Charlie's Books

Charlie's Books
Buon Giorno, Amici!

Our motto ...

Leave the (political) party. Take the cannoli.

"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Right now 6 Stella crime novels are available on Kindle for just $.99 ... Eddie's World has been reprinted and is also available from Stark House Press (Gat Books).

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The NHL Playoffs are here … Bookgasm on Tommy Red … CROOKED HILLARY'S stretch run toward the Democratic Convention …


Bolts take down the Red Wings in 5 games … it started with back-to-back street brawls on ice … the Lightning and the Red Wings were logging the most penalty minutes in the playoffs. A check turned into a shoving match, turned into a brawl on ice. With the Bolts ahead 2 games to 0 in the series, after winning both home games, the show went on the road to Detroit. There the Wings out-hustled and out-played the Lightning, and goalie Petr Mrazek, just like last year, shut the Bolts out, 2-0. It was a dominating performance that had Lighting fans (this one) wondering if maybe the first two games were a bit of a fluke.

And then came games 4 & 5. The rebirth of a mostly dormant power play in game 4 lifted the Bolts to a 3 games to 1 advantage. The Red Wings were thrust into a nasty hole for their return to Tampa Bay.

Throughout the series, Ben Bishop was doing what hockey fans, coaches and teammates dream of. I believe they call it “standing on his head.” This Bolts fan believes without Bishop in net, this series may well have been over in 4 games with the Red Wings moving on to the next round. Bishop was truly THAT GOOD.

Fortunately, Bishop was one of the few Lightning stars not injured. Stamkos and Stalman are gone for the foreseeable future. J.T. Brown has been out. Several Bolts players are on the ice with injuries they’re playing through. We have a bunch of kids in the lineup, and although our defense looks shaky at times, it was never worse than in game 5.

Bishop to the rescue. He stopped 4 breakaways (3 in the second period alone) in a game that appeared to be headed for overtime. The Bolts came close a few times, but not nearly as close (or as often) as the Red Wings. Still, Bishop held serve and with just 1:46 on the clock, Ryan Callahan took the puck the length of the ice, tossed it in behind the net, hustled after it, stole it from a Wings defensemen, passed it in front of the net, and Alex Killorn tapped it in for what would prove to be the game and series winner. Bishop earned his 1-0 shutout and the Bolts took the series 4 games to 1. They will appreciate the much needed rest to heal some wounds and maybe get Stamkos back if the Panthers-Islanders series goes to 7?

Not mentioned above, but impossible to overlook, was the Tampa Bay power play kill. Two times in the series the Red Wings had a 5 on 3 advantage for longer than 1 full minute, and both times the Bolts penalty-kill units stymied the Wings. In fact, the Wings were stymied throughout the series, netting just 1 power play goal in the entire series.

The things Callahan and Boyle do without reservation: block shots like nobody else in the league. In fact, it was a Rangers game I watched one night a few years ago when I first became a hockey/Callahan fan that most impressed me. Cally didn’t have a stick but was out there blocking shots and making a hit when it his time to come off the ice. I’ve seen that several times since (with him wearing both Ranges and Bolts sweaters). Same goes for Brian Boyle. He also lays it on the line each and every shift, as does Anton Stralman when he's on the ice. Think the Strangers are missing those three now?


Bookgasm likes Tommy Red …

After eight crime novels depicting contemporary East Coast mobsters, it’s tempting to wonder if author Charlie Stella can bring anything new to the setting and characters.

But if Stella’s latest TOMMY RED, published by Stark House Press, is any indication, he has far from exhausted the potential of these troublemakers. While the basic story elements of this new novel seem familiar, the depth of Stella’s characters as well as the subtle underlying themes bring a fresh perspective to the plot and players.

Tommy Dalton (known on the street as “Tommy Red”) is an experienced hired assassin. But that’s something he’d rather his college-age daughter, Alysha, not know. But Tommy’s ex-wife is on an honesty kick and insists on telling Alysha exactly what it is her father does for a living.

Alysha’s concern is genuine, but it’s the last thing Tommy needs. Especially since he was recently contracted by the Cirelli crime family to take out Dominick Farase, a convicted felon who is about to testify against the Cirelli family.

