Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Looking for Work

The US workplace is seriously fucked up. Trying to promote a family friendly (gag) atmosphere here, I tried to tone down the language. I could not, I can think of no other word to describe it.

I got out of corporate America in 2003, not willingly but ultimately for the best and the inevitable. I worked for a company that was seriously fucked up. I had a name for them: The CATS which stood for Crazy Ass Texans. Their antics were comical if not for the fact a lot of people got hurt. People came and went, we had no autonomy, the boss was an egotistical ex-Military fellow who still thought he was the arrogant officer. He had an undistinguished career but still wallowed in his imagined glory years later. They lied, cheated and stole, and still seem to not get caught.

I did HR for the region. Since almost my whole career had been in Long Term Care I knew a bit about it. They ignored me, didn't want me (I came as a package deal with my former boss who had already resigned, she had kinda screwed me once before so I should have known)and finally hired a manager over me who clashed immediately. She was the most stupid person I had ever met, but since she showed her legs and talked shit to the big boy, she was god. I worked for her 6 weeks and all she did was send over 400 emails to me. They thought that was cool. I was made redundant, as the English say, she tried to hire her little girl friend for my job but was stopped and she, to my ever lasting amusement, was eventually canned. This, dear readers, is all too common in the workplace.

It is as if corporate America wants to self destruct. Manufacturing has been turned over to the Japanese and Asians, management is going there as well. Jobs are cut, people are screwed with, managers lack basic skills, revolving doors abound, loyalty is nothing on either side. Top management thinks workers are liabilities and workers feel companies just want to screw them. The only concern of the corporate big wigs: Fatten the pockets of investors who would sell their own mother to make a profit.

There are more unemployed out there than it seems. Along with that we are becoming a nation of underemployed. I am a perfect example. I am doing a job a trained monkey could likely do. But I enjoy it. I have a free apartment, no utilities, no corporate bullshit (I have BS of another kind, but I stay out of it), easy work, and a salary I use as almost 100% discretionary income. I have more to spend on crap than someone making 5 times what I make. My car is paid for, I have a house I could live in paid for if I want to move back to my home town, I owe no one.

But I am lucky. Many in my position want to get back into the work world. They have tons to offer. They could solve some of our workplace problems. But no one wants them, this article in the KC Star (HR Keeping the Skilled Locked Out) shows how deeply messed up the hiring process is. Why people are giving up, why corporations are dying (Ford, GM, Delta Airlines) Wal-Mart is sliding, retail is a shambles, healthcare is bleeding and so on. The talent to do the job is there. The companies are so focused on BS and making $$ for shareholders that they do not care.

The house of cards this country's economy is built on will collapse. Enron will look like a mom and pop shop closing up.

I shudder to think.....

Monday, October 30, 2006

Light and Dark

Be it hereby declared: I hate Daylight Saving Time changes. I am more sensitive to the old internal clock than I realize. I now go to bed at 10:30 instead of 11:30 or so, and am up at 5AM. And this getting dark at 5pm is for the birds. But them, I am told it does have its uses and advantages that make the annoyance worth the effort.

Since 1966, most of the United States has observed Daylight Saving Time from at 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday of April to 2:00 a.m. on the last Sunday of October. Beginning in 2007, most of the U.S. will begin Daylight Saving Time at 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday in March and revert to standard time on the first Sunday in November. This is the best news I have heard in a long time and the only thing GW Bush has ever done right.

We still get extra daylight in the summer which is good but then the dreaded early sundown in the winter is shortened a bit. Supposedly there is a little energy savings to this as well.

As my friend Connie says "Get over it doll face, ASAP." I will dear, next March when the longer summer period goes in effect. Meanwhile it is nap time. Or is it really just 9:16AM instead of 10:16AM? If so, then it is breakfast time..

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Lies, Lies, Lies....

"Michael J. Fox is faking his illness."
"John Murtha is not a real Marine."
"John Kerry faked his heroism"
"Bill Clinton caused 9/11"
"Global Warming doesn't exist"
"Iraq really did have WMDs"
"Katrina victims were better off in the Astrodome"
"Clinton left FEMA the way it is"
"Liberals hate America"
"Bill Clinton is to blame for the poor economy"
"Liberals don't support the troops"
"Immigrants are ruining our economy"
"Cindy Sheehan hates our military"
"Protesters deserve to be shot by police"
"The Geneva Convention is unclear when it comes to interrogation"
"Missouri women will be forced to donate their eggs to stem cell research."

All lies Republicans have perpetrated in the past few years.

Vote em OUT!

On a more happier note congrats to 12.213.80. who at 3:38:14 pm became the 2000th recorded visitor to Pato News! 12.213.80 hails from Syracuse, NY.

Whoever you are THANKS FOR BEING A READER!!!

Oh yes, set your clocks back and CONGRATS ST LOUIS CARDINALS, WORLD CHAMPIONS!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Dreary Day Musings

Yawwwwwwwwwwwwn! Long, dreary day. Finally the clouds are lifting. I am not inspired to write much so just a couple tidbits.

I love the new Firefox 2.0 browser. Easy, fast, safe and a built in spell checker for most web forms. Can't beat it! Mozilla Firefox

Who is going to be the 2,000th visitor to Pato News???? Just 4 more to go.

