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Drive-In Saturday:
Technicolor Pachyderms is Really Too Much for Me

Is it true, or merely a cliché, that Disney's Dumbo contains more camera angles than Citizen Kane

Whatever the case, Dumbo is very well made and features one of the Disney studio's more wackily inventive sequences, the cautionary tale of "Pink Elephants on Parade."  In today's featured video, some clever soul has combined the original footage with a performance of the song by Sun Ra and his Arkestra.  Sun Ra's version comes from Hal Willner's 1988 Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films, and is one of the best things in that collection.  (Tom Waits' dada version of "Heigh Ho" is not to be missed, either.)  As any flying elephant can tell you, space is indeed the place:

The synchronization between sound and vision breaks down a bit midway through that clip, when the Arkestra takes a more leisurely turn than the original arrangement.  Here for the purists is the same sequence as we all remember it from childhood -- provided we spent our childhood in Gdansk:

By way of a bonus, here is a tribute to the late Yma Sumac, incorporating her contribution to Stay Awake, "I Wonder" from Disney's Sleeping Beauty:

Yessir, that Miss Sumac sure could sing, when she wasn't brawling with the LAPD.


[Sun Ra and his proboscid pals via Yashar A. Sarami, whose weblog always makes me wish I could read Farsi.]

"What Did You Expect From an Opera? A Happy Ending?"

Tragedy on the Opera by bristley

In our freshly dismal economy, no one in the Arts game is having any fun.  This morning's Los Angeles Times fronted a story on the dire straits of the region's arts institutions.  Among the most notable recent casualties and developments:

  • Orange County's Opera Pacific has canceled the remainder of its 2008-2009 season, and after 22 seasons appears likely to disappear entirely.  As Tim Mangan reported in the OC Register, the company has eliminated virtually its entire staff and has placed its headquarters, "a large warehouse structure [with] almost 20,000 square feet of office, rehearsal, shop and storage space, " up for sale. 

On the Register Arts Blog, Tim suggests San Diego Opera, 70 miles south, as an alternative for opera-starved Orange Countyites.  I would counter with a reminder that Long Beach Opera is even closer and has a really interesting season coming up.  (Assuming, of course, that LBO survives when Opera Pacific has not.)

  • Meanwhile, in Manhattan, the New York Times reports this afternoon that the much anticipated (or in some circles dreaded) arrival of Gerald Mortier from Paris to take command of the perpetually struggling New York City Opera has come a-cropper over NYCO's inability to deliver the funding Mortier had been promised.  In proper Gallic style, Mortier was simultaneously gracious and insulting in announcing his decision to withdraw:
Speaking from his apartment in Ghent, Belgium, Mr. Mortier said he decided to resign when it became clear that the board would not give him the money needed to produce a meaningful slate of opera productions.  He said that from the start he had been promised a budget of $60 million, a number even mentioned in his contract.  But the board was prepared to approve only $36 million, he said, not much more than the basic fixed costs of running the company, leaving him little room for innovative productions. 

'I told them with the best will I can’t do that,' Mr. Mortier said. 'I cannot go to run a company that has less than the smallest company in France.'  Mr. Mortier is in the final year of running the Paris National Opera, which has a budget closer to $300 million. 'You don’t need me for that,' he said.
Lee Greenwood's main claim to fame is writing and singing the hit patriotic hymn "God Bless the U.S.A."  Soon Greenwood's blessing will matter on the American arts scene -- at least the part interested in tapping into federal largess via grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.  Appointed by President Bush and confirmed by the Senate, the Nashville-based country singer is scheduled to be sworn in Nov. 17 as one of the 14 regular members of the National Council on the Arts.  Council members advise the NEA chairman, and their portfolio includes reviewing and making recommendations on applications for grants from the $145-million-a-year federal agency.  Greenwood will serve a six-year term. 

Greenwood will be the only Bush appointee to the Council whose term will last through the first Obama administration.  I suppose the President's choice of Greenwood makes at least as much sense as Governor Schwarzenegger's recent appointment of Bo Derek as a member of the California Horse Racing Board.  (What? Was Cloris Leachman unavailable?  For either position?)


Photo: "Tragedy on the [Paris] Opera" by Flickr! user bristley, used under Creative Commons license.
Post title courtesy of B. Bunny.

On Proposition 8
(with surprise guests Benjamin, Peter and Franz)

Broken by messtiza

Before leaving politics behind and returning to the "culture and nonsense" theme for which this weblog is known, I feel obliged to remark on Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage initiative that appears, at this point, to have passed ever so narrowly.  I am on record in opposition to Proposition 8, and I am more than somewhat disappointed in my fellow Californians for voting as they've done, especially by such a frustratingly close margin.

At this writing, with something like 99.5% of the ballots counted, the Secretary of State shows the margin to be 52.5% "Yes" to 47.5% "No," a difference of just under 500,000 votes statewide.  Non-Californians should keep in mind that a "Yes" vote was a vote to amend the California Constitution to eliminate same-sex marriage by declaring that

Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

So "yes" meant "no" to same-sex marriage, and vice versa.

