Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Monday, December 29, 2014

Concerning "Pure Evil"
Posted on November 26, 2014

   Having just read Timothy Snyder's Bloodlands, I want to note that the Pure Evil piece contains several factual errors.  It is also probably the case that my philosophical argument is less than sound.  I don't intend to rewrite the piece to correct it, but merely wish to warn readers to take it with a pinch (at least) of salt.  However, I may work myself up to some comments about Bloodlands, a revealing and  in many ways a brilliant book. But I just finished it and want to think about it some more.  Meanwhile, Happy Holidays. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holiday Greetings

   Now that I have a blog, I will use it rather than email or, God forbid, snail mail, to send off my greetings for the holidays. To make this a happy or at least a cheerful holiday, we must all manage to steer our attention away from American politics, which have certainly reached a low for the entire period since my arrival in this country on March 9, 1939. Alas, a cheerful holiday also requires looking away from what is going on in the rest of the world. There have been worse periods than the present; if you have forgotten, read Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands, which I have, reluctantly, finally started to read. But we are hardly living in an Era of Good Feeling. However, I am not asking you to put your head in the sand, since that metaphor applies to people who might do something about the situation they are ignoring. I doubt that anyone who reads this is privileged or damned to be in that position.
   With that pompous introduction out of the way, let me simply say that I am thriving in my third year here in Mexico City. Thriving, to be sure, considering that I will be 88 in a couple of months. I do just about daily walks in different areas of our neighborhood: my exercise! But I spend much more of my time at my desk and computer, starting quite early in the morning with the NY Times, an addiction, and going on to various writing projects, another addiction.
   But that computer is also the source of another kind of satisfaction, since it allows me to be in touch with (son) Mark and (his wife) Shannon in Los Angeles and with a great many friends, going back to Eric (nĂ© Erich), a fellow-Heidelberger, to many acquired on my sojourns through different states and institutions. Email much more than the telephone saves me from feeling isolated from people I can no longer expect to encounter in person.
   Central to my life, however, is the fact that I am part of a family and not in an institution, however plush, of strangers-become-acquaintances of my own generation. There are four of members, two of each generation, though this fall Max has begun his course of higher education at the Rhode Island School of Design, leaving a void here when he is in Providence. Eva is of course still around, but a trip to inspect several colleges this fall foreshadowed her own departure before not all that long, to assent to the next stage in life.
   One of the great advantages of joining a well-functioning family is that I don’t have to be a leader. To put this more modestly, I am mostly not required to make decisions about what to do next, though I am of course free to do so. The Salazars are an active bunch and mostly I join in the activities, gustatory, musical, or outings from shopping to holiday excursions. We are about to depart for such a one to spend a few days on the beach at Manzanillo, concluding with a Christmas visit with Miguel’s siblings in Guadalajara.
   I want to conclude this overview of my doings by stressing that none of these doings would be possible without the quite remarkable versatility of my clarinetist-daughter, Eleanor. Somehow Ellie calmly keeps half a dozen balls up in the air: her orchestra job and chamber music gigs, her clarinet students, the supervision of two lively and active kids, a husband and a household and more. To all that she has added the patient maintenance of an elderly father. I am lucky; to Ellie, Miguel, Max, and Eva I am grateful.
   To all of you out there in cyberspace my warm wishes for a very pleasant holiday season, but, above all, for a good and healthy 2015.

December 17, 2014

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Death of The New Republic
   I’ve subscribed to the New Republic give or take for fifty years. It certainly had its ups and downs during that long stretch, but its Gestalt has essentially remained the same. It purveyed intelligent political and literary commentary that was up to date, but not “mod;” it was seldom doctrinaire, if not always rigorously liberal. I never hesitated to renew my subscription.
   The cast of characters that wrote for the TNR, not to mention the people who guided TNR’s ability to bring out a very worthwhile publication, were a squadron of writers and editors, performing a considerable variety of tasks—and at a very high level of both competence and imagination.
   Thanks to the astonishing ineptitude of Chris Hughes, the late-adolescent new owner of TNR, they are all gone!  But perhaps it was not at all ineptitude, since the proposed changes included a move from Washington to New York; and surely the new “management” could not have expected that a dozen or so people would uproot themselves and their families to follow so insecure a trumpet.
   But if not ineptitude, what has happened was willful destruction. Why do I say that? Because now nothing, yes nothing is left of TNR; the issue “celebrating” its 100 years of publishing will be the last. Again, why do I say that? Because in the five or so pieces I have read about the changes at TNR, not a single sentence appeared about the envisaged substance of the new publication; the entire stress has been on form—on process, with some high falutin’ terms freely slung around. The brains of the outfit, including a number of very distinguished authors were in effect fired, since the circumstances that were created required the resignation of anyone with a modicum of self-respect.
   Who will their successors be? Where will the new brains of the outfit come from? Which of the brethren of the departing will want to take their place? Has the new “management” thought that through and identified the TNR of the future. I am very very doubtful, since it would have been to their great advantage to regale the public with their substantive vision of the future.
   Maybe 100 years is an age that even most publications cannot outlive. Money will keep this one propped up for a while, but I envisage that it won’t be long before it becomes appropriate to recite the mourner’s Kaddish: Yisgadal v'yiskadash sh'mei rabbaw (Amen)bB'allmaw dee v'raw chir'usei . . . .