Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Yankton's Population Grows by One

It is likely that Yankton, South Dakota is about to get a new temporary resident. Federal Prison Camp Yankton is unique among the US Prison Camps. Not a part of a larger prison, it is set right in the middle of this small city of 22,000 people. Once Yankton College, the camp still looks like an ivy covered college and not a prison. It is pretty cushy compared to a supermax or even a regular federal prison. It is one of the places to which the feds send the white collar convicts. Looks like Shawn Brown is going to join fellow greedy young Republican Adam Taff there soon. Maybe they can share their pain.

Brown, former mayor of St Peter’s, MO got an 18-month prison sentence and a severe tongue lashing from the judge. Judge Henry Autrey told Brown that through his actions, he abused his elected position and destroyed the public's faith in good government. Brown had plead guilty of felony bribery by soliciting and accepting a $2,750 bribe from Redflex Traffic Systems Inc, a company that is installing traffic cameras in St. Peters

Judge Autrey reamed the now contrite but once cocky mayor who ran a hard campaign to unseat a long serving mayor: "Part of your promise to the citizens of St. Peters was honest government. You flat-out lied. You didn't complete your campaign promise. You abused your position of trust … to steal, to fatten your own pocket," Autrey added. It appears Brown and his family are in deep financial trouble. Spending more than they had, the $2750 bribe probably would have kept the wolves away for a few minutes. News reports say their house, the restaurant they owned, his wife’s hair salon and the house are for sale. He also got fired from his full time job. A few months in Yankton may be the least of his worries.

His story is much like Taff’s. Both were up and coming politicians, caught with their hands in the money pot. Taff is serving a 15-month term at Yankton for misusing campaign money to fraudulently obtain a loan on a $1.2 million home. Although he lost the race he was running, he was certainly being groomed for future positions in Kansas politics.

Minor offences in the scheme of things, but both these men campaigned on morality, clean government and conservative family values, which include denying gay and lesbian family rights but seems to include fraud and greed.

I wish no further punishment for them, they have ruined their political careers, they will fade away. The big question is will others learn from them? Harsh punishment and execution has not stopped murder, long sentences and the Scarlet Letter for sex offenses has not stopped that crime. So a few months in the almost pleasant surroundings at Yankton won’t do much I am afraid.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Nereus Arrives

A while back, Puggles and I were actually watching TV. One of those rare lay back and channel surf moments that I have. We landed on Animal Planet and began watching the saga of Nereus the walrus. An orphaned baby walrus, Nereus finds a new home thousands of miles away from the Alaskan beach where he is found. Nereus now gets round the clock care from his human keepers at the Indianapolis Zoo. it was a cute story with a happy ending. The walrus was flopping around, snorting and bellowing and acting as walruses do.

Puggles was fascinated. Apparently walrus speech is similar to pug. Puggles seemed to understand everything he said. She now wanted a walrus.

I posted on PugVillage that HM demanded that I bring her Nereus and set him up in the pool. It was noted that it was not feasible to house a walrus in a condo pool. They are quite loud and have a tendency to poo in their water. I was not up for that.The denizens of the Village responded that the Queen could not be without walrus!

HM Puggles' disappointment was soothed yesterday when a box arrived with our name on it. Inside was her very own Nereus, albeit 1/43rd scale. As you can see Nereus has become a favorite member of the Royal Court.

Rumor has it that more walruses are on the way. I maybe keeper of the herd... contributions of fish can be sent to Pato at Puggingham Palace.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Yo-Yo II

Sunday we were treated to a special concert of the Kansas City Symphony, again featuring Yo-Yo Ma on the cello, Michael Stern conducting.

The program was not long in length but long on style and ravishing sound.

The opener was a taught and swift Barber Overture to "The School for Scandal". The performance was technically excellent with just a enough over the top energy to capture the comic nature of the piece. Barber's early work was fitting curtain raiser to the afternoon's program.

Following was the exquisite suite from Ravel's "Ma Mère L'oye" ("Mother Goose"). The suite consists of five movements from the whole work: "Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty", "Hop o' My Thumb", "Laideronnette, Empress of the Pagodas", "Conversations of Beauty and the Beast" and "The Fairy Garden". This atmospheric work is a jewel that is not often heard. The opening chords of The Pavane were evocatively misty, taking us to an enchanted world from the first notes. Excellent winds and percussion were showcased in the "Empress of the Pagodas", providing lush yet never overstated orientalisms. The closing "Fairy Garden" boasted a sweet violin solo and a well controlled climax, the orchestra providing a grand wash of sound. I wished only to hear the whole ballet and the marvelous music missing from the suite.

The second half of the program consisted of Strauss' tone poem "Don Quixote" which of course features a substantial concertante part for cello. Ma was a wonderfully communicative Don Quixote. Matthew Rombaum, principal violist, performed the important "role" of Sancho Panza to Ma’s Quixote. Rombaum was a perfect foil to the cello and gave nothing away to Ma in his phrasing and tone. The whole work, not my favorite Strauss piece, was well done and communicative, it was easy to follow the various moods and events of the tale.

Everyone noted Ma's ability to communicate and his commanding presence. He frequently watched the orchestra play, nodded in agreement when a passage was well turned, winked and gestured to the players, even as he effortlessly played. M, who came with me on Sunday wondered if Ma was making goo goo eyes at the Concertmistress Kanako Ito. It sure looked that way sometimes. It was refreshing to see the musicians have so much fun and still making suburb music.

The audience called ma back several times and he rewarded them with a movement from the 3rd Bach Cello Suite. With his instrument back stage, he commandeered the cello from the principal cello to use. I wonder if that cello will ever be washed again?!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Yo-Yo I

The biggest weekend this year for the Kansas City Symphony has arrived, 3 concerts with renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Tickets were impossible to get, sold out months ago. Craigs' List had number of ads over the last month seeking tickets, most to no avail. I was lucky to get tickets for both Fri and Sunday; Sunday's performance being a different one from Friday and Saturday.

Ma is obviously a big draw. Even non classical music lovers know him. In 1998, Ma founded the Silk Road Project, an effort to illuminate the music, both old and new, of the cultures along the famous Silk Road that stretched from Rome through Asia to Japan, thus bringing him a whole new audience. The UN has named him as a Messenger of Peace along with Michael Douglas, Mohammed Ali, Jane Goodall, Luciano Pavarotti, Elie Wiesel, and Wynton Marsalis.

I have several favorite cello works, and for some reason Ma does not play a role in any of them. The Elgar Concerto was owned by Jacqueline du Pre, the Bach Cello Suites by Janos Starker, and the Dvorak by Piatigorsky. Thus I was pleased to hear Ma live in concert for the first time.

Ma was featured in the Haydn Cello Concerto in C and Night Music: Voices in the Leaves for Cello, Nine Instruments and Tape by Uzbeki Composer Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky, a Russian Jewish composer who has chosen to live in Uzbekistan from where he draws his musical inspiration. Thus his works combine music of east and west, Christian and Islam, and his native folk music. The opener was Stravinsky’s gem “Dumbarton Oaks” Concerto with the magnificent Shostakovich Symphony # 9 as finale.

