Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dad at the Mall

A funny for the day:

I took my 92 year old father to the mall a couple of days ago to do some clothes shopping. As is typical of most 92 year olds, he tired soon so we went to the food court to rest and grab a bite to eat.

A teenage young man took a table next to us and began to eat his lunch. Dad stared at him intently, attracted by the kid's mane of spiked hair gaily colored in orange, blue, green and red.

Soon the teen noticed him looking. Every time the kid would look up, dad would be looking at him, brows knotted. When the teen had enough, he looked straight at Dad and said sarcastically, "What is the matter old man, never did anything wild in your life?"

I quickly swallowed my drink so as not to spit it across the room as I knew Dad would have a snappy comeback.

Without batting an eye he said: "got roaring drunk and had sex with a parrot one time. I was wondering if you were my kid."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Coupl'a Things XII

1) My daughter Maria turned 21 on Sunday. I guess now that all my offspring are adults, I am officially old. I talked to her on Saturday, called her at Midnight on her phone from Waldo Bar and Grill and sang Happy Birthday to her along with Barb and Jeff. She was hacked that her 21st was on a Sunday as the bars were closed in Fayette and also in Columbia on Sunday. Thus she had only 1 1/2 hrs to drink legally on her birthday. If I know her, she put the time to good use.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARIA... always a Princess to me.

2) Thankfully a big winter storm has passed us by, giving the south and east a real taste of winter. We had flurries all day, and it is cold as can be, but no ice and only a skiff of snow. I can deal with that.

3) Whoever invented the margarita should get a Nobel Peace Prize.

4) Facebook is wonderful. I have not had so much fun since I got hooked on the old AOL chat rooms :) I have connected with current and new friends and, so wonderfully, connected with a fellow with whom I was an inseparable friend all so long ago.

5) More margarita = more peace... have one more, in the name of world peace of course.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Kansas City Symphony: Nielsen, Mendelssohn and Mahler

Audiences love Mahler, but twasn't always so. In the 1950's and early '60's many prominent musicians dismissed his music as "toilet paper". As it grudgingly gained acceptance in the '60s, only orchestras with a "Mahler tradition" (Vienna, Amsterdam, Chicago, New York) were deemed proficient to play the Symphonies. Mahler out of Dallas, Los Angeles or Moscow? Always 2nd or 3rd rate.

But now it is almost mandatory that every orchestra in the land do a Symphony or two each season and the audiences flock to it. Thus, we have a stunning Mahler 1st from the Kansas City Symphony, Michael Stern conducting, played to a packed house this weekend. Nielsen's "Helios" Overture began the program with the Mendelssohn 2nd Piano Concerto, Kuok-Wai Lio, a Curtis Institute student, as solo. Kuok-Wai Lio appears as part of an ongoing program to bring Curtis' finest to Kansas City for performances.

Nielsen is not among those composers whose music I admire and listen to frequently. Lord knows I have tried, but the big works, the Symphonies and the Concerti just do not do it for me. Strange, as I have strong admiration for many of the Danish composers who followed this father of modern Danish music such as Holmboe, Nørgård, Bentzon and Langgaard. But the atmospheric, beautifully scored "Helios Overture" from 1903 (around the time of the 2nd Symphony) is one of my favorites. This wonderful, well paced performance featured some detailed and polished horn work, deft wind work and a finely controlled central fugato that slowly dissolved into the same nocturnal dark of the beginning. I am sure many who were not familiar with this wonderful 12 minute tone poem found it quite revelatory.

The lesser known of the two Mendelssohn piano concerti (I am making an assumption here, the 1st I have heard many times and seems to be recorded more frequently; this is the first time for the 2nd for me) received a polished, elegant and fleet performance. The deeply moving central adagio flowed with passion and yet with the classical restraint endemic in Mendelssohn's music. The fiery finale, reminiscent of those of the Violin Concerto and the "Italian" Symphony, demonstrated Kuok-Wai Lio's considerable talent.

