Sunday, April 30, 2006

Royal Birthday

Royal Announcement
Puggingham Palace

HM's Birthday Celebrations

Today, we celebrate the 7th birthday of Puggles Duchess Windsor, Queen of Pugs, Supreme Ruler of Alaska, Princess Royal of Baltimore Place, Grand Duchess of Missouri, Grand Duchess of Kansas City and St Louis, Duchess of Illinois, Duchess of Clinton, Baroness Pugtona, Royal Order of the Greenie and Treat, Grand Order of the Scrunchie, Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Kibble, Patroness of the Royal Pugharmonic Orchestra.

By Royal Decree, all Pugs in PugVillage, Alaska, Kansas City, all places mentioned above and everywhere HM sees and rules will get extra treats in honor of the Royal Birth.

HM will be spending the day at the Palace, receiving guests and reading birthday wishes from all over the world. Later this PM, she has ordered the Limo to take her to the Three Dog Bakery for her only public appearance and to receive her customary Birthday Big Scary Kitty Cookies.

We wish HM many more birthdays and a most happy one today.
~ Palace Communications

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Creature Comforts

I have laughed my ass off at a BBC America show "Creature Comforts". I found it by accident as I was sitting with my friend Greg who is recovering from surgery at home. It features interview responses from common British citizens but spoken on screen by a variety of animals including bats, walruses, slugs, mice, pigs, amoeba, horses, cows and everything inbetween. The BBC America link above has some great clips and info on the show.

My favorite scene was a housefly discussing his favorite types of dung. Right after that, a spider was interviewed (complete with a microphone pointed at her) saying she didn't trap flies, "flies eat poo, and I don't like poo". Imagine this in a Monty Python Old English lady voice...

You gotta see it. The link has times when it is shown.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Stand and Cheer

The orchestra was obviously amateur, albeit dedicated to their craft. Strings were out of tune, the lone tuba blatted and rumbled all afternoon, making even Smetana’s “Moldau” a Concerto for Tuba. Tempi, as they were, were fluid…like molasses. A few bright spots, but overall a pretty messy affair. They said their next concert would feature the huge Mahler 3rd. I think I’ll pass on that one.

When it was all said and done, they got a standing ovation from some of the audience.


Audiences are standing and cheering for the most mediocre performances these days. Now, the less cynical will tell me that a lot of the audience members at this performance were friends, family and partisans. So they stood to cheer on their team. I guess that is fine if this was a sporting event. But to me, the standing ovation is becoming more common, and in that, cheapening and lessening its significance.

I am picky about my standing ovations. I stood and cheered the recent performance of the Mozart 41st by the KC Symphony as it was a stellar, uniquely satisfying performance. I cheered the Scheherazade a few months ago, as it was a revelation. As much as I loved the Shostakovich 10th, it did not merit me standing and cheering.

If a performance does not merit a standing ovation, then the performers and leaders consider it a failure. We have stood and cheered so much for so little that it is expected, it is the norm. It fosters mediocrity. The orchestra I heard will pat themselves on the back and not fix the problems they could easily fix. They will think they were wonderful.

I remember the first performance I was in that merited a standing ovation. It was the Trinity UMC Choir performing the Rutter Gloria. We were good, we nailed every note, and passages that were problematic came off perfectly. We wowed them, we deserved it. I have been in performances that have received ovations that were not as deserved.

I guess curbing the enthusiasm of the audience is not going to happen. And I suppose that I should be thrilled that the audiences are responding to the performances in a positive way. But I still have the nagging feeling we reward mediocrity by over demonstrating our enthusiasm. If a standing ovation is expected and the norm, then how do we truly reward the unique and sublime? Throw money I guess.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Republican Arrogance and Hypocrisy

Combined with almost unbeliveable stupidity.... why have we sunk so low as to keep these goons in office?

From Fired Up Missouri

Bill Webster was the Boy Gov prototype. He served time in prison for his crimes. Can we hope the same for BG??

Monday, April 24, 2006

Ricardo's, an End of an Era

It is hard to even say, or to comprehend. Ricardo's Bar in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua has closed. Someone else bought it; it is going to be a Sushi bar and a dive shop. Although I adore sushi, the thought of this practically hallowed place closed is not possible. I hate change.

Ricardo's was a thatched roofed beach side bar and restaurant in San Juan del Sur. They were the pioneers. There before anyone else, there before the true flood of gringos and the money started coming in. For these first pioneering gringos, Ricardo's was Little North America or Little Europe. Ricardo's was a true international crossroad for artists, divas, drinkers and travelers. English spoken here (with US and Candadian accents)...and German and Spanish too. Everyone who has ever came to San Juan del Sur has set foot in Ricardo's, even if they didn't drink. The restaurant was a joy; great hamburgers, lasagna, or wonderful seafood spaghetti. Thankfully on my last trip to San Juan del Sur, I had some of Marie's fabulous Espaghetti Mariscos with fresh fish, clams, lobster and shrimp.... all for $6.

Rich and poor, Gringo and Nica, it mattered not on movie nights when a big sheet would be hung across the back of the building, and the latest (sort of) DVD would be shown for free. Ricardo's even functioned as a library, they had a book exchange scheme, swap 1 for 2 or 1 for 1+US$2 was the deal. They would arrange tours and make sure you had plenty to do while you were in San Juan del Sur. For many, it was a touch of "home".

