July 26, 2014 archive


The Breakfast Club (Eighty Years War)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgOh, those clever Italians, always sneaking up on the poor French in the Mountain passes of the Alps and Pyrenees.

Perhaps you are thinking about professional bicycle racing?  Well, you’re absolutely right but even though I’m willing to torture a metaphor (and there’s an auto-da-fé, which technically means “confession of faith” but in practice means burning at the stake- a peculiar type of barbeque popular in Spain from about 1477 to 1812, in this Opera) I wasn’t quite able to work in the cobbles of Brittany where Le Tour was really won this year and not by crashes and injuries but by slick riding and good strategy (what do you mean you benched Wiggo?) and tactics.

ek, you’ve totally lost me.

See, that’s the thing isn’t it?  Nobody ever expects… the comfy chair!

And you’d better get one because in addition to being composed by an Italian to a French libretto about a Spanish Prince based on a German play today’s Opera is also about 4 hours long.

I’m talking of course about Don Carlos, composed by “Giuseppe Verdi to a French-language libretto by Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle, based on the dramatic play Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien (Don Carlos, Infante of Spain) by Friedrich Schiller. In addition, it has been noted by David Kimball that the Fontainebleau scene and auto da fé “were the most substantial of several incidents borrowed from a contemporary play on Philip II by Eugène Cormon“.”

(T)he opera’s story is based on conflicts in the life of Carlos, Prince of Asturias (1545-1568), after his betrothed Elisabeth of Valois was married instead to his father Philip II of Spain as part of the peace treaty ending the Italian War of 1551-1559 between the Houses of Habsburg and Valois. It was commissioned and produced by the Théâtre Impérial de l’Opéra (Paris Opera).

Like most Operas it’s tragic.  Elisabeth is betrothed to be State Married to Carlos (oh fortunate Hapsburgs) who she meets in the woods on her journey to Spain and quite likes.  When she gets there she is claimed by Carlos’ father, Phillip II, so she marries him instead.  Devastated, Carlos seeks refuge in a monastary and resolves to leave for battle in Flanders (Belgium, another Hapsburg territory).  He smuggles a letter to Elisabeth and meets her and asks her to petition Phillip to send him there.  Carlos’ friend Posa likewise entreats the King who finds his idealism unrealistic, warns Posa the Inquisition is watching him, and asks Posa if he wants another favor.

Eboli, one of Elisabeth’s Ladies in Waiting, has the delusion that Carlos is smtten with her.  When she finds out otherwise she threatens to expose Carlos and Elisabeth.  Posa tries to kill her (actually a very good idea but it would be a much shorter Opera) but is stopped by Carlos.  In the mean time a special barbeque is being prepared for Phillip’s coronation and 6 Flemish envoys are invited.  Unrealistic idealism.  Carlos steps in but Posa persuades him to back down.  Phillip dubs Posa Duke, “the woodpile is fired and, as the flames start to rise, a heavenly voice can be heard promising peace to the condemned souls.”

Afterwards they had S’mores.

Phillip is depressed by the day’s developments and asks the Grand Inquisitor if he should kill his own son. “(T)he Inquisitor replies that the King will be in good company: God sacrificed His own son.  Phillip demures.  Next, in a move that makes sense only in an Opera, the Grand Inquisitor demands Phillip kill Posa (who, you know, like saved him in the last Act- WAKE UP YOU UNCULTURED PHILISTINES!) reminding Phillip “the Inquisition can take down any king; he has created and destroyed other rulers before.”  Phillip next discovers a picture of Carlos in Elisabeth’s possesion and accuses her of adultery.  Eboli ultimately admits to Elisabeth she planted the evidence and is exiled to a convent.  Posa visits Carlos in prison to tell him that he, Posa, has the Black Spot (Opera!) when a shadowy figure shoots him (What about Opera are we not understanding?).

Of course he lingers for a final Aria.

Posa pleads once again for Flanders (suffering under those heretical Calvinist Terrorists or Freedom Fighters, depending on which history books you believe) and expires just before Phillip enters the scene.  Phillip offers Carlos a pardon which Carlos rejects.  There’s a minor riot in support of Carlos which is put down by fear of the Grand Inquisitor.


Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!

Elisabeth is very depressed.  She sings another Aria about just how depressed she is, followed by a duet with Carlos about how depressed they both are.  Phillip and the Grand Inquisitor enter, Phillip pod person compliant.

Carlos is convicted in a summary trial and prepares to defend himself against the Grand Inquisitor’s guards when an old monk who is apparently Charles V, Phillip’s supposedly dead father, proclaims “the turbulence of the world persists even in the Church; once again, we cannot rest except in Heaven.” and drags Carlos into his tomb sealing it behind them.


Did I mention 4 hours?

It’s most frequently staged in an abridged Italian version and I admit my failure in finding a complete original on YouTube.  This performance is a French/Italian Mashup.  Verdi only re-wrote it like 16 times for performance on various stages in a variety of lengths (all long) and it was one of his most popular pieces ever.  No, I don’t know why, but you certainly get the full Opera experience.

Obligatories, News, Blogs, and Bonus Video Below.

Also your comments, if you understand any of this you’re doing much better than I am.

