Monthly Archives: January 2013

Where’s My Free Stuff?

Barack Obama                                                                                                11/6/2012

To Marion Stein

Marion —

I’m about to go speak to the crowd here in Chicago, but I wanted to thank you first.

I want you to know that this wasn’t fate, and it wasn’t an accident. You made this happen.

You organized yourselves block by block. You took ownership of this campaign five and ten dollars at a time. And when it wasn’t easy, you pressed forward.

I will spend the rest of my presidency honoring your support, and doing what I can to finish what we started.

But I want you to take real pride, as I do, in how we got the chance in the first place.

Today is the clearest proof yet that, against the odds, ordinary Americans can overcome powerful interests.

There’s a lot more work to do.

But for right now: Thank you.


Marion Stein                                                                                                11/07/2012

To: Barack Obama

Barack —

Hey congratulations.

Thanks back at you. Putting my life on hold the past couple of months and spending my time knocking on doors in Reading PA for the campaign was my pleasure, really.  Besides, not like I have an actual job waiting for me back home.

Have you been to Reading, by the way? Lots of old houses with rickety steps, and the sidewalks are kind of a mess, but the doctor says it’s just a sprain, so no worries.

I’m sorry we never got together for any of those dinner things. I kept clicking the button, but I never received the actual invitation, not even for coffee with Joe.

Anyway, please say hello to Michelle. Maybe we can all do lunch sometime when you’re in New York?


Marion Stein                                                                                                11/15/2012

To: Barack Obama

Hey Barack,

Sorry I missed that conference call for your “strongest supporters.” I did get the e-mail from Jeremy, but there was a little problem with my cell, one of those crazy credit card mix-ups. I’ll send you the new number as soon as I get a one.

How’s Michelle? Haven’t heard from her lately.  And the girls?  I guess you’re swamped, not like before the election when sometimes you’d write twice the same day!

Speaking of which, there’s been some settling-in post-campaign adjustment here at home.  (I’m sure you can relate.) But Craig and I are getting back to our old routine.  We’re seeing the marriage counselor this afternoon. Thank goodness for his insurance plan and the affordable care act!


Marion Stein                                                                                                12/24/2012

To: Barack Obama

Hey Barack,

Merry Christmas!  Did you get my card?

Craig’s bigshot cousin sent us pictures live on twitter from the White House Holiday Party.  I guess our invitation got lost with all the holiday junk mail. No worries! I heard from Michelle about joining millions of other Americans for activities on Inauguration Day, also something about a victory fund. Problem is those weeks I spent going door-to-door for you in Reading, not as much of a resume builder as you would think!  I’d love to help, and I hate to disappoint because I know how much you depend on me and all, but things are just a little tight right now.

I’m keeping up my spirits. I just put out a new novella on  Kindle, Schrodinger’s Telephone.  It’s available exclusively on Amazon for 99 cents. I figure if I could sell a hundred copies this month, it would be enough for the co-pay and I could see a doctor about that rash and the limp I’ve had since Reading. Like your friend Jim Messina always says, every dollar counts, right?

That reminds me, seeing as how I’ve been such a great supporter and all, would you mind liking my book on Amazon?  There’s also a  Facebook page.  It would just take a few seconds, and it would really help me out!

About that fiscal cliff message Jim sent out, my representative is Charlie Rangel, so I think you got that one locked up. Besides, no point in giving him a call, his hearing is going.  Guy’s like 90 or something.  Anyhow, I don’t think he’s been the same since that censure vote.

All the best,


Marion Stein                                                                                                1/9/2013

To: Barack Obama, Michelle Obama

Hey Barack and Michelle,

Happy Belated New Year!

How’s it going?  Congratulations on the fiscal cliff aversion.  I don’t feel you sold out despite what anyone on the West Harlem Obama for America Dashboard has to say. Next stop automatic weapons ban, amirite?  Regarding the day of service commitment Michelle emailed about, funny thing happened.  Last week, I had an actual job interview!  First one in months.  I get to the subway station and realized I left my wallet home.  I didn’t want to be late, so I decided to jump the turnstile.  Long story short, I never made it to the interview, but I already have community service covered on MLK Jr day!

Hey Bar, did you get a chance to like my book page yet?  Also, nothing says thank you for your support like a four or five star review on Amazon, and Mich this one is family friendly.  Just put it on your Amazon wish list where your friends can see.  I’m running a little contest, and I’ll be giving free copies to the first ten people to do that; plus there’s a drawing for coffee with the author.