The Mahler 1st was more than excellent, showing how far the Symphony has come in the last few years. The leisurely atmospheric and chattering opening of the first movement was well done with spot on intonation from the exposed strings, offstage trumpets and murmuring, skittering wind solos. Stern's pace and attention to detail of this section reminded me (positively) of the classic Bernstein/Concertgebouw recording, one of the best in my opinion. The transition into the"Wayfarer" main theme just flowed nicely, not jarring nor taking off like a rocket like in some performances, but like my dear old 88 Lincoln does, accelerates with grace, subtle power and momentum. Throughout this movement, Stern paid close attention to detail but never micromanaged the huge score, bringing out special moments but not lingering so long as to break the spell. The closing pages of the movement were well turned as well, not rushed and frantic but exuberant and full of life.

Mahler had originally titled the 2nd movement "In Full Sail" and thus successful performances bring out the sense of being carried along in strong, full wind, smoothly (mostly) gliding over the open sea. Stern's Scherzo was fluid, graceful and affirming.

The 3rd movement, a strange funeral march based on "Frère Jacques" got off to a fine start with a suitably droll solo from Principal Bass Jeffrey Kail. The "Jewish music, klezmer band influenced interlude was nicely integrated but still detached in mood and tempo from the rest of the movement. Not always an easy task to accomplish.

The finale is marked Stürmisch bewegt-Energisch (Stormily agitated, energetic) and indeed it was storming and energetic. Marred only by some poor intonation in the brass and one trumpet figure that came close to falling completely apart, the movement progressed to a grand and brassy conclusion, the trumpets redeeming themselves with their grand fanfares over the pounding timpani figures in the final pages.

I now look forward to a Mahler 4th next season and somewhat to a performance of the Adagio of the 10th, sadly not a complete performance.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Music to Ones Ears

It was the day after the inauguration of President Obama, January 2009. An old man approached the White House Gate from across Pennsylvania Avenue where he'd been sitting on a park bench. He spoke to the Marine guard at the gate and said, "I'd like to go in and meet with President Bush, please." The Marine politely but sternly said "Sir, Mr. Bush no longer is president and does not reside here." The old man said "OK, thank you" and walked away.

The next morning, the old man sat on the same bench and then got up and approached the gate where the same Marine was standing guard. "I'd like to go in and meet with President Bush, please", said the old man. The Marine told him, "as I told you yesterday, sir, Mr. Bush is no longer president and does not live in the White House any more." "OK, thank you" said the man as he walked away.

On that Friday, the old man once again approached the same Marine: "I'd like to go in and meet with President Bush, please." The Marine was exasperated. "Sir, as I have told you twice before, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer lives in the White House. Do you understand that??"

"Oh I understand you completely", said the old man, "I just love hearing you say it."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hometown Diva: Joyce Di Donato "Furore!"

Our home town diva, Prairie Village, KS native Joyce Di Donato, returned to KC for a sold out recital on Wednesday. She was nothing less than magnificent in the recital "Furore", a program (and a Virgin Classics CD) of Handel arias and mad scenes. Accompanying her was the superb French Chamber Orchestra Les Talens Lyrique, Christophe Rousset conductor.

Di Donato virtually ruled the evening. Of course a home town audience with many "I knew her when" stories bandied about would greet her enthusiastically even if she read the proverbial grocery list. But in this case, the Handel selections were done with grace, excitement, elegance and sheer vocal perfection. "Where should I fly", an incredible mad aria from "Hercules", demonstrated her intensity and ability to communicate with her audience. She literally sounded and looked mad, both she and the audience stunned and breathless at the conclusion. Every aria, from "Ariodante", "Hercules", "Teseo", "Serse" and "Imeneo", was a marvel of vocal color and technique. Clear as bell trills, thrilling runs, leaps and sometimes almost breathless tempi, all tossed off with ease.

