Friday, January 15, 2010

What you may not know about Chopin

18 Things You May Not Know about Chopin

This is the 200th anniversary of Frederic Chopin’s birth, in Poland, in 1810, so we should be prepared to hear a good deal of Chopin’s music this year. And the amount of beautiful music he wrote is astonishing. Especially considering that he died, of tuberculosis, at only 39.
Here are some facts about Chopin that you may not know:

1. His most famous composition, known around the world, is his funeral march -- the third movement of his Sonata in B Flat Major. You might also recognize his Fantasie-Impromptu (turned into “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows”), his Étude in E Major (“Oh, Promise Me”), his Polonaise in A Flat Major (“Till the End of Time”).
2. His father, who was French, moved to Poland, where he married a Polish woman. Hence Chopin’s French name. He grew up in Poland, then went to Paris, the mecca for artists in the early 19th century.
3. He wasn’t interested in “program” music — music with a literary meaning. So forget about the “Raindrop,” the “Revolutionary Étude,” “Butterfly,” and so forth. He didn’t name them.
4. Like Mozart, whom he idolized, he was a child prodigy. He had some of his music published at the age of 8.
5. How he composed: “He would lock himself in his room for whole days, weeping, pacing back and forth, breaking his pens, repeating or changing one bar a hundred times, writing and erasing it many times, and beginning again the next day with an infinite and desperate perseverance. He sometimes spent six weeks on one page, only in the end to write it exactly as he had sketched it in the first draft.” – George Sand
6. No one plays the “Minute” Waltz in 60 seconds. (Usual time: 1:50. Perhaps it should be re-named the “Two Minute” Waltz.)
7. What kind of person was he? Contradictory. While he could be charming and considerate, a Polish girl who studied with him wrote that he was a “weird and incomprehensible man…. You cannot imagine a person who can be colder and more indifferent to everything around him…. He is heavily endowed with wit and common sense…but when he is evil and angry he breaks chairs and stamps his feet.”
8. He made anti-Semitic comments in his letters, but his biographer, Jeremy Siepmann, points out that such remarks were “common change” among the Polish at the time.
9. He could be snippy. Visiting England, he met with “one of the most highly regarded great ladies” in her castle—a woman “considered a great musician.” One day, after he played the piano, “they brought a kind of accordion, and she began with the utmost gravity to play on it the most atrocious tunes. How about that? Every creature here seems to have a screw loose.” (Lesson: If Chopin comes to visit you, leave your damn accordion in the closet.)
10. Contemporary critics, Siepmann reports, were surprised that “such a refined and accomplished musician could come from so provincial and primitive a place as Poland.”
11. Some critics considered his music not manly enough. Artur Rubenstein, the pianist, wrote: “Chopin the man was seen as weak and ineffectual…effeminate if appealing, dipping his pen in moonlight to compose nocturnes for sentimental young women.” Yet, far from being shallow, sentimental music, Siepmann has written, Chopin’s music is “of the highest sophistication and intellectual acumen.”
12. When he first met the novelist George Sand, whom he lived with for ten years, he declared: "What a repulsive woman Sand is! But is she really a woman? I am inclined to doubt it." At first they were lovers; as his health declined they became like mother and son. Her novels are seldom read these days except by students of 19th century French fiction. Charles Baudelaire (“The Flowers of Evil”) wrote: “She is stupid, she is ponderous, she is long-winded. Her moral ideas have the depth of judgment and delicacy of feeling of those of concierges and kept women.” Siepmann notes that posterity has agreed with him.
13. What a magnificent pianist! He could, it was said, strike a note in 20 different ways. His hands were small, but they seemed to expand to cover a third of the keyboard. Someone said Chopin’s fingers seemed to be without bones.
14. Chopin became so ill with tuberculosis, coughing up blood incessantly, that he weighed only 98 pounds. He wrote: “I have been sick as a dog during these past two weeks. Three doctors have visited me. The first said I was going to die; the second said I was breathing my last; and the third said I was already dead." George Sand: “His whole being is too delicate, too exquisite, and too perfect to exist long in our coarse and heavy earthly life.”
15. Several movies have been made about Chopin, one of the better ones being “Impromptu,” starring Hugh Grant as Chopin.
16. When he died, at his request, his heart was cut out and placed in a Polish church, where it remains today. (One reason: He was fearful of being buried while still alive.)

17. Christopher Morley wrote this poem, under the title “Reciprocation”:

One good nocturne
Deserves another,
Said George Sand
When she met Chopin.

