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Posted on on December 25th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

Subject: Christmas Eve we saw at The Metropolitan Opera “UN BALLO IN MASCHERA” then on Christmas Day we saw the new movie “CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR” and believe it or not – we saw in those two masterpieces echoes of the day.

First The UN BALLO – we saw there a United Nations on stage. Oscar – the king’s page – was a small but great lady from Korea; the king himself – King Gustavo III of Sweden – was an Italian-Swiss from neutral Bern, Switzerland – very good choices. The Viking looking Fortune Teller, Ulrica, was from unheard of Mongaup, New York State – some local caves seemingly; the honest Amelia was an American of color with a French name, was from Quincy, Illinois on the Mississippi: her husband, Captain Renato Anckarstroem, was obviously from Krasnoyarsk, Mid-Siberia, Russia; and her servant remained a secret in the “Program Notes” – so were the Chief Justice, and the two main rebel-Counts (Samuel and Tom) – all four of whom had tantalizing names seeming to originate from further corners of the world. We decided that the unknown might be more interesting then the known – so – as we are not going to be kept in the dark by lack of official information on four of the ten listed soloists, we looked up Google and found that:

Charles Anthony, playing Amelia’s servant, is a honorary member of Theatrical Stage Employees IATSE Local One in New York City, and is a Metropolitan Opera singer since 1954. Anthony has performed at the Met for 55 consecutive seasons, a record unparalleled in the annals of the company. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, as Charles Anthony Caruso, the child of immigrants from Sicily. Sir Rudolf Bing convinced him to drop his surname, saying that it would invite comparisons with Enrico Caruso.

The Judge is American on the Metropolitan Opera’s Roster – so you could say Mark Schowalter was sort of a host here, but additional two Baso counts are a Chinese, Hao Jiang Tian – at the Met, he was General Wang in Tan Dun’s world premiere of The First Emperor, opposite Placido Domingo in the title role, and Andrew Gangestad, born in South Korea, he was orphaned as a young child. “I was told that I was found in a city south of Seoul, then put in an orphanage,” he recalls. After stints in foster homes, Andrew was adopted at two years of age by an American couple living in Two Harbors, Minnesota, and given his name. The adoption was complicated by the fact that Andrew had tuberculosis. “I was taking medications for a year before I was allowed into the U.S.” Being Asian-born in a small Minnesota town “was extraordinary,” Gange-stad admits. But he quickly made friends and found his niche.

The BALLO plays out in Sweden and is based on a historical event – the king Gustavus III (the correct Swedish name) met his death at the hands of a political enemy during a masked ball at the Stockholm Opera House in 1792 – and even today, when visiting Stockholm, you are shown the location of the crime – it was not forgotten or forgiven. In 1833, the French dramatist Eugene Scribe wrote it up as a basis for a French Opera by Francois Auber, and then Giuseppe Verdi picked up the libretto and had Italian Antonio Somma adjust it so that it includes a love triangle. It had then its 1859 premiere at the Teatro Apollo in Rome.

The point of the opera as we saw it is that a best friend of the king is the one who kills the king because he believes that the king mislead his wife, Amelia, then to find out too late, that the king and Amelia were actually not guilty of deeds, but only harbored love in their hearts. in effect the king was just about to try to make good on the whole misunderstanding – but it did not work out.

Now, the king was not really bright and did not even learn from the predictions of the good witch Ulrica. He also did not remove from his court the two scheming counts that held grudges against him. The king thought he understands everything – so does he make you think of a today’s king that gets entangled with witches and the wrong courtiers, then ends up being perhaps a wrong victim?

Simply put – his affront was that he was too late understanding that perceptions become reality if you do not pursue an open course. Then, on Christmas eve it sounds like dispensing late love – though it was love nevertheless.

On Christmas Day we went to see CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR that is no less then the US covert involvement in Afghanistan that eased out the Soviets, and helped build the Taliban, that will then try to ease out the Americans from wherever they are. Now, this seems complicated, but like the BALLO – it is not all fiction – and it has its own reflection on the meaning of love and peace.

Congressman Charles Wilson, a Democrat, was representing in US Congress the 2nd District of Texas, 1973-1997, during the Reagan Republican years. That was the time of the Cold War, and the US was very careful not to turn it into a “Hot War.” Wilson first entered politics as a teenager by running for office in his home town of Trinity. He lived next door to city official Charles Hazard. When Charlie Wilson was thirteen, his dog, Teddy, got into his neighbor’s yard. Hazard retaliated by mixing crushed glass into the dog’s food, causing fatal internal bleeding. This led Wilson to decide to run for office against his neighbor in the next election. Being a farmer’s son, he was able to get a driving permit at thirteen, which enabled him to drive 96 voters from poor neighborhoods to the polls. That included black voters that never voted before. As they left the car, he told each of them that incumbent Hazard killed his dog. After winning by a margin of sixteen votes, Charlie went to his neighbor’s house to inform him of his victory and to tell him he shouldn’t poison any more dogs.

As an adult he joined the navy, and stayed out of politics until he was moved to volunteer for the John F. Kennedy presidential campaign. In 1960 he took a 30 days’ leave from the Navy, and entered his name into the race for Texas state representative from his home district. This action was against the regulations of the Navy, as service members are prohibited from holding a public office while on active duty. While back on duty, his family and friends went door to door campaigning. In 1961, at age 27, he was sworn into office in Austin, Texas.

For the next 12 years, Wilson made his reputation in the Texas legislature as the “liberal from Lufkin,” viewed with suspicion by business interests. He battled for the regulation of utilities, fought for Medicaid, tax exemptions for the elderly, the Equal Rights Amendment and a minimum wage bill. He was also one of the few prominent Texas politicians to be pro-choice on abortion. Wilson was also notorious for his personal life, particularly drinking, picking up the nickname “Good Time Charlie.”

