Monday, March 9, 2020

Pheaturing Renée Fleming

Morning, kids, welcome to the Phile for a Monday. How are you? A Lithuanian man who would rather get divorced than get the coronavirus absolutely put his alimony where his mouth is when he, upon suspecting that his wife might be infected with the hottest new strain of flu, locked her in their bathroom against her will. The germaphobic husband freaked the hell out after his wife told him that she had met a Chinese woman who’d recently traveled to Italy, which has been hard hit by COVID-19. Hearing the words “Chinese” and “Italy” apparently sent the man into a frenzy and had him envisioning his wife Lady and the Tramp‘ing raw bat meat with Patient Zero because he tossed her in the bathroom shortly after she shared that fun news with him. The husband claimed that he only locked his wife in the bathroom after consulting with several doctors over the phone. The wife must not have been in on the conversation though because after her terrified husband shoved her into the bathroom in their Vilnius apartment she called the police. Authorities showed up to the apartment and released the woman from her toilet prison, but decided to test her for coronavirus just to be safe. Turns out she didn’t have it. The woman decided not to press charges against her husband, mostly because the law would have to render a fair and just punishment on him and she would, presumably, rather be unencumbered by things like restraint and reason while taking revenge on her idiot partner for being willing to leave her in their bathroom to die at the first sign of trouble. So let this be a lesson to all husbands out there: if your wife is infected with a scary, life-threatening disease, you have two options. Get it with her and die with a smile on your face or go sleep in the car. That’s… probably the lesson.
Love is love. What two consenting adults... even two adults on literal opposite ends of the spectrum of that term... decide to do in private is perfectly fine. All of that is important to note up front. Seventy-two-year-old grandma Almeda Hardwick and 19-year-old Gary Hardwick of Knoxville, Tennessee are doing nothing wrong. Any aversion you have to their union and all the doing it that comes with the said union is no different than being disgusted by a plate of broccoli. It’s a matter of personal preference. But, yeah, there is a whole lot to unpack here. The pair met in 2016 at Almeda’s son Robert’s funeral. They locked eyes from across her son’s funeral. Gary fell in love with Almeda’s sparkling blue eyes, as he tells it. Almeda was drawn to his lovely smile and said he was like a bright light. Both claim it was love at first sight. An instant thing. Gary was 17 at the time. Almeda, meanwhile, was already a widow. Her first husband Donald had died in 2013. Gary and Almeda married two weeks after the funeral. Their first date was at a Chuck E. Cheese. They had sex for the first time on their wedding night. Apparently, the two are madly in love. They kiss and cuddle and do “huggy stuff” all the time. Gary says that Almeda is a wonderful lover. His dream woman. Almeda works at Walmart. The age gap doesn’t bother Gary. Gary previously dated a 77-year-old woman but said that it was an unhappy relationship. Gary has been into older women ever since he had a crush on his teacher when he was 8-years-old (so roughly a decade ago). Almeda has her own YouTube show called "Girl’s Talk" and heavily subscribed to YouTube channel now. She also has a grandchild Gary’s age. Like I said, a ton to unpack. But, hey! It doesn’t seem like Gary is a Social Security check thief and Almeda clearly doesn’t have dementia or anything so hooray for everyone. The parents (and children, and grandparents, and grandchildren) all gave their blessing to the union. No one thinks much of it when an old, crusty millionaire starts bringing around some cart girl from his country club. Why should anyone get all weirded out by Almeda and Gary? Almeda says the whole thing makes her feel like a teenager again and, really, that’s kind of heartwarming to hear. Judge if you must, but this love is pure. Weird, but pure.
Police in the Canary Islands suspect a British tourist may be the victim of sexual assault after medical professionals discovered a dead baby turtle inside the woman’s genitals. Wanna see a picture?

