Saturday, January 30, 2010

Welcome Home N700TS L-1011

It was a just few months and a couple hours late, but the last (or almost the last) airworthy Lockheed L-1011-100 has landed at Kansas City Downtown Charles B. Wheeler Airport on her last flight. So many airplanes' last flights are to the desert and then a slow rot to the scrap heap. But N700TS C/N 1066 was lucky. Originally to be refurbished and then flown as an airliner, the cost of keeping an elderly plane flying, especially with little technical support available, was too costly. The Airline History Museum was able to buy her for little and add her to the museum along with the current L1049 Super G Connie, a DC 3 and a Martin 404. Problems with the plane's ownership and registration kept her grounded in Roswell, NM almost permanently. But that was resolved and the FAA granted a ferry permit.

Hundreds of people gathered on both sides of the airport, first at around the original arrival time of 1:30 and then for the new one at 3:20.

Unfortunately for me, she landed from the north and thus I did not get to see her actually land. An advertised flyby was not performed either, probably for traffic or safety reasons. I did catch some shots of her roll out on landing. She was big for sure, dwarfing the private aircraft that inhabit the downtown airport. Soon she will be an attraction and education center for the museum. I am sure some more and better pics will be here: Airline History Museum

But meanwhile, here she is; thanks for your years of service and for a lucky break. You look better here than you would as a bunch of beer cans!

Roll out after landing

Finishing her roll out:

Turning to park:

Almost home:

Friday, January 29, 2010

Bloody Mary on a Stick

I have not shared a recipe in ages, so here is a simple one for those winter parties and Mardi Gras events:

Bloody Mary on a Stick

1-2 boxes grape tomatoes
1 stalk celery
2-3 cups ice cold Absolut Peppar vodka (or steep 3-4 hot red chili peppers in cheaper vodka for 1 week)

Assemble 1 tomato and slice of celery on a cocktail stick. Marinate in the cold vodka. Serve in a big bowl with the vodka. Provide a dish of sea salt in which to dip the hors d’oeuvre.

What was that phrase from a movie??? "What this country needs is more meat on a stick"?? Well, I think we need more cocktails on a stick!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Welcome Desmond

Welcome to Desmond! HM's new nephew. Proud parents are Daniel and Stephanie Clark of Lincoln, NE. Desmond is a native of La Cygne, KS and was adopted on Tuesday, arriving at his new home that PM.

First pics from home:

Getting settled in:

Desmond is a Yorkie-poo in case anyone wondered. HM has already given him the title of Viscount Desmond. As he gets older, HM is likely to bestow more Royal Titles on her first nephew!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Kansas City Symphony: Shaham Plays Barber and Prokofiev

The good size audience at the KC Symphony concert on Saturday got their money's worth with a full concert featuring works written in the 1920s and 1930's. Stravinsky's Pulcinella Suite opened, followed by the sumptous Barber Violin Concerto. The second half featured works from the Soviet era of Russia, Prokofiev's Violin Concerto # 2 and the Shostakovich Symphony # 1. Gil Shaham was soloist for the two concerti, Music Director Michael Stern was on the podium.

Shaham demonstrated his consummate art in these two showy yet just as often lyrical concerti. Shaham has technique a-plenty, but used to communicate not merely to demonstrate. The Barber's long, lyrical 2nd movement was particularly satisfying, both Stern and Shaham taking care to explore the differences between the more substantive 1st and 2nd movements while not making the short finale seem out of place. While some performances blow through this movement, Stern and Shaham slowed a bit from usual and milked the sharper dissonances and rhythmic complexities to form a satisfying conclusion.

The Prokofiev 2nd, while written about the same time as the Barber, is a bit of a different animal. Shaham and Stern carefully articulated the angles and curves of this restless concerto. Especially effective was the dreamily slow second movement, Shaham floated his firm tone gracefully and nostalgically over the simple "walking" accompaniment of the orchestra. Gone from both concerti were the orchestra's tentativeness and lack of ensemble that plagued the Pulcinella.

Yes, sadly, the opening Pulcinella was a disappointment. After a bumptious start, the ensemble never seemed to jell and the important Concertante string quintet lacked presence. I missed all the sharp, dry rhythms and wit of the piece; the whole thing seemed slack. The audience chuckled appreciatively at trombone Roger Oyster who stole the show with his (a bit too) raucous solo in the "Vivo' movement.

Totally successful was a powerful and taught performance of Shostakovich's Symphony # 1, one of the most impressive "#1's" in all music. Shostakovich abandoned the solidly classic style of this symphony with the propagandistic 2nd and 3rd and the wild, rambling 4th, but recalled his successful 1st in his masterpiece 5th Symphony of 1936. Stern realized the connection and did not play the 1st as a youthful, neo-classical romp but a solidly mature, darkly tinged masterpiece, full of gravitas yet emphasizing the mocking irony that marks the best of Shostakovich.

