The Breakfast Club (My Hat It Has Three Corners)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgThree corners has my hat

And had it not three corners

It would not be my hat!

I dunno, maybe it makes more sense in Italian.

This is the famous (I mean, as far as any Renaissance Italian Folk Tune appropriated for ‘Art Music’ can be) Carnival of Venice.

Or infamous in my case as it was the audition piece for All-State Band and since my sight reading skilz are for crap I really didn’t have even a clue what it was supposed to sound like and between the triple and quadruple tounging and the rampant octave jumps (not to mention the rapid fire fingering) I could only make up in energy and enthusiasm what I lacked in technique.

You know, like your first sexual experience.

I have dissipated a youth of extreme privilege on these ephemeral photons.  I went to Summer Camp every year, sometimes twice at different places.  This year my family in Michigan pulled some strings and got me in a Youth Music program that featured lessons with the great Leonard Falcone who just happened to have arranged (that’s a technical musical term for someone who re-does an original piece for different instruments or ensembles, or changes the key or tempo to make it sound different even though it’s really the same) my audition piece.

What could go wrong?

Well, I am a horrible musician, even for a brass player, and I have a tin ear and no discipline or muscle memory whatsoever.  It took Falcone mere seconds to recognize how hopeless I was.

But he was a trooper and there were only so many Euphonium players so he was stuck with me for 2 weeks.

Towards the end I dragged out my audition piece and said-

“Do you think you can help me with this?”

“Let me hear it.”

So I embarrassed myself and he said-

“It should sound like this.”

My Hat It Has Three Corners

It wasn’t a total waste.  I did learn a lot about music and improved tremendously (though I still couldn’t get a gig in a Circus Band which is somewhat unfair to them because they are dead serious professional musicians who practice every day and then do 3 shows) and I also hooked up with this clarinetist who came to my Grandmother’s place where I had to wait for my parents to pick me up after camp was over and took me to a Drive In Movie where I got to second base with her.

Anyway, I’m not here to talk about my early relationships (as amusing as they are in retrospect) what I really want to talk about is Frank Music.

Let’s set the wayback machine to August 16, 2014 where I wrote in Renaissance Man about the importance of a common musical notation that could be printed and distributed to the development of Western ‘Art’ Music.

(A)mong the signal advances musically during this time period is the development of recognizably ‘modern’ musical notation.

(T)he systematized notation of music and printing of same made the spread of musical ideas philosophy, science, and theology (the latter of which was pivotal in the political struggles of the period) much easier than previously possible.

(I)nfluence on European music was widespread, from … England to the remotest eastern principalities of the Holy Roman Empire.

The secret of … success?  The printing press and musical notation.

If you are of a certain age you’ll remember what we called Ditto machines but which were far more likely Spirit Duplicators or Mimeographs.  Man, nothing like sniffing the solvent off a fresh Ditto to give you that nice, in class, buzz.

Sheet Music for Band was reproduced the same way and it was a source of continual irritation for me that I always got the flimsiest, crappiest copies, especially since they always doubled the Tenor Sax parts (hey, at least they were in B-Flat which meant I didn’t have to do any in my head transpositions).  The problem was I didn’t understand how Sheet Music was packaged and sold.

As a Band Director you’d find a piece you liked and thought your Band could handle and then searched through catalogs and stores until you came up with an Orchestration Package.  They typically cost over $100 and included (in addition to the Conductor’s Score) original individual parts for each instrument called for by the Composer.  Since School Bands are always much larger you had to copy those so that you had one for every student to practice with.

So that’s why your teacher was always so mad at you when you lost your folder.  Those things are hard to get.

Now as it turns out Carnival of Venice was not available locally and the closest place to get a copy was Frank Music in New York City.  It was a big deal for me as it’s the first time I can remember visiting the City alone (for which I’d probably get seized by DCS now).

Frank Music is a dingy hole in the wall in Mid-town filled floor to 15 or 20 foot ceiling with shelves stacked about as close as you can the sheet music laying flat inside and layers of faded labels pasted on the dividers.  If you have any sense at all you’ll wait for a clerk to find what you want but I was adventurous and wandered around the mustiness.

In the end I found it and a copy of Arban’s (neither of which helped, see above) and escaped about $50 lighter than I went in.  With the train and lunch it was a $100 day but I could have gone golfing and spoiled a good walk.