In 1972, Wilson was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the Second District of Texas, taking office the following January. He was re-elected 11 times, but was not a candidate for reelection to the 105th Congress, and resigned October 8, 1996 – that is before the election that made George Bush, the father, the 41st US President.

Charlie Wilson was a playboy, and lots of spicy stories were hanging around his neck – some had to do with corruption, and one strange topic was derived from his backing of the Somoza government in Nicaragua. One such chain of events included Wilson arranging a meeting between Somoza and Ed Wilson of the CIA. Ed Wilson offered to form a 1000-man force of ex-CIA operatives to fight on Somoza’s behalf. The meeting broke down when Somoza fondled Tina Simons, Charlie Wilson’s girlfriend at the time. The deal also proved impossible because Ed Wilson asked Somoza for $100 million to pay for the force.

But Charlie had also the reputation of being a straight shooter, and of keeping his promises – so unleashing bright and pretty females against him could lead to action on the two very important committees he chaired in the Democratic Congress, at the time of a Republican President, on foreign relations and on military affairs. This clearly included his in with the CIA. This kind of reality makes for good cinematic background – but today I prefer to remember that it also can lead to a soft and kind heart when having to take decisions after seeing real misery.

On an official US Government site we found the following: “In the early summer of 1980, Wilson read an Associated Press dispatch on the congressional wires that described hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Afghanistan. Few, however, were paying attention, even in the American government. According to his biographer, George Crile, Wilson placed a call to a member of the US Congressional Appropriations Committee who dealt with ‘black appropriations’ (CIA funds) and ordered a twofold increase in the appropriation for Afghanistan. {we found that this was the peanuts contribution of $10 million increased from $5 million} Wilson had just been named to the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, part of a small group of 12 people in the House responsible for funding CIA operations, and thus had the authority to make such an order.

This would not be the last time for Wilson to greatly increase the CIA budget for its Afghan operation. In 1983, he won the approval of $40 million more, with $17 million especially earmarked for anti-aircraft weapons that could take down Soviet Mil Mi-24 helicopters, known as the “Hind,” that caused heavy damage and casualties to the Afghan Mujahideen. The following year, Wilson was approached directly by CIA officer Gust Avrakotos, who, breaking the CIA’s rule against lobbying Congress for money, asked Wilson for $50 million more. Wilson agreed to the increase and convinced his colleagues in Congress by saying that “The U.S. had nothing whatsoever to do with these people’s decision to fight … But we’ll be damned by history if we let them fight with stones.” Wilson later succeeded in moving $300 million of unused Pentagon funds into the Afghan operation right before the end of the fiscal year. In this way, Wilson had a significant influence on the level of support the Afghan Mujahideen received from the United States.”

In the movie, it is the involvement of a rich and pretty Houston Billionaire Socialite and Republican powerhouse, Joanne Herring, later a sharp talk show hostess in real life, who brought to Houston President Zia of Pakistan and arranged for Charlie to go by himself to Pakistan and with the help of President Zia, he was then exposed to the misery of Afghan refugee streaming into the Northwest Tribal areas of Pakistan – this while the Republican Presidency had no interest whatsoever in recognizing this human misery. As we said – see not, hear not, talk not was the norm. Keep the Cold War cold by not having any US involvement was the key. The movie wants us to believe that it was nothing else but human compassion that drove Charlie to action – Ok, but this is really irrelevant – also the women around him had feelings of compassion and he had interest in them.

Now appears Gust Avrokotos who was twenty years earlier CIA station chief in Greece and vanquished the communist uprising there. Since then he was kept on ice in Virginia – he wanted relevance again. He was a rough guy and they did not put him into the diplomatic service. He and Wilson managed together to engineer the covert activities in Afghanistan – run by the CIA and out of Wilson’s committees. The Afghans were ready to fight the Soviets, what they needed were the weapons. Those weapons could not be American by White House rules, so the best would be Russian weapons that can be obtained if a covert alliance between the CIA, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan can be concocted. So, with all sides holding their noses and hiding the actions from becoming public, the Russian tanks and helicopters were blown up with Russian stingers. And you guessed it – that was all organized and funded with Charlie’s help.

Now why does this make a Christmas story?

(1) First, there was in it at the beginning a line of humanity – don’t let the Cold War kill! Just think of Darfur of today – nothing was learned – we again see a US that refuses to get involved and we see no indication that there is an embedded Charlie at work there. The US Presidential envoy in charge of Darfur has just resigned this week and was replaced by a political insider.

(2) There is a story in the movie towards the end – Avrakotos tells Charlie about an Afghan village that was given a beautiful horse. One good looking lad gets the horse. One man says – look what a nice horse and see that nice lad. The other says – We shall see! Then, days later the lad falls of the horse and breaks a leg. The first man says – what a pity! The Second and seemingly wiser man says – we shall see!

Next there is warfare in the area and all healthy men go to fight and get killed – the first man says what a pity! The second man says – we shall see! The lesson is that like it – the Afghan story has not ended there.

(3) Avrokotos predicts – Afghanistan was left full with young people – when they get back to the destroyed villages they are full with hatred. They know now how to fight – they do not know that the US tried to help them – they turn their anger on the US.

(4) Charlie may have been a lout – but he had heart – he played no games. So what if he was a women’s man?

How do we try now to extricate the US from a miserable situation?

What is the meaning of morality?

What is the real love for country and humanity?

How do you channel energy to come to some results?

What did you do for the holiday?

What did the UN do lately?


tagged as: UN, US, Ban Ki-moon, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Billary, Reagan.

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