Thursday, June 29, 2006

Local News


There was a fairly serious car accident at our corner of 38th and Baltimore this AM. I did not see it but heard it. An apparently east bound, possibly turning left on to Baltimore, Nissan hit an Isuzu SUV which turned over on its side. It was a bad day for Japanese autos. It appeared that the Nissan was from Minnesota. He may have wished he had stayed home. No one appeared to be very injured.

First on the scene were two tow trucks, followed by a 3rd from another tow company. A fourth showed up later. Next arrived the huge KCFD ladder truck in case one of the cars was on fire up in a tree. A smaller truck came in from the east but turned around and went back. An ambulance showed up a few minutes later. Finally, about 10 minutes after the accident, a single police car came by. Obviously Lamar's Donuts had closed for the morning or this cop had lost a bet. Finally work could continue on clearing the street, and all was quiet by 9AM.

This being the second such accident in 3 months on a not really busy intersection, I wonder if the city would even consider looking at putting up a 4 way stop? Nah...



A rather sadder tale involved the reappearance of Igor the Bat to Apt 2S. ("Batty" May 22)This time Lois phoned to inform me that Igor had passed away in the same spot we last found him, in the sink under the dish strainer. How he got back there is a mystery. I had thought he may have found his way up the drain, but since the drain on both sides had stoppers on them, he would have had to remove the stopper and replace it; quite an accomplishment for a Pipistrellus pipistrellus. Funeral arrangements are Fri AM with Deffenbaugh Disposal, curbside.


It was reported today that one of the last independent, wood floored, “if we don't have it you don't need it” Dime Stores has closed, possibly for good. Rumor had been that the landlord wanted the space occupied by the appropriately named Brookside Dime Store for more "upscale" retail and people began to complain that they could get things cheaper at Wal-Mart, even though the closest one was 2 states, 4 cities and 3 counties away. The store's original owner died in 2002 and the store was on thin ice since then. But people came for miles around to marvel at the collection of everything. Enough ribbon to circle the earth, best selection of greeting cards in the city (any of you who have received cards from me likely had received a Brookside Dime Store card, and enough cheap plastic toys to delight any youngster. Those nostalgic for the days of Woolworth’s, SS Kresge or WT Grant could find solace in the Dime Store.

The sign says "temporarily closed", but no one believes that the venerable store will reopen.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

One Man's Opinion

When discussing the "controversy" of gay marriage my friend Shannon had this to say:

"Throughout my entire childhood, I was beaten, tortured, abandoned, neglected and simply abused. (this is no exaggeration ~ Pato) These crimes were perpetrated by my birth parents foster parents and adopted parents, all heterosexual married couples.

But I had a couple of gay friends and a lesbian couple who were always there for me. They gave food, shelter and clothes to the poor abused kid. Why? Because they cared and because they wanted to. Those who abused me were paid to take me and spent the money on themselves. My friends spent their own money to help me, never asking a thing in return from me.

In my opinion, sexual orientation should not be a basis for denying adoption. Heterosexuals are more than capable of abusing children, and I am sure the statistics show that. Had my non-heterosexual friends been given custody of me, things might have been a whole lot different for me. I could keep a job, I could stop trying to kill myself, I would not be in prison for the 4th time."

Need anymore convincing?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

What's Your Sign?

You are 100% Pisces

I am not sure if astrology has any basis in fact or truth, BUT I am 100% of my sign! So, how Pisces are you? Even if it is not your sign, take the quiz and see how fishy you are!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Brave Combo

Many of the bands I hear on my occasional outings to live music are at best entertaining and mostly forgettable. One band however, is a stand out and thus I am sure to catch them anytime they visit Kansas City.

Brave Combo defies description. A Polka/rock/folk band is the best I can muster. Based in Denton, Texas and founded in 1979 by lead vocalist, guitarist, keyboardist, accordionist Carl Finch, BC has a good sized and loyal following. BC won a Grammy award in 1999 in the Polka album category for their album Polkasonic, and again in 2005 for their album Let's Kiss. Their music incorporates every conceivable style of dance styles, mostly polka, but also rumba, cha-cha-cha, waltz, two-step, twist, meringue, etc. Their style leads to radically different versions of the original. Examples include polka versions of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" and "The Coventry Carol Twist", and The Rolling Stones' "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" as a cha-cha. They recently added a wicked fun instrumental combining the driving "Peter Gunn" theme with Khachaturian's Saber Dance. While their performances have a sense of humor, and frequently include audience participation performances of the "Chicken Dance" and the "Hokey Pokey" they are not a joke. These guys are consummate musicians.

For example, take Jeffrey Barnes the second most senior of the group. Barnes is friendly, he usually can be found at the bar drinking a beer and eating a sandwich before the performance, talking with fans and enjoying himself. Usually dressed in a colorful "hippie" outfit, he plays an astonishing array of winds, harmonica and whistles sometimes in multiple, simultaneous combinations. Yes, he usually plays a melody on one recorder while accompanying himself on the other... truly amazing. Rounding out the current line-up are trumpet and flugelhorn player Danny O'Brien, drummer Alan Emert and Ann Marie Harrop on bass guitar. Last visit we spoke to Ann Marie, the newest member and she professed to be thrilled to death to play with these incredible, yet unpretentious musicians.

