Tag Archives: marionstein

My Life as a Welfare Queen

(This was originally posted in 2010. I’m reposting for the 4th of July 2018.)

It’s time for me to come clean and admit how much I scam and rip off the government. Yes, it’s people like me that keep your taxes high (not as high as all the other industrial nations, but still, it’s your money).

First, I should tell you, I’m a third generation grifter. My grandparents arrived on these shores via Ellis Island. They were even given an alias. You think Stein is our real name?

They immediately benefited from soft immigration policies, “give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses.“Yeah, baby! They couldn’t wait to come in and start working that system. Soon they were having anchor babies and sending them to public schools on the taxpayers’ dime.They also enjoyed all those freedoms — religion, expression, press.They even got involved in trade unions and collective bargaining!

Then came the Great Depression. That could have set things right, invisible hand of the market and all that, but noooo! They used their vote to get that disabled guy and his commie cronies in and before you could say WPA, tons of people were grifting the government, building roads and dams, even making art — all kinds of nonsense that the feds had no business going near.

The feeling of unity was downright socialistic! Despite the Depression, both my parents got college educations without paying a dime in tuition! They didn’t even have to fake transcripts or forge checks. The local government made it easy, only requiring they do well enough in high school to get a spot in its city university system. Back then the powerful actually believed that educating the masses would help make life better for everyone and prevent political extremism. The naivety is astounding!

Then World War II came and all that touchy-feely propaganda actually helped strengthen the country. I guess even a broken clock is right twice a day.

My father, always the schemer, joined the army.What did he get out of it?A little something called the GI Bill.That’s right, folks for a couple of years of service, (more like a paid vacation to the exotic Philippines) my father came back to find graduate school paid for AND a rent subsidy.Talk about living high on the hog!

He was then able to grow a business because he hardly paid any rent! Not only did New York come up with a sweet scam called “Rent Control,” but they also had housing projects, which before they were allowed to fall into decay and dangerousness, provided housing to plenty of opportunistic ex-army guys and their baby mommas.

As for my mother, she put her “education” to good use getting herself a cushy job as a “teacher” in one of those public schools. Union benefits! Set up for life. Sweet.

With that government tit to feed us, my father continued to build his business. He didn’t even complain about the “tribute” his Uncle Sam wanted every April 15th. Figured it was his duty or something. Guess he was getting soft.

And even into old age, both my parents kept up their ripping off the government ways, benefiting from those major giveaways — social security and Medicare. They didn’t lose all the money they’d saved when they got old and sick. My mother cleaned up in the end, selling the house, cashing out, and spending her golden years in a swanky assisted living facility. Give me dignity or give me death, baby!

With this kind of background, of course I was heading toward a life of stealing from hard working American taxpayers!

Not only did I attend public universities, I also didn’t have to shell out much for cars because here in New York, we’ve got a little thing called mass transit. There aren’t as many opportunities to feed at the trough as there used to be, but thanks to the “education” I was able to acquire, I found some creative ways to beat the system. There are little things that I hardly even notice most of the time like the fact that I have “protection” in the form of police, fire fighters and even sanitation workers who work for “the public”. Yup, that’s me! Jane Q Public, enjoying those services! Hey, unlike most of “the little people” in those poor countries, I even get safe drinking water and a system that keeps people from selling spoiled and unsafe food. It’s like having a personal food taster or something!

So given that it’s a beautiful Memorial Day, I think I’ll go out and enjoy myself.Maybe head over to a nearby locally supported park like that big one in the middle of Manhattan, or the state park they built over the sewer treatment plant a mile or so north. Sewer treatment! That’s something. My government even cleans my shit! What a country!

Or perhaps I’ll just head a couple of blocks west, pay my respects at the national park which happens to be a government supported mausoleum for some old President who was himself a welfare king who never made a dime at his failed business attempts, but managed to graduate  from a publicly supported military academy and went into politics — that last refuge of the scoundrel — after his army stint.

Homeland: It’s the Season for Treason

homeland 6 e8 astrid shooting featureyWe can all agree that Dar Adal has to go, right? And it’s going to be very satisfying when it happens. But who’s going to be the one to take him out? For speculation on these and other great issues of the day, such as how did Peter Quinn learn to hold his breath underwater while not freezing to death, check out my Homeland recaps at The Agony Booth — which is full of great stuff by me and lots of other people.

Bonus points if you know how The Agony Booth got its name. Comments and discussion are welcome on those pages!




Idiots at the Opera: Il Trovatore

Just wanted to quickly RAVE about Il Trovatore at the Met. We went to see it Tuesday night, a very last minute decision. I read this great review in the Times, which mentioned that bass baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky would be leaving after Saturday’s performance to get treatment in London for a brain tumor.

I hadn’t heard about his illness before – which he went public with in June after cancelling some recitals. It’s shocking news. Hvorostovsky is one of the reasons I became a late-in-life opera fan.

It was only a few years ago that the better half surprised me with opera tickets (not exactly on my birthday, but close to it.) It was a production of La Traviata with Natalie Desay singing Violetta, and Hvorostovsky as Germont. Who was the tenor? Who even cares?

Desay was of course great – which she usually is when she shows up. But Hvorostovsky was a revelation. He not only had a beautiful voice, but he managed to make Germont a surprisingly sympathetic character. Surprising, because anyone familiar with the opera can mentally reference those first very dark notes that herald the character’s arrival before he even sings.