3 weeks to my Nicaragua vacation. I hope their election on Nov 5 goes well. A return to power by Daniel Ortega would be a disaster. Polls show he is leading but Nicas are famous for "El Güegüense" referring to a national dance and theatre piece. In Nicaraguan culture, to Güegüense someone is to outwardly appear to comply with authority while working subtly to undermine it. It is how Nicas survive. There are some who believe the people are playing Güegüense with the polls. We can hope!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Diva's Birthday

Happy Birthday to a true Diva and someone who I am pleased to say I have met and even sang with (ok, she was the solo diva and I was just a chorus boy...) but if I didn't tell you that, who would have known??

Christine Brewer is a great singer, one of the most sought after soprano soloists of our time and an all around nice person. Check out her website, hear her live in concert or buy a disc with her recordings. You will experience some great singing.



Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Gore Vidal: Still a Thorn in the Side of Convention

The November 7th issue of The Advocate contains a short but typically pithy interview with literary icon Gore Vidal. Of course Vidal was immortalized by Ernestine the Telephone Operator in the classic variety show "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in" as "MMMMMM Mister Veedal". Still a thorn in the side of all who profess to be conservative, he offers some biting and perceptive commentary.

Unfortunately, the interview is not online so go buy a copy or read at your library. Here is a sample:

Advocate: Why is the American Public so Ignorant?
Vidal: The god awful public education system. They don't really learn much of anything and seem to have built in resistance to finding out. People graduate from High School and know nothing about the New Deal,don't know about the Depression. Teachers are underpaid, terrorized by school boards, by public opinion, spied upon to see if they are distributing ideas that are "not acceptable" to the far right wing and to Lord Jesus. Come on, this is the most ignorant public of any First World country."

Preach it MMMMMMMM Mr. Veedal!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Kansas City Symphony: Mozart and Messiaen

Music Director Michael Stern returned to KC along with his wife and new baby (she is adorable and both Shelly and Michael are adoring parents) to conduct his first concert this season with the KC Symphony. He was scheduled to conduct the opening concert in September but Miss Hannon’s late arrival made that impossible.

This past weekend’s concert was billed as the finale to the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. Earlier concerts featured the Symphonies. This one celebrated the late choral masterpieces Ave Verum Corpus K 618 and the final great work the Requiem K 626 in the new Levin edition. Sandwiched in between was L'Ascension, Four Symphonic Meditations by Oliver Messiaen.

Ave Verum is a simple piece; short, sweet and direct and was written as a favor for a small church chorus director who looked after Mozart’s wife while she was resting in the small village of Baden near Vienna. He asked for a Eucharistic hymn for the feast of Corpus Christi. Thus the motet “Hail, true flesh, born of the Virgin Mary” was born. Although simple and not adventurous at all, it is a masterpiece of atmosphere and pure beauty. The performance was great, asking only for a bit more diction from the chorus.

Interestingly, albeit liturgically logical, Stern launched directly in to L’Ascension. This is one of my favorite Messiaen pieces. Full of atmosphere, intriguing harmonies and instrumentation and his requisite bird call themes, L’Ascension is a bit more approachable than say “Turangalila” Symphony or “Eclairs a sur Dela”. It is not often played. After the concert on Friday, I went to a party where I told a friend I had been to the symphony and told him the program. “The KC Symphony played Messiaen??? Damn!”

The Friday performance was very good but not great. The brass, especially the trumpets, had a hard time with the demands of the intonation in the more exposed passages of the brass and wind only first movement Majesty of Christ Beseeching His Glory of the Father. The English Horn solo in the second movement Serene Alleluias of a Soul Yearning for Heaven was atmospheric and lyrical. The woodwinds in general were spectacular, and the string only final mediation Prayer of Christ Ascending to His Father, was a pure and sincere study of serene ecstasy. I am happy to report that the performance on Sunday was much better with vastly improved intonation and a bit tighter 3rd mediation Alleluias on the Trumpets, Alleluias on the Cymbals. With a bit more rehearsal and experience under Stern, the KC Symphony could be a force to be reckoned with in Messiaen.

Few works are as controversial yet so beloved as Mozart’s Requiem in D minor K 626. Its story and Mozart’s last days has been the subject of plays, movies (Amadeus) and even an opera. What is known for sure is that Mozart did not live to complete the work. So as not to lose the substantial sum the “unknown stranger” paid in full for the work, his widow had Mozart’s friend and pupil Franz Sussmyer complete the Requiem. It is assumed that Mozart completed only the Requiem and Kyrie sections of the work, but left sketches for voices and indications for scoring for the Dies irae through the Hostias. Sussmyer and another pupil Joseph Eybler scored filled in parts and even wrote out the last parts the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei.

It has long been the opinion of musicians, musicologists and audiences alike that the quality of the requiem declines as it progresses. Sussmyer was no Mozart thus the scoring became labored, more conventional, and less idiomatic of Mozart. The new (1993) edition by Robert Levin aimed to improve the work by lightening textures in spots, correcting errors in keys and rhythms, adding a fugal Amen to the Lacrimosa and regrouping the movements in to 5 larger sections I Introit II Sequence ( from the Dies Irae and Tuba Mirum through the Lacrimosa) III Offertory IV Sanctus-Benedictus V Agnus Dei-Communion. Frankly, I think it is a tremendous improvement from the turgid and uninspired Sussmyer version, but still we long for the impossible; how Mozart would have completed this incredible piece.