Then the Cirellis get nervous and decide to remove all evidence of the hit – including Tommy Red. But the attempt to kill Tommy fails, and now Tommy is determined to take revenge on the Cirellis, even though it will further separate him from what little true family he has left.
Stella presents the story in two main parts with sections titled by the location where the events take place. And at less than 200 pages, Stella packs a surprising amount of action into his story in a variety of locations in and around New York City.

As usual Stella’s ear for dialogue is amazingly authentic and accurate, which not only lends credibility to each of his characters but also adds to the headlong pace of the narrative.

At times, however, it is a little difficult to follow the plot; especially as Stella follows every individual involved with both Tommy and the Cirellis, and then introduces the FBI agents and local cops assigned to investigate the string of recent killings. Then too Stella includes back-story reminiscing – some lasting a few paragraphs — with only a few words to indicate the shift in time. But the small perseverance needed to keep up proves well worth the effort as Stella unites all plot and character ingredients by the novel’s conclusion.

Simmering underneath all the action and dialogue is the understated themes of change and regret. The young head of the Cirelli family knows that the days when mobsters were nothing less than stand-up guys is long past – especially whenever he deals with his father, who used to run the various family businesses. Tommy too can’t help but notice that jailed mobsters these days would rather deal their way out of a jail sentence than quietly serve their time. And all too often such deals results in ratting out previous partners and even family members. It’s this new and different world that causes the mobsters and hit men to wonder if their life-threatening efforts are worth the diminishing rewards.

These themes and the way they influence almost every character elevates the novel from a simple story of murder and revenge. At the same time they demonstrate Stella’s familiarity with present-day criminals and cops, and his mastery at presenting tales that illustrate their world and inner emotions.

While Stella’s name is not as well-known as other current crime authors whose works immediate land on national best-seller lists, he is every bit their equal and deserving of the attention.

For those who have yet to discover the joy of Stella’s work, TOMMY RED is a good a place start as any. —Alan Cranis (Bookgasm)

Get Tommy Red here:

The stretch run toward the Democratic Convention … oy vey, it looks as though the Democrats are willing to be flushed down the toilet with a candidate carrying more baggage than Imelda Marcos had shoes. So be it … but even though her nomination was supposed to be a coronation, it is more than likely that the DNC will have to resort to “super delegates” to get her above the necessary delegate total to win the nomination.

Bernie supporters are crying out for him to wait out the convention and then either walk away, run as an independent, and/or join Jill Stein and the Green Party. The DNC made it impossible for him to win this nomination, and his supporters have put in way too much time, effort, and coin to accept Bernie endorsing a candidate who fully represents the EXACT issues his campaign has been fighting all along: corruption. Bernie is unwilling to say it, but Donald Trump, and/or Bernie supporters, aren’t afraid to say it: CROOKED HILLARY is as dirty as the day is long, and we suspect the name Trump gave her will stick like crazy glue come the general election. It will remind independents across the country of Clinton fatigue and all the scandals in their wake. We don’t see how CROOKED HILLARY wins in November.

And we look forward to her defeat and the DNC getting their just rewards.


The fun this guy is going to have running against CROOKED HILLARY ...

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Carl Hiaasen dumps on Bernie (Cynicism gone wild) ...


Carl Hiaasen's article has this title in the Miami Herald : Free tuition? Bernie, what are you smoking?

I'm sure it's not politically correct, especially in the nervous nelly writing community, to take on a popular bestselling author, but when one states political talking points that reek of conservatism and abject cynicism, he or she should be challenged.

Talk about misrepresenting a position … If I’m not mistaken (and I sure could be), Hiaasen is an environmentalist, at least the protagonists in the few novels I read of his were (entertaining and funny). I found it interesting that his column in the Miami Herald didn’t touch on that issue at all. In fact, it was one cheap shot after another at Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, and it couldn’t read more like DNC/GOP talking points. Unless, of course, they were. And maybe they are?

Hiaasen was basically playing Hickey from The Iceman Cometh, relentlessly implying that Bernie Sanders political goals are nothing but pipe dreams. He cites figures as if he has the vital information at his fingertips, but minus the movement and all its potential. I think most of us know that the figures sprouted by candidates, never mind their pundits, are as useful as their rhetoric in solving problems. Numbers are always manipulated, but let’s give him his figures and assume they're all accurate.