But Marie and Ricardo have moved on, Marie back to Austria for a while and Ricardo building houses is just not the way things are supposed to be. Ricardo's Bar and Grill closed its doors officially on April 22. According to Cesar " was an incredible send off for everyone. It was more fun than sad. There was a US $10 entrance fee and you get a tee shirt with that. The T-shirt sale proceeds go to the construction of a vetinary clinic. The drinks and food were included in the price, but it was invitation only. They auctioned a lot of the pictures and memorabilia from the walls and ceilings. The proceeds from the auction went to the newly formed fire department of SJdS." You can see some pictures at Cesar's gallery: "Last Night At Ricardo's"

Corny to say, but thanks for the memories...and all the Nica Libres... Marie and Richard!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Tunnel Vision in Omaha

A few years ago, a lady at my church, who happened to also be an ordained minister and professor of theology, was relating a story about one of her colleagues. This other lady, who was Black, was asked to give a talk on racism or something to that effect. "I don't know why they always ask a Black person to talk about racism" my church friend quoted her colleague, "racism is a white person's problem." I of course could not shut up and said," I certainly disagree and I feel that your friend is racist by making that statement". My comment was met with stony silence.

Racism is racism, sexism is sexism, every prejudice is shared by both parties in the room. Omaha, NE is seeing that first hand in the raging battle over school district boundaries. Racism on all sides prevail, stupidity reins, tunnel vision is the norm... and the kids and poor suffer.

A Black state senator and constant critic of the city, says families in predominantly Black neighborhoods of northeast Omaha don't want their schools controlled by mostly white administrators who hire mostly white teachers. He arranged a law that has divided the city schools along racial lines. Can you imagine what the reaction would be if a white or Hispanic legislator did that? But he feels this is not racist. Look in the mirror honey, you are a racist.

Legal experts, the NAACP, and most people with a brain think that the new law is unconstitutional and smacks of "separate but equal" policies outlawed when the U.S. Supreme Court ordered desegregation in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education.

However, The Omaha Star, a black-owned newspaper, published an editorial saying the new law was not such a bad idea and could provide more resources and local control. "This concept that black kids can't be successfully educated unless they are around white kids is in and of itself patently racist and illogical." Racism. Maybe I want my schools controlled by my people and I think that is racist and illogical that my kids would be better educated among students different than them. "That is racist", I would be told. The screaming and wailing would be deafening.

The man behind this is angry we are told. "I've a reason to be." He recalled growing up in mostly white Omaha schools where one teacher read aloud Little Black Sambo, prompting chuckles from his classmates. Get over it doll face, ASAP. I guess I should be angry.. I was intimidated and threatened by black students in High school, shoving and hitting their way down the hallway. The only crime committed against me was by a black person. I guess I can have a reason to be an angry racist.

Tunnel vision prevails, names are called, a "not me" attitude prevails... and still Johnny can't read.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Walking for a Purpose

The 18th, yes 18th annual Kansas City AIDS walk was held today. And for about the 6th or 7th time I participated. In 2006 there are more than 4,500 people living with HIV/AIDS in Kansas City alone. I know several of them; some attend my church, some I sing with in the Men's Chorus. Some live in my neighborhood, some I pass by on the street.

HIV/AIDS used to mean an immediate death sentence, like Larry Price, Marc Hein or J. P. Mc Dermott. But now thanks in large part to the efforts of AIDS walks all over the country, research can be funded, people can get the care they need at little or no cost, people with AIDS can get support in food, housing and jobs. HIV+ people are living longer, and living well. I know at least 4 HIV+ men who work daily, live an active life and in many ways look healthier than I do.

But still we walk. Just because the victims of AIDS are living longer does not mean the battle is over and we have won. According to AIDS Walk KC stats, 700 of the 4,500 HIV+ people in KC are between 12 and 24 yrs old.

I am tired, but pleased at the $1500 our church raised. I am sure the total for the walk will net around $300,000 for the wonderful agencies in KC who struggle with cut budgets and increased apathy about AIDS and HIV.

I am sure those of us who care, those of us touched by this horrible disease will be walking for a long time.

I walked:

In honor of two brave men: Daniel Schaunamann and Michael Highfill
In memory of two fine gentlemen: J.P. MC Dermott and Larry Price

Friday, April 21, 2006

Brokeback Mountain Grocery List

Weekly Grocery Lists for Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist
Brokeback Mountain, Summer 1963

Week 1:

* Beans
* Bacon
* Coffee
* Whiskey

Week 2:

* Beans
* Ham
* Coffee
* Whiskey

Week 3:

* Organic Pinto Beans
* Thin-sliced Pepper Bacon
* Hazelnut Coffee
* Sky vodka and Tanqueray gin

Week 4:

* Cuban Black Beans
* Pancetta
* Shade Grown Coffee (espresso grind)
* 5-6 bottles best Chardonnay

Week 5:

* Fresh fava beans
* Jasmine rice
* Prosciutto, approx. 8 ounces, thinly sliced
* Medallions of veal
* Porcini mushrooms
* 1/2 pint fresh cream
* 1 Cub Scout uniform, size 42 long
* 5-6 bottles French Bordeaux (estate reserve)

Week 6

* Yukon Gold potatoes
* Heavy whipping cream
* White Asparagus (very thin)
* Free Range eggs
* Spanish lemons
* Double Boiler for Hollandaise Sauce
* Gruyere cheese (well-aged)
* Chopped English walnuts
* Arugula
* Clarified Butter
* Extra virgin olive oil
* Pure balsamic vinegar
* 1 Kenneth Cole Tuxedo, 42 long
* 6 yards white silk organdy
* 6 yards pale ivory taffeta
* 3 cases Dom Perignon Masters Reserve

