Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Even Ducks Float for a While

Pato is taking a short rest. So no blog entries for a few more days.

But of course that does not mean that the legal system is suddenly fair, that GW Bush did something smart or admitted he was wrong or that Boy-Gov Matt Blunt finally acted ethically. So, there will be more to rant about....

Just for now... a breather!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Dangerous Places

Is it safe where you live??

Fires Likely:






The Most Dangerous:


Friday, October 26, 2007

GOP: The Next Generation

I guess these are the "family values" passed down from their mega-church going parents. This exchange between some College Republicans clearly shows the future leaders of the GOP will continue to espouse the traditional values of misanthropy, hypocrisy and character assassination.

Vote these pricks out!


Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Vulcan Flies

After years of fundraising, setbacks and painstaking work, a retired Avro Vulcan, once the UK's most deadly attack bomber, flew from Bruntingthorpe airfield in England, 14 years after it was retired.

A delta-winged four-engined bomber, the Vulcan, along with the oddly elegant Handley Page Victor and the Vickers Valiant, was one of three British V-Bombers designed to drop nuclear weapons during the Cold War.

Of the three, the Vulcan was to me the most impressive. Its massive delta shape was almost intimidating, as opposed to the curvy lines of the Victor and the straight forward approach of the Valiant. Designed for nuclear deterrence, it saw most of its action in the Falklands war in 1982 and as a tanker and reconnaissance plane.

Bombers, especially nuclear capable ones, are by definition terrible machines. They are designed for one purpose... to kill lots of people quickly. But there is no denying their frightening beauty as machines, swift, elegant, authoritative. I am glad one is flying, as with the gun boats and frigates that ruled the seas, the Vulcan and its UK, US (B-52, B-1,) USSR (TU-16 Badger, Tu-95 Bear) counterparts are a part of our history, like it or not.

Bravo Vulcan XH558 now G-VLCN. Long may you fly.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Right and Wrong

This is ok, according to the Bush World order:

Richard L. Thornburgh, who served as attorney general under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, accused the Justice Department yesterday of prosecuting a prominent Pennsylvania Democrat for political reasons, one of a series of cases singled out by House Democrats as examples of alleged GOP meddling at the Justice Department.

Thornburgh, who served as attorney general from 1988 to 1991 and whose law firm represents Cyril Wecht, a nationally known coroner from Pittsburgh, testified yesterday that Wecht had been indicted for mail fraud and a "hodgepodge" of other charges by overzealous prosecutors keen on pleasing political appointees in Washington.

"He has always been a contentious, outspoken, highly critical and highly visible Democratic figure in western Pennsylvania," Thornburgh told the House Judiciary Committee. "In other words, he would qualify as an ideal target for a Republican U.S. attorney trying to curry favor with a department which demonstrated that if you play by its rules, you will advance."

This is not:

Rep. Pete Stark apologized Tuesday for saying last week that the White House was sending young Americans to Iraq "to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement."

Stark's apology, on the House floor, came after Republicans failed to win a vote censuring the California Democrat for "despicable conduct."

Speaking the blunt God's truth is not OK in the USA today. Unless you are Republican and you can smear anyone you like. As in many repressive regimes, those who criticize must be silenced.

God help us.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Bushwhacking of America Continues Again

President Bush asked Congress on Monday for another $46 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and finance other national security needs. "We must provide our troops with the help and support they need to get the job done," Bush said.

Bush cynically uses "the troops" to win support so anyone in opposition "hates the troops".

Yet spending $35 billion on kids is too much. I guess Bush hates the kiddies.

Fucking unreal.....

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Kansas City Symphony: Chen Yi "Si Ji"

After waiting a year, the Kansas City Symphony under the direction of Music Director Michael Stern, performed the local premiere of Chen Yi's "Si Ji" (Seasons). Orginally programmed for the start of last season, it was postponed when Stern was unable to make the first concert due to the birth of his daughter. Since Chen Yi's husband Zhou Long provided the opening work for Stern's first season, it was only proper that Chen Yi do the same. Since then, "Si Ji" has been recognized as one of Chen Yi's best works and was on the short list for the Pulitzer Prize in Music this past year.