New York City’s last classical sheet music shop closes its doors after eight decades

by Lauren Gambino, The Guardian

Friday 6 March 2015 12.33 EST

After nearly eight decades in business, Frank Music, the last classical sheet music store in New York City, will close on Friday at 5pm.

With a pencil tucked behind her ear, Heidi Rogers, the 63-year-old shopkeeper, puttered around the store, retrieving scores from the shelves piled high with music from the classics – Beethoven, Chopin, Stravinsky – to the arcane. She paused occasionally to look around at the spartan office, tucked away on the 10th floor of a midtown Manhattan building, as if keen not to forget the position of a single score.

Rogers indulged every customer – new and old – at the checkout line. With the faithful patrons who had shopped there for years, she reminisced. With the first-timers, she joked, taking digs at the “freebie” culture that brought about the store’s demise, and guessing their musical forte.

Frank Music has struggled in the internet age, as more musicians turn to Amazon or other online sellers that sell scores for less than their brick-and-mortar counterparts charge. It has also had to compete with free downloads, found on websites such as IMSLP, a virtual music library that allows users to download scores at no cost.

“To be replaced by something so inferior – it’s such an insult,” Rogers said. “But if you appeal to people’s lowest instincts, like we’re going to give you this score for nothing, it’s basically saying it has no value.”

Until the very end, Frank Music resisted the creeping digitization of the internet age. The store’s vast inventory, methodically organized by composer, is registered only in Rogers’s brain. She almost never takes credit cards; she prints handwritten receipts; and she records her sales with a pencil on a piece of loose-leaf paper.

“The way other stores bought was very different than the way I bought,” Rogers said. “They would buy 20 copies of one thing that they knew they would sell 20 copies of. I would buy one copy of 20 things they didn’t want to be bothered with.”

The store’s stock boasts, in Rogers’s estimation, hundreds of thousands of scores. The massive, and unique, inventory is what Rogers believes set the store apart.

Annie Shapero, a vocal student and fragrance reviewer, said she heard about the store’s closure on the radio and had to come in and smell the sheets of music before it was too late.

“It’s an olfactory archive,” Shapero said, holding a book to her nose and inhaling deeply. “It’s a smell that’s disappearing from this city.”

“I think it’s something that you just take for granted living here,” Shapero said. “You just think, it’s New York – it’ll always be filled with stores like that. But it’s not! It’s gone. This is it.”

I’ll miss that place, the world has changed and not for the better.

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.


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


C.I.A. to Be Overhauled to Fight Modern Threats

By MARK MAZZETTI, The New York Times

MARCH 6, 2015

Drawing from disparate sources – from the Pentagon to corporate America – Mr. Brennan’s plan would partly abandon the agency’s current structure that keeps spies and analysts separate as they target specific regions or countries. Instead, C.I.A. officers will be assigned to 10 new mission centers focused on terrorism, weapons proliferation, the Middle East and other areas with responsibility for espionage operations, intelligence analysis and covert actions.

One model for the new divisions is the agency’s Counterterrorism Center, an amalgam of undercover spies and analysts charged with hunting, and often killing, militant suspects across the globe. Once a small, occasionally neglected office in the C.I.A., the Counterterrorism Center has grown into a behemoth with thousands of officers since the Sept. 11 attacks as the C.I.A. has taken charge of a number of secret wars overseas.

But Mr. Brennan also cited another model for his new plan: the American military. He said that the Defense Department’s structure of having a single military commander in charge of all operations in a particular region – the way a four-star commander runs United States Central Command – was an efficient structure that led to better accountability.

Mark M. Lowenthal, a former senior C.I.A. analyst, said that the reorganization “is not going to go down smoothly” at the agency, especially among clandestine spies who have long been able to withhold information from analysts, such as the identity of their foreign agents. “The clandestine service is very, very guarded about giving too much information about sources to the analysts,” he said.

Mr. Brennan said he was also adding a new directorate at the agency responsible for all of the C.I.A.’s digital operations – from cyberespionage to data warehousing and analysis.

While adding the new digital directorate, Mr. Brennan chose not to scuttle the C.I.A.’s four traditional directorates sitting at the top of the bureaucracy – those in charge of clandestine operations, intelligence analysis, science and technology research, and personnel support.

