Friday, February 24, 2006

Ban Proposed to Block Republicans from Adopting Children

From 365 GAY "An Ohio Democrat is proposing legislation that would prevent Republicans from adopting children, a move aimed at embarrassing the GOP over moves to block gay adoptions.

State Sen. Robert Hagan (D-Youngstown) admits his bill is purely "tongue-in-cheek" but says that the message is anything but a joke.

In an email sent to fellow legislators, and obtained by Knight Ridder Newspapers, Hagan says he's looking for co-sponsors to "introduce legislation in the near future that would ban households with one or more Republican voters from adopting children or acting as foster parents."

Earlier this month a bill to ban gays, bisexuals, and transgenderds from adopting was proposed by 10 far-right Republicans. It was introduced in the House this month by state Rep. Ron Hood (R-Ashville)

"We need to see what we are doing," said Hagan, who called Hood's proposed bill blatantly discriminatory and "homophobic."

When Hood introduced his gay adoption ban he said that, "Studies have shown that the optimal setting to raise children in is a traditional setting with a mom and a dad."

Hood claims that children raised in gay households are at "increased risk" of physical and emotional problem.

In Hagan's email to fellow lawmaker's he skewers Hood's assertions, offering his own "credible research" shows that adopted children raised in Republican households are more at risk for developing "emotional problems, social stigmas, inflated egos, and alarming lack of tolerance for others they deem different than themselves and an air of overconfidence to mask their insecurities."

Hagan knows his mock bill has no chance of getting to the floor for a vote let alone passing. And, Hood's bill appears to be headed for a similar fate."

I love it!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Shipwrecks in the Park

The weather gods have been smiling on us here in Kansas City. Today was filled with brilliant sunshine and temperatures in the 60's. Tomorrow is supposed to be almost 70. Puggles and I took advantage of the warm weather and walked the path at our favorite Mill Creek Park. A metal bench sits at the north apex of the trail. Today esconced on the bench were a man and a woman, most likely homeless (or as they are poetically called in Nicaragua, Naufragas or Shipwrecked)and quite scruffy. He was thin and gaunt, wispy grey hair peaking out of a dingy ball cap. She was heavier, too heavy for her height, and equally scruffy. Each of the shipwrecked clutched their cherished possession, a carefully wrapped can of cheap beer. They looked as if they were relishing the cold liquor, probably feeding their alcoholic beast.

They watched us as we rounded the bend. Puggles was busy stopping to check out the latest news at each lamp post, but I kept a wary eye out for them. Likely I would get asked for money so they could ply their sad lives with more beer to drown the pain.

"What kind of dog is that?", the Lady Naufraga managed to slur out. Before I could answer, her conpadre answered "Dumb shit, it is a Pug, you know the one that can talk... in the movie". "Oh yeah.." nodding in agreement and swigging her beer. A short silence from all of us as Puggles checked out the legs of the bench. "That fucking dog can't talk... it just snorts, so not all of the damn things can talk".
"Bitch!" he squawled, "it was in a movie, it was not real."

We beat a hasty retreat. I think she was going to kill him.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Head Gear

I have quite a collection of ball caps, I noted this morning as I hung them behind the door. 2 red ones, 1 blue and white, 1 red and white, 2 University of Illinois caps, 1 leather one, 1 "Pelican Eyes" from Nicaragua, and 1 "Heartland Men's Chorus" cap. A couple of years ago I had none. Only the advent of my hair loss have I covered my head with a cap. It is a part of my uniform now, I go nowhere with out one, except when wearing dress clothes and at church. I feel odd then, as if I have my pants unzipped or my shirt wrong side out and everyone notices but me. Hair loss is one of the hazards of being male, creating jealousy towards those whose genes allow them to keep it.

In my younger, more vulnerable days (thanks for that wonderful phrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Great Gatsby") I used to say I'd shoot myself if I lost my hair. This was said when I had a tangled mess of darker, thicker hair. So instead of shooting myself, I collect ball caps. A lot less messy. It does create a moments hesitation in the morning as I have to coordinate another color, which one to choose? Which fits my mood? Which one do I not care if it gets a bit dirty? Sigh.....more decisions to make. And what of dressy occasions? Are fedoras back in style? Could you even find one??

For the record, the red and white one is the choice today, gives a splash of color to my dark gray sweats and lighter gray t-shirt..

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Letter to Shaun

My Inmate pen pal Shaun and I have some interesting conversations. We talk frequently about the US criminal INjustice system and where we as a nation are headed. Here is a good chunk of my latest letter to him:

We have to expose the hypocrisy and crimes of Bush and his gang. They keep getting away with more and more. You no doubt have heard of Cheney’s wayward gun shot. Good God, if that had been a Clinton or a Gore, the Republos would have begun impeachment already. They have a complete double standard that would rival any dictator regime or royal power of the past.

