The Breakfast Club (Tales of Brave Ulysses)

Since we were just talking about Homer, his other great work was The Odyssey which was considered by most to be as fictional as The Illiad until Schliemann discovered what he thought was Troy (and was, just not on the level he identified).  It is certainly peopled with exotic locales and fantasical monsters which may or may not correspond to actual geography and now extinct creatures (yes on the first, no on the second for me).

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgOne thing that is hard in this day of 100 hour wars, instant communication, and rapid transit to wrap your mind around is that someone could go off and fight a 10 year war and take 10 years to get home.  To be fair, Troy was a seige with individual challenges and small unit skirmishes until Odysseus figured out a way to breach the walls.  We’ve spent spent how long in Afghanistan now?  And the Hundred Years War lasted, well, a hundred years more or less (this is not a trick question).

During his return Odysseus only spent 3 years wandering around (many sea voyages in the Age of Sail lasted as long or longer) and then another 7 as a captive of Calypso.  I’ve met people who were locked up longer than that.

Anyway, the central tale of The Odyssey (after eliminating all the crypto-zoology and magic) is the return of Odysseus in disguise to find his wife besieged by many moochers and people looking to steal his stuff who he then proceeds to kill in a bloodbath of epic proportions.

Remind me.  What are the Rules of Opera?

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.

Why, this is perfect!  As for the wacky excuses?  Well, what would you tell your significant other after 10 years, 7 of them spent shacking up with someone else, standing covered in gore in the living room among heaps of dead bodies?

Honey, I’m home?

Montaverdi is considered one of the revolutionaries of Baroque music.  His L’Ofeo is just about the earliest recognizable Opera still regularly performed.  It was written in 1607 as near as we can tell when he was about 40.  Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria was written in 1640, 3 years before his death at the age of 76 and with L’incoronazione di Poppea (1642) is considered one of his 3 greatest works.

What distinguished Monteverdi from many other Opera composers of his generation was the lack of moral judgement (a hold over from the sacred music that was the money machine of the time) and humanity of his characters, something I think is captured by this contemporary performance in casual dress with period instruments and orchestration.

It little profits that an idle king, by this still hearth, among these barren crags, matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole unequal laws unto a savage race, that hoard and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink Life to the lees!

All times I have enjoyed greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those that loved me, and alone on shore, and when through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades vext the dim sea-  I am become a name for always roaming with a hungry heart.

Much have I seen and known.  Cities of men and manners, climates, councils, governments.  Myself not least, but honored of them all.

And drunk delight of battle with my peers far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.

I am a part of all that I have met; yet all experience is an arch wherethrough gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades for ever and for ever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end, to rust unburnished, not to shine in use!  As though to breathe were life.

Life piled on life were all too little, and of one to me scant remains, but every hour is saved from that eternal silence something more, a bringer of new things.

And vile it were for some three suns to store and hoard myself and this gray spirit yearning in desire to follow knowledge like a sinking star beyond the utmost bounds of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus to whom I leave the sceptre and the isle, well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill this labour, by slow prudence to make mild a rugged people, and through soft degrees subdue them to the useful and the good.  Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere of common duties, decent not to fail in offices of tenderness, and pay meet adoration to my household gods when I am gone.  He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port, the vessel puffs her sail.

There gloom the dark broad seas.

My mariners, souls that have toiled and wrought, and thought with me; that ever with a frolic welcome took the thunder and the sunshine, and opposed free hearts, free foreheads…

You and I are old.

Old age hath yet his honour and his toil.

Death closes all- but something ere the end, some work of noble note, may yet be done, not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks.  The long day wanes.  The slow moon climbs.  The deep moans round with many voices.

Come, my friends!  ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world, push off, and sitting well in order smite the sounding furrows; for my purpose holds!  To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths of all the western stars, until I die.

It may be that the gulfs will wash us down.  It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles, and see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

Though much is taken, much abides, and though we are not now that strength which in old days moved heaven and earth; that which we are, we are-

One equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Ulysses, Tennyson

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


How an army of internet activists challenged Big Cable and won again

by Sam Thielman, The Guardian

Friday 24 April 2015 15.43 EDT

Not long ago, it would have been unthinkable for a coalition of discontented citizens to challenge the business decisions of multinational company with a market cap of nearly $150bn and a boss who plays golf with the president. Last week it happened, and the grassroots guys won. Again.

The $45bn Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, which would have been the biggest deal in cable history, is officially dead as of Friday morning. That outcome is due in no small part to consumers who managed to make their voices heard to regulators above the lobbying dollars of Big Cable who – in the last year alone – spent a combined $32m making sure they were heard in Washington.

“The political winds have shifted dramatically over the past 14 months since Comcast announced its acquisition of Time Warner Cable,” wrote analyst Rich Greenfield of BTIG on Monday. “The same grassroots organizations that helped push the White House’s agenda to drive the net neutrality outcome they desired [were] actively advocating against the Comcast Time Warner Cable transaction.”

