Thursday, February 5, 2015

Evanston: Star Chamber; Patrick O'Brian; voices

        A review in the NY TIMES caused me to buy and read GUANTANAMO DIARY by Mohamadeu Ould Slahi.  Before publication following a long legal battle, the book was edited by the U.S. government and much of it redacted, causing one to expect that the government would not have permitted falsehoods to pass.  If what is left in the book is true, we have resurrected the Star Chamber and betrayed the American Revolution.
        As is well known, I was jailed for a couple of weeks in Saudi Arabia falsely accused of being a spy.  If I had known from the beginning that I was going to be held for two weeks, I would have resigned myself and started to countdown.  But I didn’t.  No one knew where I was and I could have been held forever.  That was terrible.
        Mohamadeu Ould Slahi has now been held for more than thirteen years solely upon the decisions of bureaucrats, who we know never make mistakes.
        If there is evidence he has committed a crime, he should be put on trial.  If not, he should be released.
        Someone must have said, If you become like your enemy in order to defeat him, your enemy has won.
        If no one has, I just did.


        A while ago Dave sent me a link to an article about the 100th anniversary of the birth of Richard Patrick Russ, who became better known as Patrick O’Brian, the author of the twenty nautical novels in the Aubrey-Maturin Napoleonic War series.
        I’ve read two or three at widely scattered intervals and never quite got into them.  Dave’s email caused me to start at the beginning with MASTER AND COMMANDER—quite a different tale than the Russell Crowe movie of that name.  
        I enjoyed it, though perhaps not quite as much as I recall enjoying the Hornblower novels long ago, and have now downloaded the next four in Kindle Editions.  I just began number two, POST CAPTAIN.
        I may have to live past eighty to finish them all.  And by then it’ll be time to circumnavigate again.


        Lately I have been listening almost exclusively to vocal music, much of it recommended by readers.
        I am still listening to Mark Knopfler’s PRIVATEERING.  And I’ve listened to Brian Cockburn’s other compositions.  I particularly like his ‘Stabat Mater’.  I did not know that the original ‘Stabat Mater’ was a 13th Century hymn to Mary, the mother of Jesus.
        The novel GERONTIUS caused me to buy Elgar’s magnificent THE DREAM OF GERONTIUS
        Tim brought Respighi’s CHURCH WINDOWS to my attention; Nancy, Elgar’s SEA PICTURES, of which my favorite is ‘The Swimmer’; and Bobby, David Lang’s original and beautiful Pulitzer Prize winning, THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL PASSION.  I thank them all.
        David Lang’s work is a Passion, as in the Passion of Christ, without in Lang’s words ‘either Bach or Jesus’, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story, ‘The Little Match Girl’, who is beaten by her father, sent out at Christmas time to sell matches, and freezes to death in cold and indifference.
        I am only an audience to music and not qualified to analyze it.  For that matter I wouldn’t want to anyway.  I don’t analyze good writing; I just enjoy it.  But the phrasing in the piece is unusual and arresting; and some of the music sounds to my untutored ear like Medieval chant.
        The rendition of THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL performed by the Theatre of Voices, Paul Hiller and Ars nova Copenhagen, I bought from iTunes came with a digital booklet which includes the words.  They are worth following.
        This is wondrous music.