Electoral competition is key to democracy, and that is not happening here. So many say there is not a bit of difference in the candidates of either party. In 2004, only a couple of dozen of the 435 US House elections were competitive. 98.5 percent of incumbents won, typically by margins of 70 percent or more. Incumbents have placed a lock on the offices they hold. They get the money, are favorably redistricted whenever seats are reapportioned, and use their taxpayer-provided staffs to conduct round-the-clock reelection campaigns. I found a troubling statistic, of all the world's freely elected legislatures, the US House of Representatives has the lowest turnover rate.

Bush is a perfect example of the power of incumbency. He set the tone, set the agenda and had unlimited funds. Air Force One is a powerful symbol.

America's politicians have also managed to invent the most unappetizing campaigns imaginable. Attack ads have doubled in frequency since the 1970s and now account for a majority of the ads featured prominently in campaigns. Voter apathy is rampant. In a 2002, 81 percent believed "most political candidates will say almost anything to get themselves elected"; 75 percent agreed that "political candidates are more concerned with fighting each other than with solving the nation's problems.” I did find one source that said 6.4 million Californians are eligible but not registered to vote. That is just California mind you.

True leadership has become so rare that politicians may no longer even dream of stepping forward to say something other than what polls tell them is safe. And true leaders, if they emerge and differ with the powers that be, are quickly silenced. Write what you feel. I do in my blog, although few read it. It is my public record and my right that I express my disgust at the regime in power. As we always say to our friends in Nicaragua, “La Lucha Continua” (the fight goes on); our way of saying we will not give up.

I am leaving in a week for Nicaragua. I can not wait. Even though some events here and there have prevented me from fulfilling my dream of living there for now, I will love to be back in my little Nicaragua even for a couple of weeks. There the people thrive and persevere in the most dire of situations. There is life, there is joy in little things, and there is such a connection with the politics. No one is on the fence; in Nicaragua people even paint their houses in the red of the Partido Liberal Constitucionalista (PLC) or the red and black of the Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional (FSLN, or Sandanista) to show where they stand. 95% of the registered voters vote, sometimes walking for hours and miles to do so. Of course democracy is new there. I sometimes feel I am alive only 2 weeks out of the year, well really only 1 since part of the trip is spent in the Gringolandia of San Juan Del Sur, Miami south. The little Village of Mulukuku is where I am alive.

I will return suntanned and enriched from Nicaragua. Someday I’ll be there, if not tomorrow then the day after that, or the day after that, or the day after that….. (apologies to Fred Kander, from his play “Kiss of the Spider Woman”).

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Thought for the day

I went to a concert tonight, catch the review tomorrow. In our row there was a rather rude and odd man, and I could not help but think of this as I followed him out of the hall:

"Some people are like Slinkies.
They are really good for nothing;
They still bring a smile to your face
when you push them down a flight of stairs."

Friday, February 17, 2006

Hardcore Nerdity

The American Heartland Theatre's, one of the most fun theatre groups in KC, latest offering is "The Nerd" by Larry Shue. Since its premiere in 1981, "The Nerd" has become a staple of comedy and community theatre. Like a porn movie, the plot as it is, serves to set up the "juicy" scenes. The play begins with Willum Cubbert (Craig Benton) celebrating his 34th birthday. Willum is an architect unenthuiastically working on a project for a client he really can not stand. His girlfriend Tansy is leaving to become a weather lady in Washington, D.C., and there is subtle mention that IRS is auditing his taxes. Life is just peachy for poor Willum.

A birthday party of sorts is planned. Willum gets word that Rick Steadman, a man who saved Willum’s life in Vietnam but who Willum never actually met is coming for a visit. In return for svaing his life Willum pledged to be there for Rick whenever and for whatever is needed. The boss and his wife are coming as well, making the evening even more enjoyable.

Turns out Rick, wonderfully played by Ken Remmert, is a hardcore Nerd. A monster of nerd-dom,(he makes his entry dressed as a monster as he is mistaken that Willum's party is a costume party) Rick is a chalk-factory inspector who bangs on a tambourine while singing the "Star Spangled Banner", has no social skills whatsoever and twists and turns any conversation into frustration. Obvious is the fact that Shue has little sympathy for this character at all. Soon everyone is plotting to rid the world of the Nerd.

Rick not only crashes the party but also William’s life. In the process he ruins Willum’s career and makes a general pain of himself. With the aid of Tansy and his bitchy queen tenant and friend Axel,(the incomparable Ron Magee) Willum tries rid himself of Rick without being ungrateful.

