Friday, August 31, 2007

When Britain Quaked

August 30-31, 1997 was a weekend. I must have had a boring one, or maybe Jim and I had been to a movie and I was back early. That part is fuzzy. At any rate, I turned on the TV about 5 minutes before the world changing news that there had been an accident in the early morning hours in Paris. Princess Diana had been involved. I sat transfixed.

It was early Sunday AM in Paris, most of Europe was asleep. At around 12:20 a.m. Di and Dodi Fayed her Egyptian boyfriend left the Ritz Hotel (which Dodi's father owned)to head for another Fayed property in Paris. They were passengers in a Mercedes-Benz driven by Henri Paul, the security manager for the Ritz and a bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones.

The rest is history. Diana was larger than life, an institution herself. She was supposed to be leading the "happy ever after" fairy tale life. It was far from that, Diana died because a drunk driver (Henri Paul, the driver the car she died in)and others involved in the incident made some stupid decision. The "People's Princess" died an all too common death.

Watching the events unfold, I knew this would be an event that would reverberate for a long time. 10 years later is still does.

Being of good solid British background, I understand the British way. Reserved, unemotional and stoic. As a running joke goes:

The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist
threats and have raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved."
Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or
even "A Bit Cross." Londoners have not been "A Bit Cross" since the
blitz in 1940 when tea supplies all but ran out. Terrorists have been
re-categorized from "Tiresome" to a "Bloody Nuisance." The last time
the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was during the
great fire of 1666.

Diana's death changed that. The whole facade crumbled, a huge catharsis of grief poured out of London, in York and in Woking. Diana had modernized the Royals and catalyzed the modernization of Britain. Her death shocked the Royals and even British society to be a bit more human, a little more worldly. God the Royals looked foolish. Elizabeth's silence, while understandable, was met with disbelief from a distraught public. Her excuses seemed lame. When they did come to London and viewed the floral tributes that nearly covered the palace, they looked bored and cold. I remember seeing Prince Philip pick up a bouquet and then toss it back on the pile. He was booed. Britain, already changing with the election of Tony Blair and his progressive "New Labor", could not believe their monarch was so cold.

But on the day of her funeral, the world watched and I even gasped as the coffin stopped beside the gate of Buckingham Palace. There the Royal family waited to join in the procession. The Queen stood silently, then bowed to the coffin in respect.

Britain quaked.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Winds of Change

I do not care for change. I get used to something and then poof! it is different or gone. I am a person of routine, don't mess with my schedule and mess with what I expect. Is that too much to ask?

But, as they preach, change is inevitable. Ok, but I do not want to embrace it or like it..ok? Thus a story.

Being follically challenged in the hair department, I see no need to patronize fancy hair salons. I got a gift certificate for $25 worth of services at Shawn's of Westport. Shawn could not find $25 worth of hair to do, so I traded it for something else. Thus, when I came to Kansas City a few years ago, I was happy to find a little barber shop not too far from me. Old fashioned, nothing fancy, 2 chairs, some old waiting chairs and the daily paper. About it.

$7 for a haircut. WHAT A DEAL!

John Barrera had been in the barber business for 50 years. He bought the tiny shop from someone else in the 50's. As of 2007, the shop has now been in business for over 80 years in the same location at 39th and Southwest Trafficway. I don't think much had phyically changed over the years either.

John was always friendly, not obnoxious, but always ready to greet you, treat you right and give you a great cut. A cut always included a trim of your eyebrows and ears and trim your neck with hot cream and a straight edge razor. He even had an ancient vibrating neck and back massager that he would throw in to finish off. For $7. The clientèle was interesting as well. Rich and poor, old and young... and always a cast of characters hanging around not getting a hair cut, but just shooting the breeze.

I thought I died and went to heaven.

50 years is a long time to do anything. And winds of change were coming. Nichols Lunch restaurant, also in the same location for over 80 years, suddenly closed last year. The owner sold out and sold the building. New owners took over and another restaurant is scheduled to go in the place of Nichols. The new owner kept John in limbo for a while and then finally sat down to negotiate a lease.

I think the change and uncertainty took its toll on the master clipper. Now approaching 80 himself (but looking a lot younger),John decided to hang up his clippers. The time was right. An era was ending; just as I was settling in to enjoy $7 haircuts forever. What was I to do?

