Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I Can't Believe It's not Toxic

In a short lived quest to reduce fat from my diet, I decided to purchase a product called "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter". It claimed to have all the taste and use of sweet creamy butter but no trans fat, no cholesterol and all that. So a tub came home with me.

I am not sure what the stuff was, but near butter it is not. It does not taste like butter, look like butter or act like butter...therefore I can with certainty believe it is not butter. When melted it separates into pools of cloudy, oily chemicals. When I used some to grease my griddle to make some pancakes, it quickly evaporated and left a yellowish scum on the griddle that burned, and made my pancakes stick. It tasted nothing like butter in my opinion, even on crackers or bread. I eventually decided it looked like my mother's Pond's Cold Cream... just tinted yellow. I did not try it as a moisturizer, I was afraid of what it might do.

The contents went down the drain; I could not stand to look at it. The tub was recycled as a mobile water dish for Her Majesty. So far she has no ill affects from the residue.

Please note the picture above is the real thing. It replaced the crap in the tub. I figure the real thing in moderation is better than all the toxic sludge in the alternative!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Musically Where It's At

On Sunday May 28th, 35,000 people gathered at the Union Station and Liberty Memorial in midtown Kansas City for the annual Celebration at the Station concert by the Kansas City Symphony. Yes, 35,000 people came to hear a symphony concert in Kansas City. I am sure a fair number were drawn in by the promise of fireworks, but most listened intently to the program. For some, it may have been the first time they have ever seen a symphony. I do think many actually came to hear the music as the response to each piece was warm and genuine. The fare was typical holiday music, Gershwin's American In Paris, the suite to Victory at Sea, Ives/Schuman Variations on America, and arrangements of "patriotic" songs. Music Director Stern and Associate Conductor Hankewich conducted. Who said the symphony orchestra is dead?

I think medium size orchestras are on the rebound, and actually are leading the way in innovative and accessible programming. The big orchestras (NY, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, LA, and Philadelphia) are saddled with big name conductors who fly in and out for a few weeks a year. Big heavy programs, everything has to be a monumental occasion or the people paying sky high prices or giving millions are not satisfied. Interesting that many of the above have new conductors or are looking. They are not dead but are not fully alive either.... maybe zombie mode would be a fair description.

St Louis has seen its orchestra rebound with the dynamic programming of David Robertson. When the orchestra's principal oboe got an offer from Philadelphia, she was quoted as wavering in her decision since, to paraphrase as I can not find the original source, St Louis and Robertson were doing some wonderful things and she was excited about the future. I am not sure of the final outcome, but to not have jumped at the chance to go to Philadelphia and even be undecided about the opportunity speaks volumes.

The Minnesota Orchestra landed Finnish conductor Osmo Vanska and has begun an acclaimed Beethoven Symphony recording cycle. The Fort Smith (AR) Symphony provided a wonderful modern recording of William Grant Still's seminal "Afro-American Symphony", to much acclaim. The Grand Rapids Symphony traveled to Carnegie Hall and got excellent reviews.

We here in KC are privy to the renaissance of our orchestra and are going to release a recording soon. Of the major orchestras, only Philadelphia has released a recording; and that was on the Finnish Ondine label since no one else would touch them. The programming of the KC Symphony is second to none. A great mix of new works, standards and some older but rarely heard works. And it is just not the symphony that breaks new ground; our Lyric Opera was roundly praised for its programming of the rarely heard "Turn of the Screw" by Britten.

It is wonderful that we here in the sticks (as most Bi-Costal snobs think) have access to "world class" culture and arts. We are where it is at, the snobs just may have to deal with that.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Tarnished Spectacle

The Indianapolis 500 was ran yesterday, 5/28...anyone notice?

Forty years ago, there were only two ways to actually see the Indianapolis 500 -- be among the lucky 400,000 or so who got tickets to the race, the majority crammed into the infield, or go to a closed circuit television broadcast of the race.

In the early 1960s, thousands spent their Memorial Day in darkened movie theaters watching "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing". I vividly remember listening to it on radio as that was the only way the vast majority could ever follow the face. It was a big deal and major ratings event when it was shown on TV the evening after the race. For the whole month of May, every event from the drama of the Time Trials on two weekends to the testing parade on "Carburetion Day", was front page news and not always just sports section front page news. Names like Foyt, Andretti, Unser, Granatelli were household words. We kids would race our bikes around the cul-de-sac, pretending we had our own Indy.

Few events other than championship boxing matches could sell tickets to closed circuit broadcasts. But the Indianapolis 500 could.

But the lustre has dimmed on Indy; the race is no longer front page news. In 1965-90 ask the "man on the street" and he could tell you the pole sitter and who was in the race. In the last 10 years many big-name drivers retired, there was the demoralizing 1996 split in open-wheel racing and the corresponding explosion of NASCAR's popularity. The "man on the street" now watches NASCAR.

For years the rules for Indy cars still allowed for variation and experimentation. Rear engined racers, turbine power, aerodynamics and ground effects were all tried with varying degrees of success. That all changed in 1996. Tony George, the grandson of Tony Hulman who kept Indy at the forefront of racing since WW2, was trying to regain control of the race from the car owners who had formed the group CART in 1979 and forced changes in many of its rules.

George formed the Indy Racing League and said only drivers that ran its series with its cars could race in the Indy 500. His rules were stricter and the cars were not the fastest open wheel racers around anymore.

