Thursday, March 29, 2007

Simple Gifts

Santa Rita, Nicaragua March 22

I have never considered myself exceptionally generous. The concept of "giving is better than receiving" rang hollow to my ears. Easy for YOU to say, but I like getting. Getting it takes care of that urgent need of wanting it.

Actually, I have given people gifts, nice ones, but hardly extravagant ones. So I am not a total ass. But it took a small gift that went a long way to remind me that truly giving is a pleasure and does not need to be something huge and expensivve.

2 plastic frisbees and 2 simple plastic jump ropes. That was it. But to the kids of the school here in Santa Rita, you would have thought I gave them the ownership of Microsoft. Their faces lit with joy, jumping and screaming all at once as school kids are want to do. PLATIO! PLATIO!! the boys screamed as the teacher flung the frisbee into the yard they shared with pigs, horses, sick dogs and our clinic. The girls gathered around the ropes and jumped giggled and tripped with joy over the pink and yellow plastic rope. The air throbbed with the sounds of children and was thick with wild flung platios. When we were done, the guys in the group joined in, contributing some baseballs and a couple of more platios. For about 20 minutes, poverty, sickness, language and culture barriers broke under the weight of the joyous games.

What a gift I had given.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Not to sound all pathetic and such... but it is lonely here. I hate this time, it happens once a year, maybe twice and it just rips me to shreds.

I am leaving for Nicaragua Monday AM early,way before the chickens get up. Unfortunately, that meant that Her Glorious Majesty Puggles, QOP, SRA, ETC., had to leave for the Eastern Palace on Saturday. Also known as Jackson County Animal Hospital, they have been her vet and boarder forever. Not the most luxurious of accommodations, but clean, inexpensive and secure. Besides, she is loved there and she seems happy. She'll get her shots and check up while there, get a manicure and a bath. Sort of a Pug-med vacation.

But the hours spent here with no Pug to follow me around, to bark at me when I eat, wanting to go out and snuggling next to me at night are hellish. I go in to the living room, expecting her on her throne and it is empty. The throne got a good cleaning and vacuuming and her walruses stand ready to greet her upon return.

Amazing how dogs get in to your soul, become so indispensable to the fabric of our lives. Puggles took over my life for sure, made it her own. Dogs are just so much more comforting and loyal than humans. Sure they may shed and pee on your rug, but they never stab you in the back. That means a lot.

See you in a couple weeks sweetie. Have fun!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Off To Nica

I am off to Nicaragua again for two weeks, leave Monday AM. I so enjoy this trip. I feel alive, like I am doing something for humanity and showing the world that the USA is not all George Bush and Republican me-first-ism. I personally do not save lives as I have no medical skills. But as the dentists and the dental students work, I make sure their instruments are sterile, thus making sure they do not hurt any one. Maybe in a small way, I do save a life.

Spending a week in Mulukuku is like going back in time. They have electricity now, and communication is easier. It used to be that a week in Mulukuku was total isolation, no news, no papers, if the world ended, we'd be among the last to know. Now that the road is better paved cars and trucks bring papers and news, on the same day! Last year, Enitel had even installed a pay phone. It was not connected, but held promise.

Electricity brought the world to Mulukuku; an enterprising soul set up a dish and created his own cable network. TVs sprouted up, those affording one shared it on the front porch with everyone else. As a devoted non TV watcher (despite owning one and all the 200 channels of cable), it was wonderful not seeing the damn "big glass tit", as my friend Shaun calls it, blaring from the houses.

We take the students down to San Juan del Sur for some sun and fun. I am apprehensive about going there as events of late have soured me on the place. It is lovely, and a great place to rest. I miss the SJdS of the past.

Change does not come easy for me, as you can see. Mostly since most change in my life has usually been for the worse. But it is inevitable, and so is my bitching about it.

This is my last post for a bit, I'll try to get in a post or two from SJdS from the new laptop I am taking down for them. We are frequently mules to carry things from here to there, and this trip is no exception.

At least this time I am not carrying 20 pairs of ladies' shoes and hundreds of loose condoms.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Give It A Rest

For the second time, a jury in Johnson County Kansas has failed to convict David Stagg for a murder he did not commit. Yet the prosecutor and rabid DA Phill Kline,hell bent on protecting everyone from things they need not fear, continue to want to keep on with their made up, circumstantial case. SHAME!

