Ukrainian Cancer Patients Treated in LPR

This Politnavigator piece is from about a week ago.  The writer is Marina Yudina from Luhansk.  She reports that cancer patients are travelling to the Separatist enclave of Luhansk Peoples Republic (LPR) from federally-controlled areas of the Ukraine, in search of cancer treatment.  [But she doesn’t give an exact number of how many such people.]

The main problem, of course, is the collapse of the Ukrainian health care system which began with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and only accelerated after the 2014 coup.  As the Ukraine becomes a failed state and colony of the United States, its social services sector continues to decay, making the lives of ordinary people ever more difficult to endure.

Luhansk Onco-Dispenser Clinic

According to Yudina, half of the cancer patients arriving in LPR from Ukraine proper do not have the money to pay for their own medical treatment.

Meanwhile, the Separatist authorities in LPR have set up a humanitarian program called the Luhansk Republican Clinical OncoDispenser (LRCOD).  Over a thousand cancer patients have turned to this program for medical treatment.  Most live in the area, but some come from other parts of the Ukraine, and are not turned away.

Luhansk surgeons in the Dispenser Clinic perform up to 25 operations per day.

Sadly, according to Andrei Kazmin, who administers the Chemotherapy program, half of the patients arriving in LPR from other parts of the country, are already in advanced stages of cancer, since they couldn’t find the proper treatment at an earlier stage:  “A significant portion of our Ukrainian patients […] say they couldn’t even afford the [diagnostic] tests.”

For example, a resident of SeveroDonetsk lived for four years with the terrifying diagnosis:  “I couldn’t get treatment in the Ukraine, because it’s too expensive:  Up to 60,000 hryvna [around $2,300 American dollars] just for one course of chemotherapy.  Here, in the LPR I already underwent one course, now I’m back for a second.  I only had to pay for the first injection […], the rest were free.”

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Norma Blazes At The Met! – Part III

Dear Readers:

Yesterday we got to that part of Norma’s story, in which the Roman Proconsul Biggus Dickus (er… I mean Pollione) bursts into the grove of the Druids, takes his High-C, and announces that he is in love… and no, sadly, not with the mother of his children, Norma.

Instead, Pollione has fallen out of love with Norma, and into love with a different Druid priestess, none other than the fair maiden Adalgisa.  Who happens to be Norma’s best friend and also apprentice priestess.  Norma, of course, does not know (yet) that Pollione’s new mistress is her (Norma’s) best friend.  If she did know, no doubt she would rip Adalgisa’s eyes out of their sockets.  You don’t mess around with Druid high priestesses and their Roman boyfriends.

DiDonato as Adalgisa, with Sondra Radvanosky as Norma

Being a Druid vestal virgin is a tough job:  You must be physically fit, able to crawl around on oak tree platforms, contort your body animalistically, perform interpretative dance moves, howl to the moon, and [pretend to] foresee the future.  Such a job requires years of training.  The costume designers of this production made an interesting choice:  In Act I, a half-naked Adalgisa wears only a sackcloth and has short hair like a boy.  In Act II she still has short hair (it didn’t have time to grow) but now wears a more stately robe, indicating that she is progressing through the ranks of Druid priestesses.  The only thing which can hold back her career at this point, is the looming sex scandal.

In this production Adalgisa is sung by none other than Joyce DiDonato, the amazing American coloratura mezzo, who specializes in these Bel Canto roles.  This role is very difficult, not only musically, but also emotionally.  DiDonato has to portray both sexual passion (for Pollione) as well womanly friendship for her mentor, Norma.  In mid-opera, after meeting Norma’s children for the first time, Adalgisa suddenly switches emotions, rejects Pollione and stands firmly on Norma’s side.  Woman power, Bellini style!

But What About The Children?

I keep coming back to the topic of Norma’s children.  Because they are the crux of this opera, even though they have no singing nor speaking lines.  True to its original source material, which was entitled “The Infanticide“, the dramatic core of the story involves Norma’s decisions about what to do with her children.  In Roman culture, a society dominated by father-right rules, children are the property of the father, not the mother.  From what I have read, the Gaelic, Celtic and British tribes were more egalitarian in this regard, possibly even matriarchal when it came to family structures.  In matriarchal societies it is not necessarily a fatal error to have a child out of wedlock.  Hence, the fact that Norma is an “unwed mother” is not her main problem.  The main problem here is that (A) she was supposed to remain a virgin; and (B) she had the kids with a Roman occupier.  I think there is a real chance that her Gaelic tribe would either execute the kids (if they knew), or at the very least sell them into slavery.  This is why she has kept these two mutts in hiding so long.  But now they are getting bigger, and it’s getting ever harder to keep them cooped up in that underground lair.