Born in China and educated there and in the US, Chen Yi's music is a hybrid of traditional Chinese music and Western instrumentation and form. Her works are often inspired by Chinese cultural traditions, in which music is an integral art form, along with poetry, calligraphy, and painting. Thus the inspiration of Si Ji from four Chinese poems describing breathtakingly beautiful scenes from nature's cycle.

My exposure to Chen Yi has been through a couple of recordings, (even though she and her husband are residents of Kansas City, both professors at UMKC), the disc of her works with the Women's Philharmonic and her Percussion Concerto with Evelyn Glennie as solo. I have found the music on those discs a tough nut to crack, somewhat dryly academic and harsh. I found myself preferring the more gentle and introspective music of Zhou Long.

But Si Ji is a different animal. From its vibrant, expectant beginning with shimmering, chattering mallet percussion through moments of transcendent beauty and violent, shattering climaxes, "Si Ji" paints a vivid portrait of the Chinese landscape as it reflects nature and its inevitable, changing journey.

The ending of the work is simply incredible, a grand climax from the huge forces describing the thunderstorm...

As clouds rack waves urge waves,
With severe wind a long roll of thunder.
In house curtains on four walls,
In bed looking into thousand mountains under a gust of rain.

...swept away by a figure in the harp as the sound dissipates. Breathtaking.

The rest of this interestingly programmed concert was equally fine. A well conceived Beethoven "Creatures of Prometheus" Overture with fine winds opened the program. Young violin sensation Stephanie Jeong demonstrated incredible technique and tone in Paganini's grating Violin Concerto # 1. I long to hear this sensational, yet sensitive lady in a more gratifying work, say Tchaikovsky, Bruch, Sibelius or even Berg.

The final work, Rachmaninoff's strangely satisfying Symphony # 3, received a frequently suave and yet propulsive performance to bring the evening to a wonderful close.

Two major complaints here, neither related to the performances: 1) the ushers seated a whole row of latecomers in front of me about 3/4 of the way through the Beethoven. For god's sake, waiting a couple of minutes would not have hurt a thing. 2) The new program notes are totally inadequate. The KCS has fine notes online for each performance but the printed ones are lacking. There was not a line of description for "Si Ji" only biographical information on Chen Yi. Thankfully the audience was intelligent enough to "get the picture" in "Si Ji" but the poems are so integral to the music that having them available would have made a fine experience even more meaningful.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The End of Respect

We, the human race have lost a pearl of great price, something irreplaceable. Our ability to discourse, to understand, to be able to walk a mile in the other guy's moccasins as the old saying went, to see beyond black and white has vanished. If we see someone else's view point or change our view based on new information, we are vilified as a "flip-flopper" or "not fit to lead". Our current political leadership is that way. John Kerry made to look like a fool for changing a position, GWB holding firm to his way is the only way despite evidence to the contrary. Compromise, It was drilled into me in my high school history classes, was the key to a democratic, representative form of government. I think we have lost that..descending into totalitarianism.

My friend Grant talks of the "Me first world", referring to the US and Allies. I think the whole damn world is the "Me first world" anymore. From the Islamic fighters willing to die to spread their beliefs over the world, feeling they are the only ones who are right. The same with the zealots on the Christian side as well.

Even a discussion over dogs gets everyone riled up. I administer, along with 3 others, a website devoted to pugs. I am sure everyone by now has heard the story about Ellen DeGeneres and her battle with a dog rescue agency over her giving the dog away to someone else, violating the contract she had with the agency. This discussion has lead to everyone having "hurt feelings", people ceasing to be members of the forum since their views were challenged, "so and so said this", "so and so is inflaming the discussion", bla bla bla bla bla. So now, instead of everyone getting along and being adults and talking about dogs, we admins are getting bombarded with whines and sneers and haruumphs. It is getting old.

What about looking at the issue, seeing both sides were wrong, coming to a compromise?? The people at the center of the controversy, Ellen and the agency, don't seem to want to compromise either.

