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Feb 28 2015

The Breakfast Club (Thrupenny)

The 3 rules of Opera.

  1. It must be long, boring, and in an incomprehesible foreign language (even if that language is English).
  2. The characters, especially the main ones, must be thoroughly unsympathetic and their activities horrid and callous.
  3. Everyone must die, hopefully in an ironic and gruesome way.

Ballet is the same, but with more men in tights and without the superfluous singing.

Consider La Traviata (The Fallen Woman) celebrated in Pretty Woman.

In Act I, Violetta, a notorious (c’mon fallen woman?  Everyone knows women don’t like sex, it’s just something they tolerate because they like babies) courtesan, spurns Alfredo so she can live her life the way she wants (Sempre libera – Always Free)

In Act II Violetta is living in a country house with Alfredo, whom she’s decided she loves and has completely abandoned her former life.  What?  Did she get kidnapped by aliens?  I swear, I just went to the lobby to visit the bathroom.  Is this the same theater?  The same Opera?  Am I living some nightmarish Groundhog Day where I don’t even get to listen to I’ve Got You Babe at 6 am every morning for eternity?

Cher, I’m expecting your retweet.  Not as funny as Kathy Griffin?  I beg to differ.

Oh, and Alfredo’s Dad doesn’t like her because she’s a sex worker and he’s a hung up old jerk.

Soon enough.

So things are going to perdition in a pedicab.  As it develops Violetta is liquidating her assets in Paris to support her suburban lifestyle.  Alfredo sets off to correct this (us guys, always looking for solutions instead of simply listening and sympathizing) while his father Giorgio asks her to dump Alfredo because her tawdry past is tainting his daughter (Pura siccome un angelo – Pure as an angel, God gave a daughter) and ruining her marriage prospects.

Ah, Twew Wuve-

“He didn’t come.”  It takes talent that, and a firm knowlege of Baseball statistics.  

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgOf course by now I’m looking for a stout stick to bash Giorgio with before committing seppuku with my plastic yogurt spork (What? I visited the snack bar, OK?) and this is just the first Scene.

In the second Scene at a gambling party where Alfredo is trying to raise the money to satisfy Violleta’s debts (because how else are you going to get cash besides Powerball?) after a rousing chorus of Paradise by the Dashboard Light (in Italian Noi siamo zingarelle venute da lontano.  Di Madride noi siam mattadori) Violetta coincidently appears with the Baron Douphol (Beauregard Burnside).  And I’m a handsom Matador from Biscay.  Anyway Alfredo insults Violetta by offering her the money he has won (yes, we’re back to Pretty Woman, did we ever actually leave?  I want the fairy tale.).

Giorgio enters and denounces his son’s behavior (Di sprezzo degno sè stesso rende chi pur nell’ira la donna offende. – “A man, who even in anger, offends a woman renders himself deserving of contempt.”).  Violetta turns to Alfredo: Alfredo, Alfredo, di questo core non puoi comprendere tutto l’amore… – “Alfredo, Alfredo, you can’t understand all the love in this heart…” (cough).

Ok, so the spork was only sufficient to gouge out my eyes and if I’m going to chop off my ears and eviscerate myself I’ll need something more substantial, like a plastic knife.  Fortunately there is a break before Act 3.

Did I mention Violetta is dying of Tuberculosis?  Everyone must die, hopefully in an ironic and gruesome way.  Tuberculosis is fortunately one of those ultimately fatal but lingering diseases that allow you to belt out a few Arias before you (cough) croak (Gran Dio!…morir sì giovane – “Great God!…to die so young”).  

After singing a duet with Alfredo, Violetta suddenly revives, exclaiming that the pain and discomfort have left her. A moment later, she dies in Alfredo’s arms.

Now that’s entertainment.  Pardon me while I dab my tears before descending from the box.

