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Fun Court

This was a very mixed week. Trump dropped some bombs on Syria – to little effect, other than a temporary, minor bump in his popularity and a raise in the "fear factor" around the world – while still searching for a coherent foreign policy. Neil Gorsuch got onto the Supreme Court forever. Don Rickles died. And the TG is out of town.

So I tried to take positive, affirmative steps against despair:

First thing, I gave money to Jon Ossoff, who is trying to win Tom Price's seat in the 6th Congressional district in Georgia. His special election is April 18th – and a chance to send a big message about 2018.

https://electjon.com

I worked my ass off on WHEN I GOT OUT.

The new novel is coming along, but I have more work to do. I had to move a big section – and re-weave it into the fabric of the narrative – for the sake of the story's momentum.

I read Alison Bechdel's FUN HOME.

After enjoying the musical at the Music Center, I went right out, bought the original graphic memoir, and read it. Am I glad I saw the show before I read the book!!

First let me say that I enjoyed both. But while the musical is very good, the graphic memoir from 2006 is great: deeper, riskier, and more rewarding. And I'm sure that had I read the book beforehand, I would have watched the show thinking, "But they left out ... but they didn't explain ... etc." Instead, I enjoyed the musical on its own terms. I'm not a big graphic novel reader – my only similar experience is Art Spiegelman's MAUS, which I loved – but this "family tragicomic" is a major work. I can see why it took Bechdel seven years to write and draw it. Her "process" apparently includes setting up actual photographs as models for her drawings, reproducing childhood diaries and letters, and other careful archival, observational work.

Read more ...

Trying To See the Good

As the pebbles start to roll downhill, picking up speed in the impending avalanche that will lead to the Impeachment of Donald J. Trump, I've been trying to look elsewhere, just occasionally ... to stay happy, optimistic, and productive.

The TG and I saw THREE good things lately -- an opera, a musical, and a concert – that temporarily distracted me from the unfolding disaster in the Oval Office:

THE OPERA – "LES CONTES D'HOFFMANN" at the Los Angeles Opera

Jacques Offenbach's LES CONTES D'HOFFMANN is one of my favorite French operas (I have six recordings), and the production by the LA Opera this season with rising Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo and the German soprano Diana Damrau is one of the highlights of the season. Generally speaking, LA Opera doesn't have the money to pay big opera stars anymore, so it was a real surprise to have TWO genuine international opera stars in this production.

Damrau was supposed to perform the superdiva feat of singing all three of Hoffmann's loves – the mechanical doll Olympia, the Venetian courtesan Giulietta, and the doomed Antonia – just as Joan Sutherland, Beverly Sills, and others have done. But she's been fighting bronchitis in the past few months and decided to sing only the Antonia role. (LA Opera brought in the young Korean soprano So Young Park who nailed her role as Olympia and the American Kate Aldrich as Giulietta who did not.)

In the same manner, Damrau's husband – bass-baritone Nicholas Teste – was supposed to play the Four Villains who torment the hero throughout the opera, HOFFMANN's other commonly performed, multi-casting opportunity. But right before the premiere, conductor Placido Domingo appeared onstage to announce that Teste had developed throat problems, too. In a pinch, the LA Opera found a singer – Wayne Tigges -- who could sing the part but did not know the staging. So the audience was treated to the interesting spectacle of having one singer in the orchestra pit singing the roles and another on-stage, lip-syncing and acting them.

I've heard about this happening before but have never seen it. It was, by turns, interesting, amusing, distracting, and finally irrelevant. In any case, the staging – by Marta Domingo, Domingo's wife – wasn't the highlight of the evening: the music was.

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The Bad and the Beautiful

These days, it's either Bad or Beautiful.

The Bad is the Trump Administration.

Today, the director of the FBI, with the head of National Security Agency at his side, called the president a liar and said that his campaign was under investigation for collusion with the Russians in winning the election. We all sort of knew this, but it was absolutely stunning to see and hear. Today was the first step toward impeachment, whenever it happens.

(Here's a good timeline on the Trump-Russia story -- http://billmoyers.com/story/the-trump-resistance-plan-a-timeline-russia-and-president-trump/)

But while Trump is in office, bad things are occuring. The dismantling and neutering of the State Department, for instance. Rex Tillerson's "fatigue" made him cut short some scheduled meetings in Korea. (Can you imagine if Hillary had been too fatigued for anything?) Tillerson's people denied the "fatigue" meme, so maybe if they had allowed any press coverage of the trip, we all would have known the truth. Meanwhile, Trump continues to offend our allies, lying about non-existent British spying and not shaking hands with Angela Merkel.

Trump's proposed budget is a travesty: short-sighted and mean-spirited, which is why it may appeal to hardcore Republicans, raised on hate-radio. Anything that offends the Left -- like the cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting -- must be good.

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