There are laughs-a-million but the implausible and flimsy plot make the show somewhat tedious as theatre. Most of the punch lines are obvious and you find yourself laughing at the sheer absurdity of the whole thing. Magee obviously ad-libs (I am told that in some performances of the show, he was way off in left field and had even the cast in a tither)and makes the show. Very grating and totally unecessary is a kid, the bratty son of the boss Warnock Walgrave(who insists on being called "Ticky) and his wife Clelia, who does nothing but scream and act annoying. Why Shue had the kid in the plot is beyond me. The set was very 1980s and quite well done.

Worth a few laughs and a fun evening at the friendliest, most laid back theatre venue I know.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Sir Freddie Laker

I noted the passing of Sir Freddie Laker last week.


If you have ever flown Southwest Airlines, or JetBlue or in Europe, Ryanair or EasyJet, you have flown on an airline inspired by Sir Freddie.

In the 1970s Laker created Skytrain, the first discount air operation. Laker charged $135 to fly from New York to London, a dramatically low fare in those times. But there was a catch, passengers had to pay cash on a first-come, first-served basis, pay extra for food and drink and leave from less convenient airports. Skytrain's DC-10s did not carry cargo in order to save weight and fuel. In 5 years, the airline carried 3 million passengers,nearly 20% of the transatlantic passengers. Laker was knighted in 1978 and always thereafter known as Sir Freddie.

Sir Freddie was a hero to those wanting to travel on a budget. Unfortunately he was evil incarnate to his competitors, whom he publicly challenged and later sued for conspiring to bankrupt him. He charged that that big carriers such as TWA, Pan Am, British Airways, used illegal pricing pressure to force Skytrain off the tracks. He won, but after Skytrain was dead and buried. Skytrain last flew in 1982.

But as is frequently true of trailblazers, their defeats and sometimes bitter victories lay the groundwork for others' future success. Thus Sir Freddie's dream lives on in the aforementioned Southwest Airlines, JetBlue and other low cost carriers, many of whom are stronger finacially than the big "Legacy" carriers.

Virgin's Atlantic's Chairman Sir Richard Branson, has acknowledged his debt to Sir Freddie. He is quoted as saying that Laker "gave me a lot of very useful advice when I set up Virgin Atlantic 21 years ago. Virgin Atlantic named one of our planes Spirit of Sir Freddie in recognition of our respect for him. He was a larger than life figure, with a wicked sense of humour and a great friend."

Sir Freddie had a long career in the airline industry, including running British United (BUI),one of the UK's largest charter operators in the 1960's. He frequently had to invent new rules (and stretch a few) inorder to keep BUI and Laker afloat. For example he resorted to selling tickets to overseas travelers who joined made up "affinity groups" to get around US restrictions on charter flights.

The authorities got wise, but only after some strange scenes at Gatwick Airport in London, in which, according to London's Daily Telegraph, Sir Freddie "turned up with his lawyer and a Bible, and passengers were asked to swear allegiance to their make-believe clubs."

Sir Freddie was one of the last of the colorful characters of aviation. Now only Sir Richard Branson is left to inspire the industry.... the rest are bean counters.

Monday, February 13, 2006


I saw a fellow walking a Whippet dog this afternoon and I thought immediately of my late friend Harry. I miss Harry. I wish you could have all known him, he was unique.

I met Harry through a mutual friend and we hit it off immediately; you know, just one of those people you immediately trust, immediately like and want to include in your circle.

To have seen Harry was to love him.... all of 5ft5, maybe 120lbs, big glasses, whispy moustache and goatee, odd shaped ears and a voice that rivaled Gilbert Gottfried (you know the gravel voice commedian). He was almost gnome like in appearance. But it is always what is inside that counts and with that, Harry was as handsome as a Hollywood leading man.

Harry was a florist, and a damn good one. He operated a little shop downtown that was really more of an outlet for his projects than a walk in shop to get a pre-made bouquet for your sweetie. His clients were the most wealthy and powerful in town. Harry's arrangements graced banquets for the sports teams, notable weddings and events, the Opera and Symphony, funerals and parties. Once, for a winter wedding, he went to the airport at 4am to meet a cargo plane that had his shipment of iris flown in from South America for a bride who insisted on iris for a December wedding. She got it, and it was spectacular. I loved to stop by his shop and chat with him while he worked. He was a total master at making flowers do his bidding. Once, after finishing a project, he bundled the scraps and rejects into a huge bouquet and gave it to me. It was a sight to behold, I took it to the office where everyone oohed and ahhed over what they thought had to be hundreds of dollars worth of flowers..I let them think I was generous!

