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Showing posts from July, 2015

HANDICAPPING THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION - JULY, 2015

Political pundits make predictions. Then they change their minds. Then, at the last minute, they change their minds again. And the only way that you'll know whether they were right or wrong at any point during the process is if Jon Stewart (or the replacement guy) does a piece about it on The Daily Show.

I'm going to handicap the American Presidential primaries and election. In the primaries, I'll call the Favorite, the Long Shot, the Wild Card, and my Prediction. And at the bottom of each segment, Republican and Democrat, I'll repeat my initial take on those four categories so you can rate my ability to prognosticate. I'll post about every month until the winners have emerged.

DEMOCRATS
It won't be a coronation but it's hard to bet against Hillary. Is the country ready to elect Bernie, a self-proclaimed Socialist? I don't think so. Not after eight years of a Communist like Obama. (That's sarcasm, in case you missed it.) Can a dark house, like O'…

#14 - U.N.C.L.E., BARRY BONDS, FETAL TISSUE

U.N.C.L.E.
Last week I made the point that our new Siamese kitten's name sounds like the name of David McCallum's character in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. So I thought that it would be a good time to sneak a peek at an episode of what had been one of my favorite shows. It's been a lot of years. I tried the pilot.

Unwatchable. I mean, really terrible. Not camp. Just terrible.

What a disappointment!



BARRY BONDS
The government has dropped all charges against Bonds. He's been found guilty of no crimes. He has never failed a drug test. He's not in the Hall of Fame. He should be.

The HOF has enshrined drunks, bigots, and womanizers. But Bonds cheated, you say? Cheating is cause to prevent enshrinement in the HOF? Two words: Gaylord Perry. Performance enhancing drugs are cause to prevent enshrinement? Before steroids, amphetamines and other 'pick-me-ups' were in sufficiently common use that even Hank Aaron admits that he tried speed once. Just once, but he did.

So. Ba…

#13 - ILLIAH AND ILLYA / CHAMBERLAIN, HITLER, AND IRAN

ILLIAH AND ILLYA
One lives with us and we're glad that she does. The other doesn't and we wouldn't mind if he did.




















For the children in the audience, that's David McCallum. You know, Ducky on NCIS. Illya Kuryakin was the role he played in Man From U.N.C.L.E. back in the day when TV was steam-powered.

CHAMBERLAIN, HITLER, AND IRAN
History has not been kind to Neville Chamberlain. But that's beginning to change. Folks are beginning to realize that Chamberlain did exactly what needed to be done given the lay of the land at the time. Read and learn.

England came out of WWI dazed and confused. The war had been brutal beyond imagining. Those men and women who survived and came home were forever changed. The social structures upon which British society was based were crumbling. Britain was not prepared physically, emotionally, or materially to take the steps necessary to thwart Hitler's European ambitions. Under the circumstances, the best that Chamberlain could do was t…

JORDI SAVALL AT ABBAYE DE FONTFROID - CONCERT REVIEW

The annual concert series under the musical direction of Jordi Savall at the Abbaye de Fonfroid, a Cistercian abbey founded in the 11th Century near the city of Narbonne in the south of France, is a source of pure delight for aficionados of Early Music. Savall is a master of the viola da gamba and Hesperion XXI, the group that he founded over 40 years ago, is the gold standard when it comes to Renaissance music and similar forms. If we could afford to attend every evening during the week-long event, we wouldn't hesitate. This year, we chose to attend the concert entitled The Road of Slavery. With narration describing events from the 15th through the 20th Century, master musicians from Latin America and Africa joined Hesperion XXI and La Capella Reial de Catalunya (the choir founded by Savall 30 years ago to complement Hesperion) for two lengthy sets, music and narration without pause, shifting from Mexican to Brazilian to Andean to African rhythms with seamless ease.

As a music p…

BASTILLE DAY 2015 - QUARANTE LAYING OF THE WREATH

The Mayor and two ladies of the village laid the wreath, recorded patriotic music played, the Mayor gave a speech, and then wine was served in the community chapel.

Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!