Le Tour 2014: Stage 20, Bergerac / Périgueux

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Yawn.  Good Morning.  The time is 6:30 am.  It’s the next to last day of Le Tour.  Nothing has changed.  Nothing ever changes.

Now you may think these strange sentiments unless you’re as utterly sleep deprived as I am by 21 days of racing and you may think that 7 minutes a slim enough margin over 2,156 miles and you may look at yesterday’s massive pile up in the final 3 km of the stage precipitated by Peter Sagan who doesn’t even remember what happened so road numb is he and took out or tied up the vast majority of the field 74 of whom (more or less, the math is complicated) all finished :07 seconds behind the stage winner, the unheard of up until now Ramunas Navardaukas.

Other popular times (1:06), (3:10), (5:12), (5:58), and (7:57).  You didn’t even really have to pass the line.

Admittedly the course was a little damp.

So what does this all mean?  Nothing.

Oh sure, if you drill down to the also-rans, the 15th or 16th places you may see some movement and people faced serious injury and some were badly banged up, but if you’ve hung with it this long you’ll suffer through to the end and say “Wait until next year” and pretend you enjoyed it.

On the stage it was Ramunas Navardaukas, John Degenkolb, and Alexander Kristoff (the only one you’ve ever heard of).  In the General Classification it’s Vincenzo Nibali, Thibaut Pinot (7:10), Jean-Christophe Péraud (7:23), Alejandro Valverde BelMonte (7:25), and Romain Bardet (9:27).  Everyone else is over 11 and a half minutes behind.

For Points it is Peter Sagan (417), Bryan Coquard (253), and Alexander Kristoff (247).  Every one else is 58 points behind.

King of the Moutains is done done. Rafal Majka (181), Vincenzo Nibali (168), and Joaquim Rodriguez (112).  Everyone else is 23 points behind.

In Team competition it is still Belkin (28:33) to pass AG2R for the win and 3rd place between (1:05:47) and BMC (1:12:25), Europcar (1:27:49), Sky (1:38:37), and Astana (1:39:06).

For the Young Rider Classification (yawn) a 2 way race between Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet (2:17).  Michal Kwiatkowski (1:09:35) is still a pretty sure 3rd since he has a 38 minute margin over Tom Dumoulin (1:40:19).

And 38 minutes is a lot to make up during a 34 and 2/3rd mile time trial over what can at best be called bumps.

Heck, even 7 minutes is insurmountable.

The big race will be between Thibaut Pinot, Jean-Christophe Péraud, and Alejandro Valverde BelMonte who have only :15 seconds between them.  Everything else is meaningless.

On This Day In History July 26

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.

July 26 is the 207th day of the year (208th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 158 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1775, the U.S. postal system is established by the Second Continental Congress, with Benjamin Franklin as its first postmaster general. Franklin (1706-1790) put in place the foundation for many aspects of today’s mail system. During early colonial times in the 1600s, few American colonists needed to send mail to each other; it was more likely that their correspondence was with letter writers in Britain. Mail deliveries from across the Atlantic were sporadic and could take many months to arrive. There were no post offices in the colonies, so mail was typically left at inns and taverns. In 1753, Benjamin Franklin, who had been postmaster of Philadelphia, became one of two joint postmasters general for the colonies. He made numerous improvements to the mail system, including setting up new, more efficient colonial routes and cutting delivery time in half between Philadelphia and New York by having the weekly mail wagon travel both day and night via relay teams. Franklin also debuted the first rate chart, which standardized delivery costs based on distance and weight. In 1774, the British fired Franklin from his postmaster job because of his revolutionary activities. However, the following year, he was appointed postmaster general of the United Colonies by the Continental Congress. Franklin held the job until late in 1776, when he was sent to France as a diplomat. He left a vastly improved mail system, with routes from Florida to Maine and regular service between the colonies and Britain. President George Washington appointed Samuel Osgood, a former Massachusetts congressman, as the first postmaster general of the American nation under the new U.S. constitution in 1789. At the time, there were approximately 75 post offices in the country


Late Night Karaoke

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Health and Fitness News, a weekly diary which is cross-posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette. It is open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

Stir-Fries With a Touch of Thai

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I love my summer stir-fry weeks. The list of ingredients sometimes looks daunting, but think of the effort required to put a stir-fry together as family time. Start the rice, pour yourself a glass of wine, put others to work measuring and chopping, and visit while you prep. Once your mise en place is ready, have the others set the table while you make the stir-fry in under 10 minutes. You barely heat up the kitchen.

Martha Rose Shulman

Stir-fried Rice With Amaranth or Red Chard and Thai Basil

This is another Thai-influenced dish, spiced with sriracha and featuring the beautiful green vegetable amaranth.

Stir-Fried Beans With Tofu and Chiles

This crunchy, colorful stir-fry has an added kick from serrano chiles.

Corn, Squash, Red Onion and Tomatoes Stir-Fried in Coconut Oil

Coconut oil gives this dish fragrance without heaviness.

Stir-Fried Turkey Breast With Snap or Snow Peas and Chard

Turkey cutlets are easy to prep and cook quickly, and young snap peas can be almost as tender as the more traditional snow peas for stir-fries.

Sweet and Sour Stir-Fried Radishes With Their Greens

The bitterness of radish greens pairs wells with a sweet-and-sour sauce in this stir-fry.