Proposition 8 amends the state Constitution, rather than enacting a new statute.  Other than that, it is identical to Proposition 22, which Californians passed by a better than 60-40 margin in the year 2000.  The California Supreme Court invalidated Proposition 22 earlier this year, on the ground that it violated the rights of citizens to equal protection of the laws when those citizens wish to marry and happen to be of the same sex.  The equal protection analysis referred solely to the California state Constitution; there has not been any particular indication from the U.S. Supreme Court that it would be inclined to consider same-sex marriage to be encompassed within the federal equal protection guarantees of the U.S. Constitution.  Because the California Supreme Court framed its decision in terms of what the state Constitution does or does not permit, the proponents of Proposition 8 took the direct and practical approach of amending the state Constitution to reinstate the policy of Proposition 22.

If there is any comfort to be had for gay marriage proponents in yesterday's results, it may come from comparison of the county-by-county map for Proposition 22 from 2000 with the county-by-county results for Proposition 8.  While the opposition to Proposition 22 prevailed in only six counties, sprinkled in the general vicinity of San Francisco Bay, Proposition 8 opponents carried the day in fifteen counties, spreading north, south and even to far-flung Mono and Alpine Counties on the Nevada border.  The maps tell the tale: over the past eight yeare there has been a substantial decline in total voter opposition and a significant geographical spread of support for same-sex marriage.

A number of disappointed commentators have criticized the California Supreme Court for bringing about marriage equality, temporarily, by judicial action rather than leave the issue to legislation or the ballot.  Megan McArdle's comments can stand for many others:

In general, courts are the wrong place to press these sorts of claims.  The courts were appropriate for civil rights because blacks were literally denied the right to participate in the legislative democratic process.  And on a practical level, they worked because a majority of people in the country were more than happy to force civil rights on an unhappy white southern minority.  Unfortunately, too many groups have decided that the success of civil rights can be widely applied to circumvent the electorate on issues where there is no public consensus.  Now widespread gay marriage seems quite a bit less likely for the near term than it would have been had we attacked the issue legislatively.

Equal protection challenges, however, have traditionally been the province of the courts.  The state Supreme Court's view was not that it was "creating a new right" to gay marriage, but that it was eliminating a barrier that stood between same-sex couples and the existing right to marry that every other couple enjoys.  The Court majority held that there are insufficient differences between the two groups to warrant different treatment.  Couples are couples -- just as in the Civil Rights era courts repeatedly held that people are people, each entitled to the same treatment under the law.  Proposition 22 created an impediment to equality among people, and the Court declined to enforce it.  Proposition 8 reinstates it.

At LA Observed, Kevin Roderick notes the declining numbers as one works down the ostensibly "progressive" positions on the California ballot: there is a decline of nearly a million votes between supporters of Senator Obama and the (successful) opponents of Proposition 4, the latest in our recurring line of anti-abortion "parental notification" proposals.  Proposition 4 opponents outnumber opponents of Proposition 8 by another quarter million or so.

Professor Bainbridge has the most interesting purely-legal take on the "what's next" question.  Because the definition of "marriage" is now ensconced in the California Constitution, one can't very well claim the ban is "unconstitutional".  The counter-argument apparently turns on how Proposition 8 got on to the ballot and whether it is an "amendment" or a "modification" of the state Constitution -- the sort of distinction that the legal conceptualist in me adores and that drives Real People crazy. 

  • In an update added while this post was in preparation, Professor B cites to his UCLA colleague Professor V [for Volokh] and concludes that Proposition 8 is most likely an "amendment," and therefore here to stay.
  • The original post includes an embedded YouTube version of the original, highly effective, pro-Proposition 8 ad, featuring the premature triumphalism of San Francisco Mayor (and likely 2010 gubernatorial candidate) Gavin Newsom.  Removed from its gay-marriage context, my wife is of the opinion that Newsom's crowing "It's gonna happen, whether you like it or not" would make a great -- and really annoying -- ringtone.


In a transitional move back to the "culture and nonsense" front, let's throw in a gratuitous reference to one of the premiere gay couples of the 20th Century: composer Benjamin Britten and tenor Peter Pears, who knew firsthand "the difficulties involved in maintaining a virtually open homosexual marriage in the sexually repressive 1950s." 

Although the post itself has vanished in a server accident, Tim Mangan a few weeks back on the OC Register Arts Blog embedded this video, in which Ben at the piano accompanies Peter in a selection from Schubert’s “Die schöne Müllerin”:

Coming soon: more culture.  Also more nonsense.


[Photo: "Broken" by Flickr! user messtiza, used under Creative Commons license.]

Hail to the Victors!
(Here's Hoping at You, Kid)

Hogarth - Chairing the Member 1785
William Hogarth
An Election Entertainment 4: Chairing the Member
1754-1755 [complete series viewable here.]


