Friday, November 30, 2007

One Man's Gold

It may be a cliche, but one man's junk is really another's gold.

When the sacker at the store asks "paper or plastic" I always answer "plastic, please!" I collect plastic grocery sacks. I have actually become quite adept at it. I know which sackers at my local store are the ones most likely to double bag and avoid those who are stingy. I will even lower myself to use the self check lanes, whereupon a lowly can of soup must be at least quadruple bagged so it does not escape. "Can I follow you home and take the bags when you are through unloading your groceries??" I plaintively cry as the shopper runs to their car, thinking I am some pervert.

When I was at my sister's this weekend I asked why she needed so many plastic bags. "Oh, I don't know, I might need them", she replied. "No you don't, the homeless of Kansas City need them more". I plucked a stack from her hoard and took them home.

It seems, according to my neighbor Mrs F who works with the homeless, that plastic grocery sacks are like gold to those without a place to call their own. Since they have no money or homes to take groceries to, they have a hard time coming by good, clean plastic sacks.

You see, these common plastic sacks, a mere convenience to us, are to a homeless person:

A rain hat

Covers for ragged shoes

Some place to store their worldly possessions

I give a bag full of bags to Mrs F at least once a week. She is always grateful. "Oh, they have been asking, "Mrs F do you have some bags?' and we were out".

I even received a thank you note from some of her clients. A small reminder that little gestures of kindness really do count.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


If we were to judge the US by its penal policies, we would perceive a strange beast: a Christian society that believes in neither forgiveness nor redemption.

This is a quote from the British/Welsh social activist George Monbiot. Oh how US society fits that to a T. Persecutors (sic) get re-elected and get bonuses based on how many people's lives they ruin by tossing them in prison. Throw them all away, (most are poor, black, gay or lesbian, homeless and jobless; frequently in combination of the above, so it is not a great loss), make them suffer, deprive and warehouse them. Teach them nothing (except how to be better criminals), offer no programs. Once an offender, then mark them for life (to protect the children, who of course do not get healthcare but are free from perverts), if you need more space, build some more prisons, small towns love them. Send them out back to society, then restrict the jobs and places they can live, that makes sense, can't have these people too close to anyone. No wonder so many go back inside, they think life is easier there. No wonder crime is still an issue.

Our courts are a joke. The rich get off, the poor get little legal help from well intentioned but over burdened public defenders. Judges are idiots, just look at the fool-ass judge who got canned because he ordered his entire courtroom to jail because no one admitted to a ringing cell phone. This was a man trusted to pass judgment on people, making decisions that would impact many lives daily. He was not fit to run a car wash. Judges can, without impunity, make crazy decisions based on prejudice, fear and political pressure. Just look how many minorities are sentenced, just look how many people have gotten lighter sentences because their victims were gay and thus deserved to be beaten. I call it the Injustice System, populated by persecutors, sharks and martinets.

I happen to know several people currently or formerly in prison. Each one will tell you that they violated a law, got into drugs or, just as likely, could not afford to get the treatment they needed for mental illness. Each one will tell of the horror, humiliation, injustice and deprivation they or others endured. Few will say they learned anything valuable.

And what of this lack of "Christian attitude" towards those who commit a transgression? Well, "Christian attitude" has been perverted by the fundies into a condemning attitude. My local paper offers readers a chance to comment on stories and articles. If it involves a crime, the fundies and Repubs go off about saving the children by chopping hands, genitals, heads and other parts, brutally torturing the offender, throwing them in pits, etc. The Taliban is alive and well in suburban Kansas City.

"Faith based" prisons are proliferating, but at a price. The "religion" is primarily a controlled, fundamental Christian program and has been accused of "creaming" its success statistics, that is making sure the control group is composed of those most likely to succeed. With the world being shaken to its core over "my god is better than your god" I do not think faith is the answer.