Harry's house was a showplace. It was 1/2 an older duplex on what was for years an un-named street in south KC, more of an alley way than street. Even though he rented the place, he made it his own. He bricked the driveway and created an elaborate stone and brick patio with leafy trellises, orchids everywhere and little Zen bells in all the trees. The small property was landscaped with gardens, fountains and a huge water garden. He called me one morning when he was installing the water garden..ok imagine a gravel, cigarette smoke tinged voice.... "Donnie, I have the FUCKING Titanic in my back yard, its ASS sticking up in the air like it is looking for DICK. OH my GAWWD!!!" Harry always had a way with words... He had sunk the empty pond liner but over night it had rained. The water level rose in the ground, forcing one end of the large black liner out of the ground just like the Titanic at about a 45deg angle. I still laugh about it.

Inside the house was a showplace of antiques, meticulously restored toy pedal cars from the '50s and his own original artwork. I envy people with a eye for art and decorating. Harry could look at a room and turn a K-mart special apartment into something out of Home Beautiful.

Harry had special names for everyone, if you were dubbed Uncle or Auntie, then you knew you were part of the family. I was Uncle Donnie, his old high school friend was Uncle Ums (actually Greg but Harry called him Uncle Gregums so it stuck with him), Auntie Pam, Uncle Al, Auntie O (short for Oletha),Uncle Donuts ( I don't even remember his name and I see him around town occasionally. He was Harry's neighbor and rather a big fellow. One day he was leaving for work and was taking a couple of donuts with him. Donuts forgot something and went in the house, leaving his car door open and the donuts sitting on the seat. As luck would have it, Harry let his dogs out who immediately made a bee line to the open door and scarfed down the donuts...thus Uncle Donuts was born) and Little Sister (not his sister but a young gay fellow he had known for years..I don't remember his name either).

Harry had two Whippet dogs who were his pride and joy. Neon, a rather surly female and Winston, a younger male. Both were absolutely gorgeous dogs, he paid a small fortune for both of them. His first Whippet Devo (get it you punk music fans?? the group Devo had a song called "Whip It") died at the age of 12 from Cancer. He was a show winner and a wonderful dog. Winston would do anything to annoy Neon who would then proceed to be a bitch for the rest of the day. They were fun to watch. I wonder who got the dogs?

Harry was an entertainer, his parties were legendary. In 2003 I was living in St Louis and was visiting KC one early spring weekend. I stopped by unannounced to see if he was home on my way out of town. He was having a cook out with Uncle Al, Auntie Pam, Little Sister and Uncle Ums. There was no question that I was to join them as a glass of wine was thrust at me, a fish filet was prepared and put on the grill (he had procured some fresh tilapia) and I was told to sit. I got back to St Louis much later than planned.

I was glad I stayed, it was the last time I saw him. At the cookout, he introduced me to some one who had entered his life, Helen. I immediately hated that bitch Helen with a passion. Helen was not much of a lady, or even a decent human. She was a tumor... a huge malignant tumor growing on Harry's short thin neck. I was not surprised Harry had cancer, he smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish. I was also not surprised Harry named his tumor, he named eveything else. The prognosis was good he said, don't worry.

A couple weeks later Harry called me and told me he and Helen were not getting along and were getting a divorce. I was not surprised as I knew it was a marriage made in Hell. Like many divorces, it was bitter and not easy; Helen was not going away quiet. I talked to him on the phone a couple of times but since Helen was grabbing him by the throat, his already raspy voice was almost gone. Our conversations were brief. I then sent cards but never talked to him again.

As we got busy with trying to survive we tend tp forget important things, so I lost track of him. I called a couple times but no one answered. I figured he was sick and hoped the messages got through.

I heard from a friend that he had died. I wonder what became of Neon and Winston. I should look up Uncle Donuts.

I wish you could have all known Harry, you would have loved him and would have all had new names. Here's to you Harry... wherever you are. I am sure the flowers are fabulous and the wine is flowing.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Self Control

There must be a wonderful little gene or something that gives us self control. The ability to not shout obscenities in church, rip our clothes off on the bus or reach out and slap someone for no reason. I am glad I have this little gene or whatever, it keeps me out of trouble. I am sure some people do not have it, hence some of the activities described above do take place. I would imagine those doing so end up in some sort of home or prison.

I had to take a hammer and tap out a planter that had gotten stuck in the decorative well head outside the Towers. As I carried it I pondered all the mayhem I could do with one little claw hammer. Smash the windows in the entrance stairs, I hate them as they get dirty easy and are a pain to clean, dent the hood of Mr F's Mercedes Benz and put an end to the dirty front wheels of the thing (really! a M-B with oily, dirty wheels, but I have seen others like his with the same problem, so they deserve to be broken), oh the glitter of broken auto glass, dented hoods of all the people who annoy me!!! SMASH! BANG! Go inside and splinter the furniture, hammer the brass railing into a little brass ball, broken tile, a claw through the art work! PLUNDER!!! PILLAGE!!! ROAR!!!!!!!!!