The CART teams boycotted and kept their own series. For the first time really in its history, those watching the Indianapolis 500 could not say they were seeing the fastest cars and the best drivers in America. The race has yet to recover from the split.

At the same time NASCAR was rapidly expanding. American automakers had returned to racing and found the old marketing tool of "race on Sunday, sell on Monday" had some life left in it.

In the dark years, the announcement of the winner usually brought a resounding "who???"

Yet the exciting finish of yesterday's race, the return of the revered names of Andretti and Unser and talk of reconciliation bode well for the future. The continued good showing of Danica Patrick, one of the few women racers at Indy makes for good press as well.

Many drivers still want to win this race more than any other. Eddie Cheever Jr. and Al Unser Jr. were two who came out of retirement this year. Michael Andretti could not miss a chance to win the one big race he hadn't won yet.

The desire to be in Winner's Circle, to drink the ceremonial milk, to receive the winner's wreath and to have their likeness engraved on the trophy still runs strong for many top names in racing.

Maybe the lustre is returning.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

God Bless the Outcasts

I wanted everyone of my Blog readers to see how brutal and ignorant the Roman Catholic Church has become.

Catholic Church Fires Music Director Because He Is Gay

I know Joe, proudly sing under his direction with the Heartland Men's Chorus and respect him as a musician and a person. When he took this position at St Agnus, he had also interviewed for the position at my church, Trinity UMC. He accepted the St Agnus position instead. I am sure he had no regrets, but he would still have had a job if he had made a different choice. For that I thank God for Trinity.

Why is it that churches hold on to hate, bigotry and ingorance? Where does the bible say this??? Someone educate me.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

This is your brain....

Everyone knows those commercials with the frying egg...." this is your brain..this is your brain on drugs". Well, sans drugs (except caffeine) that is how I feel. Thus Pato News has not been updated for a few days.

Sometimes, all the "do this... do that" of the world just piles up, and this has been my week. At the end of the day, or when I have a moment or two, Pato News has just been at the bottom of the barrel.

So far this week, we have had our cable rewired in the building; thus keeping the Maestro happy, been fussing with plants, watering lawns, doing this and doing that, had a 2 hour long physical reassessment with the chiropractor so I can continue my treatment there, got the Queen Mary's thermostat replaced, her arm rest fixed, speaker working and window working. Steve and I expereimented with some waxing and think she may have some shine left in her yet.

Top it all off, Maria the Princess, is graduating HS this weekend. So off to Jeff City, and even more annoying.... my sister is here all weekend. So I would assume I'll be even more nuts and Pato News will suffer again.

See you all soon... Keep the faith and check in. More ranting and raving coming soon!

Monday, May 22, 2006


Added to my duties here at the Towers is the title of official Bat Catcher. Lois on 2S called me this AM. She was on her cell phone while standing outside my door. She had found a bat in the apartment. "Would you catch it?? But don't kill it". I happen to find bats fascinating and rather cute little creatures but, like Lois, do not want to live with them. I keep a respectful distance as many unfortunately carry disease and rabies.

So off to trap the offending creature with my Bat Hunter Gear... my winter gloves, a plastic garbage sack and the pool net.

It was easy to find Igor; he was in the sink under the strainer. He just sat there, making little bat sounds. They were a series of strange "eeeeeeeks" followed by clicks and more "eeeeks". I assume it was his bat radar. He was quite small and furry brown-black.

Igor was not happy to be in the sink. I am surmising that Igor was the same bat that Marcia in 3S claimed had invaded her space but was never actually seen. It is possible that Igor came down through a vent or a plumbing pipe.

Being in the sink, Igor was not trappable by the net. "Do you have a bowl?" I asked Lois. She looked around and only had an expensive china bowl handy. She took the basket from her coffee maker and said "would this do?" It would have to do, so I covered Igor with the basket and gently scooped him up the side of the sink and into the bag. Igor was not amused and vocally displayed his annoyance. "Quiet boy" I whispered and took him out via the back stairs and deposited him in the garden behind the ivy. He crawled under a bush and disappeared. I looked for him a while later and he was gone to wherever bats hide in the day.

One successful bat-ectomy performed and added to my resume.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Unfinished Work

The Kansas City Symphony and Maestro Stern tackled the heady theme of war and peace and the brotherhood of man (unashamedly non-pc here) in a stimulating and unusual program featuring a rarely heard Vaughn Williams piece “Dona Nobis Pacem”, the immortal Schubert Unfinished and a new work “Forgotten Chants and Refrains: Symphony No. 1” by Jonathan Leshnoff.

Many theories abound as to why Schubert left his Symphony # 7 (also known as the 8th) unfinished. My favorite theory was devised by cartoonist Michael Willhoite. The cartoon depicted Schubert at his desk writing. Behind him was a young fellow clad only in a bikini. “Oh come on Franz…”, The young hustler whined, “You can finish your symphony later!” For Schubert, a noted libertine, it may have been truer than we want to imagine. Whatever the reason, the two surviving movements are a sublime creation in themselves. Some even suggest Schubert recognized that and stopped there.

In one of the Symphony’s best performances, the Unfinished was well played and communicated. Stern took the Allegro Moderato just a little too moderato but otherwise the performance stood up well to any I have heard live or recorded. As usual the winds were superb and finally I hear the horns improving their intonation and ability to nail the softer more intimate passages. The Andante was lush but with an easy flow and intensity. Indeed some of the most “human music” ever written as Stern mentioned in his opening remarks.

