The fat lady sings.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you…

the many moods…of WENDY:



It’s so much fun to have a dog in the house again, seeing how she’s different from and the same as the last one. Having an excuse to get up and take a walk at noon, instead of reading something you’ve been putting off. Someone to talk to. Taking her to the dog park at the end of the day, where she can amuse herself for 20 minutes by throwing a crabapple in the air and catching it. She must have learned to play by herself when she was in the shelter; it’s like working out in a 4-by-8 cell, using only your own body weight.


Of all the artistic regrets in my life, one of the biggest is that I never learned to appreciate opera. I don’t think the ship has sailed, but a window has closed; I’m just never going to get the art form like a lifelong fan. My sister dated a boy in high school whose family was sort of aggressively Italian, and I remember her playing “Pagliacci” in her room for a few weeks. But other than pop-culture moments here and there, the whole thing mostly escapes me.

Joe Queenan wrote one of his famously misanthropic columns a few years ago, about liking opera because it’s one place where the fans do not put up with bullshit. Ever. Think of all the times you’ve seen cowlike American audiences give standing ovations to mediocre performances, and contrast that to opera where, so Queenan said, getting booed offstage is a fairly common occurrence, especially in Europe, where they know their opera. He cited a famous case where a male lead was handed off to an understudy between acts, because the star just wasn’t making it, and the audience was in open revolt.

That’s a crowd I can identify with.

So imagine my delight and vexation to read this New York Times story — oh, how I hope you haven’t used up your 20-article quota this months yet, but what am I saying? It’s Aug. 2 — about a spectacular debacle in Bayreuth, Germany, where a radical reimagining of Wagner’s Ring cycle didn’t go over well:

When Frank Castorf, the avant-garde German director responsible for this confounding concept , took the stage with his production team, almost the entire audience, it seemed, erupted with loud, prolonged boos. It went on for nearly 10 minutes, by my watch, because Mr. Castorf, 62, who has been running the Volksbühne (People’s Theater) of Berlin since 1992, stood steadfast on stage, his arms folded stiffly, he sometimes jabbed a finger at the audience,essentially defying the crowd to keep it coming.

This “Ring” was presented as “a metaphorical story of the global quest for oil,” and the accompanying photo shows a giant Mt. Rushmore featuring Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. I’ve never seen the Ring cycle, or even a little bit of it, so I’m not sure where he’s going with that, but I loved the detail that “for no clear reasons singers smear one another with crude oil.”

And you’ve heard about the fat lady singing? Holy shit:

My earnest attempt to be open-minded about this baffling “Ring” almost foundered for good near the end of “Siegfried” when (you can’t make this up) a monster crocodile swallowed the poor Forest Bird in one big gulp.

This last scene, of course, is the ecstatic love duet between Siegfried, our rambunctious hero (who, by the way, instead of forging a sword assembles a semi-automatic rifle), and the smitten Brünnhilde. In this production, at the most climactic moment in the music the stage rotated to reveal two of those monster crocodiles busily copulating.

Looking hungry after sex, the squiggling reptiles, their jaws flapping, headed toward Siegfried and Brünnhilde, who were singing away.

That would be so awesome, I don’t think I could handle it. I’d be the one screaming BRAVO among all those boos.

Another week gone by, another Friday looms. Oh, let me kiss Friday’s sweet lips.

Posted at 12:30 am in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' |

89 responses to “The fat lady sings.”

  1. Sherri said on August 2, 2013 at 12:37 am

    I passed along that NYTimes review to my husband, who is an opera fan and will be going to see the Ring Cycle next week at the Seattle Opera. He howled with laughter, and is passing it on to his opera buddies.

    I tried going to the opera with him, but it just doesn’t do anything for me. Our daughter is going to attend the Ring Cycle with him. Life is short, opera is long, Wagner is forever.

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  2. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 2, 2013 at 12:39 am

    Ars longa, vita brevis – dum vivimus, vivamus!

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  3. Deborah said on August 2, 2013 at 1:57 am

    I’ve become an opera fan, I was introduced to it by my husband, he’s a big fan. The thing I like about opera is the spectacle of it, including the hall where it’s held. Chicago has the Lyric which is usually good, Santa Fe has an interesting venue because it’s outside. I’ve been to the Paris opera and the National in London, but the best for me was the Met in NYC.

    We went to a performance once in Chicago, Electra, done by the Avant Garde director Robert Wilson, Jessie Norman was the star, but the audience was not happy. I didn’t hear any booing but a lot of people walked out. I like Robert Wilson so I was happy.

    I can’t watch opera on video which my husband does, it can’t capture the spectacle.

    Love the Wendy pics.

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  4. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 2, 2013 at 7:07 am

    I just can’t read this without hearing Tommasini work very hard, trying to talk himself into finding this production “fun” and “creative” and “innovative.” It’s a new version of “The Emperor’s New Opera Staging.”

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  5. Connie said on August 2, 2013 at 7:16 am

    I’ve tried and failed to appreciate opera. What little people my age know about “Ring” is due to Bugs Bunny. Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit.

