May 16, 2015 archive

Triple Crown: The Middle Child

There is only one thing to think about today and that is justice for Freddie Gray and the other victims of a militarized and out of control Police’s Racist War on Blacks, Hispanics, and the Poor.

A Baltimore Neighborhood, Wary and Healing, Prepares for Preakness Day

By JULIET MACUR, The New York Times

MAY 10, 2015

“They told me that there’s so many things we can do here that it would be really fun for me and my kids,” said Thomas, a 33-year-old single mother of four who works transporting patients at a hospital. “But I don’t know what to think of it. We’ll see. It’s been a tough couple of weeks.”

A tough couple of weeks for the entire city.

Less than a month ago, Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, was arrested in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood, about four miles southeast of Pimlico, which sits on the northwest side of the city. Gray fell into a coma while in police custody and later died. Riots and protests followed, including some outside Camden Yards, where in the jittery days after Gray’s death two Orioles games were postponed and another was played behind closed doors.

Six police officers have been charged in connection with Gray’s death, and some residents here predicted that those indictments might quell any protests, at least until the trial. But for now, the wounds in the city and in this neighborhood, where the 140th Preakness will be run on Saturday, are still raw. As race day approaches, many people here remain on edge.

Sometimes sporting events can play a role in healing a city’s wounds, as the baseball games after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, did in New York City. But the Preakness doesn’t quite fit that role.

A gigantic banner hanging above the racetrack’s main entrance declares the Preakness to be “the people’s race” and “the people’s party.” But those people, for the most part, aren’t from the largely black community around the track, where just gaining admission to the clubhouse and the grandstand will cost you $25 (much more if you want a seat), and where an infield ticket will set you back $70.

“For 50 years, I’ve sat on this porch and have seen people come and go on Preakness day, and most of them are white and rich and look all fancy in their dresses, neckties and shorty-shorts,” said Ruth Spencer, 87, who lives near the corner of Hayward and Winner Avenues, across the street from the track. “But I do love watching the people come by. I feel proud that they’ve come here to my backyard.”

But on race weekend, Austin said, the neighborhood was energized by the party atmosphere and the chance to make a bit of quick money. Asked if that fun might be ruined this year by protesters looking to grab the spotlight, Austin laughed.

“Oh, no, no,” he said. “Do you know how many police there are here that weekend? There’s one every few feet. Nothing’s going to happen here. Not a thing.”

Austin said that the greatest tension between the residents and the police in recent years had stemmed from a rule that bars the sale of anything on the racetrack side of the street.

The rule was announced a few years ago when signs appeared that read: “No vending. By order of the Baltimore City Police Department.” Residents trying to make a buck on Preakness weekend are still grumbling about that, noting that the police certainly have bigger problems to worry about than octogenarians selling iced tea for a dollar.

But Zora said that Gray’s death had changed the way she viewed the police. When she sees a police car drive by now, she said, she can feel her heart beating faster.

“Now when I see them, I start thinking, What if they want to fight one of us? What if they want to fight me? And that scares me,” she said, while sitting on a swing at the Pimlico Good Neighbor Park, which on Thursday was so strewn with cups, candy wrappers and potato chip bags that it looked as if a trash bag had exploded.

Thomas said that Zora’s distrust of the police made her sad. And even Baltimore’s mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, admitted on Wednesday that the police and the community had a “fractured relationship.”

That was why the mayor asked the Justice Department to investigate any unconstitutional abuse or discrimination on the part of the Police Department. That federal investigation is now underway, but in Park Heights and Sandtown-Winchester and many other neighborhoods, a tense truce between the black community and the police will remain the order of the day for a while.

To make the best of the situation, even if it is a short-lived distraction, Thomas said she was considering her neighbor’s suggestions for race day.

“I have a hot dog machine, and a popcorn maker, so I might take them out to see if I can sell some, or maybe make fresh lemonade,” she said with a sigh as her 8-month-old daughter wailed in the background. “Or, I don’t know, maybe not.

“With all that’s happened here in our city, I have really mixed feelings. A lot of people do.”

Yeah, celebrate good times and forget about all the ugliness and oppression, c’mon.  Rights?  You have no rights a Gold or their jackbooted Sturmtruppen, the Blues and the Greens, are bound to respect.  Vive la Ancien Régime.