According to El Paisa, a Spanish publication, the 26-year-old woman was vacationing on the Island of Tenerife, and went out with British tourists one night, near the area of Fañabé beach. The woman, who prefers to remain anonymous, told news outlets she didn’t recall what happened that evening. Two days later, the woman began to experience severe abdominal pain, which is when she decided to go to El Mojon Hospital in Arona. Doctors examined the woman where they discovered the dead turtle lodged inside, causing her to contract a “serious infection” in her genitals. The hospital immediately called authorities, fearing she was a victim of sexual assault after she told doctors she had no recollection it being put there. Tenerife authorities confirmed the incident, took the woman’s statement, and began the investigation. Yet, afraid of the outcome, the woman didn’t want authorities to pursue the incident any further. Police have since halted their investigation pending new information. Initial reports stated the reptile was a tortoise, but researchers confirmed it was a freshwater Chinese Pond turtle. Usually, these turtles are sold worldwide in pet stores and can reach up to 12 inches in length. Researchers at first believed the creature was a loggerhead sea turtle because they are indigenous to the Canary Island archipelago.
A stripper from Dallas, Texas was looking to give her audience some extra excitement with a high flying act but the Cirque de Soliel thrills she was going for veered into “morbid viewing of circus accidents on YouTube” territory when she took a massive fall from the ceiling of her club. A video of exotic dancer Genea Sky falling hard onto the stage from her perch high atop a pole went viral on Twitter over and the footage is brutal. Let me see if I can show you a screenshot...

A video from before the fall shows the extent of Genea’s crazy performance. In case you’re wondering if the stripper walked away from the fall okay… sort of? She broke her jaw, chipped multiple teeth, got stitches, and has to have surgery but she got on Instagram to let everyone know she was fine, so… okay good for you! Genea also started a GoFundMe to help her pay her medical bills. A few stray observations... In case you didn’t see it in the second video, this woman took a brutal fall, shattered her jaw, and kept dancing. Does she just strip on the side when she’s not playing in the NHL? Where have these Cirque de Soliel strip acts been all my life? Since when are you allowed to film at strip clubs? Or even have your phone out for that matter. Get back to work soon, Genea, you are a freakin’ trooper.
A package of tiny dead birds passed off as “pet food” was confiscated by customs agents at a Virginia airport. U.S. Customs and Border Protection stated the package came into Dulles International Airport on a flight from Beijing on January 27th, 2019. The bag of dead birds was discovered by agents in the baggage of the passenger, who was on his way to Prince George’s County, Maryland. The passenger told agents the package was cat food. The small birds, about 2.5 to 3.5 inches in length, were inside a plastic packaging with several pictures of dogs and cats on the bag. I'll show you...

The birds, which were from China, are prohibited from import due to the “potential threat of highly pathogenic avian influenza.” They were quickly seized on behalf of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and destroyed by incineration with the approval of the USDA. Director of Field Operation for CBP’s Baltimore Field Office, Casey Drust, spoke at a press release, stating, “These dead birds are prohibited from importation to the United States as unprocessed birds pose a potentially significant disease threat to our nation’s poultry industries and more alarmingly to our citizens as potential vectors of avian influenza.” Authorities stated the birds are “banned” from importation in order to prevent the spread of avian flu. CBP officials confirmed agents seized up to 5,000 prohibited animals, soil and insects, and meat byproduct at the U.S. border on average every day last year. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regulate the importation of animal products and animals into the United States. Importers and consignees are asked to consult their websites to ensure they comply with certification, licensing, and all importation requirements.
Instead of doing this blog thing I should be listening to this album...

Maybe not. So, I have to say I have received a number of emails saying that I forgot an NFL team where the logo and name was changed. I thought I mentioned all 32, but apparently I missed or forgot Arizona Cardinals. I checked and guess what, people? You were right. So, here we are... the new name and logo...
That should be everyone now. Do you like Little Debbie snacks? I'm not a big fan, but I heard there's a new company that has a similar logo...