The War and Peace and Brotherhood theme was lead off by the Leshnoff Symphony. In his spoken remarks, Leshnoff stated he combined his life experiences ("being a composer is a way of life")with sounds that have profoundly influenced his experiences (bells, Gregorian Chant)to create in his words "a musical journey to a world of peace and understanding". These motives reveal similarities in religious and musical traditions that might on the surface seem disparate and even contradictory. The piece is in 5 unbroken movements.

I wanted to like this piece with its colorful orchestration and tonal harmonic frame but I found myself wondering where it was going, and thinking too much of film music and Alan Hovhaness. The deep bell tone, a snippet of a Gregorian chant played by two trombones, a clarinet figure and arpeggios on the piano kept returning not really emerging logically but just returning here and there. I caught the idea that they were the solid ground of the various religious traditions depicted. However, I felt they began to be too predictable and that the piece had lost its way. Wonderfully performed, I understand the piece has been recorded by Stern and his IRIS Orchestra in Memphis. Perhaps a further hearing will unravel the piece for me. As I said I wanted to like it and I do feel it is worth further explorations. I just can’t help but feel the piece is a bit too earnest and that the shadow of Hovhaness loomed too close by.

Ralph Vaughn Williams combined the poetry of Walt Whitman with some biblical passages and an excerpt from an anti-war speech made in the House of Commons to create one of his greatest and most visionary choral works, “Dona Nobis Pacem”. The work was intended as a warning against the increasing possibility of war which was sweeping across Europe in the mid 1930’s. The work opens and closes with a plea for peace, sung by the soprano soloist. Soprano Alexandra Deshorties with her huge voice demanded rather than plead for peace, but her intonation and diction were superb. Just a little more finesse and humility would have more closely fit the demeanor of the work. Baritone Daniel Teadt sang his part with a grand, solid voice and firm conviction. Whitman’s poetry (including the famous “Dirge for Two Veterans” detail both the savagery of war and the empathy for those living in the midst of conflict and indeed all humanity.

The Symphony Chorus often was obscured by the brash orchestration of the piece but the texts were provided giving the audience the opportunity to experience the full meaning of the various texts and how they fit together. Thoughtfully the house lights were kept up on Saturday, according to my neighbor, that was not the case on Friday.

Kudos to the orchestra for another great concert and for the rare opportunity to hear Dona Nobis Pacem live.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The "Anti-Ninth"

Dmitri Shostakovich was, in WW2, the premiere musical voice of the Soviet Union. He made the cover of Time magazine and was regarded as a citizen hero, keeping Soviet Music alive even as the country was invaded. His 7th Symphony (1941) is a huge work, written in Leningrad while the city was under siege. Major orchestras all over the free world vied to premiere it. Toscanini conducted the US premiere that was broadcast live. As a VIP, Shostakovich was removed from Leningrad and went in hiding. There he produced his Symphony # 8, a bleak yet powerful work written in 1943, the darkest days of the war. One movement is a terrifying musical description of a raid with wailing sirens and falling bombs and explosions..frightening even today.

The expectation of the Soviet leaders (including Josef Stalin himself) was that his 9th Symphony was to be the final symphony in a great "War Trilogy". Since the Soviet Union had prevailed at great cost, the expectation was that the 9th was to be in the vein of the greatest of all 9ths, that of Beethoven. Thus it was even printed that Citizen-Hero Shostakovich was at work on a huge choral symphony, a hymn of peace and victory for the Motherland.

To paraphrase Monte Python, they got something completely different.

Thumbing his nose at the authorities, Shostakovich is quoted as saying "they wanted a fanfare from me, an ode, they wanted me to write a majestic Ninth Symphony. ...And they demanded that I use quadruple winds, choir and soloists to hail the leader. All the more because Stalin found the number auspicious: the Ninth Symphony. ... I announced that I was writing an apotheosis. ... When my Ninth was performed, Stalin was incensed. He was deeply offended because there was no chorus, no soloists, and no apotheosis." I can imagine Stalin saying "“WHAT IS THIS???!!! WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE?! I DEMAND ANSWERS!!"

Shostakovich had tried to write the required work but he could not be hypocritical. He knew of the horrors Stalin himself had laid to his country. He had seen his friends "disappear" in the purges of the 1930s. He knew of the anti-Semitism that led to Jews being deported and sent to concentration camps during the war. He could not bring himself to glorify Stalin, so he wrote an "“anti-Ninth". Shostakovich, it was later related by the conductor of the premiere, was constantly exhorting the orchestra to sound like a circus; perhaps with a pathetic clown or two and a big buffoon.

For this he was officially denounced and his career and very life was in danger. He refused to write any significant music until Stalin died in 1953. He then poured out masterpiece after masterpiece, including my favorite the 10th.

Most people hear a funny, short, lively symphony with dancing rhythms and folk tune-like melodies. It is often described as neo-classical or "Haydnesque" for its humorous tone. That is a surface impression. Those with a good ear hear the subversive "fuck you" that Shostakovich aimed at directly at Stalin.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Mt St Helens May 18, 1980

One day late unfortunately. I totally overlooked the 26th anniversary of the Mount St Helens volcanic eruption.