In a different production, Norma has a girl and a boy, instead of two boys; and Pollione is an African-Roman.

The only viable solution is to send the kids to Rome, to be raised by their father.  But there, Norma fears, even worse things await them, if Pollione cannot or will not legitimize them.  When she learns that Pollione wants to take Adalgisa with him back to Rome and marry her, Norma begs her friend to take the children along.  She tries to extract a promise from Adalgisa:  She doesn’t expect their stepmother to treat them the same as her own children, just please don’t abuse them or sell them into slavery.

This plan could have actually worked, except that Adalgisa is not onboard with it.  Instead, she rejects Pollione and refuses to marry him.  Which puts them all back to Square #1.

The Climax

Bellini’s opera is relatively short:  only two Acts, just under three hours, including the intermission.  The show started at 13:00 and we, the audience, were already heading into the parking lot by 16:00.

Norma captures Pollione and threatens to slit his throat

The last scenes of the story seem rushed, and it is unclear what is going on, especially given that the original source material is so elusive.  We know that Pollione has been recalled back to Rome.  It’s unclear if he is in trouble with his superiors, or just a routine rotation.  He wanted to take Adalgisa back with him and even marry her, but then Adalgisa unexpectedly rejected him.  She even had the gaul [little pun, forgive me] to go storming to him and demanding that he take his old girlfriend back, Norma.  “But I don’t want Norma any more,” he tells her.  “I want YOU!”  She retorts with the Gaelic equivalent of “tough beans” and goes back to Norma, declaring her undying female solidarity; and yet still leaving the question of the children unresolved.

Ancient Celtic artifact

Next thing you know, Pollione is back to his skulking in the Druid grove, most likely on the prowl for Adalgisa.  He has been this sneaky many times before, but this time he actually gets caught.  The punishment for an unbeliever violating the Druid grove is — DEATH!

Norma holds a knife to Pollione’s throat.  The threat of imminent death causes a marvelous change in Pollione’s personality.  All of a sudden he realizes that Norma was his true love after all.  You can call it Stockholm Syndrome, or maybe even Aquitania Syndrome if you wish.

Curtain call reassures people that nobody actually died.

Norma announces to the assembled Druid priests, priestesses and warriors, that Pollione has been sentenced to die in a fiery pyre.  [Er.. Norma, do you not know that the Roman legions will put your entire village to the torch if they find out?]

Norma also announces that Pollione’s accomplice, a Druid priestess who violated her vows and betrayed her own people, will also die a fiery death at Pollione’s side.  At this point everybody expects her to call out her own friend, Adalgisa.  And indeed, she seems about to do that.  But then her conscience gets the better of her, as she realizes just how dreadfully hypocritical that might appear.  Norma has many bad qualities, but she is no hypocrite, and no rat-fink.  Instead, she denounces herself.  She and Pollione will die together.  They sing a love duet and march off into the flames, hand in hand.  THE END

But what about the children!? you shriek!

Oh, sorry, I forgot to mention that the kids are gonna be okay.  Before marching off into the fire, Norma extracted a promise from her father, High Priest Oroveso (remember him?) that he will accept and raise her children within the tribe.  Grandpa was reluctant at first, but his heart melted at the sight of these lovable imps.  Once he agreed to that, Norma could die with a clear conscience.  And like Wagner’s Brünnhilde she ain’t gonna immolate herself alone:  Nope, lover-boy is going with her!

And let’s just hope the Romans don’t find out what a ghastly death their Proconsul endured, otherwise, mark my words, every last man, woman and child in that Gaelic village is toast!


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Norma Blazes At The Met! – Part II

Dear Readers:

Continuing my review of Bellini’s great opera “Norma”, which commenced the Met Opera’s Live in HD season this past Saturday.  It is time to talk about the tenor, Roman Proconsul Pollione, here sung by Joseph Calleja, who is of Maltese citizenship.  Calleja is perfect as Pollione, who is simultaneously the hero and the villain of the piece.  I don’t know exactly what Maltese are (Spanish?  Italian?), but Calleja exudes the type of hairy Italian machismo that could realistically capture the heart of an innocent Druid maiden.

Calleja as Proconsul Pollione

A few seasons back, I saw Calleja do “Hoffmann”, and he was just a fill-in because the original tenor had to bow out, for some reason.  On the surface, Calleja doesn’t look much like a Hoffmann, but I recall that he did a superb job.  Especially as the older, more jaded Hoffmann seeking pleasures of the flesh in Venice.