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Roy Harris: An American Also Ran

The 20th century was the United States' first chance to develop a true "American" musical sound in the world of Classical Music. In the 19th century, the country had been too undeveloped and focused on an agrarian economy to develop great art schools. Symphony Orchestras were just being formed, NY Philharmonic in 1842 and Boston Symphony 1881 for example. The west and Midwest cities were still too small to really have the base for great ensembles; Chicago waited until 1891 for example. The Civil War disrupted the south for decades. Most composers living in America in the 19th century were trained in Europe and wrote mostly church music. Symphonic composers were few and far between. If there were any, they wrote in a strictly European (read German) style.

Thus it fell to composers born around the turn of the century to create an American musical tradition and demonstrate it to the world.

Two men, Aaron Copland and Roy Harris, have frequently been mentioned as the "Quintessential American Composer". Copland's claim of that title is mostly assured. Harris, on the other hand, is destined to be an also ran.

Harris was one of the first to even be born as a "quintessential American". Unlike Copland who grew up in New York and spent a lot of his youth in Europe, Harris was born LeRoy Harris, supposedly in a log cabin in Oklahoma Territory in 1898. He grew up in California and studied music there privately. Only in his late 20s did he go to New York and study in Europe with Nadia Boulanger who seemed to have taught every American Composer. By then Copland, 2 years younger, had already made a name for himself.

Copland's musical style evolved as he matured and lived until 1990. Starting out in the brash modern style of the early 20s, he evolved in to the more classical American Period with classics such as "Appalachian Spring", "Rodeo", "Fanfare for the Common Man" and the Symphony # 3. In the late 50s and 60s, he ventured into the more austere 12 tone system. After 1962, he wrote little and spent his last years conducting and turning out a few small scale works.

Harris (1898-1979), on the other hand, stayed mostly in a tonal sound world His compositions frequently incorporated folk music (the tune "Johnny Comes Marching Home" is used frequently) or at least folk-inspired themes. His orchestration is heavy with lots of brass and wind with the same "open" and "expansive" sound as Copland's middle works. His themes tended to be short and declamatory. "Stentorian" is a adjective often used to describe his sound.

His catalog of works is extensive. He was quite prolific with 16 (some say 18) symphonies and many choral, band and chamber works. However, by 1950 his best work lay behind him. His later works were not met with scorn but more with a casual dismissal. His 9th Symphony from 1962 is regarded as his last successful symphony. The remainder especially the Abraham Lincoln #10 and the Bicentennial #13 are regarded as failures. His catalog is also rather disordered with many incomplete or rearranged works. Hungry for performances, he seemed to arrange his works to fit the players: "you want to perform my Violin Concerto with a solo bassoon and 10 pianos?- NO problem!"

His undisputed masterpiece is the Third Symphony of 1938. Harris reused material from a problematic and ultimately unfinished Violin Concerto to create his one true success. It was commissioned by National Symphony Orchestra of Washington DC but premiered by Boston under Koussevitzky. They had collaborated on the 2nd Symphony but they had a falling out over the work. Harris showed the 3rd to Koussevitsky, hoping to reestablish a relationship with the influential conductor. It was a success, and was ultimately recorded by Koussevitzky. Toscanini conducted it with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. It is a powerful, cogent and organic 1 movement work that never loses interest. Not a single note is out of place and it lasts not a second longer than it should. Although there are no outright folk songs (he left that for the more prosaic but somewhat popular Symphony # 4 "Folksong" for chorus and orchestra) the work is totally American in sound and spirit and filled with that naive and brash "can-do", energetic mentality that characterized so many American works of the 30s-50s. There are 5 distinct sections that the composer designated as "Tragic", "Lyric", "Pastoral" "Fugue-Dramatic" and "Tragic-Dramatic". The Naxos label has recently released a new recording by the Colorado Symphony under Marin Alsop. The third gets a good performance, nicely balanced and well paced. It does not displace Bernstein's classic performance on Sony for drama and organic power. But for the price, it is a highly recommended listening experience.

This 3rd is coupled with the 4th "Folksong" which is receiving its first recording since 1960. That Golschmann recording is still available through ArchivCD at ArchivMusic

Actually more of a choral suite than a symphony, the work is based on popular and familiar folk songs such as "Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie", "Streets Of Laredo", "The Girl I Left Behind Me" and of course "Johnny Comes Marching Home". Not having ever heard the piece before I can not comment on the merits of it vis a vis the Golschmann. It sounds more like a piece an amateur ensemble would perform for a Fourth of July concert. Nothing to offend, nothing to recommend. Maybe familiarity breeds contempt? We eagerly listen to European works based on Folk songs or folk-like melodies (Mahler, Bartok, Shotakovich... to name 3)but this work seems second tier.

Strangely, The Naxos recording is not available here in the states yet. Even more odd as it is a part of the "American Classics" series. A while back I had an email exchange with an officer of the Naxos company about the US market being "second class" as new releases are often delayed here while available elsewhere. He denied it, but here is more evidence in my book. I got my copy from MDT in the UK.