May 18, 1980 started out as a picture perfect day for the Pacific Northwest. Since it was Sunday, few people (some loggers and scientists, plus a few reporters and the curious) were in the vicinity of Mount St Helens. Since the mountain had been relatively quiet for the past few weeks, these few souls thought they had little to fear.

U.S. Geological Survey vulcanologist David Johnston was taking measurements of the mountain on a ridge a few miles away. At 8:32AM Pacific Time Johnston radioed "Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!". They were his last words before he was struck by an advancing wall of rock and debris that roared down the mountain at more than 500 miles per hour. His body was never found.

This violent eruption triggered the largest landslide ever recorded. It swept down the mountain at speeds of 70 to 150 miles per hour and buried the Toutle River under an average of 150 feet of debris. Some areas were covered by as much as 600 feet of ash and mud. Approximately 23 square miles of rock and other material was ejected from the mountain.

I knew one person who lived near the eruption in Yakima, Washington. They were in church that AM and heard a faint rumble. Most thought it was a large truck or train, or a distant storm, and thought little of it. A few minutes later a man burst into the church and stood dazed. As the services ground to an awkward stop, the man shouted "don't you see what is going on outside?" They realized the sun was gone and stepped out into a blizzard of ash. I forget these folks name, I went to church with them in Springfield IL. They gave me a lasting gift of some honest to goodness Mt St Helens Ash.

The massive ash cloud reached 80,000 feet in 15 minutes and made it to the east coast in 3 days. Although most of the ash fell within 300 miles of the mountain, finer ash circled the earth and remained in the atmosphere for many years afterwards.

The old girl is rebuilding now. A centuries long cycle of eruptions and quiet periods will rebuild the lava dome and change the look of the mountain again. Once known as the Mt Fuji of America for its resemblance to the perfectly cone-shaped volcano in Japan, St Helens is sleeping now. But it is a restless sleep and future generations may see her fury again.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Close the Gate

Looks like the final chapter of the Gateway Computer boom here in KC is about to close. Gateway announced that it is closing the call and support center here and laying off 130 employees. The center once had over 1500 employees and was the cornerstone of redevelopment of the "West Bottoms", an area with turn-of-the-century warehouses from when the area was a major river port. At one time, a job with Gateway was a hot ticket.. I think even I sent a resume.

Sad, but not unexpected. Gateway has been imploding for a long time now; just another DotCom failure. It is reported that after the closing, Gateway will have 1500 employees total, down from 24,000 at the peak.

The Gateway brand of computer was once almost a household word. Like Dell today, you could buy a system online or on the phone and have it delivered to your door. The computers usually came to your door in a large black and white spotted cow box. Even the company headquarters building was painted like a Holstein cow.

My first computer was almost a Gateway, but the horrible experience I had trying to buy it led me to another source. Gateway opened a few retail centers where you could buy their systems directly instead of through the mail. So off I went one Saturday AM to the store in Independence, checkbook brimming with cash ready to buy my own computer. I had a company laptop but I wanted one of my own. My goal was to have my computer up and operating by that evening so I could begin surfing the net in style.

I went in and looked around. Plenty of people there, lots of people working, busy showing all the hardware to some of the customers...but not me. I never got a soul to talk to me. One salesperson spent about 1/2 hour working with some people who could not get financing for their system... calling this, working that... here I was with cash on hand, no 90days same as cash, no finance company.. no I'll pay 1/3 now, post date a check for Tues.... and no one said a blooming word to me. One salesperson talked to a guy for a while, talking all kinds of tech shit and then the guy left without buying a thing and the salesperson or whoever disappeared. I went to Circuit City across the street (still in business) and got my first computer a Compaq. I understand I was not alone in my frustration with Gateway.

So no wonder they are retrenching...probably will be around for awhile longer but never the player they used to be.

I kinda wanted a cow box.... wonder if I can get one on Ebay?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Thunderstorm Operations

This has been making the rounds on the net lately. Fascinating to watch the operations of the FedEx fleet as they try to beat the line of thunderstorms into Memphis. As the storms are over the airport, you see the planes go into holding patterns. Some retreat to Nashville, Little Rock, St Louis or Dallas. Some get to sneak in. Turn your sound on, the music is kinda cute.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


I enjoy blogging, it is good discipline and great exercise for the mind. Thus I note the 100th post of Pato News.

My Loyal reader Zaine commented to me recently in an email:

"The biggest thing I love about Pato News is its variety. Too many suggest a blog should be about ONE thing tech, culture, photography, politics, whatever. For god's sake, why? Pato News is about everything, and often things outside my own experience. Not a week goes by that Renee and don't say, "Did you see what Don wrote today?" And finally, you've managed to make it seem so easy and fun. You post what's on your mind and in response to everyday life. You don't pretend to be an expert, but you are when it comes to music, theater, and opera. I could go on, but Pato News is a fearless blog, willing to talk about anything."

I have two other faithful readers. One is my friend David in Elmhurst Il. David checks in daily. Now David, YOU have to start a blog! The other is someone in Finland. He/she checks in everyday, or at least someone using their IP address does. Guess I am interesting to them..maybe they are ducks.