The performance on both Fri and Sunday was inspired. Perfectly paced, it seemed a bit shorter than the old version. Possibly because the work does not get as bogged down as it progresses. The chorus never failed and was totally up to the demands of the fugal passages. The fabulous Tuba Mirum (in my opinion the one of the most inspired musical utterances in all of music) was perfect, the bass soloist intoning the fateful lines: Tuba mirum spargens sonum per sepulchra regionum, coget omnes ante thronum. (The trumpet, sending its wondrous sound across the graves of all lands, shall drive everyone before the throne.) with all the power and majesty required. All the soloists, students of the Curtis Institute of Music, were uniformly good. The soprano tended to have her nose buried in the score, lessening her ability to communicate her lines and to drag a bit. The penultimate movement the Lux Aeterna was a bet slow and tepid. A couple minor quibbles in an overall excellent and well received performance.

We can hope that the Levin edition will inspire those who have avoided the work (I being one of them) to appreciate its glories anew. It did me. A wonderful recording of the Levin edition is available on Telarc CD 80636 with Runnicles and Atlanta.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Saturday Pancake Musings

1) Cold and rainy fall Saturday AM here in KC. Trees are rapidly losing their leaves, making a slippery mess on the sidewalks. Our lawn and plants are still green here at the Towers, but not for long I am sure. Has not been terribly cold yet, the killing frost has so far avoided us. Each day without it means one less day of cold and possible snow to worry about.

2) RIP Anna Russell: Anna Russell, the inimitable classical music comedienne who charmed the world with her comic yet always spot-on spoofs, died on the 18th in her home in Australia, she was 94.

Russell was a trained but decidedly untalented singer. She described her voice as "sounding like shattering glass or a cracked temple bell". Russell found fame in music comedy, her albums being perennial best sellers.

While performing "Cavalleria Rusticana," Anna was supposed to be shoved to the floor in one scene by one of the tenors who was rather small in stature. Anna was not a small lady, so he had a little trouble pushing Anna over. The act caused her to stumble across the stage crashing headlong in to some scenery, sending it tumbling down around her. The audience and orchestra laughed so hard that the performance came to a halt, and thus Anna's career as an opera singer as well.

Almost. Anna soon realized she could take this incident and make a career in comedy. She began to write and perform musical spoofs that gained a wide following among both musicians and the public. From the 1950s to the 1980s, she made best-selling recordings, appeared on television and performed in sold-out concerts around the world.

Her spoof of Wagner's Ring is priceless. About the Valkyries: "They are the noisiest people. They're all of them virgins, and I'm not the least bit surprised." She wrote mock German Lieder such as "Schlumpf" by Blotz. Her signature line: "I am not making this up you know". I never saw her live but her recordings and TV appearances are priceless memories. Thanks Anna! The Anna Russell Album is available on DVD.

3)Do you know why Republicans don't use book marks? No need to, they just bend over the pages. ^* Rim shot!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Crimes Against Humanity

Read this: Missouri Medicaid cuts stall recovery

Crimes against humaninty. We are becoming a Third World nation when it comes to healthcare. Bomb the fuck out of Iraq. Money for Halliburton, no money for basic health and catastrophic care. And note, this guy had insurance.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Desperate Republicans

How low can you go? Hypocrisy in extremis:

State investigators have linked a Republican campaign to letters sent to thousands of Southern California Hispanics warning them they could go to jail or be deported if they vote next month, a spokesman for the attorney general said.

"We have identified where we believe the mailing list was obtained," said Nathan Barankin, spokesman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

He declined to identify the specific Republican campaign Wednesday, citing the ongoing investigation. The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register both reported Thursday that the investigation appeared to be focused on the campaign of Tan D. Nguyen, a Republican challenger to Democratic U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Porn Stars and Drag Queens

Want to break the ice at your next party? Here is a fun albeit slightly naughty ice breaker:

Find your Porn Star name:

Take the name of your first pet, preferably a dog or cat, as your first name and then the street you grew up on as your last name.

If I were a porn star, I’d be Mr. K Gregory. Not bad, I guess I’d be a big leather daddy or something like that, maybe a pornographic Mr. T.

It doesn’t always work, like if your first pet was Winkie and you grew up on 12th Street. Winkie 12th would not make us drool in sexual arousal.

I like to make up drag names. I have never done drag; I rarely have even donned a costume for Halloween. But the fun of making a drag name can help while away boredom and sometimes can come up in the strangest places, causing a sly chuckle.

“Bess Western” is one of my favorites. I imagine an Annie Oakley or a little western tart in fish net hose.

A sultry, French Caribbean chanteuse could be “Campho Phenique”

Need a nurse? “Anna Septic” or “Anna Phylactic” would come to your aide with a big rectal thermometer.

An ad for linen provided “Queen Duvet”. “Chenille Duvet” could be her cousin.

So what is your drag name or porn name? Pato wants to know!

Monday, October 16, 2006

John Ashcroft Called on the Carpet

Back a few years ago, I was a fresh faced kid working for the Missouri Department of Mental Health in the Personnel Office (yes still called Personnel) in Jefferson City. We were all a-twitter, the Governor was touring our agency and would visit each of us. Woo Hoo!

We waited patiently for his arrival. Now, my little cube was a little more decorated and neater than most (imagine that). At the entrance, I had a nice blue faux oriental rug that broke up the endless expanse of office grey and orange that gave away the decor's 70s origins. The little rug was the endless topic of discussion, like no one had ever done such a thing before.