Stagg's romantic partner William Jennings was found murdered in April 2004. It seems Stagg and Jennings had quarreled before and Jennings had attempted suicide six months earlier. The story the prosecution made up is that Stagg killed him and made up a suicide note on a laptop.

However the prosecution wants everyone to forget DNA found under Jennings’ fingernails and on a blood stain on the computer desk ruled out Stagg as a suspect. In addition, police were unable to find any physical evidence against Stagg, even though they searched his vehicle and the condo he co-owned on the Country Club Plaza.

So, where is the evidence? Is this what justice in the US is all about now, made up stories to convict someone, anyone, to look good politically?

Jennings family seems convinced that Stagg did it. They continue to hound the issue. I am sorry for their loss, but it seems they just want revenge, not the truth. Hang anyone so we can sleep at night.

Scares the fuck out of me.

KC Star 3/15

Sunday, March 11, 2007

"I'm Free!!" John Inman 1935-2007

The last sale has been rung, and Mr Humphries is no longer free. John Inman, the brilliant British comedian who was immortalized in the long running series "Are You Being Served?" died in London Thursday March 8. He was 71, losing a battle to Hepatitis A he contracted a few years ago.

Anyone who ever caught the show remembers his catch phrase "I'm free!!" as he minced and pranced his way around the Gentlemen's Department at the fictitious Grace Brothers' Department Store. His sexuality was always ambiguous and was frequently used to set up a comic situation or a racy quip. His high pitched voice immediately deepened to manly "Mennnswear," when required to answer the phone. He was for certain a certified mama's boy and sometimes sported the latest in flashy, often tasteless fashions.

Are You Being Served? ran on British TV until 1985. It is still a staple of US Public Television. Inman's portrayal of Mr Humphries won him the BBC TV Personality of the Year in 1976 and he was voted the funniest man on television in the UK. He was also a famed "Pantomime Dame" playing campy female roles in drag in many theatre productions in the UK.

So Mr. Humphries, here is to you! I hope your Y fronts ride up with age gracefully. He is survived by his partner Ron Lynch.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Going to the Dogs

The American Heartland Theatre, a textbook "community theatre" that usually features upbeat comedy and musical reviews has went over the edge. Its current production is a poignant, accidental and almost passionate love story between two males. Shades of "Brokeback Mountain"; one of the characters is even named Jack. And like Jack and Ennis, they can't quit each other, even when they try.

This show is a more simple, yet just as elemental a story and one that has played out in many lives. Joel is a young, self-centered and ambitious man whose life is fundamentally changed when he allows a rescued dog to take over his life. Sound familiar? Like so many have discovered, he realizes that the love he shares with his dog Jack is special and thus deeper than any of his human relationships.

There is a subtle message to those who think dogs are presents or throw aways like an ugly necktie or a juicer. Joel gets a pound pup for a girl he is trying to impress who quickly dismisses both Joel and the dog. Joel tries to take Jack back, but of course, Jack has worked his magic already. Jack is one of the lucky ones, and never lets us forget that.

The acting was wonderful with the 3 of the 4 actors portraying dogs. Shouldn't work, but it did, brilliantly. John-Michael Zuerlein plays Jack with panache and just the right touch of comedy and cuteness. Jessalyn Kincaid, who was brilliantly nuts in "Leaving Iowa" is just as spectacular as Little Dog, a high-strung, whirling dervish terrier. Nicholas Ward is wonderful as Big Dog, a big lug of a junkyard dog with a big heart and a desire for the perfect nap. Ward is a big hulk of an African American and for some reason I think there is a lot of "Big Dog" in his personality. These two were Jack's shelter mates and provide a subtle commentary on diversity, survival and mellowing with age that is almost more interesting than the story of Jack and Joel.

Joel, portrayed by Kurt Robbins, is basically a jerk, but a sympathetic one. It is wonderful to watch him mellow as he comes under Jack's spell. All the actors are great singers and were in good voice, something not always true in the AHT productions.

"A Dog's Life", a new musical from the team of writer Sean Grennan and composer Leah Okimoto (Married Alive) is a damn good production (going on through April 15), a must see and likely the best production I have ever seen at the American Heartland Theatre.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Pato Has Learned A Lesson

When things get really tough and all hope is fading, when you feel like everything has gone wrong... that is when you find out who truly cares, who truly loves you and who are your true friends.

