April 12, 2014 archive


The Breakfast Club (L’Orfeo)

Got your sitz muscles on and your warm beer and cold pizza ready?  Good, because today I have 2 solid hours of Baroque Opera for you.

 photo BeerBreakfast_web_zps646fca37.pngI told you to expect something completely different.

Now the truth is I’m not big on Opera.  Uniformly (well, almost) it’s hours and hours of butt numbing tragedy and L’Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi is no exception.

It tells the story, at great length and repetitively in song and a foreign language that I don’t understand, of Orpheus and Eurydice.  Allow me to summarize-

Orpheus was a legendary Bard (who says you don’t learn anything from D&D?) who could literally (and I know the difference between that and figuratively) out sing the Sirens and did so in the service of Jason and his fellow Argonauts.

He married a beautiful woman named Eurydice.  Just after their wedding she was accosted by a satyr and rather than submit she ran away and fell into a pit of snakes suffering a fatal bite.

Distraught, Orpheus expressed his grief in songs that made the gods themselves weep and he was allowed to enter Tartarus where his lamentations softend even the hearts of Hades and Persephone.  They agreed to release Eurydice on a single condition- that Orpheus not look back until they were both safely out of Tartarus.

Did I not say tragedy?  Nothing ever goes well in an Opera.  Orpheus misinterprets the agreement and when he reaches the land of the living again with Eurydice a step or two behind (totally sexist) he turns back to see how she is doing.  Poof.  She is now dead dead, no saving throw.

Like a lot of myths and legends you should take this one with a pillar of salt, but you can see why it’s a particularly attractive one for musicians and it is constantly re-visited in that pre-corporatist intellectual property kind of way.

What’s interesting about L’Orfeo is that it’s one of the earliest examples of the ‘classical’ Operatic format that was enormously popular for over 300 years and could be argued persists even today in what we contemporarily call ‘Musicals’.

Monteverdi was right on the cusp of the transition between Renaissance polyphony and Baroque basso continuo.  He was a singer, a gambist (an instrument that hardly exists now except in museums), and, oh yeah, a priest.

Look, I know he had a wife and 3 kids.  He didn’t take orders until after she died and back in the day becoming a priest was kind of like retiring on a pension.  Give him a break.

In fact he’s rather more famous for his Madrigals which in addition to being eminently singable and pleasant to listen to (much more than Opera to my mind) clearly demonstrate the transition between the Renaissance and Baroque styles.

As Baroque style rose the Madrigal was displaced by the solo Aria and that made me sooo mad.

How mad are you?

I’m sooooooooooooooo mad.


I’m so mad I’m not even going to sing my Aria!

OK, maybe a little.

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

On This Day In History April 12

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

April 12 is the 102nd day of the year (103rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 263 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1961, aboard the spacecraft Vostok 1, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin becomes the first human being to travel into space. During the flight, the 27-year-old test pilot and industrial technician also became the first man to orbit the planet, a feat accomplished by his space capsule in 89 minutes. Vostok 1 orbited Earth at a maximum altitude of 187 miles and was guided entirely by an automatic control system. The only statement attributed to Gagarin during his one hour and 48 minutes in space was, “Flight is proceeding normally; I am well.”

After his historic feat was announced, the attractive and unassuming Gagarin became an instant worldwide celebrity. He was awarded the Order of Lenin and given the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. Monuments were raised to him across the Soviet Union and streets renamed in his honor.

The triumph of the Soviet space program in putting the first man into space was a great blow to the United States, which had scheduled its first space flight for May 1961. Moreover, Gagarin had orbited Earth, a feat that eluded the U.S. space program until February 1962, when astronaut John Glenn made three orbits in Friendship 7. By that time, the Soviet Union had already made another leap ahead in the “space race” with the August 1961 flight of cosmonaut Gherman Titov in Vostok 2. Titov made 17 orbits and spent more than 25 hours in space.

Relive the world’s first space odyssey

‘Moon Shot’ recounts cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s history-making orbital trip in 1961.

MSNBC Science Editor Alan Boyle recaps Yuri Gagarin’s historic space mission, as shown in a Soviet documentary video.

Court Upholds Obama’s Power to Kill

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

We have gone down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass.

“Off With His Head”: Court Upholds Obama’s Power to Kill

Full transcript can be read here

Joining us now is Michael Ratner. Michael is the president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, the attorney for Julian Assange, and president of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. He’s also a board member for The Real News. [..]

Michael Ratner: [..] In a chilling ruling this federal judge in this federal district court dismissed the case. And the key language from that opinion is: the government must be trusted. I want to repeat that: the judge said the government must be trusted. And here’s the exact quote: “Defendants must be trusted and expected to act in accordance with the U.S. Constitution when they intentionally target a U.S. citizen abroad at the direction of the president and with the concurrence of Congress. It’s a really outrageous ruling. The president kills whom he pleases, just so Congress is given broad authority for the president to determine who the enemy is.

It’s an utter abdication by the court. It gives up on the so-called checks and balances we all learned as schoolchildren. It ends, actually, a key principle of the Magna Carta, which is the American and British charter of liberties, which was actually ratified or signed by King John in the year 1215. We’re coming up to the 800th anniversary. So what this court ruling does, what the president’s action does do is overturn 800 years of constitutional history.

Courts are supposed to be a buffer between what was the absolute power of kings and the people. We no longer have the rule of law; we have the rule of the king. In other words, we have the syndrome of “off with his head”.