That's so stupid. That's as stupid as...

Do you know what an Influencer is? I'm not 100% I do, but they are out there in the wild...

If I had a TARDIS I would go to the Space Invaders Championship held by Atari in 1980...

It was the earliest large scale video game competition, attracting more than 10,000 participants across the United States, establishing competitive gaming as a mainstream hobby. I was pretty good at Space Invaders back in the day... I think. Wait, I'm thinking of Galaga. So, some journalists get things  wrong, which leads to an editorial that is cringe worthy.

Hahaha. There's word they are making a new Conan the Barbarian movie, and I think I know who will play Conan...

That's good casting, right? Hey, future kids, this was Abraham Lincoln...

Okay, so, one of the best things about the Internet is you can see porn so easily and free. But the problem with that is if you're at work or school you can get in trouble. So, I came up with a solution...

You're welcome. Last entry I showed a pic of the lady yelling at the cat meme and said I'll try to show you a better one than the one I showed. So, here it is...

Hahahahahaha. A Phile reader sent me an email concerned a woman freaking out that her blind date uses a colostomy bag, and it surprisingly wasn't written by the woman herself. She asked me whether or not she was wrong to set up her cousin and her friend on the blind date that went horrifically wrong.

"I don’t see how I could be wrong, but here goes. My friend and second cousin 'Taylor' female, age 21 has been wanting a boyfriend. She begged me to set her up with one of my friends, and I said I’d think about who might be good. My buddy 'Ashton' is single, and he’s cool as hell, so he immediately came to mind. Ashton uses a colostomy bag (look it up if you don’t know what it is), but I never thought Taylor would care. If it matters, Ashton just graduated from an Ivy League college, and he’s a good looking dude in my opinion. Anyway, after the date, Ashton called me fuming. He said that my cousin called his bag 'gross and unsanitary' and walked out halfway through. I felt horrible, and so I called Taylor. She was mad that I didn’t tell her, and she said it came as a big shock. She has a very weak stomach, and she claims she actually threw up at home after that date. Am I wrong in setting up the date? I’m pissed at my cousin, and I feel horrible for putting Ashton in that situation." They jumped in with some additional information... "Ashton is just a regular guy. The bag isn’t really at the top of my mind... it’s covered by his clothes, and he doesn’t talk about it incessantly or anything. He’s showed it to me before, and it’s not gross in my opinion. Even if I had remembered before the date, I wouldn’t have 'warned' Taylor. Making it into some big, horrible thing seems disrespectful to Ashton. It’s just a fucking bag." I agree. The matchmaker is not wrong, but "Taylor" totally sucks. Even if she weren’t into Ashton, she could have been kind. I don’t think it’s on you to disclose his medical affairs to her, either. I think she’ll be in for an interesting time when she works out how many things can go wrong for people, and how many people soldier on with chronic illness or a disability or something that might not be apparent. In conclusion, it's clear why Taylor is still single: she's an asshole.

If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Okay, so, you know I live in Florida, right? Well, there's things that happen in Florida that happen nowhere else in the Universe. So, here is...

