Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Spiritual Journey III

I know I am naive, but I have never understood why things have to change. Like Facebook layouts, trash haulers, and churches, changes are never really for the better. Just get to a good point that works, and stick with it.

Yeah I know, change is inevitable.

The church I attended in Kansas City, Trinity United Methodist, was a beacon of light and a bold, brash "screw you church establishment" institution for the majority of the time I attended. Standing firmly in the harsh wind of the Methodist hierarchy that said gays and lesbians were not compatible with Christian teaching, TUMC welcomed all who entered. Many churches say that, however there is usually a "but" attached to the welcome. Not so at TUMC. It was thrilling to worship with fellow gays, people of diverse backgrounds, perfect people and dreadful sinners alike. There was a sort of magic when we all came together. People dropped pretense and pitched in.

One Sunday was to be a high church day. We purchased new choir robes and they were to be dedicated with song and praise. As I arrived (by the way, the place was so special I drove 50 miles round trip to attend) fire trucks and police littered the street. A fire had heavily damaged a large apartment building near by. The refugees congregated at TUMC. It was a cool day and the people had on what they could escape with. So we cooked. Refrigerators were raided, errands ran and we made a vat of chili. Some got out games and played with the kids, some of us manned the phones taking calls from worried family members. We never did have a service that day; but in so many ways, it was the best one we ever had.

As people moved around, personalities clashed, pastors came and went, TUMC began to decline. It was not one person, or one thing, but a combination of events, people and weariness that comes in fighting a losing battle. The Methodist church makes it quite difficult for a gay friendly church to operate. Threats of trials and sanctions hover over any ordained personnel that dares to think otherwise.

Finally, in 2008, the last straw broke and I severed my relationship with TUMC and the United Methodist Church in general. I was sad, I missed my friends, the routine of the Methodist liturgy, hymnal and service. But I was tired of being a second, or even no-class citizen. A new pastor was clear that the hierarchy wanted to "straighten out" the place. Two years later, I am still embroiled in a mess created by the church; but a recent letter from the bishop of the UMC effectively told me to fuck off.

In the last months of my attendance at TUMC if Greg was out of town (thus I would not get scolded for not being at church), I would sneak off and go to another church where some TUMC refugees had landed. The church was led by an openly gay pastor... and it was ok with everyone. Great music, nice people, a denomination, the United Church of Christ, that was more liberal than I. We even served wine at church functions and hosted a drag show that was called "Wake the Fuck up, America!"

There was a heaven on earth.

But, just for a while. Sadly another example of heaven's transient nature here on this mortal orb. Some of the same things that killed TUMC were also happening there. I am not sure exactly what transpired, both sides still harbor resentment. Suffice to say I stayed away.

My last church service was on December 20th, when we performed the annual Christmas cantata. As I put away my robe and heard the negative chattering about the former pastor, I decided I had enough. Stealthily, I took my name tag off my robe and put it in my pocket. They had no use for it. It was a symbol of my departure.

Few noticed.

I have not missed going to church on Sunday, but I do miss the interaction with people, one of the few times I see people these days without vodka being involved.

Reading a response to a Facebook post, put a seed in my mind. Actually, watered a kernel that had been there before. To paraphrase, "You know, I have never known a Buddhist to cause trouble or grief".


Monday, February 22, 2010

Spiritual Journey II

As a married dad, I felt it important for my kids to have a foundation in a church. My childhood was not exactly centered around the church, but I fell into the convention that exposure to church would instill the all important values of service, respect and humility.


It was ok at first, the small Methodist church in Jefferson City. The pastor happened to be a neighbor in the church owned parsonage so we had an easy welcome. Met some nice people, the kids met some good kids and all was well. A change of pastor brought in a fellow who was a good friend for many years until our paths separated, as happens in this mobile world.