Here, Pollione is a powerful and cruel Roman occupier, he is fairly one-dimensional, but at the very end of the story reveals more complexity than we had expected from him.  In the backstory:  Pollione has seduced the Druid High Priestess Norma.  See, Pollione has a habit of sneaking into the Druids holy oak glade, a sacred place where he is not supposed to be, and the punishment for unbelievers violating that sacred grove is, of course, death by pyre-burning.  Why does Pollione sneak into the glade just about every night?  Well, apparently this virile Italian has a taste for sweet sweet Druid-lady flesh.  After he seduces Norma, she bears him two children, and they become a sort of secret family.  As the amazing elevator-set-change device revealed, Norma, her children, and their nanny Clotilde live in an underground hut, directly beneath the roots of the Irminsul Oak Stump.  There they hide from prying eyes of society, which would condemn her tryst with Pollione, not to mention her bastard offspring.

What About the Young Persons?

Which brings us back to the issue of Norma’s children and why she contemplates infanticizing them.  As Mr. Podsnap (“Our Mutual Friend” by Charles Dickens) kept reminding us, it’s all about the “young person” and his or her future in our society.

Norma’s underground lair

Well, the children ARE the future, as Whitney Houston reminded us.  Which doesn’t necessarily mean that all children HAVE a future.  As my extensive research into infanticide has revealed, there are sometimes actually valid reasons to kill your kids.  For example, some mothers can’t raise them, for whatever reason, and simply don’t know who is going to raise them, and feel that the kids are better off dead than in the foster system.  Which may be the case, realistically, but PLEASE MOMS! — don’t do it, you never know, maybe they will have a great life in the end despite all the odds.  There is always hope!

A younger Calleja as Hoffmann, with his Muse Kate Lindsey

In Norma’s case, the main issue is the legality of her children.  In ancient times, just as today, if a child does not carry a piece of paper clarifying his status within his society, then all kinds of bad things can happen to him.  Norma is certain that her two boys, the illegitimate spawn of a hated Roman occupier, will not be accepted into Gaelic society — this is why she hides them underground.  Originally maybe she had some hope that Pollione would marry her, legitimize their children, and take them all to Rome.  But that hope has faded, since Pollione has cooled to her.

Her only remaining option is to have Pollione take the children to Rome by himself.  But then horrors await them:  She sees in her mind that Pollione will marry, the stepmother will mistreat his bastards, even sell them into slavery.  This is why she has come almost to the point of going at them with the hatchet — for their own good.

“I took the High C”

No doubt Norma is re-running all these dilemmas through her mind as she sings her famous cavatina to the Moon Goddess.

Barely has she finished, and the Druid warriors dispersed, when who should suddenly appear, bounding into the grove, than Pollione himself, to confront Norma, whom he no longer loves.  He declaims to her that he loves another woman, thus continuing to dash all her hopes.  See, she’s still into him, despite everything.  Italian men have that kind of power over women.

Cutie-pie Susanna Phillips

Once again, Bellini has no mercy on his singers:  Right out of the gate the Tenor has to belt out the aria Meco all’altar di Venere, with its infamous High-C.  The High-C is considered the Holy Grail for the heroic tenor.  And Callejo had to do it with no warm-up!  In close-ups one could see the focus on Calleja’s face as he enunciated each syllable and carefully controlled his breathing.

During the intermission, Calleja bounded off the stage and bragged to hostess Susanna Philips:  “I took the High C!”

Well, almost.  To my ears it sounded at least a quarter-note flat.  But then, I don’t have perfect pitch, so I can’t be sure.  In any case, Calleja himself was happy with it.  And after that first aria, he noticeably relaxed, melded into the role, and got better and better as the story progressed.

[to be continued]

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Norma Blazes At The Met! – Part I

Dear Readers:

So, here is my review of The Metropolitan Opera’s Live In HD show “Norma”, which I watched yesterday in my local IMAX movie theater.  After a long summer break, this performance heralded the start of the Met’s new “Live in HD” season, which looks to be a humdinger.

“Norma” is a masterpiece by Italian opera composer Vincenzo Bellini.  Along with fellow greats Gaetano Donizetti and Gioachino Rossini, Bellini was a master of the Bel canto opera style.  “Bel canto” is Italian simply for “beautiful singing”, which means the music focuses primarily on quality of the voices.  In Bel canto operas, one can expect lots of beautiful arias, duets and trios, with each type of voice (soprano, mezzo, tenor, baritone) showing off ornaments, trills, coloratura, etc.  Good Bel canto singers are worth their weight in gold; compared to them, certain, say, Wagnerian singers might sometimes sound like human foghorns.

