November 22, 2014 archive


The Breakfast Club (Refrain, Audacious Tar)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgLast week we discussed the British composer Gustav Holst and the week before that Mendelssohn (boffo in Britain, I’m telling yah), and this week we’ve had a really excellent parody of I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General (which is of course nothing new, patter songs, particularly the very popular ones lyricized by W.S. Gilbert, are often laced with satiric contemporary references that performers update to reflect their own environment).

All of which means that it must be time to mention Arthur Sullivan.

Ok, I can see you shaking your heads out there, muttering WTF?  It’s perfectly obvious to me.  Major General is from the famous light Opera (sometimes called Operetta or Musical Theater), The Pirates of Penzance composed by Sullivan in collaboration with Gilbert.  Holst idolized Sullivan until he changed his allegiance to (shudder) Wagner.  Sullivan was the first recipient of the Mendelssohn Scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music when he was 14 years old.

See, clear as mud (and remember, mud spelled backwards is dum).  The important thing about my jokes is that they amuse me.

I’ll spare you a recapitulation of my career as Ralph Rackstraw, let’s just say I’m big with captive audiences in school assemblies and relatives who are supportive of macaroni and glue pictures.

But let’s talk about Artie for a while.  In the first place, he would have hated that nickname because he always considered himself a serious and dignified member of the conventional “Art” Music establishment and certainly not a mere tunesmith writing ephemeral crap for beer soaked groundlings in a Music Hall (which everyone knows is the next thing to a brothel anyway).  He composed 23 Operas, only 14 in collaboration with Gilbert, 13 oratorios and other major orchestral works, and 2 Ballets.  This in addition to many pieces of chamber music, piano sonatas, and hymns of which probably the best known is Onward Christian Soldiers.

But he fell into the company of Richard D’Oyly Carte, this kind of sinister Brian Epstein/Tom Parker character who made him fabulously wealthy by forcing him to write wildy popular ditties hardly worthy of his talent.

Though that was not the cause of his split with Gilbert, nope, they broke up over a carpet.

Throughout most of his association with Gilbert they had quarreled over the plots and themes of their work.  Gilbert was a decided populist and Sullivan entirely bourgeoisie.  They both considered themselves better than their commercially successful Operettas.  It was most often Sullivan who would threaten to quit and eventually Gilbert would respond with a libretto that was at least not totally unacceptable to Sullivan’s refined sensibilities and aristocratic asprations, but in the end it was Gilbert who walked away.

D’Oyly Carte used a lot of the money generated by their partnership to build a theater dedicated to staging their productions, the Savoy.  At best he wasted a lot of it on maintenance, at worst-

In April 1890, during the run of The Gondoliers, however, Gilbert challenged Carte over the expenses of the production. Among other items to which Gilbert objected, Carte had charged the cost of a new carpet for the Savoy Theatre lobby to the partnership. Gilbert believed that this was a maintenance expense that should be charged to Carte alone. Gilbert confronted Carte, who refused to reconsider the accounts.

After all, the carpet was only one of a number of disputed items, and the real issue lay not in the mere money value of these things, but in whether Carte could be trusted with the financial affairs of Gilbert and Sullivan. Gilbert contended that Carte had at best made a series of serious blunders in the accounts, and at worst deliberately attempted to swindle the others. It is not easy to settle the rights and wrongs of the issue at this distance, but it does seem fairly clear that there was something very wrong with the accounts at this time. Gilbert wrote to Sullivan on 28 May 1891, a year after the end of the “Quarrel”, that Carte had admitted “an unintentional overcharge of nearly £1,000 in the electric lighting accounts alone.”

So Gilbert sued Carte and won.  Sullivan supported Carte during this dispute and for a while the former collaborators barely spoke and created solo works that were resounding flops.  They were eventually reunited by their music publisher Tom Chappell, but their new productions (Utopia, Limited and The Grand Duke were not nearly as well received as their previous work.

Sullivan died in 1900, Gilbert in 1911.  Sullivan was considered by almost all his “serious” contemporaries a wasted genius.  Of course they all languish in deserved obscurity but you’ll find people like me performing H.M.S. Pinafore to this very day, partly because they are public domain (next time we chat about Sullivan I’ll try and concentrate on their copyright litigation).

The piece I have selected is not a collaboration with Gilbert but does have a connection.  It is a traditional “Grand” Opera, Ivanhoe.  It was originally staged at the Royal English Opera House which was built by Carte expressly for the purpose.  While moderately successful itself, Carte was unable to find enough suitable productions to make the Hall profitable and the Opera House was a commercial failure.

Unfortunately it’s in 13 parts so I’ll embed the playlist and hope that works-

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

On This Day In History November 22

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.

November 22 is the 326th day of the year (327th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 39 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1990, Margaret Thatcher, the first woman prime minister in British history, announces her resignation after 11 years in Britain’s top office.