You have to hear these guys to believe them. They are funny, amazing, entertaining and talented. Garrison Keillor calls them "entertainers who just won't take no for an answer."

Check out their website for more information and take in a bit of Brave Combo magic. Polka Band, Dance Band, Latin Combo, Night Club act, whatever your musical inclination, I bet you'll be hooked.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Last One

From the Intergalactic Times:

T’Dwarkaq City, Rigel Stardate 2354.06 (w)

Museum to Put Rare Earth Vehicle on Permanent Display

The Intergalactic Museum of History and Technology has announced plans to put the last known internal combustion powered Planet Earth land vehicle, commonly known as an auto-mobile, on permanent display in the new wing of the museum. The new wing and display will be open in about .5 Stardates.

“This is the only known, complete and functioning auto-mobile from the Planet Earth” said Rwety~Qjada, curator of Extra-Rigelian Technology at the museum and the foremost expert on Earth vehicles. “We have parts and pictures of other vehicles, but this is the only one that is complete and still functions.”

The vehicle, estimated to be around 550 Earth years (45.65 Stardates) old was discovered and transported to Rigel in Stardate 2353.54(w) (about 2 Earth years) during the last expedition to Earth. Ironically it was the dependence on the internal combustion auto-mobile that ultimately made the Earth uninhabitable.

Internal Combustion automobiles were popular on the planet for about 200 of its years. Evidence of their use has been found in every land mass on the planet, including the uninhabited Polar Regions. In the late 21st earth century, dwindling supplies of the fuel used to power the machines caused them to be abandoned and alternate sources of power found. But by then, the damage to the atmosphere had been done. The resulting lack of livable space and clean air and water led to the massive wars that destroyed much of the population and scattered the survivors. In the last .2 Stardates, the planet has lost all remaining atmosphere and is now a barren rock, too hot to inhabit.

The vehicle has run since its arrival on Rigel but with the small supply of the necessary fuel confined to laboratories, it is unlikely the vehicle will function again soon. “It could” Said Rwety~Qjada, “and it is ready to function, all we need is some fuel.” It last ran about .005 Stardates ago (6 earth weeks) for about 22 Paktaseu (30 minutes) until the fuel was exhausted. “I can see how the Earth’s atmosphere was destroyed by these auto-mobiles” said Rwety~Qjada, “the oily blue fumes were quite noxious. A series of buttons, pedals and levers make the auto-mobile move. It moved about 23 R-utw (3 miles) and was hard to control. I am sure many Earth people were killed or injured by these machines.”

The large, black and gray auto-mobile has been identified through markings as a “Packard Clipper” and likely built in the middle of the Earth’s 20th century, according to Rwety~Qjada. A small piece of metal attached to the auto-mobile indicated that it came from the "Kans WY" region of the planet. Papers with the word “Sneed” on it may have indicated the owner of the auto-mobile. “Earth People were very possessive of their auto-mobiles”, said Rwety~Qjada. “They loved them to death, literally”.

* A bit of explanation*

Kansas City is the home base for the Mid-America Packard Club. Owners of the magnificent autos that were made by Packard from 1899-1958 gather to show off their prized survivors. Many are stunning autos, like the sporty and elegant Caribbeans, the Haupt's massive 1927 Rollston bodied tourer, the Patricans of the 50s and even a 50s hearse. An then there is the Sneed's 1954 Clipper. Black and gray and far from the most elegant Packard ever made, she is nonetheless an incredible survivor. Starts every day and even drives across country with not a bit of problem. Most of her parts are original, even the engine is as it was made in 1954. She is as wonderful and incredible as a Caribbean Convertible and just likely would be the last auto left on earth.

Don't let anyone tell you she is not a true Packard. She has all the craftsmanship and reliability that were the hallmarks of the marque.

Friday, June 23, 2006


No one has visted today, so I am not going to bother with a post... see you tomorrow.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Nothing to Fear

One of the most fascinating of all psychological phenomena are phobias or irrational fears. There are true psychological phobias, the main symptom being the excessive, unreasonable desire to avoid the feared subject. When the fear is beyond one's control, or if the fear is interfering with daily life, then the person is diagnosed with anxiety disorder.

It is possible for an individual to develop a phobia over virtually anything. The name of a phobia generally contains the Greek for the person's fear plus the suffix -phobia. Creating new phobia can be fun. One can suffer from Lutraphobia- Fear of otters, or be paralyzed by Sesquipedalophobia- Fear of long words, of course you would be afraid to say or even spell your phobia... leading to Phobophobia- Fear of phobias.

My irrational fears do not affect my quality of life all that much, but to me they are real and sometimes cause me to do things to avoid my phobia. I am working on conquering my phobias, and have actually had some success.