One of the signs you are becoming an adult in this country comes on the day that you realize that you are older than most of the people singing on the radio.  One of the signs that you have been an adult for rather a while comes on the day that you realize you are older than the President (or in this case the President Elect) of the United States.  *sigh*

Congratulations from this fool to all those candidates who prevailed in yesterday's elections.  Congratulations particularly to Senator Obama.  Don't get cocky, kid.

When the Inaugural celebrations have concluded in January, here's hoping that the members of our newly refurbished Government will be able to get over themselves and do their job for the nation.  Zealotry and self-importance are unseemly traits, no matter how worthy the perceived cause.  It is more true than not that, as Senator Obama said in his victory oration last night, "we have never been just a collection of individuals ... : we are, and always will be, the United States of America."  But we are, also, that collection of individuals, and the role of our government -- which belongs to us, not we to it -- should be to serve all while interfering as little as possible with each.  Neither major party's partisans embrace that notion with any real enthusiasm today, if they acknowledge it at all.  In your new era of "service and sacrifice," Mr. President, try not to lose sight of it.

Well done, sir.  Give our best to the new puppy.  Now I have to get back to work, and you do, too.

Questions and Antlers, Election Day Edition

Pinup the vote

I have spent most of my adult life as a registered Republican, and I have learned that the central challenge posed by that status, cycle after cycle, is to find a Republican candidate to whom I am actually willing to give my vote.  Finding Democratic candidates to oppose has been easy; finding Republicans to support has been hard. 

I cast my ballot twice for George W. Bush, both times because the Democratic candidate drove me to it.  In 2004, John Kerry was simply awful as even many Democrats admit.  In 2000, I was fully prepared to vote for Al Gore, until he threw my vote away with his blood-and-thunder "people vs. the powerful" tirade at the Convention.

With fewer than 24 hours remaining, I have decided this year to give the Presidential slot a miss.  Because this is California, there has never been any doubt that the State's electoral votes would go to whoever was the nominee of the Democratic Party, short of Satan himself (and even he might stand a fighting chance).  Senator Obama does not need my help to collect those votes, and I could not swing them to Senator McCain if I tried.

It is odd that I would choose not to vote for President this year, because the major parties gave me exactly what I wanted: each candidate was my preferred choice to receive his respective party's nomination.  Neither, however, will have my vote. 

Senator Obama has been sufficiently forthright for me to know I cannot vote for him because I disagree strongly with many of his central policies, but I will shed no tears when he is elected, as seems inevitable.  I wish him well in office, and I feel more than a little sympathy for his supporters: anyone investing that much Hope is bound to be disappointed in a world that sadly, campaign rhetoric aside, does not in fact operate on wishes, good feeling and pixie dust.

I expected at this time to be preparing to cast a ballot for Senator McCain, but he managed to throw my vote away every bit as effectively as Al Gore once did.  The McCain campaign has been, to my surprise and sorrow, an horrific display of every trait that has caused me to despair for the party these past years: the snippiness, the nastiness, the fear-mongering, the embrace of sentimentality in place of thought, and so on.  Not at all what I expected from this Senator, and a depressing spectacle that cannot end soon enough.

And, of course, there is the final deal breaker: Governor Palin.  Readers of this weblog know that I am a firm fan and supporter of that mighty creature, the North American Moose.  I will endorse moose whenever possible.  The Governatrix of Alaska is well and proudly known for her hunting of moose, which puts a severe crimp on our relationship even before we begin to inquire into trivial matters such as knowing the first thing about the public policy issues of the day.

More electoral moosery:

  • The anonymous but all-seeing Editor of Blawg Review -- who encourages his stable of law bloggers even when, as in my case, their rate of posting has fallen to near invisibility -- knows of my moose-fancying tendencies and forwarded along this Language Log post: "Sarah Palin’s Favorite Meal."  It includes a detailed explanation of moose taxonomy, how to distinguish the moose from the elk, and other useful matters.  It also includes -- WARNING! -- a graphic photo essay on Governor Palin's particular skill: field dressing a moose.  Not for the faint of heart.
  • Back in September, when the dew was just beginning to fade from the Palin rose, author Paul Theroux took to the Sunday Los Angeles Times to cite the example of Henry David Thoreau, who in The Maine Woods appreciated and defended the moose -- and disdained those who enjoy carving moose in to bite size morsels

Through Thoreau, Theroux threw a thorough thrashing at the McCain-Palin ticket.  (Say it three times fast, I dare ya.)

So, while I believe that we should all emulate this fine, free, franchise-exercisin' creature --


-- I will be leaving my Presidential ballot blank tomorrow.

I will be voting on an array of other races and issues on the ballot.  In particular, I will be voting "No" on Proposition 8, so as to ratify the California Supreme Court's decision recognizing same-sex marriage.  I mention this mainly so as to have an excuse to link one more time to my versified thoughts on the subject.

Now, go out there and vote your conscience, why don'cha? 

To send you on your way, return with us now to Those Fabulous '80s -- and look ahead to January's Inaugural Ball season -- with the decadent Cocteauviana of "Election Day" from the Duran Duran spinoff known as Arcadia:

[Politically active Moose illustration via Wonkette.]