All is not lost. John's other barber Bob bought the business and is continuing the tradition. He noted that he was only the 3rd owner in 80 years of business. Sadly, the new owner of the building raised the rent, so now a hair cut is a full $10. Inflation you know. But at least he still uses the little massager thing.

Bob has a lease until 2010, so barring disaster, I will continue to have cheap haircuts for a while. John even is planning to come in on Fridays and some Saturdays for the heck of it.

I hope Bob keeps the name "John's Barbershop". Somethings should never change.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Penquins Are Trouble

On the surface it looks harmless, "And Tango Makes Three," is a children's book based on a true story about two male penguins who raise a baby penguin. Emphasis on "true" is mine. Why? This true story received the most complaints from parents and others than any other book in 2006.

Why? It promoted homosexuality as "normal".

Good GOD people, get over it. People fuck. Men fuck men and women fuck women. Some do it with both, it is real it is true and it is not a choice. Your kid is going to do it, maybe with his girlfriend or with her girlfriend. Not a goddamn thing you can do about it. Get your head OUT of the sand, out of your ass and get over it doll face, ASAP.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

There Ought to be a Law Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards wants to enact what he calls "Brownie's Law" requiring that qualified people, not political hacks, lead key government agencies.

"It's an absolute travesty to have people who are essentially political hacks in a very responsible position," Edwards is quoted as saying.

And it is a law that is needed. Especially after some of the bozo political hacks Bush has appointed. Loyalty to the Throne is more important than knowledge in Bushie's fucked up world.

"Brownie" of course refers to Michael Brown, who was head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency when Katrina struck in 2005. In one of the most surreal moments of a surreal administration, Brown was forced to resign shortly after Bush praised him publicly saying: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job". Meanwhile devastated New Orleans was in total breakdown and Brown was more concerned how he looked on TV. It was shameful.

Then we have the now resigned Alberto Gonzales, who was supported by no one but Bush. He finally left after totally fucking up the Justice Department...and Bush supported him to the end.

So, if you can't trust someone to appoint competent leaders in government, I guess you need a law. I sure support that one.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Toxic Flour

I mourn for the loss of sanity, good sense and reason. I am not sure when it died, but I know it is pushing up daisies now.

Case in point: A running club in New Jersey, specifically two members of the group, sprinkled flour in a parking lot to mark a trail for their run and set off a bioterrorism scare. The paranoid police forced shoppers to evacuate an IKEA furniture store and brought out manpower from all over. The running club members heard about the scare and came back to report it was just a little Gold Medal not Heavy Metal. The police's insane response: "You see powder connected by arrows and chalk, you never know,It could be a terrorist, it could be something more serious. (Yeah like flour.... ) We're thankful it wasn't, but there were a lot of resources that went into figuring that out."

So instead of convicting people who kill and rob, we go after flour droppers.

And soon a legislator will make it illegal to own large quantities of flour without a license.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Poor Little Ted

Here is some interesting news: that pitiful victim of self loathing (as taught by the wonderful world of conservative, Bible toting Christians) Rev. Ted Haggard is now begging his former followers and anyone else he can bilk for money.

Listen to his gall, as expressed in an email he sent to supporters:

"It looks as though it will take two years for us to have adequate earning power again, so we are looking for people who will help us monthly for two years. During that time we will continue as full-time students, and then, when I graduate, we won't need outside support any longer."

Haggard and his wife(female one)are studying to be counselors (!) and need the money to live on while they go to school and live in a faith based halfway house in Phoenix, where they will also work as counselors.

But is Teddy really that poor? According to reports he has a bit of cash. Haggard received a salary of $115,000 for his last few months of employment and had received bonus of $85,000 before he left in disgrace. Plus, his church paid severance including a year's salary of $138,000. Plus there are royalties on his books and tape sales.

Far from a poor pauper. This bitch has balls for sure. Now if he would just have the balls to admit he is gay.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Un-Civil War

Fellow readers of Pato News, we are living in a time of civil war. Or as a character in the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon stated: ‘it was not the Civil War, it was the War Between the States, and there was nothing civil about it”. And there is nothing civil about this war, not between the states but between ideologies. Left and right, conservative and liberal both used as derogatory labels. It is not a cold war; it is a hot one, fought everyday in the papers, in the streets, in everyday conversation. The USA is suffering for it.