I used to fear swimming for ever since I was 6 or so and the first time I got in a pool I sank to the bottom. The resulting drama led me to avoid pools for over 40 years. But one day, (since a fairly safe and shallow pool was right across the hall from me at the Towers) I decided that I wanted to learn to swim. I had made some progress in getting into a pool, but the act of swimming was still fearful. Working with the little floaty tube I got the hang of it and now swim at least 4-5 times a week. I still respect the water and do not dive in to the ocean or an unfamiliar lake. Maybe when I feel a bit more confident in my skills I will.

I also hate ladders. I unfortunately have had to get past that fear so I can change light bulbs here in the Towers. I get all woozy and shaky even thinking of getting up on a tall ladder, tall being anything above a step stool. I just look at the ladder, tell it that I am not scared of it and then quickly hold my breath as I climb and change the bulb. So far so good.

Probably my strangest fear is that of parking garages. I would go out of my way and park miles from the venue to avoid a parking garage. One time, a long time ago, I parked my car in a garage in Springfield, Il and went to a late show or something, only to find the garage closed upon my return. My car trapped and me stuck in the desolate downtown late at night was not a pleasant experience. It turned out ok, I got a ride home, got my car out the next day. Since then, the entrances of these edifices appeared as a giant maw, ready to swallow me and my auto and trap me in their sterile confines forever. I risked parking in one last year and I had a hell of a time getting out. It was automated, I could not find the correct $$, a line of cars was growing impatient and my anxiety growing. I somehow got out and vowed never again. The damn things hate me.

But a whim combined with a "quit being a fool" voice in me led me to park in the garage next to the Folly Theatre at the last HMC concert. It was supposed to rain and I did not want to walk the 6-8 blocks I usually walked to find a street parking space. I ventured in, found a place and kept my ticket close. As soon as the concert was over, I rushed to get my car out and was relieved to see the sky and relieved that I did not have to walk through the raging storm. I am not sure if I will do it again... but count another fear at least abated!

Now if I could just stop being afraid of the #13 (Triskaidekaphobia) but that is rational right??? Even MS Word spell check recognizes it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Witch's Hat

I finally had the opportunity to hear a band I have wanted to hear for a long time. The theatrical rock (somewhat like Queen) quartet Witch's Hat has been around in Columbia, MO and vicinity for a couple of years now, but even though they have played Chicago, Omaha, St Louis and even Dubuque for God sake, they have not made it to Kansas City. The closest they have been was last night (6/20) at the funky Replay Lounge in Lawrence, KS. Lawrence is an island of progressive thought and culture in the vast wasteland that is Kansas. Therefore it is fitting that they would host Witch's Hat first local performance.

So, Barb, Jeff, Ross, our new friend Yohan visiting from Venezuela and I got in the venerable Queen Mary and motored off to catch Witch's Hat.

A small bar with a large patio, Replay is far from an ideal location to hear a band. but Witch's Hat made it work. Unfortunately they played only a short set that only whetted my appetite to hear more. Their lyrics celebrate such things as dragon slayers, androgynous aliens, a Moldovan Vampire and a time-traveling dinosaur called Rockasaurus. Full of boisterous energy and solid musicianship, Witch's Hat is as much fun to see as to hear. As was noted their lyrics tell a story, take you on a journey and are refreshingly literate and interesting. Their theatrics never get in the way, even when wildly over the top. But that is the way they want it. The crowd at Replay, never having heard the band before, responded with genuine enthusiasm.

Greg Linde is the lead singer and really enjoys belting out the songs. Again, refreshingly, you can even understand them. The other members, on guitar and bass and drums provide a high energy, solid support.

The star is Bert on drums. Always wired and always ready to rock, his beat is solid and driving without being overbearing. He can make the drums whisper and accentuate a point of the lyrics and just as easily drive the song home with enough power to light the night. Bert was born to play drums, as I can attest since I have known him for a looooooooooong time! (OK, this review is written by Bert's (not his real name thankfully) dad, so it is prejudiced, OK??)

More than just superficial theatrics by college kids, Witch’s Hat has the potential to become the real thing. Witch’s Hat always puts their audience in a party mode and makes each show a little different by incorporating guest musicians or giving performances with themes. You also can't miss the jingle for the energy drink Bacchus-F and the free samples they pass to the crowd. Worth the show.

We thoroughly enjoyed the show and a copy of their CD "Mastery of the Steel" is headed to Venezuela. Their website (under construction due to a recent personnel change in the band) has samples of the songs and links to more info on the group.

You have to check these guys out who are for sure a cut above most of the bands out there either in Columbia or elsewhere. Fun, intelligent, energetic and most of all down to earth, Witch’s Hat loves what they do and their performances show it.

Catch them when you can.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Mighty Thirds

Due to Pugtona weekend, I had to hear the last performance of the 2005-2006 Kansas City Symphony season at the Sunday matinee at Yardley Hall in Overland Park, KS. Newer and more sterile than the lovely Lyric Theatre, Yardley has some excellent acoustics but lacks the charm and elegance of the Lyric.

But of course I had to hear the last concert (in this case the very last) featuring two monumental 3rds; Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto # 3 and Beethoven's Symphony # 3 "Eroica". The brilliant Yefim Bronfman was soloist for the Rachmaninoff.