Les Talens Lyrique also offered some wonderful orchestral excerpts to lend a bit of contrast to the program. Historically accurate, but never dry and pedantic, true grand music making in the baroque style.

Di Donato's gown was a masterpiece as well. Michelle Obama needs to talk to her designer.

New Yorkers: The same program is at Carnegie Hall on Friday.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Is not the new presidential limo the ugliest damn thing on 4 wheels???

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A New Era

I, along with a huge percentage of the world (a friend in Australia has asked a friend in the US to phone her to wake her at 4AM in Sydney "for the big moment") await the presidency of Barack Obama. After 8 years of the illegal, divisive, war mongering Bush regime, change is refreshing. I took down the "Days Until Bush Leaves the White House" counter I had on the blog. It had stopped. Millions are descending on Washington. People are taking the day off. TVs and radios will be on all over the world. Me? I am heading to St Louis, I'll probably miss part of it.

Conservatives are, of course, deep in mourning but also gleefully waiting to pounce on every mis-step of the Obama administration. They are amazed at "Obamamainia", can't grasp that Bush and his minions have been so destructive that we have great expectations on this new President.

Way too high probably. I am not a convert to St Obama. He will screw up. He will slide into the status quo. He will have to compromise. Iraq will not go away tomorrow. Bush's depression will not lift in a week. They say in today's paper that Kansas City could lose 20,000 jobs this year. One city alone. Some are in better shape, others much worse. If 20,000 jobs is an average, middle of the road.... I shudder to think. Sorry to say, Obama-maniaians, he has no magic wand.

I have hopes that he will be good. I have hope that instead of fear and bullying we see an administration that consults, leads with consensus and focuses on real issues, not my bedroom.

We'll see.. the ride is just beginning.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Sunday Gathering

It the spirit of fellowship and friendship, Jerry and Paul, two fine fellows from my new church Country Club Congregational UCC, invited Greg, Jean, two old friends Russ and Helma and I to lunch yesterday afternoon.

As we sipped our drinks and chatted about our lives, renewed and made connections (Jerry and Greg both grew up on hog farms, and I knew one of Jerry's classmates), we all remarked on one interesting bond... we all grew up Methodist. We all quickly realized something else, we had all come to the conclusion we had to leave our Methodist traditions behind.

As Greg put it, "I didn't leave the church, it left me."

We are all (4 gay men, a straight couple with gay children and a widow who loves everyone regardless) people any church would love to have. We are faithful attenders, 6 of us sing or play instruments in the church, we have all served as leaders in the church and denomination, we financially support the church, 2 of us had made pilgrimages to Jerusalem, we have all done mission work to serve the poor and those in need. Jean and Paul have cared for sick and dying AIDS victims since the beginning of the epidemic. Greg and I had been to Nicaragua many times in service to others. Jerry has lead church choirs for years. Russ is a retired minister, Helma makes sure libraries are free from censorship. Saints we are not, but we keep on trying.

Yet the Methodist Church feels that 4 out the 7 people there are not deserving of full acceptance. Jerry and Paul have been together through thick and thin, moves and career changes for 33 years. Their relationship is meaningless in the Methodist Church.

Here is what the Methodist Book of Discipline (more important than the Bible for many Methodists) says:

Since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.

Then there is this lulu:

Homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth. All persons need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. Although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching, we affirm that God's grace is available to all. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons." Huh??? Can you say double speak? It is just whitewash for "love the sinner, hate the sin". I do lots of sinning, but expressing my God given sexuality is NOT one of them...thank you.

This sounds good until you read the last sentence, shades of "we love you, but you must sit on the back of the bus.":

Equal Rights Regardless of Sexual Orientation -– Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for homosexual persons. We see a clear issue of simple justice in protecting their rightful claims where they have shared material resources, pensions, guardian relationships, mutual powers of attorney, and other such lawful claims typically attendant to contractual relationships that involve shared contributions, responsibilities, and liabilities, and equal protection before the law. Moreover, we support efforts to stop violence and other forms of coercion against gays and lesbians. We also commit ourselves to social witness against the coercion and marginalization of former homosexuals.

