Monthly Archives: December 2014

Opinion: From Lima, a Munich moment — Chris Wood

Protesters filled Lima streets in the Climate March on December 10. Photo by (Enrique Cuneo/AP Images for AVAAZ, © Avaaz.org

Protesters filled Lima streets in the Climate March on December 10. Photo by Enrique Cuneo/AP Images for AVAAZ, © Avaaz.org

By Chris Wood, NATURAL SECURITY opinion columnist   

There’s no pleasure in saying, ‘I told you so,” over the Lima climate conference. Unhappily, I did. International delegates meeting in the Peruvian capital reached a beyond-last-minute ‘agreement’ on reducing climate-disruptive greenhouse emissions by, in essence, kicking all the hard goals down the road and leaving the maximum possible room for fudging the numbers later.

Class warriors for the North’s wealthy have already dismissed the failure to reach a deal to secure the climate as inconsequential (because, you know, the science isn’t ‘settled’), and blamed it on the poor (and, by implication in their Randian world-view, undeserving) countries’ underhanded desire to transfer their patrons’ assets to the South.

There is enough of a grain of truth to this charge to sell it holus bolus to those inclined to believe it anyway. The poor countries of the world do want the financial help of the rich to deal with the ravages being wreaked on their populations and economies by a destabilizing climate.

What the yawping apologists for plutocracy overlook, of course, is that much of the North’s wealth has come at the cost of depredation in the global South (I give you the Canadian mining industry abroad as Exhibit A), and that virtually all of the instability, volatility and rising violence of the climate, is down to our fossil fuel addiction.

But never mind. Lincoln was only partly right; Goering—in this—was closer to the mark. You only need to be able to fool enough of the people, and the right ones, long enough, to bring them “to the bidding of the leaders” And that, the Nazi Reichsmarschell added, “is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked.”

This will wind up the same way for the ecologically over-leveraged human race as Goering’s politics did for Germany: with cities in ruins and ragged survivors haunting the countryside for food.

Probably this will not be the end of the human story. It is evident, if hardly equitable, that some places are more resilient than others against the collapse of natural security. Resistances are forming. But we have passed a Munich moment.

Copyright Chris Wood 2014

Further reading:

Lima Accord announced on climate, F&O Frontlines update

Chris Wood’s NATURAL SECURITY column

 

If you value our journalism, please help sustain us by buying a day pass or subscription. Facts and Opinions is an online journal of first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: choice journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.

Click here to purchase a $1 day pass or subscription, from $2.95 per month to $19.95 annually. Subscribe by email using the form on the right to our free FRONTLINES blog. Find news in REPORTS; commentary, analysis, magazine and arts writing in OPINION/FEATURES, and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS.  Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and check our Contents page for regular updates.

 

 

Posted in Current Affairs Tagged , , , |

Lima Accord announced on climate

Blue Marble

Every country would be required to submit a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Lima Accord announced Sunday at global climate talks in Peru.

The Lima talks aimed to set ground rules for a global climate deal between world leaders meeting late next year in Paris. That deal would kick in after 2020. Negotiators representing 196 counties talked in Lima about adaptation and resilience, boosting a “Green” global fund, and emissions. Their agreement includes a commitment to raising public awareness of climate change in schools and national development plans, among other items.

The timing of Sunday’s agreement does not bode well. The “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” came two days after  Friday’s scheduled deadline, reportedly due to wrangling over details by factions split between rich and poor countries. 

Sunday’s announcement called the agreement “significant progress,” and in a nod to reality noted that adapting to climate change was raised to the same level of importance as acting to “to cut and curb emissions.”

Nations have “a far clearer vision of what the draft Paris agreement will look like as we head into 2015 and the next round of negotiations,” the release said, quoting Manuel Pulgar-Vidal,  Minister of the Environment of Peru and the COP President. It quoted other officials citing the “positivity” of the talks, and congratulating each other.

