The Met’s La Boheme is Country Western music at its finest

What do Peelander Z and The Metropolitan Opera’s current production of La Boheme have in common?

Not much I suspect, other than yours truly. Two weekends ago I saw The Z and this past Sunday saw The Met.

Was anybody else at both shows?

I didn’t think so.

I confess I am not a regular opera goer. While I enjoyed this one a great deal, if I say it was the best opera I’d ever seen I could just as well say it was the worst opera I’d ever seen — since it is, so far, the ONLY opera I’ve ever seen. The Met’s doing a thing where they show various operas in high def at movie theaters, which is how I was able to see New York’s toniest at the Showcase Cinema in West Warwick, RI.

How much did I like it? I was crying by act 4. It didn’t totally surprise me so much that I liked it (I have some high brow inclinations in my past). What did surprise me, though, was that this was really just a Country & Western song writ very large. If they’d told me that in the first place instead of harping on how Classic and Important this was I’d have been there in a flash. (I had the same experience with Jane Austen. If it wasn’t packaged as a Great Work of Literature but just as, “hey, want to read a funny book?” it wouldn’t have taken me years to start reading her. BTW, Thackeray’s Vanity Fair? Same thing.)

If you doubt that this is a C&W song – let me prove it.

The story opens with two guys: Rudy, a songwriter, and Mark who makes covers for CDs. We are then introduced to their buddy Collin, a guy who is always on the verge of making up his mind what he wants to be. They’re all dead broke, which isn’t exactly surprising given their career choices. Just then Sean shows up. He’s a musician and really the only talented one of the group. He’s brought a six-pack and some food for the guys. They start to dig in and he says wait, save that for another day. Turns out he just made a bunch of money playing for a rich guy and tonight they’re going out honky tonkin’. Then the landlord shows up and they get him drunk and scam their way out of the rent. After dumping him they get ready to go out again. Rudy says he’ll catch up because he’s gotta finish something he’s writing. Really this is just an excuse for him to meet cute with Mimi, his next door neighbor.

The meet-up between Rudy and Mimi, a seamstress, is probably the weakest point of the plot. She needs a light for her candle and then boom love at first sight. Better to have given them a back story like they’d been eyeing each other for weeks on the stairs or something. Anyway, they express true love, she coughs a lot (this is what passes for subtle foreshadowing) and go and catch up with the guys down at their favorite juke joint, Momo’s.

Momo’s is hopping that night. Well, who should show up but Musetta (gotta come up with a different name), Mark’s ex. She dumped him and hooked up with a sugar daddy, we’ll call him Boss Hog. She and Hog come in after a long exhausting day of trying to max out his credit card at the mall. Now she isn’t exactly surprised or unhappy to see Mark. They both take turns trying to make the other one jealous and everyone in the place but them and Boss Hog knows they’re going to get back together. She eventually loses the Boss by sending him out to get her cowboy boots repaired. The evening is winding down and our original group realizes they don’t have enough to pay their bar tab. Musetta comes to the rescue by sticking Boss Hog with the bill and taking off with the gang.

End the first half.

The second half is basically all about people not being able to stand it that Mimi is dying. (Remember that coughing?) Rudy wants to break up with her so she’ll hook a rich guy who can help her get better. Marc and Muse also fight – ostensibly because she’s a flirt and he’s too possessive but really just for dramatic symmetry. It’s at about this time that you sense your tear ducts are going to be pressed in to use at some point.

The final act is the boys back at their run down apartment and eventually Muse shows up to say Mimi is downstairs, too weak to come up. She’s brought up, everyone runs around trying to do something to help her all to no avail and she dies. Cue major crying.

If that’s not the soul of country music, I don’t know what is. All they need to add is a train, a dog and mom breaking out of prison in a pickup truck and it’s a million seller.

My biggest problem with La Boheme wasn’t the production it was the packaging around the production. In addition to three intermissions we got Renee Flemming conducting some really, really lame “up-close-and-personal” interviews with the performers, the conductor and, of course, some cute kids. Not only were the interviews terrible and just made the whole thing longer for no particular reason but they really killed any dramatic momentum.