Interesting music, but unfortunately Harris' sound and his uneven output make him an "also ran" after Copland,Gershwin and Mennin, even William Schuman.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Politics... as usual

The US INjustice system is so politically tainted it is scary. Political prosecutors go after cases just to prove they are "strong". The case in Durham and Duke University is a case in point as this CBS News story points out.

Get ready for another soap opera where everyone loses.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


There is great joy in the aquatic world, Neptune is rejoicing! If the governor agrees, the Humuhumunukunukuapuaa will be the State Fish of Hawaii once again. It seems when the Hawaiian legislature named the Humuhumunukunukuapuaa the state fish a few years ago, there was a quirk in the law which allowed the designation to expire. So all the while everyone thought the Humuhumunukunukuapuaa was the state fish, technically it was not. The designation actually expired in 1990. The poor Humuhumu for short, was a Fish Without Title, a Minister Without Portfolio, a King Without a Kingdom and a Prophet Without Honor it its own land. Judging from the photos, the name Humuhumunukunukuapuaa is longer than the fish.

So, happily the title will soon be restored to the lovely Humuhumunukunukuapuaa and all will be well in Neptune's Kingdom.

Why did I post this? I love typing Humuhumunukunukuapuaa.

Happy Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Day to all!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Congrats to KC's Chen Yi

The annual Pulitzer Prizes for journalism, fiction, drama, and music were announced today. It was great to hear that Kansas City's Chen Yi had been nominated for the Pulitzer in music for her "Si Ji" (Four Seasons). I am anxious to hear this piece in next seasons KC Symphony concerts.

Congratulations Professor Chen!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

An Easter Greeting


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Boy-Gov Is Being Investigated

It has been a while since I bashed the idiot Boy-Gov Mattie Blunt. He continues to be clueless and one of the least popular Governors in the country, along with Gov Blanco of LA, Ahhnold, and Scandal Ridden Taft of Ohio. The Kansas City Star reported today that the FBI is investigating the Blunt administration for their scheme of appointing licence fee agents. Bluntie Boy closed a lot of the state run licence agencies and went to the privately owned fee agents. Most of them went to his cronies.

The investigation is being handled by Bud Cummins, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas and unfortunately a Bushie appointee. Cummins has been a U. S. Attorney in Arkansas since 2001. According to the Star article, he is a former legal counsel to Governor Huckabee of Arkansas. Again not a good sign. We can only hope this man is impartial and of high integrity. His job should not be too hard, Bluntie is not smart enough. BUT, the Republican Machine can surely do its handiwork and make sure Mr. Cummins' is stifled at all levels.

At least it made me happy on a Saturday AM!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday?

It is Good Friday, one of the most venerated days in the Christian Calendar. The day on which it is said the Romans executed Christ. Many Christians feel this act, this full sacrifice of Jesus Christ, is the greatest love anyone has ever expressed for Humankind. One Christian writer put it as this:

"All of this was done for you and me. The cross is not an example of victimization, it is demonstration of a love that nobody on this earth can comprehend. The cross is not an example of powerlessness, it is the love offering of the strongest, most powerful, most courageous human being that ever walked the face of the earth. The cross is not an example of a martyr dying for a cause, it is God come in the flesh,becoming a bloody sacrifice for His creatures."

So where did it all go wrong?

How has religion become the most negative, dare I say evil force in the world today?

It tears us apart as race. "My god is greater than your god" fuels the hate and violence that is leading this world into destruction. Islamic murderers (not all fanatics but many just ordinary folks, many even kids) scream "God is Great" as they murder to advance their religion. A division between Catholics and Protestants dating back years (most probably can not tell you why it even started) rips Ireland apart. Look at the "ethnic cleansing" of the Former Yugoslavia, done along religious lines, whole villages wiped off the earth. The fighting over Israel is all about control of the "Holy City" of Jerusalem. The combatants, if they stopped and thought, all from the same "family".

In the US, the Christian movement seem to be behind every negative, divisive and regressive act. The church in the US is still the most segregated institutuion in the country. Religious leaders fought racial civil rights tooth and nail. They publicly believe differently now, but I wonder how many are just going through the motions? They still do not allow equal rights for women to be in the constiution but want to ban gay marriage in the constitution.

The US Christian movement is so filled with hypocrisy that it would be almost funny if they were not actively destroying lives and careers. They cling to the "every human life is precious" mantra when opposing abortion and stem cell research but gleefully support state sanctioned murder with the death penalty. They can't see beyond their Bibles to see that stem cell research can save lives. The United Methodist Church preaches "Open Minds, Open Hearts and Open Doors" but conducts "trials" against clergy who bless same sex unions and defrock those who have same sex relationships. The Episcopal church is about to implode over a Gay Bishop. HELLO!!!!! There have been many Gay Bishops in the church, this one just happened to have the guts to admit it and want to live his life as God made him. He and those who voted for his election to Bishop are facing heresy charges. Heresy?? Are Witch trials next??

If you all really believe that Jesus was divine and that his words were God's words..then listen, he railed against hypocrisy and those who but law above love and compassion more than he ever did about same sex Bishops. He never ONCE mentioned same sex relationships.