Some observers expressed optimism about the Lima agreement. “Negotiators found common ground on the most pressing issues,” said  Jennifer Morgan, Global Director, Climate Program, World Resources Institute, in a statement as the talks wrapped up Saturday. 

Whether the Lima talks have produced mere hot air, or substantive progress, may be determined next year in Paris. That is the next of a a long series of talks named after host cities, each marked by the effusive production of  lengthy documents full of long words, and until now followed by little or no action.

The Lima meeting was preceded by the fifth and most comprehensive report by the world body of climate experts.  It warned that climate change caused by humans will result in food shortages, mass extinctions and flooding, said the science is now 95 per cent conclusive, and that today’s climate change is unprecedented. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said  that the world must act, together and immediately, on adaptation and mitigation, some changes are already inevitable, and said the risk of not acting is “extreme.”

For the Lima Accord to make a difference, citizens and governments worldwide will have to pay attention and act. Don’t hold your breath. The vague and wordy accord was buried by global news media even before its release, by  massive coverage of a stupid stunt by Greenpeace activists. The Greenpeace team defeated their message by damaging a 1,500-year-old World Heritage Site on the Nazca desert in Peru, which they trampled to create a sign visible from the air, “TIME FOR CHANGE!”

The Nazca culture is believed to have collapsed in about 750 AD. Experts theorize the Nazca people failed to adapt to climate change, having altered their landscape in ways that reduced resilience. 

— Deborah Jones

Participants at climate talks in Lima, at Plenaria-de-Cierre. Photo by H. Berninzon, © COP20

Participants at climate talks in Lima, at Plenaria-de-Cierre. Photo by H. Berninzon, © COP20

If you value our journalism, please help sustain us by buying a day pass or subscription. Facts and Opinions is an online journal of first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: choice journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.

Click here to purchase a $1 day pass or subscription, from $2.95 per month to $19.95 annually. Subscribe by email using the form on the right to our free FRONTLINES blog. Find news in REPORTS; commentary, analysis, magazine and arts writing in OPINION/FEATURES, and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS.  Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and check our Contents page for regular updates.

 

Posted in Current Affairs Tagged , , , |

Boris Johnson: schemer or charmer? — Manthorpe

British Conservatives and the public must soon decide whether Boris Johnson is as he portrays himself — a charming Bertie Wooster, whose eccentricity masks a proven ability at administration as Mayor of London – or someone a good deal more scheming and sinister. An excerpt of  International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe’s new column, The Boris Show heads for prime time (subscription needed):

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London who unashamedly lusts to be Tory Prime Minister of Britain, clearly relishes his role as a source of public entertainment.

In his nearly two decades in the public eye, Johnson has made buffoonery a high political art form. And public delight at his verbal indiscretions, temperamental inability to parrot contemporary political correctness, willingness to make a fool of himself, and genial, basset-hound features have aligned into considerable political backing.

That backing has seen him elected Member of Parliament for Henley in 2001 and the directly elected Mayor of Metropolitan London in 2008. In 2012 he was re-elected amid the euphoria of the London Olympics. Now Johnson has announced he plans to run again for the House of Commons in next year’s election and no one doubts he has his eyes set on supplanting Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron. Even Johnson has stopped denying his ambition. He used to say he had “as much chance of becoming Prime Minister has being decapitated by a Frisbee, blinded by champagne cork, locked in a disused ‘fridge’, or reincarnated as an olive.” However, he denies any plans to conspire against Cameron, who has many dissenters among the Tory backbenchers, and insists he will only be on hand “if the ball comes loose in the scrum.”