Rehabilitation is the answer, a society that will help and welcome back those who have paid the price for their transgressions will go a long way to reducing crime. Making sure only the most violent and incorrigible are locked up for a long time. Making sensible sex offender laws, such as the recent court decision in Georgia that struck down all the laws where sex offenders can live, while allowing murderers, drug dealers and such to live freely, will ensure that they become productive citizens, not homeless derelicts.

The leaders of this country, both right and left, fall all over each other trying to be "religious" or "Christian". They forget the real lesson of Christ, forgiveness and redemption.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What I Want For Christmas

Just in time for my Christmas gift, what I have always wanted:

An online company is selling a Larry Craig (you know the Senator from Idaho, hero of all bathroom action lovers) action doll that, upon pressing a button, will proclaim in Craig's own words "I am not gay". The doll also wears an "I am not gay" t-shirt.

The doll and can be made to strike Craig's now infamous 'wide stance' pose if that suits your fancy. His arms can bend so he can run his hand under your stall too. Wouldn't that be fun on your Holiday trips?

All for just $34.95.

And if anyone gets me one, you are nuts.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Holiday Break

I am still here.... Turkey Day and the weekend was occupied by the obligatory visit to my crazy sister in Illinois. We survived the trip, had a bit of fun even, and I did not kill her.That, my dear readers, is the true Holiday Miracle.

She does not have a computer, and I would be scared to get her one, who knows what she'd buy. So it was a nice respite from the screen and keyboard for a few days.

Thus no new real interesting entries the last few days... but more to come.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sad Day

Each year it falls on a different day, but always around the same time of the year. It is a sad day, a day of ending and of closure. We know it is coming, it always does, thankfully or we would be up the proverbial creek without any visible means of transportation.

Today was the day the garden was closed. The plants brought in, the lawn furniture stored, the end of the season. It is getting colder, the nights will be at or below freezing, snow is forecast. Like clockwork it always happens, and of course without it we would not survive. But it is like a little death, knowing that the cold of winter is upon us, the snows and bitter winds will blow and kill all in its path.

Bittersweet, knowing faithfully, that the spring will come again.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Behind the Holy Temple

A blog that constantly embeds a U-Tube clip or a link to an article is not a real blog in my book. BUT, once in a while is ok.... ok?

In my review of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City's production of The Pearl Fishers by George Bizet, I called the famous 1st act duet "Au fond du temple saint" one of the most moving and beautiful in all of opera. And I still feel that way. However, as with many great moments in opera, the duet is not especially profound or revealing.

"Au fond.." is actually nothing more but two old friends reminiscing about getting worked up over a woman they saw at a temple. Their sap (and other things) rose and they succumbed to the primal instinct of sexual and romantic arousal. Friendship and co-operation flew out the window as they battled to possess the woman.

Ah, straight men, gotta love them...

Anyhow, what sets this apart is the sublime music and the soaring lyricism; a perfect blending of two magnificent male voices, tenor and baritone.

Some see a bit of homosexual tension in the aria, as the two men vow to cherish each other. I do not see it that way, but more of an 19th century expression of friendship and bonding.

So hear for yourself in this wonderful clip by the incomparable Alfredo Kraus and Barry Mc Daniel, recorded in 1970.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Pato News Game

Use the 1st letter of your name to answer each of the following. No Cheating, your answers have to be real places, names, things...nothing made up! Can't use your name for the Boy or Girl name either. Not as easy as it sounds!

Here are the questions and my answers:

1. What is your name? Don

2. 4 letter word: Dirt

3. Vehicle: Dodge

4. City: Detroit

5. Boy Name: David

6. Girl Name: Donna

7. Alcoholic drink: Drambuie

8. Occupation: Dentist

9. Something you wear: Dockers

10. Celebrity: Dan Ackroyd

11. Food: Dessert

12. Something found in a bathroom: Denture Cream

13. Reason for Being Late: Detour

14. Cartoon Character: Donald Duck

15. Something you shout: Don't

16. Animal: Dog

17. Body part: Duodenum

18. Word to describe you: Different

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ho Ho Ho, No No No!