It began when the right wing was shocked by the 2 terms of Bill Clinton. They could not believe he was elected in the first place and then re-elected. Stung, they pulled out all the lies, waste of money and time (Whitewater, the blow job), and dirty tricks they could pull to keep him occupied and not able to press his agenda. They vilified Hillary since she was smart and dared to ask why our health care system is the best in the world, only for the rich who can afford it. Their daughter, who was not a drugged out drunk like some kids we know, was horribly bullied by a bunch of childish pols and media types.

It is clear that keeping the country focused on bullshit and lies allowed Al-Qaeda to do its dirty work. Of course then the right wing blamed everyone but themselves. Unable to win, they destroy reputations, lie, distort and confuse the voters. Anything they do wrong…it is the Democrats’ fault.

Sadly, we can not have a sane and civil discourse on the issues before name calling and slander rear their ugly head. Criticize the President and you are labeled a “turrerist”. Say you oppose the war and occupation of Iraq and you “hate the troops”. Guess what folks, most of the “troops” hate the occupation too and many are committing suicide to get away from an out of control situation. No one is going to win this one. Yet whoever is the first one to finally throw in the towel will certainly be labeled as an advocate of cut and run.

I realize I am contributing to the whole thing. But I feel I have to stand up and defend my admittedly liberal mindset. I am proud to believe that all people should be allowed medical care at low or now cost. I think the courts and laws are too harsh and biased, we are systematically putting the poor, gay/lesbian, powerless, black, Hispanic and mentally ill away in prison to get them out of our sight. I think the occupation of Iraq is wrong.

You are all free to believe the opposite, just do NOT vilify me for believing differently.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Breakfast Jam

As one of the local wags said today, "Bush got his breakfast, we got the jam."

Bushie was in town to speak to his loyal supporters of carnage and war at the VFW convention. Instead of room service breakfast at the Intercontinental Hotel, he had to get his 30 car motorcade out and close down the city at 8am so he could go to the Corner Cafe all the way out in Riverside to meet with a bunch of handpicked rich people. Of course it was the same as the unelected Emperor and War Criminal went back to speak to the VFW where he contradicted himself on Iraq, after expressing frustration at the Iraqi leaders yesterday to day they were great guys doing a hard job... Heck of a job Brownie all over again.

Waste of time, waste of energy and waste of our money. Inconvenience a whole city? Not my problem.

But he left finally, and we the little people are free to go about our business now, Bushie didn't have to see many of us, most were hand picked. The VFW loves him as he promises to be strong and win and rah rah rah! Easy to say, hard to do.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Queen of Mean

Ding dong the witch is dead...which old witch? The Queen of Mean, the one and only Leona Helmsley.

She is most famous for going to prison for tax evasion in the late 80's. Her case unraveled when a housekeeper testified she heard Helmsley say "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes." She soon became one of the little people.

Can you imagine what a wealthy, mean old ugly bitch must have been like to have around? Supposedly at one time, she was glamorous, fun and lively. She and her husband Harry were supposedly much in love and enjoyed showering each other with extravagant gifts and tributes. As she aged, and Harry became incapacitated, she became more tight fisted and controlling. The trial and conviction for tax fraud destroyed what little levity she had left.

She was notorious for treating workers and employees like shit. In one famous incident, she ordered a sales clerk to rewrite a bill to save $4 in sales tax, "That's how the rich get richer", she replied. Her supporters contended that the government came after her to make an example of someone with high visibility. With her mouth and temper, she was an easy target. People lined up to nail her coffin. After her release, she was ordered to do some community service. That was extended because she ordered employees to do some of it for her. The Queen of Mean was notoriously homophobic in a business (hotels) with a large number of gay employees.

As it is always with the filthy rich, nothing touched her, nothing stopped her, she always got what she wanted. I can just see her, throwing something at the devil, DO IT NOW! Maybe Satan has met his match!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Happy Birthday CD

I almost missed an important anniversary, something I am using right this very second had its 25th birthday this week.

On August 17, 1982, Royal Philips Electronics manufactured the world's first compact disc at a Philips factory in Germany. For all your trivial people the first CD manufactured was ABBA's "The Vistors". Since then, 200 BILLION have been cranked out all over the world. I have bought my share of that 200 billion for sure. Another trivia piece: the length of recording (then around 75 minutes) and thus the diameter of the disc was standardized to accommodate a recording of Beethoven's 9th Symphony on one disc.

In fact many of the first CDs were classical recordings, benefiting from the longer format, making 2, 3 and 4 LP sets obsolete. The first players were released in Japan in November and the rest of the world in the spring of 1983. The CD soon had the LP, introduced in 1948, on the run. Sales began to drop precipitously for the tried andtrue vinyl disc, soon some new released were issued on CD only. The cassette tape soon followed the LP to the audio grave yard.

