Saturday, April 09, 2011

Beware of gift cards

My friends just came back from a tour of The Cotswolds in the UK and they just raved about it. They were kind enough to bring back a couple of gifts from Prince Charles' estate "Highgrove"; a lovely bar of lavender and thyme soap, some thyme seeds and an ornament for our Christmas tree that looks like a blazer patch with the Prince's feathers on it. Very nice. The best thing, however, was this card. 

What do you suppose they're trying to say?

Saturday afternoon opera break

When one thinks of the opera Tosca one always hears Floria's beautiful "Vissi d'Arte" or "E lucevan le stelle" sung by Mario Cavarodissi. Today's video is from the end of the 1st Act of Puccini's Tosca. It has been staged by the Arena di Verona

The work, based on Victorien Sardou's 1887 French-language dramatic play, La Tosca, is a melodramatic piece set in Rome in June 1800, with the Kingdom of Naples's control of Rome threatened by Napoleon's invasion of Italy. It contains depictions of torture, murder and suicide, yet also includes some of Puccini's best-known lyrical arias, and has inspired memorable performances from many of opera's leading singers.
Ruggero Raimondi as Barone Vitellio Scarpia
Apart from the beautiful music it is set in places that lend themselves to the most beautiful set designs and costumes. The wealthy of the period were dripping in jewels and fine clothing and the cathedral of Sant'Andrea della Valle (Act I), the Palazzo Farnese (Act II) and the Castel Sant'Angelo, all in Rome are magnificent. Throw in some terrific singers and "what's not to like?"

Please enjoy the finale of Act I where the evil Baron Scarpia, chief of the Roman Police plots to have his way with the "Lady Gaga" of her day, singer Floria Tosca by imprisoning then murdering her lover Mario Cavarodossi. Tosca has just left the scene and Scarpia sets his plan in motion by ordering "tre sbirri, una carozza" (three policeman and a carriage) to wait for him at The Palazzo Farnese. This is one of the great pieces for a baritone and I hope you will enjoy it.

Arena di Verona - Tosca by Arena_di_Verona

Friday, April 08, 2011

Oh... Snap!.

The Republicans in Congress last week trotted out that nice-looking young man from (USA Heartland) Wisconsin, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Koch's Hole to tell us how the Republicans are going to save us from the huge deficits they have gotten us into. Matt Taibi of The Rolling Stone, whose writing I really enjoy, has a few things to say about Paul Ryan in his own inimitable style (my emphasis):

Paul Ryan, Republican Douchebag
Paul Ryan, the Republican Party’s latest entrant in the seemingly endless series of young, prickish, over-coiffed, anal-retentive deficit Robespierres they’ve sent to the political center stage in the last decade or so, has come out with his new budget plan. All of these smug little jerks look alike to me – from Ralph Reed to Eric Cantor to Jeb Hensarling to Rand Paul and now to Ryan, they all look like overgrown kids who got nipple-twisted in the halls in high school, worked as Applebee’s shift managers in college, and are now taking revenge on the world as grownups by defunding hospice care and student loans and Sesame Street. They all look like they sleep with their ties on, and keep their feet in dress socks when doing their bi-monthly duty with their wives.

Every few years or so, the Republicans trot out one of these little whippersnappers, who offer proposals to hack away at the federal budget. Each successive whippersnapper inevitably tries, rhetorically, to out-mean the previous one, and their proposals are inevitably couched as the boldest and most ambitious deficit-reduction plans ever seen. Each time, we are told that these plans mark the end of the budgetary reign of terror long ago imposed by the entitlement system begun by FDR and furthered by LBJ.

Never mind that each time the Republicans actually come into power, federal deficit spending explodes and these whippersnappers somehow never get around to touching Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. ... The reason for this is always the same: the Republicans, quite smartly, recognize that there is great political hay to be made in the appearance of deficit reduction, and that white middle class voters will respond with overwhelming enthusiasm to any call for reductions in the “welfare state,” a term which said voters will instantly associate with black welfare moms and Mexicans sneaking over the border to visit American emergency rooms.

And finally this:
No matter what, Ryan’s gambit, ultimately, is all about trying to get middle-class voters to swallow paying for tax cuts for rich people. It takes chutzpah to try such a thing, but having a lot of balls is not the same as having courage.