The problem with these broadcasts is they’re being packaged for people who are already fans. They just assume you’ve seen this opera soooooo many times that you’re really just their for a kind of greatest hits performance. Well guess what guys? IT WAS NEW TO ME. I’d think bringing in new people would be a good thing, so why not try it? And if this has really been performed so often that no one gives a damn about the actual show (why did the singers take a bow at the end of the first two acts?) maybe you should be putting something else on. There was so much irritating inside-baseball stuff going on that I halfway expected commentary from someone saying how much better three dead Greeks and a German did it 50 years ago.

Well, despite all that, the show was a success by my standards. I’m going back at the end of the month to see La Fille du Regiment. I hope Renee Flemming gets a day job by then. BTW, just so you don’t think I’ve lost my crass kitsch roots – this weekend’s cultural activity is roller derby (grudge match: Nutcrackers v Cosmonaughties). See you all there, opera fans.

But I’m still not going to see this one:

The ruins of the World Trade Center and naked senior citizens wearing Mickey Mouse masks will share a stage Saturday, when a German theatre’s sell-out reinterpretation of a Verdi opera opens.


5 blogs that make me think

awardTom Chandler of Trout Underground & Copywriter Underground fame has tagged me as one of the “Five Blogs That Make Him Think.” I am flattered both by the honor and by the fact that he bestowed it despite what that might mean for his professional reputation. Also, as a result, there are discussions with a certain company regarding a J-O-B. So Mr. C., I owe you one big fat juicy fly to help you lure trout to their deserved fate.

Seems we’ve got a meme here.

Here are the rules:

  1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
  2. Link to the Maven’s post which says such nice things about you so that people can follow the meme’s trail.
  3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn’t fit your blog).

So I’ll add my list. This is in no particular order and I’m using the no-nepotism rule, so that leaves out BrokeHoedown. However if you want to read about how a wildly wonderfully subversive person views Disney, then go there now. I don’t see anyone else writing about Disney security and racial profiling.

  • chmksuxChurchMarketingSucks: I do not subscribe to a particular creed, although I am definitely a deep believer in The Big Kahuna (Kahunette?) and will mention it in polite company. As a result I am aware of the difficulties of talking to people about faith without coming across like an idiot or a proselytizer. That’s what this blog focuses on. It has everything from basic tips on marketing your church to thoughts about what it means to do marketing when you work for Brand G. All done in a helpful, inclusive and humble manner.
  • Murketing: Rob Walker, the person who writes the Consumed column in the NYT magazine, also writes this blog. He describes Consumed as “part business report, part cultural anthropology.” That’s a good description of Murketing as well. Although he tends to rely too much on facts instead of attitude like a certain blog you are reading right now, he makes me think.
  • KitUp: This is a blog where servicemen and women make suggestions about what items you should take with you when going to play in the George W. Bush Dessert Classic. Recent topics include the use of Glad Press n Seal to keep sand out of keyboards, a DIY guide to refurbishing an M-14, and using a key-chain beeper to tell your green duffle bag from all the others. This is a blog that shows the day-to-day difficulties of being in the service and the ingenious ways people are overcoming them. It’s what I’d want SSG Big Brother Collateral Damage to read if he ever had to go back to the sandbox. I read it myself to get a very small clue about what the sandbox is like.
  • YouThoughtWeWouldn’tNotice: This is the site where designers, graphic and otherwise, show how their work is being ripped off by larger companies. Thanks to this site I will never buy anything from Urban Outfitters again. Check this site out so that when you hire a designer because of something he/she has designed you know if you’re getting the right designer.
  • EncylopediaHanasiana: Jim Hanas does something similar to CD (except, again, with too much emphasis on “facts”). He takes a good look at what’s going on underneath/behind a lot of events and, again, makes connections that no one else does.
  • The Obscure Store: We’ll call this 5A. Very funny news stories. I’ve been a fan of his for years.

Must Read News Feeds: These aren’t really blogs but they make me think a lot, too.

