Top of Mind: Week Ending 12/14/2018

  • Parterre Box. The queer opera zine-turned blog got a nice write-up in the New York Times. An opera-obsessed friend in Chicago turned me on to it many years ago. The brief, gossipy posts that dominate its output are not my thing, but I still regularly visit the site to read the reviews of John Yohalem, who for my money is one of the best classical music critics writing today.


  • Anna Karenina. After six months of on-and-off reading I am within 150 pages of the end, and despite being totally done with the characters and their problems I am making a push to finish before I turn 40 next week. As far as arbitrary deadlines go, it’s a pretty good one.


  • Opportunity Zones. I first heard about this vast economic development/tax shelter scheme back in August from an investment podcast I listen to. Sean Parker, known primarily as the founder of Napster and the guy played by Justin Timberlake in the Social Network, had a pretty big hand in crafting this program and getting it into the federal 2017 tax reform legislation. It feels like a gross tax give-away to the rich, but perhaps some good will come out of it?


  • Ilya Muromets. I went down a rabbit hole with this one: earlier in the week I was perusing the program of a concert that I couldn’t go to and saw a symphony named after the mythical Russian folk hero, Ilya Muromets. Folk heroes are inherently political symbols, and Russian has been experiencing a surge of nationalist chauvinism lately, so I decided to search Google News for “Ilya Muromets” as well as the Cyrilic version of the name (Илья Муромец). My instinct did not disappoint: the mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, recently unveiled an 11 meter statue of Ilya Muromets, some of which was fabricated via 3-d printing. Klitschko claimed that the historical Muromets was born in the Ukranian city of Cherhihiv. Some in Russia take this very seriously: here is a translation of an article that ran in the newspaper Vzglyad refuting Klitschko’s claims on Muromets. By appropriating a Russian national hero for Ukraine the mayor appears to have opened up a new front in the conflict with Russia: the symbolic realm. This comes less than a year after Ukranian authorities banned books about Ilya Muromets as “propaganda of the aggressor state”. Also, Russia recently Christened an ice breaker by that name, which will be asserting Russian sovereignty in the melting Arctic Circle. Perhaps Ilya Muromets’s best fighting days are still ahead of him.

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