Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Mattie's Latest

It is time to rag on Boy-Gov Matt Blunt, surely Missouri's Katrina. Just after his first year in office, he was quoted in an interview as not having made any mistakes in his first year. Arrogant little brat.

Well, how's this for a mistake?

Steelman Looks at Governor's Payoff

Since daddy called off the dogs on the Fee Office Scandal by having GW fire the attorney, when will the big boys rub out Sarah Steelman, a fellow Republican for god sake!

Looks to be a good one!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"The Greatest Living Pianist That Almost No One Has Ever Heard Of." : The Hatto Affair

I remember reading the obituary online last summer at A British pianist, Joyce Hatto had passed at age 77 after a long bout with cancer that had curtailed, actually more accurately destroyed, her career.

Hatto studied piano with Serge Krish, a former student of Busoni and Alfred Cortot, plus studied composition with Paul Hindemith and Nadia Boulanger. Impeccable credentials. Hatto played frequently in Europe, with somewhat unusual and difficult programs. Hatto quit the concert world in1976 due to the cancer. It is said that she was once told it is ''impolite to look ill."

She continued to record however, amazing repertoire for a sick lady going into her 50s and 60s. Liszt, Messiaen, Rachmaninoff concertos, complete cycles of Beethoven, Mozart and Prokofiev sonatas, Tchaikovsky and Brahms concertos and the complete works of Chopin, 119 recordings in all. An article in 2005 gave her the title quoted in the title of this entry.

The recordings were praised to the skies by many critics. The recordings were released on the tiny Concert Artist label in the UK. Not available here, I checked them out and declined to purchase as they were quite expensive for a curiosity.

Turns out, I am glad I did not make the purchase.

It seems many, if not all of them are frauds. Undone by new technology, the ruse was exposed.

Anyone with iTunes or similar software can attest to the fact that when you put a commercially recorded CD in the system, encoded information will appear on your screen identifying the tracks and artists. Makes it easy to save and categorize. A critic for Gramophone magazine did just that, put the recording of the Liszt "Transcendental Etudes" in his iTunes software and it came up as a recording by one Laszlo Simon, who recorded the same music for Swedish label BIS. Some research, both scientific and subjective, basically proved that fact. Other recordings were shown to be fakes as well, including the Rachmaninoff Concertos which were those of Bronfman.

Her husband, William Barrington-Coupe, initially expressed surprise and dismay at the news that the recordings were suspect. Concert Artist was a small company, and maybe some mistake was made. Barrington-Coupe succumbed to the same fate as many a petty criminal. Emboldened by getting away with one, he tried for two, then 30 then 119. When he finally confessed yesterday, he said he did it to "hide technical imperfections and gasps of pain" as Hatto struggled to record. He supposedly slipped in a few seconds of another performance to cover the imperfections. Getting away with that, he went on to foisting off whole performances. People began to suspect another fraud; no one had ever heard of the conductor and the orchestra used to record the concert works. No one seems to have ever participated in a recording. It unraveled quickly.

It was all too good to be true. The performances were almost all stunningly well done. The repertoire demanding of a 20 year old let alone a 70 year old racked with cancer. Barrington-Coupe obviously loved his wife and admired her work. He did it to make her known, to establish her reputation. He basically ruined it in his greed.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Em Chamas

While driving around town one Friday AM, I caught a few minutes of the Walt Bodine Show, a long running radio program on our local NPR station. On some Fridays Walt has some local food critics in to review restaurant news and reviews. I caught a caller mentioning a new Brazilian churrascaria was recently open. Sensing a new dining experience, I talked Michael into taking me there for my birthday.

A Brazilian churrascaria is a steakhouse with an interesting concept. Waiters called Gauchos pass through the restaurant carrying the large cuts of meats and present them to the diners. One signals via a coin placed on the table. When it is on the yellow side, the meat machine is turned on and the gauchos descend. You choose how much you want from each wood grilled cut of beef, pork, lamb, chicken, sausage and turkey. It is a fixed price of $29 per person with drinks and desserts extra. A salad bar with salads and some hot dishes is included.

“It’s a lively atmosphere, like carnival all year round, " said the owners in an article.

Not quite. If anything is missing at Em Chamas (Portuguese for "In Flames") it is atmosphere. The place is new, opened only a couple of weeks and is in a newly built development that has more open spaces than filled. Unfortunately even the restaurant seems a bit unfinished. The overall tone is dark, but not paneled library dark. Stone, wood and brushed chrome, some hideous artwork and a large but not imposing fireplace are the main ingredients of the decor. The salad bar was oddly placed in a corner and looked almost as an afterthought. The big windows look out on the empty spaces of the development. The tables are plain but large and comfortable.