The evening’s disappointment was the Dumbarton Oaks so let’s get it out of the way. The first movement was aimless, the intricate counterpoint seemed confused and almost aleatoric at times, despite the agile winds with their perfect, pungent Stravinskian tone. The second movement had similar issues since it is entirely composed of almost Webernian single notes or 3-4 note phrases. Demanding the utmost in control, the performance again went nowhere, despite the well chosen tempo and tonal excellence from the winds. Suddenly, everything jelled and the final "con moto" was excellent, with biting, controlled brass, sharp attacks from the winds and the brittle accented strings. Dumbarton Oaks is a difficult piece to bring off, and with a performance under their belt, I would assume future performances will correct the ensemble issues. The tone and technique are there in spades. (NOTE: I am told the Saturday performance was superb and this by a harsher critic than I)

The Haydn Cello Concerto in C is simply one of the jewels of the cello repertoire. Looking forward from the baroque to the classical period, this charming, always fresh concerto allows ample display for the soloist while mining the opportunities the modern sonata form brings to concerted works.

Ma obviously enjoyed the work, and could glade effortlessly from the gritty double stops of the opening, to the more soaring melodies of the Adagio. The first movement cadenza was well done, suitably flashy but never overdone. Well paced and glowing from start to finish, the Adagio benefited from the lightness of touch from the soloist and the orchestra. The finale was spirited, joyous and again effortlessly communicated the spirit and the freshness of the music. The Orchestra showed that it is well at home in Haydn, always brisk and crisp.

Ma introduced the Yanov-Yanovsky as a piece about memory; small fragments of past events, foggy recollections, incomplete memories, a tune half remembered. Only at the end does everything fit together and the memory take flight. Ma was part of the ensemble of flute, clarinet, percussion, harp, piano, violin, viola, cello and double bass. The cello was part of the ensemble but also had many important solo lines as well, sort of a “more equal than others” role.

The audience was gripped by this quiet, subtle, oriental tinged piece. Although no folk instruments were used, the western instruments were often called upon to mimic native Uzbek instruments. The harp muted and dry, the piano frequently called upon to play the strings inside a la Cowell. The short motives were easy to hear and effectively woven into the texture. It was easy to hear them combine in the climax as the memories of the past became clear. The taped voice singing an Uzbek lullaby joined shimmering strings and the cello’s soaring responses, the dialog between them was atmospheric and breathtaking. A surprisingly satisfying, approachable yet ear challenging work.

And thus to the Shostakovich; simply brilliant. The orchestra ignited and everything was in place. Tempi were spot on, the solo piccolo in the first movement was technically excellent, full of sardonic wit, swagger and bravado. The solo trombone was brilliantly aggressive without sounding merely out of place. The somber second movement waltz was similarly well communicated, never dragging yet contrasted with its faster neighbors. The same applied to the mercurial scherzo. The largo has always been the focal point of this piece (see my entry “The Anti-Ninth” for a background on the work) and in this case the solo bassoon was so effective in evoking the “pause to remember” feeling of the movement. I could literally feel the pain of and see the blank, destroyed faces of the dead, injured, displaced and defeated from the war. Simply brilliant.

The same solo bassoon moved effortlessly into the swirling dance of the short finale. I have always wondered about this movement and how it fits into the scheme of things. Are we to banish all thoughts of the dead and destroyed? Are we to just dance life away, is this Communism and The Motherland rejoicing? Giddy with power and victory? I still do not know, but suffice to say the Orchestra brought all the emotions to the fore. A thought provoking ending to a challenging, fine evening.

Sunday brings a chance to hear Ma again in the Strauss Don Quixote, with the Barber “School for Scandal” and Ravel’s “Ma Mere L’Oye” suite.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Nobody Wins

It has been a bad couple of days. First the Dr crap yesterday and now a sinking feeling that I am losing things dear to me.

Some friends of mine, a gay couple are in crisis. I can't help at all and it is frustrating. Sadly, good news and a chance at a dream job for one is tearing them apart. M is younger and an up and coming professional in his field. He has been offered and has accepted a position out west. Big money, promotion opportunity, more responsibility; the things young, ambitious men want.

S, on the other hand is older, loves his house and junk, looking to retire, has a secure job with wonderful benefits here. He is loathe to move. But then, as he put it, men like M do not come along every day. Don't I know it. No matter what the decision, it will be a lose-lose all around. M is going, no question. The question is if or when S goes. He is wavering and the issue has exposed some weaknesses in their relationship, as all have. Selfishly, I would love them to stay. I'll be lost without S even more, he is the brains behind keeping the Queen Mary afloat.

It hurts to watch both of them strained and stressed. S cried on my shoulder over the phone over an hour last week. I think they will both go eventually. But no one will be happy.

Again, I guess it is consolation to be single; Puggles goes with me, no questions asked. And she has few ambitious plans besides a place to nap and a treat or two.

The other is my dear Nicaragua. I see it getting ugly and dangerous. This article gives a good idea what transpired. I was there when this happened, I heard first hand about the mob, I stayed up on the hill, out of town. I may not go back to San Juan, and any thoughts of living there are gone.

Gringo Justice

Jamaica is like this, I am told. You go to the resorts and stay there under lock and guard. Venture out and the racism and hatred of the Jamaicans is real. Gays are murdered for sport. Nicaragua has always been a bit different. The people open, friendly, but not real demonstrative or emotional. I relished my interactions with them, I made friends with many. But now, I wonder if I should fear them?

I guess it was inevitable. The mix of rich and dirt poor is a volatile one. Gringos with money (that includes US, Canadian and European) have came in and bought land, started businesses, developed property. Some mix with the people, some do not. With the rise of Daniel Ortega and his connections with Chavez and Castro, I can only assume his anti-gringo rhetoric will increase, despite his protests to the contrary. He will do what it takes to please his master Chavez. The Sandinista mayor Sr. Eduardo Holmann, quoted in the article, has developed his own housing development and property for the gringos and ricos. His power rests on the gringo presence.

It is so complicated in Nicaragua, because "La mentira es la Vida" (The Lie is the Life). One lies, in more of a sin of omission, to survive the poverty and the oppression of the corruption. Nicas will often tell you what you want to hear so as not to offend or disappoint. The will not reveal their true feelings to you so as to keep you as a friend when needed, and an enemy when advantageous. I am suspicious now, is this the real feelings of the locals? I do not know, a mistrust has developed. I asked a Nica, my favorite bartender Arturo if he resented all the gringo invasion. "No, mas trabajo", (no, more jobs) he said quickly, otherwise he'd have nothing. What does he really think?

I watch the outcome of this with interest and trepidation. I know Eric slightly, and I understand he was in Managua when the murder occurred. But for some reason, the Nicas want his scalp. Injustice is ugly no matter where. There is no excuse for it, but to send a message. Be careful of what you ask for, you may get it.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

I am Too Sweet is official. Dr Haynes told me at 10AM this morning that I have diabetes. Fun. Joy.