Jolly Old St Nick has to be careful how he greets the excited little kids in Sydney, Australia. He has been instructed to not to say "ho ho ho" because it may be offensive to women. Instead it is asked that he say "ha ha ha".

"Ho ho ho" supposedly could frighten children and was too close to the slang term "ho" as in whore or prostitute. But notice that laughing at kids is ok.. until someone says it is making fun of their disability, race, sex, age, sexual orientation, hair color, shoes they wear... Then Santa will fall silent and be mute, making fun of those who are not able to speak or hear....

It just never ends.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Microcosm Buffet

I am not sure where this entry is going. I guess it is to suggest that sometimes we are strangers in our own land as our world shrinks and becomes more complex.

I frequent a Chinese Buffet a few blocks down the street. Nothing special, much like all the other Chinese buffets that ubiquitously dot the land. Decent food, cheap price, OK selection, place is spotless and the food is always fresh. I am usually there once a week, sometimes Greg and I go after church on Sunday too. The staff know me by sight.

The place is usually busy and there in is the tale. This little place is a multicultural hotbed. Many of the diners are Mexican. Some families with small kids often speaking English while the adults go on in Spanish. A group of workers together after work, still in the uniform of a painter, roofer, gardener and other jobs many North Americans will not do any more. I know enough Spanish to hear what they are saying. They talk of family, what they did today, what they watched on TV. What they dream of accomplishing.

Above the layer of Spanish, the sing song tones of the Chinese owners and waitress (actually I think she said once that she was Vietnamese) weave through all the "peros", "entonces", "Si's" and "no's" of the Spanish vocabulary. These conversations are more terse and to the point, there are chopsticks to deliver and glasses of tea to fill, crab rangoons to stuff.

As we are in midtown Kansas City, thus from time to time we have the unique English of African-Americans. Sometimes as foreign to me as the Chinese.

A few of us speak white English, or whatever it is called. A regional accent might creep in too, maybe from the South.. or Kansas even.

I guess this is the norm now, even in a small neighborhood Chinese Restaurant, the majority of the patrons are a so called minority in the larger population. Do we even have a single minority now? Will every race and nationality be a minority soon? The US became one nation out people from many nations; "E Pluribus, Unam" remember? I do not see that happening as much now, we are splintering. Newcomers hold on to their customs and languages, not just here but almost everywhere immigrants are flocking. The great melting pot has congealed and separated into lumps, like an unwatched hollandaise.

Perhaps I go to the place for the floor show. I go to revel in the cacophony of voices, explore the customs of the world and see how people are not really all that different as we share the bounty of the ancient cuisine of the East.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Rude, Lying Governor Blunt On Tape

Watch this video clip from the KC Star (filmed a couple of blocks from me at the VFW Headquarters here in KC MO) and then tell the rude, lying little SOB how you feel:

Rude Ass Governor


Matt Blunt
Office of the Governor
Room 216, State Capitol Building
Jefferson City MO 65101


(573) 751-3222


(Form from MO Governor's web site) Don't worry, he doesn't save emails :)

Email Governor Blunt

Notice the big goons he has working for him.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bizet's Other Opera: The Pearl Fishers

I have seen a lot of opera in my time, all the classics and a few rarities here and there; not a bad track record for a Midwest boy. One that had alluded me, however, was Bizet's early "The Pearl Fishers". Thankfully, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City has mounted a production of the opera, further demonstrating the Opera's commitment to bring world class performances of more rarely staged opera to a regional audience.

Of course everyone knows the tenor/baritone duet "Au fond du temple saint" from the first act, one of the most incredibly beautiful and moving moments in all of opera. And then it ends there, the rest being a mystery.

"The Pearl Fishers" is certainly not a Carmen, but is chock full of wonderful melody, dramatic choruses and endless possibilities for staging. I for one, do not think the plot is all that much worse than some much more famous operas, but I can not deny the fact that it is a bit slow moving.