Anyway, duly the Governor and his entourage, including my boss who had worked for him while the Gov was Attorney General, arrived and of course commented on my carpet as I was introduced to him. "Now you can say you called the Governor on the carpet!", he laughed. We all laughed, exchanged pleasantries and he moved on.

Damn right, Governor, I am calling you on the carpet, lo these many years later. The Governor was John Ashcroft.

Unfortunately not having been whisked away by my carpet a la Aladdin, Ashcroft went on to be the darling of the right as Senator, bound and determined to destroy Bill Clinton, and then as Bush's Attorney General after losing the senate election to a dead man. He resigned a while back and has laid pretty low. Until his new book "Never Again" (can we hope this is his philosophy on public office) appeared. This piece of hack work has even pissed off Republicans.

In "Never Again" Ashcroft accuses the 9/11 Commission of a partisan effort aimed at "assessing blame and grandstanding" instead of finding the truth and protecting Americans. He alleges that the hearings "disintegrated into show trials" and that the Republican-chaired panel was "dangerously out of control" and "obsessed" with blaming President George W. Bush for not preventing the terrorist attacks while "absolving" President Bill Clinton's administration.

But listen to what even fellow Repubs have to say. They are calling him on the carpet for his words and actions now and then. Ashcroft's behavior is "underhanded" and "outrageous," they say.

Senator Slade Gorton of Washington was quoted: "John was the least cooperative of all the witnesses we had. He was the only one who refused to submit his written testimony in advance, he probably came with the largest entourage of any of the people we talked to, and he engaged in a disingenuous and partisan attack" on the committee.

Former Gov. Jim Thompson, R-Illinois,(another Governor I met, my ex wife even gave his kid a library fine for not returning a book)called Ashcroft's criticism of the panel "outrageous, because it's not true. None of that is true."

Ashcroft's behavior was so bad, Thompson said, that Bush privately apologized to commission members. "Ashcroft tried to put us on trial and it backfired. The president of the United States apologized to us in the Oval Office for his conduct, which is kind of embarrassing," Thompson said.

John Ashcroft, you should be ashamed. This is reprehensible behavior for even a Republican. You are an embarrassment. You even smear the name of Mel Carnahan, the dead man (he was killed in a plane crash while running against Ashcroft for Senate, he won and his wife Jean was appointed in his place) that beat you. Christian values my ass. If you are a Christian, then I want no part of the religion.

Consider yourself called on the carpet, Governor.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

When We No Longer Touch: The Concert

Finally it was Sunday, the day of the concert. We were off until 5pm for call at the Meyerson. M and I took Pat out to breakfast and I took Shadow for a walk. Pat, being 85 is not able to take him for a long walk so he was thrilled to explore his neighborhood for a bit. As it was a lovely day and the neighborhood safe and nice, it was a pleasure.

Michael wanted to visit the grave site of his late partner Rick. I knew Rick and found him charming. He died a year ago July of a heart attack at 37; he had been in ill health. Being a gay couple without any rights (see the heartache you cause right wing bigots, but of course being heartless, you don't care) Rick was buried by his mother; the very same woman who threw him out at 19 when he came out. She was still so ashamed that she buried him, against his wishes, in a small, pitiful cemetery in the next town over from theirs. A mother's love..... We got him flowers, and in the Jewish custom, but rocks on his stone to mark our visit.

Upon arriving at the Meyerson, we still found John Tesch's crap all over the stage, so we had to wait while it was removed. We finally got to go through our pieces on stage. Fingers crossed, we waited for the performance to begin.

We filed out on stage to the applause of the 1500 people in attendance. It was clear this was a special evening. Many had heard the piece 15 years ago; some in the audience were HIV+ and were here as guests of the Chorale and some area AIDS agencies. Many were regular patrons.

We began with the combined anthem "Behold Man" a cryptic creation anthem that is very declamatory and thus an excellent opener. HMC Music Director Joe Nadeau conducted the combined forces. TMC was in the aisles to make it a true surround sound experience.

The HMC set was next. We did some of our recent favorites, 3 with solos which I think diminished the impact we could have as a group, although the solos were fine. It made us more of a back up rather than an ensemble. "Circle of Life" from Lion King, "They Sang to Me", a coming out at the chorus piece, "Mama's Letter to Michael" again a coming out piece and maybe a bit lost with out the context of the song, and "Razzle Dazzle" from Chicago from our Kander/Ebb show. Well received and we did ourselves proud.

I caught some of TCC set including the thrilling "Everyone Sang" with words of Sigfried Sassoon, a moving "Dona Nobis Pacem" and a piece by their composer in residence "Creator of the Universe". They ended with the juicy and funny "Insalata Italiana" a parody of everything operatic.

Finally, we got to "When We No Longer Touch" as the last 1/2 of the concert.

Here is the text of the piece so you can see the progression:

The fear that I would
come home one day and find you gone has turned
into the pain of the reality.
What will I do if it happens?
What will I do now that it has?
Latin Text: Requiem Aeternam

I know our time together is no more.
Then why do words come to mind that call you back?
Why do I plan lifetimes that include you?
Why do I torture myself with love
I never felt while you were here?

The layers I have put
around the pain of your going are thin.
I walk softly through life, adding thickness each day.
A thought or a feeling
of you cracks the surface;
a call to you shatters it all.
I spend that night in death
and spin the first layer of life
with the sunrise.
Latin Text: Exaudi orationem meam

I'm past the point of going quietly insane.
I'm getting quite noisy about it.
The neighbors must think I'm mad.
The neighbors, for once, think right.
Latin Text: Dies irae

I know, I know it was time for us to part
but today?
I know I had much pain to go through,
but tonight?
Latin Text: Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?