Then what about former heterosexuals, if we can change our orientation like our socks?

So, in light of all that, what does our little gathering say? It would say to me that those who are progressive, gay, gay supportive and in favor of inclusion are leaving and finding a home in the UCC. It says we are tired of beating our heads against the brick wall of oppression and intransigence. It speaks of our disgust over the hypocrisy of the church and its leaders, something Jesus and the Bible talk about more than homosexuality. It may brand us as quitters, someone has to work inside to change. I believed that for a long time. But the church does not want to change, and I grew tired.

It speaks that the United Methodist Church, in all its glorious history, its leadership in braking barriers, being in the forefront of change is sliding into a staid status quo.

How sad.

I think I'll be happy with the UCC.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Winter Storm 2009: The Pipes Come to KC

For a few days, Kansas City, or at least a part of it, was transformed into the Highlands of Scotland. It was Winter Storm 2009, the annual highland bagpipe and drum competition and festival. Some of the most phenomenal pipers and drummers (dancers too) from around the world converge to compete and then demonstrate their rare talent to a huge, enthusiastic crowd.

I tried to play the bagpipes one time in my life, still have my practice chanter and could get a tune out of it. That was not the hard part. The trick is getting the maze of pipes and bags to produce a recognizable tone, not a huge bleating fart. If that were the case, I'd be a champion.

Suffice to say the pipers and drummers here were world class; 8 gold medal pipers, 11 champion drummers and the winners of the 2009 competition turned the austere Community Christian Church (a Frank Lloyd Wright design) in to a wee bit of Scotland.

I had never heard such incredible playing. This was far and above "Amazing Grace" (thankfully not heard), it was like having Callas, Sills, Caballé, Domingo and Pavarotti on stage along with the newest talented singers just singing for the hell of it. Fred Morrison, equally adept on the small or lowland pipes, Irish uillean pipes and whistle, brought the house down with his bravura display on the small pipes, "a bit of Jimmy Hendrix on the pipes," as he described his performance.

Equally impressive were the snare, tenor and bass drummers. The tenor drummers impressed with the acrobatic twirls of their sticks, visually as well as aurally stunning.

The finale with the massed champions and newly crowned winners created a wall of sound and pageantry that resonated long after the show ended.

The ranks of the pipers and drummers and even the audience were filled with younger folks, boding well for the future of this ancient instrument and its colorful history and traditions

Friday, January 16, 2009

Chills Down the Spine

With death, injustice, war, famine and poverty running rampant, a local "Christian" decides to show his faith by making a royal to-do over a couple Buddhist statues at the Kansas City Zoo.

The man stated he felt a "chill down his spine" during an outing to wicked, infidel KC with his Cupcake land family.

Further making him boil, he watched as zoo visitors rubbed the heads and pot bellies of the two smiling statues located at the entrance of the Zoo's Tiger Trail. “We can’t have a cross or a nativity scene on public property,” he complained to zoo officials, “It is phenomenal to me that the zoo would put up Buddha statues.”

Guess what, Boo-Boo, they ain't even Buddhas! According to a local Buddhist leader, the statues are the common Ho Tai, the patron saint of children in China and Japan. Ho Tai is more like Santa Claus than a deity. He is also revered as being the patron of bartenders and restaurants, just look for him the next time you go to any Asian restaurant. Besides, the local Lama reported, Buddhists do not think of Buddha as divine, he was a simple human mortal who learned the secret of enlightenment and shared his philosophy with others.

So it goes, another "Christian", offended by all he sees, his narrow interpretation of the world scaring him to death. If this man felt a chill down his spine over a statue at a family oriented establishment, and felt he had to do something about it in the name of Jesus, then what does he do when he sees the homeless, war, unemployed, hungry, injustice... things that really send a "chill down your spine". So my friend, you might want to open your eyes and express your outrage at what is really going on in this world (or better yet act upon it) instead of complaining about a statue at a zoo.