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  6. alex said on August 2, 2013 at 7:37 am

    My parents are both opera and classical music fanatics, and it would be fair to say that it was the soundtrack of my childhood. And I have essentially no appreciation of it whatsoever. In college I managed to suffer through an IU Music School production of Tamerlane starring a coloratura soprano who was a childhood friend. When I went to Europe, I spent an enjoyable evening in the opera house in Budapest listening to a show of operettas, but was more entranced by the magnificent scenery than anything else.

    As for people taking liberties with classic works, in the ’80s in Chicago I had a friend who was part of a Shakespeare company that was, re, shaking things up. I went to one performance and it reminded me of the 1979 movie “The Goodbye Girl,” wherein Richard Dreyfus plays a starving actor appearing in a calamitous avant grade adaptation of Richard III. I and several other chumps who came as a group made a hasty exit somewhere during the first half of the show.

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  7. alex said on August 2, 2013 at 7:39 am

    Fucking auto-correct just fucked my shit up. I want to turn it off.

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  8. Suzanne said on August 2, 2013 at 7:40 am

    I love opera. I saw Die Walkure at Lyric Opera in Chicago a number of years ago. Hearing & seeing the Ride of the Valkyries live was a thrilling experience. I’ve been to several of the Met’s HD simulcasts and they are fun, but it isn’t the same as being there seeing the production live. The down side is that once your ears become attuned to a good operatic voice, so many other singers sound weak and tinny. I cringe at wedding singers more often than I care to admit.

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  9. joe k said on August 2, 2013 at 7:48 am

    I’m with Connie, unkess it has bugs init it just ain’t good opera.
    Pilot Joe

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  10. coozledad said on August 2, 2013 at 7:48 am

    I like opera, but the competitive aspect of singing eludes me. I guess it’s one way of letting scorekeeper dorks in the academy. A lot of wonderful orchestral music is buried under all that recitative.
    Benjamin Britten’s sea interludes from Peter Grimes alone are worth going to the show.

    Still, the only thing worse than exposition is some motherfucker singing exposition.

    My wife’s cousin started with an opera company in Korea while he was there teaching English. He’s apparently pretty good, and popular there.
    When he was a kid, his parents considered farming him out to my wife’s parents with the expectation that they could, for some reason, cure him of his homosexual tendencies.

    A few years ago, we were having Christmas dinner with my wife’s folks, and my mother in law says “Since he’s taken up that opera, he’s a lot more masculine.” I had to go to the bathroom to try and hark the solid bits of my soup out of my sinuses.

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  11. James said on August 2, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Whenever opera comes on the radio (NPR) on Saturdays, I’m compelled to say, in a booming pseudo-operatic voice, “Laugh, clown… Laugh!”

    Always hilarious.

    I have no idea what I’m referring to. Pagliacci? The only opera knowledge I knew was when I crammed for being on Jeopardy.

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  12. Suzanne said on August 2, 2013 at 9:07 am

    Yes, Pagliacci, James. A great, great opera. Short, sweet, to the point, with lots of angst, love gone wrong, and, of course, a murderous clown.

    And I am loving that old Mr. Bennett is making the national news!

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  13. Judybusy said on August 2, 2013 at 9:18 am

    My wife and I have begun attending opera, and get partial season tickets. Like Deborah, we love the spectacle, and have little tolerance for avant-garde stuff. We left a production of Hamlet at intermission this season because the whole stage was like a Stalin-fest, drab and boring. The actors just stood about singing while everyone looked at them. The season’s last work, Turandot was very satisfying, with a great set and costuming.

    And what cute doc pics!

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  14. adrianne said on August 2, 2013 at 9:26 am

    Everything I learned about opera I know first from “The Rabbit of Seville” starring Bugs. “What do you want with a waaaa-bit?”

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  15. Mark P said on August 2, 2013 at 9:29 am

    It makes me a little sad to think of Wendy playing all that time by herself. It’s good that she has her own pack now.

    To me, going to the opera is like being a lumberjack: there’s no way on Earth I would ever do it, but it’s good that someone wants to.

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  16. LAMary said on August 2, 2013 at 9:31 am

    I’ve knows three people who were professional opera singers. One of them I dated back when I was an art student in Philadelphia. He was a nice guy, a student as well, from some southern state. I think the second time we went out we were walking home from a movie, late, and he just started singing. His voice filled the street. Amazing. This guy was sort of a doofus but when he sang he became a different person. The other two singers I knew had that same quality. One worked with me in a cheese shop in NYC and the other was a very dear neighbor here in LA. So while I can’t say I love opera, I can say operatic voices amaze me. I miss hearing my neighbor, who died a few years ago, singing Ein Vogelvanger Bin Ich Ja while he did yard work.

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  17. Julie Robinson said on August 2, 2013 at 9:34 am

    Like Alex, I grew up in a home where only classical music was played, and have sung and played instruments, as well as studying performance and theory in some depth. But I’ve never gotten into opera because of the operatic voice*. Cooz is right about the music itself, so my compromise is to find orchestral versions without the singers.