The little gene holds me back and I gently tap on the side of the planter that is loosens and is pulled out. The hammer is returned to its place and all the glass is intact. I am not fired, arrested or put in the nuthouse. Thank you genetics.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Ultimate Flight

I have been following the dramatic flight of the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer, Steve Fossett's attempt to break the record for longest flight without refueling. The previous record was set in 1986 with the Voyager piloted by 2 pilots Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager. Rutan and Yeager completed their journey landing at Edwards Air Force Base on December 23, 1986. Their 24,986-mile trip had taken 9 days or a little more than 216 hours. I remember the landing being broadcast on either WHYY or KYW radio in Philadelphia, where I was living at the time. It was a remarkable achievement, doubling the previous record of 12,000 some miles in a B-52.

Fossett, who holds just about every aviation record imaginable, traveled 26,389 miles and had a flight duration of 76 hours 45 minutes. Around the world in 80 hours, instead of 80 days.

The Global Flyer's flight was eventful. A fuel leak caused over 750gal of fuel to be lost on takeoff, thus making the margin of error razor thin. Poor winds made several course adjustments necessary. Just short of the designated landing site at Kent International Airport, Manston UK, the Global Flyer's generator failed. Fossett was forced to declare an emergency and diverted to Bournemouth Airport.

I was watching the real time flight tracker and noticed he had suddenly shifted course to the south. With no other update other than the flight tracker, I along with many I suppose, were bewildered by the change. Maybe a circle to better descend, as he had been flying at over 51,000 ft., maybe a crash?? No, he was still moving. It then appeared he was landing at Bournemouth. I figured fuel was an issue. Not until everyone was on the ground did they update on the emergency and the diversion.

Still an incredible achievement. He could have landed in Ireland and still broken the record.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

I Say "falafel "...He Says "fill-a-fell"

Since I work and live in the same building, I frequently (really too often for my budget) go out to eat. At the end of the day, when the door to the condos is locked and the light in the little office goes out, I am ready for a change of scenery.

It was a particularly busy day and I was also cranking out some work for my HR consulting gig I have. So about 7:30 I decided that it was time to get out a bit. Besides, being lazy, I had not been to the grocery store and thus I had nothing substantial to eat in the house.

I went to one of my longtime favorite haunts, Jerusalem Cafe in the Westport area, not too far from me and actually within walking distance. I took the Queen Mary, walking there at night is risky and it is cold, even though parking is a mess.

The Cafe was not too busy so I hunkered in and ordered, perusing the latest issue of the local alternative newspaper, The Pitch. A few minutes after I was seated and before my plate of feta cheese, kalamata olives, onion and tomato arrived, a few young men began to arrive and sit at the largest table. One got up and went to the restroom. Pranced more like it. My gaydar (the ability to detect a fellow "family" member) went off. The table began to fill and the red-headed prancer returned to the table. He shook hands with another fellow who had arrived and they all began to chat. He ordered a Pepsi, not tea or diet but a Pepsi... that is odd. Maybe not.

My dinner arrived, a wonderful chicken kebob with a great small Greek style salad and rice. I got immersed in to eating when I noticed the overworked waiter heading for the guys' table. They began to order.

The suspect looked up at the waiter and said, "I'm gonna try the Fall-a-fell dinner..." That clinched it, he is not gay. No gay fellow would pronounce Falafel "Fall-a-fell". So I guess the ol' gaydar needs some adjusting...or I need to redefine my stereotypes!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

It is Official

It's official...the USA is fucked up:


No wonder US students don't learn and academically fall behind most of the world. We worry about harassment more than if they learn anything. Good God, I did that when I was 6, as did we all. No wonder the US prisons are full of sex offenders; anymore any sex or talk is an offense. If I were a parent, I would be afraid to talk to my kids about sex. What if they said something to the neighbor kid and he/she said something to his/her parents. And they decided it was wrong and called the cops or Family Service.

We are sexaphobic, thanks to the over influence of Religion and a long Puritan tradition. I do not see much hope for same sex marriage and gay/lesbian rights here as long as sex in general is such an issue.

Someone once said:

"In the great emigration from England in the 1600's, the US got the religious puritans and Australia got the convicts. I think Australia got the better end of the deal"

I have to agree!

Bush Bashing Roundup

I didn't have the time to watch much of the funeral of Coretta Scott King, but I did read with glee that Bush's hypocricy in attending was noted by many of the speakers. This article from the LA times gives a good over view:


I would have loved to have been an invited guest to the service and watch Bushie squirm. The Right Wingers cry "Shame!" to dare policize a funeral. They forget Reagan's... They forget, the regular outlets for dissent, papers, TV news (watched FOX news lately??)even NPR have been silenced by the intimidation.