TMC swears she’s going to teach me to be less cynical (as if she were less cynical than I, I’m a warm cuddly Teddy Bear by comparison- ask anyone) and that I will learn to love Opera.  Of course, just like I love children- par-boiled and chicken fried with a pan gravy.  Tastes just like rattle snake.

Oh, so now you want to see La Traviata.  Here it is at La Scala in Milan, all 2 hours and 25 minutes of it.

It has the virtue of French subtitles (Rule Number One).  Now in fairness I didn’t want to be a barber anyway, except in Seville

Did I mention natural tenor?  Of course I played the Barber.

And now I’m really going, I’ve done what I can do.  So why don’t you get going?

Well. I haven’t actually inflicted the damage I intended.  “The characters, especially the main ones, must be thoroughly unsympathetic and their activities horrid and callous.”

Mackie Messer

Polly, meanwhile, buys a bank, and runs it with Macheath’s henchmen, making him a bank director, and she then arranges surety for Macheath to leave prison. This causes a change of heart by her parents – her father tries to stop the protest march but fails.

Jenny visits the prison, and aids Macheath’s escape: he makes his way to the bank, where he discovers his new status. Brown, whose police career is ruined by the demonstration, and Peachum, also come to the bank and agree to link up.

Now that sounds more like the real world where a pimp and beggar-master, a corrupt politician, and an assassin hook up to loot the people who love them and think they’re heros.

Well, when Johnny was first starting out, he was signed to a personal services contract with this big-band leader. And as his career got better and better, he wanted to get out of it. But the band leader wouldn’t let him. Now, Johnny is my father’s godson. So my father went to see this bandleader and offered him $10,000 to let Johnny go, but the bandleader said no. So the next day, my father went back, only this time with Luca Brasi. Within an hour, he had a signed release for a certified check of $1000.

I have the same thing in French where it’s worth a penny more and I can arbitrage the spread.

And that my friends is Opera.  I don’t really hope I’ve ruined it for you so much as made your existence a spiraling hell where all emotion is sucked into a black hole of despair before you are torn apart by tidal forces you can barely comprehend and debates about black and blue or gold and white.

You can thank me later.

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

Obligatories

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

I would never make fun of LaEscapee or blame PhilJD.  And I am highly organized.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.

Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)

This Day in History

News

Decadence?  You tell me.

Regilding the Gilded Age in New York

By TONY PERROTTET, The New York Times

FEB. 27, 2015

It’s axiomatic that New York has long been indifferent to its past, knocking down physical remains with cheery abandon – the “pull-down-and-build-over-again spirit,” as Walt Whitman put it over a century and a half ago. There are a handful of famous survivors from the Gilded Age, perhaps the city’s most mythologized historical period, including Gramercy Park, the Frick Collection and Pierpont Morgan Library. But New York has been stripped of much of its rich folklore from the era.

What other cultural mecca would permit the legendary love nest of the playboy architect Stanford White on 24th Street, where he entertained scantily clad chorus girls on a red velvet swing (a habit that led to his eventual murder in Madison Square Garden by a crazed husband), to crumble and collapse? Or allow the notorious Bowery saloon McGurk’s Suicide Hall, so named because prostitutes would kill themselves in despair by downing carbolic acid, to be leveled for a glass condominium? In perhaps the ultimate symbolic insult, Edith Wharton’s childhood home, at 14 West 23rd Street, is now a Starbucks.

And yet surprising remnants do linger from the era, along with an even more surprising strain of New Yorkers keeping the era alive. A little digging reveals a thriving subculture of eccentric experts – amateur archaeologists of urban spaces, theater directors recreating bordello-salons, bartenders who specialize in 19th-century cocktails – all celebrating the past in ways that are creative, contemporary and downright fun. (Even television is getting in to the act, as Julian Fellowes, the creator of “Downton Abbey,” has confirmed that his next project will be an American period drama set in Gilded Age Manhattan.)

And so I decided to embark on my own immersive tour of those Gilded Age vestiges, sallying forth from my East Village apartment to seek the company of its obsessive modern admirers. Winter in Manhattan provided an apt period atmosphere, giving its streets a hazy tone and the city’s denizens a tubercular pallor.