Julie Edwards, a Florida woman more closely resembling human waste with a mouth and some teeth than an actual person, was arrested for drunk driving in Deland, Florida by a black police officer and, because the woman is trash, she decided that this was not okay, racially speaking. He, a black man who puts his life on the line to protect, serve, and better the community dared to arrest her, a drunk driving wet sack of pubes that happens to technically be a white woman? “I think not,” thought she it. So the dumpster with a blond wig hanging from one of its corners threatened the black police officer with visits and violence from the Ku Klux Klan. All for committing the offense of doing his job and protecting the community. By preventing her from existing in her then-current state around them. All of this was caught on video by the officer’s body camera. Let’s break down the best quotes from Edwards, whose voice sounds like it’s coming from a sphincter that smokes a pack a day, shall we? “I’m suing the fuck outta you and you know what? I’ll buy me a house because of you.” You know what they say, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you’ll land extra charges.” “Keep it up, boy.” Spoiler alert: “It” is in reference to the officer arresting and booking her so he does, in fact, keep it up. “I won’t find ya. My KKK people will.” Is it wrong that I kind of love that she refers to people she knows in the Klan the way you or I would refer to a lawyer or car dealer we know? “Oh, you’re looking to buy a new car? Lemme hook you up with my guy.” She has people for racist vengeance. Peak trash. "You fuckin’ with the wrong white people." All due respect ma’am (note: no respect is due) but you’re inland Florida swamp trash. You have less pull than a paraplegic tug-of-war team. If the many Burger King managers I’m sure you’ve threatened with a rubber flip flop you pulled off your foot haven’t taken you seriously then no one else is going to at this point. “Hey, there ain’t a damn thing wrong with burning crosses in your yard, is there?” There is something wrong with that! That’s why I'm here making fun of you. “You fucked up.” Unless there’s a mirror she’s speaking into that we can’t see in the footage, this is an inaccurate statement. “I hope you don’t have no kids.” I would pay money to watch this lady watch this video in court when she’s sober, try to act like “that’s not the real me,” and then listen to her get reamed by the judge. Please sell tickets to this, City of Deland. “Your eyes’ll be poked out you know.” She’s really just throwing Hail Marys at this point. What does she expect to happen? Does she think one of these threats are going to actually land and the cop is going to be like, “Oh… oh my God. I’m so sorry. Please tell your powerful white friends, such as the man at your trailer park who makes twelve thousand dollars a year stealing satellite TV and selling the illegal stream to park residents, that I’m sorry.” “I got a nigger and a white nigger.” Wellllllll that was only a matter of time, wasn’t it? “KKK’s got your ass, boy.” She’s going to have a really fun time explaining what she’s in for to her fellow residents at the county jail. “Send all you fuckers back [to Africa]. Burn the rest of ya.” Can we send you back? Into the septic tank you crawled out of? “My KKK friends will burn your family.” Lady. You know he arrested you because you’re a piece of shit and he’s a cop, not because he’s black and you’re white, right? Oh you don’t? Cool. Again, I’d loooooooove to have tickets to her hearing. “Ever been whipped on a whipping post?” Ever been unemployable outside of non-management service and labor jobs for the rest of your life? Her answer to that is probably “yes” though. Easily my favorite part of this video, however, is the end when you can clearly hear the cop singing along to a Luke Combs song to get the sound of shrieking dog shit out of his ears. Keep on keepin’ on, officer.

A dad who just got out of quarantine couldn't stop coughing. Everything is fine!

A double D standard...

The 116th book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...

Dan Aykroyd will be on the Phile next Wednesday.

A jeweler was on his way to work when he saw a sign that said “Watch for children." He thought to himself, “That sounds like a fair trade.”

Yeah, another two Disney theme entries coming up. March 23rd and 24th... maybe next entry I will tell you who the guests will be. I will give you a clue... none of them have to do with the pic above.

Today's guest is an American soprano, known for performances in opera, concerts, recordings, theater, film. She provided the singing voice of Roxann Coss, the American opera diva played by Julianne Moore, in the 2018 film Bel Canto. Please welcome to the Phile... Renée Fleming.

Me: Hey, Renée​, welcome to the Phile. How are you?

Renée​: Hi, Jason, it's great to be here.

Me: Renée​, where are you from?

Renée​: I live in Pennsylvania but grew up in Rochester, New York.

Me: Your parents were music teachers, am I right?

Renée​: Yes, they discussed music every night at the dinner table.

Me: That's cool. What were they talking about?

Renée​: Each individual student has a completely different instrument. That's why teaching voice is so challenging. Any piano student who walks through the door is basically looking at the same instrument and trying to wrestle with that but a singers instrument is internal so every day is was about the issues of each person or about a musical they were producing. I just thought everybody did this, I thought this was a normal dinner conversation.