    This particular interpretation of the Ring cycle sounds over the top, but in general I’ve enjoyed most of the contemporary Shakespeare I’ve seen. The universal themes of Shakespeare and opera can usually withstand a fresh look.

    *When our son started studying voice in college, I was worried that he would develop that voice, but thankfully it didn’t appeal to him either.

    Every time I woke up last night I thought of the Cobb family and prayed for them. I just heard that Windy has opened her eyes, wiggled her toes, and squeezed her doctor’s hand despite her grave injuries. We’re having a prayer vigil for them tonight at church. Thank you to everyone who sent along their good wishes yesterday; this family will surely need them.

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  18. Pam said on August 2, 2013 at 10:14 am

    Wendy is so cute!

    Regarding my brief exposure to opera and the HS boyfriend, we went to see Tosca at Mershon Auditorium with his dad. It was very close to unbearable. During the performance, his dad and I just left and went across the street to Isaly’s or whatever was across the street then. Pagiliacci was the only opera I could tolerate. Vesti la Giubba is fairly compelling, “Ridi, Pagliaccio, . . .” When the lyrics are translated, you can see that it is sooo Italian.

    But then, the dad didn’t understand Italian. It was actually Cary’s grandfather who was the true opera lover. He looked forward to the opening of the opera season in the fall (I believe), like we look forward to the new season of our HBO specials. Cary and his grandfather traveled to Italy on at least one occasion for the start of the opera season. Granddad was in his own special heaven for that.

    I tried to like or appreciate opera, but it just wasn’t to be. Maybe if I understood the lyrics . . . ?

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  19. nancy said on August 2, 2013 at 10:19 am

    It’s funny you should say that, because most critics say opera got new life from the supertitle — the translated projection of lyrics on screens over the stage. Virtually all companies do something like this now. We saw “Tosca” at the Michigan Opera Theater a couple of years ago, and it did make a big difference.

    When we were in Argentina, we received free tickets to “Carmen” at the Teatro Colon. It was a strange production — the country, and everyone/everything in it, was so poor at the time that the sets and costumes were minimal, almost a bare-stage production, but hey — Teatro Colon. Buenos Aires. Hard to have a bad time there. But the supertitles were in Spanish, the singing was in French, and we were clueless. Couldn’t even read the program. We left at intermission.

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  20. Dexter said on August 2, 2013 at 11:00 am

    Being a poor boy from rural Indiana, I was never exposed to any opera or any classical music of any sort, but thanks to my friend Jim in NYC, who worked on Broadway on many musical productions until he became ill, and has been chronicling his battle with leukemia for the past 12 years on a blog and on Facebook, I am learning a little…lately, it’s been Gustav Mahler and Sir Malcolm Arnold. If you have never heard of either, don’t feel bad…I have been following Jim’s links for years so I could “meet” Mahler, but Malcolm Arnold was new to me this week.

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  21. LinGin (or Linda) said on August 2, 2013 at 11:06 am

    I cannot tell you how depressed I am reading the comments to this. And I would further comment but I am busy packing for a trip to Santa Fe and three operas in five days at the Santa Fe Opera House.

    Regarding the Bayreuth Ring (and I have put myself on the mailing list/queue so I should be able to get tickets in oh, about ten years): This production will run for four years with the director returning to make changes as he sees fit. In 1976, celebrating the centennial of the complete RING DES NIBELUNGEN, Bayreuth commissioned a production from the noted French actor/director, Patrice Chereau. Monsieur Chereau elected to set the action at the time of the Industrial Revolution. (The Rhinedaughters (rhine tochtern, not maidens) sat atop a huge electrical plant). It was booed as vociferously as the current production has been. Now, it’s considered THE interpretation of all time and a touchstone for all “modern” reworkings. (Chereau recently conceived and directed a brilliant production of Janacek’s FROM THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD that played at Aix-en-Provence and the Met.)

    This year celebrates the bicentennial of the births of both Wagner and Verdi so if you want to see a Ring, they’re coming out the wazoo. (Unfortunately there are not nearly enough singers to do the productions justice).

    And coozledad, this year is also the centennial of the birth of Benjamin Britten (who I utterly adore). You might want to check out the website, for information.

    And can we please stop with the “fat lady” stereotypes?

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  22. brian stouder said on August 2, 2013 at 11:49 am

    All I know is, I bet LA Mary left lots of fellas singin’ the blues!

    Classic opera escapes me; but I get the concept.

    Les Mis is essentially an opera, and I loved it. The Wizard of Oz is more than a little operatic, too, I think.

    Aside from that, we were genuinely saddened this morning as I was getting ready to go to work, with the news from our (altogether wonderful) Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo about the passing of Juan the Bobcat, a year after Juan lost his mate, Evita (and there’s our operatic tie-in!)

    The comic-opera New York mayoral race has a candidate who could use that name for his online adventures…

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  23. brian stouder said on August 2, 2013 at 11:51 am

    Forgot the link:

    And Alex – I confess I was laughing after reading your passionate denunciation of spell-check!