Best to you and the girls and good luck on January 21st!

By the way, we’re trying to put away some debt.  Could you please help by clicking one of the options below?

QUICK DONATE: $141 // $35 // $50 // $100 // $250 // Or donate another amount.


Me, Interviewed, Go Here….

Me interviewed on the Indie View blog. Also still have some e-books to gift to anyone willing to commit to writing an honest review on Amazon. The giftie offer is for Schrodinger’s Telephone, but if you’re more interested in Loisaida — A New York Story, that’s available as well.  How to get in on it?  Just contact me at marion at carradelocapress dot com with your e-mail and put either or both books on your Amazon wish list. (Give me a link to see your wish list as well). That’s all.  This is a limited time offer and if you spend the certificate on something else, I can guarantee karma will not be kind.

More Idiots at the Opera, Act II

So as I mentioned in a previous post, my media-naranja y yo have become mid-life opera fans.  So far this season we’ve seen three productions at the Met.

Let’s start with Carmen, which my husband refers to as the Guys and Dolls of opera, meaning even regular guys (of the hetero non-metro variety) can enjoy it and everyone knows the songs.  You do. You really do.  The production we saw featured Anita Rachvelishvili in the title role playing it in full earthy mode, Yonghun Lee (realistically eye-candy enough for the Don Jose role), Kate Royal almost (not quite) stealing it as Michaeli, and Dwayne Croft (an American) as an appropriately pompous Escaramillo.

Here’s what you need to know if you see it —  the ending (which like the songs, we already know) really isn’t inevitable. It shouldn’t be a tragedy. It’s like one of those post-Hays code movies where they make the bad girl pay at the end.  Michaela should have just shown up, gotten between Carmen and Don Jose and talked some sense into the boy.  Then the whole chorus could have gotten on stage, and  Carmen could have reprised a rousing Habanera, ending with the two couples embracing.

Speaking of old movies, I get that opera plots are supposed to be ridiculous, but Carmen is kind of extra-special ridiculous in exactly the same way that the old tearjerkers Carol Burnett film parodies were ridiculous.  Take the scene where Carmen and Don Jose are outlaws living in the Gypsy-smugglers mountain hide out, which by the way is supposed to be a hide out which means nobody is supposed to know where it is. Michaela just shows up having presumably climbed the mountain solo or something in order to try to persuade Don Jose to come home to his dying momma.  That absolutely should be played for laughs, as should all Don Jose’s nancy-boy tears when whining about his sainted mama.

Then we saw Le Nozzi di Figaro.  I was looking forward to it because in addition to its being an opera by Mozart, it was produced by Jonathan Miller, and I’m a fan because he’s not only a theater and opera director, but he’s also a member of the tribe and a doctor, and one of the founding members of Beyond the Fringe, and if it hadn’t been for Beyond the Fringe there never would have been a Monty Python’s Flying Circus and what would the world be like then?  However, in opera-world produced doesn’t mean what you think it means. It just means once upon a time a hundred years ago someone produced it, and every few years they trot out the same sets and maybe the same of the original staging or something.  There’s this unfortunate bit that kind of throws things off, and I’m not sure whether or not Miller is to blame. The situation is this: Susannah a servant to the Countess is engaged to Figaro who is in the Count’s service. The Count as feudal lord gets to take the husband’s place on the wedding night. It’s good to be the feudal lord. Only Susannah would really like to avoid that.  So we need Susannah to be spunky, but kind of virtuous. If she’s easy than what’s the big?  But there’s this scene where Cherubino — this cute young thing — sings to Susannah about how he just can’t help himself around the ladies (especially Susannah’s boss, the Countess), and in this production Cherubino and Susannah start to briefly make out.  It’s jarring, and the only excuse for it I could think of is Cherubino is a trouser role, so maybe some idiot thought it would be hot to watch two chicks kissing.

Other than that we enjoyed the show, but it was announced before the curtain rose that Majia Kovalevska, playing the Countess, had a cold but was singing anyway.  We’re musical ignoramuses so except for a couple of places where her reach clearly exceeded her grasp, we thought she was okay, but the next day I saw and heard some clips of Renee Fleming in the role, and suddenly it came to life.  The songs were about something and there was all this nuance that just wasn’t there.