Netanyahu’s Congress speech scuppers bipartisan unity on support for Israel

by Chris McGreal, The Guardian

Saturday 28 February 2015 07.07 EST

A set piece of the annual gathering of one of the most powerful political lobbies in Washington is the “roll call” of support in Congress for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac).

Members of Congress are invited to stand one by one to be acknowledged for their support for Israel, or for Aipac’s hawkish brand of it. It typically takes half an hour as the names of around two-thirds of representatives and senators are called. It is intended to demonstrate that on one issue at least, the Jewish state, there are no partisan differences. It is also a reminder of the lock Aipac has long had on Congress with a menacing suggestion of the political risks of going against the lobby group.

But as Aipac’s convention opens, the carefully forged image of Democrats and Republicans at one on Israel has been battered by the furious reaction to Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s planned address to Congress on Tuesday, when he is expected to accuse Barack Obama of endangering the very existence of the Jewish state in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme.

Nearly 30 members have said they will not attend Netanyahu’s speech in protest at the extraordinary spectacle of Republicans inviting a foreign leader to Washington to denounce the president. They have described Netanyahu’s decision to speak as “sabotage” and “extremely dangerous”.

The Isis war resolution debate resounds with doublespeak

by Trevor Timm, The Guardian

Saturday 28 February 2015 02.30 EST

We’re more than six months into an illegal war and hardly anyone in DC seems to care.

Congress continued to half-heartedly debate an ISIS war resolution this week, as the Senate held a hearing on the Obama administration’s proposed language for a three-year ISIS war that it belatedly wrote only a few weeks ago – after several months and thousands of bombs had been dropped in both Iraq and Syria. Sen. Bob Corker, meanwhile, says he his committee might get around to holding another hearing in a couple weeks. But he’s in no rush.

It’s hard to figure out who is more to blame for the embarrassing damage both branches of government are currently doing to both the War Powers Act and the Constitution: a Congress that is too cowardly to take a stand, or an administration that insists it doesn’t matter what Congress does, they’re going to keep bombing Iraq and Syria for years either way.

Luca Ronconi’s Lehman Trilogy: staging the downfall of a financial giant

by Brigitte Salino, The Guardian

Saturday 28 February 2015 10.00 EST

One thing stands out in Italian theatres: the audiences are really responsive. If they think an actor is very good, they are quick to applaud. If they dislike a player, they will make it quite clear at the curtain call. Authors and directors are treated the same way. They may be greeted with a steady stream of boos or cheers when they appear on stage. It may be cruel but it’s lively. Elsewhere when a production is a flop, or viewed as such, it generally prompts polite applause, but no more. Shouting is unusual, fighting even more so. There was neither shouting nor fighting in Milan for the first night of Lehman Trilogy , a play by Stefano Massini directed by Luca Ronconi at the Piccolo Teatro. But the response of the audience, which included some of the city’s keenest theatre-goers, was a mixture of enthusiasm and disgust.

It was certainly a unique occasion. To see his play directed by one of Europe’s last dramatic maestros was a real treat for the Florentine dramatist aged only 39. The triumphant world premiere was in Paris, two years ago, directed by Arnaud Meunier. Here in Italy the Piccolo is the first to stage the drama. It is all the more intriguing that Ronconi, the theatre’s artistic director, should have chosen Lehman Trilogy, because these days he generally avoids contemporary works. So there must be something exceptional in Massini’s lines for him to accept the challenge. The five-hour saga proves he was right. This is a story that should concern everyone, the tale of three Jewish brothers who migrated from Germany to the United States in the mid-19th century and became the kings of Wall Street. Then one day in 2008, in the turmoil stirred up by the sub-prime crash, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy.

