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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.
Beethoven, Some Political Drek and a New Short Story
As we approach the New Years Day holiday, I am reminded that one of my favorite pieces of music, Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 (known as the Choral Symphony), is frequently played in concert halls on New Year's Eve. This is very commonplace in Europe and even in Japan. In the United States this year, it is being played this week by symphony orchestras in Seattle and Spokane and probably elsewhere as well. I would hope that radio broadcasts of Beethoven's Ninth will be available this week as well. I will be playing it at home, too.
Beethoven's Ninth's final movement demands four operatic soloists and a large and well rehearsed chorus. That's why it is not performed more frequently. The chorale consists of a modification of Schiller's poem "Ode to Joy," and emphasizes the joyful message that all mankind are brothers. ("Freude, Freude ... Alle menschen werden bruder"). The chorus in full translates as follows.
* * *
O friends, no more these sounds! Let us sing more cheerful songs, more full of joy!
Joy, bright spark of divinity, daughter of Elysium, Fire-inspired we tread Thy sanctuary. Thy magic power re-unites all that custom has divided, all men become brothers under the sway of thy gentle wings.
Whoever has created an abiding friendship or has won a true and loving wife, all who can call at least one soul theirs, join our song of praise. But those who cannot must creep tearfully away from our circle.
All creatures drink of joy at natures breast. Just and unjust alike taste of her gift.; she gave us kisses and the fruit of the vine, a tried friend to the end. Even the worm can feel contentment and the cherub stands before God!
Gladly, like the heavenly bodies which He sent on their courses through the splendor of the firmament; thus, brothers, you should run your race, like a hero going to victory!
You millions, I embrace you. This kiss is for all the world! Brothers, above the starry canopy there must dwell a loving Father. Do you fall in worship, you millions? World, do you know your Creator? Seek Him in the heavens; Above the stars must he dwell.
* * *
Wow! Incidentally, this chorus is the unofficial anthem of the European Economic Community. To everyone then, a Happy and Healthy New Year during which all mankind recognizes that they indeed are brothers (and sisters.) JL
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**Political Drek: - The Demise of the Republican Party
In earlier postings on this blog, I have
hinted at the upcoming demise of the Republican Party. This would be an unfortunate occurrence
because, despite George Washington’s injunction in his Farewell Address that we
should avoid having political parties, having more than one major party
provides a clear balance in our legislatures that would not be present if we
had a multiplicity of parties, each with its own ultimate goals, but willing to
temporarily compromise in order to form coalitions in order to gain power, as
is common in Europe.
Politicians often claim that
their party is a big enough tent under which members of different beliefs can
come together. In the Democratic tent
one can find unions, Wall Street financiers, bankers, lawyers, environmentalists,
family farmers, educators, believers in a strong central government and the
growing number of Americans who find themselves thankful for the government
safety nets provided by Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and unemployment
benefits. Under the Republican tent’s
canvas, one can find corporations, small businessmen and individual
entrepreneurs, career military people, religious people, investors, believers
in states’ rights and Americans who feel that individual effort and hard work,
with as little government involvement as possible, are the keys to success in
our country. Often, some people drift
from one tent to the other. Either will keep you dry if it starts to rain. And the barometer is dropping.
Imagine, however, if one
tent were to be blown away in a windstorm, and be replaced by many golf
umbrellas, each sheltering three or four people. They might get a little wet, and envious of
the people in the remaining tent, who very well might not give a hoot about
those outside of their tent. Envious
people sometimes become desperate people, and this is how revolutions start. But look, even with two tents remaining
standing, the “Occupy” people, for example, have chosen to stay outside of the
Democratic tent, and are getting wet, whereas the “Tea Party” people are
comfortable and dry under the Republican canvas, although their welcome is
becoming damper lately. These are factors to
The Democratic tent, first
erected by Thomas Jefferson and the subject of occasional patching as was done
by Andrew Jackson and Franklin Roosevelt has managed to survive for about 260
years. The Republican tent, originally
called the Federalist tent, was built by Washington, Adams and Alexander
Hamilton and fell into disrepair during the first half of the nineteenth
century, primarily over the issue of slavery, and was replaced to some extent
by groups of people with golf umbrellas collectively known as Whigs. Finally, though, the Republican tent was repaired
by Abraham Lincoln and survives to this day.