I don't know where we went wrong. When discourse and courtesy to another's views became passe. Our political leaders have been the leaders of it in many ways. When the previous Democratic Governor of Missouri was speaking to he house, an opposition member farted into the microphone to display his displeasure. When childishness and disrespect like this go unpunished, what do you expect?

I guess I expect more disrespect, ignorance and intolerance. Sad.

Friday, October 19, 2007

RIP: Two Grande Dames

We here are saddened by the passing of two great ladies, both world famous for different reasons.

1) Deborah Kerr, Scottish born actress, best known for her provocative (for the time) ocean side love scene with Burt Lancaster in “From Here to Eternity,” died Tuesday October 16th in England. She was 86.

The role in "From Here to Eternity" forever changed the way Kerr was perceived in Hollywood, changing overnight from a proper English lady to a sultry seductress. The scene was so racy, some of it was even cut; it would be PG-13 today. She was in many of the major pictures of the 50s "Quo Vadis", "Prisoner of Zenda", "From Here to Eternity", "The End of the Affair", "King and I", "Heaven Knows, Mr Allison", "Tea and Sympathy", and "Night of the Iguana". She abandoned films for more theatre and small productions until her retirement. Incredibly, she never won an Oscar despite 6 nominations. Oscar, of course, is known for his tin ear and blind eye to greatness. A "Lifetime Achievement" Oscar was presented to her in 1994 in one of the series of "make up for our stupidity" awards the Academy has presented from time to time.

2) Miss Puck, beloved naughty little lady and Pug Diva of Sydney Australia died 10 days before Miss Kerr in Sydney. She was 10. She is survived by her pug "sister" Miss LouLou and the True Diva of Sydney Miss Rona. She had bouts of ill health for some time but always bounced back, ready to attend to Miss LouLou or wait for momma to come home with goodies to inspect and enjoy. A tribute and pictures of this dear lady can be seen here: My Precious Puck

Rest now, dear ladies. You have done well, you have made people smile. We are greater for your lives.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Just a little laugh for the day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Triskaidekaphobia is a fear of the number 13. It is supposed to be an irrational, superstition, not based on any fact. Bull.... I HATE the number 13 and am being haunted by it.

You note that many tall buildings do not have a 13th floor,the Navy refused to launch a ship on Friday the 13th, or airliners do not have a row 13. If they can avoid it, so can I.

Think of all the 13 jinxes: Apollo 13, the first divorced couple I knew were married on the 13th, I got 13 gallons of gas for $13 (those were the days) and promptly had a fender bender.. it goes on.

Lately, I have been haunted by the number 13. Every time I look at the clock it is 13 minutes past the hour. Inevitable... I woke up at 5;13AM yesterday. Just glanced at the clock and it was 4:13. Broke for lunch and looked at the digital clock.. 12;13.

This has been going on for days now, it must mean evil things are about to happen.

Make it go away....

Monday, October 15, 2007

All The News We Know....

1) It seems that the fall of America on Line continues. Tomorrow is a mass layoff of staff at it's Virgina offices, furthering the company's move away from an internet provider to... well I am not sure what, neither do they it seems. AOL has become the Reader’s Digest of internet service providers since only people old enough to forget to cancel or do not know how to cancel still pay for it.

2) Furthering the notion that the religious nut balls both Christian and Muslim are such sweet, peace loving people in touch with God, a coalition of both in Uganda has proposed all gay and lesbian people be sent to an island until they die, wiping out homos forever. God, save us from your followers.

3) My friend Steve's ex-mother-in-law passed away this past week. Thankfully it was early enough in October to spare her the ignominious fate of her husband and have her funeral on Halloween...night. Not kidding.

4) Her Glorious Majesty is happy. A new supply of Purina 1 arrived today for the Royal Pantry. She can sleep easier now. And so can I.

5) I needed some rum. I have a couple bottles of fabulous Nicaraguan Flor di Cana rum, one bottle of 18yr old Centenario Gold and one of the special Centenario 21, numbered in a ceramic bottle. But occasionally I like a good old rum and coke. Flor di Cana Centenario is too rare and good to mix with Coke. So I got a bottle of Bacardi. YUK! nasty crap. I guess I am spoiled.