Donna Brazile, a prominent Democratic strategist said the criticism of Bush was part of a tradition in the civil rights movement of "speaking truth to power." Bush "took it in the spirit of the moment," she said, "which was a testament to who Coretta Scott King was." I honestly doubt Bush is that smart. If he indeed heard the truth, he didn't realize it; he won't change.

Rev. Joseph Lowery, with nothing to lose, let it rip: "She deplored the terror inflicted by our smart bombs on missions way afar," Lowery said. "We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there. But Coretta knew, and we knew, that there are weapons of misdirection right down here. Millions without health insurance. Poverty abounds. For war, billions more, but no more for the poor."

We need a change, but if the Amercian people do not get out and vote, then the machine of the Right Wing will march on....

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Bush Rants

Been awhile since I bashed the Emperor, so here are a couple:

Day 1, "Conserve". Day 2: Fly in a jet all over the country with a motorcade of Suburbans and limousines.

In his state of the union address President Bush said America is addicted to oil. He should know. In order to decrease our dependence on foreign oil, maybe the Emperor can set an example by staying in Washington more. Or maybe even Texas. When he flies around the country boosting his agenda, he not only uses Air Force One but usually a C-5 or two accompany him. His useless jaunts for staged, invitation only events consumes vast quantities of fuel and energy... at tax payers expense. When people are deciding between staying warm or eating, it's time to tell him to go home and stay home.

I also noted his hypocritical attendance at Coretta Scott King's funeral. Could you just hear the dialog on that one?? "Do I have to??" he whines. "She is for justice, inclusion and for poor people, things I can't stand. She is a Democrat likely, and there will be gay people there...oooh I might get AIDS.."

Bet the jerk was squirming the whole time.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Dowager Queen

It is a common belief that 1 human year is equal to 7 dog years. That is not very accurate, since dogs reach adulthood within the first couple of years. The formula actually is 10.5 dog years per human year for the first 2 years, then 4 dog years per human year for each year after.

I wonder if automobiles age the same way?? If so the Queen Mary, my good ol' 1988 Lincoln Town Car would be around 81. That sounds a little too old, actually. She has a lot of life left in her but she is frayed around the edges, her beauty worn with time. You can still see the elegant, formal lines, the restrained power, like a muscled bicep under a silk sleeve. Being a Signature Series, she was almost top of the line in 1988, the epitome of luxury. Only the limited production Cartier with special paint and trim was costlier. She was well equipped as well, lacking some of the electronic doo-dads but having all the luxury none-the-less. I can imagine her as a debutante, I bet she was spectacular, the belle of the showroom.

I looked at her in a parking lot last nite, dwarfing the plastic pretenders of today. Parked deliberately next to a hybrid Toyota Prius, she did look like the Queen Mary next to a Jon Boat. And the 80's models were actually downsized from the USS Enterprise Class '70's models!

I am reminded of the wonderful ee cummings poem:

she being Brand

-new;and you
know consequently a
little stiff i was
careful of her and(having

thoroughly oiled the universal
joint tested my gas felt of
her radiator made sure her springs were O.

K.)i went right to it flooded-the-carburetor cranked her

up,slipped the
clutch(and then somehow got into reverse she
kicked what
the hell)next
minute i was back in neutral tried and

again slo-wly;bare,ly nudg. ing(my

lev-er Right-
oh and her gears being in
A 1 shape passed
from low through
second-in-to-high like
greasedlightning)just as we turned the corner of Divinity

avenue i touched the accelerator and give

her the juice,good


was the first ride and believe i we was
happy to see how nice she acted right up to
the last minute coming back down by the Public
Gardens i slammed on

brakes Bothatonce and

brought allofher tremB
to a:dead.


Going to take a ride now, seeyooooooooooooulaterrrrrrrrrrrrrr.................

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Verklarte Nacht

WOW! Those who know me will know I do not use that expression a lot. For whatever reason, I am not easily impressed by many things. I guess my personality and life experiences have ingrained a bit of cynicism in me. Therefore for me to say WOW twice now about last night's Kansas City Symphony concert means a lot.

The concert was demanding in and of itself: Schoenberg's Verklarte Nacht, Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and the Ravel Daphnis and Chloe Suite #2.

Schoenberg's early pre-dodacaphonic work, is a lush, hyper-romantic work, full of complex chromaticism and detailed sound images. The work closely follows a poem by the German poet Richard Dehmel. A large except of the poem was printed in the score and also in the program notes for the concert:

"Two people walk through the bare, cold woods; the moon runs along, they gaze at it. The moon runs over tall oaks, no cloudlet dulls the heavenly light into which the black peaks reach. A woman's voice speaks:

"I bear a child, but not by you. I walk in sin alongside you. I sinned against myself mightily. I believed no longer in good fortune but still had mighty longing for a full life, mother's joy and duty; then I grew shameless, then horror-stricken, I let my sex be taken by a stranger and even blessed myself for it. Now life has taken its revenge: Now I have met you.'