The service was great and for the most part the gauchos left you alone when the coin was turned off and appeared promptly when on. They were friendly and knowledgeable about their wares.

The buffet, besides being oddly placed was a bit of a disappointment. The salads were interesting but not spectacular. The hot items included a decent paella and rice and black beans that you have separate or mixed together as the Latin Americans are fond to do. Cold selections included an interesting corn, brussels sprouts and artichoke salad, some OK pasta salads, and a tasty seared tuna and spinach salad. A small dish of excellent mashed potatoes were brought to the table as was a caramelized banana to cleanse the palate.

The roasted meats were good but uneven. The sliced boneless rib was perfection, the medallions of beef and garlic were tasty but a bit fatty, the Brazilian sausage was wonderful and the smoked bacon wrapped turkey was excellent. The lamb, some of the beef cuts and pork ribs were not so good. The lamb tasted ok but was a bit dry and over cooked, the pork ribs way too fatty. A prime rib was nothing special as was a second helping of the boneless rib which was not as succulent as the first and somewhat over cooked. Some of the beef cuts were awfully salty. Despite being advertised, we saw no fish served table side. When asked, we were told the seafood was on the buffet. I guess that meant the aforementioned seared tuna on the spinach salad and the seafood paella. Only one chicken dish was offered, small smoked legs; I passed.

Michael is the wino among us so he selected a nice Argentinian Cabernet. It was excellent but M said the wine selection was ok and bit high priced. We also had a Caipirinha, a mojito like drink made from Brazilian Cachaca liqueur. Cachaca is more potent straight as I have had it served that way before. This drink was a bit sweet and fluffy for my taste.

Interesting concept and is much like the Fogo de Chao chain that is heavily advertised yet much more upscale (read expensive). I am left wondering if Em Chamas could not have went a bit more upscale and made for a more impressive experience.

Even for a Sunday, the place had a good business but once the newness wears off, I wonder how it will fare. I would go back, but to see if the place improves.

The best thing of the whole evening was a clothing store next door called "La-De-Da", I wish I had thought of that!

Em Chamas Brazilian Grill
6101 NW 63rd Terr (just off MO 45 NW 64the St aka Tom Watkins Parkway)
KCMO 64151

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Reflecting on 50

Monday February 25, 1957 was a pretty uneventful day with one notable exception. Yours truly came kicking and screaming out in the world at Decatur/Macon County Hospital at about 1AM, thus forever disappointing my parents.

I was supposed to be born on the 24th. My parents were married on 4/4/44, my sister born 11/4/45, my dad born 1/4/22. So you see the deal; four was the lucky number. Of course mom was born 6/1/23 so she was left out in the cold too. Maybe that is why we got along.

50 years. Many tell me I am still but a child. Some look at me and think I am younger. No one mistakes me for older. Yet.

50 years. A lot has changed. Born just before Sputnik, I remember the space race and like a lot of kids my age sat riveted to the TV watching John Glenn and ultimately seeing men on the moon. I came to visit this planet years before Cable TV (color was still amazing for a while), the internet (computers were still numbered in the hundreds and did not much more than a good calculator) and cell phones(a Princess phone was a treat). Cars had tail fins and Alaska was not even a state, nor was Hawaii. Jet airplanes were new and rare, most still powered by pistons.

I have seen some amazing things and been to some amazing places. Stood on the Mount of Olives and in Westminster Abbey. Climbed two volcanoes, walked the streets of Mozart, Henry VIII, Jesus, Mohammad, William Wallace and Napoleon. Seen a lot, met a lot of people. Laughed a lot, cried too much and made many great friends. I was blessed with 3 wonderful kids, one who sadly does not walk this world anymore, but two I know will do great things and make me proud, as I already am.

1/2 Century. A damn long time. For some reason, 50 is harder on me than 30 or 40. 30 found me unhappily married and in a horrible job, but I still felt I had my whole future. 40 found me in a great job, lots of great friends and co workers and the peak of my career. 50 finds me floating, drifting would more accurately it. I never figured I'd be where I am now, out of the real world of work, in a simple job with more hassles than benefits. A lot of friends have drifted away as it becomes more necessary for people to move to stay ahead of the game. We plan on keeping touch, but that soon passes. Soon it is just too much water under the bridge.

50, I'll survive it. Eating my way through it more like it. Now 60, that is unfathomable. We ain't even talking about that.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Weather Forecast

The wags here in Missouri are fond of saying "if you don't like the weather now, stick around a day or two, it'll change." It is true.