During the intermission (and these live fresh-off-the-stage interviews are sometimes the best part of these HD transmissions!), Coloratura Mezzo Joyce Didonato  told hostess Susanna Phillips what she thought were the main differences between the three Bel canto greats:  Donizetti is as precise as a military band.  Rossini is all fireworks.  The psychological Bellini has a way of penetrating into his characters souls.

One of Bellini’s other masterworks I puritani (“The Puritans”), with its famous “mad scene”, happens to be one of my favorite operas, and is the only opera I know of which treats the topic of the English Civil War at all, let alone in a manner favorable (somewhat) to the Roundhead side.

Alexandre Soumet: Was France’s verison of Lord Byron

Always on the lookout for dramatical historical-based stories to work his Bel Canto magic on, Bellini chose a libretto based on a work by French romantic poet Alexandre Soumet, with the startling title of “Norma:  Or The infanticide“.  Full disclosure:  I have not read Soumet’s epic poem, but I think the title gives it away:  Norma, like Medea before her, murders her children.  Oh, to be sure, I attempted to research Soumet’s poem online, but when I followed the wiki “Infanticide” link from the Soumet link, all I got was this dry piece, informing us that mothers are far more likely than fathers to murder their own children.  Which is not all that surprising, when you think about it.

But not to worry, Dear Readers, in Bellini’s version of this gory tale, after a work-over by librettist Felice Romani, no children are harmed in the production of this story.  Oh sure, mom threatens to kill her boys a few times, but doesn’t actually go through with it.  Hence, you can relax and read the rest of this review, without worrying about it.

Sometimes moms find it hard to cope.

The children, by the way, were played by two actual live boys onstage.  These kids didn’t have much to say for themselves.  Obeying the Victorian rule of “seen but not heard”, they had no singing nor spoken lines, all they had to do was look cute and winsome, submit to petting and caressing at the hands of the principals, and not cry when “mom” is threatening to slit their throats.  The child actors did a fine job, and thank Wodin they were not replaced by creepy Japanese Pinocchio puppet boys, as was the case in the Met’s recent production of “Madama Butterfly”.

Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres

Norma’s story is set in Roman-occupied Gaul, sometime between 50-100 BC.  The Gaelic people are not thrilled with their situation and would do just about anything to throw off the Roman yoke; but, let’s face it, militarily they are completely outmatched.  The Gauls have their swords, shields, and blue war paint; and the Romans have — well, the Legions.  The Gauls are led by aging warrior Oroveso, who also doubles as the Druid high-priest.  Oroveso’s daughter Norma has worked her way up the ranks to High Priestess of the Druids and dominates the Grove of the Irminsul Oak Stump.

When I googled for an image of Irminsul I got way more than I bargained for.  Apparently Irminsuls are a real thing online, lots of pagan worshippers and fantasy stuff.  Tatoos galore.  Probably some Nazi thing as well.  Anyhow, back in the Roman times, Norma is thought to commune directly with her Irminsul and communicate his thoughts and wishes to the warriors.  Norma is so trusted and so venerated by the blue-painted warriors that they will do literally anything she tells them.  Even when her orders are contradictory.  Like, one minute she’s all:  “We have to put away our weapons and pretend to make peace with the Romans”, and the next minute she’s all:  “Kill every last Roman motherf**** on this planet!”  Depending on her mood, and the vagaries of her complicated relationship with Roman Proconsul Pollione.  But more on that later…

Radvanovsky as Norma

In an earlier radio interview, soprano superstar Sondra Radvanovsky explained her interpretation of Norma’s character:  She sees Norma as a very modern-type figure.  Almost like a modern politician who is hiding a career-detroying secret (usually a sex scandal) from her public.  The secret, in this case, being that she has two small children (Druid priestesses are supposed to be virgins), whom she is raising in secret; and, even worse, that those two boys are the offspring of the enemy “occupant” Pollione, to whom she is secretly married (sort of).  Now there’s a political scandal for you!

In taking on this role of Norma, Radvanovsky placed herself among a small elite of sopranos, including Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland, who are technically capable of singing this role, known as one of the most difficult in the soprano repertoire.  Quoting God Wiki:

The German soprano Lilli Lehmann once remarked that the singing of all three Brünnhilde roles of Wagner’s opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen in one evening would be less stressful than the singing of one Norma.  She also commented “When you sing Wagner, you are so carried away by the dramatic emotion, the action, and the scene that you do not have to think how to sing the words. That comes of itself. But in Bellini, you must always have a care for beauty of tone and correct emission.