"She walks with clumsy gait. She gazes upward; the moon runs along. Her somber glance drowns in the light. A man's voice speaks:

"'The child that you conceived be to your soul no burden. Oh look, how clear the universe glitters! There is a glory around All, you drift with me on a cold sea, but a peculiar warmth sparkles from you in me, from me in you. It will transfigure the strange child you will bear for me, from me; you brought the glory into me, you made myself into a child.'

"He holds her around her strong hips. Their breath kisses in the air. Two people walk through the high, light night."

Thus the work, originally written for 6 strings in pairs (Vioin, Viola and Cello) journeys from confused agitation, darkness and remorse to redemption, acceptance and light. Stern obviously loves the music, as his illustrated talk before the performance revealed. The talk was informative (even to me who had heard the piece in the chamber version life several times but never the string orchestra version) and likely necessary, as I am sure most of the audience had never heard the piece and were probably afraid of it. The Symphony strings were lush but clear, thus illustrating the chamber music origins of the piece. Maybe a touch more heft was needed in the cellos at the climactic D-major chord representing the revelation of love and redemption, the transfiguring moment of the piece, but that is a minor quibble. This performance held up to any recorded performance I have heard, easily bettering Karajan's mushy classic performance. The audience was quite impressed as well, hopefully changing some minds about this somewhat neglected masterwork.

No illustrative talk was needed for Rachmaninoff's popular Rhapsody. The soloist was Yuja Wang, a 19 yr old student at the Curtis institute of Music in Philadelphia. She appeared as part of a relationship between Curtis and the Symphony to introduce some of their top talent.

I have to admit some of my prejudice (we all have them so get over it); were we going to hear another oriental wunderkind, full of technique and ability to get all the notes but not having a lick of musicality? When Leon Fleisher played the Beethoven Emperor here at the opening concert, it was obvious he was not back to his prime form. The long period of his disability and the ravages of time showed. But the communication and the courage of the artist triumphed despite numerous technical flaws. Give me Alfred Cortot's wrong notes but incredible phrasing and lyricism in Chopin and Fleisher's ability to communicate the music over some technocrat anyday.

This prejudice was blown away immediately by Wang's lovely lyricism and deep understanding of this technically challenging piece. Her phrasing was lyrical and her technique used to illustrate the lively rhythm and form of the piece. The introduction of the Latin Hymn Dies Irae, often jarring in some performances, was handled with just the right amount of dread and foreboding. She handled the famous 18th Variation very well but I did long here for a bit more fluidity and grace, the only point where I thought her attention to technique overwhelmed the lyricism. Some of her pedaling was not crisp and I wished for a more bolder presence when Rachmaninoff pitted the piano against his robust orchestra. The orchestra's balance or the acoustics of the hall may have played a part in this extremely minor quibble.
All I can say is WOW!

The concert concluded with a spirited performance of the Ravel Daphnis and Chloe suite. Stern showed his deep understanding of French music and love of Ravel. The winds were excellent and the orchestra never sounded better. He whipped up a joyous frenzy in the final Danse Generale, bringing this incredible evening to a close.

A couple friends of mine who normally join me at the concerts missed it last night. Their loss. When they ask how it was, I'll respond, WOW,it was a transfigured night. Let them figure it out.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Who's Afraid Of Opera?

Apparently some parents and 9 year olds. In a moment, I'll share the latest episode in Closed-minded Fundies Follies.

Everyday, I wake up, read the news and then shake my head in dismay. Why??? Why I ask are we fighting these stupid battles when the big issues of government corruption, treason at the highest levels, job loss, environmental damage and lack of healthcare get a shrug from our leaders and the public at large? Why does religious fundamentalism equal stupidity? Maybe our complex world is forcing people to adopt rigid ideology so they don't have to think. Simple, unquestionable solutions to complex problems. Mind pablum.

The latest:

Tressa Waggoner, a music teacher in Colorado ignited the ire of local closed minded parents by showing students a videotape with excepts from Gounod's Faust, the Denver Post reports.

These parents demanded she be fired after she showed approximately twelve minutes of Faust during a music lesson. The videotape, part of a 33-year-old series titled "Who's Afraid of Opera?," features soprano Joan Sutherland and a group of puppets.