Written for his own use in a 1909 tour of the US, Rachmaninoff's 3rd has acquired an almost mythic reputation. Fueling the reputation was the 1996 movie "Shine" which tells the true story of pianist David Helfgott, who suffered a mental breakdown and spent years in institutions. The movie insinuates that Helfgott's obsession with the 3rd contributes to his mental breakdowns as he tries to grasp the scope and complexity of the piece.

It seemed not to faze Bronfman. Bronfman performed with breathless excitement that never boiled over in to histrionics. Through his effortless phrasing and command of the piano, he made the piece look easy. For example the opening theme emerged solid but easy and natural. Paul, our musical letter carrier, described the return of the theme at the end of the movement as "a meditation". Bronfman avoided the flashy technical display that the current generation of wunderkind pianists love. Rather than a flashy, barely containable Ferrari, Bronfman assumed the guise of a suave, sophisticated and awesomely powerful Mercedes-Benz V-12. You could see the piano quake under his command. Simply a revelation and a performance I will never forget.

The orchestra wisely provided a sophisticated, solid support showcasing the extraordinary piano part. Sadly, I did not hear the piece performed on the new Steinway, as she stays at the Lyric. Yardley's piano was just a bit brittle but did not detract from the performance. The audience at the sold out performance cheered as Bronfman playfully tried to steer the cheers towards Stern and vice-versa.

Beethoven’s “Eroica” was the second half of the program. A solid, exciting performance, showcasing how far the orchestra has come in the last year. The winds were great; the horns in the trio of the scherzo were heroic and well focused. The orchestra was more polished and fuller sounding than ever before. Not a performnace that would knock the legendary Szell performances off a shelf, but an assured exciting performance that would hold its own among contemporary performers.

What an exciting season. When the whole town is talking about the symphony. When 40,000 come to hear a free concert. When we hear giants like Leon Fleisher and Bronfman perform. New pieces, a new recording. Can next season start tomorrow? Please??

Monday, June 19, 2006


Three days away from the blog... it is hard to get back into the swing of posting. We have been a tad busy with silliness at the Towers over landscaping, Pugtona weekend and a KC Symphony concert on Sun. At least it gives me plenty of fodder for writing.

This weekend’s newspaper headline in Springfield, MO could have read: "Loud Snorting Heralds Arrival of Pug Invasion". For the 7th year in a row, Springfield MO has been invaded by pugs and pug people. Pugtona weekend has become as important to pug people as Daytona is to race people. The attendance figures were not in as of this AM, but I am sure there were 2-300 people there and at least as many pugs all running around the Best Western Coach House Motel.

The purpose is two fold, to raise money for Southeast Pug Rescue and for pug people and their pugs to meet and have a good old time. Many of us met over the internet in some of the various Pug web forums like the now defunct PugZone, Pugzoners, and the current Pug Village and PugStories. What started out as a Pugnic among some local friends has become the premiere national pug event. People and pugs have come as from as far as California, Oregon, Arizona, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Maryland, Ohio, Michigan, Oklahoma, Illinois and this year even Ontario. All united in our devotion to our dear little creatures that have taken our hearts.

The main event is a picnic, silent auction and party. We set a large penned off area, set up our chairs and socialize all day. Pugs weave in and out of the mass of legs. As Susan put it, "anyone who has not been there will not understand through a picture, most pictures are just of ankles and pugs." It is one of those events that a picture can not capture.

We had a grand time this year. The rain stayed away for the most part, it only dampened the area before and after the main event. The pugs were well behaved as were the people. I saw many of my old friends like Joy, Gail, DeAnna, Susan, Leah and Linda. Linda from Memphis, brought me some good Memphis style dry rub for my pork chops YUM!

Every year a group goes to Lambert's restaurant on Sat night for dinner. This is another place that has to be seen to believe. Always packed, it serves down home country food, no diet plates here. The main draw is that the wonderful hot rolls are wheeled out on a cart and then thrown to the customers. Other servers come around with "pass arounds" like fried potatoes, okra, macaroni and tomatoes, etc and give you a scoop or two. No one leaves hungry. We have a blast.

The admission fee, the proceeds from the meal tickets, the silent auction, the live auctions and such raise a ton of money for rescue. Abused, abandoned and puppy mill pugs have a chance at a better life through the efforts of Pugtona. When one sees pugs like Howie, his legs bent because he spent 4 years in a cage, riddled with cancer or Candy Man, a big black pug 18years old, tongue hanging out because he has no teeth, who spent nearly 13 years in a cage, or maybe one of Linda's latest rescues, afraid of people through abuse. One can then see the beauty and true purpose of Pugtona and why people of all walks of life travel hours and even days for an afternoon pug party.

You can check out some Pugtona pics here:

email sign in address is

password is pugtona06

Thursday, June 15, 2006

What Will They Think of Next?

This is an item from both the "wish I thought of that" and the "what will they think of next" files:

Viagra ring

Sort of an update on secret decoder rings. Except it carries a different type of secret.