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  24. coozledad said on August 2, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    I’m sorry Madeleine Kahn wasn’t around to sing Garbo’s part in this:

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  25. A.Riley said on August 2, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Spouse and I have season tickets to the Lyric and always have a good time. Even if it’s not to our taste, the Lyric always puts on a good show. I’m a music lover and used to have tickets to the symphony; spouse is very hard of hearing and enjoys the opera with the supertitles and the staging. Just sitting there watching an orchestra for an evening would be torture for him — but he likes the opera.

    We’ve walked out at the intermission only twice in ten or twelve years — once during “Regina,” since the Cubs were in the playoffs and the bar across the street had it on tv (there were several other opera refugees in there) and once during “Lulu.” We *hated* “Lulu” — modern-ish music with a freak-the-mundanes plot from a century ago. Hated it, hated it, hated it.

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  26. coozledad said on August 2, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    A.Riley: I suspect JFK would have disagreed with you, if he’d seen Eilana Lappalanien as Lulu.

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  27. Julie Robinson said on August 2, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Brian, if you liked Les Mis the movie, you’d enjoy the current production at the Civic. It’s one of the best amateur productions I’ve ever seen, and not just because my son is in the cast. Tickets are going fast, though.

    Linda, I am equally depressed about the near-death state of ballet. I’m not sure which is more endangered, opera or ballet.

    Way back in 1974 my family visited my sister while she was living in Guatemala, and decided to go to the movies. We thought we’d have a chance of enjoying the musical Mame, since we already knew the story and the music. Unfortunately, the volume was turned off and Spanish subtitles superimposed, so we didn’t get much out of it. Even more unfortunately, it starred the incredibly miscast Lucille Ball, so even when viewed in English with the music, it was still horrendous.

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  28. alex said on August 2, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Here’s the best piece I’ve seen yet on the Bennett grade-inflation story. Turns out he and the Daniels administration have also been cooking the state’s high school graduation numbers in order to take credit for a miraculous spike in the graduation rate that simply doesn’t exist.

    Where I went to school, cheating earned you an automatic F, and that’s exactly what those rascals deserve.

    Story’s behind a paywall so I’m pasting it below:

    By Brian Howey | 0 comments

    NASHVILLE, Ind. — There was a basketball gym-style scoreboard outside of then-Supt. Tony Bennett’s Statehouse office in July 2009. A clock ticked off the time remaining in his term. The score showed Indiana’s high school graduation rate at 77.8 percent.

    Bennett informed me that by the end of his term in 2012, Indiana would have a 90 percent graduation rate.

    I found Bennett’s goals ambitious, even aggressive. His confidence was as audacious as NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders’.

    Over the three decades of covering Indiana politics and public policy, the high school graduation rate had always been in that 70th percentile. Bennett was promising to reach the 90th percentile in just four short years, coming without any significant increase in school funding. While then-Gov. Mitch Daniels had side-stepped then-Speaker Pat Bauer’s aversion to education reform by seeking changes administratively from 2007 through 2010, the real thrust of the Daniels/Bennett change didn’t pass until April 2011.

    It was then that the number of charter schools increased, the voucher program began, and there were mold-splitting reforms in school and teacher grading that included the “A through F” program, and the credentialing of principals and superintendents. Bennett had made other changes early in his term such as ending half days and teacher training changing to emphasize the topics they would teach.

    Lo and behold, in 2011 the Indiana graduation rate officially stood at 86.61 percent, and in Bennett’s final year in office, at a stunning 88.38 percent. It was astonishingly close to Bennett’s goal.

    If these results were too good to be true, when you mined down into other data related to public education, you could see problems in the metrics. In 2006, Indiana University noted that of the 92,624 freshmen entering the state’s higher education system in 2003-04, some 23.3 percent had to take remedial courses. Essentially, this means their prep training was below university standards.

    In 2011, the Indiana Higher Education Commission found that more than 40 percent of prep graduates were in university remediation, as well as 7 percent with academic honors degrees. For students who graduated with a general degree, it was 83 percent.

    These past eight months, after one of the most rapid rises in Indiana politics and education, we’ve watched the precipitous fall of Supt. Tony Bennett, culminating with his stunning upset loss to little-known Democrat Glenda Ritz last November, and as of Thursday, his resignation as Florida’s education superintendent.

    Bennett’s ultimate Sunshine State downfall had its roots in Indiana, where emails obtained by the Associated Press’s Tom LoBianco revealed Bennett’s willingness to take liberties with the A through F numbers of Christel House, a charter school founded by Indiana philanthropist Christel DeHaan. It looked even worse when it was reported that DeHaan had contributed $130,000 to Bennett’s reelection campaign.

    Bennett had cited Christel House as the poster child for his reforms. But last September, when it became clear the charter school would receive a “C” instead of an “A”, it set off a panic in the superintendent’s office. “Oh crap. We cannot release until this is resolved,” said Heather Neal, an aide to the superintendent on Sept. 12, 2012, and now Gov. Mike Pence’s legislative liaison. Bennett would email, saying, “They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work. We may well lose Pence on this as well … .”