While some blogs have more hits in a day than I have had since Pato News started, I am pleased and somewhat bemused by the response to Pato News. I guess because I write about so many things, Pato News posts come up near the top in a lot of Google searches. My review of "Married Alive" (4/7) gets a lot of attention as people search for information on the show and the actors involved. My review of the Gordon Chin "Double Concerto" (4/2) was quite popular in the composer's native Taiwan. I seemed to be a good source of news on the Tressa Waggoner saga, involving the grade school teacher fired for showing the opera "Faust" in her class(5/4, 3/19, 2/3). My most popular post of all was the one featuring Her Majesty Queen Puggles the Queen of all Pugs, "Her Majesty the Queen of Pugs; A Royal Birthday in Pictures" (5/2. Post pictures of cute dogs wearing funny costumes and you are instantly popular.)

I did scoop the news world with my announcement of the Maestro and Shelly expecting a child. This post has been accessed by the KC Star and the Greenwich CT Times newpapers plus a plethora of people from New York and Connecticut...even Japan. How's that for a 4 month old blog?

Pato News will continue on. There are concerts to review, idiots to rant about and dogs to take pictures of. It should be fun.


Monday, May 15, 2006

Is "Patriotism" a Bad Word

It is a question I ask myself ever more frequently. The thought arose again this week at Heartland Men's Chorus rehearsal. We are singing a song that has some "patriotic" phrases, "those loving liberty", "those who fight in war", "these are the brave, protecting freedom's shore"...etc. Why does this bother me?

I did some soul searching and came to the conclusion it is because "patriotism", "liberty", "freedom" have been totally perverted by those in the current political regime. These words, in my mind, are now synonymous with the "you are with us or against us" mentality of the Bushians. The "USA Patriot Act", nothing more than an excuse to spy on enemies real or imagined. My neighbor was talking to me on the phone and her husband interrupted "quit calling him, Bush will get suspicious". More true than we may want to believe.

To these sad excuses for people, patriotism and all that means "America right or wrong, or else you are a 'turrerist'" as Bush would say. Dissent is to be un-patriotic and thus also hate liberty and freedom, apple pie, Chevrolet and hotdogs. To question our "leaders" leads them to question your right to be an American.

I happen to believe I can be critical of the US policy and the leaders who took power in the coup of 2000 and the rigged elections of 2004. I happen to believe that the war in Iraq is wrong, that it was wrong to invade and that we were lied to. I happen to believe our fundamental freedoms are being chipped away and that if given a chance this regime would enshrine bigotry in the Constitution. Believing or thinking the opposite does NOT make me hate the USA and love the "turrerists".

I happen to love the USA; it is a beautiful country with industrious, intelligent people who have made this whole world a better place. I do not, however, believe everything we do is right and our prerequisite. To some that makes me "unpatriotic". I disagree, they are the ones destroying our land, stifling liberty and closing "freedom's shore".

Just as we have to wrestle religion away from the far Right, we have to battle for patriotism.

Question what is going on, oppose what you feel is wrong, let them know you disagree. THAT is Liberty... THAT is patriotism when you are trying to restore a country's reputation.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

A Mother's Love

Earlier this spring, we noted that a pair of doves had made a nest in the big blue spruce outside my south window. They worked diligently to string together twigs and strands of grass to make a nice tight nest. Well hidden deep in the tree (you had to know where to look) the nest survived all the weather a Midwest spring could throw at it. When mamma was away, we could spy the two nice firm eggs. A few weeks ago, a flurry of wings and lots of cooing heralded the arrival of the two chicks. We would peek in occasionally to see if all was well.

That sometimes bothered mamma when we got too close. She would spring from the nest and perform the most remarkable ritual to guard her nestlings. She would flutter to the ground and flop and spin around as if she were injured, drawing our attention to her instead of the nest. If the invader were a cat or other predator, they would be tempted to pounce upon the injured prey and thus leave her nest to be. Of course the dove was not injured and would fly to safety after distracting the invader.

What an incredible display of a mother's love of her babies.

Fitting that on this Mother's Day, the fledglings have left the nest. God speed babies...and be sure to thank your mother.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Dog Vs. Cat

Excerpts from a Dog's diary:

10:30 am - OH BOY! A NAP! MY FAVORITE!
1:30 PM - ooooooo. bath. bummer.

Excerpts from a Cat's diary

DAY 752 - My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre
little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh
meat, while I am forced to eat dry cereal. The only
thing that keeps me going is the hope of escape, and
the mild satisfaction I get from ruining the
occasional piece of furniture. Tomorrow I may eat
another house plant.

DAY 761 - Today my attempt to kill my captors by
weaving around their feet while they were walking
almost succeeded, must try this at the top of the
stairs. In an attempt to disgust and repulse these
vile oppressors, I once again induced myself to vomit
on their favorite chair...must try this on their bed.

DAY 765 - Decapitated a mouse and brought them the
headless body, in attempt to make them aware of what I
am capable of, and to try to strike fear into their
hearts. They only cooed and condescended about what a
good little cat I was...Hmmm. Not working according to

DAY 768 - I am finally aware of how sadistic they are.
For no good reason I was chosen for the water torture.
This time however it included a burning foamy chemical
called "shampoo." What sick minds could invent such a
liquid? My only consolation is the piece of thumb
still stuck between my teeth.

DAY 771 - There was some sort of gathering of their
accomplices. I was placed in solitary throughout the
event. However, I could hear the noise. More
importantly I overheard that my confinement was due to
MY power of "allergies." Must learn what this is and
how to use it to my advantage.