On February 12 and 13 we had a few inches of snow and some freezing rain. Same thing the following weekend 16-17. Before that we had several days of temps in the single digits. Sunday the 18th the low was 11 and the high reached 51. The 19-23 saw highs of 58, 56, 64, 54 and 62 yesterday Friday Feb 23rd. At 2;30 this AM we were treated to booming thunder and flashing lightning. Our first thunderstorm of the year. Supposed to be rainy (so far true) and 56 degrees this PM. Tomorrow is a chance of snow and 36 as a high. But 60 will be back soon, likely Wednesday.

The heavy snow we received in Jan and February made our snow removal man rich and gave the Towers management a headache, but it has alleviated the drought that had plagued the area for a while. So farmers, foresters, hydrologists and water skiers join our snow removal people in the happy parade.

The thunderstorm this AM was great. I woke up and watched the show, logged on the net and followed it on radar and generally had as good a time as possible at 3AM, alone that is. It has washed the dirty snow and gunk away from the streets and walks. Everything is fresher now, washed and a newly bathed baby. But like the baby, we'll need a bath soon after our forcast snowy day. The rains will be back Wednesday, stick around.

Friday, February 23, 2007


1) A former Baptist church leader who had supported a Southern Baptist resolution calling on gays and lesbians to reject their "sinful, destructive lifestyle" now claims a constitutional right to solicit sex. His defense argues that since the Supreme Court struck down

The Rev. Lonnie W. Latham was arrested Jan. 3, 2006, and charged with soliciting an undercover policeman to come to his hotel for oral sex. Now that Rev Latham has come out and seen the light, he wants all the protections he fought to deny his gay brothers. I think our archaic and intrusive sex laws need to go, but in this case to show Lonnie-boy how hypocrisy hurts; I'll support giving him some jail time.

2) Fake bull testicles and other anatomically explicit vehicle decorations would be banned from Maryland roads in a bill introduced by LeRoy Myers Jr., R-Washingon. He wants to protect children from exposure to giant plastic gonads dangling from pickup truck trailer hitches. The bill also would ban depictions of naked human breasts, buttocks or genitals, with offenses punishable by fines of up to $500.

By pressing for this law, I assume everything else is perfect in Maryland, no poverty, kids who can't read, no potholes in roads and so on. And why to all these silly ass bills have a sponsor identified as "R-"? Never mind, I do not expect an answer.

3) James Pacenza, who was fired by IBM for visiting an adult chat room at work is suing the company for $5 million, claiming he is an Internet addict who deserves treatment and accommodation rather than termination. Mr Pacenza claims he visits chat rooms to treat Vietnam War related traumatic stress. In the claim, Pacenza said the stress caused him to become "a sex addict, and with the development of the Internet, an Internet addict." He is claiming protection under the American with Disabilities Act.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Leaving Iowa

KC's American Heartland Theatre's offerings can be best described as uneven. I have seen some unmitigated stinkeroos (like "Every Christmas Story Ever Told") to whole hearted fantastic. The current production "Leaving Iowa" falls in the latter category.

Leaving Iowa is an old fashioned travel comedy with a simple yet ultimately engaging plot. Craig Benson plays Don, a journalist from Boston who returns to Iowa to visit his mother and sister who stayed in Iowa. During the visit, he decides it is time to find a final resting place for his father’s ashes. His father wanted then to be scattered at his homestead, which unfortunately has been turned into a grocery store. That and a couple other mishaps send Don on a journey of self discovery and of reconciliation.

In flashback scenes, Don recalls the family vacations organized by his nerdish, High School history teacher dad, who loved to stop at the site of the first concrete highway in Iowa and other dubious historic sites. Anyone with kids or who was a kid themselves, will recognize the back seat fighting and teasing between brother and sister, stopping at tourist traps, getting lost and endless hours stuck behind slow moving trucks; dad wanting to pass and mom whining not to.

Jessalyn Kincaid as "sister" steals the show. She is wonderful at evoking the ups and downs of childish behavior. At times I thought she was my own, now grown, daughter, with the familiar "daaaaaaa-yd!" response to everything said. Jim Korinke was a wonderful homespun, Andy Griffith dad without being a caricature. Deb Bluford, as Mom was a perfect foil to Dad, always supportive yet often the one in control.

AHT regular Ken Remmert played the supporting roles including car mechanic, short order cook, grocery store clerk, park ranger and farmer, with his usual relish.

With the wonderful, intimate theatre setting, appreciative audiences and great acting, "Leaving Iowa" is worth the trip.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Fat Tuesday

It is Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras, whichever you prefer! The king cakes and gumbo are about gone, the beads are in full bloom and it is the day to forget about diets.

Tonight at midnight it all goes dark...until January 6th 2008 and Mardi Gras begins AGAIN!

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!!!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Kansas City Symphony: Banging and Clanging!