The concert marked the announcement of the upcoming season's fare. Some highlights:

Sibelius Violin Concerto with Hilary Hahn, Verdi Quattro Pezzi Sacri, Berlioz Harold in Italy, Martinu Symphony # 4 (yay!), Penderecki Viola Concerto with Roberto Diaz, Jonathan Biss in Brahms 1st Piano Concerto, Stephan Jackiw in Bruch's Scottish Fantasy and new works by Jonathan Leshnoff, Adam Schoenberg, Osvaldo Golijov and Avner Dorman.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Lincoln Was Correct

Poor Abraham Lincoln, he must be revolving in his grave. With the Supreme Court's right wingers giving corporations unlimited power to buy elections, those with out connections to big oil, insurance or banks will find it tough to compete with the slick ads plastered everywhere. Thus Lincoln's stirring words at Gettysburg now ring hollow. "Government of the people, by the people and for the people", has perished from at least this part of earth.

Also read what Lincoln (who was a Republican mind you, but nothing like those today) had to say about corporations:

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me, and causes me to tremble for the safety of our country. Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people, until wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the republic is destroyed."


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Vive La France!

God Bless the French, they have few, if any, hang ups over sex. Can you imagine the nut case right wing Religo-Nazis in the US allowing this???

Not only that, it gets the point across.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Thanks a Lot

AS the US continues to spiral into terminal stupidity, the state of Massachusetts replaced an icon with a moron.

We can expect more of the same.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

King Quote

To celebrate Martin Luther King Day, many Facebook users posted quotes from Dr. King as their daily status. One caught my eye:

"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

I hereby submit that the USA is completely, totally and undeniably dead.

Monday, January 18, 2010

New Age

William H. Auden called the late 40s and 50s "The Age of Anxiety", fitting actually.

The current era: "The Age of Hypocrisy".

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Kansas City Symphony: Labadie Conducts Mozart and Schubert

Music with a nod to the "classic era" comprised the program of this weekend's concerts of the Kansas City Symphony. Fitting since the guest conductor, Bernard Labadie, has made a name for himself as one of the premiere interpreters of baroque and classical music through the Canadian ensembles he founded, "Les Violons du Roy" and La Chapelle de Québec, in Montréal. For his debut performance with the Kansas City Symphony, Labadie chose some well known and charming gems from the classical era, Schubert's sunny Symphony # 5 in Bb, and from the pen of Mozart the Chaconne from "Idomeneo", Piano Concerto # 18 in Bb K 456 and the Symphony # 39 in Eb. Italian pianist Benedetto Lupo was soloist in the concerto.

Using a reduced but totally modern orchestra, Labadie created a tight but lyrical ensemble from the players. This particularly benefited the lightly scored Schubert which overall was a crisp, perfectly paced performance that also spotlighted the ever present lyricism. Labadie also allowed the bits of drama and tension their turn, always keeping them in the flow of the music, never putting them in garish light. The minuetto was poised and genteel while showing the way towards the more developed scherzi Schubert and others were to add to the symphony's order. As one would expect from a classical specialist, a clean, witty and elegant performance.

Benedetto Lupo joined the orchestra and Labadie for an equally elegant and dramatic Mozart Piano Concerto # 18. As befitting an elegant and refined performance, Lupo was refreshingly free of excessive mannerisms and showy gestures, letting the piano embroider the fabric of the piece with long, clearly defined yet elaborate lines. The orchestra, with some wonderful work from the small wind forces (pairs of oboes and bassoons, 1 flute and 2 horns), underpinned the subtle drama of the shifting tonality where sometimes a single change of a note created a whole new feeling. Lupo milked the long lines of the expressive Andante central movement, with the orchestra softly yet firmly underpinning the melodies. From my point, it looked like Lupo took the conductor by surprise in the attacca to the final Rondo. If so, the distraction did not hinder the soloist and orchestra in their romp through the sparkling finale. As in the Schubert, another elegant, intelligently paced performance.

The second half was devoted to Mozart. The Chaconne from Idomeneo served as an interesting and dramatic opener. Closing the concert, the Symphony #39 in Eb is a member of the final quartet masterpieces of Mozart's symphonic cannon. Somewhat overshadowed, in my opinion, by the power of the last two (40 and 41) and the popular and colorful 38th "Prague", the 39th is by all means one of Mozart's most sublime utterances. If it lacks the gravitas and drama of the last two, it certainly makes up for it in charm and graceful, soaring melodies. Again, Labadie chose an intelligent, middle of the road tempo, allowing the music to soar, the subtle drama and mood shifts to shine, but never lagging or fussy.