DAY 774 - I am convinced the other captives are
flunkies and maybe snitches. The dog is routinely
released and seems more than happy to return. He is
obviously a half-wit. The bird on the other hand has
got to be an informant, and speaks with them
regularly. I am certain he reports my every move. Due
to his current placement in the metal room his safety
is assured. But I can wait; it is only a matter of

Friday, May 12, 2006


...over used phrase I know, but it is true. Despite many of the denizens of The Towers being away, it has been a long and busy week. I just always seem to find myself coming and going...always something to do, something to check, someone wanting something.

We finally got the garden settled...somewhat. The trees that were stupidly planted too close last year have mostly died so they need replaced. Mr L wants new trees up front, disregard the disintegrating sidewalk. Our lawn people suggest something else, but L is a know-it-all so we will do as he wants, even if wrong.

The light in the elevator is out, but has been fixed, waiting to be put up. I do not do electricity. And since I can't use our handyman anymore (for some unknown reason... stupidity I am sure) the elevator remains spookily dark.

This week I uncrated marble, moved in boxes, bitched at the lawn people, mopped floors, watered plants, filled the pool everyday, sorted mail, went to Savannah to do an inservice for La Verna Village, went to a concert, ate Mexican food with Barb and Thai with Greg, moved hibiscus all over the place, took out trash, moved boxes too and fro, dusted things, picked up the trash of the filthy citizens of the neighborhood, vacuumed, swam a few times, put chlorine in the pool,went to the hardware store a few times to get stuff, went to the chiropractor, unlocked and locked the doors every AM and PM to keep the rif-raff out, listened to Mrs F go on and on (she spilled a cup of coke in her car and shorted out the electronic gear selector, she is a menace), went to Heartland Men's Chorus rehearsal, got letters from my prison friends Rolf, Michael and George, sent some word and sudoku puzzles to Cathy, and took Puggles on several walks. I am sure I did more, but that sums it up.

I was going to fix myself a nice dinner tonight, but after HM's Pugwalk..I decided to bake a frozen pizza... the refreshing Nica Libre (Flor Di Cana rum, coke and lime) made it all tolerable.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Formosa Seasons

Although hastily arranged and not completely marketed to the public, the Kansas City Symphony and soloist Cho-Lang Lin produced a satisfying “Recording Preview” concert last evening at the Folly Theatre. The concert featured the “Formosa Seasons” by Gordon Chin, to be recorded this week by the Symphony and Cho-Lang Lin under the direction of Maestro Stern. The Grieg Two Elegiac Melodies for string orchestra and two sections of the Vivaldi Four Seasons completed the concert.

The true raison d’etre for the concert was the Chin piece. The “Formosa Seasons” will be the companion piece on the Naxos recording of the Double Concerto for Violin and Cello that the orchestra performed last month.

The 23 minute work was written for Cho-Lang Lin as a companion piece to the Vivaldi Four Seasons. Not a literal musical depiction of the seasons as in Vivaldi, but as the soloist stated, depicting the composer’s memories and feelings of life on Taiwan. Being a semi-tropical island, Formosa does not have the strong contrasting seasons as in the US and most of Europe. However, the feelings were much the same. Summer brought memories of crickets chirping and the languor of the heat. Autumn was, well... autumnal, with rich chords and a more wistful, romantic feeling. Winter was appropriately more bleak in tone and fragmentary in melody and phrasing. Spring was short and brisk, with dance rhythms that the soloist said were recollections of the composer’s childhood visits to the mountains outside Taipei and the children playing in the flowers.

Cho-Lang Lin communicated the solo lines brilliantly and also skillfully realized the sentiments behind them. The crickets chirped, the children danced and the resignation of autumn was carefully controlled, never slick or coy. Barb, my companion for the evening, was totally taken by Cho-Lang Lin and his obvious love for the work and for his sensitive and committed playing. Why he is not an international superstar is beyond me.

The small scale string orchestra accompanied the soloist effectively and also showed the skill and commitment of the Symphony strings. Barb and I both agreed that the “Formosa Seasons” was even more successful than the Double Concerto, frequently due to the less ambitious scale of the work and more focused writing for the smaller ensemble.

I was impressed by the brisk and virtuosic Four Seasons selections, the “Winter” in F minor and the “Summer” in G minor. Cho-Lang Lin obviously has an affinity for this music and the orchestra as a fine accompaniment.

Short, fun and enlightening, we need more concerts like these.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Whistleblowing Under Attack

This was buried in the St Louis Post Dispatch. Looks like Blunt and the Republican Machine will do everything to stifle criticism and protect their base, the rich and powerful.

Whistleblower Law Under Attack

Monday, May 08, 2006

Captain Obvious to the Rescue

It appears Captain Obvious has been hard at work:

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Our Useless Police "Farce"

Warning, this is an anti-police, anti-establishment rant and I use naughty words. If you are pro any of that, then read and learn but most of all, please honor my right to my opinion ~ Thank you, PATO

Police are for the most part useless and in my mind dangerous. We have a whole cadre of uneducated, bigoted and paranoid people on police force of many cities. Some who are not fans of police (is that mildly stated enough?) contend that police recruiting tends to attract a certain element. Those who like to be in control through intimidation (we used to call them “bullies”) are prime candidates for many police forces. That certainly has been my experience. The cynicism and total disregard for citizens boggles the mind. They are lazy too. It is much easier to ticket some little old lady and get some $ for the city than close a drug house.