    And in a Sept. 13 email to DOE brass Neal, Jon Gubera and Dale Chu, Bennett would write, “I cannot count the number of times we have been in meetings with Christel, the Chamber, (House Speaker) Brian Bosma, (Senate President) David Long and others when I have said that we count Christel House as an A school. Now here we are and they are not an A school. We have two problems. First, I either lied or twisted the truth in order to get what we want. I hope we come to the meeting today with solutions and not excuses and/or explanations for me to wiggle myself out of repeated lies I have made over the past six months.”

    By the time the A to F numbers were released, Christel House had received an “A” in what the AP would describe as a “weeklong behind-the-scenes scramble” to find a way to “lift Christel House from a C to an A. It’s not clear from the emails exactly how Gubera changed the grading formula, but they do show DeHaan’s grade jumping twice.”

    “That’s like parting the Red Sea to get numbers to move that significantly,” Jeff Butts, superintendent of Wayne Township schools in Indianapolis told AP. Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. was incensed at the special treatment, noting that the Hammond Academy of Science and Technology received an “F” due to what he called a “data entry problem.”

    Bennett would acknowledge to education blog StateImpact, “Frankly, my emails portrayed correctly my frustrations with the fact that there was a nuance in the system that did not lend itself to face validity.”

    When it came to compromising accountability, Bennett and his staff undermined not only his meteoric career, but the entire strata of reforms that may be nothing more than a hollow facade.

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  29. alex said on August 2, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    And look who’s coming to that weasel’s defense.

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  30. alex said on August 2, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Oh, fuck html:

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  31. Julie Robinson said on August 2, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    The ISTEP test required for high school graduation is at the ninth grade level. It’s taken early during the sophomore year, or at least it was when my kids were in school. So, there’s that.

    And how is it that all these politicians are so stupid as to put their thoughts in writing?

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  32. paddyo' said on August 2, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    Not a fan of opera, exactly, but like Brian, I get the concept. (Say what you want about “rock opera,” I’ll always love Tommy and Jesus Christ Superstar, both telling compelling stories in bright lyrics and music, too.) I am happy enough to let others enjoy the more classic forms of opera, and I’m glad it continues to be pursued by serious musicians and music lovers. The many ways in which we tell stories is one of the nicer things about our species.

    I think my first exposure was a production of Die Fledermaus in, of all places, Reno (actual culture beyond crooners, comedians and feathered showgirls in the Harrah’s and Nugget showrooms!), which was home back then. I went with my then-wife and in-laws and it was fine. In the 1980s, in DC, somebody gave me a pair of tickets he couldn’t use to an opera at the Kennedy Center, and my then-wife and I eagerly attended. Turned out to be one or another part of the Ring cycle, I’ve forgotten which. A Very Big Deal to most of the capacity crowd in attendance. It was an acquired taste, and we really tried to like it. But we retreated quietly during intermission after the very, very long (seemed like two or three hours) first act or segment. De gustibus, I guess . . .

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  33. Hattie said on August 2, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    I’m not much of an opera fan, but I do think Wagner is pretty funny, even without the added touch of horny crocodiles.IMHO most opera is kitsch with occasional beautiful moments.

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  34. LAMary said on August 2, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    I saw Funny Girl in Copenhagen with Danish subtitles. The title in Danish is Sjove Pige.

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  35. LAMary said on August 2, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    This is how I learned to appreciate Wagner:

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  36. Hex Decimal said on August 2, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Alex @ 7 – auto correct has become my worst enema.

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  37. Sherri said on August 2, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    I did give opera a try. Seattle Opera is quite good, and I went with my husband to see La traviata, which put me to sleep, and The Merry Wives of Windsor, which I liked (I like Shakespeare in almost all forms), but not enough to want to keep going to opera. I’m not musical enough to enjoy it; I need words. I enjoy Gilbert and Sullivan, because I enjoy all the clever wordplay.

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  38. adrianne said on August 2, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    And now for something completely different:

    A very good story in The Guardian on the life and troubled times of NN’s fave, Warren Zevon:
    P.S.: I love the British spelling of “tonnes”!

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  39. Bitter Scribe said on August 2, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    I love classical instrumental music—it’s practically all I listen to—but opera just doesn’t do it for me, and never has.

    What’s funny is that my autism-spectrum older brother is the world’s champion opera fan. He’s had season tickets to the Lyric since forever, and what he doesn’t know about opera could fit in a thimble. If there were an opera-only version of Jeopardy!, he would be a rich man.

    A famous family story: One day John and my mom were listening to opera on the radio, and he remarked, “Oh, that’s Joan Sutherland.”

    Then it finished and the announcer came on: “You have been listening to Beverly Sills singing…”

    Mom was like, “John, you got something wrong! I can’t believe it!”

    John shrugged.

    They played another song, and the announcer came on again: “Correction. The previous piece was sung by Joan Sutherland, not Beverly Sills.”

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  40. nancy said on August 2, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Thank God that story about Zevon doesn’t mention Mitch Albom.