Kansas City Symphony music director Michael Stern and Nexus virtually own the Ellen Taafe Zwillich Rituals For Percussion and Orchestra, having commissioned and premiered the work with the IRIS Chamber Orchestra in 2003. A recording on Naxos followed and was received with great enthusiasm. The piece is (paraphrasing the composer) an exploration and celebration of the use of percussion in various musical traditions. The tolling of bells, the sounding of gongs, the dance of congas,the beat of marching drums and the primitive rattles and gourds all find their place in the tapestry of sound. The work is a visceral delight, and is even more "fun" live than it is on recording.

The opening movement "Invocations" explores the world of gamelan and the pageantry of bells, gongs, and cymbals. From tolling opening chords of gongs and orchestra the movement works slowly to a great wall of sound from the combined forces. The second movement "Ambulation" celebrates the world of dancing drums, combined with some "walking" figures from the bass and some Ives like marching tunes here and there. The quiet (er) "Remembrances" exploits the more lyrical power of percussion. The final movement, "Contests" is exactly that, a furious, thrilling battle between the 5 percussionists. The orchestra plays the role of the audience, commenting on the combat with shouts both thrilling and alarming, bringing the work to a satisfyingly clangorous close.

Rituals is one of the most successful integrations of percussion solo(s) and orchestra I have encountered. The other being Panufnik's Concertino for Timpani, Percussion and Strings. The KC performance was authoritative and exciting visually and aurally. The intermission reaction from the patrons was one of "wow".

I made up for one of my life deficiencies by finally hearing the Stravinsky "Rite of Spring" live. That is what happens when you live in the sticks for so long. I must own about 5-6 recordings of the damn thing, probably had more than that in long gone LPs and tapes, and heard many more once or twice, so I am hardly unfamiliar with the piece. But again, like the Zwillich, it is a visual thrill to see all the brass and winds filling the stage.

The performance was excellent. The brass, sometimes a weak point of the orchestra, was commanding and virtually flawless, the winds (especially the opening bassoon) excellent as usual. The timpani and percussion was gloriously ominous and driving when called upon. The strings were a bit outnumbered by the winds but executed their often more softer and mysterious role quite well. A published review of the Friday performance was quite negative, so either they heard an other orchestra or things improved rapidly by Sunday. I know the work forward and backwards (and yes I have studied classical music history and theory, listened to it since I was a kid so I do know a bit of what I am talking about) and found this a most satisfying performance.

The opening work was a graceful and exciting performance of Haydn's Symphony no 103 in Eb "Drumroll" thus setting the stage for the percussive festival to follow. This continued the successful series of Haydn symphonies of late, including Raymond Leppard's guest performance of the Oxford #93 last season and the recent Cello Concerto in C with Yo-Yo Ma last month. Graceful, never too heavy and with a wonderful solo from Concertmistress Kanako Ito in the Andante, the performance was a delight.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Eric Volz and sham Justice in Nicaragua

I rarely post twice in one day but this is special, and devastatingly sad.

I once loved a country, a poor one in Central America. I went there for the first time in 1999 and just realized I was somewhere special, somewhere I belonged. I would have had even stronger ties there, but a series of events ended that dream. I may be thankful now.

Those of you who know me know I am referring to Nicaragua. But a tragic event has put a chill in the relationship. The love affair has ended, it seems to be mutual. I could see it coming, yet I hoped for the best.

Read this Friends of Eric Volz

And this Guilty Verdict

Sadly, Nicaragua has become a politicized, dangerous place. She is now governed by Daniel Ortega, the hypocrite who manipulated the election and entered into a pact with the imprisoned (sort of) former leader, Arnoldo Aleman, to gain his power again after being in the wilderness of the opposition for years. He longs to rule along side his buddy Hugo Chavez of Venezuela as a "people's leader", throwing a a few crumbs at them while gaining power and establishing a dictatorship. He has politicized the country.

God forbid something like what happened to Eric occurred in the US. The poor Nicaraguan would be a victim of discrimination and would be set free. If a sham trial for a Hispanic would happen here, the hue and cry would be deafening. But for a gringo in Nicaragua it is different. Eric was not exploiting people, he was publishing a magazine. He happened to date this Nicaraguan lady, who was sadly and brutally murdered. He is a victim, a political prisoner. Reports from the trial indicate that the evidence was not even considered.

I was there on November 21, 2006 when the murder occurred. Eric was not in town I was told. He has evidence he was in Managua. Ortega and his cronies are stirring resentment among the people to bolster their power. They want blood. They are not getting mine.

I am leaving for Nicaragua in almost exactly a month. It is very likely my last time. I do not want to go to lovely San Juan del Sur where I have friends, both Nica and Gringo. It is a scary place. I do not believe in staying where I am not welcome. I am afraid, and maybe to blame, as I am one of the gringos who invaded.