Perfect example: I used to live in St Louis. My old brown Mercaliner was parked on the street and sadly had frequent bouts of not wanting to run. So she would sit and collect parking tickets. Meanwhile, the drug traffic from the house across the street continued unabated. Hundreds of 911 calls came in, nothing could be done. We felt like we were the guilty parties by disturbing the police and making them stop writing tickets for wrong turns and actually protect our property. The look on the police officer’s face was priceless when I tore up the tickets in front of him at a Neighborhood Association meeting and told him when the drug house was closed down for good, I’d pay the tickets. They remain unpaid.

Sadly, next door was a police officer. One of the most disturbed and angry people I had ever met. He was black and hated all white people I am told. He used to be friendly to everyone and just one day, he told everyone they were racist jerks and built a high privacy fence around his house. His wife was as big a jerk as he was. I said HI once right after I moved in and she just glared at me. If the tables had been turned, I would have been branded a racist. So here was this angry man with a gun who hated people. He scared the shit out of me. I found out he was behind my car getting ticketed so I took pics of his car parked in front of the fire hydrant. Two can play the game.

Last fall I was on the way to Savannah, MO to visit a client when I rounded a top of a hill on I-29 just north of St Joseph, MO. As I crested the hill, I was confronted with cars at almost a full stop as there were State Troopers in the right lane. I slammed on the brakes and fish tailed the Queen Mary. No one was hurt, no damage. They of course took exception to that and pulled me over for 30 minutes asking stupid shit, like “what’s happening in Kansas City?” Why you have Illinois temporary tags on the car?” I heard one of them say “he is agitated, he is hiding something” FUCK YOU COP! I just avoided a certain crash. A less skilled driver would have panicked and hit someone. I knew how to control the car and steered it out of the fishtail. Large, heavy rear wheel drive cars tend to do that. “I am so sorry officer, next time I’ll use x-ray vision to see through a hill to keep from hitting you as you stand in the middle of the road. Ever hear of flares or signal that you are in the road?" Stupid fucks. I said little as I knew I had some real winners here. They harassed me a bit, made themselves look like big men and let me go. I should have filed a report.. but as the site POLICE ABUSE.ORG shows, that is dangerous to citizens in its own right.

What prompted this rant is a conversation I had with my new and soon to be former neighbor Jeff last night. Jeff bought the house across the street that had been abandoned, bought, foreclosed and everything else in the past few years. A young, easy-going and friendly type, he had started to fix it up. But he was broken into 5 times in a 3 week time. The police refused to even investigate… they can’t be bothered. When he complained, he was told by the KCMO Central District officer “move” or “get a dog”. So he is moving, disillusioned with Kansas City, disgusted with the police who patrol during the day but are scarce as hen’s teeth at night. The druggies and the drunks just piss and litter and damage and break in all they want. I called the police on Thursday night over a large mumber of loiterers and activity with cars stopping. "Can you see any crime happening?" the dispatch asked. "Sorry ma'am, I am not right there in the middle of it so I can't hear or see. But it is 10PM and there are 5-7 men who do not live on this street, as I saw them walk over from Main just hanging at the corner, cars driving and stopping. They are pissing in the open lot, they are drinking and we would like this to stop. I am not asking them to be hauled in, I just want a patrol to come by." I am not sure if they ever did.

We have to FUCKING BEG the Kansas City PD to check out a problem. It is totally our fault. We live here, we just have to put up with it and get dogs or move. Maybe we should all move and abandon the city. As long as there is a donut shop, the police will be happy.

I strongly urge you to keep track of Police Abuse. Org and financially support it when you can.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Dear Mr Leno:

This apparently appeared in Salon Magazine and was sent to me via email by dear friend Maggie. You can also see it on Mr Whitty's site WITLESS

Dear Mr. Leno,

My name is Jeff Whitty. I live in New York City. I'm a playwright and
the author of "Avenue Q," which is a musical currently running on

I've been watching your show a bit, and I'd like to make an observation:

When you think of gay people, it's funny. They're funny folks. They
wear leather. They like Judy Garland. They like disco music. They're
sort of like Stepin Fetchit as channeled by Richard Simmons.

Gay people, to you, are great material.

Mr. Leno, let me share with you my view of gay people:

When I think of gay people, I think of the gay news anchor who took a
tire iron to the head several times when he was vacationing in St.
Maarten's. I think of my friend who was visiting Hamburger Mary's, a
gay restaurant in Las Vegas, when a bigot threw a smoke bomb filled
with toxic chemicals into the restaurant, leaving the staff and gay
clientele coughing, puking, and running in terror. I think of
visiting my gay friends at their house in the country, sitting
outside for dinner, and hearing, within hundreds of feet of where we
sat, taunting voices yelling "Faggots." I think of hugging my
boyfriend goodbye for the day on 8th Avenue in Manhattan, and being
mocked and taunted by passing high school students.

When I think of gay people, I think of suicide. I think of a
countless list of people who took their own lives because the world
was so toxically hostile to them. Because of the deathly climate of
the closet, we will never be able to count them. You think gay people
are great material. I think of a silent holocaust that continues to
this day. I think of a silent holocaust that is perpetuated by people
like you, who seek to minimize us and make fun of us and who I
suspect really, fundamentally wish we would just go away.

When I think of gay people, I think of a brave group that has made
tremendous contributions to society, in arts, letters, science,
philosophy, and politics. I think of some of the most hilarious
people I know. I think of a group that has served as a cultural
guardian for an ungrateful and ignorant America.