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  41. Brandon said on August 2, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    They know opera:

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  42. Charlotte said on August 2, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    Free opera in Central Park was one of the few things I loved about my brief, and very broke, tenure in NYC. My friend Michael came to visit, and we went to Tosca. I was buying supplies for our picnic, in a biscotti shop on 2nd avenue, where opera was on the radio. I told the man behind the counter that we were going that night. “What is your picnic?” he asked. I told him what I had. He furrowed his brow. “Let’s see.” He looked up and down the case of biscotti and sweets. “For Tosca …. for Tosca … for Tosca you want THESE biscotti!” And so it was. Who would turn down expert advice like that?
    Alas, the last time I was in NYC, that whole aspect of the city seems to have been erased and replaced with the same high-end boutiques you can find in any fancy mall.

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  43. Prospero said on August 2, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    That dog rocks.

    They are at least supposed to affirm Presidential appointees. But nu-uh, Obama. Wrong color baybee. One can only imagine the teeth-gnashing on the GOPer side when they were cast out by a brown guy. What in the name of Brooks Bros.?

    The opera deal=breaker for me is the fucking weakness of librettos. Fat chick, predictively consumptive disease, story over. Now Don Juan, that’s a different story. Warren Zwvon could see through Mitch like a glass bottom boat. Bad stories. This is where Broadway comes in. Sweeney Todd, Drac (we saw it, with Raul Julia, awesome), the Phantom, except for that one song. Stories. Shit, you can do it in three minutes:

    I realize I’ve linked this song before, but it is astounding. And if I wasn’t devoted to my looney pard, I’d be stalking Ericka Wennerstrom. What a great voice.

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  44. nancy said on August 2, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    On the contrary, Prospero. Mitch and Warren wrote a song together. Warren was always something of a starfucker.

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  45. LinGin (or Linda) said on August 2, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Taking a break from packing (and listening to the BBC Proms performance of GOTTERDAMMERUNG), a word of caution regarding Brandon’s link to parterre. I have a love/hate relationship with that site. It is very much dominated by opera queens (their designation, not mine) and the discussions can get quite heated (although not necessarily as learned as you would think).

    And just in case anyone is interested in taking another stab at opera, the Met premiered a new RIGOLETTO production this year that was updated to 1960’s Vegas. It was aired on PBS and may show up again. Here’s an interview with the dramaturg:

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  46. nancy said on August 2, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    This one’s for Judybusy.

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  47. Brandon said on August 2, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    @LinGin (or Linda): Yes, parterre highlights the inherent campiness of a lot of opera. New visitors to the site should be prepared to defend any opinion they put forth.

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  48. Mark P said on August 2, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Adrianne, a “tonne” is 1000 kg, or a metric ton. A tonne is roughly 2200 pounds, and so about a tenth of a “ton” more than a ton (1kg ~ 2.2 lb)

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  49. brian stouder said on August 2, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    Adrianne – thanks for the great Warren Zevon link.

    WZ generally didn’t make much of an impression upon me, but who doesn’t like Werewolves of London?

    And indeed, although I was indifferent about him, the office I work in contains one HUGE WZ fan, as I bet any group of 30 or more adults would.

    And then the news of his untimely death still surprises me, a little.

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  50. Mark P said on August 2, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    I read the Zevon piece. The author got some of the lyrics wrong: “Gonna get a big dish of chow mein.” It’s “gonna get a big dish of beef chow mein.” She must not be a fan.

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  51. brian stouder said on August 2, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    And speaking of an untimely death – or maybe his death WAS “timely” – the ol’ History calendar tells me that 90 years ago today, President Warren G Harding died in a hotel room in San Francisco, leaving VP Calvin Coolidge to ascend into the office, and face various scandals.

    Crooked Teapot Dome oil leases, fraudulent transactions at the (newly huge) Veterans Bureau, and “reports of his predecessor’s multiple extramarital affairs” all followed

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  52. brian stouder said on August 2, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    …and Harding was 58

    (which I find unsettling!)

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  53. Kevin said on August 2, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    I’m with Mark Twain – “I went to the opera last night. Haven’t heard anything like that since the orphanage burned down.”

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  54. Charlotte said on August 2, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    Long NY Times piece on a new cop show set in Detroit, “Low Winter Sun”:

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  55. basset said on August 2, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    I was a stagehand at the IU Opera for a season or two and I still don’t get it.

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  56. Brandon said on August 2, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    One can buy a house in Detroit for one dollar:

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  57. Connie said on August 2, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    Homemade peach blueberry pie at my house tonight.

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  58. David C. said on August 3, 2013 at 8:59 am

    And now, a fresh helping of outrage from Wisconsin.

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  59. Diane L. said on August 3, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Im catching up on my blog reading (I fell behind because I’m at a conference) and I feel compelled to report that even as I type I am listening to Mitch Albom speak. The talk is canned and the theme seems to be how lucky and (in a faux self-deprecating way) talented he is.

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  60. brian stouder said on August 3, 2013 at 10:32 am

    Connie, that sounds superb!

    On the other hand, Diane seems to have gone to hell(!)

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  61. Brandon said on August 3, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    …how lucky and (in a faux self-deprecating way) talented he is

    I’ve heard the term humblebragging a lot. Is that an example?