Check out Eric's website, write your congressman, write the Nicaraguan embassy.

Pray for justice.

King Cake

I left Kansas City in 2001, off to a couple of years wandering in the wilderness. Upon my return, I was thrilled to find my church had started a Mardi Gras affair. We always had a chili and soup cook off and variety show just before Lent but to breathe new life in the affair, Mardi Gras was selected as a theme. As it turns out, my time in St Louis had introduced me to the fun of Mardi Gras.

Me: Who is bringing the King Cake?
Them: What is a King Cake?
Me: OMG! We need help.

A king cake traditionally was served on "Little Christmas" or "Kings' Day" other names for the Feast of the Epiphany, celebrated Jan. 6. S Traditionally the cake was baked on Epiphany Eve and served the following afternoon to family and friends. Today, the cake is served throughout the "Epiphany season," or until Mardi Gras.

It is said that the person who receives the piece of cake containing a "baby"(or sometimes a bean or nut, but most times a plastic baby) must provide the king cake next year. Not doing that is considered bad manners. King Cakes are not made before Epiphany or after Mrdi Gras. Traditional king cake is similar to brioche, a sweetened yeast bread, its only adornment a sprinkling of colored sugar. Today king cakes also come with a vast array of fillings and flavorings. The plain old sugared ones are the best.

King Cakes were rare as hen's teeth here in KC. But recently, I have seen more and more of them available. Our local Price Chopper stores carry them.

We have 5 medium size ones for the party tonight. With Gumbo, and King Cakes, we are almost there.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Gumbo on My Mind

It is NOT Mardi Gras without a bowl of steaming, spicy, sultry gumbo; the hearty stew popular around New Orleans and surrounding area. Gumbo is wonderful year round, but is usually found up here in the North around Mardi Gras.

Gumbo, in my humble opinion must contain seafood, usually shrimp, crab, oysters or crawfish. Chicken is essential, as is Cajun andouille smoked sausage. Another essential ingredient of the dish is okra, as the word gumbo comes from a West African word for okra. Almost above all is the Holy Trinity: celery, onion and bell pepper.

When it comes to the base stock there are 3 rules:

  1. Always use homemade stock.
  2. Always use homemade stock.
  3. Always use homemade stock.
A good, hearty and flavorful stock is always the foundation of a perfect gumbo. Seasoned perfectly, not too salty, strained smooth with a wonderful aroma.

Then you make a roux. A roux thickens the gumbo. Some use file (feel-lay) powder which is ground sassafras. It can be used in smaller amounts as a flavoring. The lady who taught me how to make gumbo told me, "don't feel bad your first roux is always a mess, I still have trouble with it."

Here is my first roux, pronounced "absolutely perfect" by my teacher:

A perfect roux is the color of a Lincoln penny, slightly circulated. A roux (in this case flower and oil) has to be stirred constantly over high heat to get the right toasted flavor. Too little is pasty, too much is burnt.

A good gumbo sits for awhile and lets the flavor blend. This is gumbo almost ready:

Always serve over plain white rice.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Wearing the Green, Purple and Gold!

Mardi Gras is actually French for "Fat Tuesday", with celebrations culminating on that most special day. At Midnight all reveling ceases and we enter into Lent. Quite a contrast really; the whole idea of the Mardi Gras celebrations is to gorge yourself on food and festival before fasting and doing penance.

The date for Mardi Gras can fall between February 3 and March 9 depending on the Lunar calendar used to determine the date of Easter each year. It is a mortal sin to celebrate Mardi Gras after Ash Wednesday and before Epiphany. We almost had to move our church Mardi Gras event due to a schedule conflict. Doing it after this weekend was proposed and I almost fainted at the thought. Last year, I chastised a local grocery store for doing a Mardi Gras themed sales event in June. They are based in Iowa so they were forgiven as being ignorant of the rules, but just this once.

Mardi Gras is always 47 days before Easter Sunday, no sooner, no later. Not even Hurricane Katrina stopped it.

The official colors for Mardi Gras are purple, green, and gold. A bit clashing, but striking none the less. These colors were chosen in 1872 by the King of Carnival, Rex. He chose these colors to stand for the following:

  • Purple representing justice
  • green for faith
  • gold for power
When you are Rex, one choses as one wishes!

Laissez les bon temps rouler !!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Mardi Gras

Screw Valentine's day. I am waiting for Mardi Gras. Of course for me, I am fat every Tuesday. I have Fat Thursdays and Fridays as well.

I love Mardi Gras, the beads, the colors purple, gold and green, the flamboyant costumes, the fascinating mix of voodoo, Christian symbolism and wild street party, parades, gumbo and king cakes. Halloween, too dark, gloomy and patently silly, pales in comparison to the fun of Mardi Gras. Besides, I do not care for pumpkin or chocolate but adore a good king cake, and my gumbo is renowned all through Kansas City. I kid you not, 3 years in a row "Best Gumbo" in the gumbo contest. No I do not give out my recipe.