CDs were almost perfect. AS their name implied, they were conveniently compact, playable in smaller players so autos thus portable CD players proliferated. They were less prone to scratch or get damaged in handling. The "click, click, click" of a scratched vinyl LP was soon forgotten. I kind of missed the clicks and scratches of LPs. I still can't listen to the Beethoven 9th without hearing the spot where my first recording (I played it to death) had an audible pop. They had better sound and were amenable to the revolution in digital recording. The CD also revolutionized data storage, making floppy and small plastic computer discs obsolete.

Of course the DVD is the cousin of the CD, itself revolutionizing video playback.

I was somewhat of a late comer to the CD revolution. I had umpteen thousand LPs and a wife at the time that would not let me have a new toy. So after my divorce and the fact that many new recordings were not being released on LP I got my first CD player. My first disc? The complete orchestral works of George Gershwin. I still have it, sounds good today.

At the tender age of 25, the CD faces an uncertain future. Digital downloads, Ipods and such are cutting into CD sales. I got on that bandwagon early and confess I love to download music to the computer and ipod, instant gratification is always good. But I still use the CD as not everything is downloadable, and I sometimes like the permanence of the CD as opposed to the digital ownership of a download that could go poof at the touch of a wrong key. I think it will be around for a few more years. Nothing else seems to have developed yet that is better.

Happy BD CD! I still love you!

Friday, August 17, 2007


I saw this little quote, don't remember where. This may not be the exactly as was originally written, the sentiment is the same and I could not agree more:

Christianity might actually work... if somebody actually practiced it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

August 16th, 1977

August 16th, 1977 was a warm, lovely evening for a road trip. My college roommate Steve and I were heading to his parents' place in rural Nokomis, IL a small berg about an hour and a half away. They were retired and lived on a large plot of land out in the country. No farm to speak of, I think there were some horses, mostly just land, a stream and a pond and such.

Steve was a character and for a long time a good friend. Tall, skinny and always full of energy, but also bearing a moody side and could go off easily. Rarely with me, however, mostly with people in authority. Most of the time he was basically a delight. Steve had a thing for older women, thus was involved in our dorm's biggest scandal when he was caught fucking the dorm manager. He found another girl, this time his age, but they broke up even after they announced their marriage. He finally married an older woman after he left college and moved away.

He was devoted to the ROTC and a military career; his biggest goal was to drop a nuclear bomb on the damn Commies, somewhere. His theme song was Tom Leher's "So Long Mom, I am off to Drop the Bomb". In fact, I have Steve to thank for introducing me to Lehrer.

Anyway, Steve had his beloved little early 60's VW Bug and we piled in it for a short get-out-of-town adventure. School had not started yet, but we were both living on campus, so we had time and nothing else to do. Steve's VW had little in comfort except for an AM radio. The radio waves, no matter what the station, were full of one thing that eve. Elvis Presley. Elvis, all of 42 but looking like 82, had been found dead of a drug overdose that day in Memphis. The whole world was in mourning. We got tired of it quickly and turned off the radio.

I never was an Elvis fan, so despite the tragedy of his unfortunate death at a young age, I was not devastated. I never felt what others felt or what others heard in his voice. But ever since his debut in the 50's and for generations after, the "King" has remained ever popular. The postage stamp in his honor was the biggest selling stamp in history. If a devoted fan was forced to choose between saving for little Suzie's lifesaving surgery and a new Elvis album, Susie usually lost. Every album and song recorded is still in the catalog, selling like lemonade at a state fair. I just never got it.

But the reference I read today about the 30th anniversary of Elvis' passing did remind me of an old friend not seen in years. The obituary rekindled memories of an evening when two 20 year olds, still exploring, still excited about the world got away from the pressure of college and life at the time and enjoyed each other's company on a pleasant summer eve.

Thanks Elvis.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

That's A Joke, Son

I had to run to the bank this AM, specifically to get some money from the ATM. I was behind an old man who was obviously challenged at using an ATM. He finally turned to me and asked if I could help him check his balance.

I pushed him over.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Brain has left the Building

Ever seen a beheaded cockroach?? Even without a head, they run amok, spreading their disease and fear until they drop dead.

If not, then stay tuned to the TV news and you'll see one in the form of G. W. Bush shorn of his brain Karl Rove.