Sure he manipulates Violetta, plays on her soft heartedness and gets her to give up the love of her life – even though it may cost her her life, but somehow we feel sympathy for him, and when the character comes to realize his mistake, Hvorostovsky sang his pain.

The next season we saw him as Rodrigo in Don Carlo. We disliked the production which was slow and drab, but Hvorostovsky again was a stand out. Last year, we caught him in Un Ballo En Mascara. I wish I’d seen him live in Eugene Onegrin, but I only caught that one on video.

He is not only an absolutely beautiful man with gorgeous head of snowy white hair (prematurely gray is not a description that does it justice), he is just the epitome of barrihunkdom – with a unique deep velvet voice. I had been planning on seeing Il Trovatore, but when I read that it would be the last chance to see him until February, and that given the uncertainty of his diagnosis, maybe the last chance to see him, I immediately decided to get standing room for that evening.

People who follow my cheap seats advice might wonder: “Why standing room?” My logic was as follows: There were very few seats left in the house. Most were way above my pay grade. It was almost 10 am. I could have waited and tried for rush-tickets at 12:00, but I knew I wouldn’t be the only one reading the Times rave, or finding out that Hvorostovsky would be leaving the production earlier than expected. With a cast that also included Anna Netrebko and Younghoon Lee, I knew the chances of successfully getting rush tickets – which are sold online on a “first come, first served” basis with everyone trying to “click” on at noon, would be slight. But I figured if I clicked onto standing room at 10, I’d have a good chance of getting the front row of standing, where you can actually see the stage and not the back of someone’s head. And yes, I did manage to snag front row “places” including one by the aisle which the somewhat claustrophobic better half appreciated.

How was it? Magnificent. Like Carmen, or La Traviata, there are enough familiar tunes in Il Trovatore and a lively enough plot to keep even a novice opera-goer entertained. Per the Times review, Hvorostovsky has lost nothing to his illness. He managed to make Di Luna, a flawed man whose pride and actions make him a villain, nevertheless sympathetic and tragic.

Netrebko was also at her best as Lenora. We’d heard Younghoon Lee before, as Don Jose in Carmen. I hadn’t been overly impressed then. It might have been a lack of chemistry with his co-star, but his performance seemed to lack passion, or rather his Don Jose had more passion writing to his mother than pursuing Carmen. However, Tuesday night Lee’s Manrico changed my mind about him. What a voice! And perfect for Verdi! Lyrical, romantic, valiant. Everything you could ask for in a tenor. We’d never heard mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick before. She was outstanding as Azucena.

There was certainly an added excitement, the knowledge that though we should all be optimistic about Hvorostovsky’s prognosis, we must cherish him all the more, and there was great applause when he first appeared, as well as a much deserved standing ovation for his aria, Un Balen del Suo Sorrisa. (Even conductor Marco Armiliato put down his baton to clap.)

I can’t say enough good things about the production. I am absolutely snarkless – a rare event as anyone who follows my blogs can attest.

So what should you do if you don’t have tickets for the Saturday matinee performance? There are still a few left but only at $228 and up as of this writing. There will be a very limited number of rush seats available, so your chances of getting one, let alone two is low. You could try standing room, which you can’t buy on line for Saturday matinees. You might take your chances over the phone or at at the box office (but there’ll probably be a line). However, here’s some good news – even for people who don’t live anywhere near New York City: Saturday’s performance will be LIVE in HD. So you can see it (if it isn’t sold out) at a theater near you (maybe). And you should!

Taking you out is a clip of Hvorostovsky singing his aria (from the 2011 live in HD):

(If anyone wants to thank me for giving you great cheap tix tips and the rest of these amusing posts, please go to my Amazon page and buy a book. Your contribution will help feed a formerly feral cat who now lives better than most humans on the planet.)

The Postman Always Rings Twice — Even in Mtsensk

Idiots at the Opera Go to  Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk

Katerina a big blonde bombshell (sung by Eva-Marie Westbroek, the original Anna Nicole) is bored. Her wealthy merchant husband can’t give her a baby and neglects her for his business. Her father-in-law, Boris, is controlling, rude, and crude.

She starts screwing one of the workers, Sergei, who may have been fired from a previous job for sleeping with the boss’ wife. Then she poisons Boris. Her husband comes home from a business trip and finds Sergei’s belt in the bedroom. Katerina and Sergei kill him and hide his body.

Continue reading The Postman Always Rings Twice — Even in Mtsensk

Anna on Fire – Lady Macbeth at the Met – Idiots at the Opera

Sure, I know the name of the opera is Macbeth, but last night it might as well have been Lady Macbeth because Anna Netrebko was the show.

Her voice sounded weightier, smokier, harsher at times but no less beautiful than in those bel canto roles she is famous for. Her body too has changed. She might not fit that red dress in Willy Decker’s production of La Traviata so well, but she was super voluptuous – ogle-worthy.

When she sings her first aria, in a neglige on her bed, it was thrilling not only to listen to the sound of her voice, but also to anticipate a wardrobe malfunction as she writhed and wriggled. I caught no accidental boobage, but don’t ask me for details about the libretto, I never took my Continue reading Anna on Fire – Lady Macbeth at the Met – Idiots at the Opera