The C.I.A.’s clandestine service, the cadre of undercover spies known for decades as the Directorate of Operations and in recent years renamed the National Clandestine Service, will get its original name back under Mr. Brennan’s plan.

Despicable Us

by Frank Bruni, The New York Times

FEB. 28, 2015

Maybe those of us who write about politics and campaigns should adopt a bristly uniform of hair shirts, so that we’re constantly atoning for our sins.

Oh, how we’re hated. And as another presidential race takes shape, that hatred gathers force. Hillary Clinton’s protectors cast us as bloodthirsty raptors intent on finding flaw where none exists. Chris Christie was asked what he’d given up for Lent and said that it would have been The New York Times, but then his priest told him he had to forswear something he’d truly miss.

Scott Walker thinks we’re laying an elaborate trap for him, and after The Washington Post inquired if he regarded President Obama as Christian, he not only punted but also bellowed about “gotcha” questions, griping: “This is a classic example of why people hate Washington and, increasingly, they dislike the press.”

Dislike? Increasingly? Either he was being charitable or he hasn’t read the polling. The public’s esteem for us has been abysmal for a good long while.

And if we’re honest, we’ve brought much of it on ourselves. We play petty games and barrel down pointless roads.

There are bad habits we should surrender not merely for Lent but forever, and there are tweaks we’d be wise to implement as we move forward with the 2016 election.


By Jon Mooallem, The New York Times

March 6, 2015

Galbraith’s reign as Pigeon King lasted seven years, from 2001 to June 2008, when his empire imploded. The prosecution likened his company, Pigeon King International, to a Ponzi scheme – much like Bernard Madoff’s operation, which happened to crumble just months after Galbraith’s, except that where Madoff’s scheme centered on stocks and securities, Galbraith’s used live birds. Pigeon King International sold breeding pairs of pigeons to farmers with a guarantee to buy back their offspring at fixed prices for 10 years. Initially, Galbraith told farmers that the birds were high-end racing pigeons and that he planned to sell the offspring to the lucrative markets that support the sport overseas. Later, Galbraith changed his story, telling farmers that the birds were part of his trailblazing plan to elevate pigeon meat, known as squab, from a fringe delicacy in North America into the next ubiquitous chicken. But in the end, “they were neither,” the prosecutor said; Galbraith never sold a single pigeon for sport or meat. He seemed to have merely taken the young birds he bought from Pigeon King International farmers and resold them, as breeding pairs, to other Pigeon King International farmers, shuttling pigeons from one barn to another. And this meant continually recruiting new investors so he would have the cash to buy the pigeons his existing investors produced every month. When Galbraith’s scheme finally fell apart, Pigeon King International had almost a thousand breeders under contract in five Canadian provinces and 20 U.S. states. He’d taken nearly $42 million from farmers and walked away from obligations to buy back $356 million worth of their baby birds, ruining many of those investors. A forensic accountant determined that signing up enough new pigeon breeders to pay off those contracts would have dug him into an even deeper, $1.5 billion hole. (All figures in this article are in Canadian dollars.)

As more details came to light, Pigeon King didn’t look like a reasonable business. But it didn’t make much sense as a scam either. For seven years, until the day Galbraith shut down the company, he picked up breeders’ young pigeons on time and never broke a contract or missed a payment. In one three-year period, he paid out $30 million to farmers and other creditors. Many of his early investors walked away with six-figure returns. “I was doing the opposite to what a criminal would do,” Galbraith argued at the end of the trial. He paid the business’s major expenses in full, sometimes months in advance, and didn’t vanish when it was clear his company was coming apart. Instead, he stuck it out and wound up with virtually nothing. (Some years, Galbraith paid himself about $400,000, but he used much of that money to bail out the company.) Even his paranoid-sounding claims that he was taken down by a “fear-monger’s smear campaign” turned out to be basically true. He had no trouble signing up new investors until his credibility was attacked by a prominent Amish intellectual, an eccentric with a bullhorn and a small, muckraking farming magazine.

Fifty years after Selma, Alabama at the heart of a new civil rights struggle

by Paul Lewis, The Guardian

Friday 6 March 2015 13.48 EST

When Esther Calhoun marches across the Edmund Pettus bridge this weekend, it will be for a right she says is more fundamental than the vote. “I want to breathe clean air,” she said.