Taking a Break

Pato is tired. Pato is also stressed to the max. Therefore, I am taking some time off from the blog. Not permanent, hopefully, but for at least the next few weeks.

Who knows, like TV networks, I may post some reruns.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A Forgotten Genius: Tom Lehrer

"Take your cigarette from its holder,
And burn your initials in my shoulder.
Fracture my spine,
And swear that you're mine,
As we dance to the Masochism Tango."

So goes the wonderfully bizarre lyrics of the comic genius Tom Lehrer.
A Harvard educated mathematician and scientist, Lehrer is most famous for his series of hilarious satirical songs made in the early 60s. It is legend that Lehrer died an alcoholic but in fact he simply lost the zeal to perform and went back to teaching math and theatre. Coaxed out of retirement a couple times, most notably in 1965 for the TV comedy review "That Was the Week That Was", Lehrer again tired of his songs being edited, censored or poorly performed and retired again. He writes songs occasionally and still walks among us.

Many of the songs are dated for younger audiences, filled with references to nuclear war drills (like getting under our desks and covering our eyes was going to really help), Werner Von Braun and Alma Mahler, mysteries to many these days. But "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park", "The Elements" (the periodic table of the elements set to the "Major General's Song" by Gilbert and Sullivan (you all know it), and the "Vatican Rag"...

"So get down upon your knees,
Fiddle with your rosaries,
Bow your head with great respect,
And genuflect, genuflect, genuflect!"

...are timeless classics.

His humor is intelligent, satirical and always fun. Lehrer made only a few recordings and luckily still available. Check them out, you will not be disappointed.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A Pit Bull Barks Hate: Ann Coulter and the "F" Word

Right wing nut case and rabid pit bull Ann Coulter made an anti-gay crack at a Conservative conference last Friday. No one heard about it for a while although it was witnessed by hundreds of journalists and captured by television cameras. At the end of her speech Coulter said: "I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out that you have to go into rehab if you use the word faggot , so I'm kind of at an impasse."

It took some Democratic lawmakers and liberal bloggers and even a few Republicans to make it a news story. But where is the clamor?? Where is the indignation. Oh, how silly of me, it was directed against Gay men, so therefore it is not that big of deal, it is still legal to do that. Now if she offended Blacks with a word?? Katie bar the door.

It shows there is a double standard still in the land of the free, home of the brave and all created equal. If you believe that fairy (no pun intended) tale, I have some others for you. Edwards distanced himself from two gay left-wing bloggers who drew fire and brimstone from the right wing by their criticism of their past anti-Catholic writings. It is ok to pillory gays and lesbians and our supporters.

Coulter is the darling of the right, and as the right wing is prone to do, attacks personally and cruelly as she has no facts to back up her beliefs. This is the same non-human that called a politically active group of 9/11 widows "witches," saying: "I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much. . . . And by the way, how do we know their husbands weren't planning to divorce these harpies?" WTF?? She got applause by the way from many in the audience when she called Edwards "faggot" and the above comments help sell her books.

Some dismiss her as a loudmouth who will say anything to sell a book or get attention. But when she is featured speaker at a GOP fund raiser, and GOP leaders are silent about her insults, then they are Nazis by association, just like the citizens of Germany who stood idly by in tacet support of Hitler.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Damn Eclipse...

Astrologer Chin Jip Seng from Malaysia said that Saturday's lunar eclipse was not a good sign because the Earth was covering most of the Sun, the source of light.

"It will be very bad for the first half of the year. There will be bad times ahead. We have to hope and pray."

Well, he is right. Let's just say yesterday was horrible for me. Rotten to the core. I won't elaborate, this is not a pity party blog. First of all, if anyone gives a fat rat's ass, I am ok, a little bruised more mentally and emotionally than physically, but ok. Just a lot of bad decisions and inactions blew up in my face yesterday. It will take some time and more money than I have to correct. But I hope it will be soon. But I have so little faith in people and in systems that I am sure I will be screwed.

Not as screwed as the injustice that goes on for Eric Volz in Nicaragua, read this article here and be sure to visit the site his family set up and send a message. Or think of others who are facing injustice and brutality by authority here in the US, like David Stagg or my friends M, K and S who should probably remain anon.

My issues are minor compared to them, a mere inconvenience and headache and sleepless night. But still real to me and still a part of the fact that the world here is nasty, friends are few (thankfully I had one that has been a great help so far) and injustice and meanness prevail.

