Thursday, April 30, 2009


Send in the clowns, there ought to be clowns
Don't bother, they're here

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Take A Bjork Break

Acck. It's been days since I've posted anything to my blog. I'm going through blog withdrawal. Damn school work.

Well, the worst is over. I only have one project left and I have until next Tuesday to turn it in. While I collect myself, check out this Bjork video. It is my most favorite music video ever. At least right now. The song, "Who is it?" is chimey and full of bell sounds. Bjork is out on a stark landscape, wearing a bizarre outfit and cavorting with a group of bell-ringers who are also dressed bizarrely. It took me awhile before I realized that she was dressed that way because she herself is supposed to be a bell. I can be slow to grasp these things sometimes, sigh.

My favorite line from the song is "I carry my joy on the left, carry my pain on the right."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy Belated Earthiness

I hate to admit this but I barely stuck my nose outside on Earth day. I spent most of the day within the beige walls of the soul-sucking lair otherwise known as my workplace. Even on my lunch break I was holed up in my climate-controlled cubicle, staring at the computer, working on a website for my web design class. I did, however, have direct contact with the earth earlier that morning, when I took a container of dirt from the kitchen table and moved it to my bedroom dresser.

This particular can of dirt has been with me for years. It goes where I go and shall always have a place in my home, wherever I may dwell. It is a can of Kansas dirt that my dad gave me while I was still living in Miami. Before he filled it with dirt, the can contained gourmet coffee--some fancy schmancy kind called "Superior Brand" coffee. Dad had taped a strip of paper across the lid certifying the contents as "100% Kansas Dirt". I took the dirt with me when I moved to New York, and packed it up again for the move to Kansas City. Over time Dad's handwriting on the strip of paper faded and eventually the paper fell to pieces. The can's plastic lid cracked in two. But the dirt is still there. I usually squirrel the can away in some box somewhere and then re-discover it when it's time to move again.

So on the morning of Earth Day, I took the can of dirt that I had just unpacked the night before and moved it to my dresser, where it will sit until I decide I don't have room on my dresser for a can of dirt, and then I'll put it up for safe-keeping in some box, where it will remain until it's time to move again. That was the only earthy thing I did on Earth day, unless you count me sweating a lot in the gymnasium of Shawnee Mission East High School, for the second night in a row. Yes, the night after the sweltering strings concert, the band held its concert at the same hour in the same high school gymnasiusm. Like sheep we parents once again fought for spots in the parking lot and filed obediently into the gymnasium for round two. Only those of us who had been there the night before appreciated that the stupifying heat was a tad less brain damaging than it had been on the previous night. One father sitting near me said, "This is horrible". I just smiled.

If my daughter hadn't been playing the flute in an oven that evening I would have been tempted to join an assortment of Earth Day celebrants who were riding their bikes to the UMKC campus to watch a free outdoor showing of "Pee Wee's Big Adventure." You pretty much had to arrive by bike though, because the movie is all about Pee Wee's quest to recover his beloved bike after it is stolen, and the whole point of the event was to get people to use the clean-air energy generated by their pumping legs instead of driving their cars. So I would have had to park my gas-beast out of sight and then walk in, hoping nobody would notice. I'm sure I wouldn't have fooled anyone.

The other big day this week was 4:20, International Cannabis day. It was celebrated most conspicuously on the campus of the University of Colorado at Boulder, where a rally of 8,000 to 10,000 people gathered, and on Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

As I heard it, the day's origins go back to 1971 when a group of high school students in California would meet at 4:20 every day to try to find a patch of mythical weed they'd been tipped off about. I guess they never found the weed, but 4:20 became a code word and eventually grew into a day on April 20th observed by pot advocates and law enforcement officials alike. The cops in Kansas City took pride in their special 4:20 "mobilization", in which they saturated "areas around schools" and "known party houses." Known party houses? Why don't I know about them? Why was I never told? Where are these party houses?

I wasn't any more successful at celebrating 4:20 day, than I was Earth day, which is either good or unfortunate, depending on your point of view.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Fingers

I was at a Barnes and Nobles over the weekend, and was browsing the kiddie section when I found a miniature version of Dr. Seuss's "Happy Birthday to You". It was one of those chunky, durable books made for young children who are just as likely to eat the pages as read them. I got to the page where the little boy is taking a dive into the Mustard-off Pools. He has just gorged himself on frankfurters, and the verse gaily states:

Of course, now we’re all Mustard
So one of the rules
Is to wash it all off in the Mustard-Off pools
Which are very fine warm-water mountaintop tubs
Which are built just for this by the Mustard-Off clubs

This was always one of my favorite parts of the book, because the little boy is diving into the Mustard-Off pool butt naked, with his shiny little hiney proudly exposed. He looks totally free from all cares. But in the preschool version, something has changed. Somewhere between the frankfurter picnic and the Mustard-Off pools, the little boy must have encountered an editorial Grinch, because he is now wearing a pair of red swim trunks! What? Who slapped that pair of shorts on him? I don’t understand why his bare bottom is being censored from babies and toddlers. They don’t wear pants half the time anyway. It’s crazy.

