Friday, April 30, 2010

Royal Announcement

Royal Announcement
Puggingham Palace

HM's Birthday Celebrations

Today, we celebrate the 11th birthday of Puggles Duchess Windsor, Queen of Pugs, Supreme Ruler of Alaska, Princess Royal of Baltimore Place, Grand Duchess of Missouri, Grand Duchess of Kansas City and St Louis, Duchess of Illinois, Duchess of Clinton, Baroness Pugtona, Royal Order of the Greenie and Treat, Grand Order of the Scrunchie, Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Kibble, Patroness of the Royal Pugharmonic Orchestra.

By Royal Decree, all Pugs in PugVillage, Alaska, Kansas City, all places mentioned above and everywhere HM sees and rules will get extra treats in honor of the Royal Birth. HM has further declared this to be a Most High and Wonderful, Grand, Fabulous Royal Day.

HM will be spending the day at the Palace, receiving guests and reading birthday wishes from all over the world. Later this PM, after a photo shoot from Lord Snowpug, she has ordered the Limo to take her to the Three Dog Bakery for her only public appearance and to receive her customary Birthday Big Scary Kitty Cookies.

We wish HM many more birthdays and a most happy one today.

~ Palace Communications

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Teocali, Authentic Mexican

When one works at or around home, a person feels the need to get out of the place now and then. So when most are returning home from a work place and want to cozy up in their own home, I am planning an escape. Thus I eat out more than I should. You would think that I would know every restaurant in town, but that is not the case. I tend to find a favorite or two and stick to my routine. Even in my escape from routine and familiar I tend to play it safe.

Thus my new favorite, once a week at least, hot spot is a charming, small and locally owned (usually my prerequisite for a good restaurant) Mexican restaurant, Teocali.

Teocali has been around since 2006, but I first visited about 6 months ago. A neighbor of mine suggested it to me in the past, but I was absorbed in Thai then and had no time for Mexican. When Greg told me about it, I remembered the ringing endorsement of my neighbor and decided to try it out.

Set just south of the sprawling UMKC medical complex and Children's Mercy Hospital, Teocali is bustling at lunch with all the doctors, nurses and students from the hospitals and medical school. The lunch specials are a bit cheaper and more routine fare such as tacos, burritos, taco salad, etc. than the dinner menu but are tasty, quick, fresh and with generous but not wasteful portions.

The owners state, both on their website and to customers personally, that the dishes are authentic and similar to the recipes used by their family for generations. The Gutierrez family is usually around while open and are always friendly and chatty. One can tell that the place already has a regular following.

Dinner menu is a bit more limited than some Mexican places, but that is fine by me as the selections are carefully prepared and sometimes off the beaten path. For example, one has to experience the unique Flautas Nortenas, a bit larger and not as dry as regular flautas, with a crisp flour tortilla wrapped around flavorful chicken and a tangy, smoky chipotle sauce. My friend Greg loves the sopes; masa patties layered with beans, meat, lettuce, tomato, monterrey cheese and sour cream, a variation on a traditional tostada. Last night I had some of the best carne asada I have ever had, tender and spicy with 6 plump, butter and garlic kissed shrimp, a bargain at $13.99. The fajitas are generous and full of tasty grilled meats and lots of onions and peppers. The ubiquitous sides of rice and beans are always flavorful and fresh. I have been less impressed with the burritos; the meat inside, whether chicken or beef is on the bland side. The chips and salsa (which they, like a growing number of restaurants do, charge for) are excellent.

My biggest quibble is with the margaritas. Strong, generous sized and tasty, but they are on tap and are often a bit fizzy. A carbonated margarita is not really my thing, but it does not stop me from enjoying them. However, last night there was not a hint of fizz and on some but not all past visits the fizz has been less noticeable. My suggestion: find a way to keep them easily on tap but without the carbonation. The bar is well stocked and features a slew of tequila which I have not sampled but looks impressive as I remember my tequila slamming days.

Tex-Mex fans will be disappointed in the lack of thick sauces, heavy cheese and hot spices. The flavors are more natural, smoky and lighter than the usual, which makes Teocali a special and unique treat.

Teocali is located at 2512 Holmes directly south of the UMKC Dental School and just east of Crown Center. Sadly, not open Sunday, my favorite day to go out, but open to 10 most nights for the late crowd.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Planned Obsolescence

I remember the excitement when it arrived at my sister's doorstep. Just removed from Kansas City and a bout of unemployment, I had landed a job in the Chicago area. I was rooming with a friend in a clap-trap house in the wonderful suburb of Waukegan but was relishing the fact that I had some money again. My old computer had been eaten by a virus and was functioning erratically and totally unreliable. So I ordered a new Dell computer with state of the art memory processor, big new monitor and all the latest software preloaded. Paid a lot for it too. Since I was not sure how secure the delivery would be in Waukegan, I had it sent to my sister who was usually home.

Excitedly I came down that weekend, opened her all up and with in minutes had it functioning; dial up modem and AOL to boot.