Calhoun, a 52-year-old mother of two, depicts the struggle against the 4-million tonne coal ash dump that has sprouted on the edge of town, and the raw sewage seeping into local streams, as a modern-day civil rights campaign.

“People don’t listen to us because we have black voices,” said Calhoun, who was born on a Uniontown plantation three years before the famed march in Selma, and picked cotton growing up. “Everyone says, ‘now we’re free’, but I don’t think I’m going to be free until I’m dead.”

On Saturday, she will be among tens of thousands of campaigners descending on Selma for a weekend of events commemorating the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday – the day when 600 civil rights demonstrators calling for the right to vote were brutally beaten by state troopers preventing them from crossing the bridge en route to Montgomery.

Television images of the crackdown on peaceful marchers stunned America. It represented a watershed in civil rights history that paved the way, months later, for the Voting Rights Act.

Two years ago, a key provision in that legislation was struck down by the supreme court. Organisers of the commemoration, which will be attended by Barack Obama, his predecessor, George Bush, and more than 100 legislators from Washington, want to use the anniversary to call for a renewal of federal voting rights legislation.

Few if any this weekend will disagree with those aims. But 50 years on from Selma, activists heading to the small town are motivated by a more diverse set of causes, from the environmental protection through to gay and immigration rights.

Politicians face investigation in Brazil’s biggest ever corruption scandal

Associated Press

Friday 6 March 2015 23.00 EST

In total, 54 people are to be investigated by the attorney general, including 21 federal deputies and 12 senators – though that figure is expected to grow as evidence is gathered on corruption involving the state energy company Petrobras.

The investigations and any possible trials will take years to play out, but the action announced on Friday throws the second term of president Dilma Rousseff into further disarray as she faces dueling political and economic crises. She is not being investigated despite serving as chair of the Petrobras board for several years as the kickback scheme played out.

Experts say the investigations could create further gridlock in congress just as Brazil and its sputtering economy desperately need fiscal and political reform measures passed.

But the investigation is widely viewed as necessary for the nation’s democracy to advance and shake off deep-rooted impunity for the rich and powerful.

“You can’t put this genie back in the bottle. People are going to have to face the consequences,” said Paulo Sotero, director of the Brazil Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. “There used to be the idea that people in positions of power in Brazil were untouchable. They’re no longer untouchable.”

Senator Bob Menendez faces federal corruption charges over gifts from donor

by Joanna Walters, The Guardian

Friday 6 March 2015 15.57 EST

The federal investigation has focused on whether Menendez sought political favors for an old friend and prominent donor, Salomon Melgen, a Florida-based ophthalmologist, law enforcement sources told the cable network.

The criminal charges have reportedly been sanctioned by US attorney general Eric Holder and involve allegations that Menendez used his Senate office to promote Melgen’s business interests in return for gifts.

Menendez is a vocal critic of Barack Obama’s policies to improve ties with Cuba and participate in direct diplomatic negotiations with Iran over nuclear weapons.

But investigators are examining allegations that Menendez lobbied on behalf of Melgen’s business interests, including advocating to federal Medicare administrators on his friend’s behalf after the Florida eye doctor was accused of over-billing the government for healthcare provision.

Federal prosecutors have also been examining whether Menendez unlawfully intervened to protect a business interest of Melgen’s in the Dominican Republic, though the senator argued he was attempting to curb the drug trade by his actions, not help his donor.

The Long, Strange Saga of the 180,000-Carat Emerald

by Brendan Borrell, Bloomberg News

8:00 AM EST

March 6, 2015

Like most of the emeralds from Bahia, it was cloudy and marred by impurities. High-quality stones from the world’s top mines, in Colombia and Zambia, can sell for thousands of dollars per carat, but a typical emerald from Bahia is worth less than $10 per carat. Many of its gems are used in costume jewelry. Others are exported to Arab markets, where they’re bought to decorate mosques and houses. Still others become collectors’ pieces, admired as geological novelties.

