March 2009 Archives
Lindsay Koob, Charleston City Paper's critic, reports today that the orchestra's musicians, staff, and conductors agreed to a pay cut of nearly 23 percent in the form of eight weeks of furlough -- shortening the 2009-2010 season from eight months to half a year.
The musicians voted on the proposal Friday and the results were announced before last night's Masterworks concert by the chairman of the board. The average salary for musicians is likely to be well under $20,000.
By the way, that's below the poverty line for a family of four.
The unofficial scuttlebutt is that the board threatened to stall selling tickets for next season, a good source of revenue that can be used right now, if the musicians didn't agree to the pay cut. That threat was made explicit during a meeting days before the voting deadline.
Later Roman writers believed the rebellion, which scorched the countryside and beat nine Roman armies, could have been avoided. Strauss says Roman sources blamed Rome's leaders, not the guerilla fighters, for the war, because it could have been avoided were Spartacus not inspired by a desire for revenge.
Add to that a revolt fueled by religious fervor. Spartacus was a charismatic leader who whipped up support by calling on the name of Dionysius, a revered god of rural Italy, where he got most of his 60,000-man army. Strauss says it's not too much of a stretch to call the rebellion a jihad waged for the sake of God's revenge.
Strauss also points out what became obvious after a while -- the enormous similarities between then and now. America is an empire by any standard in world history. It's also a superpower like Rome. The latter was bogged down in a insurgency just as the former has been in Iraq and will be again in Afghanistan. The old empire fought men who believed they were on the right side of God, just as this new empire has been in the Middle East.
"The similarities leap off the page," Strauss says.
You can read the interview at Creative Loafing Atlanta.
Evidently, Strauss isn't alone in finding similarities between then and now. The coming months promise at least a handful of titles focusing on ancient Rome. I don't know how tight the comparisons are, but the volume at this moment is worth taking note of. They are:
- How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower (published May 5, 2009) by Adrian Goldsworthy
- Blood in the Forum: The Struggle for the Roman Empire (May 20, 2009) by Pamela Marin
- 428 AD: An Ordinary Year at the End of the Roman Empire (May 28, 2009) by Giusto Traina
- Spartacus and the Slave War 73-71 B.C.: A Gladiator Rebels Against Rome (July 21, 2009) by Nic Fields and Steve Noon
[Full story . . . ](http://www.indyweek.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A329525)
"Everyone before [Reagan] said that people can't be the authors of their own lives," Purdy says. "The role of government was to create order out of disorder, so that if we can't control these forces alone, we can together. Reagan rejected what was a consensus for most of the 20th century."
Reagan was influenced by economic thinkers such as Milton Friedman and polemicists such as Ayn Rand, but he also believed in a mythical American type previously envisaged by Jefferson and Emerson--rugged, individualist, self-reliant. And though he replaced regulation with a sink-or-swim ideology, it was very inspiring. No president since has dared to say Americans can't do anything.
"Reagan seized the moment," Purdy says of the 1980s, a time when people were still feeling disaffected by Vietnam and soured by the Civil Rights Movement and economic stagflation. "He said we are all free to dictate our own lives. As long as the idea works, it's powerful."
But does it work anymore? And if it doesn't, what ideas will emerge to replace Reagan's politically influential dogma of individualistic freedom?
The bunnies were always mediated, of course, but something about the earlier photographs made you forget the medium and feel as though you were staring straight into the eyes of a luscious partner. Enthusiastic photoshopping has aided the transformation. Gone are the freckles and downy arm hairs of the predecessors. Breasts are surgically standardized; gym routines and spray tans produce identically toned and tinted bodies. Girls of all ethnicities blend together into one latte-colored woman, and the result looks computer-generated. When you try to imagine how the models might feel and smell, things like rubber come to mind.I happened to read Young's piece before [interviewing Ed Coyle](http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A65512), a photographer of [black-and-white nudes](http://www.egcoyle.com) here in Charleston who loves women the way Hugh Hefner loves women. The difference is that Coyle's nudes do not blend together into "one latte-colored woman." Coyle's nudes are of course mediated through his lens and his eye, but they are not blurred into a composite ideal of sensual femininity. Instead, he seeks out what makes an individual women distinct (most of them in their 30s and 40s, many of them having borne children) and therefore what makes her beautiful. Beauty is in the freckles and curves and appearance of comfort. It was charming to discuss the craft of man so clearly enamored of women, especially older women, he says, who "get it," but also so clearly in love with the discovery of their beauty.