Set in the exotic locale of Ceylon, fisherman prepare themselves for a new season and elect Zurga as their new leader. Nadir arrives after a long absence and is reunited with his friend, Zurga. They reminisce about their lives and friendship including a vow they made regarding a woman they both saw at a temple. She was so beautiful that both men fell in love with her on sight. However, to remain friends, they agree to not pursue her.

A boat arrives carrying the veiled Virgin who will be the guardian spirit for the pearl diving season. Zurga does not yet recognize her as Leila, the young woman he and Nadir fell in love with. Zurga has Leila swear an oath that she is a virgin and the protector of fishermen. He threatens her with death if her vow is broken. But Nadir and Leila recognize each other; Leila sings of the love they share.

The second act is a bit slow, albeit short. Suffice to say Nadir meets up with Leila and is discovered by Zurga, and he condemns them to death. The third act has Zurga distraught over condemning his life long friend and his love Leila. They are about to meet their fate when they escape, a feat made possible by none other than Zurga. They flee while Zurga faces his certain fate, satisfied he paid back Leila and Nadir for their friendship.

Thus the Pearl Fishers is a steamy tale (in reality a passionate, forbidden love triangle); a deep friendship tested by loyalty and forbidden love, accompanied by wonderfully lyrical and sensual music penned by the 25 year old Bizet, 12 years before his magnum opus Carmen.

The Lyric's performance highlighted both the highs and lows of the opera. The staging was a bit cliched and contrived, but it did fit the plot. The steeply banked stage had me wondering if the whole thing was going to topple into the pit, and frankly did nothing to enhance the action. Not knowing much about clothing in ancient Ceylon, I can only assume the costumes were somewhat fitting of the locale, but they were nothing special.

Special however was the singing and the orchestra, much as in the horribly staged "Aida" of last month. The famous duet was well sung and moving, though the Nadir Brian Stucki could use a more powerful voice. Zurga, sung and acted wonderfully by Troy Cook, was well nigh perfect in both the duet and his final scene. Angela Turner Wilson was wonderful both vocally and in her very sincere and human portrayal of Leila. The orchestra relished Bizet's lush melodies and mature orchestration.

I am richer for having the opportunity to experience Bizet's "other opera" and to know a satisfying opera lurks beyond "Au fond du Temple Saint".

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

BRA goes Bust

The Brazilian airline BRA went bust today, mostly due to sagging business.

The airline was founded in 1999 as a charter operation but was attempting to expand into a regional and international carrier. It found itself financially strapped as it tried its brest to take over routes from the failed Brazilian carrier VARIG. BRA's removal from the Brazilian skies is sure to translate into more headaches for travelers in Brazil, who have been subjected to repeated delays and cancellations for more than a year. It sure sounds like it sucks to fly in Brazil. A consortium of investors tried to nurse BRA to health but the carrier was more than dripping in debt. They milked it for all it was worth.

There is however no truth in the rumor that to lift sales BRA was going to advertise "Flying BRAS, seats for two".

Enough puns for one day... I am such a boob.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Shaking my Head

We have lost our fucking minds.

From the St Louis Post Dispatch:


A 13-year-old junior high school student was given two days of detention after school officials spotted her hugging friends after school last Friday.

Megan an eighth-grade student at Mascoutah Middle School, was hugging her friends goodbye after school Friday when vice principal saw her and told her she would receive two after-school detentions.

The Principal had previously warned Megan that she was in violation of the school's policy on public displays of affection after she was seen hugging a student at a football game.

The school's policy says that “displays of affection should not occur on the campus at any time.”

Mascoutah's Superintendent said today that the district's policy helps prevent misunderstandings and unwelcome expressions of affection.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Coupl'a Things

1) I HATE daylight savings time. Especially the one in the fall. You'd think an extra hour of sleep. Yeah, what hour. I was up at 4am instead of 5, which is ungodly in and of itself. And this getting dark by 5:30?? Screw that.