Even the Derby winner, American Pharoah, has a name that reeks of oligarchic privilege and wears earplugs to dampen the noise of the unwashed masses.

American Pharoah Is a Fan Favorite, but Not Vice Versa

By MELISSA HOPPERT, The New York Times

MAY 15, 2015

During the walkover at the Derby, a tradition that allows contenders’ connections to escort them on the racetrack to the paddock, American Pharoah became so unnerved by the crowd of people around him and the record 170,513 in the stands that it took several grooms to control the dark bay colt.

“The walkover for the Derby has gotten out of control,” said Baffert, who even stuffs fluffy cotton plugs in American Pharoah’s ears before every race to avoid such occurrences. “There’s too many people. It was like walking your horse through Times Square at midnight on New Year’s Eve. And they were yelling and screaming and running next to him and taking pictures, so it got him a little stirred up.”

His aggressive behavior, noted by horseplayers as a bad omen because it saps strength, continued in the paddock and on the racetrack, until he was loaded into the starting gate.

“He started becoming very hyped, and he was using a lot of energy, and I got very nervous because that’s the first time I’ve seen him do that,” his owner, Ahmed Zayat, said.

From the URL- Favorite’s Problem? He hates crowds but packs them in.  There is truth in that.

Oh, you want to talk about horse races, not class conciousness.  Well, there are only 8 horses in today’s race because if you don’t have a Triple Crown contender, what’s the point?  People care more about dogs than they do about horses, and your ever shrinking audience is 1%er’s, gamblers, and the celebrity obsessed.  Still, no one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the people.

American Pharoah will not win despite the hype.  His stablemate Dortmund is much more stable in temperment, was faster through the length of the shorter Pimlico course, and starts from a more favorable pole position.  American Pharoah begins on the rail and will be buried by an avalanche of horses headed for the racing line.

According to The New York Times the field looks like this-

Gate Name Jockey Odds
1 American Pharoah Victor Espinoza 4-5
2 Dortmund Martin Garcia 7-2
3 Mr. Z Corey Nakatani 20-1
4 Danzig Moon Julien Leparoux 15-1
5 Tale of Verve Joel Rosario 30-1
6 Bodhisattva Trevor McCarthy 20-1
7 Divining Rod Javier Castellano 12-1
8 Firing Line Gary Stevens 4-1

Joe Drape’s picks: Firing Line, Dortmund, American Pharoah

Melissa Hoppert’s picks: Dortmund, American Pharoah, Firing Line


Preakness Trivia

  • Actually 2 years older than the Kentucky Derby.
  • Shortest in distance (1/16th shorter than the Derby).
  • Only the Derby has a larger attendance.
  • No Black Eyed Susan has ever been used, currently it’s painted Chysthanthemums.

There have been 34 winners of both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes including the 11 Triple Crown winners.

Preakness Traditions

Winners don’t get the real Woodlawn Cup to keep, but a half size replica (oh, and the Woodlawn Racing Club is defunct).  Black Eyed Susans don’t bloom until 2 months after the Preakness.  The Old Clubhouse was destroyed in a fire in 1966.  They paint the winner’s racing silks on the weathervane.  No one on the internet knows why it’s called the Alibi Breakfast.

Official Website

I need a drink-

Black Eyed Susan Recipe

(Official, but without the brand names)


  • 1 1/4 oz. Bourbon (20% of Early Times is aged in used barrels)
  • 3/4 oz. Vodka
  • 3 oz. Sweet and Sour Mix
  • 2 oz. Orange Juice


Fill a highball glass with shaved ice, add the liquors first, then top off with orange juice and sweet and sour mix. Stir and garnish with an orange slice, cherry, and stirrer.

Post time 6:18 pm ET, coverage starts at 4:30 pm on NBC.


The Breakfast Club (What’s Opera Doc?)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgI’m extremely happy that I’ve finally dismissed Wagner who was no more than a third rate hack with no talent except for shameless self promotion (hey, it takes one to know one), but he codified The 3 Rules of Opera in a way that led Chuck Jones to create the best cartoon of all time (I’d embed it, but it never stays up for long).