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  62. Deborah said on August 3, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    This is totally off topic but that never stopped me. Have any of you ever heard of Dog vomit slime mold? It is truly gross, gross, gross. We woke up yesterday morning after a previous rainy night to this horrendous looking stuff on our side yard. It looked like a few piles of flattened cauliflower each obout 8 to 10″ in diameter. When we went out to invetistigate I stuck a stick in one and it was filled with yellowish gelatinous goo. We had no idea what it was until my daughter took a photo and put it on her Facebook page and one of her knowledgable friends identified it for her. And it really is called dog vomit slime mold, the vilest thing I have ever seen.

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    • nancy said on August 3, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      I hadn’t heard of slime mold until this summer, but I’m seeing people complaining about it everywhere on my social networks. It’s a very good summer for fungus.

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  63. Jessica W said on August 3, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    The way into opera for non-opera lovers is via Mozart. You like Mozart, you listen to the Mass in C minor, you start thinking.

    Marriage of Figaro – it’s just Mozart, Mozarting away as usual but with some singers and some people running around doing sort of unlikely things. Only rarely does he make his singers do something really operatic in the screechy bad sense.

    The big Mozart operas all have interesting credible stories for their plots – Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni in particular. Magic Flute strains credibility unless you’re a German-speaking Freemason – but the Queen of the Night comes across no matter what language you speak. Cosi fan Tutti is pure unadulterated slightly offensive nonsense, but if you get to it after the other three, you’re softened up and just listen for the emotion and the music.

    Try it, you might like it. Very different from most opera.

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  64. Deborah said on August 3, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    According to Wikipedia slime molds are no longer considered fungi, but are some other organism:

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  65. Little Bird said on August 3, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    And apparently some people harvest and eat dog vomit slime mold. I would like to know exactly who does this so I can be sure to never eat at their place.

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  66. Deborah said on August 3, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    Jessica W, The Queen of the Night is my favorite aria. I love the impossibly high pitched evil laugh of the wicked queen mother:

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  67. Deborah said on August 3, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Another favorite, Pavorotti sings Nessun Dorma from the opera Turendot:


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  68. Sherri said on August 3, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    I never knew slime mold actually existed outside of Rogue.

    Yes, I’m an old geek.

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  69. Deborah said on August 3, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    Make that Pavarotti

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  70. basset said on August 3, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    <<Hunter S Thompson was another literary friend

    I have yet to see any reason to describe Hunter Steadman Thompson, high school graduate and drug-sodden showoff, as anything remotely like "literary." Pretty much the same thing for Zevon – each of them turned a few phrases which seemed clever at the time, but literature? Uhh… no.

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  71. Dexter said on August 4, 2013 at 1:27 am

    Sweet corn, 2013, ah, so nice. There is a farm I have visited for 21 summers now, Ruffer’s, near the covered bridge by Archbold, Ohio. In the 1990s, their corn was just the best. Then came some recent years when their corn was small and just not very good. Then came 2013, and this year’s crop is the best ever. I just cooked two ears for a bedtime snack…magnifico! Melted butter on top, salt and pepper too. It makes life worth living.
    In the 1950’s when I was a little child, Mom cooked corn like she learned from her family…lay the ears in the oven and roast them at 350F for maybe a half hour or so as I recall. After all, back then everyone called them “roastin’ ears”. Dad’s mom cooked them that way too. Then one day it changed. Mom read cook books. She got the pressure cooker out, peeled the ears of all silk and husk, and cooked the hell out of them for way too long. I hated pressure cooked ears of corn, but it was better than not having any at all.
    When I moved away into my own apartment, I asked Mom exactly how long she roasted those ears back in the fifties. I began cooking them that way. Then I read a cookbook.
    You take a few ears of fresh corn and cut off the top inch and throw away the silk, then cut off the bottom of the ears and peel away about eighty per cent of the husk, then lay the ears into the microwave and cook on high for five to eight minutes. Let cool in the husks for ten minutes, then peel, drench in butter and salt and pepper and enjoy.

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  72. Dexter said on August 4, 2013 at 1:35 am

    Grantland is a popular site for a few of us here at nn dot c…a while back they revisited Dr. Thompson…this is indeed classic American literature. Of course, I am also a Kerouac fanatic; I have all the books Kerouac ever wrote as far as I know. If you somehow missed The Doctor, here you go…fasten your seatbelt.

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  73. Dexter said on August 4, 2013 at 1:39 am

    Oh…Ralph Steadman was the guy who illustrated a few Thompson books, and was a central character in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” as well as in other adventures.
    The Gonzo doctor’s real name was Hunter Stockton Thompson.