So, how did Radvanovsky do yesterday?  In word, she did great.  Right out of the box she had to sing Bellini’s famous “Casta Diva” (“O Chaste Goddess!”) in praise of the Goddess of the Moon.  On youtube, for your listening pleasure, I found this [sometimes scratchy] recording of Maria Callas singing this beautiful cavatina in concert:

In Radvanovsky’s interpretation, as she explained in that earlier radio interview, the Director of this production had her crawling around on her oak platform.  Instead of the usual standing still and erect with upraised arms, she was tasked to portray a physically active and animalistic Norma, accompanied by her silent apprentice and sidekick Adalgisa (Joyce Didonato).  I personally would have preferred the more traditional still and upraised arms version, it better suits this haunting and ethereal piece; but nonetheless Radvanovsky’s voice did not appear to suffer from the physical exertion she was subjected to.

Well, that’s part of “modern” opera staging nowadays:  the singers are expected to look busy all the time, as if they are interpretive dancers as well as singers, and I am not sure I can ever forgive whatever “genius” director who forced Marguerite to tow her own guillotine across the stage while belting out “Anges Purs”.  Unnecessary sidebar…

[to be continued]

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Boycott Bing Bang!

Dear Sir:

The Russian people are devastated by your cavalier expressions of contempt for them.  If you want to hate Trump, that is your right as a red-blooded American.  But please leave foreign affairs to more seasoned diplomats.  And please stop insulting Russia.  I call upon red-blooded Russians and pro-Russians and just about everyone else to stop watching your cheesy shows.  In conclusion, Dear Sir, drop dead!

Sincerely yours,

That, Dear Readers, is my imaginary letter, in the heat of the moment, to Chuck Lorre, Producer of several popular American sitcoms, including The Big Bang Theory.  A show which is actually very popular in Russia and has many Russian fans, who “get” its goofy ensemble humor.

So, what did Chuck do that was so bad?  Well, he recently insulted the Russian people and all of Russian history, for starters.

Chuck Lorre: “Was it something I said?”

It came to my attention just yesterday what Chuck did, when I read a comment on Mark Chapman’s “Kremlin Stooge” blog, the comment was penned by my own dear colleague, Lyttenburgh.  Whom, in the heat of the moment (I just decided 10 minutes ago to write this post) I omitted to ask permission to republish his comment.  But I’m pretty sure he’s cool with it, especially since it’s a really good comment and sums up the Angst of your typical Russian TV viewer in search of mindless and harmless entertainment which will not insult his inner psyche.  Although… as was clarified in later comments, Russian viewers do not generally pay to see Mr. Lorre’s shows, they watch pirated versions on youtube.  Therefore, their feelings and concerns are irrelevant.

Here is Lyt’s comment:

Say hi to the typical vignette by Chuck Lorre , the creator of the “Grace Under Fire”, “2 and a half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory”. Such vignettes (he calls them “vanity cards”) are left as a “bonus material” at the end of each episode he makes, but are also available on his show’s site. Like this one, airing at the end of the 2nd episode (11 season) of “The Big Bang Theory”, a comedy show with rather big following in Russia:


“When I was a little boy the Russians were coming. At least once a week, I was instructed to hide in the school basement because the Russians were coming. I actually spent six years learning to speak Russian because when they got here, I wanted to know how to say, “Don’t shoot!” (не стрелять!) And now, more than half a century later, after their dumbass system of government imploded, the friggin’ Russians are still coming. How is that possible? How are we still being tormented by a nation that has yet to build a decent refrigerator or toaster, let alone a cell phone or a car? By a culture that thinks borscht is a good idea? By the people who somehow managed to contribute less to rock music than the French? I mean, sure, kudos on vodka, but how is it that these people are still making us miserable? And more importantly, why? Is world domination still a thing? And if it is, let’s say they succeed. What then? The future supreme rulers of planet Earth are gonna rock the casbah with balalaikas? Forgive me, but in the words of their favorite son, Orange Julius, that is “sad.””

Dear Mr. Lorre (let’s pretend he will actually read me here)! I’ve read the account of your Cold War era childhood with great amusement. The generation of my parents growing up at the same time in the USSR did not experience anything like that. They were not taught to duck and cover below their desks in order to (somehow!) survive the nuclear blast. They were not tormented with constant alarm drills. They were not taught how to say “не стреляйте!” (don’t shoot) in the case the American invaders would finally invade our country.

My parents and their generation had happy unblemished childhood.