It is and often has been the habit of aspiring politicians to write books to try to give some gravitas to their ambitions. Look at Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices, for example. Johnson’s choice of subjects in his recently-published book on Britain’s wartime leader Winston Churchill is equally revealing. Leaving the reader to draw the parallels, Johnson makes the case that eccentricity has never been a barrier to holding high public office in Britain, and Churchill is a prime example. He also argues that Churchill created a character that the times demanded and played that part to perfection.  … log in to read The Boris Show heads for prime time (subscription*)

Click here to purchase a $1 day pass or subscription.  See Jonathan Manthorpe’s columnist page

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Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.

 

Posted in Current Affairs

A brief encounter with Brian Moore

At age 60, Irish writer Brian Moore decided to switch from novels to plays. However, as Arts columnist Brian Brennan reports, it was an experiment not destined to be repeated. An excerpt of Brennan’s Brief Encounters column, A Prolific Novelist on Diverse Themes: Brian Moore (subscription needed):

After 25 years of writing novels, Brian Moore was trying his hand at playwriting when I met him in Edmonton in 1981. He had adapted his novella Catholics for television in 1973 and now was preparing it for its Canadian stage debut at the Citadel Theatre. He was enjoying the experience of working with a theatre group, not least because it got him out of the house “As one goes on writing novels, one spends more and more time alone,” he said wistfully. 

Brian Moore

 
Moore had been living in North America for more than 30 of his 60 years, first in Montreal and more recently in Malibu, in California. You could still hear the unmistakeable sound of his native Belfast in his speech. While he often had to correct people’s pronunciation of his first name, Moore still pronounced it the way his Gaelic-speaking mother had sounded it out when he was a child: “Bree-ann.” 
Moore told me that being around actors and other theatre people gave him a welcome opportunity to recapture the kind of camaraderie he had enjoyed as a young reporter in Montreal when he moved to Canada in 1948. After sharpening his skills by writing pseudonymous thrillers, Moore settled into the life of a full-time novelist following the publication of what he considered his first serious literary work, Judith Hearne, in 1955. From that point on, Moore missed “the normal sort of working relationship that other people have” because novel writing kept him “divorced from ordinary day-to-day life.” 
But he didn’t want people to see Catholics – set in a remote island monastery off the coast of Ireland – as a metaphor for the isolated life of the writer. … log in* to read  Prolific Novelist on Diverse Themes: Brian Moore.

*You’ll find lots of great free stories on our pages, but much of our original work is behind a paywall — we do not sell advertising. We do need and appreciate your support – a day pass is a buck and a monthly subscription costs less than a cup of coffee.

Here is Brian Brennan’s columnist page;  here is F&O’s page to purchase a subscription or $1 site day pass

Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.

 

Posted in Current Affairs Tagged , |

Report released on CIA torture

Iconic image of Ali Shallal al-Qaisi being tortured in Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq

The infamous image of Ali Shallal al-Qaisi being tortured in Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq

Stark findings of torture and of the CIA misleading officials and the public are among the conclusions of a report released today by the outgoing Democrats on the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

As part of our Verbatim series, F&O provides a brief overview, selected excerpts, and links to the original report and other documents. An excerpt of Senate report on CIA torture, misleading, and mismanagement

From 2002 to 2007, America’s Central Intelligence Agency tortured prisoners to no avail; misled elected officials, journalists and the public; kept prisoners in conditions that led to their deaths, and “damaged the United States’ standing in the world.”

None of these allegations are new. Never before, though, have they come from the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which Tuesday released a set of official conclusions that can only be called damning.

The CIA acted in the context of the 9/11 terror attacks on the country, acknowledged committee chair Dianne Feinstein in her forward to the summary of the long-awaited report. But the context should not serve as an excuse, she said, “rather as a warning for the future   … continue reading Verbatim: Senate report on CIA torture, misleading, and mismanagement. 

 

If you value our journalism, please help sustain us by buying a day pass or subscription. Facts and Opinions is an online journal of first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: choice journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.

Click here to purchase a $1 day pass or subscription, from $2.95 per month to $19.95 annually. Subscribe by email using the form on the right to our free FRONTLINES blog. Find news in REPORTS; commentary, analysis, magazine and arts writing in OPINION/FEATURES, and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS.  Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and check our Contents page for regular updates.