Rove, who has really been the president in the Bush Regime, has announced he is resigning at the end of the month. All the return to my family and crap excuses were given publicly. But would it not be more likely that he is resigning to escape more congressional investigation? Or maybe get while the getting is good? What else can he destroy besides Iraq, confidence in the White House, confidence in America, confidence in justice, fairness, civility?? How many more instutions can be politicized, how many more treasonous acts can go unpunished? Did the body resist the brain and say "no" to invading Iran, depriving the whole of a new food source and place to defile?

This brain has guided the cockroach in a lifetime of evil and destruction. Any attempts to exterminate have been futile. But the end is near, the brain has separated, the cockroach will spin and flail ever more until the final pirouette of death in January 2009. Scary times still lie ahead. I almost fear a brainless, out of control cockroach even more.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Cover Up or Else

I once read, I wish I could give the credit for it, that in the great emigration from England in the 16-1700's, America got the Puritans and Australia got the convicts. All said and done, Australia got the better end of the deal. The US is still puritanical in its desire to punish anyone who septs over the line and in its archaic sex laws.

Witness: A Catholic priest faces an indecent exposure charge after jogging naked (Gasp!!!! Horror!!!!, worse than killing or stealing) alone on a track at 4:30AM. The priest admits it was not a smart thing to do, and admitted it was true. The absolutely stupid thing is that if he is convicted of indecent exposure, he'll be a SEX OFFENDER! GOD NO! NOT THAT HORROR!! What to do what to do! ARRRRRRRGH.

If he sold drugs, he'd be slapped on the wrist and let lose to do it again, like the fucking druggies and pimps who roam unmolested in my streets.

But it is easier to persecute a naked priest than a drug pusher. So that is what our injustice system does.

Maybe I should head to Australia.... I have friends there.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Hitler's "Desert Island" Record Collection

Even as his twisted world collapsed around him, Der Fuhrer Adolph Hitler apparently enjoyed some of his favorite tunes. Or so it seems. A former Soviet intelligence officer, Lev Besymenski, apparently found the 78RPM discs in the storied Bunker after the fall of Berlin. He took them back to the USSR and then never said a thing about it throughout his life. Besmenski died recently and thus the records and some documentation have been revealed.

Surprising to some, even leading some to say it is all a hoax (it would be if they found some Joyce Hatto or Sibelius' 8th Symphony there), is that the collection contained recordings by Jewish artists.

Specifically the talk is about a recording of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto performed by Bronislaw Huberman. Hitler had to have known, or someone would have told him, that Huberman was an exiled Jew and had founded an Orchestra in Palestine in 1936. Recordings by Artur Schnabel, whose mother was killed by the Nazis, were also found. In addition to his beloved Wagner, the collection included some Beethoven, Mozart and other German composers and surprisingly some Russians, Borodin, Mussorgsky and Rachmaninoff.

So was Hitler an opportunist when it came to antisemitism in music? Perhaps; one must realize that in the 30s and 40s, the number of recordings available were not like today. Some theorize Hitler was a bit of a hypocrite when it suited his purpose. He could claim in public that Jews did nothing to advance the art of music, but in private listen to Huberman play. Most dictators are hypocrites, privately luxuriating in the very things they banned as decadent or dangerous to those they sought to control; Brezhnev loved fast, fancy cars, especially Cadillac El Dorados and Lincoln Mark IVs, the Saudi Royal family is supposed to have a huge, fine liquor collection, just two examples. So this is far from the extraordinary. Thus, it is possible this is the real thing.

But questions remain and it may never be known if these are truly Hitler's. But if they are, it is a fascinating glimpse in to the mind of the monster.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Right Wing Hypocrisy...again

You could hardly miss the headline in the Kansas City Star. Johnson County Kansas DA Phill Kline is seeking the death penalty against Edwin Hall who is charged with a high profile murder of a young lady. No surprise there.

But when is the hypocrisy ever going to end with the right wing? When, I ask WHEN? People with brains want to know.

Being Mr. I made a tough but correct and just decision to seek the death penalty, scores points with the indoctrinated masses who think killing people is a deterrent to crime. Texas has killed enough people to prevent crime occurring there in my lifetime, or one would think. We have imprisoned enough people to certainly have rounded up all the bad guys, haven't we? Phill Kline wants to keep us and the kids safe by taking a person's life. An admittedly poor excuse of a person if he is guilty, for sure, but who gives him this ultimate authority?