Meanwhile, while you and your generation were doing the drills the military of your country, the USA, was depriving children in various parts of the globe of their own happy childhood. They were often depriving them of their livelihood and even their lives. Compared to what your military did to their countries your own “childhood trauma” was nothing.

But, judging from your latest vanity card, should we accept without question everything you say, then we have to come to the following conclusions:

– If the country does not have a “dumbass system of government” (i.e. they are so-called “liberal democracies”) – the can have the right to come and interfere into other people’s lives – but not the other way round.

– Only a country that “build a decent refrigerator or toaster, let alone a cell phone or a car” can “torment” other countries.

– Russian culture (sic) thinks that borscht is a good idea. Not Ukrainian. Not Byelarussian – only Russian. And that’s a no-no.

– Russian rock bands (“Kino”, “Akvarium”, “Maschina Vremeni”, “Krematoriy”, “Chizh &Co” and many, many others) SOMEHOW “contribute less to rock music than the French”. Ergo, only the nations, who contributed a lot to the rock music have the right to subjugate the world and diss Murika [nod, nod].

– Putin does everything he does in the name of the world domination (see – making life uncomfortable in the mind of some Murikan kreakls = World Domination) in order to “rock the casbah with balalaikas” (c).

I don’t think that Chuck Lorre was paid to write anything of this. Given that Wikipedia’a article mentions, that he “publicly admitted his decades of struggle with the autoimmune disease ulcerative colitis, and other mild health struggles with depression, worry, and anger/rage” I thinks that all of these sentiments are genuine. But that doesn’t make them less of a propaganda of the unhigned hate by someone, who has the means to reach (and influence) thousands of people across the globe.

Indeed – “sad”, is the only thing I have to say about this once favorite show of mine.

That was Lyt’s rant, and now back to me, yalensis.

Full disclosure:  I have never watched any of those other Chuck Lorre shows, but was a regular watcher of Bing BangWAS, I said.  Which I now intend to stop watching.  Which is sad, because now I will never find out if Sheldon and Amy actually go through with the wedding and, if so, how long before their inevitable divorce?

And, for starters, I had never known about these “Vanity Cards” before, and it seems pretty stupid to me that a bigtime Hollywood producer would put this sort of thing online (not just the Russian stuff, but his other political rants) and risk alienating a chunk of his American viewers.  Well, you know what the Bible has to say about vanity.

Fair and Balanced

In my due diligence as a respectable blogger, I just popped onto google to see if there was perhaps some explanation, or mitigating circumstance.  Still holding out hope that it was all just a ghastly misunderstanding, and I could go back to watching Bang with a clean conscience.  Like I said, I had never even known about these “Vanity Cards” of Lorre’s, or that he has left quite a paper trail of his personal opinions.

I googled something like “Chuck Lorre on Russia” and got a bunch of stuff.  Including this actually very interesting link, this was Chuck in a earlier and happier time (March 2017), and include the lyrics to a beautiful and popular Russian song, “Moscow Nights”.  My first thought was:  “Ah!  Chuck likes Russian music, so he can’t be all bad!”  But then remembering:  This was still post-Trump, after all, so he probably meant something sarcastic by it.  Like, Trump was singing tunes in Moscow, or something.  One highly interesting point, though:  Alonso del Arte, the writer of that link, quoted a previous Chuck rant from a month earlier, in which (if I am reading this correctly) Chuck basically does a live vivisection on Rachel Maddow:

Rachel, with her Ricky Nelson pompadour

If the free press is the enemy of the people, and I’m part of the people, it would follow that Rachel Maddow is out to get me. Now I don’t mean to diminish her intellect, which is considerable, but as enemies go, with that Ricky Nelson pompadour and big, goofy grin, she doesn’t exactly strike terror in my heart. On the other hand, Little Stevie Van Breitbart, who I assume is a friend of the people and looks like he just woke up from a three-day bender, scares the$#!+ out of me.

And I reckon anybody who trashes Maddow (especially a fellow Liberal Jewish Hollywood-type person??) can’t be all bad.

But let’s face it:  All of this is really about Trump.  Trump is what went terribly wrong for the American Liberal elite.  And they need to blame somebody, so they blame Russia!

This other link shows (maybe — remember that I wrote this entire post in great haste) Chuck’s evolution into madness (post-Trump election) with his “open letter” to Julian Assange.  Putting on my Freud-Psychiatrist hat, I see a Hollywood Liberal who was terribly shattered by the election, lost all his illusions, like little Hedwig in Ibsen’s Vildanden, maybe he even used to have some lingering respect for Russia, which was all flushed down the toilet, due to Putin’s despicable actions in stealing the American election!