But a nasty and public divorce shattered everything. I suddenly was the evil fag (no one ever called me that to my face, but I know it was said) who was to be avoided. People left because I was still a member and was allowed to participate in the church services. Awkward were the moments when my ex and I had to be together at a church function. I frequently sat alone. But it was my church and I would not budge. I didn't until I finally left town, moving to Kansas City for work.

This was my wake up call that "church" was not what I always thought it was. Where was the "love your neighbor", all the kum ba ya we were told was the plan? I quickly learned to be a part of the church and the family and all that meant conforming to the church hierarchy's view, not what I had read in the Bible. In the Methodist church, their man-made rule book "The Book of Discipline" supplanted the Bible as the guide for living and church views on the world. According to them, Jesus only loved me if I quit being gay and was a nice, conservative, family man. Who cared if most of them drank, beat their kids, cheated, hated. That was not as bad as being gay.... yuk.

Revelation: church is hypocrisy.

It continues to this day, no matter what denomination. The Methodist church continues to spread their hate for gay and lesbians, putting pastors on trial for showing their love. Making rules to squash the expression of support for gays and lesbians, right up there with the Catholics.

Moving to KC, changed things a lot for a long time. Through luck and a friend I had made here, I found a church, a Methodist one at that, where the congregation had taken a stand to say all were welcome, even sinful, nasty, family hating, fags like me. I went a couple times and joined on my 3-4th visit. I stayed for over 12 years, some of the best church time in my life. We worshiped, we worked, we celebrated, mourned, ate, drank, partied and prayed. Gays and lesbians, old and young, rich, poor, transient... it mattered not.

Revelation: church did not have to be hypocritical.

But, as with all things, decay set in.

(to be continued)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Kansas City Symphony: Pahud Premiere Lombardi Flute Concerto

Saturday weather was "miserable" (see my continuing rant about that in previous post) but not so in the Lyric Theatre where the Kansas City Symphony under the direction of Music Director Michael Stern presented a diverse concert of works ranging from Beethoven, Rossini and Tchaikovsky to a new work by Italian Luca Lombardi, a Flute Concerto for Emmanuel Pahud.

The concert opened with the sprightly and high spirited overture to "La Scala di Seta" (The Silken Ladder). The fine KCS winds contributed their usual colorful commentary with special note to the fiendish and important oboe and flute solos. Stern whipped up a fine Rossini crescendo to bring this short but highly amusing curtain raiser to a rousing close.

Beethoven's Symphony # 8 is often seen as an odd man out in his cannon. Sandwiched between the grandly dancing and rhythmic 7 th and the monumental 9th, the shortish 8th harks back to the early 1st and 2nd and even back to Haydn; it even has a minuet for god's sake. Stern and the orchestra gave this most carefree and light hearted of Beethoven's symphonies a brisk and incisive performance. The ensemble was quite together and technically excellent, only a couple of exposed brass bobbles to mar the surface. Stern took care to balance the orchestra so that all the inner voices and counter melodies could be heard in this breezy but still substantial masterpiece.

The second half began with the world premiere of a new Flute Concerto by Luca Lombardi written for and premiered by Swiss flute virtuoso Emanuel Pahud.

Lombardi is a new name for me, and a search of online record outlets show little or nothing of his output is available in the US. Born in Rome in 1945, Lombardi studied mostly with the deans of German new music in the 60's and 70's, Stockhausen, Kagel, Pousseur, B. A. Zimmermann, and Rzewski. He has written over 160 works including 2 symphonies and much chamber music.

The concerto, in 3 untitled movements, is based on a recurring 3 note theme, recalling the opening flourish of Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man. From there the flute and orchestra construct and de-construct this motive, stretching it, tossing it from solo to orchestra and from group to group. Tonally lyrical passages are interrupted by clangorous outbursts from the orchestra. The final section pits a dreamy flute solo in the middle range over slowly shifting strings, soon to be interrupted by the 3 note theme leading into the second movement. This movement continues the slower mode with long, melismatic, almost oriental passages for the flute. The breathy quality of the flute is celebrated in the last half of the second movement with contributions from rustling leaves and wind machine from the percussion. The 3 note theme is quietly passed around from flute to harp and celesta borne on a frosty wind.