Historically, the issue of a
strong central government was the main tent pole supporting the Republican tent’s
canvas until the advent of Roosevelt’s New Deal, which resulted in the
Democratic tent swapping its own main tent pole (which had “States Rights”
painted all over it) with the Republicans for their “Federalist” pole.
Which brings us to
today. We have a Republican Party trying
to select a candidate to run against Barack Obama. I close my eyes and picture these individuals
sitting down and talking to international leaders such as Russia’s Putin,
Germany’s Merkel, the UK’s Cameron, France’s Sarkozy and so on. Only Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman can be
imagined in this role. Unfortunately,
the majority of those in the Republican tent may not be able to accept this very obvious
conclusion. Can you imagine Michelle
Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Ron Paul or Rick Santorum sitting down across the table
from Vladimir Putin? This refusal of
many in the Republican tent to sense the obvious very well may result in many
under that canvas opening their golf umbrellas and venturing outside into the
rain. And if they don’t do that, they
very well might just sit down on the ground on the sawdust, close their eyes
and put their fingers in their ears.
After all, this is the attitude many Republicans in Congress are taking
about economic issues. True, there are
equally disparate views among those in the Democratic tent, but they have been
willing to compromise with each other since 1800. The G.O.P.’s inability to compromise, not
only with Democrats, but among themselves as well, may signal the demise of the
Republican Party, and that would not be a good thing.
**(More "Political Drek" is available at our new, still "under construction" site, www.politicaldrek.com. Remember that the last word of Political Drek stands for Democratic & Republican Election Kaleidoscope.)
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Oh, oh, I’m really stuck now. My whole right side except for my shoulder is
trapped in the glue. I’ve been
scratching on the tile floor for hours trying to leverage myself off the trap,
but I haven’t been able to budge at all.
When he wakes up, he’ll surely kill me.
I was doing so well too.
For two weeks I was able to avoid the old fashioned snap traps he had
put out after he discovered that I had been feasting on the oat meal and
pancake flour in the pantry. The whole
situation boiled over when he and his wife realized that the gouged-out gashes
in the sides of the bananas on the kitchen table were from me and not his
wife’s paring of over-ripe areas.
Because of her histrionics he called in a professional
outfit whose technician, John, confirmed my intrusion. John put traps in the attic and placed traps
around the kitchen, den, and spare bedroom.
As good as he was, he couldn’t find my access route from the attic into
the kitchen; so I continued my nightly sojourns and dining by avoiding the
traps he had placed. Generations of my
species had implanted in my DNA an awareness of the dangers of both his sticky
and modern snap traps baited with peanut butter.
When the house-owners placed all foodstuffs inside the stove
and fridge, I tried to leave but could not get past the wire mesh that John had
placed across my one-and-only, original access opening where the A/C lines from
the compressor came up the outside wall into the attic.
My cleverness at bypassing the traps, at refusing to be
captured immediately, freaked out the wife into such a state that she exploded
in John’s face during one of his follow-up visits. Her hysterical eruption was so fierce that he
immediately called in his senior guru, Richie, who meticulously examined my
string of droppings and urine behind couches, beds, stove, fridge, and floor TV.
Driven by his anal determination to
catch me he discovered the openings under the kitchen cabinets above the toe
space that the builder had never closed off.
He found my entry holes.
I had heard of this legendary Richie from others in my
colony and knew I had to be extra vigilant in order to survive. I thought I was clever enough to do so…even
when he placed double-wide sticky traps under the cabinets near my entrance
holes. Surely my generations of evolved craftiness
would guide me.
Rodent Caught in Glue Trap
Alas Richie was craftier than I. He used peanut M&M’s as bait, and I fell
for it. And now I hear the man coming
into the kitchen…stopping as he hears my scratching. I know what’s coming. I heard Richie’s instructions. I just hope he’s quick about it. He hesitates.
I hear him mutter softly that he’s sorry to do what he must do, but his
wife is so distraught that he has no choice.
He must keep me from escaping by unrolling my fur from the glue. He takes another glue trap and places it
gently over me to make a rat sandwich with me as the meat. The last thing I see is his foot stepping
down to squeeze the life out of me. Our
battle is over.
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