There was a great scene in the TV series "Queer as Folk" a couple of seasons ago. Caution, the following contains strong language, I don't want to offend..yes I do, screw them:

A young Gay fellow took one of the show's main characters to the church he grew up in to answer the question "why are you so angry against the world"? The preacher ranted about evil Homosexuals and their agenda and condemned them using the words from Leviticus:

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination." (Leviticus 18:22)and "If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them." (Leviticus 20:13)

"I had to hear this 2-3 times a week my whole childhood while I wondered why I was attracted to men. There was not a day that passed that I wanted to kill, either him or myself" the young man admits. The young gay men leave the service and the Pastor stops them, saying he is pleased to have such "fine young men" (hummmmmmmm????) at the service:

"Excuse me Pastor"
"Yes?", he answers a bit perplexed
"Do you eat shrimp?" the young fellow asks
"Do you like shrimp? Have you ever eaten shrimp?" he asks innocently
"Yes I have eaten shrimp" the pastor responds annoyed
"Well you used Leviticus 20:13 to condemn Gay people" right? Is that to be taken literally"
"Yes, the Bible is the true Word of God, what is your point, young fellow"
"well, Leviticus also says that eating shell fish is an abomination"
"Yes......" the pastor replies highly annoyed.
"well, if you can eat shrimp, I can eat dick."

This may have been from a TV show, but it rings true. Christians, Muslims, all religions selectively use their texts to support their agendas. Parts of the Bible for example that are "inconvenient" are just ignored.

I don't have a conclusion. I have no answer. Believe it or not, I actually attend Church on a regular basis. It is with a congregation that flies in the face of the BS that the Religious establishment spews forth. We admit all, we love all, we do and help and do not condemn. We are in the minority. We are constantly afraid of being tried, convicted and put out of business.

Happy Easter.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

It Just Goes On and On and On...

See this from Today's KC Star. Why? WHY? Do idiots like this have any authority? I just don't understand this country anymore. The leaders have gone into hiding, or are hounded by the bullies.

And STILL, Johnny can't read or write or count to 5. But by God, he is critical of evolution and thinks the world is rosy and just like him.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Losing Minds in Kansas

Living close (but not in thank you, even though the word "Kansas" is in the name of my city, I live in the Missouri side) to the state of Kansas, I get a bird's eye view of all the silliness that has emerged from The Sunflower State. It almost seems that the right wing boobies have invaded the place and are bent on making it a world unto its own. Most of it comes from the crazy people they elect to office. You know, maybe those are not turnpike toll booths outside of Topeka, but mind warping devices. The most egregious perpetrators are the stupefyingly bizarre State School Board and the Out of Control Attorney General Phil Kline. Here are just a few of the recent tricks these nuts have been up to:

Kansas was thoroughly humiliated in the great "intelligent design" debate and the same school board continues to stick their nose in everything but how well students are learning.

They drug the administration of the Blue Valley School district into one of their conclaves to demand why they want students to read any book outside the Bible and "Why George Bush is Next to God". Some parents in Johnson County (aka Cupcake Land, where the Blue Valley School district lies) objected to some books and the School Board actually had the balls to tell them to go away.

Board member John Bacon said parents who have challenged books in Blue Valley tell him they were ignored. He said he plans to continue pressing the local district to drop the books. "I don'’t believe it's going to go away any time soon", he threatened. So taxpayer $ will be spent on his vendetta...and Johnny still can't read, or spell. Have you noticed how horrible spelling is these days??

Blue Valley Superintendent Tom Trigg said literature that ignores challenging issues and paints only a flattering view of history, race and culture would fail the students. "I don't think that'’s the kind of world we live in (and) I don't think that's why writers write," he said according to the KC Star. The KS School Board thinks they know better.


Last month board member Kathy Martin of Clay Center decided that sex education in Kansas focus on abstinence and the flaws of contraceptives, the dangers of sexually transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancy. Forget the fact that (GASP!) kids are going to have sex because the "Intelligent Designer" made it so humans mature sexually faster than they mature rationally. Try telling a horny 17 yr old to cool it because the KS School Board said so.

Then Martin said it would be up to local school districts to decide the specifics, as long as they stress that abstinence is the best way to avoid the negative consequences of teen sex.

Those who came to protest this silly proposal told the board they already talk about abstinence and the dangers of teen sex. Just like the redundant "Marriage Protection" Constitutional amendments are over kill, so is this proposal.

"At this point I a’m highly confused," said one board member. Think how the students must feel.

Then we have Mr. Kline, who must be so sexualy frustrated that he can only focus on sex and "sex crimes". The case of Matthew Limon, a mentally retarded young man of 15 he wanted to prosecute (and is still after, he wants to brand him a sex offender) for a blow job (the kid has a low IQ and was in a group home for God's sake)until he finally lost in the KS Supreme Court. He still wants abortion records so he can look into possible charges of rape. Good God man, go get some and quit sticking your fat face in the bedrooms of your fellow citizens. Especially kids having sex. Sounds like a pedophile to me.

Kansas' tourism motto is "Kansas, as Big as it Looks" (a whole laugh unto itself).. "Kansas, as Bigoted as it Looks" is an alternative.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

No Lessons Learned

This 100% accurate missive was printed in the KC Star online edition this AM. It just sums up so many of today's politicians, including (and quite on the money) my least favorite Republojerks G.W. Bush and "Boy Gov" Mattie Blunt. Where will the new leaders come from? If you have no $ and ever made one mistake, you are dead in the water. as the sharks will eat you alive. If you are a Democrat, anything you do is distorted by the Right Wing Disinformation Machine.

A must read:


Monday, April 10, 2006

Spring Break

It is a lovely spring day here in KC, the trees are blooming out, the temps are supposed to be in the 70's and lower 80's for the rest of the week. I am putting the long pants and sweatshirts away and shaking out the shorts and t-shirts. Getting the sandals ready to wear, putting the boots and jackets away.