18. Claude Debussy wrote, “Chopin is the greatest of us all, for he discovered everything through the piano alone.”


Monday, January 04, 2010

The End of Anti-Semitism

Hasn't anyone noticed?
Anti-Semitism is no more!
No one hates Jews anymore!
Isn't it amazing?

Of course, lots of people hate ISRAEL.
But they insist that they aren't anti-Semitic.
It's just an amazing coincidence that Israel, the country they hate, happens to be full of Jews....


Saturday, January 02, 2010

A Word for Israel's Enemies

A Word for Israel’s Enemies

I’ve been trying to think of a word – besides “crazies” -- that would accurately describe the people in the Woodstock area who are implacably hostile to Israel.
“Closed-minded” certainly seems appropriate. For years, Israeli civilians in the Sderot area endured rocket attacks from Gaza – 7,000 rockets. Even Justice Goldstone admitted that Israel had a right to retaliate. And President Obama, as a candidate, said, “The first job of any nation state is to protect its citizens. And so I can assure you that if...If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.”
None of the Israel haters has expressed any sympathy for those Israelis or any condemnation for the Hamas terrorists.
One response from the closed-minded was: Those rockets were primitive. Well, they were sophisticated enough to kill 13 people. And since when is trying to kill someone with a rusty .32 less heinous than trying to kill someone with a brand-new .45?
But “only” 13 were killed? Well, how many had to be killed for Israel to determine to retaliate? I know the answer. None. The fact that innocent civilians were imperiled was enough. And if relatively few died, it was because the Israelis installed warning sirens (as Goldstone himself noted, they had only 14 seconds to seek shelter), and buttressed their buildings.
Another word besides “closed-minded” suggests itself: “contemptible.” These people really are saying that they don’t care about deaths -- so long as it’s Jews who die.
Israel’s response was disproportionate?
First, the thousand or so who were killed in Israel’s attack included a great many Palestinian soldiers – cowards who hid among the civilian population and didn’t wear military uniforms. And the Israelis apparently did their best to target only the military.
A British colonel, Richard Kamp, former commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, has written: “When possible the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] gave at least four hours' notice to civilians to leave areas targeted for attack…. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. This sort of task is regarded by military tacticians as risky and dangerous at the best of times. To mount such operations, to deliver aid virtually into your enemy's hands, is to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable. But the IDF took on those risks.”
Later, “the IDF unilaterally announced a daily three-hour cease- fire. The IDF dropped over 900,000 leaflets warning the population of impending attacks to allow them to leave designated areas. A complete air squadron was dedicated to this task alone…. The IDF phoned over 30,000 Palestinian households in Gaza, urging them in Arabic to leave homes where Hamas might have stashed weapons or be preparing to fight. Similar messages were passed in Arabic on Israeli radio broadcasts warning the civilian population of forthcoming operations.
“By taking these actions and many other significant measures… the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other Army in the history of warfare.”
Why didn’t Israel cooperate with the U.N. Human Rights Council? Because the council is notorious for its anti-Israeli bias. As the Associated Press reported recently, Israel tends to ignore reports of the Human Rights Council, "which includes many Arab and Muslim countries [and] is hopelessly biased against Israel."

I have a question: Why didn’t Goldstone, who is actually an honorable if misguided man, agree to debate Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor? Dershowitz has nothing but contempt for the biased Goldstone report.
Another question: Why is Israel blockading Gaza? Isn’t it to keep weapons out of the hands of the Hamas terrorists? Is there something wrong with that?
And then there is Bill Campion of Mount Temper, who (1) bizarrely accused me of abusing St. Francis, (2) claims that I “celebrate” the killing of Palestinians (a lie), and (3) that I have really ticked off Osama bin Laden. I sure hope that (3) is true. And I want add that whenever someone as filled with blinding hatred as Campion is becomes apoplectic with rage, an angel sings.
As for those Jews who side with the crazies, I think that they are simply desperate for attention. They are life’s losers, lonely and unloved, like Tarak Kauff, the pretentious housepainter who writes all those ignorant, otiose, and verbose letters. “Crackpots” is another appropriate word.
Someone I respect a lot argues that these anti-Israel people are really neo-Nazis. “They are full of hate for Israel,” he tells me, “because Israelis are Jews. They want Israel and its Jews wiped off the map.”
I’m not sure that I would go that far.
But they sure are a loathsome bunch of creeps.
Creeps! That’s le mot juste, the perfect word!

Warren Boroson