Normally, a concert of early Schubert and Mozart would merit a yawn or even a pass from me, but with a master of the style in charge, the concert was a delight from first to last note.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I Got the Don't Feel Good, Vapo-Rub, Sarah Palin on TV, Blogging Blues

For the last week, I have felt like... well shit, frankly. The annual cold/bronchitis attack has occurred, although a bit later than normal. I do manage to get out a bit, but that entails a quick return home and an immediate hop in bed. Not conducive to blogging, doing laundry or other routines. My GOD!, even my bed was unmade for 2 days... a world record. But I have managed to keep the TV off; it has not been on this year. And with that ass Sarah Palin now on FUX News, there is even less incentive to turn it on and perhaps accidentally see her silly face or hear her spout lies and nonsense,. That, sadly, is what goes for "news" these dark days.

To add further insult to illness, I found Vick's Vapo-Rub does not smell like it used to. In fact there is no scent at all. Maybe I got a defective jar, but the shit is useless if it doesn't permeate your room with that camphor aroma that reminds me of my mom taking care of me when I was a boy.

And for those looking for my comments on the KC Symphony performance last week, I was really sick then and missed the whole thing. I would not have heard a note anyway, my coughing, hacking and sneezing would have had me evicted post haste!

Anyhoo... I am being lazy, albeit on the mend, and decided that today I would share an incredible blog entry from my friend Megan. She and her mom are on a journey to sample churches big and small all over the KC area. We all used to go to a nice, small church but that has been destroyed by fighting, jealousy and power. Megan and Amy infiltrated one of the more notorious mega-churches in KC and came away with a disturbing report on why the US is so fucked up. People flock by the thousands to hear crap that makes them feel good and superior, gives simple answers to complex questions and entertains them for a while with Hollywood slick productions. No wonder FUX News, Tea Parties, hypocrisy and lying are so popular.

Megan, you and your mom are brave souls! Thanks (in advance) for letting me link your blog!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Do Right

Pessimism reins in the world today, sorry to say. Our political system here in the US has degenerated into childish partisan fighting. Character assassination and hypocrisy rule, compromise and concern for the future is laughed at. The rest of the world has its own issues, ignoring the growing radicalization of Islam, the coming collapse of democracy in Latin America with courtesy of Chavez and Ortega, churches and religious organizations are resuming the role they had in the Middle Ages, a corrupt and cruel arbiter of strict morality.

But yet, on a day we mourn the death at 100 of Miep Gies, one of the Dutch couple that hid Anne Frank and her family from the Nazis in an Amsterdam apartment attic during World War II and also saved Anne's diary for posterity, there are some folks that quietly and relentlessly do some good in our world. But they never make the headlines, those are reserved for the haters, the powerful, the hypocrites and noisy.

Thus, a little headline news for these folks today:

1) In a cold, dark storm drain in a school yard in Las Vegas hides a terrified stray Pug, keeping himself just tantalizingly out of reach of his desperate would-be rescuers the dedicated volunteers of Southern Nevada Pug Rescue. They have been on a 24hr vigil for several days now, trying to coax the little black pug pup out of the drain. They will not rest until there is success.

2) My neighbor Mrs Ford, who does not have to work, but leaves in the bitter cold, often the first one out in the streets in our neighborhood, to open the day shelter for homeless people here in KC. She tells me that so often she would love to stay in bed, knowing it is cold and snowy, but then she remembers those who have no bed, or roof, or food and thus she treks out again.

3) The Federal investigators who relentlessly perused and finally brought Cathedral Rock Corporation, one of the most corrupt and abusive nursing home providers to a modicum of justice. Sadly, the big wigs who have all the connections escaped prison, but at least the years of fraud, abuse and corruption were exposed for all to see. It took way to long for it to happen, but the investigators got their facts in line, double and triple checked them and made them admit they were frauds.

There are many more I am sure, but they make such boring news for the screamers on TV and radio. They are more concerned about calling names and fabricating lies to advance their ratings.

Thanks to those mentioned above who do try to make this mess a little brighter.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Coupl'a Things XXX

1) Making headlines across the country is a nut case woman from KCMO who trashed the McDonald's up the street from me because she didn't like her hamburger. Hello honey, it is Micky D's... you are not supposed to really like it, just fill your fat gut with it. Anyway, she got ugly, threw a mop bucket of water across the counter and punched out the 3 computer screens on the counter. It was caught on tape, but of course the "no snitch" policy of urban trash (no matter what color or race mind you) means no one has seen or heard a thing.

A friend of mine was robbed at gun point at the very same location a few weeks ago while renting a movie at one of their movie kiosks. No happy meals at that joint!

