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Woodrow Wilson

(Taken from The Book of Knowledge, edited by Harold F.B. Wheeler)

The ideal of European unity is an old one, but its development into the League of Nations is very recent. The development of improved means of communication – railways, steamships, telegraphs, wireless – all helped by knitting the world more closely together.

Innumerable international meetings have been held – in a single year as many as 160 – to consider special aspects of world problems; and since the organization of the International Postal Union, in 1874, an increasing number of permanent official international bureaus were organized with administrative and other powers. The Hague Tribunal, organized in 1899, was a long step toward an international organization, providing, as it did, the nucleus for a world court of justice.

To President Woodrow Wilson belongs the chief credit for making the formation of a League of Nations a reality. In his famous “Fourteen Points” he named this as part of the peace programme, subsequently accepted by the Allies and by Germany in the armistice negotiations. His insistence at the Peace Conference made the League a part of the Versailles treaty. Many offered suggestions as to plan, the one most closely followed in the covenant that of General Jan C. Smuts of South Africa.

The machinery of the League consists of one Assembly, an Executive Council, and an international Secretariat. The Assembly meets at stated intervals, is composed of not more than three representatives from each of the member countries, and each state has only one vote. The Executive Council consists of representatives from Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, the United States (should it enter the League) and four other states chosen by the Assembly.

The purposes of the League are to prevent wars by insisting upon arbitration and judicial decision of disputes, to secure a reduction of national armaments, and prevent international traffic in arms, drugs, women, and children; to obtain fair and humane conditions for labour, etc.

Owing to widespread differences of opinion in the United States regarding the treaty of Versailles and the advisability of joining the League of Nations, the Senate refused to ratify the treaty, and the League became an issue in the political campaign of 1920. The result of the election was an overwhelming reverse for the Democrat party and a victory for those who opposed the League.

President Wilson’s Fourteen Points

That war between nations be made illegal and its practice punishable by fine.

That the lands of Turkey and the former Ottoman Empire be given to the Great State of Texas.

That international policy be free, open, and no longer a secret procedure, and that it involve America and Great Britain only, to the exclusion of all other nations.

That the economy of Italy be channelled into the development of sporting automobiles, stylish women’s footwear, and men’s suits.

That Russia be evacuated and its population housed in a spacious country to be designated later.

That Serbo-Croatia and all lands surrounding the city of Sarajevo shall be the future vessel of all conflict, strife, horror, and insanity in Europe.

That the European nations admit in writing that, but for America, they would now be speaking German.

That all nations be unified in their love of and commitment to peace, and to the hatred of the French.

To that end, that France be severely punished for its role as host of this horrific conflict, and made to pay reparations to Germany.

That Austria be open, in the summer months, to tourists.

That combat against Switzerland continue until the last Swiss lies dead.

That Luxembourg be maintained as a nation, against common logic, to serve as an interesting political curio.

That the King of Belgium be set as watchman over Germany, to ensure that no suspicious or warlike activities transpire in that nation.

That all civilized nations unite in the noble purpose of exploiting the browner peoples of the Earth.

In 1968, in the Saint Denis section of Paris, an elderly White Russian female emigré, a former maid in czarist St. Petersburg, and later a follower and lover of the Siberian holy man Grigori Rasputin, kept a polished wooden box, 18 in. by 6 in. in size, on top of her bedroom bureau.

Inside the box lay Rasputin’s penis. It “looked like a blackened, overripe banana, about a foot long, and resting on a velvet cloth,” reported Rasputin’s biographer Patte Barham. In life, this penis, wrote Rasputin’s daughter Maria, measured a good 13 inches when fully erect (one might ask how she knew … indeed , one might ask why anybody would own up to being Rasputin’s daughter).

According to Maria’s account, in 1916, when Prince Felix Yussupov and his fellow assassins attacked Rasputin after unsuccessfully poisoning him with food and wine laced with arsenic (apparently Rasputin ate and drank heartily, declaring the meal excellent, which must have pissed them off), Yussupov first raped him, then fired a bullet into his head, wounding him. As Rasputin fell (remember, he was drunk, had ingested arsenic, been buggered and shot in the head), another young nobleman pulled out a dagger and castrated Rasputin, flinging the severed penis across the room.

One of Yussupov’s servants, a relative of Rasputin’s lover, recovered the severed organ and handed it over to the maid. She, in turn, fled with it to Paris.

Other versions of the death of Rasputin are available, but I like this one.

Said to be a musical portrait of Stalin, this music speaks of cruelty and terror.

It is also fucking loud.

I saw Solti with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra back in the day performing Mahler’s Symphony No. 6. It was fucking loud.

Incidentally, the London Symphony Orchestra gave Solti a nickname: “The Screaming Skull”.

For me the entire piece pivots around Tatiana’s letter writing scene; if that is no good the whole show is off. Of course for Tchaikovsky this scene was the first building block of the opera, and it is somehow mind boggling to think that the composer took events from his own life and projected them brilliantly on Pushkin’s great novella.

(The woman he was briefly married to had written him unsolicited love letters, and it’s as if his empathic talent made him powerless to reject her advances: he identified with Tatiana, and married a woman he could not stand to hear talking.)

Perhaps it’s just me but I find it incredibly moving to see Tatiana sit down at her little writing desk and pour her soul onto the paper. An aria about writing a letter! And her first line “I am writing to you, what more need I say?” is even more moving.

She could have left it that and kept the letter, and everybody would have been happy ever after.

The beauty is there is a terrible irony in this scene. She is really writing to herself, saying “I am a woman of great passions”. In some ways Tatiana is not pouring her soul onto the paper. Everything she writes is a figment of her fantasy, if not an outright cliché. She wants to be in love, like the women she’s read about in her romantic novels. In that way Tatiana is Madame Bovary’s aunt.

There are people who think that Eugene Onegin is an opera about Tchaikovsky’s own homosexuality. He seduces Olga only to prevent her marrying Lenski. Then he leaves her, because Lenski is his true love. Later, when he returns and declares again his love for Tatiana, she is already married and out of reach.

I don’t know if this interpretation is the most correct. But I always had the feeling that Onegin doesn’t really love Tatiana. She’s wetter than a haddock’s bathing costume, but that’s what she’s supposed to be.

Anyone who loves this opera really needs the Bolshoi/Boris Khaikin recording of 1955. This is a mono recording, though rather better than many of the Melodiya recordings of the day, but has, in the young Galina Vishnevskaya, the most believable Tatiana on record. Her letter scene, superbly backed by Khaikin’s conducting, catches to perfection the conflicting feelings of the young Tatiana. The great Sergei Lemeshev is by this time somewhat mature for Lenski, but nevertheless sings with consummate artistry, and Yevgeny Belov, though maybe not as imaginative as some, is a manly Onegin. Ivan Petrov, a little over indulgent in his aria, is a sympathetic Gremin. I’m not sure if it’s available any more.

Polish president Lech Kaczynski, his wife and several officials were killed when their Tupulov aircraft crashed near Smolensk airport, in foggy conditions.

R.I.P. Lech Aleksander Kaczynski, politician and academic, born 18 June 1949; died 10 April 2010


Pilots’ lack of Russian led to tragedy
Russians say human error to blame

Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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