The 3rd movement is musically wonderful, but problematic in execution. Suddenly the flute comes alive and assumes an unknown persona. The soloist turns to face the orchestra and in mock anger verily spits high raspberries at the orchestra, concertmaster and the conductor. As the orchestra comes in, the soloist looks about in confusion; at one point Pahud walks over to the conductor and glances at his score and shakes his head. For a while the quiet middle music theme returns, Pahud coaxing some highly strange sounds from his gold flute; frequently perfectly imitating a violin pizzicato. The solo becomes more angular and agitated, the 3 note theme is tossed around until a major chord right out of Hollywood puts an end to the chattering. What is the flute's response? He holds on to a low, shallow note and blows the final flourish right at the conductor.

It got some chuckles and even some nervous twitters as some where not sure what was happening. But despite the theatrics, the work is a true show piece for the talents of Mr. Pahud from the fiendish runs and register leaps to the long slow melodies of the middle movement. The composer draws upon a colorful palate from the huge orchestra ,5 horns, triple winds and brass, contra-bassoon, English horn, bass clarinet, harp, celesta and a ton or two of percussion. The big ensemble never overwhelmed the flute, Pahud's silky tone always rising above the fray. The audience gave the work a heartfelt ovation. Hopefully this work will merit a recording as there is so much going on that is missed in a single hearing.

The concert concluded with the popular Tchaikovsky tone poem "Francesca da Rimini". A perfect foil for the more light hearted and playful music preceding, Stern drew a powerful performance from the orchestra, whipping them to a rousing conclusion fitting for the "turmoil of Hades".

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Marc-André Hamelin in Recital

Forbes Magazine recently included Kansas City on its list of miserable cities, an exercise in coastal/warm climate elitism frankly. One of their big reasons?... we have two lousy sports teams.

Give me a break.

Hardly miserable is the classical music scene for a city this size. What other "miserable" location had a choice of seeing Marc-André Hamelin in recital or Emmanuel Pahud in concert with the KC Symphony playing the world premiere of a flute concerto written for him by Italian composer Luca Lombardi?

Miserable indeed, as one could only be at one place at a time. I chose the Hamelin on Friday, as luckily the Symphony will repeat the performance on Saturday.

As discussed on the CLassical Music Guide forum a while back, Hamelin is considered by many to be among the best pianists currently performing. His consummate skill, musicality and daring repertoire earn him highest praise. He is a "cool" performer as well, not prone to display and distracting gestures. But he is far from just a cerebral technician; as he demonstrated last night, he can infuse the simplest melody or phrase with grace and glowing beauty.

The program certainly was designed to display Hamelin's formidable talents in a variety of styles: the sublime Haydn Variations in F minor, Mozart Sonata in a, K 310, Liszt "Venezia e Napoli", Fauré "Nocturne # 6 op 63 and the reason for my attendance, Alkan "Symphonie" for solo piano, #s 4-7 of the 12 Etudes op 39.

From beginning to end, the recital was virtually flawless. The Haydn "Variations" (sometimes listed as a sonata) H 17, # 6 received an appropriately romantic performance yet with all the classical clarity intact. The coda was a masterpiece of rhapsodic emotions, the resigned, quiet ending bringing this jewel to a breathtaking ending.

The Mozart Sonata in A minor also received a reading from Hamelin that mined its emotional depths, using its linear motion and minor key to reveal the stormy drama of this sonata, so different in mood from his earlier works.

