The trees are already gone

ficus down
timber down

Some folks were planning a protest — just handing out some fliers opposed to the ficus massacre, I think — on Saturday in front of some of the big specimens on Colorado Boulevard in the Playhouse District.

Oops — they’re gone. This photo by Branislav Kecman was taken around 2 in the morning today. Sorry you’ll have to click on the bars above to see what’s now mere timber — when you do, though, I think you’ll get the picture.

Wicked backhand

On another day than Monday, I would have missed this in The New York Times, because six days a week the Gray Lady buries its sports coverage in the Business pages, and I rarely make it that far back into that section.

I don’t much follow tennis anymore, and until my lunchtime reading today had never heard of Shahar Peer, the Israeli player who is now ranked 48th in the world and has apparently been ranked as high as 15th in the past.

But Harvey Araton’s column caught my eye, and its sordid tale recalled to me the irrefutable and usually swept-under-the-rug institutional anti-Semitism — anti-Jewish-ism, actually, as most in the Mideast are Semites themselves — the rest of the world allows the Arab world to practice without comment or protest.

Peer was denied a visa to play in a big tournament in Dubai for the simple fact that she is an Israeli citizen — or, rather, a Jewish Israeli citizen, as presumably if she were a Palestinian holding an Israeli passport, she would have been welcomed into the United Arab Emirates with open arms.

What if the reverse were the case — what if she were an Arab, and denied entry into Israel for the purpose of playing in a Tel Aviv tournament? From Rotterdam to Moscow to Riyadh, we’d never hear the end of it.

Half to its credit, the Women’s Tennis Association Tour at least considered cancelling the tournament because of this racist outrage. Now it says that it will instead give Dubai until next year to clean up its despicable act. Peer and her family say they support the move, especially as Dubai was playing games with the visa application, and didn’t formally deny it until the 11th hour, when all the rest of the 55 women players invited were already on their way to the little fiefdom by the sea.

This kind of stuff has gone on for decades. When I lived and worked in Saudi Arabia, we were warned not to try to get back “in-kingdom” from R&R with an Israeli stamp in our passport. If we had to go there, we were told, ask the authorities to stamp a blank piece of paper we would carry in our passports, to be discarded before returning to our discriminating place of employment.

Vicious anti-Semitism in the government-sponsored Arab press is the rule rather than the exception, and no one says boo.

The WTA should get a ruling right now one way or another from Dubai for next year. If the answer is no Jews served here, then it should fold the tournament tent, forever.

Off the Wall at the Armory Center for the Arts

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The good news about such as public-art controversies and folks saying that the arts should not be considered work and as such should not be considered part of any stimulus package — though the fact is that 5.6 million Americans are employed in the arts, the ultimate small, entrepreneurial business — is that it gets people talking about art.

March 14, you can stimulate that economy until the cows come home at Pasadena’s Armory Center for the Arts benefit and art auction Off the Wall; beginning Feb. 20, you can preview the work at www.armoryarts.org, and from March 7 to March 13, you can preview the actual art before whipping out your checkbooks that Saturday night at 145 N. Raymond Ave. in Old Pas.

There will be hundreds of pieces on sale, created by everyone from the wildly famous — a Laddie John Dill here, and Ed Ruscha there — to local heroes who are also big-time nationally such as Helen Pashgian and R. Kenton Nelson — to locals who are simply wonderful painters and assemblage artists, including Nancy Kyes, Gretel Stephens and Ben Sakoguchi.

Above, that’s the Armory’s Sally Bickerton holding a piece by Helen with Armory gallery director Jay Belloli off to the side.

Ticket info: sbickerton@armory.arts.org