I think of a group of people who have undergone a brave act of
inventing themselves. Every single out-of-the-closet gay person has
had to say, "I am not part of mainstream society." Mr. Leno, that
takes bigger balls than stepping out in front of TV-watching America
every night. I daresay I suspect it takes bigger balls to come out of
the closet than anything you have ever done in your life.

I know you know gay people, Mr. Leno. Are they just jokes to you, to
be snickered at behind their backs? Despite the angry tenor of my
letter, I suspect you're a better man than that. I don't bother
writing letters to the "God Hates Fags" people, or Donald Wildmon, or
the Pope. But I think you can do better. I know it's "The Tonight
Show," not a White House press conference, but you reach a lot of

I caught your show when you had a tired mockery of "Brokeback
Mountain," involving something about a horse done up in what you
consider a "gay" way. Man, that's dated. I turned the television off
and felt pretty fucking depressed. And now I understand your gay-
baiting jokes have continued.

Mr. Leno, I have a sense of humor. It's my livelihood. And being gay
has many hilarious aspects to it -- none of which, I suspect, you
understand. I'm tired of people like you. When I think of gay people,
I think of centuries of suffering. I think of really, really good
people who've been gravely mistreated for a long time now.

You've got to cut it out, Jay.


Jeff Whitty
New York, NY

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Tressa Gets Her Reward

I am lazy today, and yesterday too. Did not want to expend the energy bitching about something thus no post for Wednesday. I did, however, find out a sure fire way of getting your blog noticed, post cute pictures of a pug. Puggles' pics and story on Tues accounted for a dramatic rise in the number of hits for the blog.

Playbill Arts has an update on the Tressa Waggoner story. She is receiving an honor from Opera America for her efforts to expand the closed, stupid minds of Bennett, CO. You can read it here:

Opera America to Honor Teacher Fired for Playing Faust

I guess it has a somewhat happy ending after all. See my blog on Feb 3 and March 19th for more on this absolutely stupid affair.

All for now.... sorry no dog pics today.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Her Majesty, the Queen of Pugs: A Royal Birthday in Pictures

A Photo Essay on Her Majesty's Birthday:

Leaving for her Walkabout on the Country Club Plaza:

A Humble Queen; "Thank you for all your love and affection"

Selecting Treats on display for HM at the Three Dog Bakery:

Royal Kisses:

Royal Portrait:

A Quiet Walk through the lawn:

Monday, May 01, 2006

I Turned Out OK I Guess

I think of myself as a reasonably intelligent guy. I did well in school, graduated 14th out of a class of over 400. I went to college, got a BA and a MA from a good school. My English is quite good and I can even spell. I have a good command of French and can manage a conversation in Spanish. I know the capital cities of all 50 States…yes even Dover, Delaware and Bismarck, North Dakota. My IQ is a mystery to me, but I am sure it is relatively high, definitely above the moron stage.

How did I get that way? It certainly was not due to a plethora of dedicated grade school and high school teachers. Most of them were morons. My dear friend David, my most faithful blog reader, and a man I have been proud to call a friend for (are you ready David) 43 years, shared some of the same teachers as I did. He turned out ok too….. must be in the water.

We had some doozies. Mrs. Kassoy (spellings of names may be a bit fuzzy after lo so many years) in 3rd grade loved to throw things at us, like erasers and chairs and books. She was a menace. My 4th grade teacher Mrs. Goforth, a kindly lady, spent most of her time telling us of the trip she won to Hawaii. As most of us had not been west of Denver, it was all fascinating to us. We learned little else, but heard all about the Hawaii. I had a 5th grade teacher (or maybe 6th, help me David) named Mrs. Dillie that lived up to her name as well. There was a well publicized cheating ring in 6th grade with the math teacher we had (a Mr. Stewart??? Don't remember, his name. He was a big fellow and my first male teacher)in which I think everyone participated.

The real losers were in Middle School as they called it then. Mrs. White, a science teacher, was hopelessly lost when it came to science. She was a Home Economics teacher forced into teaching science. We already knew more science than she did. Mrs. Ashley was an English teacher who was bizarre to say the least. She had an interesting way of speaking and complete lack of control of her class. “Neeer… Shut your teeth” she bellowed one day. Insane. There was another English teacher, whose name I forget (she made a huge impression) who just gave us reading assignments and let us be as she sat at the desk and looked bored.

Mrs. Morris was unique. She was a former college professor who for some reason ended up teaching Middle School science. We never asked why. Luckily, unlike Mrs. White, she actually knew some science. She thought we were college students and thus expected us to know more than we did. She was outgoing and always had us engaged in something. We did science projects including one of the first environmental projects, a neighborhood clean up. She was actually pretty good, when she remembered that we were 12 and not 22.

The most pathetic and the one I blame for my complete lack of understanding of math was Mr. Gilbert. He gave us spelling tests. We could not count, but we could spell. We would take a spelling test every day and had to spell the name of our city, our state and other words he thought we needed to know. He was mentally ill and blew his brains out a couple years later. Sad, but not unexpected. How he ever got to be a teacher was beyond me.

The vast majority were not standouts in any real way. They were neither enthusiastic motivators, nor insane idiots. They got us by.

I guess I had some good teachers, Mrs. North, Mrs. Greer, Mrs. Howard, Mr. Kirby, Mrs. Ogden, and Mrs. Chapman. These teachers expanded my mind, showed me new things, and gave me skills I still use today. We could use more like them today. Johnny could read if they were in charge.