The Liszt pieces found Hamelin in his element, indeed he only recently added the Mozart to his repertoire, according to an interview published in the local paper. Indeed "Gondoliera" was nothing less than sublime tone painting, the many trills, tremolos and chromatic runs not for show but to literally paint a Venetian scene. A friend who attended the concert and is a frequent visitor to Venice told me he could not help but feel he was on a canal in the Venetian mist. The Canzone and Tarantella sang and danced, as their respective titles would indicate. The torrent of notes never seemed to be just for show in Hamelin's hands, only to communicate a scene.

The Fauré was delightfully serene and dreamy without being coying and sweet. Hamelin relished bringing out the harmonic and rhythmic touches that foreshadowed Ravel and Debussy.

Alkan. What can I say. This music was made for a pianist like Hamelin. If perhaps a little less percussive and rhythmically incisive than the classic Raymond Lewenthal recording, Hamelin commanded the rapid changes from chords to octaves, the huge leaps, cascade of notes and pounding rhythms. But along the way, he highlighted the many Chopinesque and Mozartean passages, contrasting yet also integrating them perfectly with the Lisztian fireworks.

Absolutely brilliant. As an encore, Hamelin performed one of his own compositions, a jazz tinged, impressionistic "Little Prelude".

Who cares if Kansas City has lousy sports teams? With classical music opportunities like this at our fingertips I can escape the "misery" for a while.

Tonight, KC Symphony with the Lombardi Flute Concerto, Beethoven Symphony # 8 and Tchaikovsky "Francesca di Rimini".

Friday, February 19, 2010

Spiritual Journey I

This has been brewing for a long time. No, not my coffee even though it is getting a bit old now, but this thought that something has to give in my spiritual life.

I am not a religious fanatic or all that devout a Christian, despite decades of church going. Frankly it is the decades of church going that has turned me away from being devout. I have experienced more emotional damage at church than in any other setting, with the possible exception of some horrible employment experiences.

Born a Methodist by family tradition, I went to church off and on with my family, they were sort of casual church goers. In high school I got involved in a Methodist church with friends and experienced my first church politics. A split occurred between the traditionalist and the fundies who wanted hand waving, tongue speaking nonsense. Youth pizza parties turned into holy spirit filled, holy rolling festivals. I backed off, sensing that something was amiss. A friend at that time told me I was going straight to hell as I did not live and breathe Jesus as he did. We drifted apart.

Church, Protestant Christianity at least, for me was becoming a world of condemnation and terrorism. "One Way", "The Way", "if you don't you won't" was the message. I just do not see black and white. I just don't get it. If this god and Jesus are so powerful, why is there such death and evil? Can't they let the good guys win just once? If I asked these questions, I got stares of annoyance, disbelief and pity. I was prayed for, a lot.

As I went off to college, I strayed away from church for a long time, and did not miss it. Meeting new friends, doing things for the first time, being on my own, learning and doing was enough epiphany and revelation. Maybe I was becoming too smart to just blindly follow a dogma, just maybe there are many ways. Could Jesus, god, angels, Noah and all that be just a myth like Zeus, Athena and Thor? In 1979, I did not care. I was exploring life and realizing I had been given an even more amazing gift that would bring me great joy and heartache. Even though I had gotten married, I sensed I was different. "I am married...I can't be gay", became my prayer to someone or something unseen.

More to follow.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Reflections on Mardi Gras

As I stood in my reproduction of a New Orleans patio, dressed in a sequined, beaded mask, green/gold/purple vest, multiple strands of beads hanging around my neck AND drinking my 3rd or 4th absinthe suissesse, someone asked me why I go all out for Mardi Gras.

"It is my Christmas Eve, Easter, 4th of July and birthday all rolled in to one", I replied. "I hate Halloween, all the childishness, death, spooks, morbidity... , Mardi Gras is LIFE, celebrate, colorful, dancing, gumbo, hollandaise, champagne and absinthe, not pumpkins, candy and blood-like punch". It is so much better, and at least in Kansas City a rarer event.