The lawn alredy looks like a golf course, the dry August days are sill in the future. I do have the sprinkler at the ready for when the rains stop.

Nothing else was on my lazy mind, so no news worthy blogging or ranting from me today.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

"D" Makes Her Debut

A big black lady was the featured performer at this weekend's Kansas City Symphony concerts. No, not Ida McBeth or even Oprah or Jesse Norman. She was the brand new Steinway D concert grand, list price $103,700. She stole the show.

The soloist for the evening Joseph Kalichstein had the honor of publicly introducing the grand lady, as well he should. Kalichstein, an excellent pianist I had heard mention of but never heard even in recording, helped select the piano. A friend of Maestro Stern, Kalichstein visited the Steinway factory in Queens, N.Y., and found this great beauty.

Every large concert grand is an unique creation. About this one Kalichstein said,"It just sings."

Sing she did; a great range, solid sonorous bass, a clear middle section and strong upper register. A beautiful, ringing tone, and agile action and pedals... she being brand new of course.

Kalichstein demonstrated a complete command of the Schumann Concerto in A, never letting it drag or let the hyper-romanticism get out of control. The faster sections and thrilling cadenza, though not "flashy" as the Rachmaninoff concertos, offered plenty of opportunity for Kalichstein's (and the piano's) technique and ability shine. The Orchestra was a warm and engaging partner, and as in last weekend's concert, extraordinary contributions from the woodwinds. "Miss D" herself was afforded her own round of applause, led by Mr. Kalichstein.

The Schumann was bookended by Mozart's sunny and lively Symphony # 1 written in England when he was 8, and sidelined from concertizing while his father recovered from an illness. Stern led the small orchestra in a cheerful, yet solid rendition that clearly showed the way Mozart was leading music.

Stern pointed out that a horn figure in the second movement of the 1st Symphony pre-figured the great "Jupiter" theme in Mozart's crowing achievement, the Symphony # 41 "Jupiter" which provided the second bookend to the evening. The orchestra deserved the standing ovation for the lively and "symphonic" performance of the Symphony. No cut down, dry "period" or "original" performance here, this was symphonic Mozart, looking forward to Beethoven and Schubert and beyond. The famous last movement, with the brilliant blending of 5 distinct themes was clear, precise and elegant.

Gauging the reaction from the audience, The Orchestra, Miss D, Stern and Kalichstein all had quite a successful evening.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Anyone Have a Ruler?

Don your rain coats everyone, the world's biggest pissing contest is going on between Delta Airlines and its pilots.

We can hope Delta management and the pilots will come to their senses and work things out before the possible last minute. Delta's pilots have voted to strike but an actual strike deadline has not been set. An arbitrator will rule April 15 if the bankrupt carrier can dump its contract with the pilots. Delta is losing money like mad as it has never recovered from 9/11. It faces stiff competition from low cost carriers domestically. Reduced international travel demand has made its long haul routes less profitable. Compounding all that is the fact that Delta pilots have one of the fattest and most lucrative pilot contracts in the world.

Experts in Labor Relations and business pundits feel that a strike would not happen as both sides know the result would be certain death for the nations # 2 airline. I wonder if Bushie would like a job loss of over 40,000 on top of his other problems?

Here is what some in the industry have to say:

"Perhaps those who are wanting to strike should just find other jobs if they are unhappy with their situation at Delta. It's not like someone is holding a gun to their heads and forcing them to work there. Besides they're going to need the job hunting practice once the airline dies."

"I have given 30% of my pay. I only make $24,000 a year. I resent someone controlling my destiny who makes nearly ten times as much as me. I resent the concept that when we were MAKING money, they had no problem signing a contract to make them the highest paid pilots IN THE WORLD, weeks before 9/11. But now when the S#$@ is hitting the fan....they wish to deny me the right to work. I understand their distrust of management. I have been through this dance once before with TWA. I say, make out a big IOU and when the money comes in, make them first on the list if that's what it takes to put this fire out and get on with work. I respect the pilots and their stance. I am just not sure that they have the right to place so many people in peril over their own pocketbooks."

Someone who makes 24K at Delta sounds more rational than the Union or Pilots in my opinion.

I have no love for Delta, I last flew them to Istanbul, where they promptly screwed us up royally. I wrote them and said I would not fly them again, and I have held to my word.

Maybe a better idea would be to take a ruler and measure everybody's dicks. The biggest pricks lose it all.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Married Alive!

Two things can always be counted on from a production at the American Heartland Theatre, a happy (or at least satisfying) ending to the play and energetic, colorful productions. "Married Alive!"is no exception. This light hearted but sometimes bittersweet musical spoofs the trials and tribulations of modern day marriage via two couples, a pair of young newlyweds and an older couple settling into a "comfortable relationship" after several years of marriage.

This world premiere show features a formidable cast: the young couple is portrayed by Todd Alan Crain and Ginette Rhodes, both excellent comic actors. Rhodes especially was good in her shifting moods and rapid fire monologs during the "Communication" counsleing session. Crain was great, bearing some resemblance to Jim Carrey, but his character spent too long in the stereotype "clueless male" role.

The mature couple stole the show. James Wright was excellent in his varied roles as mature husband, father and counselor to the younger couple. Versatile Kathy Santen could range from a mature, sensible woman, a vulnerable girl then to a somewhat naughty vamp, usually in the same scene.