“Bernie’s free-college plan is the liberal equivalent of Donald Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexican border — a crowd-rousing campaign promise that is utter fantasy.”

First off, when did Bernie Sanders EVER promise ANYTHING? Obviously, Mr. Hiaasen hasn’t made it through any of Sanders' campaign speeches.

FIRST MISREPRESENTATION: “On his website he offers more financing details than Trump ever does, but the calculations are wishful thinking. A “Robin Hood Tax” on Wall Street investment houses and hedge funds would supposedly raise $47 billion of the estimated $70 billion that it now costs students to attend public colleges and universities … Bernie says the remaining $23 billion would come from the individual states themselves. Seriously? In what bizarre parallel universe would 50 state legislatures (30 of them controlled by Republicans) raise or redistribute taxes to subsidize this program?”

Of course Hiaasen’s claims, like Clinton’s talking points, ignore what was mentioned above: Sanders has repeatedly stated that no one person/president can get anything done by themselves. Bernie has stated at every rally that it would require a political revolution; that it would require the help of Congress, and that the political revolution would have to continue. While pundits and their sycophants continue to poke fun at Sanders, going back to when he was 60-70% behind Clinton nationally, they ignore where he’s come (and without ANY help from the DNC and/or the bribes of big business). Personally, I think that scares them into the typical claims against lefties: we're all seeking Utopia. It's the same kind of attack rednecks from both the north and the south once thought about a female and/or African-American vote.

The assumption that a progressive Congress, say after the mid-term elections if Bernie manages to energize the same voting public he did thus far, is also a pipe dream is way too cynical. I say: says who? If a Progressive could become President, why couldn’t Congress muster enough progressive seats to push through some of Bernie’s legislation? Bernie wouldn’t use the bully pulpit the way Barry did (for photo ops). He’d use his grass roots movement to get the clogs in the system (blue dogs) out of the way the same way the Tea Party took out so many moderate Republicans. Easier said than done, no doubt, but again, he was supposed to be a fringe candidate. Who knows what he might’ve accomplished if he had the DNC working with him rather than against him.

SECOND MISREPRESENTATION: “Given Wall Street’s enormous clout in Washington, there’s a better chance of the House and Senate legalizing heroin than approving Bernie’s proposed “speculation fee” on all stock and bond trades.”

See answer directly above (it applies). The other side of this coin is: I guess Hiaasen is fine and dandy with the system as is. I guess he’s fine with it getting worse. Maybe his fictional environmentalist is more fiction than we had hoped? I mean, what does he (Hiaasen) think about fracking? Good idea? Let’s do more? Hillary sure doesn’t have a problem with it, and we know the Republicans can attain wood over the mere mention of fracking. Is he aware, for instance, that the system in place he's so anxious to defend, just provided BP with a $15.3 Billion Tax Write-Off?

THIRD MISREPRESENTATION: “More importantly, the prospect of free tuition would attract many more young people to enroll in state schools, hiking the cost of the program way beyond Bernie’s $70 billion model.”

First off, what's wrong with that? I'm sure we could find the cash, assuming we have the willpower and the right Congressional makeup. Think about the waste in the cost of wars, wars Bernie wants no part of.  That's $4-6 TRILLION, Hojo. Way more than enough. And it isn’t an open door policy, and Bernie NEVER said it was. He’s not advocating daycare for college age people. Bernie has stated over and over that it applies to students who are academically eligible. If they work hard and can make the grade, they shouldn’t be turned away because of insufficient finances. HUGE DIFFERENCE.

# 4: “Their most hardcore fans have in common a fervor that’s doomed to be deflated … There will be no free college for all Americans. The more jaded primary voters know this, and some of them don’t care.”

If public education from grades 1-12 is a given, why shouldn’t public colleges and universities be included? Of course they should and will be some day; it’s just a matter of time. But what a pair of tiny balls Hiaasen shows here. First of all, none of Bernie’s supporters think for a second that what Bernie proposes would happen overnight. It’s a political start and an extension of the Occupy movement, and maybe that frightens Hiaasen and his ilk. But let’s position his cynicism against similar cynicism of the past. To wit: “Oregon followed a similar path, but gave only white males the right. Their constitution specifically stated that “No negro, Chinaman, or Mulatto shall have the right of suffrage.”\

One has to assume he’s never heard of Gandhi either. As for his jaded primary voters, we're not in this just to elect Bernie Sanders president. Very much like the Trump voters, we're in this to shake up a corrupt political system. A system that has destroyed the middleclass, or are those numbers (the ones showing middleclass decline) too far from the reach of his fingertips?