I got "into" Mardi Gras in St Louis, which boasts one of the largest Mardi Gras celebrations in the country. It is usually mentioned along with Rio, Sydney and New Orleans (the King of Mardi Gras of course) as one to attend. People partied, offices closed for the Grand Parade, 75,000 people watched dogs parade in costumes and just as they are in a huge "Krewe of Barkus" parade. My neighborhood association had a Krewe with a ball and parade. Tits were flashed, beads thrown, rules suspended for a bit and life and fun were King and Queen. And who could not love a holiday with the theme laissez les bons temps rouler! (roughly, "let the good times roll")?

So upon my return to Kansas City, I began to import the traditions of Mardi Gras. A few stalwarts celebrated, but most of the city was ignorant of the festivities, reserving them for St Patrick's Day. When my old church decided to have a Mardi Gras themed party, I was thrilled. Until I discovered they had not a clue what to do. "Who is bringing the King Cake"? I asked to blank stares. "Anyone making gumbo, do have beads to throw??". Again silence. I improvised and made a king cake of sorts, made a vat of gumbo and got them their beads. The next couple years were bigger and better, I even became known as "Miss Glitter" for my beads I would wear. Announcing the event, I would stand and throw the beads at the congregation. One Sunday the Bishop of the Methodist church was attending. "You're not going to throw them while the Bishop is here...are you??" "Yes I am and I will likely throw one at him!" And I did.

After leaving the church over too much drama, I started a party of my own at the Palace. It grew. Last night I had 20 people in a re-creation of the patio at Brennan's restaurant. We drank, we ate, gumbo was there and cheese soufflé as well. Beads, masks, fun, laughter, life, friends, Rex Coelestis (me of course) came in a fabulous mask and beads delivering the colorful King Cake (I even got the baby, damn it, so I have to bring it next year too) to great acclaim.

Now Ash Wednesday, as the law prescribes, all is put away. Just the clean up, the leftovers ( I do not know how to make small amounts) to give out and the beads and finery to be put away. Even though it is getting lighter out side and the cold is giving way, Lent is upon us.

I am not as devout a follower of Lent as I am of Mardi Gras (which is of course the last time you can officially revel until Easter), but as I focus on my spirituality, I see this time as a chance to reflect on how I express and fulfill my spiritual needs. I see a great change coming; one that may displease some friends. But seeds are sometimes planted and are destined to grow and test the climate. Shall a new chapter begin? Keep watching.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mardi Gras 2010



Monday, February 15, 2010

Let it Snow

I had to memorialize a very rare occurance as noted on the above map from Every state in the continental US, even Florida, Alabama, Arizona and Louisiana, reported snow cover this past Saturday 2/13/10. Only Hawaii, which does get a bit of snow cover on the highest peaks occasionally, did not report snow on the ground.

This does not prove, or disprove global warming, as the politically charged nuts are arguing, it is just a rare phenomenon that this weather junkie just had to publicize.

We woke up to a bit of snow at the Palace today, a burst of flakes over night has blanketed the gray ground. HM snorted a bit of fresh fallen snow and quickly concluded her morning walkabout. So even though the map above shows us clear and Tallahassee in snow, I am sure the conditions are now reversed and all is back well with the world....for now.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Kansas City Symphony: Sibelius and Petrouchka

I am sure substituting at the last minute for a symphony concert can be a daunting task for even the most seasoned of conductors. But on second thought, perhaps for an assistant conductor of a major orchestra it is second nature, always in the wings, prepared to step in. Filling in for Pietari Inkinen, the Finnish born young Music Director of the New Zealand Symphony, was the equally youthful Andrew Grams, formerly an Assistant Conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra under Welser-Möst. Grams led the Kansas City Symphony in an impressive Petrouchka, one of the most exciting and polished performances of the season.

The first half of the program, two masterpieces from Jan Sibelius, "Finlandia" and the Violin Concerto in d, could have benefited from the Finnish sensibilities of Inkinen. Grams' Finlandia was powerful, but a bit choppy and not always together. Disappointingly the incredible center section, so familiar as a hymn tune and the "Finlandia Hymni", the de-facto Finnish national anthem, just didn't sing. Grams whipped the orchestra into a rousing conclusion, much more together and balanced than the beginning.

