-shards and kerosene. He apologised over the pyre for “the angering of the orderlies in the front parlour of the charnel house”; but they had not, like the government, burned children. Only papers: or, as he saw them, hunting licences to track, rape and char human beings.
This destruction of government property won him three years in jail, which he refused to accept. It was morally inconsistent to bow to an illegitimate system, so he went on the run instead, living exultantly for four months in “felonious vagrancy”, the first-ever priest on the FBI’s most-wanted list. Come, Holy Spirit! Like a Pentecost, Catonsville lit up people’s hearts, a spreading fire of protest across America. It also made him that “pumped-up absurdity”, a celebrity-priest with a bad Beatles haircut and a black polo-neck, puckishly turning up wherever trouble beckoned.
He had been warned about that. The two chief influences in his life—Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, and Thomas Merton, a Trappist philosopher—pushed him to work among outcasts and to labour for peace, but not in the public eye. His Jesuit superiors, embarrassed by his fervour, tried to restrain him by sending him abroad, to France and Latin America. Contact with worker-priests there just fired him all the more. How could he be quiet, when all around him in the 20th century men continued to ignore God’s fundamental precept, Thou shalt not kill? *How could he be invisible, when lepers, beggars and the downtrodden cried for something to be done? Outraged love drove him to be loud, turning lessons into lectures at Yale and Cornell, addressing crowds and writing 50 books, many of them poetry, as this, called “Miracles”:
Vietnam over, he did not rest. In 1980 he led a group into GE’s missile plant in Pennsylvania to attack the eggshell-thin warheads with hammers: the most violent gesture in a life dedicated to non-violence, to opening hand and heart to the enemy. He too struggled mightily to replace his own anger, “the death game”, with love. In his 80s he took part in Occupy Wall Street and marched against war in Iraq. Fearlessly he stood in the path of governments and corporations: for “powers and dominations” remained subject to Christ, to his gentleness. Day by day he listened (“Want to rap?”), shared whatever he ate and held the hands of the dying in an AIDS hospice in Greenwich Village. “Let’s re-member each other,” he would say.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
To many—to himself sometimes—it seemed odd that he was a Jesuit, submitting himself to their discipline, authority and institutional life. It did not fit with the thin boy, a poor feeder and never brawny, who had so feared his father’s heavy judgment-tread and his rages like an uncontrolled cyclone. It did not fit with his teenage suspicions of a distant, blind-as-a-bat deity, or even with his later hope that God would just stop imagining these flawed creatures called men. Oddly, though, the Jesuits had room for his sort, with only moments of squirming; and from the age of 18 his loyalty never swerved. . .
Read the entire obituary in The Economist. . .
* As a Jesuit Priest, Berrigan, should know that the Mosaic Code, Thou shalt not kill, was for all men to adhere to. But what if someone did not, then his God gave a different command in Matt 26:52, For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. And again in Romans 13:4,5: But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for “the government” beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil …”
Is the G.O.P Dying?
Everyone Knows About the G.O.P. Crackup—Everyone Except the Voters
The New yorker, MAY 13, 2016
Do Republicans really dislike their presumptive nominee?
The Republican Party is shattered. Fissured. Over. Dead. These suggestions, and more, have been inspired by the rise of Donald Trump, who has defied and embarrassed Party leaders (and pundits!) to become the presumptive 2016 Republican nominee for President. The conventional wisdom was that he would be stopped, but it turned out that no putative stopper was equal to the task, and now the Party is stuck with a candidate whom many Republicans can’t stand, one whose elevation may portend the crackup of Republicanism itself. Or so we are told.
Pierre Boulez, composer and conductor, died on January 5th, aged 90
The Economist | From the print edition | Jan 16th 2016
FEW figures were cooler or calmer than Pierre Boulez on the podium. He conducted without a baton, lifting the phrases and flicking them away with long, elegant fingers. The rest of his body did not move, impassive and commanding as a man lightly trimming a hedge; his face was a stone mask, only his darting eyes revealing how he was excavating the music, uncovering the layers and rebuilding them in structures of crystal clarity. Many said he was the finest conductor-composer since Richard Strauss. Every inch of him suggested that he was well aware of that.
Inside the statue, though, was gelignite. Music, to him, was in permanent revolution; but since there had been no proper upheaval since the Renaissance, he was leading one. For 50 years he was at war, or in a state of uneasy truce, with the musical establishment, fighting to make the deaf, incurious or plain uncultured appreciate the works of their own time. . .
Of the private Boulez, almost nothing was revealed; he was a solitary, isolated by choice and cloaking his charm, much of the time, in arrogance. His favourite mental associates were bad-boy poets, Rimbaud and Baudelaire, or abstract painters like Kandinsky, all smashers of boundaries and shockers of the status quo.
When he composed, he once explained, he dug down through layers of himself towards the “core of darkness” from which, in extraordinary flashes, his music came. Though the music might be wildly radical, this core—another paradox—would never change. Towards that unknown, like Orpheus, he made the most tumultuous and controversial journey of any modern classical musician.
Read the entire obituary. . . Economist