What gets me is that the very same Phill Kline rages against abortion as murder. If he were ruler of the world, he would love nothing more but to put abortion providers away for murder, maybe even execute them.

Abortion is taking a human life, and so is signing the warrant to execute some one. Why do they not see the similarity?

These blood thirsty death penalty advocates and anti-choice radicals love to say they have Jesus and the Bible on their side. Oh really now?? Do you. I am not intensely religious, I do not read the Bible daily and would be hard pressed to quote any of it from memory. But I do remember something about 12 commandments... or are they passe? There was one, Thou Shall not Kill. Isn't there? Somewhere, Moses and all that.

Am I missing something?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Manhattan Dreams

I seldom remember dreams, but this one I do and it was mildly amusing.

I had attended a meeting in the Big Apple, Manhattan. As was so usual with business meetings I went to in fun locations, we were so busy we had little time to get out and see things. So I decided I wanted to see Manhattan, so after everyone left, I stayed over and went out to explore on foot.

I found 8th Ave. "Good", I thought, "the fabulous 5th Ave is just 3 blocks away". Strangely, 8th Ave in Manhattan, New York City, looked more like 8th Ave in Manhattan, KS. Small frame houses, tree lined streets, leaves falling. A kid passed me by on the way to school. "It is true", I observed, "New York City is safer than Kansas City, kids can walk to school by themselves".

I crossed the street in a hurry and found that the streets, at least this 8th Ave., seemed to be made of rubber. As I jumped into the street, it kind of rippled and tossed me onto the sidewalk... in front of Madison Square Garden/Carnegie Hall. I know they are two different buildings, but my dream said otherwise.

I went in to this steel and glass edifice, cold and boring. Madison Square Garden morphed in and out as Carnegie Hall, and vice versa. I wanted a souvenir, but could only find a group of people who were trying on t-shirts and deciding which ones to sell. They let me have a CARNEGIE HALL t-shirt, in dark red with big white letters. They felt sorry for me.

Back on the streets, I found the sidewalks and streets hard to walk upon as they were upholstered. The sidewalks were like the back of a sofa and the streets had buttons. I kept trudging on, wanting to get to 5th Ave. Just like walking on the top of a sofa back, you had to keep your balance or you'd fall on the cushions. Except this cushion was 8th Ave, New York City.

At a corner, I decided to take a shortcut through a house. I was tired of upholstered streets. I walked in to this suburban house, full of New Yorkers talking about New York things, some reading the paper, some chatting, some getting a drink. A scene out of a casual cocktail party with friends. Suddenly, the house moved. It was on wheels and was actually a bus. Off we went south... away from 5th Ave. My fabulous 5th Ave.. I was stuck on this thing... Help!

Anyone want to analyze that one??

Sunday, August 05, 2007


You know you are getting old when you begin a piece "In the old days..", "Back when.." or "In my time...."

Back 1974 specifically, Hank Aaron mesmerized the world and broke Babe Ruth's home run record. It was front page news, everyone talked about it, the event was carried live on TV or at best broadcast as bulletin. It was classy. It was a moment. I was at a minor league ball park when it happened and was announced. Everyone cheered, the game stopped. Even the players rejoiced.

Now Aaron's record is about to be broken, it was tied actually, and it seems few cares.

It happened last night, and there were some cheers. But according to reports, 2 minutes later the next batter was up.

Sports has changed. I used to follow baseball religiously. Now I do not care. High paid thugs, spoiled brats, homophobic, racist, sexist pigs, arrogant.. not a role model for anyone. It is a sign of the time that you have to look at page 8 of the sports section to see who won, the first 7 are about who is in rehab, who is making billion dollar deals or who is not showing up because they didn't like the color of the limousine that came to pick them up.

Barry Bonds, who will soon have more home runs than Aaron, is embroiled in controversy. He is fighting a futile battle to retain any sense of a positive legacy, stemming from the widespread belief that he was a steroid user while earning the National League's Most Valuable Player award multiple times and chasing Aaron's record. Look at the "congratulation" statement made by the Commissioner of Baseball (don't get me started on that clown) :

"No matter what anybody thinks of the controversy surrounding this event, Mr. Bonds' achievement is noteworthy and remarkable. As I said previously, out of respect for the tradition of the game, the magnitude of the record and the fact all citizens in this country are innocent until proven guilty, either I or a representative of my office will attend the next few games and make every attempt to observe the breaking of the all-time home run record."