"Lose some weight, more exercise.... yadda yadda yadda.... I want you to go to nutrition classes, and some diabetes classes too.... yap yap yap."

She has always annoyed me, I like her partner Dr Henley better. But Henley was the one that found my blood sugar high, he just happened to not be in today. So I can blame him too.

I guess it was inevitable. I do weigh too much, but I am exercising more than ever before. I have a job that gets me up and down a lot, I have not had a donut in months. But the results do not lie. I have had a bit of high blood sugar before, years ago. My grandfather was diabetic. It runs in the family; thanks Gramps.

I had to get one of the glucometers where you prick your finger and put a drop of blood on the little test strip. I have to do it twice a day and keep a log of the results. It reads your number. The lower threshold for diabetes is 125. I was 217. Just a tad high. Guess no more donuts for sure.

My blood pressure was high again too, but we will deal with that next month. One malady at a time.

I guess I have to change my habits, I want to live a bit longer to annoy people and see George Bush suffer.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

State of the Union

I actually watched a bit of the State of the Union Address by the pathetic Emperor, now facing a revolt in his court. I wanted to see him in more contrite role. I was not disappointed It was great seeing Nancy Pelosi behind him, Dick Cheney looking bloated and dull next to the more vibrant Pelosi. Cheney also looked absolutely bored.

Bush yet everything he said he has said before. Bush continues to trot out bad ideas he longs to foist on us such as radically changing Social Security, bogus healthcare savings, tax cuts for the wealthy (my taxes have gone down 0% since this goon has been in office), these risky healthcare savings accounts, or worst, escalating the war he started in Iraq. Then he went into his litany of goals he has no intention of nor idea how to achieve. He has harped on the need to conserve energy and free ourselves from dependence on foreign oil in every State of the Union address and has no intention of doing anything meaningful about it.

One good point, at least he decided it was time to stop attacking Gay and Lesbians and their families by calling on Congress to enshrine hate and bigotry in the constitution by defining marriage. He finally realized it was going nowhere. Seems he is so fucking dense, it takes him years to to figure that out.

Democrats were swift to challenge his tepid, recycled ideas. "While the president continues to ignore the will of the country, Congress will not ignore this president's failed policy," Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid gave Bush said in a joint statement after his address. "His plan will receive an up-or-down vote in both the House and Senate, and we will continue to hold him accountable for changing course in Iraq."

Bush is a disaster. A world wide poll continues to show US influence and approval at all time lows throughout the world. I find it hard to believe the whole world is stupid and Bush is right.

Nothing new, a subdued and wounded Emperor, it was a mixed affair. Since every idea Bush had has been a disaster for the US, we should rejoice that he did not offer any new ones.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Fun with Spam

My sense of humor is very warped. So as I find these lines belly laugh funny, you may not.

Like many of us, I get a ton of spam emails. Lucky, my main email account sends them all to the spam ward. Occasionally I view them to see if a legit email got caught in the spam catcher. Always they provide a bit of amusement. Who said spam mail is useless?

There is a proliferation of emails with normal sounding names but strange message titles. Usually selling erection pills or some sort of get-rich-quick scheme. I send them all to East Spam Hell (Much worse than West Spam Hell) after getting a chuckle or two. Here is a recent sample, see if we have the same warped sense of humor.

Lottie Vance sent me an email titled "He Mistress a Sag"
Enid Norman wrote to tell me "He execrable it cygnus" (hate when that happens)
Sabrina Padilla wants me to know "as thompson my maddox"
Corina Glenn tells me "It be quota" (no doubt there)
pledge plugin, Someone with a flair for alliterations writes: "muziek, myblogs mydomains myths... Pakistan palm pandora panorama papers"( I picture kids jumping rope)
And this is just today.

I am not so clever to think of these little names and such. I think it must be someway to try to beat the various firewalls and filters and such. Mine catch them and throw them out... but not until I have a little laugh at their expense.

Damn, I hate it when my mistress is a sag....

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Kansas City Symphony Beethoven Sibelius and Ives

PDQ Bach forever ruined Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony for me. Used in one of the comic genius' parodies "New Horizons in Music Appreciation". The first movement of the symphony is performed with a "play by play" commentary. "They're off!" as the opening motto is sounded. The violins' held note after one entrance of the theme and a bobble from the horn elicit commentary on whether the instrumentalists involved will be traded. "What!?? He thinks it's an oboe concerto!!!" follows the short oboe cadenza. I just can't help my self, it takes all my will power not to shout the phrases out, as if it were a "Rocky Horror Picture Show" screening.

Thankfully I have some self control as the Beethoven 5th was performed as the second half of the Kansas City Symphony concerts this weekend, Michael Stern conducting.

The first movement was played with a strong sense of forward motion; the brisk tempo never seemed rushed. Stern mined the incredible tension and release that Beethoven wrote into this monumental movement. No matter how often it is heard, there is no doubt that it is one of the singular achievements in western music.

The slow movement again never dragged but was a nice contrast to the other three movements, something that can not always be said about many performances. The demonic scherzo was powerful and driving. I missed a bit of mystery in the transition from the third movement to the finale, which made the triumphal theme of the last movement a bit tepid. Some blatty horns did not help. The final chords were perfectly together and brought the performance to a solid and satisfying conclusion. As usual the woodwinds were excellent, the strings only problem being a lack of numbers. What a few extra strings would do for the sound.

The first half comprised the Ives "Three Places in New England" and the Sibelius Violin Concerto. One a hit, the other the evening's disappointment.

Maestro Stern loves Ives and has long been a champion of his music. From this stellar performance, we can only hope for more; the 3rd Symphony perhaps?

The many ethereal and mystic passages of “The Saint-Gaudens in Boston Commons,” and the “Housatonic at Stockbridge” were both clear yet subtly shrouded. All the lines and elements could be discerned yet were blended into the cloud of sound Ives intended. “Putnam’s Camp” was perfectly noisy with a remarkable controlled rowdiness. The orchestra was well up to the demands of the piece. A surprisingly great performance that had many in the audience reassessing their opinion of Ives.

Hungarian violinist Barnabas Kelemen was the soloist in the Sibelius Violin Concerto. He is certainly technically gifted and a very visceral performer. Sadly, he showed little understanding of this most romantic and passionate of concertos. His tone was a too muscular and tended to emphasize the wrong notes in a phrase with accents that were not there in the score. The slow movement came off best. The finale was ok, but Keleman completely blew off the strange yet wonderful passage in harmonics, burying it in the orchestral texture. Tempi were spot on but intonation was questionable in several passages. The orchestra seemed a little overwhelmed by it all. The audience for the most part loved him, he certainly caught the ladies' attention and was posing with gaggles of young female fans for photographs at intermission. A pretty face does not a virtuoso make.