I am missing you
far better than
I ever loved you.
Latin Text: Lacrimosa

I shall miss loving you.
I shall miss the Comfort of your embrace.
I shall miss the
Loneliness of waiting for the
calls that never came.
I shall miss the Joy of your comings,
and the Pain of your goings
and, after a time,
I shall miss missing, loving, you.
Latin Text: agnus dei

And through all the tears
and the sadness
and the pain
comes the one thought
that can make me
internally smile again:
I have loved.
Latin Text: Requiem Aeternam

The emotion was heavy for all involved. We sang our hearts out, the audience pissed their pants at the Dies irae, the lovely "I Shall Miss Loving You", sweet, sentimental yet never cloying. Our encore was the popular "One Voice: I Will Not be Silent" from "Sing for the Cure". A fitting piece to show that we have not won the battle against AIDS or Breast Cancer.

The solo soprano, Tiffany Roberts, was just incredible, a creamy, smooth soprano with great diction and an ability to foat and to also show her incredible power.

I was exhausted, drained and just fucking pleased and proud. I didn't want to mingle around with the guys and go out, I was too drained. Pat highly enjoyed the experience, Michael looked a little bored. He did annoy me when he bitched about the HMC set was stuff he had heard before and we need to get new material. It hurt a bit, but is typical of him. Men.....

We got home, the return highly uneventful. Top was up due to a cold front and some rain.

I was glad I took the time to go, the time to learn the music and the extra rehearsals. I am a better singer for it, and 1000 times richer for the experience.

Thank you Dr Seelig, Joe, TCC, Pat, Michael, Dallas and even the Okies. It was fabulous!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Rehearsal at the Meyerson

The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center was opened in September of 1989 and has been hailed as one of the world foremost concert halls. "The Meyerson" as it is called is home for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Turtle Creek Chorale, the Dallas Wind Symphony, and the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra. It was designed by the celebrated architect I. M. Pei, who has designed everything from airports to the new entrance to the Louvre in Paris.

According to its website, the Meyerson has:

• 260,000 square feet above ground space
• 225,000 square feet below ground space
• 30,000 square feet of Italian travertine marble
• 22,000 pieces of Indiana limestone
• 4,535 organ pipes
• 2,062 seats
• 918 square panels of African (Makore) cherrywood
• 216 square panels of American cherrywood
• 211 glass panels (no two alike) comprising the conoid windows
• 85 foot high ceiling in the concert hall
• 74 concrete reverberation chamber doors, each weighing as much as 2.5 tons
• 56 acoustical curtains
• 50 restrooms

As the stage was set up for John Tesch (to the roll of everyone’s eyes) we first had to meet in the choral rehearsal hall deep in the bowels of the building.

Dr Tim Seelig, for 20 years the TCC music director, is a hoot. Out, somewhat flamboyant and with a needle sharp wit (and evil eye), he is a master communicator. I learned so much from the 3 hours he spent with us in KC and the 3 hour Master Class he gave on Sat. "Sing 'tits up', he would exclaim, "that allows you to show off what a stud you are and also, and more important to me, allows you to support the column of air needed to support your note." Earthy, yes, brilliant, even more so. He demonstrated how we could make and support a cleaner, more even and on-pitch sound. The difference was amazing. Singing is all about how you breathe. Tits up, chin down, lets the air move and allows you to support it. If you were not in that position, you'd get that cutting evil eye. But always a smile lurking behind it.

We finally got to get in the main hall. A huge horseshoe shaped hall, stage not overly large and a nice choral terrace above. As John Tesch's junk was still on stage, we could not use the stage so we were part in the terrace part in the audience seats. Not the best situation, but what could you do, it was John Tesh for god's sake.

The sound of 300 men singing is breathtaking. I am prejudiced I know, but I would listen to a male choir all day rather than a female one. Men have a huge range of voices, and a thrilling sound. It sent chills up my spine.

Our main purpose was to sing "When We No Longer Touch: A Cycle of Songs for Survival". TCC commissioned the work in 1991 from their late composer-in-residence, Kristopher Jon Anthony, who died of AIDS in 1992.

The piece touches on grief, despair, regret, denial and anger, and also hope, acceptance and salvation. The mediations on the stages of grief are interwoven with the text of the Latin Requiem. One movement especially, "I Shall Miss Loving You," has become a staple of gay men's choruses around the world.

I was overwhelmed. The sound was exceptional, even with John Tesch's piano separating us. Seelig was so inspirational.

"Grab your nuts!", he yelled. We looked stunned. "Damnit, sing like you have them", he said of the Dies Irae movement, "I want the audience to piss their pants in fear. This is the day of wrath and death and calamity, not the "Dies Ehhhh", as he shook his hand in a whishy-washy gesture. We scared them for sure.

We got to go thru the piece, each of us did one piece of our set and then it was time for Texas BBQ.

The TCC set up a nice BBQ for all of us and we had a grand time. The TCC members were so friendly, so glad we were here and made sure we all were treated like royalty. A comedian performed a great routine to top the evening off.

M and I went to meet some friends of his at a nice piano bar. It was a nice quiet end to a strenuous day. Most of the HMC boys were out partying hard at the big noisy bars. I can't do that anymore. This was fine with me.