January 2nd we got the New Year off to a good start with Turandot. Last spring we visited Italy including the Puccini house in Lucca, which houses the original costumes, so I was really excited about seeing this grandest of all grand operas.

Basically, the plot was borrowed from a Persian folk tale although the opera is set in China. Not real China, but once-upon-a-time China as imagined by Europeans. A cold Chinese princess, Turandot executes suitors who fail to answer her riddles. The body count is high.  Calàf, an exiled prince in hiding, runs into his long lost father a deposed king, and his servant Liu. Liu has stayed with the now blind old man, caring for him and even begging for him although she risks her life by doing so as enemies are still looking for him (and Prince Calàf).  When Calàf asks her why she’s stayed, she tells him it’s because he (Calàf) once smiled at her.  The scene is set in front of the palace where one of Turanot’s rejects is about to get the axe.  Calàf falls totally in love with the princess at first sight and decides to ring the gong that signals he’s taking the challenge — this after watching the handsome Prince of Persia give away his jewels before his head is placed on a stick.

For those who don’t get that opera is as much about acting as singing, there’s a  non-singing bit when we first see the princess.  She’s revealed to us high up on the stage through what might be a palace balcony or window.  The crowd is going crazy begging for the life of her gallant suitor, and she raises and then lowers her arm to cut them off and signal for the executioner to take his head. We haven’t even heard her voice yet, but Iréne Theorin in the title role already establishes incredible authority and badassness with the gesture.

Once again, there is the trope (in opera, melodrama, and classic cinema) of the self-sacrificing good girl (Liu) who loves the hero, versus the bad girl (Turandot) who is loved by him.

This production was by film-director Franco Zeffirelli, and calling the stage set elaborate would be an understatement.  There’s a long intermission between the fist act, which takes place in front of the palace and the second act, which takes place inside of it.  Even in the balcony we could hear hammering from behind the curtain.  When the curtain went up there were gasps (including my own).  I’d never, not on any Broadway stage, witnessed anything like it. The depth of the set is astounding.  Way in the back, were two masked figures that I thought might be statues.  I grabbed my binoculars for a better look. They were indeed human beings later revealed to be acting as a kind of human curtain for the emperor (Turandot’s father) sitting on a throne.  While the singers weren’t quite overwhelmed by the set, they came close to being so, especially the poor emperor who was seated so far from the stage that he could barely be heard above the orchestra.  The set reminded me of those 1930’s, 1940’s Hollywood musicals, in which the numbers were supposed to be happening in a nightclub or Broadway stage, only t it was obvious they were filmed on a ginormous sound stage because no theater stage could possibly hold that many people.

Puccini (I read later on the Wikipedia) had trouble scoring the final act.  It’s easy to understand why.  There’s no realistic motive for Calàf’s obsession with Turnadot and his willingness to die for her.  He answers her riddles correctly, but when she wants to out of the deal, he offers her till morning to figure out his real name and is willing to sacrifice himself if she does so.   She then threatens all of Peking (or where-ever they are) with death if someone doesn’t cough up a name by morning. Where does Calàf’s love for a mass-murderer come from?  We have stories in which handsome princes wake sleeping beautifies from death-like states with love, but here Turandot is death.  Puccini died before completing the opera. The music was finished by another composer, and within opera-world there is still controversy regarding the ending, and whether the score and libretto achieved the goal of making the tale mythic enough for us not to question the absurdity of Calàf’s being crazy about a woman whose extreme cruelty he’s seen in action.

The reason why the opera succeeds is because of the absolute beauty of the score and especially because Turandot contains another one of those songs that you already know even if you don’t know opera, Nessun Dorma (No One Will Sleep).  The aria is sung by Calàf during the long night that will inevitably end in one or more deaths. Nessun Dorma is straight out just one of the best melodies ever written, and seems to be composed on a magical frequency guaranteed to communicate a plethora of emotions including loneliness, love, and hopelessness which transforms into hope, even certainty, that the quest will end in victory. You don’t need to read the supertitles.  It’s the glue that holds the whole crazy megillah together.  It’s also what opera is all about — music that makes you feel and drama that may be bigger than life, but is not bigger than what goes on in our heads and hearts, that in fact, validates feelings and offers catharsis.

The Met has a clip of Nessun Dorma being sung by Marcello Giordani, who alternates the role of Calàf with Marco Berti in the current production.  Unfortunately, it’s not embeddable, but here from YouTube is Placido Domingo, at his prime doing it justice.