The audience called him back for an encore, the opening movement of Bach's Sonata #1 for violin solo. Played with lots of showmanship and lukewarm musical passion.

The Kansas City Symphony continues to improve with every performance. Even the Sibelius was good, I just love the piece so much that I think I am a bit over critical. Even on a cold evening with heavy snow falling, the hall was packed. Friday was sold out, clear testimony to where the orchestra is and where it is going.

Next week: 2 separate concerts featuring Yo-Yo Ma. That would never had occurred a few years ago.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Felix the Oscar

From my post a few days ago, I think it is obvious that Puggles, Queen of All Pugs, Etc, has a special place in the hierarchy of "animals I have loved". The adored creature next in line is a little different. He had no legs or fur at all. Despite that, he was a treasured member of my family for years and deserves to be honored.

His name was Felix. No, not a cat, but Felix the Oscar. Clever of me, wasn't it?

Oscars (or Astronotus Ocellatus)are large ciclid fish commonly found in South America - Amazon and Orinoco River Basins - Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, French Guiana, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. They are popular for aquarium hobbyists and are known to be a highly intelligent, observant fish. Good size for aquarium fish, they get to be about 12-14 in long and weigh 3-4 lbs. The picture above is of course not Felix, I have a picture or two of him, but taken in the pre-digital days and thus not on line anywhere.

I got Felix as a small fry and watched him grow, and grow and grow, until he needed his own 55 gallon tank with his friend the Mentally Retarded Catfish (MRC). MRC would stand for days on its head in the corner, until poked. It would then thrash around and disappear, only to reappear a few days later, on its head in the corner. MRC eventually disappeared totally, I wonder if Felix ate him, finally having enough of his silliness.

Felix was about 14 in long, but I never weighed him. Suffice to say, whenever he needed to be moved, a large bucket was necessary.

He lived with me in Jefferson City, moved with me to Grain Valley, stayed with my sister in Illinois when I was in Chicago and then to St Louis with me. He was nothing else but a well traveled fellow. Through all that, a bout with "hole in the head disease", a common affliction with Oscars, a nutsoid neighbor in Grain Valley who fed him a whole 10 lbs of food while I was away one time and thus turned his water into cornmeal, and my sometimes neglectful attitude, Felix lived and prospered.

As I mentioned, Oscars are observant and very smart. I taught him as a smaller fellow to jump out of his tank and catch his food. He would spot you as you passed by and enjoyed following you. If you were in the same room, he would make sure you were well observed. He caught everyone's attention. Once I brought a fellow home with me and as we made our way passionately back to the bedroom we passed through my den where Felix lived. As this fellow was doing things to me that my modesty will not allow me to write :), he caught sight of Felix staring at him menacingly. Briefly startled, he exclaimed "damn that is a big fish". He unfortunately was referring to Felix.

He also loved to dance.

As one can imagine, a dancing fish is quite a rarity. If you went up to his tank and started swaying back and forth he would follow your movements, faster and faster until he broke into a boogie that rivaled anything on Saturday Night Fever. A towel was usually in order to pick up the sloshed around water.

When I left St Louis, my life was in turmoil. I was facing another move, little money and a job I knew was not going to last long. Felix was then around 11 years old and I was not sure he could stand another move. I made the hard decision to take him to the local aquarium shop and give him to them. They promised to keep him and not kill him but set him up in a nice tank. They had never seen him and were impressed by his size and personality when he arrived. He got a nice new home. I visited the shop a year or so later and they said he was with an Oscar enthusiast they knew in a 500 gallon tank with some other fish and was still well. He was at least 12-13 by then. That is not uncommon.

I miss Felix, he was one of a kind. Occasionally I think about getting another tank and an Oscar. But my little space here is pretty crowded as it is. I don't know where I'd put one.

Felix, you were special. Here's to you my friend! Happy swimming.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Secret of Making Men Happy

This revelation works for women, gay boys and anyone trying to please the man in their life:

Men have two states of being:




If you see your man without an erection, make him a sandwich.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Man's Best Friend

We hopped in the Queen Mary and after settling in, headed east out of town. No, it was not an escape, Puggles had a vet appointment. Her skin allergies were out of hand and she was biting and scratching something terrible. She had a rubbed a few places raw, having found that an unused cable TV outlet was the perfect height to reach the spot above her tail. She would wiggle her butt against it and just "ooooowwwww ooooooowwwrop" away as it relieved the itch.

I take her about 15 miles away and pass a ton of vet hospitals because I trust this vet with her life. She has been going there since she was a tiny pup, they know her and she knows them. Most dogs howl and resist going to the vet. Puggles bolts from the car and strains at her leash to get in, scratching at the door... come on!! She bursts in, whole body wiggling; she just can't wag her tail enthusiastically enough. "I am here!, Love me, Pet me!, Where are the treats!!!??"

She gets her shot, and her glands expressed and she is much happier. As he looks at her, Dr B wants to do a dental. Her almost 8 yr old teeth need attention. I resist as it involves putting her under anesthesia and I hate that. Pugs have been known to be difficult to bring out of anesthesia. What do I do? Risk that, or have her in pain over some bad teeth. As much as I trust Dr B, hell he has been a vet for 37 years, I think I'll get a second opinion.

I like dogs more than most people. Friendly, loyal, caring, trusting, loving unconditionally, I have never been screwed over by a dog. They may pee on your rug (usually that is your fault for not taking them out) but they never stab your back. You know where you stand with them. Be a dog's master and protector, and you have a friend for life. Feed them, a warm place to sleep, a treat or 20, a few toys, they are content.

Dogs know us. Scientists suspect that the dog-human relationship goes back to pre-history. Wolf remains have been found with human remains dating from 400,000 years ago. Domestication of dogs took place 17-14,000 years ago. Thus they are sensitive to our moods and feelings, adapt to our schedules and gleefully join us in our celebrations and feasting.

Last night, I had fit of coughing and restlessness at about 3AM. As I hacked and tossed, cursed and wailed, Puggles lay beside me. Always looking at me with those dark big eyes. When I would settle, I'd get a couple of pugkisses. "You ok daddy??" she'd seem to say. Her velvet ears would get scratched and tummy rubbed. When I would drift off, she'd lay and softly snore and make her long, contented snort-sigh (something only a pug can do) to let me know all is relaxed and well.

I have not decided about her teeth. It seems to be a no-brainer to get her teeth fixed. But the anxiety, the questions, the stark fear; what would I do with out her? It would send my fragile mental health into a tail spin. She is more than a dog, she is my soul mate. My baby, my rock. We'll have to think long and hard about that one.

She is on her throne right now, a leather recliner with a green velvet cushion for her to lay upon. A passing barking dog has been dispatched with a few growls, get thee gone! Snoring softly, waiting to see if I am going to get up from the desk and go anywhere near food.

My friend.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bushwhacking of America Continues

Subtle and sly, barely noticed by the media (liberal bias my ass) Bush and his Administration run rampant through the system, dismantling anything that displeases the emperor.