An Open Letter to Julian Assange

Dear Jules,

Julian: Neo-Morlock do

Belated congrats on your whole Mr. Robot thing. You promised to use the Internet to expose and bring down all the corrupt bastards ruining our world, and boy did you almost follow through. Julie baby! Boychick! The job’s only half-way done! You need to show us you’re not just another gun for hire and hose down the other mosh pit. You know what I’m talking about. The tax returns, the out-takes, maybe even some freaky-deaky-golden-leaky beauty pageant video action. Time to step up, J-man. If you wanna be a cyber Fidel, or a digital Che, or a virtual Ho, you’ve gotta stop stuffing your face with arroz con pollo and get to work. It’s time to go all Talking Heads on this situation. Burning down the house, bubelah! You’re one wikiwacky-leak away from being a hero. Or maybe a martyr. Ecuadorean potato soup, Ecuadorean puhtahto soup, they’re usually the same thing.

Hugs to Vlad,

P.S. Love your hair, very nouveau Morlock

That “Vlad” thingie is the true indicator of Chuck’s increasing dementia in regard to Russia.  See, it was “Vlad Putin” who brought about the Triumph of Evil in the U.S.

And here Chuck badly insults a man he used to respect, namely Julian Assange.  Although I have to admit that “Morlock” comment is right on target!

And in conclusion, Dear Readers, what to make of all this madness?  Who is to blame, and what should be done?  Should we boycott Chuck’s shows?  I say Yes!  Unless he makes a sincere apology to all the humans, animals, and clowns involved in this ghastly farce!

Posted in Celebrity Gossip, Popular Culture | Tagged | 8 Comments

60 Years in Space – Hoorah!

Dear Readers:

On this day (October 4)  in 1957, the Era of Space Exploration began.  The Soviet Union launched the planet’s first artificial satellite known as “Simple Spunik-1” (ПС-1).

Etymological sidebar:  The Russian word “sputnik”, which immediately entered the international vocabulary at that time, is just a simple word meaning “fellow traveller” (not in the sinister political sense, just one who travels alongside one).  From the Common Slavic *pont (“path”, “way”), with the prefix s- (“with”, “alongside”), hence the historical evolution of the word *s-pont-nik –> sputnik.

Which is one and the same as the Indo-European root *pent- (“to go”, “tread”, etc.) with the various ablauts (pent, pont, punt), also giving Latin pont (“bridge”), thence the French ditty “Sur le pont d’Avignon“, etc.

A Glorious Team

The first sputnik, as its name implies, was a very simple affair:  a battery-operated sphere 58 centimeters in diameter, weighing 83.6 kilograms, and possessing 4 spiky antennas!

Tikhonravov was an actual rocket scientist.

The team that put this thing together was headed by Soviet aerospace engineer Mikhail Tikhonravov (1900-1974).  After Sputnik-1, this team went on to put an animal into space; and no, I’m not talking about Yury Gagarin!  That party animal came later.  Little joke, comrades, no offense.  Anyhow, Tikhonravov went on to win the Lenin Prize in 1957 and has a crater on Mars named after him.

The first sputnik remained in orbit around our planet until January 4, 1958, having accomplished 1,440 revolutions.  During its 92-day journey it issued simple “beep beep” sounds which were heard by Ham Radio enthusiasts around the world.

And thus, from such humble beginnings, began humanity’s quest to boldly go…. etc. etc.

Or, as the noble Roman Virgil encouraged us, back in the day: “Sic itur ad astra!”

Posted in Space, Science and Technology | Tagged | 7 Comments

How’m I Doin’, Hey, Hey – September Edition

Dear Readers:

Well, here we are again, it’s October 3, two days late this time, that last series of posts turned out to be a bear.

First some organizational notes.  Sales Director Willy Loman submitted his resignation and went home to spend more time with his family:  Linda, Biff and Harpo.  His family are appalled, but have no choice in the matter, it’s their job to coddle Dear Old Dad.

Meet + Greet new employee!

Willy is replaced by Queequeq the Cannibal from “Moby Dick”.  Company policy forbidding tatoos had to be relaxed for this new hire.  His harpooning skills were simply too good to pass up!

Disclaimer:  No whales or other sea mammals have been harmed on this blog.  Land mammals, on the other hand… well that’s another story.