Jesus would really be pleased then.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Aquatic Life

One of my biggest life regrets is that it took me 40 years to learn to swim. I was deathly afraid of water, although I was paradoxically drawn to it as well. Rivers, lakes, oceans, pools, fountains all beckoned me with their siren call.

Moving to the Palace with a nice, warm, year round pool right across the hall, was just too much temptation. I had started getting used to water, actually getting in and walking around a pool, but no where near a deep end. Diving?? you have to be kidding.... NFW. Suffice to say, practice, a little courage and a not real deep pool conquered my fear a few years ago. Now this Pisces fish can barely stay out of the water.

Thus my dismay in November when the pool, usually kept at a nice warm 84 deg, got colder and colder. I turned the old heater up to boiling and should have been able to make tea in the pool water. It remained cool and was getting cooler. The smell of gas and carbon told me to shut the damn thing down before it blew. The pool grew colder, soon the North Atlantic was warmer.

The pool company that services the place took one look at it and said get rid of it. It was 20 years old and parts are scarce for the brand, no longer being made. A new one, smaller they said, would set us back a cool $2500. NOT! I knew the cheap asses here at the Palace would never swing that. So a second service was contracted and they proposed a restoration. "These old 'Tropic Isle' units are built like tanks, the technician told me, it probably just needs cleaned out." Did she ever...they finally came Monday and got her going again.

With the pool water at a nice frigid 52 and the old heater not exactly the most efficient, it has taken a couple of days to bring it up to a less testicle shrinking temperature. With some hose couplings I found, I managed to rig the hose to run hot water from the bathroom off the pool. Topping it off in the AM with some hot water has certainly helped.

Esther Williams supposedly liked a cool pool, temps around 70 deg. She didn't have body parts that shrank like men do. Finally, this AM, the temp was around 80, I ventured in. Damn it was great being back in my element. Floating, buoyant, gliding underwater, quiet and free. Great exercise too, I could feel the pounds coming back on.

Hopefully, the old heater will keep on chugging for a while. Most of the denizens of the Palace would rather fill it in and turn the place into an unused exercise room. They don't use the pool, so why would they use anything else? Spend money on a pool heater...nonsense!

Be that as it may, if you can't find me... look in the water. Esther and I have a date.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

We Have a New Neighbor

Welcome to a sweet little lady, born January 10, on a cold full moon night, sometime during the last movement of the Brahms Violin Concerto:


all 8 lbs 9 oz of her. Oh what your sister will teach you. Can't wait to see you and watch you grow.

Proud parents: Michael Stern and Shelly Cryer and big sister Hannon

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bye-Bye Boy Gov, for good!

Bye bye Boy Gov Blunt... and good riddance. And a week from now, Bush joins you. For the last 4 years, you and your arrogant, childish behavior have disgraced this state, wasted state money trying to discredit your opponents, cut services to poor, presided over the most partisan bickering I have ever seen, tried to dismantle a non-partisan system to appoint judges, just so you get your way. We have endured, Fred Ferrel, Ed Martin, email scandal and managed to live through Melanie's hideous fashion.

Bye. Now go away...permanently.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Kansas City Symphony, Jarvi's Debut

Kansas City Symphony Music Director Michael Stern was a bit occupied during last evening's concert. Awaiting the arrival of his second child (a girl, born last night), he, of course, was not on the podium but in New York at the hospital. Thus the Symphony's new Assistant Steven Jarvi (no relation I am told to Paavo and Neeme) took over a quite demanding concert: Haydn Symphony # 1, Brahms Violin Concerto with Midori as soloist, and the Sibelius 5th Symphony.