6) I got pissy with the local health clinic I go to for my diabetes. I get a regular blood test called an A1C report that is a more accurate reading of your blood glucose than the finger stick I do at home. I asked if I could get my results if I called. "Nope, not without an appointment." I had been going monthly but now my Dr wants to see me every 3 months, so I would have to wait until 3 months to hear my results.

Fuck them, they did not get my blood today. I just don't care. It is my blood, my results, my disease and I deserve to know. Fucking regulations.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Breaking News

From KC Star Cartoonist Lee Judge:

Friday, October 12, 2007

"Ignobel" Reaction

The Nobel Peace Prize is indeed a joke. Awarding it to someone who basis his entire thesis on "voodoo" science over someone who saved 2,500 children from the Nazi is an insult to Irena Sendler and the children she saved.

What a joke..With a huge home and heated swimming pool, who does he think he's kidding. Politics as usual. I would think those in Siberia and Canada would welcome warmer temperatures so they could grow more crops. Even North Dakota.

What a friggin joke! This award has become a joke! What award will AlGore win next, the Heisman Trophy? Cy Young? This man is an idiot and all who believe anything that comes from his mouth duped.

This is the reaction from the Kansas City area right wing nut-jobs over the announcement that Al Gore won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change. Good grief, these people become more pathetic every passing day. Believing everything they hear on Fucks News... I mean Fox News, not having any basis to criticize except for personal attacks and then cry when someone attacks their heroes. Pathetic.

You know, the earth deserves its doom. Nothing will change. So goodbye fair planet...nice knowing you.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Going Postal

Of all the wonders of the world, the one that amazes me the most is that the US Postal Service manages to get any mail delivered at all. First of all it is still relatively inexpensive to mail a package or a letter despite the frequent postal increases. Compared to the mail service of many countries, including some "developed" countries, the US postal service is quick and usually pretty accurate.

But damn, are they ever one screwed up organization.

Our mail carrier is a delightful person, efficient, friendly, musically inclined and always fun to chat a few minutes with. He has been a carrier for ages I assume, and always has a few fun stories to tell about the USPS.

Today he rang my door at about 9:30AM, very early for his regular route. "I have an Express Package for Mrs Lincoln". As I signed for it I asked if he had our regular mail. "No. Not allowed to take it along with the express deliveries. The USPS feels it is more efficient to go to the same address twice rather than once." He smiled sarcastically.

"Once, we had a manager that told us all with complete seriousness that "toilet paper is not to be used for personal use." "So, are to use it on someone else??"

Another manager told them when sorting mail "you are to have 6inches in your hand at all times." "Does this mean I have to cut the excess 3 off??" Quipped a proud male postman. They say this with a perfectly straight face, unaware of their silliness.

Compounding the silliness is the local post office, a virtual epicenter of frustration and inconvenience. The clerks are divided in to 3 categories 1) Surly 2) Slow and 3) all of the above. It is always an ordeal and you are sure to be reprimanded by the large hairy lady who has the end booth and loves to tell you all the postal rules and regulations at the top of her voice. At least the meanest one retired or is on disability (most end up that way), she used to dare you to report her to the Postmaster. I don't understand why postal employees go of on each other, it should be the customers going goo goo on them.

I am vowing to buy my stamps on line after waiting in line for 20 minutes and being yelled at by Sgt Hairyface for taking a cell phone call (hey, it was business..). It is not worth the time to stand in line watching them slowly grind away, looking like we are inconveniencing them. Shuffling too and fro with no purpose or sense of urgency.

No wonder email is taking over.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"Harry Truman in a Skirt"

Thank goodness! Way to go Claire! The people of Missouri decided to replace the spineless Bush lackey Jim "No" Talent with the hardworking, fearless and progressive Claire McCaskill. Missouri and America needs leaders like her that stand up to status quo and work for all Missourians.

Kind of glad she lost to Mattie Blunt for Governor as we would not have such an effective Senator as her.

Thanks Claire. Get cracking on some gay rights issues too, ok??