Bush Fires Cummins in Midst of Investigation

It adds up, we can't have the son of one of the most important Republican Leaders being investigated for political misconduct can we?? Only the Democrats do that, because they sympathize with child rapists, baby killers and "turrists".

I firmly believe now that Blunt was up to no good and would have been indicted if the investigation was handled properly.

Hypocrisy makes me sick.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

An Update

It is 12 degrees here in KC, MO right now, wind chill makes it seem like 4 degrees. And guess what, the Liberty Tax man is still dressed as Miss Liberty (same fellow as last week, he must have done something really bad) and still waving at cars as they pass. See the link below for the original story.

I think I'll keep my job, thank you.

Humiliating Jobs

The Town Car Lives On

Thank goodness, I did not want to drive an orphan. After much speculation and rumor, Ford Motor Company announced that it was continuing production of the Lincoln Town Car at least for 2007.

As one can imagine, sales of the big girl are down as big luxury cars slip out of vogue. If you want big luxury now, you get a big SUV. Yes, a luxo-truck. I can't really accept that, but I guess most of the big spenders do. Smaller "sport-lux" cars like the BMW, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and Cadillac CTS are much more popular today. The Town Car remains alone in its perch. A rear wheel drive anachronism, long in the tooth. A car for the 60-death crowd.

Why the turn around? Simple. Ford needed cash. The Town Car, despite all the critical ranting and pooh-poohing, is very profitable. The design dates back in many ways to 1979, the body since 2000. The engine has been around since 1991. She is paid for in other words, every sale is high profit.

A second reason came from the limo makers. The Town Car is still the prime source for limo conversions and both the standard size and long production versions are popular for airport livery service.

That in itself has created a proverbial catch-22 situation; buyers of luxury autos don't want to see their prized possessions plying the streets as taxis and cars for hire. Sales to the public dropped, but the limo market carried on.

Whatever the reason, the Town Car marches on. She is going to be built in Canada now, as Ford closes its Wixom, MI plant that was built in the 50s to build the first unit body cars made by Ford. Oddly, the Town Car is almost the last body on frame built car in the US. While everyone else went unit, the Town Car went back to body on frame to ensure quiet and smoothness.

While I do not own a new Town Car, the Queen Mary, my 1988 cousin (as mentioned, she shares a lot with the 2007 version) carries me where I want in smooth, reliable and luxurious fashion. I would not trade her ride and seats for anything. She is getting a bit rough, but in her sleek straight lines, she still exudes a sense of elegance.

Long may she live, and her new cousins too!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Boy-Gov Is Still At It

It has been a long time since this blog has ragged on Missouri's pathetic excuse of a Governor, Mattie "daddy's boy" Blunt. But that is not to assume there has not been fodder for ragging. Blunt continues to be one of the most unpopular governors in the country, with 60% of the electorate rating him as poor. But some political wags are surprised at this.

Well, Pato has the answer for them, Boy-gov is not popular because he is doing a horrible job. His agenda is not his constituent's agenda, it is 100% pro-business, pro-whatever Repub agenda is, and the same damn the torpedoes approach that Bush has used to destroy America's reputation.

Blunt has saved money for the state but instead of cutting waste, he cut programs that hurt people. Gutting Medicaid, forcing more people into going to Emergency rooms or nursing homes because home care is not available, I question whether he is actually saving taxpayer dollars, especially in the Medicaid area. Patients, denied Medicaid, started using hospital emergency departments at a greater cost to the state. By slashing so deep, Missosuri also missed out on Federal matching funds for Medicaid. And you know the Gov and family never missed a Doctor appointment.

Blunt and his Republican clones are happy to dispense with their responsibilities as tax payers and spend our money instead. They are all for cutting taxes, their taxes. That is why their tax cuts are always higher while middle and low wage earners are left to pick up the tab.

Patronage jobs and cronyism are at an all time high in a state system that for years was the model of a merit system. Anyone care that we are paying the salaries of his friends while they do nothing? Morale for state employees is at an all time low. Efficiency in state government has been replaced with favors and back slapping for those who bow to the boss.

He even has the balls to entertain delusions of grandeur about being ultra-right wing Mitt Romney's VP candidate. I'd definitely move out of this sinking ship of country then.

Brazenly defying law, appointing cronies, pushing his own agenda despite lack of support from the people (they just get in the way, anyway), being totally stupid... that is the way to be popular, with your clique of Republican fat cats.

The rest of us can't wait to wave bye-bye!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Aborted Plans

Well, so much for the proverbial plans of mice and men.... I was supposed to make a flying trip to Dallas today for a party tonight. When I went to Dallas in October to sing with the Turtle Creek Chorale and the Heartland Men's Chorus joint concert, Michael and I stayed with his friend Pat. A feisty and funny lady, she was celebrating her 85th birthday in style at a country club, catered dinner and all.

Everything co operated but the weather. Michael went down Friday and I was going to join him this PM for the 7Pm party. Michael called this AM and told me the party was canceled as Dallas was getting some freezing rain. We had a bit too but I was planning to head out. Southwest Airlines data showed the flight as leaving and arriving on time. Then it was delayed and then finally canceled. Poor Michael, he is stuck there, but he used to live there so I am sure he'll find something to do.

As for me, I am going to relax, not do much and try to get rid of the cough and cold that has been annoying me. Stay in, watch the snow, and vegetate.

Sounds good to me.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Free Ride Is Over, Next Sucker Please...

Transamerica Occidental Life Insurance pulling up stakes in Kansas City and shifting 500 positions to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. About 50 underwriting and marketing employees will stay in Kansas City after the move is completed, expected by the end of 2007.

“Our companies continually evaluate their business models and explore ways to improve operating efficiencies,” Brenda Clancy, executive vice president and chief operating officer, said in a release. “By consolidating duplicated functions, we will enhance economies of scale, facilitate improved speed to market for new products and simplify our operating structure. Once the consolidation is complete, we anticipate annual savings of $15 million to $20 million.”


Their tax free ride at the expense of the citizens runs out shortly, they are just going somewhere else to get a free ride.

Cities give away the farm to companies to build their headquarters and such in their community. TIFs, and incentives are the norm. Since Corporate America only cares about its bottom line, they love to play the blackmail game and squeeze all they can out of a community. When the juice is out of the orange, they toss it aside and woo some other sucker.

Think twice cities when the big boys come calling, and remember what you learned in Kindergarten, if it looks too good to be true, it usually is.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Lily For Lily

Pato notes the passing of Yvonne De Carlo, yes Lily Munster has passed on at the age of 84. Well, Yvonne De Carlo may have, but Lily is immortal.

De Carlo got her start in B-movie westerns and desert locale epics where she often played a dance hall girl or a seductive oriental Salome. For many years, Ms De Carlo was considered one of the most beautiful women in the world. For us Boomers, she will always be known as Lily Munster from the 1964-1966 TV series "The Munsters." Lily, the vampire mom, kept charge of her gentle Frankenstein of a husband, Herman, and Grandpa as Dracula's brother.