The Brazilian TV news program Fantástico reported that a local man bought the Bahia Emerald early on for $5,000 and subsequently sold it for $20,000. Details of the next transactions are sketchy-the emerald appears to have changed hands a few times before two men bought it around June 2001. Elson Ribeiro, a former bookseller and gold miner, and his partner, Ruy Saraiva, crated the stone, placed it on the bed of a pickup truck, and drove it away from Pindobaçu.

“There’s an entire subculture of people who will buy anything because of its size,” says Ronald Ringsrud, an American emerald expert. “The story is what sells the piece.” And a story is what the Bahia Emerald got. Whatever the gemstone is really worth-next to nothing or several hundred million dollars-court records show that it’s been traded around the world by a gang of con men, dupes, detectives, and double-crossers worthy of a Coen brothers movie. It might all be farce if not for who entered the dispute last fall: the nation of Brazil, which wants to get its rock back.

The Outsider


March/April 2015

Warren has a knack for getting the last laugh. She is now her party’s leading liberal alternative to Clinton, a role she clearly relishes. Despite her repeated denials she is considering the possibility of running, she remains a threat, and not just because her denials always seem phrased only in the present tense.

Warren speaks the language of populist grievance and scoffs at the Clintonian soft-pedal: She has told someone close to her that she remains “worried that Hillary and her people are still too damned close to Wall Street.” Sure, Clinton leads all potential Democratic challengers-Warren included-by 40 or 50 points, depending on the poll, but she lacks that kind of leftist brio. Plus, Clinton is rusty as a campaigner, addicted to six-figure personal appearance fees and a multimillionaire friend of Wall Street at a time of widespread concern about the country’s glaring economic inequality.

“You built a factory out there? Good for you,” she said, in a one-sided dialogue with a straw-man business owner griping about taxes.

“But I want to be clear: You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.”

What if Hillary Bows Out?

By BILL SCHER, Politico

March 03, 2015

This Hillary-or-bust attitude bespeaks a certain complacency: Democrats have been getting a little too used to “being the organized party” for once and rallying around a single candidate, while Republicans struggle with an unwieldy double-digit field. So it makes sense for someone to entertain what would happen if disaster struck. It might as well be me.

As of now, says Lapetina, “there really isn’t any enthusiasm” for the non-Hillary Democrats already flirting with a run-Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb-meaning no one would instantly lay claim to the Clintons’ vast network of donors.

Still, the Democratic bench is hardly shallow. Among other possible candidates who might suddenly find a fire in their belly: Gov. Andrew Cuomo, former Gov. Deval Patrick, former Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Sens. Sanders, Mark Warner and Kirsten Gillibrand. Lapetina believes pressure would build for a few really big names to enter, such as Al Gore.

And then there’s Elizabeth.

If the Democratic establishment doesn’t have a contingency plan drawn up, progressive activists certainly do, and it amounts to the drafting of the reluctant Elizabeth Warren. Would a Warren candidacy spark a pitched battle between the populists and centrists in the party? Not necessarily. Executive Director Ilya Sheyman, one of the leaders of the Draft Warren movement, believes that rather than “all-out war,” the party would see just a “vigorous, contested primary,” with Warren in the catbird seat. And many big Democratic donors are ideological true believers who would give to Warren in a heartbeat.

Another Obama regulator refuses to regulate

by David Cay Johnston, Al Jazeera

March 6, 2015 2:00AM ET

Hardly anyone has heard of Cheryl LaFleur, but she is one of America’s most powerful government officials, entrusted with vast authority to oversee the electricity, oil and natural gas industries. She chairs the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), a tiny government agency with only 1,500 employees. Its budget is covered not by taxpayers but by the industries it regulates.  

Her sworn duties include making sure charges for electricity are always just and reasonable. That means suppliers should be reasonably compensated and customers should pay reasonable prices. But she has consistently ignored this responsibility. When presented with serial indicators of unjust prices, she puts on a blindfold and sits on her hands.

In a Feb. 18 letter to six senators and 13 representatives, LaFleur demonstrated beyond any doubt her fealty to electricity companies and disregard for consumers. The 19 legislators expressed alarm over the quadrupling of prices paid just to have power plants available in New England to supply electricity during peak times. The price was $1 billion and change five years ago. Last month’s auction hit $4 billion and would have been much higher but for price caps.

LaFleur, a Harvard educated lawyer, politely thanked the lawmakers for writing her about their concerns. She then told them that nothing could be done.


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