But running late as we are, let’s just get to the numbers, here are my closing-month metrics: Page Views went down – from 5,962 in August to 5,750 in September. That’s the bad news.  The good news is that Number of Distinct visitors, the metric I care about more, went up, from 2,586 to 2,708.  I think that’s the largest number of distinct people who ever visited my blog in a month.  And it’s weird, I am getting all kinds of pingbacks from posts I wrote several months back and barely even remember.  Just this morning there was a pingback from some Chinese blog, where somebody had read my movie review of “Hidden Figures”.  Not reading Chinese, I have no idea what this person thought about my review, but I appreciate that they read it!

Next: Blanche Dubois just hopped off her streetcar to deliver my standard disclaimer:

Your Privacy is Important to Me: WordPress calculates who is a distinct person by their I.P. address. It also uses the I.P. address to deduce which country you live in. I myself can’t see I.P. addresses unless you leave a comment. In which case I can see your email address; and from that I COULD look up your I.P. if I were curious, which I am not.

Next: Before posting my usual “Parade of Nations”, this here is my nostalgic trip down memory lane. In which I narcissistically “look-back” through my own posts of the last month, self-assess them, and highlight a few which I think are particularly good, I call this feature:

Highlights of the Month

So, here we go, in chronological order, and since there were so many long (multi-part) pieces, there are not really that many total posts, realistically:

  • We started the month of September with this historical 5-parter on the Latvian Riflemen.
  • Next, my plea to free Nelly Shtepa, followed a few days later, by an update on Nelly’s status.
  • This 5-parter, another long Krutikov-inspired piece which (I believe) provides some valuable updates on the Syria War.
  • This piece, being the “fair and balanced” and “other side of the story” type of thing, in regard to the Ukrainian “Rabbit”, Mr. Yatsenyuk.
  • And last but not least, the piece I just finished yesterday, which turned out to be more of a marathon (and even emotional burden) than I thought.  The theme being Russian income inequality and how it came to be.  The theme also being The Great Calamity, aka “How Russia astounded the world.”  A theme that is quite painful to most Russians and pro-Russians, evoking the types of emotions that Carthaginians no doubt experience, every time they notice Mighty Caesar and his elephants marching by.  And to those who feel particularly pained by this theme, I have just a couple of thoughts:  (1) One needs to start planning a better future for humanity — swallowing the red pill to escape the Matrix is a good start but it’s not enough — one needs to start thinking about building a better political movement; and (2)  “Stalin will return from the dead and restore order” is not a realistic political platform in this regard.

That being said, it is now time for that Pomp and Circumstance that everybody has been waiting for: Time to march on with the

Parade Of Nations

My 2,708 September visitors hail from the following countries, in order of most to least page views. WordPress allows me to save these stats as a CSV file, from which I copy-pasted onto here:


United States 3022
Canada 505
New Zealand 328
United Kingdom 268
Russia 255
Australia 216
Mexico 95
France 90
Hungary 86
Finland 79
Germany 54
India 44
Italy 44
Netherlands 32
Switzerland 32
Romania 31
Poland 28
Ireland 26
Norway 24
Sweden 22
Latvia 20
United Arab Emirates 19
Ukraine 19
Spain 18
Singapore 17
Croatia 17
Taiwan 16
Indonesia 15
Belgium 15
Austria 14
Brazil 14
Philippines 13
Serbia 13
South Africa 12
Czech Republic 12
Argentina 12
Turkey 12
European Union 10
Malaysia 10
Estonia 9
Ghana 9
Lithuania 9
Denmark 9
Vietnam 8
Oman 8
Israel 7
Thailand 7
South Korea 7
Greece 6
Azerbaijan 5
Hong Kong SAR China 5
Pakistan 5
Lebanon 4
Slovenia 4
Slovakia 4
Japan 4
Portugal 3
Sri Lanka 3
Nigeria 3
Bulgaria 3
Moldova 3
Trinidad & Tobago 2
Guernsey 2
Egypt 2
Georgia 2
Kenya 2
Cyprus 2
Chile 2
Fiji 2
Colombia 2
Luxembourg 2
Madagascar 2
Niger 2
Tanzania 2
Libya 2
Bangladesh 1
St. Lucia 1
Costa Rica 1
Malta 1
Kuwait 1
Benin 1
Iceland 1
Algeria 1
Armenia 1
Nepal 1
China 1
Botswana 1
Malawi 1
Albania 1
Montenegro 1
Uzbekistan 1
Puerto Rico 1
Peru 1
Saudi Arabia 1
Macedonia 1
Guyana 1
Belarus 1
Bosnia & Herzegovina 1
Morocco 1
Uruguay 1
Qatar 1

Thanks y’all for visiting my blog!

Sincerely yours,

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