Me: So, when did you first discover opera?

Renée​: It was part of my upbringing. My parents were typically performing operas when I was a kid. Sometimes we were in the children's chorus or the normal assemble. We mostly grew up in musical theater, it was a steady diet of musical theater. I got more interested in opera and of course my involved in opera once I went to undergraduate and then graduate school.

Me: Do you remember when it became your parents music to the music you loved as well? I always pretty much liked the same music my dad liked.

Renée​: We all listened to a little bit of everything so they didn't have a specific taste even though my dad really liked jazz, I loved jazz so he didn't steer me away from it. And I would say as an American singer in a very European style training my interest in all kinds of singing was unusual. What I find now which is really shocking is my children like the music that I like. I do think that's a departure from the way that it used to be.

Me: You think that was not the way it used to be?

Renée​: In my generation, you may be a youngster, but in my generation it was unusual to like the music our parents liked. Granted my children know music I never heard of. My daughter is constantly interested in new performers. I find that they are tremendously loyal fans the way people were in past generations.

Me: Why do you think that is?

Renée​: Because there's so much available to them now.

Me: I think you're right. Back in my day I would buy a record for twenty dollars and would listen to it over and over again if I liked it or not, until I did like it, as I spent money on it.

Renée​: That's wonderful. I'm going to listen to this a hundred times.

Me: So, did you ever sing or perform jazz?

Renée​: Yes, at an off-campus bar at university.

Me: Was that fun?

Renée​: Yes. part of it I think was it was kind of an era of big band music, especially on campus. Chuck Mangione was from Rochester, New York where I grew up and he was a huge star at the time. His singer, Esther Satterfield was also a music teacher in Rochester so my parents had met her. So I was familiar with some of the music they had created. That's what I auditioned on and that's what started me, I think it was my second year in college on a very much jazz track. Ending with a master class with Illinois Jacquet who invited me to go on tour but I was too shy. I decided I was more comfortable in an academic environment and I went to grad school instead. And the rest is history. 

Me: Who or what is Illinois Jacquet?

Renée​: He's this incredible saxophone player.

Me: Ahhh. Okay. So did you have to "unlearn" any classical training when you had to sing jazz?

Renée​: Definitely not. In fact the classical training really gave me the technique and the chops to be able to execute what my ears said I could do in improvisation in jazz. For instance the fun of that was not knowing what pitches I was singing. In order words jazz also made my technique better because I could stretch my range while I was in the club. It's really a spectacular and part of the importance of my education. Is till love it, I still absolute love singing. Christian McBride and Dan Tepfer guested with me on my Broadway album and it's a joy and privilege to be able to perform with them.

Me: So, your big break happened in the year before it was supposed to happen. Am I right?

Renée​: Exactly. I was understudying for the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro which is kind of perfect because I was ready. I had done the role a couple of times, I was prepared and reasonably comfortable. It wasn't one of these shocking oh my gosh, this is a new role, I have to go on stage. It wasn't like that, it was very exciting.

Me: Was there a moment where you new your life was going to be different, when everything had changed?

Renée​: It depended really where I was. When I was in Europe, that was probably a little bit before it was in the U.S. It was probably singing "Otello" and opening the season in 1995.

Me: Okay, so recently you sang for Julianne Moore's character in the movie Bel Canto. Tell the readers what that movie is.

Renée​: It's based on a novel by my friend Ann Patchett who based the main character Roxane Coss on a friend of hers. This is not my story but Ann said she listened to me while she was writing it.

Me: Do you think a lot of people think the book or movie is about you?