Just as I had not heard of Grams, I was equally unfamiliar with Karen Gomyo, the soloist for the Sibelius Violin Concerto. Japanese born, but raised in Canada, Gomyo is certainly a talent to explore. She was pretty much in total control of this subtly difficult concerto, only a few ragged upper register runs marred an excellent, passionate performance, clearly better than the Barnabas Keleman performance of a couple seasons ago (and we get to hear Hilary Hahn do the concerto next season). Grams occasionally let the large orchestra obscure the violin, such as in that odd chromatic-oriental passage in the finale. Overall Gomyo's tone and performance from her 1714 Stradivarius was as silkily shimmering black-cherry as her fabulous gown, easily the best of the season!

But the evening belonged to Stravinsky's popular Petrouchka. Using the 1947 version of the complete ballet, the orchestra relished the colorful orchestration and shifting meters. As usual the winds, so important in Stravinsky, were excellent, the contrabassoon even getting a few laughs for its flatulent contributions. The brass were equally fine and well controlled, the trumpets perfectly "brassy" and brash as Stravinsky wanted. The strings were in perfect tune and sounding larger than their number. Everything clicked, from finely judged tempi (the Sibelius selections were on the leisurely side), sharp entrances, deft but important contributions from the piano and percussion, organic flow and fine balance.

Grams' and Gomyo's debuts here were quite auspicious; I look forward to following both these young artists.

Friday, February 12, 2010


The name Florence Foster Jenkins still has the ability to ignite a discussion more than 65 years after her death. Was she serious? Did she really think she could sing? Or was she just an elaborate joke?

Born in Pennsylvania in 1868, Florence took music lessons as a child, but apparently did not seem worthy enough for her father to pay for them further. Thus she eloped with a Doctor to Philadelphia and eventually on to New York, worming her way in to society by using her family money to start and fund ladies' music societies plus give the occasional, also self funded and promoted, recital.

From her recorded legacy, it is obvious she had little musical ability, especially in the basics of pitch and diction. Maybe it was an early manifestation of "camp", but for some reason she became quite popular. If she heard laughter or a bad review, she tossed it off as professional jealousy from less talented individuals. Florence died in 1944, one month after a self funded but highly successful sold out Carnegie Hall recital.

English playwright Peter Quilter has captured some scenes from Foster's last years in New York leading up to the Carnegie Hall recital in his successful comedy "Glorious!" now playing at KC's best theatre venue, the American Heartland Theatre.

Although blessed with a strong cast, the play rambles with some silly, almost slapstick side episodes which frankly get in the way of a good story. The recurring entrance and funeral of Florence's friend Dorothy's dead poodle is simply distracting and inane. Marilyn Lynch as Dorothy, who shares Florence's delusion that she is great, has some great lines and scenes, but this is not one of them. The nasty Mexican maid "Maria" is another side distraction that provides some comedy, but certainly adds nothing to the overall story. Maria's gutter slang Spanish is frequently lost to those who do not understand the language, such as when she yells "screw you" at Florence in a distinctively South American way, or calls Florence's pianist a "mariposa", Mexican slang for a "fag".

The main characters carry the show. Debra Bluford, as Florence, has a great presence, a strong voice (?) and the flexibility to camp it up just enough to make us think Florence is just a joke, but just as passionately can portray Florence as a serious character. Jonas Cohen is remarkable as Florence's last accompanist Cosme McMoon (the story and mystery of the real Cosme McMoon is worthy of a story itself). Cosme is obviously talented, closeted gay (providing many a joke, some also lost on the audience such as when he is asked if he is a "friend of Dorothy too", referring to the character of Dorothy but also invoking the old code phrase for "are you gay" common in the 40's-60's) and needing money and an outlet for his art. Florence pays well so he relents, falling in to her world and ultimately coming to love and admire Florence for her.... talent, as it were. Brilliant actor Bruce Roach (who did the slimiest, most evil Iago in "Othello" a few seasons ago), portrayed Florence's long time "friend" StClair Bayfield, but his sardonic comments frankly just sounded absurd, doing little to establish his role.