2)Speaking of movie kiosks, many of which have sprung up everywhere, these usually red boxes have made a huge dent in the movie rental store business. The local Hollywood video closed as did many across the nation causing great consternation among customers and employees. There used to be 3 Blockbuster videos near by, but I think only one is still around. I haven't rented a movie in years (none were worth it) but from the looks of things, I will order off the net and avoid a long drive or getting shot.

3) We are supposed to get some more snow and cold starting this PM. A new bag of icemelt, shovel at ready and a new down coat and I am prepared. What is annoying me is all the whiners going on about the cold and their persistent threat to go to Florida. I never left anything in Florida and frankly some of the whiners can just go and leave me be. Take Ms Micky D basher with you too.

Really, the snow is not that bad. You bundle up, you slow down, you plan ahead (I think that is the main thing, these whiners are used to going somewhere at a moment's notice and hate to be delayed or inconvenienced)and you be careful. Not that big of a deal.

4) I have been using Google Chrome internet browser lately. I used it earlier for a bit and found it plain and too spartan. But with some improvements and tweaks, it is really quite nice. Faster than Firefox and less prone to freezing up. More features work with Chrome than Firefox. I have both and switch back and forth, but if you are up for a change, give it a whirl.

5) Finally HAPPY TWELFTH NIGHT! The end of Christmas and the start of MARDI GRAS!

Monday, January 04, 2010

New Look

Yes, Puggingham Palace has a new look for the new year. Thought it was time to spruce it up a bit, but still a work in progress so stay tuned.

Someone asked me if I was still thinking of shutting down the blog. I have trouble with decisions (ask anyone who ever goes out to dinner with me) and thus I have not decided yet. I go back and forth (yes I am a Pisces through and through), sometimes wishing I would just shut it down and forget about it, then suddenly have a burst of energy to yap on about something.

Won't promise anything, but when I decide, you'll be the first to know.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

What I am Listening to Today: Avner Dorman Concerti

I would surmise that the number of mandolin and piccolo concerti written in the last century or two can be counted on one hand. Both instruments have limits in sound quality, dynamics and range that present a challenge to a composer creating a concert work. The mandolin has all but disappeared from modern compositions but the piccolo of course hangs on in orchestras and especially marching bands.

Avner Dorman seemed to relish the challenge of making dramatic and coherent showpieces for these two diverse instruments and has produced a Mandolin Concerto (2006) and a Piccolo Concerto (2001). Both these fascinating pieces were recently recorded and released on the Naxos label along with "Concerto Grosso" for 2 violins, viola, cello and harpsichord from 2003 and an early Piano Concerto in A from 1995 when the composer was barely out of his teens.

Of all the works on the disc, I have turned most frequently to the colorful, almost exotic, baroque/jazzy Mandolin Concerto. Dorman lists baroque music, jazz and contemporary rock music as influences and all can be heard in this compact 17 minute concerto. There is a baroque linearity to the piece, forward motion and line are more important than harmony, even in slower movements. Dorman finds many ways to milk the unique sound and technique of this ancient instrument, tone clusters, sharp pizzicati, frequent use of the tremolo to sustain pitches over time, which the composer states leads to a central conflict over motion and stasis. (Note here, Dorman's notes to the disc are delightfully informative and shed some real insight on his creative mind.) Like a baroque composition, the piece is breezy, full of notes but mixed with the freer use of rhythm that comes from exposure to ethnic and pop music.

Frankly the piece is fun, never a dull moment here.

The Piccolo concerto is all about rock and jazz to my ear. Driving beats, forward motion, free flowing melodic figures, repetition, with a laid back "coolness" that is truly jazz inspired. This is not a swipe at the work, but it frequently took me back to the wonderful Claude Bolling Jazz Suites that were so popular in the 70's, especially the one for flute that made Jean-Pierre Rampal into a jazz sensation. One of Dorman's strengths is that he can take all these influences, cascades of notes and sounds and put them in recognizable musical forms. His recent showy Piano Concerto "Lost Souls" despite all the theatrics and conjuring of sounds and styles of past composers, had a recognizable sonata form first movement. The Piccolo concerto also wraps all the rock and jazz elements into a tight baroque concerto form. Thus instead of a muddle of sounds and styles, the concerti make complete musical sense.

The Concerto Grosso is a bit of a different animal; more weighty, a bit darker and less jazzy than the concerti. Modeled after Handel's series of Concerti Grossi, the work is still tuneful, highly approachable, frequently dramatic and a welcome addition to tradition of 20th and 21st century composers updating, as it were, older forms.

The recording ends with a breezy Bachian Piano Concerto from the composer's 20th year. Even then Dorman showed his prowess in combining baroque forms with contemporary influences, even, according to his notes, the Police and Stravinsky.

The disc Naxos 8.559620 is released January 26th, but I got to sneak a peek through the invaluable Naxos Music Library program. Worth its weight in gold, in my opinion.

As is this fine and entertaining disc.