Damn eclipse...

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Kansas City Symphony: The New Recording is Available

The long awaited new CD from the Kansas City Symphony is here. I have had the chance to listen to it over the last several days and have thoroughly enjoyed it.

At first I was highly disappointed in the constricted sound. But playing the disc on my computer with the JBL Creature speakers and then on my iPod with the Klipsch IGroove showed that is was my now 3rd rate CD player that is the problem. These better systems revealed good clean sound that shows the colorful orchestration in the Double Concerto to advantage, especially the water fountain and torn paper in the evocative second movement "A Flowering Sacrifice". The orchestra sounded 1st rate, and much better than in the horrid sonics of the Lyric Theatre. The works were recorded over at Yardley Hall in Overland Park, KS. Hardly world class but better than the Lyric.

Just an aside, the Lyric is a beautiful, grand old building saddled with horrible sound. The Orchestra level is worthless, especially under the balcony. The balcony is better, but the seats are so small and crowded. Which is better, sardine packaging with ok sound, or room with lousy sound and poor visuals of the orchestra. Please hurry with the new Concert Hall!!

I remain slightly mixed about the Double Concerto as I did when I first heard it live. Evocative, interesting but a bit long. The recording misses (of course) the interesting visual drama between the soloists and the effective "torn colored paper, scattered like falling petals". As I have heard it at least 5-6 times now, it has not outstayed its welcome. Well worth exploring. "Formosa Seasons" is shorter, more concentrated and less ambitious. Relying less on color (scored for Violin and strings) the Seasons lets you enjoy Chin's lyrical, communicative style.

All in all, an impressive debut on disc for Stern and the KCS.

Chin Double Concerto and Fomosa Seasons

The above has online purchase options. I recommend ArchivMusic for great prices and fantastic service.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Sticker Shock

More elemental than the need to eat, more consuming than a first flame of passion.... my need to have something.

I exaggerate a bit; I have relatively few possessions compared to many of my friends. Mostly due to the fact that I have less space to put stuff, and with my semi-vagabond lifestyle in the last decade, less of a desire to lug it around. But a stray catalog or two or a new CD release (I have been buying more iTunes items that are a lot easier to carry) will unleash my impulse to order and thus wait impatiently for my desires to be filled.

An orphaned catalog came by this AM, a relic from a past occupier of one of the apartments here in the Towers. I am not a big outdoorsman at all, but neither is this brand of clothes. As others have done, they went upscale to attract the man who wants to look like he hunts, fishes and hikes but seldom leaves the urban jungle. He also probably drives a Land Rover or a Jeep that has never been in 4 wheel drive. I have a jacket from them that was given to me that is so delicate to wash it demands to be dry cleaned. Hardly something you want to wear while gutting trout in a campsite.

As I casually flipped the pages, a shirt jumped out at me. A "tea stained" tan patchwork shirt, loose, light, stylish and, surprise, sort of outdoorsy. I thought it would be wonderful to wear on my upcoming trip to Nicaragua. Of course for sunset cocktail hours and strolls along the beach, not while sterilizing dental instruments in the jungle. $59 was not a bad price, wish it was less, but it appeared to be good quality and thus maybe worth it.

So I got online and went through the order process. Final total, $70.82!!! WTF??! Yes $8.95 for shipping and $2.87 tax. I never pay tax here in MO for online items, and $8.95 to mail. They don't charge by weight, they charge by price. Many places do that, it is crock. If I got loony and bought a $59 lace thong ( not happening, used only for demonstration purposes) that weighs an ounce, I'd still pay 9 bucks for it to appear in my mail box. Unfortunately, there is no retail store here so I can't go and get it that way.

I declined to order, feeling the shipping is just robbery. You know, I might have felt better that you told me the shirt was $69 and the shipping $3.00. At least I would have felt I was not just getting screwed.

I still long for this item, it would look good on me. But sometimes, someone has to just say no to the ridiculous practice of gouging on shipping.

Damn it, why me??

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Stealing America

I saw this film last night and it more than confirmed my suspicion about electronic voting and the possibility of tremendous fraud. The director and some sponsors will be here at the Towers this evening for a VIP reception. Puggles and I both are invited.

Check out their website and catch a screening near you

Stealing America, Vote by Vote