No I am not getting one, I don't need it...yet, thank goodness.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Life After Prison

There finally may be some good news for ex-offenders. The public supports job training and other pre-release services. A recent survey found that a large majority of voters feel that a lack of job training seriously affects ex-offenders chances of re-establishing themselves in society. A proposed law, “The Second Chance Act” now before Congress, would assist. Moreover, former prisoners want to work and want to be productive. Politicians (even Republicans) are starting to see that restrictions on employment, where ex-offenders live and other restraints are contributing largely to the failure of ex-offenders to reintegrate.

Life after prison is tough and frightening. Finding housing, securing health care, re-establishing family relationships, getting a job and having to readjust is a daunting task for even the most educated and stable ex-offender. Many have little work experience and few work skills. Many never finished high school. In many cases, a criminal record, make ex-offenders either unattractive job candidates or legally off limits to most employers. Over the years, many states and companies have prohibited felons from employment in health care, financial services, transportation, and other fields. When I worked for the former Beverly Healthcare, we were prohibited by law in most states and by company policy everywhere from hiring almost any one who had any criminal record in the last 10 years. I could not get my job here at the Towers if I had a criminal record.

Over 2000 ex-offenders are released each day, over 700,000 a year. Unfortunately, due to the overwhelming obstacles, most return as they are unable to reintegrate. Not able to support themselves, they turn to what they know. Meaningful and gainful employment allows ex-offenders to re-enter mainstream society, boosts self esteem. stabilzes families and benefits society much more than all the restrictions will ever accomplish.

Doing this saves state Governments a ton of cash. Incarcerating a person for one year costs on average $25,000 or more. The result could well be fewer new prisons, arrests, prosecutions, and incarcerations. The states can use that now wasted money for education, health care, transportation and other cash strapped services.

States will look at reducing the restrictions on ex-offender employment more as a money saving tool than the right thing to do for our society. So be it, if it results in more ex-offenders being re-integrated and no longer wearing the scarlet letter, or worse an orange jumpsuit, for the rest of their lives.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Choral Reflections

Looking back, I have enjoyed my first 3 concerts with the Heartland Men's Chorus. The hours of rehearsal, the drama of the guys, my aversion to and awkwardness in large groups are all worth the trouble when the curtain rises and you realize a whole community loves us.

My first concert with HMC was "Life is a Cabaret" ironically, the same title as my first St Louis Gateway Men's Chorus concert. Our concert was a wonderful program paying tribute to Kansas City composer John Kander, who, along with his late lyricist Fred Ebb, has written some of the most memorable shows in the history of Broadway.
Kander was in the audience Saturday evening, and was very appreciative and complimentary. He signed my program, adding to my collection.

"Life Is a Cabaret" was co-commissioned by the Heartland Men's Chorus and the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles and features more than 20 of Kander & Ebb's songs from musicals such as "Zorba," "Steel Pier," "Cabaret," "Chicago," "Woman of the Year" and "70 Girls 70." We were joined for this program by special guests Angela Hagenbach and the Central Dance Theater of Omaha.

The phenomenal Hagenbach, best known as a superb jazz singer, demonstrated her scene-stealing charm in several numbers, notably "When You're Good to Mama" and "Razzle Dazzle."

The Star wrote:"'Life Is a Cabaret' was a smashing success, and as it enters its 20th anniversary season this fall, the Heartland Men's Chorus has proven itself an irreplaceable part of Kansas City's diverse and vital arts community."

For the Holiday at Home Concert in December, both nights sold out and the audiences were lively and appreciative. The second 1/2 was more silly than funny, but the audience loved it. They especially enjoyed the cheerleaders in a "Christmas Cheer" and Granny's "performance" which was as off key and confused as a Florence Foster Jenkins recital. The first 1/2 was more traditional pieces including and African anthem "Betelehemu", "I saw Three Ships", A fantasy on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and a ethereal Latin hymn "Lux Arumque". I saw lots of friends and that made it worth while.

I did not do the Judy Garland "No Place Like Home" and glad I did not. More of a play and featuring a soloist as Judy, the chorus was more of a back-up. I had several people tell me it was not the best program and that even the chorus looked like they were not enthused. These types of concerts always cause a bit of controversy. People love the big choral concerts, however even a steady diet of them can turn stale. The problem with Judy, from what people told me, is that it was too focused on the solo.

A Homecoming, our official 20th anniversary concert was a smashing success. With all the publicity surrounding Joe Nadeau's firing by St Agnes Roman Catholic Church for being gay and associated with us as a "gay positive" organization, the audience was charged. Joe received a ton of applause and handled it well. We were charged, the music was great, the show well put together, the soloists right on target, the sound was spot-on so all came together for a great show. A friend of mine commented that this more than made up for the "Judy fiasco". I had two special friends Barb and Ross in the audience for their first concerts with us and I think they were 100% impressed. Ross commented that is was incredible and a thousand times better than he thought it would be. He envisioned a dry church choir like concert but we put on a real show.