  • TreeHugger: This is where I go to get my below-the-radar environmental news.
  • ClickZNews: Great source of info about technology & marketing. Stuff frequently shows up here before it shows up anywhere else. Also they make connections that a lot of other places don’t.
  • DealBook: The NYT’s survey of what’s going on in the realm of mergers, acquisitions, etc. Must read.
  • ConsumerAffairsNews: Aggressive reporting on behalf of the consumers, which is to say: All of us.
  • BoardGameNews: What can I say? One of my passions.

Beersicles, Mafia wine & other developments in potent potables

Is there any food that’s not improved by adding the words “on a stick”? Once a food has been sticked the only remaining improvement is “deep-fried in batter.” Well, a chef at Rustico’s in DC has gotten beer half-way there. He put a beer in the freezer to get it cold quickly and then forgot about it. The brew froze solid and he ended up eating his booze instead of drinking it. Now the place is sticking a stick in it and selling them. Reports are they are quite popular. You first.


What with the recent demise of Mr. Soprano and America’s obsession with fictional mobsters, it is not surprising that someone has created a Mob-branded wine. What is surprising is that it is an anti-mafia branded wine.

Campo Libero, which means Free Field, is a lightly sparkling white wine made from Trebbiano grapes , and the brainchild of a teetotal charity worker. Dario Campagna, whose Il Gabbiano (“The Seagull”) association provides jobs for drug addicts and former prisoners, has taken advantage of an Italian law that allows property belonging to convicted gang bosses to be used for “social purposes”.

Campagna has taken to growing the grapes for the wine on land formerly owned by Francesco Schiavone, a boss in the Naples mafia.

“At the beginning, local farmers that we’d asked for advice kept missing appointments,” Mr Campagna explained. “But then we discovered that one of Schiavone’s relatives was living nearby and people were simply scared of having anything to do with us.”

Last year someone cut the wires holding up the vines causing Campagna’s group to lose half their crop.

The vines were replanted. And now 10,000 bottles of vino bianco are waiting to be drunk. “I don’t drink alcohol but those that have tasted Campo Libero say it’s a solid wine,” Mr Campagna said.


Everyone knows that alcohol can lead to ill-fated romance, now a French vintner is hoping the interweb will remove the ill-fated part of the equation.

The ‘Soif de Coeur’ (A Thirst for Romance) bottles of rosé, red or white wine contain a unique code in their labels that you tap into the website in the hope of finding your perfect match.

Go to the site, type in your age, sex and the sex of the person you would like to meet and the site will link you up with someone who also bought a bottle of the wine and registered on-line. And there’s no risk that you will ever be asked to appear in one of those creepy eHarmony ads.


Not only can you drink yourself into the gutter, now you can advertise there as well. Quoth the NYT: In the June 15 issue of Wine Spectator, Newton Vineyard purchased a series of ads on a narrow slice of the page that is known picturesquely as “the gutter” — the space, normally blank and white, between the binding and the first column of text. Maybe AA should consider it.


madonnaMadonna may not have wanter her papa to preach but she doesn’t have any problem with his selling wine with her name on it. Tony Ciccone, recently decided to advance his winery business by releasing Madonna Wine, which is available in five varieties: Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay.  The label on each bottle features a colorful picture of Madonna, with whom he consulted beforehand to make sure his daughter approved of the idea. Those of you wondering what wine made in Michigan tastes like can go here to order some.

Teaching my son the facts of life with ESPN’s Mike & Mike

A lot but not all days I drive Collateral Damage Jr. to school in the mornings. My car. My radio station. That basically comes down to a choice between NPR (paid member!) & ESPN. Here in Boston we have another AM radio station which alleges that is about sports and used to carry the Red Sox games. Now the Sox games have moved and that radio station mostly concerns itself with spewing hatred and bigotry on non-sports topics. So because I really don’t feel a need to keep Jr. up to date on all the latest deaths and disasters via NPR, we listen to ESPN.

MandMThey’re pretty funny and CDjr. was psyched to see them doing the announcing when ABC broadcast the finals of the National Spelling Bee.