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  74. Dexter said on August 4, 2013 at 2:41 am

    Some nice reading material:

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  75. coozledad said on August 4, 2013 at 7:48 am

    Dexter: I haven’t made it through all these clips, but what I’ve seen is pretty good. This BBC documentary about the Chelsea Hotel was made right as the AIDS epidemic hit:

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  76. Deborah said on August 4, 2013 at 10:38 am

    I used to love, love, love corn on the cob with gobs of butter and salt. At the Indian Market which they have every year here in Santa Fe they sell roasted ears, they pull them out of the roaster when you order then they partially peel the husks back before dipping in butter. You can sprinkle parmesan cheese and/or various chili powders on them. They’re quite good (and messy). I have always had corn on the cob that had been boiled in unsalted water for 3 to 5 minutes. In fact when I was a kid some people used to add sugar to the boiling water to make it sweeter. Since then I think they’ve bred the corn to be sweeter to the point where it’s way too sweet now.

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  77. basset said on August 4, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Stockton it was, my mistake… had a brain fade or something. Steadman also did “The Wall” for Pink Floyd.

    The Kentucky Derby story is, in my opinion for whatever that’s worth, one of Thompson’s high points… he started repeating himself after “Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail” and just got less interesting from there.

    Dexter, we do our microwaved corn a little differently… put it in there whole for six or seven minutes, then cut the bottom off and squeeze the ear out, the silk stays in the husk that way.

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  78. Charlotte said on August 4, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    A couple of years back a Vietnamese woman I know served roasted corn with butter, then rubbed with lime and sprinkled with chile-salt. Unbelievably good.

    I’m growing corn for the first time this year. Can’t believe I’ll actually get any, but I had a bed that needed to be rotated, so doing the “three sisters” — corn, beans and squash (although the squash seems a little sad, don’t think it’s getting quite enough light down there at the bottom of the corn jungle).

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  79. beb said on August 4, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    I prefer my corn on the cob blanched in hot water, buttered and nothing more. Denice brought some fresh corn back from Indiana this weekend. I was in heaven.

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  80. LAMary said on August 4, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    The corn with chili and lime is common here. Corn is sold from carts in some neighborhoods and they put butter or margarine or mayonnaise on first, then the chili and lime. Lately I’ve been seeing commercials for something called Tajin which is the seasoning some elote (roasted corne) guys use. There are also carts here that seel cut up fruits and vegetables and they sprinkle some tajin like stuff on everything. It’s salt and lime and chili powder. It really is good on pineapple or melon.

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  81. Deborah said on August 4, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Interesting article in the NYT about the new series on AMC, Low Winter Sun, shot in Detroit, about Detroit. There is one confusing sentence that read, “… this has been a city that has been in the process of dying for a very long time. During WW2, a strategic decision to decentralize the production of cars and fighting vehicles sent jobs to burgeoning suburbs,…”

    To me that suggests that there was some kind of military decision to decentralize production for defense purposes (in case of a targeted bombing etc). But my husband thinks it means that it was a strategic decision to decentralize production for labour cost reduction (and other reasons) that just happened to coincide with WW2. I had never heard the military strategy as one of the reasons for the beginning of the decline of the city

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  82. Deborah said on August 4, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    I sent submit accidentally before I finished:

    so anyway, you folks in Detroit, or anyone for that matter, is it well known now that there might have been a military strategy? Or is that just one writers opinion? Or am I misreading and it means more like what my husband suggests?

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  83. ROGirl said on August 4, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    Production of civilian vehicles ceased during WWII, so presumably the military took over planning as far as locations of new production facilities was concerned. I don’t know what drove those decisions, maybe availability of large tracts of land, workers, transportation, etc.

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  84. Prospero said on August 4, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    When I hear Pagliacci, I can’t help thinking “No more Rice Crispies.” One of the greatest ads ever. The Magic Flute is a good introduction to opera for people that aren’t thrilled with opera in general, even though the emperor thought it has too many notes.

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  85. beb said on August 4, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    The NYT also has an article on the turf war fought between the NSA and other law-enforcement agencies. Basically state and local police want to be able to tap into the NSA’s enormous database but NSA is saying not without a warrent, or something like that. This is beginning to sound a like Schrodinger’s Cat paradox. It’s not “surveillance” unless someone actually looks at it, just as S’s cat is not dead unless and until someone looks to see if it is still alive. We have reach the quatuum level of Truth.

    Deborah, I suspect the decision was made by the auto manufacturers as a way to undermine the unions. The Big 3 never liked unions but with so many plants located in Detroit it was hard to keep unions out. Move them out in the country where the unions weren’t strong and – victory!

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  86. Sherri said on August 4, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    Best health care system in the world, right?

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  87. Jolene said on August 4, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    Thanks for the link, Sherri. Very important article.

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  88. brian stouder said on August 4, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    Yes indeed, critically important. Our “free-market” Republigoon representative, Marlin ‘the putz’ Stutzman (and the others) get worked up into a lather about “Obama-care” and TAXES on the implants that get made just northwest of us (in Warsaw), but somehow they never talk about how much (much much much) less expensive the same things are, elsewhere.

    Sort of like being adamantly in favor of harsh cuts in the SNAP (aka “food stamp”) program, and insisting on separating that from the rest of the Farm Bill – while also FAVORING the direct cash payment of large amounts of money to farmers (including Stutz the putz, himself!) who really don’t need it just now, but – what the hell – thanks very much!

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