Writing the play involved three years’ detailed research in finance, economics and more. Massini already knew about Jewish culture, which is essential in Lehman Trilogy. As a child, his Roman Catholic parents let him attend both a conventional Italian school and a Jewish academy. So he grew up between church and synagogue and speaks not only Hebrew and Italian, but also English and Arabic. He can even decipher hieroglyphs, a skill he picked up while studying archaeology, though he took it no further. Having dabbled in amateur dramatics since school, he leapt at the chance to work in the theatre. While he was working as Ronconi’s assistant, the director encouraged him to start writing, fulfilling a childhood dream.

Inside one of the most intense, and unusual, Pentagon contracting wars

By Christian Davenport, Washington Post

February 27

The much-anticipated contract was awarded just before Christmas. BAE Systems trumpeted its victory in a press release and got to work building the Army a new armored vehicle. Finally, one of Pentagon’s most intense-and bizarre-contracting wars was over.

Except that now maybe it isn’t.

In yet another audacious display of lobbying force, General Dynamics, the giant defense contractor based in Falls Church, Va., is continuing its fight to win at least a portion of the contract, potentially worth more than $12 billion, to build nearly 3,000 Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicles for the Army.



The Stryker has wheels. But BAE’s vehicle uses tracks, which the Army preferred because it wanted the vehicles to be able to handle the same kinds of terrain as Abrams and Bradley tanks, both of which use tracks.



The medical evacuation variant of the vehicle must have “the same mobility, force protection and survivability” as the other vehicles, Brig. Gen. David Bassett, the program executive officer of the Army’s Ground Combat Systems, said in a statement.

Other options, including the Stryker, “would result in force protection and mobility shortfalls that would prevent rapid evacuation and protection of casualties from the point of injury to the next level of care, increasing the risk to our soldiers,” he said.

Another Army official, not authorized to speak publicly, said that while brain injuries “remain a critical medical problem for our military,” the Army “cannot focus on only one type of casualty at the expense of all others.”

BAE Systems said it “is focused on meeting the challenging but essential requirements for the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicles,” Mark Signorelli, the company’s vice president and general manager for combat vehicles, said in a statement. “Our team is now working to deliver the required survivability and mobility in a high quality, affordable vehicle. This is the effort that most directly impacts our warfighters, providing them with the vehicles they need and have asked for, on schedule and on budget.”

6In the war over GMO labeling, Big Food loses the PR battle

by Tom Zeller Jr., Al Jazeera

February 27, 2015 5:00AM ET

In 2008, Duane Grant, who runs farms in Idaho and northern Oregon, began growing sugar beets from seeds that were genetically modified. As a result, he says he now uses fewer chemicals, tills the soil less often and gets larger yields from the same acreage – increasing profits and reducing his environmental footprint along the way.

“I am proud of that fact,” he said.

But that pride does not translate into support for a burgeoning consumer movement that would have mandatory labels placed on products containing sugars like his, such as juices, soft drinks and breakfast cereals, and on any other product containing a genetically modified organism, or GMO. Grant considers such labels irrational – a sentiment that aligns with the broader food industry, which has been spending tens of millions of dollars in recent years to avoid them, fearing they would drive customers away.

Despite two decades of assurances from biotechnology firms, food processors, federal regulators and even a substantial share of scientists that GMO foods are safe, ballot initiatives and citizen petitions seeking labels on GMO foods are springing up as quickly as the industry can pay – or sue – to defeat them. Meanwhile, sales of foods labeled GMO-free have been steadily gaining ground on consumer shopping lists, and polls suggest that more Americans than ever favor labels that identify GMO foods.

This has even some supporters of genetic engineering wondering if it’s time to rethink the labeling question. “If you give people a choice and value, that wins,” said David Ropeik, a risk-communication consultant. He has begun calling on the industry to let go of its “fear of fear” and embrace GMO labeling, which is required in at least 64 other nations, including Japan, Australia, Russia, Brazil and more than a dozen European countries.