To be fair, Hiaasen does state the following, although he neglects to point out that it’s what Sanders has been stating all along: “The fact is, no president can tackle those problems without Congress and the courts, or even begin to try. Movements start with big and improbable ambitions, but to succeed they need a political pathway.”

Does he feel silly yet? He should.

He ends his piece with this extra cynical twist: “Maybe the only way to bring everyone together is to pay college students to build that wall.”

No, Mr. Hiaasen, we’re all looking forward to letting two parties that are OWNED by special interests not only continue to appoint our politicians, but we’ll expect them to hand out parcels of land so we can do away with public education altogether. We can learn to farm and become sharecroppers, just like the good old days. Or was that Mao’s Cultural Revolution?

One thing for sure, should we become sharecroppers, we’ll have to import that water unless we intend to use our hoses like flamethrowers when watering the crops. All that extra fracking methane, you know …


Wonder if he’s ever seen one of the two Gasland documentaries? Nothing quite like the free market system, eh?

Or Gasland 2 ...

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Amici: Matt Damon, WTF? Healthcare for Profit/Hillary …


In the Rainmaker, Matt Damon plays a lawyer with a conscience. He takes on a case where a man stricken with leukemia is dying because of an insurance company’s refusal to pay for a bone marrow transplant. The man dies and a case ensues. After refusing several offers to settle, the court battle rages and the jury awards the plaintiff, Damon’s client, $50,000,000. Of course the insurance company files for bankruptcy and that’s pretty much the end of the story.

During closing arguments before the verdict, John Voigt, playing the defense lead counsel, argued that if the initial suit of $10,000,000 was awarded to the plaintiff, it would lead to government sponsorship of the healthcare industry. Damon’s closing argument listed all the evils of a healthcare for profit system, including how much coin insurance companies spent/spend on lawyers and lobbyists, etc.

Okay, it’s a movie and Damon was playing a role, but one has to wonder, and my wife and I sure do, how he can now sidle up to support a candidate for President who takes the same coin from the same insurance companies. Now, Damon is a terrific actor, no doubt, and he probably has more of a conscience than his affiliation and support for Hillary Clinton suggests, but most of us, certainly my wife and myself, so wanted to believe he was a true progressive; the kind of progressive who actually did speak for the public at large rather than the establishment. We hoped he was more like Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, but we were so disappointed to learn otherwise.

We felt the same way when we learned how George Clooney opened his house to a $350,000+ a plate fundraiser for the same presidential candidate who takes big coin from the insurance industry. The same apparently goes for Ben Afleck and so many others. It’s difficult not to think less of these great actors down the road. I admit that it’s our problem for feeling that way, but it is how we feel.
Understand, this isn’t the lesser of two evils choice they have made in their support of Hillary Clinton. That argument comes after the DNC secures her nomination, not before. Right now there’s still an actual progressive running for president, but they’ve somehow looked beyond Bernie Sanders to the establishment machine that has represented the status quo, those same insurance companies, big Pharma, Wall Street banks, fossil fuels, private prisons, etc.

It just doesn’t sit well, not with us.
On the other hand, an actual political activist also plays a role in the movie, a substitute judge after the original judge died of a heart attack. Danny Glover is the substitute judge. Mr. Glover has been arrested countless times in his political activism, and he makes no qualms about supporting Bernie Sanders … and make no mistake, we love him for it. And Danny DeVito is also a Bernie supporter and he, as usual, was brilliant in the movie as well. We love Danny too.
For an idea of how much coin the Clinton campaign has taken from such private interests and lobbyists, while Hillary Clinton insists she’s going to fight them, you can always do the research she insists young voters should do. It's pretty alarming.