Sung by Elmer J. Fudd, Millionaire, who owns a mansion and a yacht, and Bugs Bunny (from Flatbush Brooklyn by most accounts though some say the Bronx or even shudder Poughkeepsie New Joisey), there are Three Acts and as I recall it goes a little something like this (Elmer in Italics, Bugs in Normal; Singing Centered, Spoken Left Justified)-

Be vewy quiet I’m hunting wabbits
Wabbit tracks!!!
Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit
Kill the rabbit?
Yo ho to oh! Yo ho to oh! Yo ho…
O mighty warrior of great fighting stock
Might I inquire to ask, eh, what’s up doc??
I’m going to kill the wabbit!!
Oh mighty hunter t’will be quite a task
How will you do it, might I inquire to ask??
I will do it with my spear and magic helmet!
Your spear and magic helmet?
Spear & magic helmet!
Magic helmet?
Magic helmet!
(Dismissively) Magic helmet
Yes, magic helmet, and I’ll give you a sample

Stage direction: General Devastation


That was the wabbit!!!

Stage direction: Bugs Cross Dressed

Oh Brunhilda, you’re so wuvely
Yes I know it I can’t help it
Oh Brunhilda be my wuve
Return my wuve a longing burns deep inside me
Return my love I want you always beside me
Wuve like ours must be
Made for you and for me
(Harmony) Return won’t you return my love for my love is yours

Stage direction: You tip your hat to this Teuton son and all them ears come out from underneath

I’ll kill the wabbit!
Arise storms
North winds blow, south winds blow
Typhoons, hurricanes, earthquakes, SMOG!
Flash lightning strike the wabbit
What have I done?? I’ve killed the wabbit…
Poor little bunny, poor little wabbit…

Well what did you expect in an opera, a happy ending???

That HTML is more complicated than it looks.

Now you might suspect this is the introduction to some Wagnerian Opus and I’ve already said it will be a cold day in Muspelheim.  He represents everything bad and overblown about Romantic Art Music.  No, it’s simply to remind you of The 3 Rules of Opera which are-

  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.

Today’s subject is Lucia di Lammermoor, also Romantic but from a time when Wagner was a struggling nobody and Gaetano Donizetti was the last remaining “genius” of the Italian School after the death of Vincenzo Bellini and the retirement of Gioachino Rossini.

While the plot bears some similarity to a mashup of Romeo and Juliet and MacBeth it is in fact lifted from Sir Walter Scott’s The Bride of Lammermoor.

Lucy Ashton’s (Lucia) family is feuding with the Ravenswoods.  She’s in love with Edgar Ravenswood (Edgardo) who is observed sneaking into the Castle by Norman (Normanno) who duly reports this to her brother Henry (Enrico) who is consumed with a deep and abiding hated of all things Ravenswood.

Lucy waits for Edgar by a fountain with her maid Lisa (Alisa) and tells her (or rather sings her because this is an Opera after all) that she has seen the ghost of a girl killed on the very same spot who was killed by a (now also dead) Ravenswood out of jealousy.  Lisa replies that this is an omen and Lucy really ought to ditch Edgar.  Edgar arrives and tells Lucy he must leave for France and that he hopes to convince Henry of his sincerity and marry before he goes.  Lucy says- ‘Are you nuts?’ and instead they exchange rings and pledge eternal love.

While Edgar is away, Henry arranges to marry Lucy off to Arthur (Arturo).  Worried she is still in love with Edgar (which is true), he shows her a forgery that ‘proves’ Edgar has forgotten her and is shacking up with someone else.  He leaves it to her old pastor Raymond (Raimondo) to make the argument that she should go through with this for the good of the family.

Arthur arrives to pick up his bride Lucy but she’s behaving, umm…, erraticly.  Edgar assures Arthur she’s just upset over the death of her Mom.  Arthur signs on the dotted line and Lucy follows reluctantly.  At that point Edgar shows up and Raymond steps in and shows Lucy’s signature on the contract.  He yells at her (well, sings, you know) and demands she return his ring and takes hers and tramples it on the floor.  At this point the bouncers show him the street.

Henry is still pissed and challenges Edgar to a duel.  He tells Edgar she is already doing it with Arthur and likes it very much thank you.  Edgar replies- ‘I’m going to kick your ass’.