[Full story . . . ](http://www.pittsburghcitypaper.ws/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A59911)
Padgett, a New Yorker who visits the International Poetry Forum on March 11, has mastered the art of surprise. He leads you down avenues of free association, and you can't see where he's going until he gets there. The effect is a cloud of uncertainty zapped by a delightful snap of light, as in a seasoned comic's polished standup routine.
Rather than being merely witty or self-effacing, Padgett's comic sensibility is often leavened with a pinch of bittersweetness -- as when he muses on his dead mother or on a friend, the poet Kenneth Koch -- or a dollop of alienation. "Country Room" seems at first a clever play on the slipperiness of language. But on a deeper level, it appears to touch on the fundamentals of the universe -- matter, space and time -- while addressing humanity's struggle to find meaning amid evident meaninglessness.
[Full story . . .](http://www.nypress.com/article-19452-sleazy-street.html)
An economy spiraling downward might be a good thing. For sex, anyway. Historically, these two forces have been at odds.When the economy goes down, public expressions of sexuality go up. When stock portfolios are making bank, people tend to get prissy.
This dialectic between sex and money was a surprise discovery for Kat Long, author of the forthcoming history of sex called The Forbidden Apple. She couldn't believe few had written about it. There are niche books aplenty about gay men in 1970s New York, but little about the competing forces of "good and evil," as she calls it, a pendulum that has swung faithfully since New York's Gilded Age, where Long begins her sordid tale.
"When the economy is bleak, sex culture becomes more visible on a street level," says Long, a former editor at GO magazine and contributor to BUST and the late Playgirl. "I think people need escape. Simple needs still need fulfilling. And these don't change. It's human nature. The question is how the sex industry adapts to these times."
In 1932, the country was facing a credit crisis the likes of which had never been seen. Americans were losing their jobs, their houses, and their life savings as the stock market crashed and banks collapsed.
To stymie a plunge that could last years, Hoover OK'd the renewal of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to recapitalize the financial sector, infusing $2 billion--a "staggering amount" at that time, Leuchtenburg reminds us--into banks, insurance firms, railroad companies, and other finance institutions. Will Rogers wrote that the bankers had "the honor of bring the first group to go on the 'dole' in America."
But efforts to save the banks and stimulate the economy from the top down backfired. Banks were still closing, though at a slower rate, and instead of loosening up credit markets, as the bailout was intended to do, banks found a way to use the millions to shore up their own holdings.
New York Senator Robert Wagner, a progressive critic of the Hoover administration, responded to this blank-check strategy by zeroing in on the fatal flaw of Hoover's economic ideology: Even in extraordinary times, even in the face of starvation, Hoover believed welfare would impair the character of the needy and rob benefactors of the opportunity to exercise voluntarism and civic duty. Wagner, like many others, was stunned by Hoover's decision to bail out banks. "We did not preach to them rugged individualism," he said:
We did not sanctimoniously roll out sentences rich with synonyms of self-reliance. We were not carried away with apprehension over what would happen to their independence if we extended them a helping hand.... Must [the individual] alone carry the cross of individual responsibility?
I don't think Leuchtenburg intended his biography to reflect so acutely our current hardships. His aim was to paint a not unsympathetic portrait of a hard man to have sympathy for. But as I zipped through this lucid book, I kept trying to think of a good word to describe the feeling of my frequently being taken aback. History repeats itself, sure, but how often does it do so with such vengeance?[Full review . . . ](http://newhavenreview.com/?p=300)