As for Bernie’s failure to nail her on the question from CNN regarding (paraphrasing) the one time she changed her view due to Wall Street donations to her campaigns … well, here’s Elizabeth Warren …

Want another clue as to what Mr. Damon, Clooney and Afleck apparently support? Make sure you see this movie, if you haven’t yet. The Big Short … it’s what Bernie has been fighting his entire life.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Publishers Weekly Likes Tommy Red …


Some more good news on the review front … from Publishers Weekly:

This taut, compulsively readable tale of mob life in and around New York City, Stella’s first novel since 2012’s Rough Riders, has the smack of authenticity on every page. Being a made man just isn’t what it used to be. Everyone is in line to squeal to the Feds, and the Feds can’t be trusted. Baltimore-based Irish-American hit man Tommy Red Dalton knows the risks, but he takes on a new contract anyway; he’s more worried that his ex-wife has told their daughters that he’s a hit man, which he denies. Like an all-access documentary, the story portrays a large cast of Mafia members with plenty of detail about their home lives as well as their doubts and thoughts. One betrayal follows another as the violence grows (“So far the score was two dumbski wiseguys dead, and one on the run”). Stella serves up a tasty goombah stew with a splash of Guinness, and no one can make this recipe simmer better than he does. (Apr.)

Pre-order Tommy Red here:

Tommy Red Dalton is a character from a short story I wrote for the Baltimore Noir anthology called Ode to the O’s … he's a little older now and much more experienced in the ways of crime.

Get Baltimore Noir here:
— Charlie

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Democratic Primary takes a turn toward for real …

Bernie should apologize for all those killed at Sandy Hook elementary … It’s an interesting twist on reality and a completely specious argument. The stench on this one is so bad, it hurts to contemplate. First off, we’d have to forget Hillary Clinton’s clinging to Second Amendment rights (guns) during the 2008 presidential race she lost to President Obama. Remember this?

Next, we’d have to ignore all the arms deals she pushed for and later negotiated as Secretary of State. The vast majority of those arms deals happen to coincide with contributions to the Clinton Foundation (i.e., same governments approved for the arms deals were heavy contributors).

Next we’d have to look at the argument itself, the idea that manufacturers should be liable for their products after they are sold legally, but used in some horrific manner. She and her supporters claim that gun manufacturers are the only industry not liable, which is completely false, and that Senator Sanders is in part responsible for what happened at Sandy Hook elementary. The problem, of course, is that should you purchase a gun legally and want to use it at, say, at a shooting range, and it explodes in your face, guess what? The gun manufacturer is liable. And of course Senator Sanders approves of that liability. But the facts of the Sandy Hook case are these: 20-year old, Adam Lanza, used guns his mother bought legally. He was clearly out of his mind, so when he killed his mother first, and then went to the elementary school and killed all those children and teachers there, well, how in the hell is the gun manufacturer responsible for any of that?
I consider myself left of Senator Sanders on a lot of his platform, but not guns. While I agree there should be some common sense gun control as regards background checks, I am not in favor of anything near imposing liability on manufacturers unless they can be found to be liable for targeting areas where gun violence is prevalent for the sake of sales, and/or, they knowingly sell to disreputable gun sellers. Of course if their products are faulty and cause injury and/or death by the person who legally purchased and tried to use it (for something other than murder/a crime), they should be as liable as a car manufacturer who puts out a faulty product, but to suggest that any manufacturer of any product is responsible for what might happen after their product is first wholesaled, then resold, both legally, at least as regards Hillary Clinton’s argument, is nothing short of lowbrow political pandering and outside the scope of reality.
Asking the Senator from Vermont to apologize for the deaths at Sandy Hook was disgraceful politics, something the Clintons are more than famous for. Senator Sanders responded by asking for the former Secretary of State to apologize to all those killed in the Iraq War, and thus put the kybosh on their Sandy Hook attack. It went down much the same way as when Hillary Clinton accused Donald Trump of being a sexist and he immediately pointed to her denigration of the women her husband was accused of sexually assaulting (including the woman who received an $850,000 settlement to keep that particular story from ever getting to court).
Qualified vs. Unqualified … this one is too silly to engage, except the facts of the matter are these: Hillary Clinton has quite the resume, but if we add up what progressives feel, and what the Republicans will point to in a general election, her famous resume is riddled with mistakes she’s made over and over again. So far she’s only admitted to one of those mistakes, the Iraq War, and her bringing up her admission that it was a mistake doesn’t erase the gravity of same. Libya and Syria are also victims of her regime change fetish, and her desire for a no-fly zone over Syria with Russia in the mix is a potential risk for WWIII … except this time nukes are also in the mix.