Some Bright Green Lawns in California Require No Water

By EMMA G. FITZSIMMONS, The New York Times

APRIL 24, 2015

As Californians are being told to cut back significantly on water use, many homeowners are rolling out artificial grass. Turf companies say business is booming across the state, and they argue that today’s plush products more closely resemble real grass and have come a long way since the days of AstroTurf.

Gov. Jerry Brown ordered mandatory water restrictions recently for the first time in the state’s history. Some communities will have to reduce consumption by as much as 36 percent. Lawns are a major target because they account for more than a third of urban water use.

But turf proponents are facing resistance from some water districts, homeowner associations and conservation groups that consider the product unsightly or harmful to the environment. Among the complaints are that synthetic turf does not foster soil health or support biodiversity, that it is not easily recycled and could end up in landfills, and that it can lead to excessive water runoff.

For those reasons, some environmental groups recommend using native plants and mulch instead. Lisa Cahill, director of sustainable solutions at TreePeople, an advocacy group, said that while artificial turf reduced water use, it harmed the soil underneath and attracted heat, among other concerns.

Alexis Tsipras seeks interim deal for Greece in talks with Angela Merkel

by Larry Elliott and Helena Smith, The Guardian

Thursday 23 April 2015 14.20 EDT

Amid signs that the long-running talks between Athens and its creditors are having a dampening effect on the eurozone economy, Tsipras used a meeting with Merkel in Brussels to seek an interim deal by the end of the month that would provide money in return for a Greek commitment to reform.

The conversation between Tsipras and Merkel came on the fifth anniversary of Greece’s first call for a financial bailout, and raised hopes in the financial markets that a deal can be done before the stricken eurozone country runs out of money to pay pensions, salaries and debts to the International Monetary Fund.

But the mood among European commission officials was less upbeat, with Brussels sources saying that the refusal of Athens to provide information meant little real progress had been made.

It had been hoped that finance ministers from the 18-strong eurozone would sign off a new package of help for Greece when they meet in Riga on Friday. That, though, has proved impossible, prompting speculation that Greece is moving closer to a debt default that could lead to its departure from the eurozone.

The European commission and the European Central Bank have been expressing confidence that there would be no serious consequences from a Greek exit from the single currency.

But the latest snapshot of the eurozone economy provided evidence of a slowdown in activity, which analysts blamed on the protracted Greek crisis.

Declassified Report Shows Doubts About Value of N.S.A.’s Warrantless Spying

By CHARLIE SAVAGE, The New York Times

APRIL 24, 2015

The report said that the secrecy surrounding the program made it less useful. Very few working-level C.I.A. analysts were told about it. After the warrantless wiretapping part became public, Congress legalized it in 2007; the report said this should have happened earlier to remove “the substantial restrictions placed on F.B.I. agents’ and analysts’ access to and use of program-derived information due to the highly classified status” of Stellarwind.

But little came of the Stellarwind tips. In 2004, the F.B.I. looked at a sampling of all the tips to see how many had made a “significant contribution” to identifying a terrorist, deporting a terrorism suspect, or developing a confidential informant about terrorists.

Just 1.2 percent of the tips from 2001 to 2004 had made such a contribution. Two years later, the F.B.I. reviewed all the leads from the warrantless wiretapping part of Stellarwind between August 2004 and January 2006. None had proved useful.

Baltimore’s ‘Broken Relationship’ With Police


APRIL 24, 2015

For nearly two years, ever since her brother Tyrone West died after a struggle with the police, a 35-year-old preschool teacher named Tawanda Jones has been in the streets here on Wednesday nights, protesting. Her message: “We need killer cops in cellblocks.”

Though the officers involved in Mr. West’s July 2013 death have been cleared of wrongdoing, his case and other police-involved killings here are woven into Baltimore’s psyche, part of what Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake calls the “broken relationship” between residents of this majority black city and a police department with a history of aggressive, sometimes brutal behavior.

That history helps explain the long-simmering anger that boiled over this week with the death on Sunday of Freddie Gray, 25, who suffered a severe spinal cord injury in police custody. Despite efforts by city officials to improve relations – Mayor Rawlings-Blake, alarmed by wrongful-death lawsuits, last year asked for a Justice Department review – thousands have staged protests that are expected to continue through the weekend.

Pentagon Announces New Strategy for Cyberwarfare

By DAVID E. SANGER, The New York Times

APRIL 23, 2015

American officials have fumed for years that cyberattacks were largely cost-free. Now, much as Presidents Truman and Eisenhower struggled to define circumstances that could prompt a nuclear response from the United States, Mr. Obama and his aides are beginning to lay out conditions under which the nation would employ cyberattacks – either in retaliation for a strike, as an offensive weapon for conflict or in covert action. They have made no mention of the central role the United States played in the large cyberstrike against Iran’s nuclear program.