Next season will be upon us soon. A fall visit to Dallas is planned to sing with the Dallas chorus, I plan on going. I think I am a part of this group for a while. Some of the guys get real involved and their whole life and circle of friends revolves around the chorus. That is not me, but to sing with this incredible group is a challenge and a privilege.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Church Shopping

Faithful blog readers have likely noted my uneasy truce with organized religion. I unfortunately see most god worshiping in the world as a negative force, behind most of the conflict, hatred and discrimination we face. Look the Christian-Islam battle being played out today, committing atrocities comparable to the Old Testament battles. Closer to home, “Christians” are the sponsors of or support legislation that codifies discrimination, death, punishment and war. That I just do not understand. The church continues to be the most discriminatory and segregated institution in the US. Finally, I find most of the church leadership in all denominations to be hypocrites and power hungry, two sins that the Christian Bible speaks out against regularly.

I, at almost 50 years old, find myself questioning almost everything about religion. All the dogma, the divinity, the laws are suspect. I do not doubt Jesus lived, I do not doubt he was morally and intellectually superior to many of his contemporaries. He was a true liberal (take THAT Pat Robinson, revolutionary and radical. If he were a contemporary citizen, I am sure he would be in the ghettos and gay pride parades and not at Liberty University or on the 700 Club. All the divinity and miracles and such I think of more as mythology than fact.

Maybe you find it surprising then that I attend church pretty regularly. I find going to church can be constructive if you approach it humbly and adapt a willingness to learn. Although ancient, the words of the Bible have a lesson to teach us about compassion, humility and service. I just refuse to get involved in the “my god is better than yours”, the “my holy word says to kill you” or “I am forgiven therefore I can judge you” BS that permeates most organized religions today. For many communities, a church can be a social center as well. Frankly, I use my church as a social organization as much as anything. I have met many people who are important to me at church.

I am, however, about to embark on a “church shopping” expedition. As much as we do not like to admit it, a church is also an organization, subject to the intrinsic characteristics of any organization be they sacred or secular. Just as in a business organization, when the leadership of the organization is weak and burned out, the rank and file suffers. They are less productive, leave or stand around the water cooler and complain. My church is suffering from a crisis of leadership both universally and locally.

Locally, our pastor is losing respect. The services have become drawn out affairs, with no message or focus. The previous pastor was an unmitigated disaster and destroyed the place, driving off people with her lack of sincerity and hard handed leadership. We used to be full, now the congregation is dwindling. No one is coming to replace them. Visitors see and feel the tension. Those who left in the previous regime have not found that things have improved. It is not as welcoming a place as it was when it welcomed me in 1997.

In the larger picture, the mother church keeps “dealing” with the “controversy” of homosexuality. They waste time and energy conducting trials and having court rulings. Is this a “church”???

This came to a head Sunday, after listening to a rambling 25 minute long yap followed by a pitiful choral anthem, slapped together at the last minute and a sparse crowd. As I was in the dressing room getting ready for the matinee performance of the Heartland Men’s Chorus several of the men where talking about church. When one fellow mentioned he went to a church that he had been a member of for years but was not happy with their opposition to GLBT people,(the old love the sinner, hate the sin crap) several men piped up touting their churches. I found that mine, though supportive of GLBT members in spite of the mother church, really had little to offer.

Sadly it may be time to go. I will miss a lot of people, but I can keep up. I can visit. Maybe some new scenery and a fresh outlook will be good for me. I’ll let you know what happens.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

On Stage

I bitch and moan about the long rehearsal schedule for the Heartland Men’s Chorus; every Tuesday 3, sometimes 4, hours if you attend an optional sectional or lesson, for 6 to 8 weeks or so. I am not a social animal in large groups so I tend to keep to myself and chat with a few who I know. I attend to sing, not to get involved in all the drama and gossip. I see attending rehearsal as a duty and obligation to the cause. I do it because I want to be a better singer, and to work as part of the team to make glorious music.

It is all worth it for the outcome. The rush of being on stage. The curtain rising, the audience immediately bursting into cheers. They love us. Of course many have friends and family in the chorus. But they can be a critical audience too. The audience will tell us if the show was not what they expected. This is not a free concert, like the orchestra one I went to this summer and the friend-filled audience applauded a most ghastly affair. These folks pay good $ for a ticket. Cheapest is $15 for the nosebleed most are $25-30. The applause and admiration is genuine.

And we give them our all. It is always a thrill to see it all come together. Tough passages nailed, notes above reach ringing out clear and strong. We come together, the silliness and the pettiness disappear as we go about our mission to inspire, heal and transform.

Despite my “this is my last concert” mantra, I am sure I’ll do it again.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Million Dollar Baby

Mrs. S was ecstatic this PM when she picked up her mail. "OH! My People Magazine is here, it has the Brad and Angelina baby!!" She looked at the sweet pic of the two stars looking at a little baby girl drooling and cooing. "They paid $4million for this" she shook her head. "$4 million for what, the baby?" I asked somewhat bored. No, there was a bidding war to get the first pics of the baby and People paid $4million for them." I was further bewildered by the human race.

Why? They are just baby pictures. Is this the only time we will ever see the kid? Is she going to be proclaimed as Divine and secluded in a remote temple until she emerges as the new Goddess? If not, new pictures will undoubtedly appear and in a few years we will be sick of the kid.