Jarvi is a well recognized conductor in his own right. Jarvi is currently a Conducting Fellow with Michael Tilson Thomas' New World Symphony in Miami Beach and also is an Associate Conductor for the New York City Opera at Lincoln Center. His teachers and mentors reads as a "who's who" in music today: James Levine, Stefan Asbury, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Kurt Masur, Claudio Abbado and of course Tilson Thomas.

The early Haydn was a delightful curtain raiser, light and fleet but lingering enough to bring out the abundant melodies. The KCS has made a name for itself with its elegant and charming Haydn performances.

Born in 1971 and making her debut at 12, violinist Midori has been a stage presence for as long as most of us remember. However, by quirk, this was the first time I had heard her. Now approaching 40, she teaches and carries a demanding concert load.

It takes a special effort by the performers to keep Brahms from sinking into a sprawling, turgid mass. Well chosen tempi helped us to digest this heavy German meal (think lots of roast veal, potatoes, cabbage and sour cream) and Midori's incredible technique and creamy tone were to savor. The sprawling first movement... I am at a loss to go on...oh lets face it, everyone knows I don't care for Brahms but those who do found this a satisfying, elegant performance. Midori certainly demonstrated that she survived her "wonderkind" years and has matured into a graceful, impressive artist. The orchestra and Jarvi did a fine job of accompanying but sometimes overwhelmed the subtle lines from the violin. The wonderful (sic) acoustics of the Lyric Theatre at play again, most likely.

The second half was devoted to the powerful Sibelius Symphony # 5. Jarvi's last two movements were outstanding, fluid and finely detailed, bringing out the organic flow of this incredible music and delivering some finely precise and decisive final chords. The first movement was slower to gel, a little choppy and less organic. I wished for a more physically exciting acceleration into the coda, but to be fair, few conductors other than Ormandy and Colin Davis have ever been equaled in this passage. The Andante, quasi allegretto central movement featured some wonderful wind work, especially from the flutes and oboes. The KCS brass did an outstanding job, but they frequently overwhelmed some of the important string passages. I was most disappointed by the distant, hesitant timpani. This is a work with many passages (opening and coda to first movement, end of final movement for example) that demand commanding timpani that stands out, not a part of the orchestral fabric. These quibbles aside, a fine and satisfying performance of a demanding work.

Bravo Maestro Jarvi for an overall impressive debut. I see that next year we hear you again in a concert featuring Mahler (sadly and disappointingly only the Adagio to the Mahler 10), Mozart and R. Strauss.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Dark Days

We have entered the dark days.

No, neither the end of civilization (that may still come) nor the darkest, shortest days of the year, but the days when the lights, glitter and bows get tucked away for another year.

Like many children, I would love for Christmas to last all year; lights on houses, gaily decorated trees in every home, candles, Christmas carols (!), presents and parties, egg nog and cookies with sugar and sprinkles. People are nicer, people are more generous, dour old fucks like me even don a Santa Hat and act like a fool. Did I say egg nog??

But now it is in a box. My Christmas paraphernalia is all packed, ornaments in boxes, tree all disassembled, lights in a bag. The building hallways are now bare of the fragrant, fresh wreaths on every door, the black wood doors look more foreboding and somber, less welcoming than they did last week.

But I would imagine if it were perpetual Christmas, we would get tired of it soon. The lights would burn out, the carols quickly grow stale, the egg nog as thrilling as a glass of tap water. We'd long for a little less glitz.

It is still a bit disconcerting to see the world doff its finery and return to bland normality. But remember how it feels getting out of your glamorous, formal, stud-buttoned tux or slinky, tight gown with stylish yet horribly uncomfortable shoes and back into a pair of old sweats, a T and slippers; it is relaxing and a relief as well.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Mayor Of Castro Street: Harvey Milk

Seeing the new film "Milk", based on the life of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man ever elected to public office, allowed me to reflect exactly how much and at the same time how little has changed for gay rights in 30 years. Thus "Milk" has become an inspiration for GLBTs angered by California voters’ rejection in November of gay marriage.