M&M is a good source for topics of discussion, including agriculture (“Why is Greenberg going to milk a cow?”) and sex ed. A couple of weeks ago there was much discussion of a story in the news about a man suing an energy company over a prolonged priapic incident. So I got to explain what “engorged” means.

This week M&M have been talking about The Sopranos finale, pretty much non-stop. At some point during all the talking this morning someone made a comment about this being ESPN radio, a fact which hadn’t previously clicked with CDjr. He looks up from the back seat and says, “They’re on ESPN?!? Why don’t they ever talk about sports?”

That was about three times as funny as anything said on the show.

About The Sopranos: It was the PERFECT ending and not the one that satisfied most viewers. This was the ending that the creator wanted and oneI that fit with The Sopranos as a work of art and not as something put together to please the audience. It was an ending that said the fear and the life go on. We wrapped up with AJ clearly being set to become Tony Jr. We had the family meeting together at an old diner with a young couple echoing a young Tony and Carmella. We had the haunting fear that at any moment Tony was about to get popped by that guy in the Members Only jacket.

No audience survey would ever have come up with that ending. Nor would it have come up the rest of the series. Art gives you something to chew on. It doesn’t go down easy. It doesn’t come to the conclusion you want, it comes to the conclusion it needs. Most of the major story lines got concluded but to have the whole thing wrap up would have been a disservice to everything that went before.

And all the debate on Mike & Mike means I get to explain what words like whacked and Mafia mean. If I ever home school my kid, they are definitely going to be part of the curriculum.

Latest Penguin of Irony: Head of US AIDS prevention effort quits after being questioned on use of “escort service”

Penguins Employee of the monthRandall Tobias, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, [resigned Friday] after ABC News asked him about his use of a so-called escort service known as Pamela Martin & Associates. … Among other duties, Tobias also was responsible for implementing U.S. policy that required grant recipients to take steps against prostitution and sex trafficking and supporting efforts to fight the spread of AIDS.

First Wolfowitz — who is supposed to be fighting corruption — gets into trouble when his girlfriend who works for him over at the World Bank, gets promoted. Now this. And to think I used to question Bill Clinton’s ethics.

Headline of the day: Condom Bomber tells her story

Bless my former employer, the Boston Herald. The headline looks even better in 72 pt. type on the front page, don’t you think?

Elsewhere in rubber land: Durex [New Zealand] wants applicants for condom testing. Non-lethal purposes only.

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Birth Control Breath Mints

Y’know, sometimes you think they can’t actually make reality any weirder and this comes along.

“A pharmaceutical company, Warner Chilcott, announced today the availability of a new chewable birth control pill with a refreshing spearmint flavor.”

Because they can, that’s why.

Mrs. CollateralDamage: Queen of all alt. media

JMrs. CollateralDamage (motto: "I'm famous in Japan") (no really she is) has a secret identity or two. In one she is the Jennifer Poundcake, lead singer for The Amazing Poundcakes. In another she is the Jennifer Mickey, super expert of all things related to Disney theme parks (no really she is, again). Her two identities have combined to make her queen of all alt. media. She is this week's featured guest on the podcast Mouse Guest Weekly. The Poundcakes have the punk track of the day at and a cut is also a featured cut in this week's's weekly podcast. AND, those of you wanting more Poundcake can hear/download the fruits of their latest recording efforts here.

Tax collectors & fallen women yes, porn stars no.

jC starsThe American Bible Society has refused to publish 10,000 bibles emblazoned with the words "Jesus Loves Porn Stars" on them. The order was placed by two California pastors who run an anti-porn internet site called They also distribute bibles at "adult entertainment" industry conventions and "thought putting an edgy cover on the bibles could get them attention and increase their distribution." Quoth the AP: The ABS says while it appreciates the pastors' mission, the words "Jesus Loves Porn Stars" are “misleading and inappropriate for a New Testament." No word yet on whether the ABS will OK bible to be used for outreach to the slasher industry entitled "Jesus Loves Zombies." The ministers involved in that project think Lazarus' role in the New Testament gives them a leg (or 2 or 3) to stand on. 

Huzzah, BTW, for which brings a truly funny vibe to their ministry.  Either that or this is one of the greatest put ons ever.