Wednesday, August 13, 2008

News on the Thirteenth

Today is the 13th and as usual, I’m curious on this “unlucky” day to read the news. In my case it means the New York Times, unless I find the time to visit online publications and other sources.

Russia’s czar Vladimir Putin has decided to teach little Georgia a lesson and has ordered an attack on the country, causing countless deaths and injuries. One would have thought that he had more respect for the home of his idol from the past, Iosef Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, better known to us as Josef Stalin. Georgia’s friends in the West have been watching the bloodbath and destruction helplessly. American opinion has no clout after our invasion of Iraq and the plummeting dollar. Our verbal protests carry as much weight as, let’s say, Argentina’s. Even if we wanted to help Georgia militarily, we simply don’t have the resources. Sometimes I wonder what prevents the Mexican army from crossing the border and taking back what was once theirs, from Texas to California. At present we probably couldn’t stop them unless we withdrew our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan in a hurry.

There is a horrifying story on the front page of the Times about the imprisonment of an Indo-Chinese-born but very American man who at some point in the 1990s overstayed his visa. Married to a U.S. citizen, he was applying for a green card when he was arrested and jailed for this “crime”. Never mind that Mr. Ng was a computer engineer in the Empire State Building and had two young American-born sons, in addition to his wife. A few months back he started complaining about excruciating back pain but the detention center officials just accused him for faking his illness and refused medical help. Pleas for a wheelchair were laughed at. He was taken shackled for a purposeless long car ride just to prove he was "well". Finally a judge ordered him to be medically evaluated in a hospital and a MRI discovered a cancer that had spread throughout his body and a fractured spine. He died five days later, with a guard at his side to prevent him from escaping. In my view of justice the people refusing his cries for help should be tried for murder and torture, but knowing how law works in this country, they will at the most receive a slap on a wrist. After all, we can sleep better now that this dangerous individual no longer lives among us.

So, the Chinese managed to fool us all with the cute and pretty nine-year-old Lin Miaoke singing at the opening of the Beijing Olympics. The real voice belonged to an even younger 7-year-old Yang Peiyi, who wasn’t judged as visually appealing as young Miss Lin. So, even in this Communist-Capitalist country it is the eye-candy factor that matters the most. The truth managed to leak and the officials behind this lip-syncing farce rushed to explain that the reason was for “national interest”. The Chinese are learning the American ways with astonishing speed. In our country it is essential that a performer falls into the eye-candy category these days, never mind the skill. I first became aware of this a long time ago in an orchestra setup. A youngish female string player had exhibitionist tendencies and dressed up accordingly for concerts, in spite of an agreed dress code. I asked the conductor about this and he just remarked that the female in question was “so sexy” and asked if I had noticed her stiletto heel shoes. I just shrugged and remarked that I didn't have a foot fetish; perhaps I didn’t know what I was missing. Today we wouldn’t hear the violin playing of a Ginette Neveu, Erica Morini or Ida Händel as none of these great instrumentalists would have fit the required mold. Seeing them in semi-nude pictures, as is today’s style, would have turned audiences and buyers of recordings away for good. Perhaps we could have a string player’s version of lip syncing, let’s call it bow syncing, and have a visual crowd pleaser with a silent instrument “playing” to the music-making of a hidden master.

To top today’s good news, one mustn’t skip the article about people either getting married or divorced, not because of love or lack of it but to gain access to health insurance. It never ceases to astonish me how the U.S. is the only “civilized” country that doesn’t take care of its people’s basic needs. We spend more money per capita than anyone on health care but have little to show for that. Even in poor Latin America adequate health care costs a fraction of ours and is available even if the patient has a pre-existing medical condition.

There is one other disturbing art-related article in the NYT which I might visit later on. In the meantime, enjoy the Olympic Games and the fact that American news media has decided to count all medals where the U.S. leads as of now with 29 to the host country’s 27 in totals. The golden ones are the only ones that matter to the Chinese and this is where the count is 17-10 in their favor. Had the results been reversed, I’m sure our media would have used the gold medals as basis for being the “best”. As usual, the mission has been accomplished and we should feel pleased.
Lin Miaoke (top), Yang Peiyi