Renée​: They did. They certainly did because of the uniqueness of the repertoire that was in the book. She never met me, she never read the interviews and knew nothing about me. But she did extraordinary well channel and especially an American opera singer. Roxane Coss is the only American in the story. This hostage crisis takes place in a non-disclosed South American city. Just her kind of directness, her no nonsense sometimes her humor is very specifically... it's Ann. Part of in a way it's part of her personality too. We all loved the book when it came out and I got so many calls with people saying, "Renée​, this is you." I got the book and I said, "Wait, I wouldn't have done that with the pianist." I like to think I'm a little nicer than Roxane. But she of course is humanized by art with being enclosed with so many other people, that created a utopia of sorts.

Me: When you saw Julianne Moore "singing" with your voice for the first time what did you think? 

Renée​: I never looked so good. It was so interesting recording that because Julianna Moore was five feet away from me watching my body, my breath, my mouth, trying to absolve quickly what we look like when we're singing. She did such a magnificent job, obviously she is quite a professional and so intelligent. But the task for that was to be nervous and to be uncomfortable. Singing under duress as it were.

Me: Did Julianne ask for vocal help or anything like that even though she wasn't singing?

Renée​: Well, she worked with my vocal coach Gerald Moore, so Gerald and I work closely together. He plays in some of my recitals and he's a dear, dear friend. He's primarily a voice teacher. She worked and was coached each piece with him. Imagine her perspective as a non-singer and someone who has not grown up with classical music she has to not only look like she's singing like we do with the training and the musculature that we develop over time but she's singing in all these foreign languages. In particularly Czech. So it was a small thing for her to have to memorize by wrote and repeat over and over again and look authentic.

Me: What was it like to watch the film and hear your voice come out of someone else's mouth? 

Renée​: Well, it doesn't really work from my perspective. It's not something I could say oh, Julianne is singing because for me it's always gong to be strange for me to hear myself coming from somebody else. But I admire her and it's a beautiful film. I always loved this story. I produced with Lyric Opera, I helped to curate the operatic version of Bel Canto in Chicago and that was a massive success. People love this story. Seven hundred people stayed after every performance to talk about it. I've never seen that in my entire career.

Me: Opera I don't think is as popular as it once was, but what do I know? I do know I never interviewed an opera singer before... I don't think I have anyway. Do you think Bel Canto is making opera a popular thing again?

Renée​: Certainly. Any time opera is portrayed in film there opportunity is there for people to discover it. For me it was Moonstruck. Pretty Woman was huge for that. Driving Miss Daisy... at the top of my head I remember those films in which opera was featured. Everybody loves that, and people love classical music and don't even know how well they know it. One of the things that I've seen, the trends that I've seen that changed the landscape even more is there is so much new work now. There are many smaller new works but still they're relevant, their flexible, and I think this is a sign of tremendous hope.

Me: What do you think the health is for opera in 2020?

Renée​: Well, I think it's challenging and frankly all performances are challenging. When sports stadiums are taking out seating despite the fact that sports are very much alive and well because they're living on the Internet we don't have that same option as much. Although we have the HD broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera which have been enormously successful. So I think there's signs of hope but there's also signs of real challenges.

Me: You have done such amazing things, Renée​. If you can relive one moment of your career one more time what would to be?

Renée​: Well, the Super Bowl was pretty incredible I have to say. That's the largest audience I'll ever have with a hundred and ten million people around the world for the National Anthem. But you know The Shape of Water in 2018 and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri have not one but three films to be featured, and three films in one year. I'm having this bizarre break out season. To be on Broadway for nine months, I thought I'd be more narrow in my focus in this stage but in fact I'm much broader in my focus. I can't say I want to relive anything. I'm too busy in the present.

Me: I thought it was being on the Phile. Haha. Renée​, thanks so much for being on the Phile. Please come back again soon.

Renée​: Thanks much, Jason, it was my pleasure.

That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to Renée Fleming for a good interview. The Phile will be back on Wednesday with Jakob Dylan and Andrew Slater. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

I don't want you, cook my bread, I don't want you, make my bed, I don't want your money too, I just want to make love to you. - Willie Dixon

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