Weekly Rochester Events #433: Schooled at Rugby
Thursday, April 26, 2007
So Ali and I had a nice time on our anniversary last Wednesday — mostly just lounging around with some wine and snacks. We did get out to The Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) to see Letyat zhuravli (The Cranes are Flying).
It was probably the best movie I'd ever seen. It's known on one level for the technical accomplishments of its spectacular cinematography — it's seamless and perfect beyond what you even see today. But it was the story that really took my breath away. It was like being slapped over and over: "this ... is ... what ... it ... means ... to ... be ... human." Boris and Veronika are about to be married and when Boris volunteers to go to fight in World War II. Veronika stays home then moves in with his family. After a short time, she marries her fiancées cousin in an emotional torrent, and then, well, everything goes to hell. It's just brutally emotional.
Anyway, on Thursday Ali brought over her cats to stay for a few days while she went out of town. We went to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (99 Court St.) that night and checked out The BuddhaHood who put on a solidly good show. I think I liked their more organic percussion work from when I had seen them years ago compared to the somewhat tamer groove-rock they do today. Maybe it's just me — after all, it's still a fun, dynamic show.
On Friday Ali went out of town and I went to The Interfaith Chapel at the University of Rochester (Wilson Blvd.) to see Juan Cole speak in his discussion titled Islamic Politics and the American Impact in the Middle East. There weren't many people there — perhaps because it was, after all, Friday night and I suspect a lot of people weren't looking for anything that made them think.
For this speech, his thesis was that America's actions since 9/11 have served to spread Islamo-fascism around the world. He made a solid case to support this. First, American action in Afghanistan served to severely weaken al-Queda as it stood — members were angry at Osama bin Laden for bringing the full force of the American Armed Forces upon them. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, there were virtually no al-Queda members in Iraq, and (even today) most Middle Eastern, Muslim countries continue to be allied with the United States.
After the invasion, the established Sunni leadership was ousted. They refused to recognize the new constitution because they felt they were the rightful leaders of the country already. One of the things that Cole noted was how often a Islamic fundamentalist regime is voted into power in that region. During the question-and-answer he clarified that this doesn't always happen, but when it does, it's often because the populace was accustomed to a totalitarian regime that had been in place for at least a generation, so they equate "leadership" with "authoritarianism" and vote accordingly.
The Sunnis are regrouping and as they do, some have turned to violence. They have begun to use the al-Queda moniker as have other guerilla groups in Iraq because it allows them to kill with impunity — authorities search for al-Queda instead. It also feeds the American support of the war as it is "proof" of the presence of al-Queda — albeit a flawed ex post facto reason for going to war.
Having proved his thesis, he was asked to give a suggestion on how to get out of Iraq. Basically there are two options. The current policy will work, but at the cost of the genocide of all Sunnis [it was actually another questioner from the audience that brought up "genocide"] and an indeterminate amount of time to complete that task. Alternatively — and his preference — is to bring all Iraq tribes to a neutral table and hash out a plan that is amenable to each of them.
The whole discussion got me thinking about why I consider Cole an authority. I had never heard of him before and had just barely read anything on his website before I went to see him speak. However, his use of plausible and detailed assumptions followed by logic and supporting evidence is what sways me.
My "problem with authority" — as some have called it — comes into play here. First, I believe that authority cannot be attributed to a person, it can only be voluntarily granted by individuals: nobody possesses authority, I grant it to them. Second, for me to grant authority, one must earn that right. That's done by demonstrating that my granting authority is beneficial and deserved based on the ability to reason logically and completely, and to permit and answer any rational question, to provide rationale and proof of premises.
A few weeks ago I discussed cults. This kind of behavior tends to foil them; it's basically just applying some of the aphorisms I mentioned. At no time did Cole defer to his own expertise — "let the experts decide what's best" — which would have broken my rule that you shouldn't let someone else think for you. He also didn't declare that any questions were inappropriate, or that it was unpatriotic to ask, or dodge an answer — which would have broken another rule. Finally, Cole observed, analyzed, and drew conclusions — after which he invited criticism and questions rather than gambling someone else's life on those conclusions.
It kind of makes me wonder if there's a difference between a cult and a jingoistic country ... maybe another time.
Anyway, that night I had decided to walk so I continued on to Solera Wine Bar (647 South Ave) and chatted with the folks there for a bit before heading to The Black Pearl Cafe (791 Meigs St., formerly Dicky's) to finish off the night. The 45-minute late-night walk home from the South Wedge is kind of annoying. Worse, though, is that Ali's cat Whiskers is insistent about getting his food in the morning. I had pulled the covers over my head to ward him off at 5 a.m. but he got smart and climbed onto my head and just lay there until I got up. I got the last word, though, since my house has doors to ensure he's in one room and me in another, making his attempt much less effective than at Ali's studio apartment.
Saturday night I went to the Dryden again to see How to Survive the 1940s which is a collection of short instructional films curated by the British Film Institute. I found them to be acceptable but not overly funny as was implied by the introduction. It was interesting, however, that unlike American instructional films, the British mindset was to make them more sarcastic, apparently assuming the audiences were sophisticated enough to understand.
I was biking that night and headed toward East and Alexander. I considered getting some food at The Old Toad (277 Alexander St.) but I wasn't up for being there alone. Instead I had a bag of chips and a beer at Monty's Korner (355 East Ave.) before heading to The Dub Land Underground (315 Alexander St., formerly Whiskey) for the show. The Lobster Quadrille opened up — remember they're the satirical gospel band I keep talking about. About half the set was new songs they have been working on and it all sounded great. I was amused to notice that the venue uses LED lights for the stage, and since Solomon's guitar was red, it would appear red when the red LED's were on but black otherwise — basically blinking on-and-off all night. Finishing up was Taduya who I've been meaning to see. I liked them — very good punk-rock.
Ali returned on Sunday and on Monday we got together to get dinner at The Coal Tower Restaurant (9 Schoen Pl., Pittsford) Our plan was to get dinner then go for a walk, but the torrential rain cancelled half our plans ... see if you can guess which half! ** spoilers ahead ** So the food was excellent. Everything was hot, well-prepared, and with high-quality ingredients. Prices were remarkably cheap, possibly owing to the fact they don't take credit cards.
In case you've been wondering, Ali got me tickets to see Monty Python's Spamalot for our anniversary. We went to The Auditorium Center (875 Main St E.) to see it. I was worried it would be too close to Monty Python and the Holy Grail upon which it's based, but as a high production-value musical, it's very different and quite hilarious. I held my breath at the catapulted bovine and at the Black Knight — both of which were translated impressively to the stage. In all, we both thought it was really quite fabulous.
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About the title ... The Rugby School opened in Birmingham, England opened 433 years ago in 1574 and was where the game of Rugby was created.
This page is Jason Olshefsky's list of things to do in Rochester, NY and the surrounding region (including nearby towns Irondequoit, Webster, Penfield, Pittsford, Victor, Henrietta, Gates, Chili, Greece, and Charlotte, and occasionally other places in Monroe County and the Western New York region.) It is updated every week with daily listings for entertainment, activities, performances, movies, music, bands, comedy, improv, poetry, storytelling, lectures, discussions, debates, theater, plays, and generally fun things to do.
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