Tomorrow: The Final Chapter, When We No Longer Touch

Friday, October 13, 2006

Dallas We are Here!


Instead of a hotel, which were in short supply, Michael and I stayed with an old friend of his Pat Gordon. Miss Pat is a wonderful lady, 85 with a mind like a steel trap. Witty, intelligent, charming, she immediately stole my heart. The fact that she makes a fabulous dirty martini also added to the attraction. She lives in a sprawling ranch style house in NE Dallas, having moved to the house with her late husband Stewart in 1966. Stewart died a few years ago. A Scottish-Canadian, he was a wonderful man according to Michael. It was clear Pat still adored him and cherished every moment she had with him.

Pat had a career as a nurse, and functioned as a Director of Nurses at several hospitals in Dallas. She has had the opportunity to travel all over the world as well. Now retired of course, she has many friends and is active in bridge clubs and service organizations. Her man of the moment is Shadow, a 7 yr old mix of Pekinese and Lhasa and something else. As Pat described him, his mom was a streetwalker and daddy was a traveling man. She lives for him.

Upon settling in, M and I went down to Cedar Springs St and to a coffee cafe to meet and greet the other HMC members and the TCC members (HMC=Heartland Men's Chorus and TCC=Turtle Creek Chorale, I am tired of typing the names.) It was not a a real organized welcome and although billed to begin at 6PM, by 7Pm few were there. Slowly the KC boys filtered in and the party began. Not really, pretty low key affair actually. M and I had promised to take Pat out and so we left early and went to a nice place that Pat likes to dine at called Natalie's. I was tired anyway and my well known lack of social skills was evident, so a quiet dinner was fine with me.

I do say the TCC boys were wonderful in their welcome. They went out of their way to make sure we were welcomed, entertained and appreciated. I never failed to mention that we were honored to be there and thanked them for their invitation.

On Sat, I had to be at the Meyerson Symphony Hall at 1 so there was time to go booze shopping! Dallas has a larger population than KC thus more drinkers, even though parts of the city and surrounding counties dry. There is a strip of liquor stores in Addison TX, just north of Dallas that makes up for the lack of liquor stores elsewhere It is an alcoholic's paradise.

We found all the wonderful things I wanted and could not find in KC:


A spiced scotch somewhat like drambuie but with a touch of citrus. Glayva uses an Islay scotch rather than a highland or Skye scotch. A sweet, yet strong aparatif or night cap. Real hard to find and about $30 a bottle.

Amarula Cream:

A Bailey's-like sweet cream from the African marula fruit. Unique flavor somewhat like Bailey's but with the unique fruit aftertaste. Hard to find as well but about $20/bottle. Good info website: Amarula

Finlandia Mango Vodka:

Not as hard to find and about $20/bottle. Great ice cold straight up or as I first had it; chop open a fresh coconut and add a bit of the mango vodka to the fresh coconut milk and drink from hull.

And one I have loved for years:

Flor di Cana Centenario Rum:

The pride of Nicaragua. More like a brandy than a rum. Smooth as silk. DO NOT combine with Coke, that is why God created Bacardi. Best in a brandy snifter. 12 years old about $50/bottle if you can even find it. I get it for $10 in Nicaragua The glorious 18yr old Centenario Gold is not imported. But I get it for about $18 in Managua!

I had to be at the center soon and Michael wanted to pick up more Glayva so "The Mercedes" dropped me off ceremoniously in front of the Meyerson. He roared away...
"She likes to make sure everyone knows it goes fast", I remarked to the others waiting, "ummm hummm she does!" was the reply.

Tomorrow: The Meyerson and our first combined rehearsal!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

OKC-Dallas: Caught in the Red Tide of OU/Texas Weekend


After successfully negotiating our way out of the OKC metro area, we continued relentlessly southward. Top still down, the day getting warmer. It was Friday afternoon now and those getting an early start on the weekend began to clog the roads. Many of the cars were flying flags and festooned with all sorts of University of Oklahoma logs and such. Red, assumedly the school colors, was everywhere; like the red tide of the sea. "It looks like the Okies are invading Texas", I remarked while passing a van flying several OU flags, everyone inside dressed in some sort of red. "Damn!" Michael exclaimed, "it must be OU/Texas weekend." I felt a chill in the warm open air... this must be serious.

Every year rival college football teams Oklahoma University and University of Texas play an important game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The game has been held in Dallas since 1937 traditionally on the second Saturday of October. Dallas is somewhat neutral territory being between UT in Austin and OU in Norman. Without exception it has been a complete sell-out every year since 1945 thus tickets are not easy to get. The seats are split between the two schools, but with total seating of only about 75,000 in the Cotton Bowl, each school has only about 35,000 tickets available, some are held out for VIPs and such. Since both schools regularly have sell-outs (Texas seats about 80,000 and OU about 72,000) there is far more demand than available tickets.

That did not stop the Okies, it seemed the whole state was going.

The weekend is billed as the World's Largest Beer Bust. YEE HA! I hope no where near me. College rah rah-ism is so annoying. Get a life folks. But in this case, it is their life. Football is big business in both Texas and Oklahoma. The game brings in multi-millions for Dallas restaurants and hotels. It is also said the fans can damage that much if their team loses. I say play the game in an open field somewhere north of Denton.