I do not know her parents well. I have seen a movie with Brad Pitt (don't remember the name but it was awful) and know he is originally from Springfield, MO and left the University of MO to go to Hollywood. He must have made it big. As for Mrs Pitt, Angelina Jolie (that has to be a made up name), I do not have a clue who she is or know if I have seen a movie or show she has done. All the hoopla baffles me. Mrs S was quite happy to be the first on our block (or at least in the towers) to see the little tyke. Is there now a bounty for the first picture of the baby burping? Would you like to see my first born's first picture. I have copies for $1.25 or 2 for a dollar.

I hope the Pitts are happy with their millions, I am sure they need it. I guess I need to start taking more pictures, and maybe someone will pay me for them. Somehow I doubt it.

UPDATE: My faithful reader Zaine enlightened me about the whole deal. Apparently they are giving the money to African charities and had the baby in Africa to publicize the plight of African children. So some good is coming from all the hoopla. I also read that People Magazine increased the cost of this issue by about 50cents, I guess the readers are the ones to pay for it all. I don't know the monthly sales of People Magazine but I am sure the $ will make at least a dent in the $4million figure.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


OK, what is it with the craze for tattoos? I am on record here as absolutely despising them. If, on that first night of sex crazed passion, my partner undressed and revealed a tattoo riddled body, I would likely lose all interest completely. So far I have not had the opportunity to test my theory, but I feel that strongly about it that I think it would be a good bet.

It used to be tattoos were reserved for those serving time in San Quentin, those in the shallow end of the gene pool or a souvenir of a drunken night in Bora-Bora while in the Navy. Now they are sported by men and women of all ages and backgrounds. Digital cameras and web forums allow the newly inked to show off their “art” to everyone. In the PugVillage web forum, several threads have been started over the past years showing off member’s tattoos, several of them pug tattoos.

It seems the more colorful, outrageous and gaudier the better. Why do people insist on having ugly snakes, skeletons and ghoulish creatures indelibly stamped on their arm or other places? I remember the guy who used to wash our office windows in Independence. He and his wife must have been covered in the things. He sported a huge eagle on the back of his neck and bald head. Fuck that had to hurt. Today while in HyVee getting lunch, two skinny Latino men with tank tops came in, every exposed part of their body covered in some scary looking scribbling. Do they really think that is attractive?? Maybe we should adopt Arab dress and cover them in long robes… One can’t tell if an Arab is scribbled on.

Whatever has started this trend, I wish it would go away. And don’t get me started on the piercings.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

"House Lights Down and Spot Light on the Piano.."

Known interchangeably as "Hell Week" or "Production Week", we are counting down the days until the performances this weekend of "A Homecoming" the final production of the current Kansas City Heartland Men's Chorus. It the 20th anniversary of the group, therefore this is a concert of favorites, chosen in large part via audience survey. I think they did a decent job; surprisingly, many of the songs are the more serious "political" or tear jerker songs. A couple of the fun songs creep in to liven up the thing.

Tonight was the Technical Rehearsal. Lucky for us, this show is not technically demanding. Sort of "HMC Unplugged" as Joe our music director stated; just Lamar on the piano and us. There are a few solos, but no production numbers, dancers or all that. These are the ones I like, as my clumsiness and my cluelessness on left and right get me flustered. The rehearsal went ok. The lights were not right, and the projections onto the screens were too big and bright, but that is what the night is for, to work out the bugs. It is also our first rehearsal at the actual performance venue, the Folly Theatre.

Tomorrow is Dress Rehearsal, the final go through before the opening. We try to run the show as if we were actually doing it. We are not in our full dress, except those who have specific costumes and props. Standing all eve renders my legs jelly and gets my poor abused arm tired. Since there are a lot of us this time (135 or so) we are a bit squished in. Thankfully, I scheduled a chiropractor apt for Thurs.

The demeanor of the chorus members change as well. They focus, are less silly (just a bit less, and tend to come together as a group. There are more handshakes, hugs and pats on the back to each other as we prepare for what we have fretted about and sacrificed our time for: our concert. We will sing proudly, boldly and live our mission statement: Our voices enlighten, inspire, heal, and empower.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


So ....

there you are having a dinner party..

Your parents are there

Your in-laws are there

Your boss and his wife are there

The minister and his wife are there

You're all settling down for a nice relaxing evening dinner





dog ....

(for some reason the pic disappeared and you had to click on a box to see it. So as to not get thrown off Blogspot, I guess you have to imagine the scene: a cute golden retriever type of dog enters the room, eyes bright and tail wagging, carrying your large, life-like dildo.)

Get the picture???

Monday, June 05, 2006

Life is a Whirly-gig

I am on the whirly-gig again.

1)This week is production week for the Heartland Men's Chorus Summer production, A Homecoming. Long evenings, stress, does the tux fit, where and when I am supposed to be somewhere, music memorized, the damn movements on "Razzle Dazzle" memorized on and on and on. But the applause and comments of the crowd is worth it in the end. So look for more sporadic than usual blog entries this week.