The strategy said that routine attacks should be fended off by companies. The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for detecting more complex attacks and helping the private sector defend against them.

But, in a significant declaration, about 2 percent of attacks on American systems, officials say, may rise to the level of prompting a national response – led by the Pentagon and through the military’s Cyber Command, which is based alongside the National Security Agency in Maryland.

“As a matter of principle, the United States will seek to exhaust all network defense and law enforcement options to mitigate any potential cyberrisk to the U.S. homeland or U.S. interests before conducting a cyberspace operation,” the strategy says.

But it adds that “there may be times when the president or the secretary of defense may determine that it would be appropriate for the U.S. military to conduct cyberoperations to disrupt an adversary’s military related networks or infrastructure so that the U.S. military can protect U.S. interests in an area of operations. For example, the United States military might use cyberoperations to terminate an ongoing conflict on U.S. terms, or to disrupt an adversary’s military systems to prevent the use of force against U.S. interests.” That last phrase seemed to leave open the door for pre-emptive cyberattacks.

Migration Crisis Puts Europe’s Policy Missteps Into Focus, Experts Say

By JIM YARDLEY, The New York Times

APRIL 24, 2015

To human rights advocates, one of Europe’s biggest mistakes in the Mediterranean migration crisis came last November with the shutdown of the Italian patrol and rescue program known as Mare Nostrum. Led by the Italian Navy, the program saved thousands of migrants at sea.

But ending it, largely for budget reasons, had effects beyond scaling back humanitarian efforts. Even as the Italians were saving lives, they were using the program to identify and prosecute the smuggling networks behind the surge in human trafficking across the Mediterranean. The program helped Italian prosecutors convict more than 100 people for human smuggling and indict three smuggling bosses in Egypt.

The program that replaced Mare Nostrum, known as Triton and run by the European Union, is far less ambitious and restricted to the waters immediately off the European coast, and it does not include a robust law enforcement component. The decision by European leaders not to pick up the monthly bill of 9 million euros (about $9.8 million) to keep Mare Nostrum operating has drawn scathing criticism in the aftermath of last weekend’s deadly shipwreck, which left more than 750 migrants dead.

European leaders this week effectively conceded their mistake and pledged to triple funding for search-and-rescue missions while also dedicating new resources to fighting the smuggling rings. But as the flow of migrants continues unabated, the new European response is being criticized as shortsighted and still lacking the scope of Mare Nostrum, which itself was never intended as a comprehensive solution.

More fighting, air strikes in Yemen, civilian death toll exceeds 550

By Mohammed Mukhashaf, Reuters

Sat Apr 25, 2015 12:06pm BST

Saudi Arabia says it is winding down its month-old bombing operation against the Iran-allied Houthis and forces loyal to Yemen’s former president. But Riyadh pounded targets with at least 20 airstrikes across Yemen on Thursday and 10 more on Friday.

The civilian death toll from the fighting and airstrikes since the bombing started on March 26 has reached an estimated 551 people, the United Nations said on Friday. Its children’s agency UNICEF said at least 115 children were among the dead.

Washington and other Western countries backing the Saudi-led aerial campaign have grown increasingly worried about the humanitarian crisis on the ground and also about the risk of Sunni Muslim jihadist groups taking advantage of the chaos.

Islamic State, which has had little presence in Yemen, released late on Thursday a video it said showed members of the group in the country conducting military exercises and pledging to attack the Houthis, who are from the Zaydi Shi’ite sect.

United States seeks access to Philippine bases as part of Asia pivot


Sat Apr 25, 2015 4:36am BST

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in a speech in Arizona, has outlined Washington’s next phase in its Asia “pivot”, deploying its most sophisticated destroyers, bombers and fighters to the region.

At least eight locations in the Philippines have been identified as possible sites where U.S. troops, planes and ships will be rotated through a series of military training and exercises, Philippine General Gregorio Catapang, military chief, told local television network ABS-CBN.

But, the Americans will have to wait until after the Philippine’s Supreme Court makes its rulings on the constitutionality of the military deal, called Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, signed last year between Manila and Washington. It may decide later this year.

The United States is also interested to return to its two former military bases in Subic and Clark, which they left in 1992 after the Philippines terminated basing agreement.

Man arrested over drone at Japanese prime minister’s office

Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press

April 25, 2015 1:32am

Japanese police have arrested a man who admitted to landing a drone with low-level radioactive sand on the roof of the prime minister’s office to protest the government’s nuclear energy policy, officials said Saturday.

The small drone found Wednesday had traces of radiation and triggered fears of potential terrorist attacks using unmanned aerial devices, the prime ministers’ office has said. The infiltration at Japan’s political headquarters has also raised questions over the level of security there.

Fukui is home to about a quarter of Japan’s 48 reactors, which are currently all offline following the 2011 tsunami-triggered Fukushima plant disaster. Abe’s administration wants to restart as many of the idled plants as possible.



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