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, LG, OM, PC, FRS (born 13 October 1925) served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. Thatcher is the only woman to have held either post.

Born in Grantham in Lincolnshire, United Kingdom, Thatcher went to school at Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School in Grantham, where she was head girl in 1942-43. She read chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford and later trained as a barrister. She won a seat in the 1959 general election, becoming the MP for Finchley as a Conservative. When Edward Heath formed a government in 1970, he appointed Thatcher Secretary of State for Education and Science. Four years later, she backed Keith Joseph in his bid to become Conservative Party leader but he was forced to drop out of the election. In 1975 Thatcher entered the contest herself and became leader of the Conservative Party. At the 1979 general election she became Britain’s first female Prime Minister.

In her foreword to the 1979 Conservative manifesto, Thatcher wrote of “a feeling of helplessness, that a once great nation has somehow fallen behind.” She entered 10 Downing Street determined to reverse what she perceived as a precipitate national decline. Her political philosophy and economic policies emphasised deregulation, particularly of the financial sector, flexible labour markets, and the selling off and closing down of state owned companies and withdrawing subsidy to others. Amid a recession and high unemployment, Thatcher’s popularity declined, though economic recovery and the 1982 Falklands War brought a resurgence of support and she was re-elected in 1983. She took a hard line against trade unions, survived the Brighton hotel bombing assassination attempt and opposed the Soviet Union (her tough-talking rhetoric gained her the nickname the “Iron Lady”); she was re-elected for an unprecedented third term in 1987. The following years would prove difficult, as her Poll tax plan was largely unpopular, and her views regarding the European Community were not shared by others in her Cabinet. She resigned as Prime Minister in November 1990 after Michael Heseltine’s challenge to her leadership of the Conservative Party.

Thatcher’s tenure as Prime Minister was the longest since that of Lord Salisbury and the longest continuous period in office since Lord Liverpool in the early 19th century. She was the first woman to lead a major political party in the United Kingdom, and the first of only four women to hold any of the four great offices of state. She holds a life peerage as Baroness Thatcher, of Kesteven in the County of Lincolnshire, which entitles her to sit in the House of Lords.

Late Night Karaoke

Random Japan

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Nissin Cup Noodle is offering a promotional life-size water-dispensing cow

evie lund

Yes, you read that title correctly! As part of their promotional campaign for the “Milk Seafood” flavor of cup noodle, Nissin is giving away a life-size plastic cow water dispenser to one lucky instant ramen fan. Simply fill up your cow with water, wait for the cow to heat up, and then “milk” out as much hot water as you need to fill up your Cup Noodle. Join us after the jump for a look at the amusing commercial behind this wacky promotion!

The commercial is actually quite sweet and touching, and features a doting dad reading a story to his child.

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.

Beans for Your Thanksgiving Table

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Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

If you haven’t started thinking about vegetarian main dishes for Thanksgiving, now is the time. This year I am focusing on beans from North America. I have been enjoying a number of heirloom beans native to the Southwest and Mexico, and they were the inspiration for these dishes, most of which also incorporate other foods native to the Americas – squash, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes.  [..]

Although I’m loving the heirloom beans I’ve discovered, they are not a requirement for any of this week’s recipes. The pintos, black beans, white beans and red beans in your local supermarket will be fine. But it does pay to use dried beans rather than canned, so that you get the delicious savory broth along with the perfectly seasoned beans.

Baked Beans With Sweet Potatoes and Chipotles

A vegan dish that is slightly sweet and spicy. This new world bean dish will satisfy the vegetarians and vegans at the Thanksgiving table.

Refried Black or Pinto Bean, Zucchini and Corn Gratin

An interpretation of a traditional Southwestern dish with three distinct layers.

Baked Stuffed Acorn Squash

A substantial vegetarian Thanksgiving main dish.

Thanksgiving Mixed Bean Chile With Corn and Pumpkin

A straightforward vegetarian chili that is a favorite throughout the year.

White Tepary Bean and Potato Purée

A side dish that can be a comforting, high-protein substitute for mashed potatoes.

Transgender Day of Celebration: Unlikely Sources

Transgender Day of Celebration is a new event, totally non-standardized, which has been added at the End of Transgender Day of Awareness, as a time we can remember and acknowledge the good things that have happened to us as we integrated into our new lives.


A dinner and community gathering to share in each other’s company, meet new trans*-identified friends and give thanks for the love and support of our community. We will also be having a clothing exchange, so bring your pre-transition clothes that’ve been wasting away in the closet!



Transgender Day of Celebration is an opportunity for trans people and all who love them to come together and celebrate.  We celebrate our own trans lives, and we celebrate the trans people whose lives have touched ours.

–Jamez Terry, MCC Boston

I’m integrating some stories from unusual sources to help establish the mood.