How a Freshman Senator got Something Big Done

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Kansas City Symphony: Giancarlo Guerrero Durufle Requiem

Last night's Kansas City Symphony concert was a welcome chance to see in concert one of the rising stars of the conducting world, Giancarlo Guerrero, newly appointed Music Director of the Nashville Symphony. Guerrero was plucked from the Eugene Oregon Symphony to lead this internationally acclaimed orchestra. Born in Nicaragua, Guerrero considers Costa Rica home.

Guerrero is a stocky, compact man yet energetic and personable. He literally bounces off the podium and bounces from section to section while pulling the music from his musicians. Fun to watch for a time, but somewhat distracting at the same time.

The program was an odd one and definitely demanded a shift in mood and listening between the two halves. Opening was the Rossini Overture to the Barber of Seville followed by the somewhat rarely heard Beethoven Symphony # 2. The second half shifted gears to the Gregorian chant inspired Requiem by Maurice Durufle.

The opening overture was a rough and ready affair. Sorry to say the string intonation and tuning were a bit off and the horns were a mess. Every entrance of the horns produced a different sound with the players looking at their instruments as if to say "where did that come from?" The performance was spritely but hardly the polished performance we have heard in the past from the same players.

The Beethoven Second is one of the lesser performed of his Symphonies. The work is far from uninteresting; it is a fascinating glimpse into the transition of the symphony from the world of Haydn and Mozart to the bigger world of Beethoven's own 3rd, 5th and 9th and beyond to Schubert and Brahms. The ensemble came together after a tentative slow introduction, providing a satisfying performance. The Larghetto, looking forward to the great slow movements of the 3rd and 9th, was the highlight with a flowing forward movement and sweet, spot on contributions from the winds. A spirited Allegro Molto finale brought out the rhythmic sparkle from the strings and winds.

Durufle's masterpiece Requiem Op 9 is inspired by the tradition of Gregorian Chant, passed down to him from his teacher Charles Tournemire. The work is often compared to the Faure Requiem as both are not dramatic "end of the world" Requiems but sweet acceptance of death; a promise of paradise and peace.

Guerrero led a finely detailed performance, full of wonderful orchestral and choral color. Notably the work was performed in a version without solos in the "Pie Jesu" and the "Domine Jesu Christe" movement. The orchestra was in much better form for this half, including some much more in-tune and subtle horn work from (I assume, not familiar with the new players yet)the new assistant principal horn.

The Kansas City Symphony Choir produced some gorgeous sound frequently lacking in diction yet always mellow and well balanced. The section in the Offertory "Jesu Domine Christe" with the womens' voices and lower strings came off very effectively. The climactic points were powerful but again a bit muddy in sound from the chorus.

I am much more familiar with performances of this marvelous work using reduced forces having sung it once with choir and organ accompaniment. The Durufle may not be as effective in the concert hall as Verdi's Requiem or that of Faure, but it was great to hear this piece with a full choir and orchestra. And to hear Guerrero at the beginning of his rising career.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Jon Leifs: Iceland's Greatest Composer

A long lost friend of mine would occasionally ask me "what obscure composer are you listening to now?" I delighted in educating him about the likes of Martinu, Brian, Ferneyhough, Carter, etc. Composers I do not find obscure but to the layman are certainly not household words.

Then comes one that was obscure even to me but upon some initial hearing is a composer to be reckoned with and one that deserves a larger voice.

Jón Leifs (1899-1968) is billed as Iceland's composer. With a population somewhat the same as Wichita (310,000) one can imagine Icelandic composers are not exactly a dime a dozen in the music conservatories around the world.

Since music schools are probably not on every street corner in Iceland, Leifs had to leave his native land in order to study piano, composing and conducting. He studied in Leipzig, Germany and eventually settled in Baden-Baden, becoming a successful conductor and a music critic/writer. He married a Jewish woman and thus became a problem for the Nazis. Unable to leave immediately, he eventually managed to get to Sweden and then back to Iceland for the rest of his life.

His music is much like his native country; dark, powerful, cold, craggy, volcanic, relentless. It is difficult to categorize. The brutal power is sometimes overwhelming, thus making listening difficult and taking immense concentration. At the same time, the seismic tension of the music make it irresistible.