Sean Penn gives us his greatest performance as Milk,indeed Penn deserves the hype one sees in Hollywood movie commercials from time to time that state So and So is Whoever. In this case it is not hype, Penn is Harvey Milk, a New Yorker who in the early ’70s moves to San Francisco to be more open and himself. He and his then boyfriend Scott (James Franco) open a camera shop on Castro Street, rally the growing gay community and through his charisma and energy and becomes the leader of the city’s gay community and "The Mayor of Castro Street". Milk unsuccessfully ran for office three times before being elected to the city’s Board of Supervisors.

Milk takes his position on the Board at the same time as former police officer Dan White (Josh Brolin). While Milk is effective, organized and a whiz at getting publicity, White fails in every respect as a Supervisor. Director Gus Van Sant and Brolin do not make White out to be a homophobic monster but more of a confused, in-articulate neophyte, angry at himself for being a failure, a victim of his upbringing and fearful of something he does not understand. But as so many do, he could not publicly blame himself, he had to have a scapegoat... and that was the flamboyant and public Milk.

Much of the film recreates Milk's campaigns, his strained relationship with Scott and then with insecure, suicidal Jack Lira an finally the battle to defeat California Proposition 6 which aims to ban gays and their supporters from teaching in California. Archival footage (including the despicable, pathetic Anita Bryant)is woven into the action, making this as much a historic document as it is a fascinating story.

The supporting cast is all excellent, the cinematography is suitably grainy to match the 70's vintage setting, the film well paced with doses of humor to lighten the path to the inevitable conclusion. As he does with White, Van Sant makes Milk as flawed, charismatic and energetic as he really was.

"Milk" is about the perseverance of the human spirit and the power that one person with commitment and involvement can unleash. White's victims, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were murdered in cold blood due to ignorance and fear of this power. I urge you to see "Milk"--it's an amazing and timely story.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Benjamin Button

I was going to re-title "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" "Forrest Gump Revisited" after my friend Bruce's comment that the new release starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett reminded him of that classic. Well, turns out "Button" is the son of Forrest; the screen plays written by the same person. Both films feature a child-like hero making their way through a scary, changing world with real historical events as a stage. In this film, Benjamin, born on WWI Armistice Day, lives through the depression in an old folks boarding house, gets involved WWII, post war Paris, the cruising 50's the hippy 60s, finds his nirvana in India and even, through the narrator, Hurricane Katrina.

Button is born backwards; at birth he is the size of an infant but with all the physical frailty of an old man, fated to grow younger not older. He meets a young girl, Daisy (Blanchett), falls in love and soon realizes their lives will intersect only for a brief moment in the future. The story unfolds on the screen as it is read by Daisy's daughter as Daisy lays dying in a hospital as Hurricane Katrina approaches New Orleans.

Fascinating premise played out in an overly long, detached film. Like the clock that inspires the whole convoluted tale, this is a love story based on inevitability and precise timing, not passion. I lost interest about 1/2 way through, basically when the real Brad Pitt (the strange man-child was basically some sophisticated computer work using real actors) emerges to portray a 20 something Button. If it had been a DVD, I would have switched to the weather channel, which is much less predictable and maybe caught a real Katrina.

Lot of Oscar talk is swirling around "Benjamin Button". If it wins, it is because the Academy still does not have the balls to give best film to a gay flick ("Milk", I saw that one too and will review it soon)and thus will settle on a safe epic.

Some fine moments, but not Oscar worthy.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Taking on the Prison Industrial Complex

Webb Sets Sight on Prison Reform

The above article is a must read. It is time to end the prison-industrial complex in the US. Crime is not down because we imprison everyone that violates a law, is homeless, mentally ill or sick; Kansas City had one of its most violent years ever.

Write Senator Webb and express your support:

Senator Jim Webb
144 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

On line you can contact here

I don't remember from my civics classes if you are to address a Senator as "Honorable", "Your Grace", or whatever...I don't think they really care.

It is the letter that counts.