RANDOM THOUGHTS #12 - CANDACE CAMERON-BURE, PLUTO PICTURES

CANDACE CAMERON-BURE
So some young lady by the name of Candace Cameron-Bure who is apparently an actress  (Full House, Dancing with the Stars... I looked it up.) is on my Facebook feed saying that comparing the civil rights struggle at Southern lunch counters to the bakery denying service to LGBT clientele is like comparing apples and oranges.

“I don’t think this is discrimination at all,” Cameron-Bure is quoted as saying when discussing businesses that refuse to serve LGBT clientele. “This is about freedom of association, it’s about Constitutional rights, it’s about First Amendment rights. We do have the right to still choose who we associate with.”

Someone ought to tell this young woman that's EXACTLY the argument that the segregationists used.

EXACTLY.

We are raising a generation of young people with a knowledge of American history equivalent to that of a fruit fly. And half of what they think that they know is mistaken.

PLUTO PICTURES 
They're coming, the first close-up p…

ENSEMBLE CAPPELLA MAGDALENA - CONCERT REVIEW

ENSEMBLE CAPPELLA MAGDALENA

As the five women who performed as the Ensemble Cappella Magdalena in Quarante this past Monday night began singing in the back of the main chapel of the Abbaye de Quarante, processed down the center aisle, and completed their opening plain-song at the altar, I couldn't help but wonder how fully their voices filled the 1,000-year-old Abbaye, clear as bells, without amplification. Modern concert halls have spent fortunes and failed to duplicate the sound quality of those ancient churches that seem to have been built to showcase the human voice. And as I've been known to say repeatedly, the female voice in song is the most beautiful of musical instruments.

Please visit the website linked above and learn their story. Buy their music if it's to your liking. This is one fine troupe, five strong individual voices blended in sweet unity. In addition to plain-songs, they performed motets and other sacred forms with assurance and skill. And although they …

GREECE AND THE EURO

Yesterday, I posted that I was convinced that Greece would vote NO.

They did.

Yesterday, I said that the repercussions would depend on the bankers and on the oligarchs who own them. One of the determining factors, I said, would be the effect of the Greek vote on the euro. After a small, brief dip, the euro has held steady against the dollar. This tells me two things.

First, the financial markets have already taken into account the vote with the tanking of the euro by about 20% late last summer. After a few panic trades that dropped the euro by less than 1% against the dollar early on today, the euro bounced back up to its current floor price of $1.10. My guess is that it will stay at or near that level at least until the Fat Lady sings.

Secondly, the markets are also convinced that, when the Fat Lady does sing, Greece will remain in the Eurozone. The early general consensus being reported is that the Troika (the EU, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund) will come to …

RANDOM THOUGHTS #11 - SPANKING, BIBLICAL MARRIAGE, GREEK EXIT

SPANKING
A Massachusetts court ruled that spanking is OK.

The experts disagree.

The experts need a good spanking.





BIBLICAL MARRIAGE
The Texas Attorney General has told county clerks that they can refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on religious grounds. He then provided definitions of the differing roles of wives, concubines, and slaves; issued edicts requiring victims of rape to marry their attackers and requiring widows who failed to produce a male heir to marry their brothers-in-law; and provided guidance to barren women who were willing to have their husband impregnate the family's slave girls.

GREEK EXIT
I will be surprised if the Greeks don't vote for telling the bankers and the oligarchs who control the bankers to go jump in a lake. Having done so, Greece will create its own currency, forgive all public and private debts, and guarantee every citizen who works at least 15 hours a week an income equivalent to the German average, 90 days of paid vacatio…

CHATEAU DE SERIEGE - OPEN HOUSE

Cathey and I have been driving past the Chateau de Seriege since we first arrived in Quarante in the spring of 2014. A bit south of Quarante and roughly between Quarante and Cruzy, the chateau had clearly been at the hub of significant family holdings, including vineyards. But as we were to learn, although the wine making has continued unabated, probably since the 16th Century, the chateau itself was a later construct that had fallen prey to the ravages of time. Indeed, if I translate the history correctly, the chateau's construction, begun in the 19th Century by the Andoque family who bought the lordship of Seriege in 1775, was never truly completed.

But you can research the history of every such structure in the Languedoc for years and never know the true story. As they say, history is written by the victors. (Well, as Winston Churchill is supposed to have said. It's hard to imagine that Caesar didn't at least think something like that, if not actually say it. But I di…