Monday, March 22, 2010

Toothless Tigers and the Constitution

A lame duck is an interesting term. Originally used in the stock market scene, it today describes someone who is about to leave his once-powerful position. Usually this is a political one but can also mean a departing head of an organization, such as a music director of an orchestra. The dictionary also gives us this explanation: one that is weak or that falls behind in ability or achievement (Merriam–Webster). Often it is difficult to see the difference between the last meaning and the usual one.

Relatively recently we witnessed a rather sad era when George W. Bush was at the end of his presidency and the financial world was collapsing around him. GWB was of course chosen by his party as a folksy figurehead as he tended to be well-liked by ordinary people and even by the media. The real power behind the White House was in the hands of his VP Dick Cheney, who perceived himself above all laws, including the Constitution. Toward the end of second term of Bush–Cheney, the President finally understood (or was made to see) how he had been used like a pawn and put his foot down, causing a rift beyond repair. Cheney, all of a sudden, was like a mighty tiger whose teeth had been pulled out and who had been declawed in the process. Gradually, lawlessness began to disappear and Bush tried to clean up some of the mess caused by his second-in-command. The economic disaster couldn’t be helped and it became a big headache for President Obama as well as for the rest of the world. However, the presidency was named after George W. Bush and history cannot treat his eight years in office with kindness.

Some years ago this blog and that of my spouse, Magic Moments, suddenly disappeared from all search engines. Clearly certain influential people wanted to silence us. I was mainly interested in Google as it is the search engine for most of us. A Bing is a Ding in value and I can’t remember the last time I used Yahoo’s search. I was told by someone in an expert position that someone with a lot of “pull” was behind this. Only after a publication sent an inquiry to Google with their questions  regarding us, our posts became searchable again. This morning I was reading news about Google redirecting their search service from Mainland China to Hong Kong, and this old issue resurfaced in my mind. A quick check on Bing and Yahoo made us not exist at all, or an ugly story about one of us was provided as a link. Clearly this was the case with Google, too, at one point but they came to respect one’s First Amendment rights. Does a financially broke organization or a law firm Beavis and Butthead’s Remains have that much clout? I doubt it. At one time a filter was activated and since no one seemed to care, it remained.

This city has almost no art coverage. I’ve been told of a sort of Blob where dismissed old ladies and their kind write online entries for money. You support them and get a glowing review in return. A community orchestra in a suburb of a suburb is “magic”. Magic will be needed for it to stay in business! Of course Dong has this blob service listed over and over again. I didn’t even bother to see what Boohoo does. If America prides itself with freedom of speech and expression, this all is in gross violation. I have even been given names of people responsible for silencing us but would not rather repeat them here as they would no doubt sue us. Although we are living comfortably, I don’t want to get into a legal battle with filthy rich characters with equally filthy sense of moral values.

A healthy art scene needs a transfusion of  fresh new blood every so often, as if it by nature suffers from anemia or some other similar disease. Without this healthy blood an organization begins to suffer and will soon be fighting for its life. It is a given that chief conductors, in this country called music directors, stay only a few years and then go elsewhere. This transfusion works  both ways and is essential to the artistic health of the individuals as well. Ideally, also musicians should not be stuck in one place but switch orchestras, just like actors and actresses go from one city and theater to another elsewhere. Who really wants to see only the same faces year after year and hear the same speaking, singing or instrumental voice time after time?  This is also true with soloists: one doesn’t usually perform in the same city more than once a year, unless it is your home town and big enough to offer multiple outlets; Itzakh Perlman in New York is a prime example, Isaac Stern before him. It is unheard of having one soloist perform with a major orchestra twice in a season, unless one is a singer in a secondary role, such as in Handel’s Messiah and Beethoven’s Ninth. Orchestra musicians also like to see fresh faces which is the reason for their desire to tour. Taking a bus to a neighboring town doesn’t qualify as such and crossing a river is not really going overseas. Unfortunately traveling is happening less and less frequently as the institutions are hemorrhaging financially. Touring with a smaller ensemble (chamber or classical orchestra) obviously is much less of a burden and thus more realistic to accomplish.

In some cities people in charge have far overstayed their welcome, and the health of the organization they are responsible for has worsened to the point of approaching death. Even if some old-time diehards manage to donate enough money for the group to limp along on life support, artistically it has one foot in the grave. Such people have for years been lame ducks in the sense that they’ve fallen back in ability and haven’t been a source of inspiration, to either the musicians or audiences in case of an orchestra. Those who continuously attend performances either have nothing better to do, or think that showing up is expected of them in their social circle. Eventually these quacks, the ducks, become truly lame: a once mighty cobra loses its fangs, a pitiful sight indeed, and is in danger of starving. Perhaps a collector of snakes would show mercy, take in the serpent as a new member of a reptile retirement home and have it fed a dead mouse or other small animal patiently by hand.

Bush Jr. had his Cheney and I sometimes wonder who truly has been behind all the often horrendous actions taken by these now lame quackers (check out definition #1). Is the now toothless tiger or fangless snake really the monster himself, or are there other forces involved, perhaps family members, strange friends, collectors or rich donors? Whatever, let them all go away. As people said to our former President: good-bye and good riddance.

Once a person no longer can harm his subjects, he indeed becomes powerless and an object of ridicule. It is easy to picture what Hans Christian Andersen had in mind when he wrote his famous tale Emperor’s New Clothes. As the fat despot, fallen victim to two swindlers, was parading in the nude,  it took a child to expose how laughable he looked with his fat belly. Even his masculine tool, which had frightened and ruined the lives of many young maidens, all of a sudden looked like dried fruit. Nothing would ever be the same for him. But that was how it should have ended; wasn’t that the moral of the story?
in illustration: a toothless tiger, red blood cells