Jeff Weaver’s Sexist comments … wow, does it get anymore pathetic? Did yous catch her phony cackle when responding to Chris Cuomo. How that was sexist defies logic, but if you fall on the side of the Secretary on this one, count me in as sexist too … me and most of my fellow Berniecrats, and considering how many women are a part of that group … well, the accusation is pretty pathetic.
Weaver said the following: "Don't destroy the Democratic Party to satisfy the secretary's ambitions to become president of the United States," Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver told CNN.
Is it Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton who brings up the fact she can become the first female President of the United States at every opportunity? On that note, we rest our case.
The Artful Smear … well, she’s the one who says “I have a record and it’s been very consistent.” Really? When has it ever been consistent, except to switch her positions over and again?

Senator Sanders points to her record and somehow it’s impugning her? Well, sorry, honey (there’s me being a sexist again), but when you ask us to look at your record and your record stinks, you’re kind of out of luck with that argument.
Slick Willy loses it … look, anyone who still believes the Clintons are on the side of minorities anywhere for anything other than their votes is kidding themselves to a fare thee well. Back in the 2008 race, his attempt to use the race card against Barrack Obama in South Carolina proved to be racist comments trying to persuade white voters to ignore Obama. You’ll even find Chris Matthews going after the Clintons in this video, just proving how corruptible the corporate media remains (since he’s now such a vibrant Hillary supporter, which also happens to coincide with Matthews’ wife running for Democratic office while being an activist in the Clinton campaign).

The former U.S. President, whose wife Hillary battled Obama in the 2008 primary campaign, is said to have remarked of the current president: “A few years ago, this guy would have been carrying our bags.” Clinton allegedly made the insensitive remark to Senator Ted Kennedy in 2008, while trying to convince him to endorse Hillary for the Democratic nomination, according to the New Yorker.
Although Clinton is said to have since given his backing to the current U.S. President, his remark is the latest in a series of apparent outbursts against Obama. The ill-advised comment follows claims of another remark attributed to Clinton in 2010, where he is said to have commented: “A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.”
And let us NEVER forget what happens when Bill Clinton (or Hillary for that matter), wags a finger at us ...
Add to that his wife’s haunting comment about “superpredators”  made in 1996 in defense of the infamous 1994 crime bill, and what you have is pretty obvious, at least to progressives.
“We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”
Oy vey …

The Media … the Daily News (the paper is owned by billionaire, Mort Zuckerman, a fervent Clinton supporter) interview with Bernie was nothing more than an attempted Clinton Campaign hit job. Much ado about nothing is what it was, but you’d never know that from the corporate controlled media. What they attempted to do with Bernie’s responses, which he quickly cleared up, was absolutely comical. At every opportunity since the war between the two Democratic contenders began in earnest this past week, Sanders has been portrayed as the desperate candidate taking potshots at the virgin-like Secretary of State. Suddenly, a guy who has spent his entire life battling big money interests doesn’t know what he’s doing. Really? Are they serious or just carrying out the wishes of the corporations who own them and Hillary Clinton? Zuckerman is worth $2.4 billion … you think she represents his or our interests?
The answer is more than obvious, but the Daily News attempt to “disqualify” Sanders quickly backfired when the Vermont Senator continued to pound away at the viability of such a damaged/flawed candidate carrying so much excess bad baggage, to include the FBI’s email investigation he continues to ignore, but that will obviously be a major issue come the general election. Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver went further to explain how Bernie could and should be the Democratic nominee, if the Democratic Party wants to retain the White House. Weaver pointed out how Sanders is winning independents by great margins (as high as 70%) over Hillary Clinton. The Democratic base is but 25% of the total electorate. Democrats will need independents. Independents flock to Bernie Sanders because of his trustworthiness and integrity, both of which characteristics are sorely missing when it comes to Hillary Clinton. Somehow the media barely touches on Clinton’s baggage and how it will all be looming over her head during the general election, to include the Clinton fatigue this country clearly feels.