Over the next few days, I am going to blog about Mardi Gras, its customs and traditions and my own experiences.

So, wherever you are, Laissez les bon temps rouler!!!

(Let the good times roll)!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Winter Wonderland

"Good morning, sunshine!" beamed our resident Maestro as he greeted me in the hall of the Towers. Noticing my rather subdued smile he remarked. "You don't like the snow, do you?"

"Not anymore..., I am just waiting for someone to bitch about why our parking lot is not clear, dry and warm as one in Florida might be."

He is right, I do not like the snow. Oh How I used to love it as a kid. I could watch it fall for hours, covering the stark and dirty landscape with fluffy powder. To see it pristine and pure was a pleasure. I could not wait to get in it, get the sled out and sled down the hill between Midden's and Tapp's, our path leading us in between the snow crested trees. Crunching through the icy snow pack in the fields looking for deer and birds and the occasional fox and gleaning the field for a scrap of corn for the squirrels. What fun.

But with age comes responsibility. Now, instead of watching it with pleasure, I realize I have to scrape it, shovel it, remove it, get with the snow removal people to be sure they get everything right to please the nuts in the Towers (they never do), ice melt it and make sure the garage door closes properly.

THEN: make sure they have shoveled the drive wide enough for Mr F to get his precious car out and make sure the same referenced car does not touch snow as he pays too much to live here to have to shovel snow away from his car. PLUS make sure Mrs F doesn't think everyone else's car was cleaned off and not hers because she is black. Shovel the back walk off as some think they are back door people rather than front door and insist on using the back entrance to the lot (saves snow on the carpet I guess).

They will expect their newspaper to be brought in too.

Sorry, I can not do anything about the temperature outside. Have a nice day...keep in touch.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Worry Over Nothing

I never cease to be amazed at the silliness of the "American Public". It seems more people are more concerned with a love sick astronaut, Brittney Spears' latest fashion disaster or that crazy drug addict Anna Nicole Smith than what is happening in the halls of power. Smith's death was tragic yes, but continuous coverage on all the news stations?? Not worth it.

No wonder the average citizen believed Iraq was somehow connected to 9/11 or that global warming is something that activist judges or gay perverts are selling them to destroy their families. At the same time, while crying over Anna, they overlook the scandalous information coming out of the Liddy trial. The newspaper columnist Robert Novak testified today that two high officials in the Bush administration told him the identity of the CIA agent, which I thought was a pretty serous crime.

Novak testified former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armatage and the White House political bulldog Karl Rove (ie Bush's brain) told him the identity of the agent. Novak testified that he ".. got no help or no confirmation from Mr. Libby on that issue.” So Liddy is a scapegoat for treason by two high officials??

Wake up people, this county's reputation and its future is being ruined by criminals while you worry over idiots and if queers are going to get married.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Kansas City Symphony: Brahms and Gershwin

Quite a contrast, the breezy, jazz shaded Gershwin Concerto for Piano in F and the heavy, formal Brahms Symphony # 4. Weber's Overture to "Euryanthe" was the opener. Guest conductor Jun Markl conducted with Van Cliburn Competition medalist Joyce Yang featured in the Gershwin.

I think the Gershwin is one of the jewels of the piano repertoire with its perfect melding of jazz and classical elements. Due to Gershwin's inexperience in the forms, his "classical" works (American in Paris, Porgy and Bess, Second Rhapsody, and the Concerto for example) tend to be a bit clumsy in form and execution, veering towards the episodic rather than organic. Yet the perfectly memorable melodies and infectious rhythms win out, making these pieces some of the best ever conceived in America.

This performance, while good, just never ignited. A bit stiff and deliberate in the first movement and marred by a tentative and struggling trumpet solo that opened the second movement. Yang had the shading and the rhythm down well, but had more than a couple audible clinkers. A spirited and jazzy finale somewhat made up for the less flexible. It was good to hear this piece live again after many years. I am so imprinted on the Wild/Fiedler version (the first CD I ever bought to go with my brand new CD player many moons ago) that others pale in comparison.

Sometimes grandma needs to be prodded out of her easy chair and taken for a romp in the park. Same applies to Brahms. Markl was fully at home with Brahms and showed his prowess by taking the Symphony # 4 on a swift and dramatic ride. Not slap-dash and rushed but containing briskly appropriate tempi, full attention to every orchestral detail, a great sense of the organic flow of the themes and episodes (especially the passacaglia) and still accentuating the sense of deep contemplation. Never a work that will inspire foot tapping and finger snapping, the symphony works well when it does not over stay its welcome. Enjoyable, technically excellent and inspiring, something I do not always feel when I hear Brahms.