Now, in about an hour or so.. she is going to be scrapped. I hate the throw away society we are in, but if the damn thing is now obsolete and I have no room to store it, what can one do? A local group is sponsoring a free electronics recycling day and she is going out there along with an old printer and a VCR, other remnants of obsolete machinery. At least I am not going to dump it on the street or in the trash, hopefully some parts or whatever will find a new use.

The big old CRT monitor is staying behind; they are so worthless they charge you to take them off your hands. Something tells me it may end up as a door stop, or in the trash.

Dell Dimension 8100 1999-2010 thanks for the years of service.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

From Our Local Rag III

This tidbit was in the online edition of Our Local Rag today:

"KC Goose is shot to death"

"A goose was shot to death near Trace County Park this morning. Kansas City Police dispatchers received a call today about shots being fired near Blue Parkway and 87th St.

When they arrived, they reported a goose had been shot and died.

A shotgun was involved (really, ya think so??), but no other information was immediately available."

Sad to see the journalistic standards of a paper go down so quickly. Of course since all the pros were fired or laid off, what does one expect?

Friday, April 16, 2010


Click here and watch the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland do its thing. She has made a mess of flying all over Europe these last couple of days.

Ugly looking critter too:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

To the Moon

Apollo 11 Saturn V Launch (HD) Camera E-8 from Mark Gray on Vimeo.

Fabulous video of the launch of a Saturn V rocket carrying Apollo 11 to the moon, July 16, 1969. Basically old 16mm film slowed to a HD format. Do yourself a favor and watch on full screen.

Those were such exciting and heady days.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Kansas City Symphony: Mahler 4th and Barber

Mahler's Symphony # 4 is his shortest (still at about 1 hour, hardly a trifle) and his most gentle in many respects. The orchestra required is also almost a chamber orchestra in comparison to his other symphonies; for example the 4th has no trombones or tuba and smaller percussion ensemble. No cowbells, hammers, organ, and only 7 brass, usually Mahler has that many horns alone. For a long time, I did not fully appreciate the glories and subtleties of this work, but as I get older and gentler, I realize just what a jewel this piece is.

Famed American soprano Heidi Grant Murphy joined Music Director Michael Stern and the Kansas City Symphony for most a well conceived and enjoyable program of "music evocative of a simpler time": Ravel Le Tombeau de Couperin", Barber "Knoxville Summer of 1915" and the aforementioned Mahler 4th.

The opening work, "Le Tombeau de Couperin", Ravel's homage to the Baroque suite and fallen friends from World War I, benefited from Stern's well controlled performance and the always excellent Symphony winds. "Le Tombeau" is practically a concerto for winds and oboe anyway, thus the technically brilliant contributions of the new principal oboist Mingjia Liu were well appreciated.

Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915 is based on a short prose poem by James Agee. One of Barber's undisputed masterpieces, Knoxville poignantly evokes a simpler time long past through its lush, rich and wistful textures. The setting of the prose can be problematic since there is of course no rhyme or much rhythmic meter to the words. Barber chooses not to fight the prose but underpin it with lyrical, rhapsodic music, allowing the words to weave in and out of the textures to tell their story.

Grant Murphy literally threw herself in to the role of story teller, her light but clear and shining voice perfectly evoking an adult breathlessly recalling simple joys that with time have become almost magical. At times her light voice made it difficult to understand her in Barber's more thickly scored sections (the Lyric's lousy acoustics do not help at all of course), but even without understanding every nuance, the audience was treated to a fine performance of this ravishing work, one likely not to be heard again soon.

It maybe Mahler's shortest, lightest scored in number symphony, but it is hardly a simple piece. The nostalgic mood is achieved through some fiendishly complex music. The Symphony was in fine show on Saturday, the winds and brass were excellent, the strings quite competent (but really needed a few extras to better balance the ensemble) and the important percussion colorful without overwhelming the piece. The 3rd movement was sublime, one of those rare moments in orchestral concerts where everyone is of one mind and purpose, leaving us with a splendid and moving performance. The orchestra could be raucous when needed, especially in the dancing scherzo. Concertmistress Kanako Ito was marvelous in the strange "Totentanz" scordatura violin in the demonic scherzo.

Grant Murphy returned for the last movement's solo "Das himmlische Leben", an earlier setting from the "Wunderhorn" songs. Himmlische Leben depicts a sweet and naive vision of "heavenly life", excitingly describing the preparation of a feast for the heavenly hosts. Despite a gruesome sacrifice of a lamb and heartless killing of an ox, the child goes on to describe all the culinary treats of heaven. Frankly this has been the reason I have not always been so fond of the 4th, I can not get past the silliness of the poem, but there is no denying Mahler set it with some of his most tender and colorful music. Grant Murphy was again a bit light and hard to hear, but her voice was suitably child like and so full of wonder (she has a wonderful stage presence no doubt honed by her extensive opera career)that we can enjoy her singing about:

Good greens of every sort
grow in the heavenly vegetable patch,
good asparagus, string beans,
and whatever we want.