The Munsters lasted only two seasons, but lives on in syndication to this day. In an article, De Carlo commented about The Munsters: "It meant security. It gave me a new, young audience I wouldn't have had otherwise. It made me `hot' again, which I wasn't for a while."

While enjoying The Munsters as a kid, I today think the character of Morticia played by Carolyn Jones in "The Addams Family" was the definitive monster-mom of the era.

Nonetheless, here is a lily for Lily Munster...where ever she has gone.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Humiliating Jobs

I own a TV and have super digital (0r whatever they call it) service with like 789 channels of drivel. Of all that, I watch basically one, the Weather Channel, as it is the only consistently relevant program. Since the building pays for the cable, I take advantage of it, as there might be something fun now and then on one of the channels.

So, occasionally, boredom leads me to channel surf. QVC, The Cartoon Channel, Food Network (not worth a damn now since they no longer show Japanese Iron Chef), all pass by the clicker. What a wasteland, shades of AM radio.

I did see on some channel a show called Dirty Jobs. Not sure which channel it was on but the concept of spending an hour with a sewer worker or a slaughter house janitor left me cold. I went to bed.

But that chance encounter inspired me. I think there should be a show called "Humiliating Jobs". Jobs that make people look and act absolutely ridiculous. And I have a perfect candidate: The person dressed as the Statue of Liberty for Liberty Tax Service.

These must be the new hires, or the fuck-ups. I can't imagine anyone willingly doing it. All kinds of weather, day and evening, waving, looking foolish. Maybe they need the money, maybe they have to do it or get fired. In any case, I feel for these schleps, and worry about the sanity of those doing it willingly. Has there been an escape from the loony bin?

I was heading down 39th street and past a newly opened office of the company. There stood Miss Liberty ( never knew she was a 20-something black man) waving and dancing. As I passed she leaned over and waved at me and gave me a thumbs up. Should I wave.... or hope she quietly disappears?

One thing for sure, If they think I am going to entrust my taxes to someone who dresses in poor Miss Liberty drag, they have another think coming.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

37 Ideas For GW Bush T-shirts

Some potential George W Bush T-shirt slogans:

1) (On an infant's shirt): Already smarter than Bush.

2) 1/20/09: End of an Error

3) That's OK, I Wasn't Using My Civil Liberties Anyway

4) Let's Fix Democracy in This Country First

5) If You Want a Nation Ruled By Religion, Move to Iran

6) Bush. Like a Rock. Only Dumber.

7) You Can't Be Pro-War And Pro-Life At The Same Time

8) Be nice to the USA or we'll bring "democracy" to YOUR country!

9) Of Course It Hurts: You're Getting Screwed by an Elephant

10) Hey, Bush Supporters: Embarrassed Yet?

11) George Bush: Creating the Terrorists Our Kids Will Have to Fight

12) Impeachment: It's Not Just for having sex Anymore

13) Would someone PLEASE give Bush a blow job so we can start the impeachment?

14) America : One Nation, Under Surveillance

15) They Call Him "W" So He Can Spell It

16) Which God Do You Kill For?

17) Cheney/Satan '08

18) Jail to the Chief

19) Who Would Jesus Torture?

20) No, Seriously, Why Did We Invade??

21) Bush: God's Way of Proving Intelligent Design is Full Of Crap

22) Bad president! No Banana.

23) We Need a President Who's Fluent In At Least One Language

24) We're Making Enemies Faster Than We Can Kill Them

25) "Yeehaw!" is not a foreign policy

26) Rich Man's War, Poor Man's Blood

27) Is It Vietnam Yet?

28) Bush Doesn't Care About White People, Either

29) Where Are We Going? And Why Are We In This Handbasket?

30) You Elected Him. You Deserve Him.

31) You can't spell "WAR" without Dubya

32) Impeach Cheney First

33) A President's IQ should be THREE digits.

34) When Bush Took Office, Gas Was $1.26

35) The Republican Party: Our Bridge to the 11th Century

36) 2004: Embarrassed 2005: Horrified 2006: Terrified

37) If you can read this, you're not the President.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Happy Anniversary Pato News!

One year ago today, I started Pato News. Being a long time journal keeper, the thought of an online journal was fascinating to me. I had heard of bloggers and blogging, and thought it was the domain of the computer geeks and junkies. Being a junkie but far from an expert in computers, I figured it was beyond my capabilities.

I explored a bit and heard about So I started a Livejournal page. I was not real consistent in my posting and was at a low point in my life. I had left St Louis, pretty broke and facing the prospect that nearing 50, I was washed up as a Human Resource manager. Jobs, good ones, were scarce and went to the young and aggressive. I was old and burnt out.

My friend Connie had a friend and former colleague that worked for a company that ran 12 unit assisted living facilities. They needed live in managers, room and board provided plus a salary. I packed up to Maryville and did that until I almost went loony. My now defunct Livejournal entries chronicled that.

Seeking a more organized and functional format, I stumbled upon Xanga and created a Xanga blog for a while. That went pretty well until I realized Xanga was populated by creepy little teenagers and their nonsense. When a comment was left on a post about John Cage's composition "As Slow as Possible" saying "UR queer. Xanga is for teans" (sic), I realized it was time to move on.

So, on January 8, 2006, I created Pato News here on Blogspot. I have been pleased with the service and thrilled to have so many readers. I am amazed at how fast posts get referenced on Google and on other search engines. The vast majority of readers are led to Pato News through a search for something. I hope they find what they are looking for!

Blogging is good mental exercise and a good discipline. I posted something on 75% of the days available (276/365) in 2006. I am at the same pace in 2007.

Thanks to everyone who has read and visited, all 2500 or so of you. Look forward to more!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Inherit the Wind

“He that troubles his own house shall inherit the wind:
and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart”

Proverbs 11:29

Thus is the inspiration for the title of one of the most important and oft performed American plays. It is also a wonderful 1960 movie starring Spencer Tracy, Fredric March and Gene Kelly. Broadcast last night on our local PBS station, I was struck by the continuing relevance of the work. Intolerance and ignorance, blind ambition, and blind following of a fundamentalist dogma are exposed as being as the evils they are, leading to life destroying persecution.

Written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee (who also did “Auntie Mame”), Inherit the Wind is a fictionalized account of the 1925 Scopes "Monkey Trial" which resulted in Scopes' conviction for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution to a high school science class. Tennessee state law at that time that mandated the teaching of creationism in high school science; sound familiar residents of Kansas???

The play and movie’s characters Matthew Harrison Brady, Henry Drummond, Bertram Cates and E.K. Hornbeck correspond respectively to the historical figures William Jennings Bryan, Clarence Darrow, John Scopes, and H.L. Mencken, of the Scopes Trial.

Strangely enough, the play and subsequent movie were not intended as a docu-drama about the Scopes trial, but as an indictment of the Mc Carthy era, which when the play was written, had gripped the nation. Matthew Brady was more Joseph Mc Carthy than William Jennings Bryan.