But the singing (?) was of a type rarely heard in theatre; it must be difficult to really sing that bad. Bluford looked positively absurd in the costumes, as well she should.. so did Florence. Cosme's final reflections changed the whole mood of the show, causing us to leave wondering a-new; was Florence Foster Jenkins a joke or a woman with balls doing things her way and living her dream as few of us ever do.

Cosme was not laughing.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Grace and Power:747-8 First Flight

41 years ago, the world became much smaller when the first Boeing 747-100 took off from Paine Field in Everett, Washington on Feb 9, 1969. Just a day before the 41st anniversary, the latest iteration of the Queen of the Skies took off, ensuring that this great airplane will be flying 50 years after its debut.

Emerging from defeat, when Boeing lost the competition to build a large freighter for the USAF (the winner was Lockheed's C-5 Galaxy, but as the cliche goes, Lockheed won the battle and Boeing won the war), the 747 more than revolutionized air travel, it redefined it. More people could fly farther and in more comfort than ever before. Non stop was just not New York to London or Paris, or London to Cairo, but now non-stops New York to Tel Aviv, London to Tokyo or Sydney to Los Angeles, routes only dreamed about with the 707 or DC 8, planes 1/2 the size of the 747.

Over the years, the 747 grew in size, power and range, with the -400 series accounting for 695 of the over 1,500 built. The early 100, 200 and 300 series were quickly replaced with the newer twins, Boeing 767, 777 and Airbus 300, 310 and 330 series. Only the Airbus A340 challenged the Queen with four engines. Just in the last two years, the Airbus A380 double decker has surpassed the 747 as the biggest airliner in the skies.

As the twins and even the new Boeing 787 cut into the 747's market, the old girl found a new life as a freighter. It would probably be safe to say as many as or even more 747's fly as freighters than passenger airliners. Less glamorous, for sure, but still gracing the skies 41 years after the first one flew.

With the new 747-8 series, the Queen has been modernized, made more efficient, quieter and just a bit bigger. Most of the orders for the new model have been for freighters, and indeed today's first flight was of the freight version. Even as a work horse, she is still one of the most graceful machines ever. Like a big Duesenberg auto, the size does not hinder her graceful, elegant motions. IF anything, it makes her even more remarkable.

She is flying as I write, circling near her base of Everett, Washington, making history, continuing the lineage and still inspiring awe at her size, grace and power.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Coupl'a Things XXXI

1) Leave it to the BBC to have a thoughtful, non screaming, and well reasoned piece on why Americans seem to have a love affair with politicians who do not have their interests in mind.

It reminds me of a story by George Mc Govern who lost the US Senate seat from South Dakota in 1980. He was campaigning, so the story goes, outside a grocery store. A lady came up to him and said she was not going to vote for him any longer as he voted to "give our canal away". That of course was the Panama Canal which is in a sovereign country of course. He noted later that she paid for her food with food stamps, a program he rescued and expanded despite Republican attempts to stop it. He knew he was doomed.

So a stupid electorate, reared on 60 second, feel good sound bites, continues to run a great nation into the ground.

2) Speaking of politics, a person wrote in to the KC Star recently and proposed that since the politicians were now free to solicit corporate sponsorships, they should take a cue from sports figures (the writer used NASCAR drivers, one of the best examples) and wear their corporate sponsor logos on their jackets. Makes perfect sense to me.

3) Since I have dredged up the specter and sleeze of American politics, I think I will go drink now and try to forget that Sarah Palin is out there plotting something.

And maybe fantasize Obama grows some balls.