Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Guess That Political Party Game – Daily Mail Edition

The ever-popular Guess That Political Party Game is back, where contestants try to name the political party of a disgraced, embarrassed, or convicted politician when his or her political party is not named in a media headline or article.  So far, everyone guessing "Democrat" has been right 99.9999% of the time!

Below is a screen shot of a part of the Daily Mail's web home page right now, where three stories about politicians are juxtaposed.  First, a "Republican congressman" is caught in a minor kerfuffle about excessive spending to decorate his office.  A problem, yes, but a minor one, and what about all the money the Clintons have spent decorating?  Not a word.  Then there's a story about "GOP" politicians "rushing to condemn."  All that intemperate rushing to judgment hotheadedness.  In both headlines, the political party is the first thing mentioned.

But then comes the really big story about the man who just resigned as the governor of Oregon after being caught up in a corruption scandal with an FBI criminal investigation heating up.  Looks like he's destroying evidence!  He's "disgraced."  Now here's something meaty!  But hmmmm, of just what political party is he a member?   No mention in the large headline, or in the caption to the photo.  One clicks through to the article.  No mention in the five point summary of the report.  One reads through the article, down past all the photos and ads.  Finally, there at the very end the "disgraced" ex-governor's political party is mentioned at last – though in an oblique way at that. 

OK now – Guess That Political Party!

It's obvious the lie that's going on here.  The Daily Mail knows that by placing the big story of the corrupt unnamed Democrat just below two negative headlines about named Republicans, it creates the impression for inattentive readers that the third story is about a Republican as well.  The Daily Mail also knows that few people will click through to start reading the article, and that even fewer will read all the way to the end where the corrupt politician's political party is finally mentioned.  By mentioning the Democrat party only at the very end, the Daily Mail can try to deflect accusations of political bias by stating that it did indeed mention the Democrat party of the politician, but by placing the mention at the very end it ensures few readers of the original headline will ever know the truth.

R Balsamo

Monday, February 16, 2015

What a Week That Was

Coming across the transom recently:

Where’s that heat just when we need it?  The fiddling with temperature data to make today look warm is the biggest science scandal ever (link; link).  More on the global warming religious movement (link).

Now just what was so bad again?  Ed Driscoll on the liberal media coming to the defense of the Brian Williams's lying at NBC News (link).

As Mark Steyn says, the future belongs to those who show up:  Italian birth rate lowest in 150 years (link).

Don’t let facts get in the way of a good hit piece:  the New York Times publishes a hit piece on Wisconsin governor Scott Walker saying he's responsible for budget cuts that occurred before he was governor (link).

So what else is new?:  Some British-hating Brits condemn their own country for the bombing of the German city of Dresden in WWII, one saying Brits were worse than the Nazis, while ignoring the massive and lengthy German bombing of Britain, to say nothing of the death camps where many millions were killed (link).

Irony Alert:  a painter of "Coexist" signs in public places was beaten by some Muslims, who apparently do not wish to coexist (link). 

Obama chokes on saying “Muslim terrorist”:  Even though the Muslim terrorists who attacked the Jewish deli in Paris said they did so because it was Jewish, Obama and his people refuse to admit that Jews were specifically targeted in the attack (link).

She chose her friends ...... poorly:  Omitted from almost all news reports is the inconvenient truth that the American girl kidnapped by the Islamic state, who was then sold as a sex slave and who later died in captivity, was a pro-Hamas-terrorist, anti-Jewish, pro-Palestinian activist whose boyfriend was Palestinian (link).   

Not a moment to lose:  David Goldman argues that Europe needs to address the Islamic terrorist swamp by making Muslims fear the state more than they fear the radicals among them (link):

Update from the Dark Ages:  The Islamic State beheads 21 Egyptian Christians specifically because they were Christian (link), yet the American President Obama of the Democrats, once a Muslim himself, calls the victims “innocents” but doesn’t mention they were killed for being Christian.  He probably thinks of it as "workplace violence," which is what he called the Ft Hood mass killing by a Muslim who had a long history of radical Islamic hate and who shouted “God is Great” in Arabic as he was shooting.

Can’t We Still Pretend It Doesn't Exist?:  A post (link) from the great Mark Steyn on the Muslim jihad in Denmark and the usual weak European response.

You can't say that!:  Roger Kimball (link) on how Swedes deny the Muslim rape culture in their country by legally suppressing any acknowledgment of it.  “George Orwell once observed that the only way to challenge totalitarianism was by having the courage to call things by their real names.  Political correctness is so dangerous because it is based on a lie and it promulgates itself by enforcing a lie on the rest of us.”  

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tosca at the Lyric Opera

Original Poster
The Lyric Opera of Chicago is now running a new production of Puccini’s Tosca, and I was fortunate to take it in the other day.  This opera has some beautiful melodies, and its first act is wonderful.  But as the story moves on the gruesomeness of its plot is revealed.  Torture, extortion for sexual favors, murder, a hanging corpse, an execution, and a suicide are all brought starkly before us.  Talk about verismo opera.  And this production’s austere set adds to the gloominess and to boot uses costumes from much later in time than the original – extra touches from a director thinking he’s improved on Puccini.