According to the parents, watching the 147-year-old French opera, in which Mephistopheles persuades Faust to sell his soul for to win back his youth, gave several of the students nightmares. Notice that images and stories of an illegal war does not give them nightmares. And who planted the idea in their young minds that Mephistopheles was really Satan, the devil behind all evil such as liberalism, welfare and Hillary Clinton?

One mother, whose 9-year-old daughter saw the video, reported that she thought it "glorifies Satan in some way." Notice she is not sure how, but because Satan is there, it has to be liberal evil, someway.

Another mother thought that it may not have been age appropriate but didn't think it should have been blown out of proportion. Mind not totally closed...

School officials investigated the incident and Waggoner sent a letter of apology. She is not in danger of losing her job.

The students, however, are in danger of becoming another generation of closed minded, intellectually challenged individuals. Unfortunately, some may be our future leaders...

UPDATE: Apparently it is much worse than imagined. See the article from Playbill Arts

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Cartoon Wars

The Islamic world continues to throw a tantrum over the publication in a Danish newspaper of cartoons that dared to depict the Prophet Muhammed, a serious blasphemy in Islam. The war of retaliation, words and deeds escalates by the day.

"Because no religious dogma can impose its view on a democratic and secular society, France Soir publishes the incriminated cartoons," So said France Soir editor Serge Faubert. Under a headline "Yes, we have the right to caricature God", France Soir ran a front page cartoon with Buddha, the Christian and Jewish Gods and Prophet Muhammad sitting on a cloud above Earth, with the Christian God saying: "Don't complain Muhammad, we've all been caricatured here."

Papers all through Europe along with France Soir published the cartoons. France Soir's editor was fired, shortly thereafter... caving in to the hoopla.

"There is no right to protection from satire in the West; there is a right to blasphemy." So said the editor of a German Newspaper.

When the West dares to talk to Islamic countries about uptholding human rights, executing teenagers for being gay, dismay at the whipping girls for not showing respect for a man, for summary executions and mutliations, for free elections and ceasing funding terror, Islam slams the door in its face. Don't dare lecture us, poor downtrodden Islam, they whine.

Islam, as it is practiced in most of the Muslim world, is racist, homophobic, backward and sexist. It scares me to think what this world would be like if Islam ruled. Too bad, as the Koran is a wonderful book, full of peace and understanding. Like Christianity, it has been perverted. But perverted in even a more pervasive way. Christian fanatics are loud but thankfully are curtailed in a secular society. The US is moving away from that, slowly but perceptably. But in the Muslim non secular society, the radicals rule with an iron fist.

The West is seeing a serious escalation of intolerance and discrimination against Muslims while unequal treatment of religious minorities in the Middle East, is well documented, and instutionalized.

I have to agree with the Europeans on this. The world should not have to 'walk on eggshells whenever the topic of Islam is discussed either in good light or bad.

Adventures in Cupcake Land

Here in the Kansas City metro area, the desirable location for the upper class and the upper middle class folks is Johnson County, Kansas. Some refer to it as "Cupcake Land" or even better "Cupcake County".

JOCO, as it is also known, is new and sprawling, full of shops, the newest chain restaurants, and strip malls galore. One on every corner just about. Speaking of corners, one of the first things I noticed about JoCo is that everyone lives on a corner, or at least tells everyone they live on a corner. "I live at 74 and Nall" (ooooooh Perfect Village, aka Prairie Village) or "135th and Quivera" (deep in Cupcake land). Every corner (the E to W streets are numbered) has its own mystique; you can tell a lot about a person from the corner they live on. Of course they do not always live on the corner, it is used solely as a reference and everyone seems to understand.

Cupcake Land bores me to tear, yet I find myself going there more than I want. I have friends who actually live in Cupcake Land, and for those of us on a budget, it is the closest locations for the discount stores such as Target and the like. But it has a certain clinical sterile feeling about it, too clean, too nice, too cute, too.... cupcake. Perfectly packaged, pretty and decorated and oh so sweet but empty of any substance. I try not to go there, but like a cupcake, you crave the sweetness and regret it later.

JoCo is largely conservative, (especially Olathe, Kaw Indian word for "Strip Mall by By the Highway") full of Republicans, rich folk who want to avoid the dirt of the inner city and church goers. Lots of Mega Churches there... lots of Mega everything in Cupcake County. They even duplicated the Plaza, KCMO's upscale historic shopping center, to avoid Cupcakers having to see panhandlers, street musicians, black folk who do not drive Mercedes Benzes and, good God Gertie, provided them plenty of free and flat parking.

After a clandestine visit to the Cupcake, I am happy to get back to the city; streets torn up, crazy drunks singing at the top of their lungs on Broadway and 39th (actually on the corner), rumbly, noisy busses and my funky Sunfresh Grocery Store. No Cupcake for me, I'll take the tiramisu, please.