I have not heard all of Leif's music, just the "Saga Symphony" and the Three String Quartets. All are moving, emotional pieces.

The Symphony, based on Icelandic tales and heroes is full of battles, ghosts, glory,supernatural powers and sacrifice. I found it at first almost too much with little respite from the tension and drama. But that same relentlessness means the piece is never boring for sure.

The 3 Quartets span his working life and are each accessible and powerful. The more intimate setting of a quartet means a little less relentless orchestral power but certainly no let up in the emotional content. The second "Vita et Mors" is an elegy for his daughter killed in a swimming accident. The 3rd is a vivid portrait of some of El Greco's works including "Toledo", "Jesus chases the moneychangers from the temple" and the "Resurrection". A mini Pictures at an Exhibition that is every bit as descriptive as Mussorgsky's masterpiece.

The wonderful BIS label from Sweden is the main source for recordings of Leif's music. Worth seeking out for an exhilarating musical experience.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Moonlight and Magnolias: American Heartland Theatre

Eschewing the usual fare of a musical review, the American Heartland Theatre's current production is a wonderful comedy-drama that was easily the most well acted production there since "A Dog's Life".

The premise of "Moonlight and Magnolias" is somewhat unusual and on the surface not all that compelling; 1939, the world on the verge of war, a Hollywood producer is making what he hopes to be his biggest blockbuster out of one of the most popular books of the time. But it is not going well and he needs a new director and a major rewrite.

The producer in this case is Hollywood legend David O. Selznick, screenwriter Ben Hecht and director Victor Fleming; the film... the immortal "Gone With the Wind."

Mixing humor, a bit of Hollywood history and name dropping, physical comedy and the drama of a world about to go to war, the diaspora of European Jews, anti-semitism and race relations, the fast paced play touches on a lot of issues yet never seems contrived or unfocused. The 3 men lock themselves (Fleming and Hecht reluctantly)in Selznick's office to make sense of the story and make a credible screenplay out of Margaret Mitchell's book.

AHT regular Craig Benton plays Selznick with just enough passion yet lightness in the more comic moments, never letting you forget this film and the rewrite will make or break the film and their carriers.

Scott Cordes plays Fleming, who is the most detached from all the drama of the movie; providing a lighter contrast to the rest of the characters.

William Grey Warren plays the former newspaper man turned screenwriter Ben Hecht with a moral seriousness that contrasts with the more devil may care Fleming and the success driven Selznick. The character of Hecht reminds both Fleming and fellow Jew Selznick of the rampant anti-Semitism in Hollywood and the troubling racial stereotypes of "Gone With the Wind." Still, Warren exhibits flashes of sharp comic timing for big laughs.

The lone other character, Miss Poppenghul, Selznick’s long suffering secretary, is dryly played by Jennifer Mays. Most of her lines are simply "Yes, Mr Selznick" delivered with a deadpan humor that sometimes even steals a scene.

Fast paced, interesting, well acted, I was surprised that I enjoyed the show from my initial reaction to the storyline. Well worth an evening at Kansas City's best theatre venue.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Sweet, Dear GW Bush

Emperor Bush wants countless billions to fight a war of death and destruction; an invasion started due to his lies. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost of the war on Iraq at up to $9 billion per month.

Kids without insurance??? You get shit. Bush Vetoes Kids Insurance Bill: Roy Blunt goes along with it.

Bush, you make me PUKE!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Organic in Extremis

Organic food is supposed to be better for you, right?? No pesticides, no growth hormones, naturally fed cows produce nice pure milk and cheese. Your fruit and vegetables may be a little less red or green but they are nice and pure, right?

Does organic mean you have to have the bugs come with your salad??

I had a couple of these little fellows in the package of Earthbound Farms Spring Mix salad I was thinking of eating for lunch. The package was sealed so they had been enjoying munching on the lettuce for a few days for sure.

I am not so sure, I may stick with regular packaged vegetables and risk the pesticides rather than eating the bugs. What do you think??