Friday, April 09, 2010

American Heartland Theatre: "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change"

For some reason I can not explain, maybe it was the title, I was not really looking forward to the latest American Heartland Theatre (Kansas City's best theatre venue) production of "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change." I was expecting the same, tired marriage and relationship farce that has been done over and over. "I Love You.." is a musical face about love, marriage, dating, sex, relationships, growing old and all that. But the songs are so witty, the music so catching and this minimalist production (spare set, solo piano and 4 actors) so sparkling and well paced that I found myself laughing out loud all evening while reflecting on how difficult and heartbreaking we humans can be.

The show succeeds on the strengths of the 4 actors, favorite Jesslyn Kincaid, Natalie Weaver, Jon Daugharthy and Adam Branson. All have fine voices, a great sense of timing and comic ability and the versatility to assume multiple roles. The always wonderful Anthony Edwards was on stage doing his usual bang up job as accompanist. As I mentioned, the sets were stark simple, but not looking cheap, just the minimum to set the mood. The scene of the 4 actors and husband and wife with two kids in a car was a masterpiece of clever use of props; each actor was in a rolling office chair and sat in formation as in a car and then spun all over the stage as the inevitable argument ensued.

Easily the best scene was "The Very First Dating Video of Rose Ritz, featuring Kincaid as an older divorced woman recording her first dating video. Kincaid sat before a live camera and delivered a poignant monologue on the cruelties and heartbreaks of relationships and love. Her image was projected above the stage as we voyeuristically watched her pour her heart out. When the unseen recorder tells her it was "kind of depressing, should we do it all over again", Rose states, "no, I said what I needed to say." Like the rest of the show, book and lyricist Joe DiPietro, didn't hit us over the head but allowed us to reflect and, yes laugh too, about our attempts to find love.

Runs through April 25.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Coupl'a Things XXXIV

1) First photo of my new clean head:

2) Further proof Republicans are loony to the max:


3) Gotta love the Midwest in spring, storms, hail and 80 degrees on Tuesday. Clouds, wind and 40s on Wednesday.

4) My little apt is awash in the aroma of a wonderful sausage, mushroom and onion pasta sauce. Damn the diet, diabetes and all that.. I am going to enjoy this!

5) Finally, although I will be munching Italian, I am listening to Ravi Shankar, the man responsible for bringing Indian classical music to the world on his 90th birthday.

Sunday, April 04, 2010



Saturday, April 03, 2010


A lovely Easter Eve (is that a correct term?) Saturday inspired me to accompany HM, The Queen of All Pugs on an afternoon walkabout in her 2nd favorite park. The small Mill Creek Park is close, has a nice trail and is relatively free of the shady characters and trash that litter most of midtown. We were rounding the bend by the fountain when we found ourselves face to face (muzzle to muzzle actually) with a rather large canine. Being a narrow walkway, there was not much we could do to avoid the encounter.

HM attempted to greet the fellow walker while her daddy asked me "now what kind of dog is that?" The temptation to slap him with my white butler's glove and icily state that HM is NOT a "that" or actually a dog for that matter passed and I replied "Pug". HM continued to check out her new friend, but the new friend was not all that amused.

I detected some Chow; the ruddy red coat, stocky body and black tongue gave that away. Her face, however, was pure German Shepherd; long nose, prominent teeth quite apparent.

"She is a Chow-German Shepherd mix", the nice fellow stated verifying my observations. "And a lucky one too. I found her 12 years ago in December, she was trying to suckle her dead mother under a porch of an abandoned building. Mother had probably been dead a few days and the tiny pup about 3-4 weeks old. Probably were some other pups, but they were likely dead too. I had tried to get to her but could not, so I got some help. As we were almost under the structure, a pack of feral dogs came running up. The alpha male, probably her papa, was a big, ugly Chow mix, all mangy, bloody and dirty. Mean too. Although his bitch was dead, he was still defending his territory. Got a hold of my pants and coat, but not me luckily. My friend got some bricks and boards and fought them off, just enough for me to grab the pup and get out of there."

By now, HM and her new friend were cautiously checking each other out. Her friend's dad was making sure she did not get too close to Puggles and I was doing the same. Sorry, but I do not trust Chows, they are a bit aggressive and temperamental. I did note that the Chow had a nice white leather collar with stones and a matching leash. She was obviously now quite well removed from her humble beginnings.

"Well", continued the fellow, "I took her to a vet and it was touch and go for a while. She like to never gain weight and fought mange for a long time. But, as you can see, she is a healthy girl, been my friend and companion for all that time, haven't you girl??" He gave her a big pat and ear scratch and her fluffy tail wagged happily. "She is lucky for sure, so she is named 'Luckita', lucky to be alive."

We chatted a bit and went our separate ways along the winding path. A few minutes later I noted them by their car. The man opened the door, produced a bowl of water for Luckita to lap happily. Finishing her drink, she sat obediently and got a treat of some sort. After a few more rubs, ear scratches and treats, Luckita, her bushy tail contentedly wagging, hopped in the front seat of the mini-van and off they went.

Some things are just meant to be, no questions asked.