Posted in Gyroscope Tagged , , |

Noteworthy

F&O’s Noteworthy series offers our picks of stories on the Internet: stories worth your while amid the torrent of infotainment.

This week:

For Firestone and Liberia, A Secret History Unearthed — long form journalism

By T. Christian Miller and Jonathan Jones, ProPublica, and PBS Frontline

A note from the American editors on this story:

Uncovering buried history is one of the great traditions of investigative journalism. 

With “Firestone and the Warlord,” ProPublica, in collaboration with PBS FRONTLINE, publishes the extraordinary, untold story of one chapter in Liberia’s civil war, one of the 20th century’s ugliest. The story explores the unexamined role of an iconic American company in the rise to power of Charles Taylor, a murderous politician hungry for power in one of Africa’s most volatile and vulnerable countries.

Firestone, by the early 1990s, had operated a giant rubber plantation in Liberia for more than 60 years, and in doing so had come to play a dominant role in the country’s economy and politics. Taylor, who would become one of the world’s most notorious war criminals, was at the time an ambitious rebel leader heading a ragtag assortment of fighters. He was looking to recruit soldiers and gain legitimacy.

Reporters T. Christian Miller and Jonathan Jones frame the events this way: Firestone needed Liberia and its rubber. Taylor needed Firestone for his rise to power. So when the war came, the killer and the corporation found a way to make peace.  … read the story on ProPublica’s site

Photos of the Year

Global news agencies highlight the photojournalism they deem best represents the year.

Agence France-Presse (in progress)

AP Photos of the Year

Reuters Best Photos of 2014

Los Angeles, City of Water

By JACQUES LESLIEDEC. New York Times

Sometimes humans do good. Too often, the perception doesn’t match the reality. Take Los Angeles, for example, which responded to a water crisis even before the California drought hit, and now leads the way in its approach to life-giving water. Excerpt:

 LOS ANGELES is the nation’s water archvillain, according to public perception, notorious for its usurpation of water hundreds of miles away to slake the thirst of its ever-expanding population… 

It has become, of all things, a leader in sustainable water management, a pioneer in big-city use of cost-effective, environmentally beneficial water conservation, collection and reuse technologies. Some combination of these techniques is the most plausible path to survival for all the cities of the water-depleted West…. 

More and more cities now face water constraints. In the West, where most climate scientists expect droughts to lengthen and deepen, the techniques being introduced in Los Angeles ought to be viewed not just as smart choices, but as requirements.  read the story on the Times site.

 

LAGUNA BEACH, California - Paddleboarder. Photo Deborah Jones © 2012

LAGUNA BEACH, California. Deborah Jones © 2012

 

Op-Ed Why women are leaving the tech industry in droves By Sue Gardner, Los Angeles Times

When I moved to the Bay Area in 2007 to run the Wikimedia Foundation, the first thing that struck me was the eerie absence of women. I’d spent most of my working life at the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., where we used to joke that women took power when the men went off to war in 1939, and afterward refused to give it back. At the CBC, easily half my colleagues, regardless of their gender, were overt, confident, unashamed feminists. 

The Bay Area tech community was different. In my first three months I had dozens of meetings with tech executives, entrepreneurs and investors, and the only women I met were scheduling the meetings and bringing drinks to the boardrooms. I started asking myself what year it was in Silicon Valley for women. Had we reached the point where we could wear pantsuits and play golf, or was it still the Mad Men era?

… we’re understanding the problem incorrectly. When I hear people talk about it, they use words like “encourage,” “support” and “nurture.” We advise companies to do a better job of “looking after” or “caring about” their women employees. We categorize the problem as though it were an issue of corporate social responsibility and as if we really believed women aren’t good enough and need coddling or remedial help.