Surprising to me, even Hank Aaron is staying low key and has all but said he does not consider Bond's legitimate. He likely will not be in attendance at any of the games.

Bonds brought it on himself. We all know steroids were used, look at the dope scandal plagued bike racing world, and continue to be used. Bonds had help to break the record. Ruth and Aaron did it on their own muscle, ability and willpower.

Like athletes worthy of respect should.

Friday, August 03, 2007

8-Track, the Sounds of The 70's

The 70's. Egad! Leisure suits (I had a pale blue one), big white belts (ditto), bell bottoms (yep, those too) disco (anyone remember the Sting Disco in Urbana, IL?), Energy Crisis, Jimmy Carter, Watergate, Vietnam, last of the big cars, it was all there. I am a child of the 70's. Fate decreed it. Graduated in 1975... right in the middle.

So of course all of us baby boomers of the 50's are waxing nostalgic for our high school and college days. And of course, theatre directors and such are happy to oblige.

Thus one of the biggest crowds in memory packed the American Heartland Theatre for "8-Track, the Sounds of the 70's".

Music of the 70's usually means disco. But the early 70's hits were clearly extensions of the "psychedelic 60's" themes of peace and brotherhood, everyone get along, anti war, why are people dying? The disco era highlighted a new wave of Black vocalists that persists to this day. The last of the great ballads, with a lineage back to Schubert and jazz singers made their last stand. The diversity of the music was revelatory. We heard chord progressions, soft rhythms and even soaring melodies that have virtually disappeared from current popular music.

8-Track is basically 90 minutes of nostalgic fun, with a fount of popular and some more obscure chart toppers. Aretha Franklin, the Carpenters, Ray Stevens' "Everything is Beautiful, Tony Orlando and Dawn (this would be a hit in Branson), Barry Manilow, Starland Vocal Band's "Afternoon Delight", "Voulez-vous Couche Avec Moi ce Soir?" (about as dirty as it got then). Even the trucker's anthem "Convoy" got a spin. 10-4 good buddy. The melodies were pouring fast and furious....almost too many to catch. I counted about 45-55 different songs, some complete, some just teasing snippets.

More "serious" fare, included Three Dog Night's "Mama Told Me Not to Come," the Doobie Brothers' "Takin' It to the Streets" Helen Reddy's feminist anthem "I Am Woman," and Marvin Gaye's "Tell Me What's Going On".

The audience was sprinkled with people wearing 70's outfits, including a few wild multi colored afros. Some of the anthems, such as Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life" brought out the waving lit cell phone, no one smokes anymore you know!

The 4 singers 2 men and 2 women, 1 black and white each, were uniformly good. Teddey Brown's touching and somewhat funny rendition of Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again Naturally" stole the show. Bradley Beahen, sort of a Brady Bunch guy, was a little stiff acting but in great voice. Both women could belt the ballads as good as Aretha and Debbie could.

Ok, it was not profound. Sort of superficial, like the 70's. Damn good fun.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Political Transvestite??

The late great Molly Ivins once called political party switchers "political transvestites". They may have switched clothes "to the other side", but underneath was much the same. Is this what is going on with State Sen. Chris Koster from Harrisonville who has switched to the Democratic side from the Republican?

Don't think all Democrats are happy. They remember the years of ridicule from the GOP while Koster was a card carrying member. He certainly never spoke up when Democrats' beliefs, and even patriotism was routinely questioned, simply because they differed from the GOP line. He voted for many of the policies that hurt elderly, workers, poor, disabled, minorities and non traditional families.

See, Koster is a bit of an opportunist. He likely will run for attorney general in the next election and it is speculated had some harder primary opponents in the GOP than he would in the Democratic primary. That earns him the political transvestite label.

But, he did state: “I have consistently for three years tried to push toward the center. At some point, the reality sets in that the (Republican) party belongs to the far right.” He is correct there and of course he is not alone. Other moderate and liberal Republicans have joined him, most notably next door in Kansas, where the GOP is the far right's playground.

For me the verdict is out. I prefer someone who sticks to his guns and knows where he stands, especially in the AG job. But I do welcome him into the party.... for now. He needs to prove that he is a Democrat, one who believes in people and power to the people, and rights for the poor and sick, Gays and Lesbians and believes in positive laws, not more hate filled rights restrictions and throw away the key justice.

Going to be a fun political season.