2)I made a quick trip to Illinois this weekend to attend the funeral of my ex-mother in law Eloise Gooden. She was, to put it mildly, quite a trip. Sadly, this energetic and kind (in her own way) lady spent years in a nursing home with brain damage, dementia and then alzheimer's. RIP Eloise.

3)Looks like we are going to have some work done here at the Towers this week. Our front walk is finally being repaired. I am sure that will set someone off.

4)There has been a wonderful program on the History Channel on the untold story of the space race. I missed the last half as I was heading home tonight. I am anxiously awaiting the VCR to turn on to tell me if I have successfully programed it to capture the repeat. Cross your fingers. Whoops not right, try again.. It is recording static. This is a new machine and I have never used it. The directions are confusing. I guess I'll give up and watch it.....guess I'll be up late.

5)When I get on the whirly-gig, I usually forget or otherwise mess something up... so stay tuned for the fun!

Saturday, June 03, 2006


I got invited to go to Jazzoo!, an annual fundraiser for the Kansas City Zoo. On the hoity-toity scale of fundraisers, this one is definitely middle brow. The Hoity-toityist of fundraisers are by invite only to the elite of the city. Jazoo! is not cheap (basic tickets are $175/person) but open to any who plunk down cash. They also sell t-shirts and ball caps (yes I bought one of each), definitely low brow.

My friend Mike got the tickets from his sister who got them from her employer, the candy company Russell Stover. He kindly invited me and I decided to go for the heck of it. The dress code was "creative black tie", Mike said since I had a tux, I was a prime candidate. The edict of "creative black tie" aroused my curiosity so I asked my neighbor (who goes to the higher level hoity-toity events) if he had any interesting accessories for a tux. As luck would have it, he had a leopard print tie and cummerbund. His collection of old jewelry produced a suitably gaudy brooch for my lapel. When I mentioned I was going to a friend, he informed me that a lot of the attendees wore shorts. Hello! Permission granted.

So here I had my tux jacket and ruffled shirt with studs, leopard accessories and khaki shorts and my Nica-made sandals. All fit for a Jazzoo.

When I arrived at Mike's his look was one of astonishment. "You did bring pants I hope?" NOPE! I replied. He was not amused but the others in the group that went with us told him to just get over it. As it turned out, most of the other men that attended followed my lead and I fit right in. It was Mike and Bruce in their long pants who looked out of place.

There was tons of food and drink, (good margaritas, horrid mojitos) and dancing and fun. I had a great time on someone else's largess. It was comforting to know the proceeds would help provide food and such for the zoo citizens.

I guess getting to go to a middle-hoity event is a start. But rich people pretty much annoy me so I'll stick to the low class. I had just as much fun at Davy's Midtown Rambler's Club with Ross and Jeff and Barb. That is even lower than low brow.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Bambi Goes Shopping

Interesting that this is the second story I have read in the last few months about deer wandering into retail establishments. Earlier this year, a big doe got in to Dillard's at Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, KS. She was looking for bargains in winter fashions as she overturned a couple of sale racks in the Ladies' Dept.

On Thursday, a deer wondered into the St. Louis Galleria mall and made his way into the Crabtree & Evelyn store. Obviously, this young buck was looking for something for that special someone in his life, or else has a preference for lilac soap.

The funny thing about this incident is that mall management think the deer just walked in. "We have automatic doors that opened for him," said Jenny Koch, director of marketing for The Galleria in an interview with the Post Dispatch.

Unfortunately, Bambi could not pay and was held until picked up by authorities who took him home.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

License to Steal

I get totally disgusted at the frat-boy, arrogant, Me first behavior of the younger members of the Republican Party. Out only for themselves and power, they rule through fear and slander, supported by rich daddies and power brokers who skim profits from them like an old fashioned pyramid scheme. Yes, our government is being run like an AMWAY scheme.

This is no where more apparent here in Missouri where the Boy-Gov, bankrolled by his disgraced daddy House Whip Roy Blunt, and his college Republican country-club boys continue to pillage the state.

Boy-Gov has taken health care from the poor, cut children's services, laid off employees all while enriching a few of his and his party's cronies in a scheme that may never be unraveled. The arrogant little prick even had the audacity to say in an interview that he has not made a single mistake while Governor.

I shake my head. I don't get it. Humility, compassion, honesty have been replaced by arrogance, brutality and corruption.

Yet the voters elect these idiots and as long as their SUV and home in Cupcake Land are not threatened, do not seem to care. The Republicans trot out their scare tactics; turrerism (sic), threats to marriage from gays and lesbians and taxes to whip the ignorant public into shape. They control the TV media; if in doubt watch the news shows for a few minutes; where are you Walter Cronkite???

This rant was prompted by an editorial in the Post Dispatch blasting the Boy-Gov's administration and policy on Fee Offices. Another scheme to enrich the Republican elite. Read it for yourself:

License To Loot

Like the arrogant Emperor Bush, I hope he gets kicked to curb. Or better yet, join his friends Bill Webster and Adam Taff as young Republican ex-cons.