Unfortunately, a long tradition of misinterpretation has cast Inherit the Wind as a reasonably true account of the 1925 trial. By 1955, few remembered the Scopes Trial and it was rarely mentioned in texts or reference works. With the overwhelming success of the play (it is highly possible that every high school drama department has performed the play at one time or another) and movie, and few around to refute it, the impression was made that Inherit the Wind was based in fact. For example, I always remembered (probably from seeing the play) that during the trial, the cool and methodical Darrow made the blustering Bryan look foolish and ignorant.

Far from the truth.

Scopes himself was a willing participant in the whole affair, and was never in danger of being imprisoned or lynched by angry, hymn singing crowds. Scopes was persuaded by a group of local businessmen to challenge the law after hearing that the ACLU wanted a test case to challenge the law. The state made the teachers at the time use a particular text and that text included reference to evolution. One of the intents was to expose this paradox and show that the state was mandating that teachers break the law. Scopes himself later claimed that he never actually taught the section on evolution to this class.

As for the climactic scene where Brady tries to read his hellfire and brimstone remarks to the jury, even after Scopes had been found guilty, and falls down dead; none of that took place in the trial. However, Brady's final antics and hysterical rant in the courtroom has a counterpart in McCarthy's last Army-McCarthy Hearing on June 17th, 1954 when Mc Carthy’s similar fit of rage abruptly ended his witch hunt. That event would have been fresh on the minds of those who saw the play and movie in the late 50’s.

It is a given fact that sometimes true events need embellishment for the sake of stage and screen drama. The Scopes trial was more than likely a bland affair, as most trials are. Inherit the Wind may take liberties with the absolute facts, but its themes of tolerance, bigotry, hysteria, freedom of thought and expression and separation of church and state resonate even today. Lawrence and Lee, in their introduction to the play stated, “It might have been yesterday. It could be tomorrow."

Thus Inherit the Wind, this masterpiece of stage and screen, warns of the dangers inherent in repeating the wrongs of the past, which, as we have seen, haunt us still if we are not willing to be vigilant.

(As a total aside from all of this, the movie has some other interesting bits of trivia. The young Leslie Uggams performs the opening and closing vocals, Dick York played "Bert Cates" the John Scopes based character, York is more famous as the first Darrin on Bewitched and his subsequent resignation from the show due a painful back injury and addiction to painkillers. Norman Fell, immortal as Mr Roper from "Three's Company" played a reporter. Florence Eldridge gets a whole screen credit page to herself. Who??, M and I asked. She was an actress with many stage and film credits from the 30's and Fredric March's wife.)

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Saturday Pancake Musings

Well, I decided not to give up pancakes...yet. I have not been able to snag a new appointment to get my BP and blood sugar checked. So Ignorance is bliss and I am having my Saturday pancakes this weekend.

1) The "Injustice System" rolls on. A man was convicted of killing a member of the KC Symphony and gets 25 years. But in St Louis, a man gets 30 years for sexual exploitation of a minor. Kid is messed up for sure, but not dead. In Texas, 2 men got 15 years for the murder and beating of a gay man and are soon to be released. Since they were citizens of Mexico, they are also scheduled to be released. But immigrant groups are fighting their deportations.

I don't get it. Sex is worse than murder and a musician is worth more than a gay man??

2) A lively discussion has begun over at PugVillage on the topic of eating shrimp tails. I admitted my love of eating the whole shrimp, tail, shell and all. It is less wasteful for one thing, and less time consuming. I enjoy the crunchiness as well. Any other shrimp tail eaters here??

3) I want to spend some time at this beach. The famous (among airplane spotters) Mahalo Beach just at the end of the runway to Princess Juliana Airport in St Maarten. Reach out and touch someone indeed! Air France Landing.

4) My friend Barb called yesterday and wanted to know if I wanted to go with her to see the Smothers Brothers. I thought one of them had died; but no, both are still up and kicking. They perform all over the country, doing a lot of casino shows. We are seeing them in Topeka, since their appearance in KC is at a casino and both Barb and I hate casinos. I fondly remember them from the 60s and even vaguely remember the battle they had with CBS over censorship of their show. Wikipedia has a great review of this controversy. CBS fired them, they became heros and obviously have done quite well. Show is March 4th.

5) I have not taken my Christmas tree down yet. I guess it is about time. I am more lazy than anything else about it.

6) Pancakes were extra good today!

Friday, January 05, 2007

A Tribute To Jay

This is an email I got from my friend Greg about his neighbor's dog Jay. Jay succumbed to the ravages of doggie old age this past weekend, he was about 18. Mary is a girlfriend of David's. Rest in peace Jay. ~ Pato

A Tribute to Baby Jay

Although all outward appearances would lead one to believe that Jay was a dog, those of us who were blessed to have the chance to spend time with him remember him as a human.. a loving companion.. a fierce ally in battle.. a loyal friend.. and as stubborn as they come. He was a protector, the ruler of the roost, and absolutely devoted to his daddy and Bobby. Yet when he wasn't busy protecting his fort or family, he was patiently waiting for food.. whether it was the ritual leftovers given to him on a plate after a meal, stray crumbs on the floor, Nutter Butters that left his mouth watering as soon as the package was opened, or the simple, yet obvious motion of laying down in front of his food bowl to let you know that it was time for you to feed him.. Pigs ears would disappear within seconds, though unlike the rest of the food that was given to him, he would actually chew on as opposed to swallowing whole. And not to mention the LIVE variety of tasty treats for Jay.. snakes, possums, rodents, and the occasional cat or two. Very few cats consider themselves lucky to have known Jay..and those are the ones that he liked and allowed to live.

He was the leader of the pack in the neighborhood. Walking him was often time consuming, for he had to sniff out each blade of grass that another dog left his mark on for what seemed like hours, as if he was deciphering the other dog's DNA, their personal history, criminal convictions, etc...and of course, he would HAVE to leave his own mark.. slowly making his way around the block.. back to the house..(but not before leaving a present in a neighbor's yard, which of course HE was never yelled at for...). After such rigorous exercise, Jay would have to rest...mostly in the spots that YOU wanted to rest in..and he would lay there, flat on his back, arms and legs sprawled out. Bedtime was always an experience, and I would usually end up smashed against the wall, with one of his legs or arms digging into my side..and he had to have his "warmies"... in other words, he was under the blanket with us as well, nudging my bare skin with his enormous, cold, wet nose from time to time, stretching his legs and arms across me, as if to let me know that I was taking up "HIS" space..but when we finally decided that three was a crowd in bed (which took MUCH pleading and begging to David on that note..) and he was left to sleep on his bed on the floor, he would make sure to let us know that "JAY" and "SLEEP" and "FLOOR" was not acceptable... we would beg him off the bed with food, sell our souls to the devil, whatever it took..he would pretend to be in a "coma", unresponsive to our pleas..or mine, at least.. and when he would finally roll off the bed as if it was killing him to move, he would then flash his "puppy dog eyes" to elicit a sympathetic response.