That doesn’t fit my experience. The women I know in tech are tough, resilient and skilled. … read the LA Times story 

Carbon Emissions Past, Present and Future

By the World Resources Institute

Writes F&O Natural Security columnist Chris Wood: “The World Resources Institute has created a nifty visualization of where the greenhouse gasses have come from, and how much more we can safely release. As a Canadian, it’s startling to see how outsize our share has been compared to places with many more people.”  The interactive reveals how CO₂ emissions have changed over the past 150 years, based on data from WRI’s Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It shows much of the global “carbon budget” these emissions have used up, and what the future might hold. 

From F&O’s archives, in case you missed them:

Facts and Opinions Photo-Essay galleries: from African war zones to North Atlantic icebergs, to Burnaby Mountain. (Some of these require a subscription)

How does the IPCC know climate change is happening? By Mark Maslin

Climate change challenges the very way we organise our society. It needs to be seen within the context of the other great challenges of the 21st century: global poverty, population growth, environmental degradation, and global security. To meet these challenges we must change some of the basic rules of our society to allow us to adopt a much more global and long-term approach and in doing so develop a solution that can benefit everyone.

 ~~~

If you value our journalism, please help sustain us by buying a day pass or subscription. Facts and Opinions is an online journal of first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: choice journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.

Click here to purchase a $1 day pass or subscription, from $2.95 per month to $19.95 annually. Subscribe by email using the form on the right to our free FRONTLINES blog. Find news in REPORTS; commentary, analysis, magazine and arts writing in OPINION/FEATURES, and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS.  Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and check our Contents page for regular updates.

  

 

Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope

Facts and Opinions that matter this week

CCM Tackaberry skates worn by Jean Béliveau when he scored his 500th goal, on February 11, 1971. These are at the lac aux Castors Pavilion, Mount Royal, Quebec, Canada. Photo by Simon Pierre Barrette via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

READ: Thank you, Jean Béliveau. Photo of the skates Béliveau wore for his 500th goal by Simon Pierre Barrette via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

Facts and Opinions this week features two elegant pieces about people who mattered in the worlds of sports and music: E. Kaye Fulton’s tribute to “glorious gentleman” Jean Béliveau (open), and Brian Brennan’s Brief Encounter with conductor Mario Bernardi, who veered off the beaten path (subscription).

From the academy, don’t miss the essay by economist Warwick Smith, who won a New Philosopher award for The perils of the last human: flaws in modern economics. Our fate is not determined, even by the economy, Smith insists: “The fact that our economic system is a social construct means that we have made a choice, even if an unconscious one, and that we can remake that choice.”

Also from the academy comes a call by John Wright to repair the shattered democracy in some Western countries,  Ideal democracy hears both whispers and shouts.

Rod Mickleburgh marked World AIDS Day with a profile of Julio Montanter, a global leader in the war on HIV/AIDS, and Michael Sasges looked into the history of one of the most popular pieces of season music and the man, John Mason Neale, who popularized O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

Canadians of a certain age, and people in dozens of countries helped by her work, will remember humanitarian Lotta Hitschmanova, (AKA the “Atomic Mosquito”), profiled on on the 125th anniversary of her birth by Joyce Thierry Llewellyn.

Azerbaijan's Kelaghavi headscarfs are key to Azerbaijan culture. Photo by Retlaw Snellac, Creative Commons

Kelaghavi headscarfs are key to Azerbaijan culture. Photo by Retlaw Snellac, Creative Commons

In reports, we offer a photographic sample  of the cultural ‘intangibles’ UNESCO deems world-class treasures; a crime/science piece about how the cold case of the English King Richard III was solved 529 years after his killing; and a global report on transparency and corruption, in which it seems Nothing is rotten in Denmark.

Facts and Opinions columnists this week turned their attention to the far east and the United States.  Jonathan Manthorpe  nods at Shakespeare with Uneasy lies the head that wears Thailand’s Crown (paywall), and Tom Regan writes on the incendiary issue of police killings, Why the United States is perilous for young men.