The show's composer Leah Okimoto and writer Sean Grennan have produced a lively, topicial show that should be a crowd pleaser in many smaller theatre venues.

As was alluded, the plot as it is (more of a series of scenes or skits)is a satire on modern marriage and relationships. It begins with the young couple's wedding, reciting their own vows filled with metaphors of dolphins and baseball. The mature couple are a couple of the guests. It progresses through starting out, communication, careers, sex, children, holidays, keeping the flame alive, and ends with the roles reversed; the mature couple renewing their vows with the younger couple as guests.

The songs were good, nothing special, but lively and well written. The "keeping the flame alive" scene was hilarious as the mature couple acted out a sexual fantasy with her as a cheerleader and him as Zorro. A forgotten Viagra dose sets the scene for an amusing song full of innuendo and acerbic comedy. The most poignant scene involved the young couple involved in advancing their careers, zooming all over the country, with little time for each other. "I see you so little" moans the husband as they arrange a meeting over cell phones in different cities, "that 'Palm Pilot' takes on a whole new meaning." Probably more real than one wants to think.

The show never lagged, the production bright, well thought out and versatile sets, the vocals spot on and energetic. What more could you ask for!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A Pato News Scoop!

This just in: Kansas City Symphony Music Director Michael Stern and Shelly Cryer have announced that they are expecting a child in August! The child will be a grandchild of the late, renowned violinist Isaac Stern.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Returning a Favor

My Friend Steve, Attorney, Boxer and Blogger, was kind to plug Pato News to his blog so I am returning the favor. STEVE'S MIDLIFE CRISIS

He also founded and managed an informative website dealing with male depression, logically called MALEDEPRESSION.COM.

Also check out these blogs, some of my favorites:

Jon's Jail Journal

And Zaine's Great Software list for the technology minded.

Have fun in the Blogosphere!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Pissing off The American Family Association

I love pissing off the right wing nutcases that, with support by their Republican lackies, have managed to bully their way into American society. Recently the rabidly anti-everything American Family Association(AFA)attacked Wal-Mart of all things for their plan to sell "Brokeback Mountain" when it is released on April 4th.

The group through its bully agent Agape Press said:

"It's quite obvious to anyone who shops at Wal-Mart that they're no longer the family-friendly company that they used to project in their image. We've seen a downward spiral trend by the Wal-Mart Corporation in which they are more and more becoming like the world rather than the family-friendly company we grew up with."

Amusingly, if you search Wal-Mart's site with the word "gay" you get 1600 responses for "family" it is over 21,000 so I think families are not in danger of being forced off the shelves.

So I am going to piss them off, I am breaking a long standing tradition and going to Wal-Mart and buy a copy of the DVD. Although I hate lining the pockets of the evil Wal-Mart, it will send a message to the AFA that they can not influence our buying through their hate and bigotry disguised as "family values". I hate that phrase "family values", simply a euphemism for hate, bigotry and oppression.

Do it too if you are so inclined. But always rememer, be sure to first support your local owned stores.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Oscar Robbery

After finally having the chance to see "Capote" on DVD this weekend, I find myself disagreeing with many Oscar watchers and arm chair critics. It was not "Brokeback Mountain" that was robbed of "Best Picture" by "Crash", it was "Capote".

"Brokeback" was good, it was ground breaking and had some great moments. As I have digested the movie, I realize I came away disappointed. Maybe director Ang Lee's Asian sensibility got in the way, but I missed the grit and fire, the sense of inevitable doom the "love is a force of nature" that Annie Proulx short story accomplished so economically. Yes, "Brokeback" went on a bit too long. Yes, I just didn't see the fire and passion between the men. We certainly did not need Norma Desmond histrionics but maybe a bit more emotion would have went a long way. The boys were a bit too pretty, too cold. Ennis' deadpan emotions wore on you during the movie. His emotional outbursts were confusing rather than demonstrative of the slow fire consuming him.

"Capote" was better than both "Crash" and "Brokeback" in my opinion. The movie never flagged, never lost focus. Phillip Seymour Hoffman deserved his "Best Actor" award, he was brilliant. The mostly unknown supporting cast was great. The cinematography was excellent, capturing the bleakness of the western Kansas town of Holcomb. The slow unfolding of the relationship between Capote and Perry Smith, one of the killers, was spellbinding. The moral dilemma of his relationship to a man he understood ("it almost seems like we came from the same family, I went out the front door and he went out the back") and the ambition to see his book finished is vividly and sympathetically portrayed.

Some one said "Brokeback" will be subject of discussion long after "Crash" is forgotten. I feel even more strongly about "Capote". It is a timeless story and an outstanding movie.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Gordon Chin "Double Concerto"

Michael Stern and the KC Symphony continue to introduce new works to not only Kansas City but the musical world at large. From the opening concert's "The Enlightened" by Zhou Long, to "Purple Rhapsody" by Tower and then "Extremity of Sky" by Melinda Wagner, Stern and the Symphony have given us the opportunity to hear what some of the best contemporary composers have to offer. I have heard some grumbling from patrons about "all the scratchy modern crap" but these pretenders (they go to be seen and not to hear the music) would be happy only if the fare were nothing but Mozart or maybe Haydn.

But the real jewel of this series of new works so far is the Double Concerto by Gordon Chin. Chin is sadly unknown and unrecorded here in the US but the KC Symphony is about to change all that. This powerful, moving and colorful work was receiving only its second performance since its creation in 2002 and its premiere in February 2006. The news that the Symphony is to record the work (along with Chin's "Formosa Seasons") on the wonderful Naxos label is testimony to the excellence of the work and the new found stature and confidence of the orchestra.