Jay was one of a kind.. I can picture him now.. lying out in the front yard or on the sidewalk, watching the world go by, as if contemplating the deeper meaning of life. Many feared him, but those who knew him realize what a truly amazing and special dog he was. I was always waiting for him to start talking, for if any dog could manage that, it would have been Baby Jay. He never ceased to amaze me, and the stories David would tell about his earlier years reaffirm the fact that he was special from the beginning. My only comfort now is knowing that he is off in his "heaven", young and vibrant, chasing anything smaller than him that moves..and I'm sure he has an unlimited supply Nutter Butters.. and a king sized bed.. and he knows that he is loved by so many. I will miss you Jay. Love, Mary

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I'll be home For Christmas

I'll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree

Christmas eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams
1943, by Walter Kent (music) and James Gannon (words) the old song goes.

I went home again this past Christmas, as I always do. No dream required. I have been in Kansas City since 1997 and have never spent a Christmas Day or Christmas Eve here. Without fail, I have went back to Decatur; rain, snow, sleet, whatever thrown at me has never stopped me.

I am lucky in a way; my sister still owns and lives in the house I grew up in, I was about 4 when we moved to the new suburban house from the smaller house in the city. I don't remember the first house much, just a few fuzzy memories of my mom and the neighbors interacting.

My sister is older than I, almost a different generation than me. For years we were strangers, but with mom and dad gone and an extended family that is nowhere near close (I have aunts and cousins I have not seen in years) we are all we have. My kids are grown now and have their own agendas, Christmas at Dad's is unthinkable to them as it was for me at that age. They'll come around someday.

Christmas at home is far from exciting. We eat, Donna watches her omnipresent TV, I bitch at all the junk she collects, she eats more and shops more. We go to the Midden's on Christmas Eve, despite the fact that Dee is frail and Bob is in a nursing home. Wine and beer has been replaced with diet soda and tea. I have went over there for as long as I can remember. Dee's cooking is suspect, but she never fails to have a spread. She still gives everyone a tacky present, but her heart is 100% gold.

Donna and I are lousy present givers. We always know what each of us got each other. Makes it easy but it takes the drama out of it. Sometimes the gifts are are still in the sack from the store. I am a lousy wrapper, so it takes some of the anxiety out of it.

Puggles always comes along. She likes visiting Aunt Donna, lots of yard to explore and a neighborhood safe to walk in. Donna professes to be annoyed by her, but I think she secretly adores her. For Puggles, any one who lounges on a couch is the top, so she thinks Aunt Donna is a goddess.

Home is getting shabby. The house needs some work. It, like us, is getting old. Neither of us have the money to sink into the place. We replace as needed, like the roof and the Air conditioner and the tree trim. The big ice storm last month did a number on all the trees and knocked down my apple tree I planted in about 1966-67. But despite all, she still stands, many of the same neighbors are there, the woods I loved to explore still beckons, and I still have a key. I have someplace I can always go. Not being homeless is a great feeling.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

It's a bird....It's a wait...

Employees at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport insist they observed a UFO hovering over the airport for several minutes on November 7th , 2006. It quickly disappeared, leaving a visible hole in the clouds.

Was it a Martian spaceship, a weather balloon or a top-secret military plane? Maybe it was a lost glider or simply a reflection?

Airport officials are doing a Sgt Schultz routine and not talking about the event. The Federal Aviation Administration admits its air traffic control tower at O'Hare did receive a call from a United Airlines employee asking if controllers had spotted a mysterious elliptical object hovering over Concourse C of the United terminal. The FAA reported that none of its controllers or the airport radar noticed anything extraordinary, or extra-terrestrial for that matter. The FAA is not concerned at all and dismisses any alleged sighting as a "weather phenomenon". But those who claim they saw it are sticking to their story, one poor soul was so distraught over the whole affair and "experienced some religious issues" over it, a fellow employee reported.

It was reported that the saucer appeared about 4:30PM. Everyone who saw it said the object was dark gray, elliptical and easily seen . No one seemed to agree on the size of the thing, with estimates ranging from 6 feet to 24 feet in diameter. Some said it looked like a rotating Frisbee, while others said it did not appear to be spinning. All agreed the object hovered noiselessly and vanished into the cloud cover.

I think the damn thing was frustrated over no available landing slots and no gates open at the terminal. Can you imagine, we are about to make first contact and the damn airport is at capacity? What could the Martians do but turn around and go home. Certainly the aliens were not happy about diverting to Milwaukee or Rockford. Lucky they didn't use a death ray.

Maybe this will spur on development of a new airport for Chicago.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


When I ask Classical Music lovers to name a work that moves them emotionally, spiritually and intellectually I frequently get the following responses:

Beethoven 9th Symphony

Mozart Requiem

Bach Magnificat

Bach’s St Matthew Passion

Beethoven Missa Solemnis

Mahler 9th Symphony

Sometimes an opera like “La Boheme” or “Madame Butterfly” or a specific aria is mentioned. All are incredible masterpieces and worthy of the honor. All are monumental in scale and in forces, with large orchestras, choral parts, and a religious program weaving a common thread.

However, to my ears and mind, a work maybe not smaller in length but smaller in forces never fails to have the same effect. A work for a solo instrument that languished in obscurity for a considerable time yet is as inspiring as any of the works usually mentioned.

Schubert Sonata for Piano in Bb Major D 960.

Listen to it. Hear the pathos, the maturity and confidence of the composer in what was tragically the last year of his short life, the series of prayers for peace and healing with meditations both sacred and profane. There is an almost relentless force-of-nature-like forward motion in the opening “Molto Moderato” movement, even as it begins with a profound, yet simple prayer. The more turbulent center section takes you on a life journey, with all the highs and lows life offers. The opening prayer's return at the end is a meditation on serenity and enlightenment.

The following “Andante sostenuto” movement is far removed from flashy virtuosity. Some hear a soft, peaceful lullaby or a simple accompaniment and a hymn-like melody. I hear a profound meditation on the acceptance of fate. I keep coming back to enlightenment, as if Schubert had a revelation of his life's purpose and that his work was done. In the slightly faster center section of the movement, I hear the restrained joy of someone expressing “yes, I have found it, this is perfection, and I have found my soul.” Yet moments of fear and insecurity creep in now and then. Simply the most incredible and emotionally complex 10 minutes in music.

In the short (around 4 minutes) “Allegro Vivace Con Delicatezza”, I hear a mercurial and witty celebration. Far from flashy, the intermezzo begins the ascent from the mood of deep meditation to the more lighthearted exploration of joy and contentment. The final “Allegro ma non troppo” has a slightly ironic joy and wit ultimately dispelling the gloom of the first two movements.

There are many wonderful performances of this marvel of music. Brendel, Leif Ove Andsnes, and my piano hero Leon Fleisher on his new Vanguard CD “Two Hands”.

Any of these will provide you with an experience that will enrich you and one you will not forget.