We continue our ongoing work on energy and climate change issues, with upcoming stories on a pipeline protest on a British Columbia mountain, a video, and the third in Jim McNiven’s THOUGHTLINES series on oil price changes. Meantime, read Chris Wood’s column From Lima to Burnaby: the ‘Glocal’ Response to Climate (subscription), and drop  by our photo gallery, Pipeline Protest on Burnaby Mountain.

Finally, in case you missed them earlier:

Recent columns include On being a feminist by Tom Regan; Ferguson’s Damned Details, by Deborah Jones; and Jonathan Manthorpe on Zimbabwe, today – The Rise of “Gucci Grace,” Zimbabwe’s “First Shopper — and in Manthorpe’s own past, One man’s thrust for survival in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

Electric ink and aromapoetry  feature in Andrew Prescott’s science/arts piece about the much discussed “death of the book;” while Michael Sasges unearthed a research report that casts doubt on the effectiveness of bombing ISIS into submission, reported in  
Verbatim: Bombing to lose; air attacks bolster insurgents.

In arts, fans of the TV series Homeland will appreciate a piece about Carrie Mathison, and mental illness on TV, by Meron Wondemaghen, and an appreciation by Susan Fast: Michael Jackson: Posthuman.  Marguerite Johnson writes on grim fairy tales in Reader beware: the nasty new edition of the Brothers Grimm.

Ursula K. Le Guin’s call to action is worth a second look: F&O’s page includes the transcript and video of the American author’s attack on “ignorance and greed,” and demand for respect for artists in a perilous world in need of writers who “see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being.”

READ: Richard III – case closed, 529 years later. Skeleton of Richard III. University of Leicester photo

READ: Richard III – case closed, 529 years later. Skeleton of Richard III. University of Leicester photo

 

 

If you value our journalism, please help sustain us by buying a day pass or subscription. Facts and Opinions is an online journal of first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: choice journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.

Click here to purchase a $1 day pass or subscription, from at $2.95 per month to $19.95 annually. Subscribe by email using the form on the right to our free FRONTLINES blog. Find news in REPORTS; commentary, analysis, magazine and arts writing in OPINION/FEATURES, and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS.  Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and check our Contents page for regular updates.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Current Affairs Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Tom Regan on race, guns, and militarized death in America

Armed and dangerous, in the right circumstances, these members of the San Francisco Police Department were photographed in 2012. Wikimedia Commons

Facts and Opinions’ Seeking Orenda  columnist Tom Regan writes today on Why the United States is a perilous country for a young man, black or white. An excerpt of his new column:

There’s a deadly virus in the United States. Much more deadly than Ebola. (Two people have died of Ebola in this country.) The virus I’m talking about kills thousands of people every year. It’s a poisonous concoction of racism, police departments unaccountable to anybody but themselves and a tsunami of guns, guns, guns.

Alone, each of these problems is serious. But put all three of them together and you end up on a street in Ferguson, Mo., or in a playground in Cleveland, or a stairwell in Brooklyn. These are but a few locations where these three factors came together and someone was killed by a police officer as a result.

The racial problem is an obvious one. The whole idea of a post-racial America that resulted from the election of Barack Obama to the presidency is a joke. While it is significant that millions of Americans voted for a black man, the reality is that millions of others voted against him for the same reason. The ongoing racial attacks on President Obama by Republican and Tea Party members and legislators since his election in 2008 is well documented … click here to continue reading Why the United States is a perilous country for a young man, black or white.*

Tom Regan’s columnist page is here

*If you value our journalism, please support us by buying a day pass or subscription, and share the links to our stories, not our entire works.  Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, Facts and Opinions performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from non-journalism foundations or causes. We appreciate your support:  click here to purchase a $1 day pass, or subscribe.   Sign up in the form to the right, on our blog, to receive a free email subscription to blog posts and notices of new work. Contact us at Editor AT factsandopinions.com.

 

 