Jun Markl, a native of Munich, is Principal Conductor and Music director of the Leipzig Radio Orchestra and Orchestra National de Lyon in France and has appeared with orchestras in Helsinki, Birmingham (UK), Vienna, Berlin, Chicago, Dallas, Metropolitan Opera (Il Trovatore). He studied with Celibidache and Ozawa; impressive credentials indeed.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Bull Headed: The Taurus Returns

Ford Motor Company is in dire straits. Losing more money per day than many of us make in a lifetime. Like many companies that find themselves in this situation, they got complacent. Old product that did not keep up with the changing market. Too much reliance on big cars, trucks, SUVs etc, that became a liability when gas prices soar. Now I drive a gas guzzler deluxe, but she is paid for. Some of these folks decided to abandon their $3-400/mo car payments and $300/mo gasoline bills. I can run the Queen Mary on a tank of gas for 3-4 weeks if I do not go out of town. It was the people above who led the way to more fuel efficient cars.

Ford didn't have what they wanted.

Europe got a new small Focus, US kept the old one, a good enough car but falling behind Toyota and such. Resurgent Cadillac knocked Lincoln to taxi service. The Lincoln LS, once called America's best sedan, was ran over by the phenomenal Chrysler 300. Relying on trucks, Ford is seeing the Japanese charging through the full size truck market.

Then there was the Taurus.

Once the most popular make in the US, selling 1/2 million a year, and a breakthrough in automobile design the like of which had not be seen in years, the Taurus was left to flounder. Thus, as Packard did to Cadillac in the 50's, Ford handed the market over to the Camry on a gold platter. The Taurus became junk. It got long in the tooth, never changing, never improving, keeping the same old looks and technology. The rental car market and fleets loved it. By the late 90's if you had a Taurus it was a company car. Just like the Lincoln Town Car will be soon, you had to be fleet buyer to buy a Taurus in its last year of production.

Now Ford is hopefully not making another blunder by renaming its replacement, the slow selling 500, Taurus for 2008. Unfortunately, too many people think of this once dramatic, style setting nameplate as a rental car. The Mercury Montego will be renamed Sable, Mercury's long time Taurus companion.

US automakers are not building cars that are right for the market. And if they do they are compromised, they get close, but no cigar. In their defense, the market changes from hour to hour sometimes, but somehow Toyota and Honda and the like seem to be able to adjust.

I wish the best for Ford. I like their cars, especially the good ones they built in the 80's. I just don't think renaming a car with a tarnished nameplate is going to do the trick.

I'd have chosen the "Fairlane" or "Galaxie".

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Put Out or Shut Up

I absolutely love it! In Washington State, an organization promoting same sex marriage wants to place a measure on the ballot that would require heterosexual couples to have a child within three years or have their marriages declared unrecognized and annulled thus not eligible for marriage benefits.

The measure would require couples to prove they can have children to get a marriage license. Couples who do not have children within three years face the annulment.

If heterosexual marriage is so goddam sacred and the reason same sex couples can not get married is because they can’t produce children, then the conservatives should embrace this with open arms, it makes sense. Of course, they are short on sense.

Hetero marriage is a sham, ask me; ask a lot of my friends. It is highly over rated. The divorce rate soars yet two men or women in a loving, committed relationship is a threat?? I don’t get it.

I know not a single divorced heterosexual who has ever told me that same sex marriage damaged their marriage. Maybe it did because one of them wanted to marry someone of the same sex, but that is a different animal all together.

The measure has little chance to pass, even the supporters acknowledge that. But the point is made. The right screams same sex marriage is wrong because it can't produce children (they of course deny ever saying that) yet won't acknowledge the sickness of the institution as a whole.

This will be interesting to follow.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Recording Debut

Looks like the first commercial recording in ages for the Kansas City Symphony is about here! It has appeared as a new release on the Naxos website but according to US distributors and my friends at MDT in the UK it is not available yet.

I heard both works live with the symphony and the soloists as recorded. I found The Double Concerto tonally interesting, evocative yet a bit long. The Formosa Seasons I found more entertaining and successful due to its more concentrated, less ambitious form.

It is testimony to the talent and commitment of the Symphony that the recording was released in the first place. Now for the future, lets hear some Ives, Haydn or, please Maestro, some Karl Amadeus Hartmann??

Monday, February 05, 2007

Puggles, Boggles and Bagels

Puggles, my 7 year old purebred pug becomes absolutely unglued when she hears people refer to a new breed of dog as a "Puggle", or the plural "Puggles". When she was named Puggles, the "Puggle" was unknown, a mixed breed, a mutt. Now they all the rage, commanding 4 figure price tags and getting lots of attention in the media. They were soon joined by Labradoodles, Bagels Cockapoos, Boggles and Pugshires, to name a few.