The work consists of four lengthy and evocative movements, titled 1) Drifting Shadow, 2) A Flowering Sacrifice 3) Expectation and 4) Yearning: A Sweet Torture. The musical drama is created by an often competitive and occasionally co-operative dialogue between the soloists. In the performance, the cello (the part virtually owned by soloist Felix Fan) faced forward and the violin (equaled by Cho-Liang Lin, Chin wrote the piece for them)faced the cello. This arrangement visually aided the work's concept of the soloists in conflict and dialogue. The cello looked forward, ignoring the violin and the violin, never giving up in the attempt to make its point.

"Drifting Shadow" is a masterpiece of musical dialogue. In a simple ABA scheme, the soloists were of two minds and only rarely met in agreement. The orchestra commented sometimes with Mahlerian grandeur and sometimes spiky dissonance. The soaring violin melodies were especially Romantic in nature.

I was expecting "Flowering Sacrifice" with its scoring for "water bucket, and sheets of colored paper to be torn slowly" to be light on substance and long on gimmick. WRONG! This evocative nocturne was the highlight, although it was a bit long and repetitive. The paper was not a gimmick but added to the soft oriental tinged fabric. The paper torn to pieces, were then scattered by the percussionists, visually evoking the scattering of the flower petals. Too bad this can not be recreated in the recording as it adds greatly to the enjoyment of the piece. As appropriate to one mourning a death (or as Chin's description .."until the day we ourselves are united with the flowers at the altar")the soloists play one of the work's few unison passages in this movement.

"In Expectation" is joyful rondo with the tension somewhat alleviated. The finale returns to the conflict with pounding percussion contrasting and interrupting lyrical passages(a la Nielsen)from the soloists and rich Mahlerian and even Ravellian sounds from the orchestra. A sheer delight.

Chin is a composer that I hope to encounter again. He was present at the performance and genuinely appreciated the warm response to the piece. I would love to hear his symphonies and other works if they are as well crafted and communicative as the Double Concerto.

The concert included the Shostakovich 10th reviewed here on 4/1 and a thrilling "Leonore # 3" by Beethoven. The off stage trumpet calls in the overture were perfect in tone and presence. Absolute perfection!

Saturday, April 01, 2006


Rather a more geeky and strange 13 year old than most, I was always exploring new and different things with a wide-eyed passion. I was different, I knew it and thus I never wanted to follow the crowd, opting for the fabled path less taken. This path has led me to many revelations and a fair number of disappointments as well, but the journey has usually been worth it.

Thus, one day, I decided to tune the radio to the newly emerging "Public Radio" station and see what was on. This "longhair" music, as my mother called it, was playing. Kind of slow and dark, a few patches of light and percussion, mostly strings it seemed. Moody and intense. I was absolutely enthralled. Then the radio erupted; violent, slashing strings, a screaming clarinet playing faster than I ever could, snare drums, trumpets, was over in a few minutes. NO!! I must hear it again..What is this?? Another piece started, again more slowly but a bit more bouncy, and cute section with triangles. Was it the same work? I knew classical music had many parts and was longer than the average song but where was this going? A final piece started slow but built to a glorious climax, I could just see the all players blowing their horns and slashing the strings. A whirlwind close and then silence. I was breathless.

Thus began my love affair with the Shostakovich 10th Symphony, 36 years ago... I remember as if it were yesterday. That piece solidified my desire to explore classical music, a desire that lasts undiminished even today. A strange entrance into the world of classical music, but one I am glad I made.

Unfortunately, I had to wait those 36 years to hear the piece live. Last night's Kansas City Symphony performance was certainly worth the wait. Stern has whipped the orchestra into a fine ensemble. He has done wonders with the brass (albeit they need to be tamed just a bit, they can overwhelm at times) but the winds are spectacular. One thing the 10th needs is a strong woodwind section for the many important, exposed lines for clarinet, piccolo, flute and oboe. With only a minor piccolo slip, they were brilliant.

Well chosen tempi allowed piece to breathe and to seem shorter than its 45 minutes. The superbly realized first movement, Stern nailed its varying moods and slowly unfolding climax, was aided by the warm, lyrical strings even if I longed for a larger sound that a bigger section could bring to the more dense climaxes.

The celebrated scherzo, supposedly Shostakovich's depiction of the now deceased madman Stalin, was taken at a brisk tempo and was well executed (although I sensed the strings rushing a bit but they were quickly corralled). The brass and winds slashed and burned, and Stalin in all his mad glory loomed large. A success.

The haunting nocturne 3rd movement with its clarion horn calls offered little respite to the overall bitter and defiant mood of the symphony. Again, the solo winds carried the performance. The interrupting "Janisary Waltz" (I can think of no other way to describe it) was handled organically, you could hear its relationship to the rest of the movement, something I have not always noted.

The defining moment for me was the finale's climactic statement of the composer's musical monogram (DSCH), handled with thrilling defiance. Four notes symbolizing Shostakovich's lifetime of struggle and sly disobedience.

I left fulfilled, hoping I do not have to wait 36 more years to hear this masterpiece. I may hear more technically polished performances from recordings, or maybe from another orchestra, but none will ever mean more to me than this one...and that radio broadcast 36 years ago.