Why mess with Mother Nature? She knows best. Oh long, dark winter... hasten past!

2) It is obvious that the recent judgment against Fred Phelps and his hatemongers at the Westboro Baptist "Church" will have a hard time standing with the Supreme Court. I have a fear that it will be seen as impinging on free speech. But who knows, with the current crop of clowns on the court, anything is possible.

One thing that really bothers me. Notice when they picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepherd, Kevin Oldham here in Kansas City, Gay Events (including my church) it was not a problem. But when they target soldiers, everyone comes unglued. Just more homophobia in our nation.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Gil Shaham: Walton, Bach, Rodrigo, Sarasate

Violinist Gil Shaham paid one of his frequent visits to Kansas City via the Harriman-Jewell performance series, one of the highlights of the Kansas City classical scene.

The concert opened with the somewhat rarely heard Sonata for Violin and Piano by Sir William Walton. Since this is not a "professional" review, I am not required to admit my prejudices, however I confess a certain disdain for Walton's works; none of them have ever lit my fire with the possible exception of the Viola Concerto. I often find they really go nowhere with little memorable melodic or rhythmic variety.

Walton's Sonata exemplified my problem with his music, it just seems to go nowhere. A basically tonal, almost romantic piece spiked with a little pungency here and there, with darting figures suggesting uninspired improvisation. In two similarly timed movements, the second a set of variations, the work proceeds leisurely having little organic progress or contrast in rhythm or texture in its half hour length.

Shaham and his able accompanist Akira Eguchi gave what has to be a stellar performance of the work. Shaham amazed all night with his silky tone and dead on intonation from his incredible Stradivarius. Even the most quiet, high pitches never wavered and were clear and bell like. Eguchi provided a propulsive accompaniment, easily tackling the difficult score, almost more interesting than the violin part.

Bach's monumental series of Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin have challenged violinists since their inception. The Sonatas are, by definition, more darker and "serious" than the Partitas, with this evening's Sonata # 2 being no exception. But in Shaham's hands, his crystal tone, incredible dynamic shading and rhythmic intensity brought the work to life. Although I may have longed for the gritty monumentality of Milstein's performances (ones I have cherished since they were recorded in the 70's), Shaham brought out all the inner voices and contrapuntal wonders, so often obscured in a fog of double stops and shaky intonation. His superhuman ability to produce subtle and sometimes none-too-subtle dynamic contrasts gave the work the contrast it needs to avoid a monophonic sameness.

The last half of the generous concert was a virtual fiesta of Spanish works from Rodrigo and Sarasate.

The Rodrigo "Sonata Pimpante" was unknown to me. I had difficulty finding much information about the work except that is was composed and premiered in 1966. A Fast-slow-fast, three movement work of about 15 minutes duration, Sonata Pimpante is a characteristic work, dripping with guitar like figures, languorous Spanish melodies and wonderful rhythmic variety. The middle movement is much like the "Españoleta y Fanfare de la Caballería de Nápoles" movement of the familiar "Fantasía Para un Gentilhombre", with a rhythmic contrasting central section, followed by the return of the slower opening. The last movement contains a bit more spiky dissonance than one usually associates with Rodrigo but is totally characteristic of Spanish music. Shaham appears to playing this work frequently and its introduction to audiences is quite welcome.

The concluding trio of works by Sarasate, "Zapateado", Romanza Andaluza" and the popular "Zigeunerweisen" in its form for violin and piano, provided a sweet and refreshing dessert to this challenging program.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Boy Gov Slime

Anyone in Missouri with a sense of decency has to read these articles and the editorial from the Post Dispatch about the sleazy shenanigans of our useless Boy-Gov.

Just shows what happens when you elect an experienced, arrogant little prick to a high office.

God...get him OUT OF HERE!