Well, Lucy is not enjoying it and has killed Arthur.  Raymond comes in and tells everyone what she has done and proclaims her ‘Mad’.  Then Lucy shows up and cops an insanity defense, singing passionately of an imagined happy life with Edgar.  Henry enters and is at first enraged and then softens as he becomes convinced his sister truly is insane.  She collapses and Raymond blames Norman for the whole tragedy.

And now, dear reader, I’ll ask you to pause.

Is Lucy dead?

Mental Illness is a bad thing and very real, leading you to suicidal and homocidal impulses and self destructive behaviors, but it doesn’t generally strike you down like a brain aneurysm unless that’s what caused it.  There’s no reason to think Lucy’s actions anything but rational (if a bit psychotic) in today’s culture.  Sure juries find people like that guilty and pack them off to the pen or execute them all the time, but they’re not stricken down by the lightning bolts of Zeus or the Hand of God.  Keep that in mind as I tell you what happens next.

Edgar has resolved to die in order to kill Henry.  He hears of Lucy’s sudden breakdown and then instead of Henry, Raymond appears and tells him Lucy is dead.  Edgar stabs himself fatally so he can be reunited with Lucy in Heaven.

Hmm…, ironic and gruesome enough for you?

Don’t stop, belie“.

Embedding disabled by request.  Told you things don’t stay up.

My personal theory is that Henry, still hating Edgar and the Ravenswoods as much as ever and unwilling to risk a duel with a kamikaze, sends Raymond out just to provoke the reaction he got.  Does he marry Lucy off to someone else?  Does he send her to a nunnery?  Does she commit suicide herself?  Henry is evil through and through and is not above doing anything to get what he wants.

At this point I don’t care either.  It’s been two and a half hours and my butt is sore and I gotta pee.

Sure Il dolce suono is considered one of the greatest arias ever and is a staple of every famous soprano you’ve ever heard of except for Tony, but it’s Scene 2 of the Third Act!

I suppose you can linger over dessert and get that second cup of coffee without guilt.  You won’t miss anything important.  Oh, and don’t bother sticking around for the last credit to roll in Age of Ultron either.  Once Thanos says he’ll do it himself it’s Third Grips and Craft Services until they close the curtains.

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

On This Day In History May 16

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.

Click on image to enlarge

May 16 is the 136th day of the year (137th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 229 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1868, the U.S. Senate votes against impeaching President Andrew Johnson and acquits him of committing “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

In February 1868, the House of Representatives charged Johnson with 11 articles of impeachment for vague “high crimes and misdemeanors.” (For comparison, in 1998, President Bill Clinton was charged with two articles of impeachment for obstruction of justice during an investigation into his inappropriate sexual behavior in the White House Oval Office. In 1974, Nixon faced three charges for his involvement in the Watergate scandal.) The main issue in Johnson’s trial was his staunch resistance to implementing Congress’ Civil War Reconstruction policies. The War Department was the federal agency responsible for carrying out Reconstruction programs in the war-ravaged southern states and when Johnson fired the agency’s head, Edwin Stanton, Congress retaliated with calls for his impeachment.

Of the 11 counts, several went to the core of the conflict between Johnson and Congress. The House charged Johnson with illegally removing the secretary of war from office and for violating several Reconstruction Acts. The House also accused the president of hurling slanderous “inflammatory and scandalous harangues” against Congressional members. On February 24, the House passed all 11 articles of impeachment and the process moved into a Senate trial.

In Memoriam: B. B. King (September 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015)

B. B. King, blues legend, has died at 89.

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.

Mother’s Day Brunch

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Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Martha Rose Shulman offers these delicious crepes you can make in advance, and let the little ones put them together for your well deserved Mother’s Day meal. If your better half is handy in the kitchen, suggest these other delicious recipes to celebrate the day.

Crepes With Raspberry-Cassis Sauce

These sophisticated crepes can be made ahead of time and reheated in a low-temperature oven.

Blueberry or Blackberry Compote with Yogurt or Ricotta

Blueberries don’t need much in the way of sweetener yet this simple compote will transform a plain bowl of yogurt into a very nice breakfast.

Sautéed Apple Rings

An apple dish that can work on the breakfast table, as a side dish or even dessert.

Pesto-Filled Deviled Eggs

Hard-boiled eggs make a perfect vehicle for pesto, which stands in for half the egg yolks in these savory deviled eggs.