Drone killings case thrown out in US

Judge dismisses lawsuit over death of Anwar al-Awlaki and two others in Yemen, saying it is a matter for Congress

The families of the three – including Anwar al-Awlaki, a New Mexico-born militant Muslim cleric who had joined al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate, as well as his teenage son – sued over their 2011 deaths in US drone strikes, arguing that the killings were illegal.

Judge Rosemary Collyer of the US district court in Washington threw out the case, which had named as defendants the former defence secretary and CIA chief Leon Panetta, the former senior military commander and CIA chief David Petraeus and two other top military commanders.

“The question presented is whether federal officials can be held personally liable for their roles in drone strikes abroad that target and kill U.S. citizens,” Collyer said in her opinion. “The question raises fundamental issues regarding constitutional principles and it is not easy to answer.”

But the judge said she would grant the government’s motion to dismiss the case.

Late Night Karaoke

Random Japan

 photo gt-3_zpsb55e44a5.png

Nankai Railways and Gundam combine their love of mobility to create the Gundam train

 Casey Baseel

In a way, it’s slightly ironic that Gundam, Japan’s most venerated giant robot, is honored with a huge statue that stands in the Odaiba district of Tokyo. The original series in the franchise was titled Mobile Suit Gundam, but that 18-meter (59-foot) isn’t going anywhere since not only is it incapable of walking, Odaiba is an island and we’re pretty sure it can’t swim, either.

Coming soon, though, is a more logical way to pay homage to the franchise: a Gundam train.

It’s been 20 years since Nankai Electric Railways started operation of its Airport Line, which connects Osaka, central Japan’s largest city, with Kansai Airport. Nankai’s executives apparently concluded that the best way to commemorate this improvement in the mobility for the region’s residents was by teaming up with anime series Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn.

A day off, bumming around

I’ve been driving myself like a slave putting raised beds in the garden, because last year’s garden was going very well until the gophers arrived.  So, I’ve been building 6′ x 3′ boxes from redwood fencing and hanging gopher-wire baskets beneath them.  I’ve gone Caddyshack.  It’s not just gophers, but deer, also, which I will drive from the land amidst their mothers’ lamentations.  I’ve put in thousands of feet of deer fence, and that job is nearly done.  Fuck the fucking deer, ‘tho’ I love them dearly, and hate driving them from their ever-dwindling home ranges.  I killed about a zillion worms in the garden violently excavating for the boxes.  Hate that, too, but they’ll be back in hordes once the super-kick-ass compost goes in on top of last years super-kick-ass.  The super-kick-ass consists of redwood sawdust, local organic compost, and chicken manure.  That’s on top of my personal composting over the past few years, wherein I literally sieved-out the forking California adobe clay, added a shite-load of red cedar pine needles for friability, then two years of kitchen waste and grass clippings.  The sheer yardage of soil moved by hand is mind-boggling.  This soil is pure kick-ass and the garden is going to explode this year.  

I knocked myself out yesterday.  When the afternoon breeze finally arrived, my sweat-soaked gratitude was the pure exaltation of nature herself.  Why do I work like a nineteen-year-old at my age?  At precisely 4:58 pm, the gin tonics started flowing as I finished up the eighth of 32 forthcoming boxes.  Per my sister-in-law’s instructions, it will be a pleasure to work in that productive garden when I’m done.  I may not have the balls of a nineteen-year-old, but with age I have gotten a lot better at listening to people.  

Today, I looked at yesterday’s achievements and said, “Wait a sec.  Rather than mindlessly driving deeper into Egypt with your tanks, Rommel, how about a milkshake today instead?”  I can’t remember the last time I had a milkshake.  I took the long way from Rancho Corralitos, through Pleasant Valley, Day Valley, Valencia Valley, a beauty-flecked drive of redwoods and apple orchards through the central coast that sneaks up on to a local coffee shop where the golden-skinned barista goddess makes the “chocolate dream” shake that includes bananas and peanut butter.  It was so good I could barely hold my lane on the drive home.  Today, I merely managed to throw a little straw around the boxes and water the rapidly germinating seeds, but otherwise just tonked around on the piano and played with the dog.  But I did score that milkshake.

Natalie Merchant was on my mind much of the day.  This song, for all Dharma Bums:

Her voice has a laid back and luscious register.  Hey, Jack, now for the tricky part…

I love the sustained chords and melody, as only she can do it.

Teaching while transgender

Lumberton, TX Independent School District substitute teacher Laura Jane Klug has been suspended for being transgender.  The school district says they are “looking into the matter”…and that Klug has not been terminated…yet.  Klug is supposed to hear about the resolution of the school board today, after the school board met on Thursday.

Klug substituted for a teacher in a fifth grade class last Thursday, which was the first day she discovered that someone might have “issues”.

Parents of some of the students at the school say, of course, that they don’t have any problems themselves with the teacher being transgender, but that the teacher may be confusing the 11-year-olds who are in her charge.

Within an hour of them being exposed or dealing with this, there’s a few issues here, I think these kids are too young for this issue, so that’s our main focus is, if it happens in older grades, high school, ok but too young for this.

–Roger Bread

Other parents say there has not been an issue before with Klug and they don’t see why it is an issue now…and that they have no problem explaining to their child what a transgendender person is.

My son knows who he is and I don’t think any outside influence is going to change that, I’m more concerned about straight predatory teachers rather than I am someone who lives an alternative private alternate lifestyle, I don’t worry about my son.

–Jammie Marcantel, parent with a pronoun problem

Texas, of course, has no employment protections for transgender people.