Islamic State fighters attack Samarra ahead of army offensive

Reuters

Sat Feb 28, 2015 7:34am EST

Thousands of troops and fighters from Shi’ite militias known as Hashid Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) have gathered around Samarra for a campaign to drive Islamic State out of nearby strongholds on the Tigris River, including the city of Tikrit 50 km (30 miles) to the north.

The army shelled northern and western districts of Tikrit on Saturday, but did not send troops into the city, security sources said. Army helicopters had also fired rockets at Islamic State militants around Sur Shnas, they said.

In the town of Ishaaqi, about 20 km (10 miles) southeast of Samarra, snipers shot dead two Hashid Shaabi men as they tried to set up a sand barrier on the main highway linking Samarra to the capital Baghdad.

Call From the I.R.S.? Hang Up. It’s a Fraud.

By ANN CARRNS, The New York Times

FEB. 26, 2015

A spate of fraudulent state income tax returns filed using TurboTax’s online software has unnerved consumers this filing season. But con artists also continue to use more traditional means to try to separate taxpayers from their money, like harassing them on the telephone.

The Internal Revenue Service has posted repeated warnings about tax phone frauds, in which criminals call consumers pretending to be agents from the I.R.S. The impostors claim the taxpayer owes back taxes, then threaten arrest or legal action, unless the individual makes a payment quickly. Sometimes victims are urged to wire money, but more commonly they are directed to obtain a prepaid money card at a retailer and provide the number to the caller.



The crooks aren’t particularly discriminating in their choice of targets: The Connecticut state tax commissioner received a call this month, according to a report in The Hartford Courant. And a lawyer for the Federal Trade Commission wrote this month on the agency’s blog that she had received such a call on her home answering machine. “Hello, we have been trying to reach you,” the message said. “This call is officially a final notice from the I.R.S., Internal Revenue Service. The reason of this call is to inform you that I.R.S. is filing a lawsuit against you.”

The callers strive to appear authentic; they may use robocalling technology that shows “I.R.S.” on your caller identification screen. They may know part or all of your Social Security number and they may provide a fake I.R.S. “badge” number. In some cases, follow-up calls may come, supposedly from local police or prosecutors.

But the telephone call itself, experts say, is the first tipoff that the call is bogus. The I.R.S. does not initiate contact through phone or email, but rather sends written correspondence through the United States mail. “The I.R.S. does not call people,” Mr. Gregory said.

Chicago May Owe Wall Street $58 Million After Moody’s Rating Cut

by Brian Chappatta and Elizabeth Campbell, Bloomberg News

8:09 AM EST February 27, 2015

The reduction on Friday to Baa2 affects $8.3 billion of general-obligation bonds, which were already the lowest-rated among the 90 biggest U.S. cities, excluding Detroit. The outlook remains negative, signaling more cuts are possible, underscoring the city’s fiscal stress as Mayor Rahm Emanuel faces a runoff election.

Because of stipulations in four of the city’s swaps contracts, which it entered into as a hedge, the rating cut may terminate the agreements early and trigger the $58 million cost, Moody’s said in a report. The city is also closer to ratings that may force an additional $133 million of payments.

“This is a very significant, negative development for the city of Chicago’s financial position,” Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, a nonpartisan research group in Chicago, said in an interview. “This is a very big deal.”

Swaps agreements, which issuers enter into with banks, exchange fixed interest payments for floating ones. They’re designed to cut borrowing costs. They can backfire when interest rates move in an unexpected direction, as happened in the U.S. with the Federal Reserve keeping its overnight target close to zero since 2008. Most swaps can be ended if one party fails to maintain a minimum credit rating, requiring payment of the entire amount due.



“The downgrade is an objective verdict on Emanuel’s lack of fiscal stewardship,” Andrew Sharp, Garcia’s campaign manager, said in an e-mailed statement. “The downgrade is an objective verdict on Emanuel’s lack of fiscal stewardship,” Andrew Sharp, Garcia’s campaign manager, said in an e-mailed statement.

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It’s not just about living forever, Jackie. The trick is still living with yourself forever.

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