Posted in Gyroscope

On conductor Mario Bernardi, whose notes were “crystal clear, like pearls.”

Royal Conservatory of Music.

Royal Conservatory of Music.

Canadian conductor Mario Bernardi had a simple formula for making a small orchestra sound large. Every instrument should be impeccably tuned so that the notes are “crystal clear, like pearls,” he told  Arts columnist Brian Brennan. “That gives you the sense of a big sound without the quantity.” An excerpt of Brennan’s Brief Encounters column, Conducting Canada to Musical Maturity: Mario Bernardi:

They thought Mario Bernardi was crazy in 1969 when he left a prestige conducting job at the Sadler’s Wells Opera in London to start up a new orchestra from scratch at the National Arts Centre (NAC) in Ottawa. They also thought he was crazy in 1984 when he left Ottawa to take over as conductor of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO). But in each instance, Bernardi had a very good reason for moving. In each instance, he saw opportunity for growth.

“It was very limiting being an operatic conductor, especially in a repertory house like that,” he said of his experience with Sadler’s Wells, later the English National Opera. “If you did one that was a success, a Bohème or a Butterfly, you ended up conducting it maybe 30 more times during that season. Eventually you had to face the fact that you could be doing that all your life.”

As for moving to Calgary, it was a matter of trading a small orchestra for a bigger one. The NAC Orchestra was a 44-member chamber-sized ensemble, limited to playing the 18th century compositions of Haydn, Vivaldi and Mozart. After conducting them for 15 years, Bernardi knew the compositions inside out and was hungry for new challenges. The CPO, with its 64 players, allowed him to add the big pieces of Bruckner, Mahler and Wagner to his conducting repertoire. Log in to read Conducting Canada to Musical Maturity: Mario Bernardi  (paywall*).

*You’ll find lots of great free stories on our pages, but much of our original work is behind a paywall — we do not sell advertising. We do need and appreciate your support – a day pass is a buck and a monthly subscription costs less than a cup of coffee.

Here is Brian Brennan’s columnist page;  here is F&O’s page to purchase a subscription or $1 site day pass

Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.

Posted in Current Affairs Tagged , , |

A dying king, a hated crown prince, and Thailand in turmoil

The succession of the next royal head of Thailand is a tale of palace intrigue fit for a king. Here is an excerpt of International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe‘s new column, Uneasy lies the head that wears Thailand’s Crown:

Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok in 2010. Photo by Bhumibol_Adulyadej, Government of Thailand

Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok in 2010. Photo by Bhumibol_Adulyadej, Government of Thailand

It’s a story that would have William Shakespeare licking his lips and sharpening his quill.

The tale has everything that excited the creative juices of The Bard.

There’s a dying king, much loved and revered by his people for his care for their wellbeing. But waiting in the wings is a hated, rapacious and vindictive Crown Prince. Even the most fervent royalists among the people are consumed with anxiety about what may happen when the prince assumes the throne and grasps the powers of monarchy. There is a rival for the crown, the king’s daughter, who has earned the public’s affection because of her charity and good works. But it is unclear whether she has the desire or the will to challenge her brother for the throne.

There is the politically powerful and involved Queen, the king’s consort. She defends her husband’s interests, as she sees them, in alliance with scheming and manipulative palace officials.

In the background are three discarded princesses, wives of the Crown Prince. With them are their children, some of whom have lost their royal birthrights.

Beyond the palace walls are hugely wealthy merchants intent on limiting the power of the monarchy. And on the streets is an emotionally charged population, riven into factions, and all-too-often primed for violence.

This could be imperial Rome, medieval Denmark or Scotland, or Plantagenet England. But it is modern day Thailand… log in* to read  Uneasy lies the head that wears Thailand’s Crown

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Posted in Current Affairs