A fool and his money are soon parted, so the old saying goes, and in this case it is likely true. Why do these people pay thousands for a mutt when you can get one at the local shelter for a hundreds, maybe less in some cases?? People who buy into this shameful practice want an animal that has been de-animalized. He doesn't pee on your rug. She doesn’t shed. She doesn’t bark. He doesn’t do a damn thing. Might as well get one of the Jetson's robot dogs. As soon as the newness and the fad wears off, the dogs end up in pounds and then euthanized.

It is that simple however, and are these dogs specific breeds or not? To get a new puggle, you have to start from scratch, with a pug and a beagle. Two puggles will not breed a pup with the same traits as the parents. They are no different than a mix breed bred by accident.

On the other hand, many of our "purebreds" have been manipulated to produce dogs with certain qualities and characteristics. Thus the stringent "breed standards" used by breeders.

My biggest complaint on this subject is that the new designer dogs are being mass produced in puppymills for a hungry market. These dogs are being bred by the thousands in large animal factories, many of them with conditions that will sicken anyone with a heart. Some claim to be USDA approved, run by good Christian people (barf) and claim to be making sweet puppies for all the sweet families and lonely old people. But in reality, it is a factory, making things, and if the dogs do not produce they are discarded, usually shot or mass euthanized. I have seen the rejects from puppy mills, sick emaciated dogs, many not able to walk as they have never left a cage. Is this what we want in order to get a perfect dog that does not shed?

Whatever you do, DO NOT GET A DOG FROM A PET STORE. Check out your breeder, look at rescue options and take any pet purchase seriously. They are living creatures, and deserve our love and attention. They certainly give us enough.

Stop Puppy Mills

Pug Rescue

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Walrus Invasion

Her Majesty, Puggles Queen of All Pugs, etc., etc., etc. has received another round of walrus gifts, this time from the UK.

Cecilia, the big brown walrus and her calf Pacifica have joined Nereus on the left at Puggingham Palace. See the story here about Nereus' arrival and how this walrus business got started.

They are adorable creatures for sure, thankfully not real as 3 walruses would be a handful.

It is rumored more are coming!

Friday, February 02, 2007

American Injustice

Mothers, go ahead and kill your kids, you get off easy: Murder in Clinton

She participated and may have even encouraged the deaths of 3 little kids and is not a threat to society.

Have sex as a teenager (come on, most of you reading this probably did, if I could do it, you could too), you fucking slime pervert, you need to rot in hell and be publicly hung: Genarlow Wilson

This kid is marked for life, will have to me monitored, feared, restricted in movement, banned from most jobs and ruined for a goddammed blowjob.

America is nuts.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

"Fish Gotta Swim, Hearts Gotta Bleed": Molly Ivins 1944-2007

The world of journalism and political commentary has darkened. Breast cancer has silenced the voice Molly Ivins, the witty and fearless defender of all things liberal, at age 62. To Molly, being liberal was a way of life and was never insulted when called that. "Fish gotta swim and hearts gotta bleed," she wrote. In this world of mouthy, uneducated, rabble rousing "journalists", her folksy humor and spot on barbs stood out.

Ivins speared politicians on both sides of the aisle, but reserved her best for GW Bush, coining the name "Shrub", referring to Bush policies as "Bushwhacked" and imploring readers and audiences to stand up to the Administration and stop the insanity in Iraq. No one was spared her barbs, especially Texas politicians. She has said nothing is as funny as Texas politics and referred to Texas Governor Perry as Governor Goodhair.

Even as an other round of breast cancer wracked her body, she never lost her wit and zeal. "I'm sorry to say (cancer) can kill you, but it doesn't make you a better person," she was recenly quoted.

This quote was published frequently in the obituaries and stories that appeared announcing her death. I remember reading it, as I read everyone of her columns when they appeared. It is my favorite and sums up her philosophy nicely:

"The trouble with blaming powerless people is that although it's not nearly as scary as blaming the powerful, it does miss the point. Poor people do not shut down factories ... Poor people didn't decide to use 'contract employees' because they cost less and don't get any benefits."

And another about Texas that could apply almost anywhere:

"Naturally, when it comes to voting, we in Texas are accustomed to discerning that fine hair's-breadth worth of difference that makes one hopeless dipstick slightly less awful than the other. But it does raise the question: Why bother?"

The pages are dimmed now with Molly's columns to no longer grace them. The void will be hard to fill. She was a voice of charm, wit and humor in an age where journalism was all clangor, rage and invective.