As opera plots go, this one is simple.  All the action takes place in a 24 hour period in Rome in the year 1800.  The painter Cavaradossi stumbles upon an old revolutionary comrade on the run from a jailbreak and helps him with food and a good hiding place.  But the ruthless police chief Scarpia appears and finds reason to suspect Cavaradossi of just that.  Although the painter denies all, Scarpia proceeds to torture him to see if he’s lying, and forces his inamorata Tosca, a singer, to listen.  Scarpia is clearly obsessed with Tosca – he proclaims in the Te Deum scene of the first act “Tosca, you make me forget God” – and uses her relationship with Cavaradossi to attempt a two-fer – get the information he wants and possess her as well.  When Tosca can no longer stand her lover’s screams, she reveals the truth to Scarpia.  Since she confirms that Cavaradossi has in fact aided a political enemy of the state, it is not at all clear what Tosca thinks the happy ending could be for her lover (and herself as well).  Well, it is usually a capital error to expect much logic from opera characters, so strike that thought.  Nevertheless, Tosca seems to work out a solution, and through double double-crosses the opera moves on to its dramatic conclusion.     

In program notes, the director writes that “the central message of Tosca [is] the clash between corrupt authority and the freedom of the artist....  A painter and a singer have dedicated themselves to the creation of beauty and art, but they find themselves fighting for their moral survival because of a political situation over which they have no control....”  Well, I think I understand the conceit to see artists as suffering for their art, but actually the painter is tortured because he is suspected, correctly, of hiding an escaped prisoner seen as revolutionary by the current regime (technically the Kingdom of Sicily, and soon to be, when joined by the actual island, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies).  Cavaradossi could have been a shoemaker and he would have been treated all the same.  One does not endorse his behavior in recognizing that Scarpia is not an art critic. 

Cover of the Original 1899 Libretto
It is Tosca’s music that is worth the price of admission.  Notably, there are three wonderful arias, a marvelous, emotionally fluctuating first act duet between the doomed lovers, and the powerful Te Deum first act finale.  The three lead characters are most of the show, and the performers I saw were a pleasure.  Music critic Jay Nordlinger once wrote that “the role of Tosca requires a soprano to be coquettish and tender, imperious and scalding.”  Russian soprano Tatiana Serjan was all that – a great actress with a great voice.  And she can play a scene for a comedic effect as when she commands Cavaradossi to change the eye color of the woman in his unfinished portrait from “azzurra” to the brown of her own.  The Russian baritone Evgeny Nikitin as Baron Scarpia and particularly the American tenor Brian Jagde as Mario Cavaradossi were solid in their roles. 

In the Lyric Opera Companion, Stephanie von Buchau writes that "the most memorable slur cast on opera ... is Professor Joseph Kerman's celebrated dismissal: Tosca, that shabby little shocker."  But, she writes, "Tosca, like all of Puccini's mature operas, consists of more than just a series of caloric tunes draped over a lurid story line in dubious taste.  Puccini was an artisan, and however you rate his inspiration, you have to rate his craftsmanship very near the top of the list." No argument here, but in Tosca we the audience do not develop quite the same emotional attachment to Tosca as we do, for example, with Mimi in Boheme or Cho-Cho-San in Butterfly

Filled with beautiful music however brutal the plot, Tosca is one of the most performed operas in the world.  Just among Puccini operas, it is more often performed than Butterfly, Turandot, and all the others save Boheme.  In the index to Opera – the Extravagant Art, Herbert Lindenberger's wide-ranging treatise on opera, there are about as many citations to Tosca as there are to all other Puccini operas combined.  Perhaps it is as simple as opera being mostly about the music.

Tosca has been a favorite at Lyric Opera.  It was featured in the company’s first season in 1954, although it may have been performed in the city earlier as there had been previous opera companies.  That first production featured Eleanor Steber as Tosca, Giuseppe Di Stefano as Cavaradossi, and Tito Gobbi as Scarpia.  Two years later Tosca was back, this time with Renata Tebaldi, Jussi Bjoerling, and Gobbi again.  In the Lyric’s first 25 seasons, Tosca was featured in 10 of them with Gobbi as Scarpia in eight.  In 1976 there was a newcomer to the role of Cavaradossi at the Lyric – Luciano Pavarotti, whose "favorite tenor and idol," according to his Wikipedia entry, was the Lyric's very first in that role, Giuseppe Di Stefano.  

 R Balsamo

Some related posts:
Il Trovatore at the Lyric Opera
The Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, 2014
La Boheme at the Lyric
Aida at the Lyric
Show Boat at the Lyric Opera

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

NBC News Comes Clean About 10-Year Lie. Oops.

Brian Williams, the long-time lead news anchor at the liberal NBC News and the face of its news operation, today admitted that since 2003 he has been telling an untruth about being shot down in a helicopter during the American invasion of Iraq.  Instead of being shot down, his helicopter landed safely one hour after the fighting was over.  Williams has been under pressure from army veterans who were there and have known the truth all along.

Williams was not the only NBC employee on that assignment, so many more have been involved in perpetrating this lie.  This "false story," as the liberal site Politico describes it, has been touted for over 10 years by NBC and Williams as evidence of the network's heroic news people who will go anywhere for a story.  Politico reports:  'Williams has told the story several times, including during a 2013 appearance on "The Late Show" with David Letterman.  "Two of our four helicopters were hit by ground fire including the one I was in, RPG and AK-47... we were only at 100 feet doing 100 forward knots," he told Letterman. "We landed very quickly and hard, and we were stuck, four birds in the middle of the desert. And we were north out ahead of the other Americans." '

Williams claims to be puzzled about how he could have mixed up landing safely and quietly with being shot down by gunfire, but vows to get to the bottom of the mystery.  In addition, Williams, who for decades has also been claiming he is an objective journalist, insists that this story is the only thing he has made up, ever, honest.  Double honest. 

R Balsamo