The Panama Papers … well it didn’t take long before Bernie Sanders was proved absolutely right about yet another free trade agreement gone bust that Hillary Clinton strongly supported. The release of the Panama Papers is yet another scandal the Clinton campaign will likely find itself attempting to defend against come the general election; one more black mark on the face of a credibility/trustworthiness/integrity issue.
And here’s Hillary’s take on the same issue:

The “unbroken chain of economic integration” apparently worked for her very wealthy friends and contributors to her campaign.
Oy vey.
But if none of the above is enough to walk away from the disaster Hillary Clinton has been and will continue to be, to include perpetual warfare in the Middle East, take the time to watch this and decide for yourself.


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Opera on the Cheap … Shawn Milnes on JFK, the Opera …


If you ever think your heart is made of stone, or that you’re some kind of special tough guy (or gal), I suggest viewing a performance of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly to truly test your ability to control your tear ducts. Butterfly is a 3 act opera I guarantee will have you choking down your emotions at least a dozen times before the ending--which will have you sniffling like a fool. Today it was a cool 15 times I had to choke back the tears, 5 for each act, and still one tear ran the length of my fat face ... and of course it was during the final scene.

But today was different. Today I also choked on some humility and went to see my first opera in a movie theatre. Live from the MET, it was a new production for me, (it’s actually 10 years old) of Puccini’s, Madame Butterfly. I’ve seen the opera live twice before, but really live, like in the 10th row Orchestra or the first row Grand Tier. Of course, those two performances, the old production, came compliments of being a criminal with a ticket scalper in his pocket. Back in those days, I could afford opera at the MET … I could even afford to be an opera snob and buy the tickets I wanted.

Crime doesn’t pay, huh?

Today is was me and the Principessa, Ann Marie, and we watched live from the Hazlet movie theatre in very comfortable seats for $25.00 a ticket. Listen to me: not only were we super impressed with the entire experience, including a 20 minute drive to the theatre and free parking (it’s north of $50.00 near the MET), we already bought tickets for the next one in two weeks, Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux, and are planning to attend quite a few in the fall next season (including one of my very favorite operas, Tristan und Isolde, featuring Nina Stemme).

Okay, it’s not the same thing as sitting in the MET, but its close enough for jazz … and the $450-600.00 savings cannot be sneezed at. And since I’ve seen and/or heard many of the operas on the schedule, it’s like being there for me.

Today’s performance, no question about it, actually outshined what I remember from the two Butterfly’s I saw at the MET many years ago. Roberto Alagna is now a long standing opera star. I’ve seen and heard him in several different roles at the MET (the actual MET), but it’s been so long for anything close to regular attendance for me at the MET (we saw Elīna Garanča in Carmen last year, but that’s because I have a Garanča fetish), I’m way out of the loop … so everything is new again.

The star, without question, was Latvian Soprano, Kristine Opolais. She was a magnificent Cio-Cio-san, and having camera views of very close-ups offered facial/acting expressions you just can’t see from 40 or 100 feet away (never mind a friggin' football field). Sharples was played by one of my favorite baritones, Dwayne Croft (he’s a GREAT Don Giovanni). Maria Zifchak sang Suzuki’s role and was also excellent. This new (to me) production also featured puppets with actual puppeteers, and although it may sound hokey, it was terrific and incredibly well choreographed.

One of the terrific extras you get at the theatre (for just 25 fazools, I remind you) is before and during intermissions some backstage viewing and interviews with various people involved in the production. I can tell you from reading hall of fame baritone, Shawn Milnes’ terrific memoir, American Aria, that there’s often lots of intrigue, wanted or not, behind the scenes. Today the hostess for the performance was Soprano, Deborah Voigt. It was a great way to kill the time between the two intermissions in Butterfly (without having to fork over $10.00 for cheap champagne). We saw and learned how the screen doors operated, how the falling flower pedals were swept and vacuumed, how the puppets and their masters (puppeteers) worked, how the dancers had to stretch between acts, etc. Frankly, for $25.00 a ticket, and a 20 minute drive to and from the theatre, it’ll be a long time before I return to the MET proper.
JFK the opera … Shawn Milnes’ article in the Daily Beast this week discusses a new opera premiering in Fort Worth, on April 23. It deals with the night before the assassination and some fate analogous to Greek Gods (brought on by morphine injections). Milnes also discusses some other operas based on political figures. It's fascinating stuff ...  Take a look see here:


Kristine Opolais …