Traffic slammed to a halt just north of Denton and Michael said a normal 20 minute drive was now over 1 1/2 hours. I was not amused. My butt hurt. "The Mercedes" has orthopedically designed seats. The orthopod was a sadist. If I had a Mercedes, the seats from the Queen Mary would be installed immediately. My butt never hurts after a long cushy ride in the QM.

Everything is big in Texas except this highway, which inexplicably had only two lanes and a shoulder wide enough for a truck or two. The new interchanges however are temples in the sky. They pile the lanes higher and higher to impress I suppose. Higher than a 5-10 story building, the lanes criss-cross over the highway below, I wonder if they have warning lights for aircraft?

We finally wheeled our way to our destination. Michael was using "The Mercedes'" GPS system and she talked us to Pat's house, even announcing that we had arrived. Arrived indeed. Pat was waiting with a dirty martini for us and I was relieved to exit and get on dry land. The fun was only beginning.

Tomorrow: Turtle Creek Chorale welcomes the Heartland Men's Chorus

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Dallas Bound: KC to OKC

Friday October 6th dawned bright and warm, unseasonable. I was not complaining, as Michael and I were off to Dallas. We were travelling in "the Mercedes" as he always says, making sure everyone knows it is more than just a car. Being a convertible one, the weather was most appreciated.

The morning was also a bit strange. I had taken Puggles to the kennel..I mean the Royal Limo had taken her to the spa for the weekend; a nail job was in order. It seemed spooky without her around. I packed, checked thrice for "Tix, Tux and Black shoes" the three required items, anything else could be compromised.

We loaded up the Mercedes and off we went topless, the car that is. It was a bit cool for my taste but I enjoyed the open air as we quickly crossed in to Kansas and headed south on I-35.

I had taken that road many times, and it had not changed much. Soon we were to Emporia, the last civilization in the Flint Hills. Sparce, lonely and treeless, the Flint Hills are spectacular in their desolation. Undulating treeless hills, vast vistas, distant herds of cattle were the norm for many miles. We soon found ourselves passing by a lonely spot where in 1931, football legend Knute Rockne died in a plane crash; the wooden Fokker F10 Super Universal breaking up and hurtling to the ground in Chase County. Remenants of the plane are still there. There is no public monument, but I had a Chase Countian show me the spot a few years ago. You have to know where you are going.

Wichita zoomed by, we did not stop. Wichita had a contest years ago for a city song. The "Wichita Lineman" song was not about the city at all so it was not useful to them. Unfortunately, like Orange, nothing much rhymes with Wichita. Thus no song was selected. A couple unsuccessful entries leaked out such as:

"I Lost my Pa so I Went to Look for Him in Wichita"

and my personal favorite:

"Come on Down to Wichita, Where Folks Don't Bitch-At-Ah'"

Oklahoma soon appeared, looking little different than Kansas. Oklahoma City was the next civilization. I was last in OKC on May 3 1999. Also driving to Dallas with a colleague from Beverly, we stopped for gas in Moore, OK on the south side of town. I told Ron then that the clouds looked like a storm was brewing. 45 minutes later the station and most of Moore was obliterated by an F5 tornado. I did not want a repeat and we safely passed. The spot was marked by a new shopping development.

The weather was fine, the top still down and I had not killed Michael. So far so good!

Tomorrow: OKC to Dallas: The Okies Invade

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Time of My Life: Dallas Here I Come

Gentle Readers, Greetings! I arrived back from the weekend in Dallas and am still recovering. I had a fabulous time in many ways. The concert was an incredible experience, I am glad I went and spent the time learning the material. The Myerson Symphony Center is a wonderful venue.

I learned a ton from the Turtle Creek Chorale's director, Tim Seelig. He is highly dynamic, communicative and inpirational, far from what we have here. I'll tell more about his rehearsals and direction. I am still amazed.

This was like being invited to play at Carnegie Hall. Dallas' Turtle Creek Chorale is the premiere Gay Men's chorus in the world. Sorry Seattle and San Fransisco, there is no better. Emmy award documentary, Billboard Classical CD top ten seller, Grammy award nominations... they are fabulous. And welcoming and friendly. They thanked us for coming, we thanked them greatly for letting us come. I was greeted far better than anyone in my own chorus, we have a lot to learn.

I wish I could have taken my fair readers with me. You would have loved it.

Note to that I have been messing with the blog!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Road Trip

I am off for Dallas until Monday. The Heartland Men's Chorus is combining with the Turtle Creek Chorale in Dallas for a special one time concert on Sunday. Michael and I are driving to Dallas and staying with a friend of his. Pat is 85 and sounds like a hoot. Sat is rehearsals, master class with Dr Seelig and a party. Sunday I am going to tour Dallas and then the call for the theatre is 5PM. Monday drive home!

Links for the concert:

Turtle Creek Chorale

Heartland Men's Chorus

Pato will have all sorts of stories to tell when he waddles home!

See ya!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Jasper's Restaurant, Kansas City: That's Italian!

There is nothing like a great dining experience and I had one tonight. After our regular Wednesday night happy hour, Michael and I decided we were hungry for some good Italian. There was no hesitation, Jasper's was the only choice. Not that it is the only one in town, God knows there are hundreds. But Jasper's is special. Family owned, been in business 52 years and look at the awards:

  • "Best Italian Restaurant in Kansas City" Zagat
  • "Top Ten Italian Restaurant in America" East-West Network
  • "Distinguished Restaurants of North America" DiRona Award
  • "Most Satisfying Dish of the Year" USA Today
  • "Four Stars" Kansas City Star
  • "Four Diamonds" AAA
  • "One of America's Most Honored Restaurants" Bob Lape, WCBS Radio New York City
  • "A Culinary Delight" Rave reviews for the first chef from Kansas City to the prestigious James Beard House
  • "Silver Spoon Award" Ingram's Magazine
  • "One of America's Top Italian Restaurants"Calvin Trillin-Time Magazine

Emeril Lagasse of TV fame has included one of Jasper's recipes in his show, a pumpkin ravioli. I am not a fan of pumpkin so I did not try it, I am sure for pumpkin fans it is heaven.

In 1954, Leonardo Mirabile and his son Jasper opened
a small neighborhood Italian restaurant and bar named Jasper's. It soon became a popular dining spot. Jasper's gradually expanded its menu and remodeled the restaurant as it evolved into one of America's premiere locations for gourmet Italian food. In 1997, they closed the original location and moved to 103rd and State Line.

Without a doubt this was the best dining experience I have had in a long time. Impeccible service, incredible food. Reasonable but not cheap, the dishes are well proportioned and quite tasty.

I had two desires, both fullfilled. A true anti-pasta with salami and cheese, olives and crostini, some pepperocini and roasted pepper and a beef carpaccio. No problem said Jasper Mirable, Jr. Both were wonderful. The beef carpaccio was not even on the menu. When a restaurant will do that, they have my business for-fucking- ever! My rigatoni with the salsa modo mio was to die for. The pasta was al dente to perfection, the sausage in the light tomato-basil sauce was spicy/sweet and just ...perfection. Michael had Vitello alla Valdostana
Veal filled with Prosciutto di Parma, capers and Fontina cheese in a lemon piquant sauce. It was tender and delicious.

I had a wonderful canolli for dessert and expresso and Michael had cappuccino with a coconut cake. Both just perfect.

Damn, I am happy.

Jasper's Restaurant and Marco Polo Italian Market
1201 W. 103rd St KCMO 64114

Can't be beat.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Self Destructing Republicans

I love the sight of Republicans self destructing.

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice (I am looking for a good recipe for Condoleeza Rice) accused Watergate journalist Bob Woodward Monday of inventing a terror warning she got just before 9-11 but the State Department appeared to contradict her.

Senate Majority leader Frist said he learned from briefings that Taliban fighters were too numerous and had too much popular support to be defeated on the battlefield. Huh??? Aren't they the enemy, are we conceding defeat? Talk about "Cut and Run".

The reality of Mark Foley scandal is that it is clear now that every issue in the Bush administration is partisan politics - even the safety of children. Bush loyalists worked to protect Republicans and make Democrats look bad. Sadly no one who had the opportunity and access to evidence ever acted upon it and risk the upcoming elections. To protect Congressional pages from the inappropriate advances of former Rep. Mark Foley was not important.

By the way, it is reported that former Congressman Mark Foley's campaign committee, Friends of Mark Foley, contributed $1,000 to Boy Gov Blunt's campaign in 2004. Blunt was quick to "donate the money to charity".

Keep on self destructing....

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Madama Butterfly

Madama Butterfly, Puccini's masterpiece, is the most performed opera in North America and likely 2nd or 3rd in the world. It is easy to understand why. Soaring melodies, a compelling and believable story (a somewhat rare thing in opera), and exotic locale (Japan in 1904)combine to create perfect theatre.

The Lyric Opera of Kansas City had not mounted a Butterfly in a while so the new production was a welcome season opener. A traditional production, with simple unchanging sets of a small Japanese house with garden and moving soji walls, the opening night performance was met with well deserved bravos.

The plot is well known Wickipedia has a nice synopsis. MADAMA BUTTERFLY What was so outstanding was the incredible voices of the performers. Uniformly good from the imposing Bonze sung by Matthew Arnold to the incredible, world class Butterfly of Barbara Divis and Pinkerton of David Pomeroy. Not a note missed, clear ringing diction (another rarity, even with my elemental Italian, I could understand what they were singing) and excellent acting ability. The pace was excellent and even the long-ish second act breezed by.

Pinkerton was not a sympathetic character, but exposed as the uncaring, swaggering bore he is. The blame is put on him and this his last minute attempt to repent is made even more pathetic. Pomeroy looked and acted the part of Pinkerton to perfection, using glances, expressions and moods to convey his swaggering power. He hit every high note with ease, his voice never failing.

If Pomeroy was good, Divis as Butterfly was sheer operatic delight. This is what opera is all about. Communicating a role through looks, acting and singing. "Un bel di vedremo" was met with ringing bravas and show stopping applause. My friends who accompanied me to this performance have seen Butterfly all over the world, including La Scala and the Met and were profuse in the praise of this young lady. And trust me, they are usually stingy with their praise.

Lori-Kaye Miller was a strong, supportive Suzuki, and Bradley Garvin likewise as Sharpless.

The story is timeless, Butterfly is all things good, and kind and selfless. A paragon of unconditional love and loyalty, she comes across as naive and childish. Pinkerton, as power, imperialism, materialism and machismo destroys the fragile Butterfly. Simple, still powerful today.

(Pomeroy has upcoming Butterfly performances in Fort Worth and St Louis and Divis has performances scheduled with Arizona Opera and Hawaii Opera, worth watching for).