Last night my daughter played in a strings concert that brought together all the grade schools, middle schools and the high school in the eastern part of the school district. That means hundreds of kids with violas, violins and cellos crammed into the gymnasium of one high school. And hundreds of parents crammed onto the bleachers on one side of the gym. I was thinking this must have been what it was like to travel via steerage. There was only room for one set of limbs, and there was so little air that everyone had to take turns breathing. It was incredibly hot inside the gym, and I entered a woozy state wherein I felt like I was on the verge of passing out. So I experienced the music in an altered state of consciousness. Listening to a hundred beginner violin students play Turkey in the Straw is mind-altering enough, but if you hear it while you’re lacking oxygen, you begin to hallucinate. I kept seeing all these basketball hoops, then realized the visions were real. There actually were 13 basketball hoops in the gym. I counted them.

In my lightheaded state, the whole concert began to seem a bit Seussian to me. The sight of all those children sawing away on all those violas and violins looked like a scene straight out of the “5,000 Fingers of Dr. T”, a movie co-written by Dr. Seuss, in which 500 boys are enslaved by a piano teacher to play a piano with 5,000 keys. They are locked in a dungeon and made to wear "Happy Fingers" caps.

“Tomorrow, down below me, I will have 500 little boys, 5,000 little fingers — and they’ll be mine, all mine!”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Of All The Things We've Made

Another OMD song, this one more somber. A good song to play on a rainy day, or a day that feels rainy, even though the sun is shining.

This song is from the album, "Dazzle Ships," one of OMD's good early albums before they became too commercial and treacly.

Monday, April 20, 2009


It's time for some mindless 80's synthpop. Yes, it's simplistic and repetitive, but at its best, it can also create pleasing sensations for the listener, with its machine-like hums and throbbing synth chords.

I like this primitive early OMD video for their song "Electricity". They are making an electropop video, by gosh, and the earnestness with which they play the two or three notes on their synthesizers cracks me up every time.

OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) is my favorite synthpop band from the '80's. Many of their songs evoke a romance of electronics, electromagnetic waves, engineering and machinery, suggested even more directly by song titles such as Romance of the Telescope. Other titles include Telegraph, Tesla Girls, and Radio Waves. One of their best songs opens and closes with the sound of industrial equipment in the distance, producing a steady beat as a backdrop to their eerie synths. I find OMD songs wierdly satisfying in the way they bring to mind the constant pulse of industry and technology, yet because they are from the analog age, they possess a pre-digital innocence.

The two main guys, lead singer Andy McCluskey and keyboardist Paul Humphreys, were two chums who grew up on the Wirral Peninsula in England, influenced by Kraftwerk and Brian Eno. Sometimes their music almost reminds me of toy pianos, it's so simple, but then I like the sound of toy pianos.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Kacico Song and Dance Project

When I become a rich patron of the arts someday, who is going to get my money? Dancers, theatre groups, musicians? What about painters and poets? Deciding how I'm going to bless the arts with my theoretical money is a fun way to spend many idle hours.

Maybe if I wave my money around enough I can entice various art groups into unusual collaboratons with each other. Like the one I saw yesterday in an art gallery, called the Kacicio Song and Dance Project.

The Kacico dancers performed alongside local singer/songwriters, like my sister Laura Lisbeth, interpreting their songs through modern dance movements. One of my favorite numbers was Laura's song "Hit the ground running", which was accompanied by a dancer named Tuesday, who spun around and turned and folded and unfolded her body in ways that nicely expressed the feeling and the words of the song.

The most humorous piece was the Duct Tape Song, performed by Dave Patmore. As he sings about having to continuously patch up his life with duct tape, two dancers are wrapped with duct tape by two other dancers. As the song progresses, their movements are increasingly limited, until they are duct-taped to each other, and then ultimately, strapped with duct tape to the floor.

Laura did three songs: Words, Hit the ground running, and Aftermath. Her voice sounded great and it was so cool to see her songs set to dance. And such a rare treat to see the dancers up close. The art gallery was a modest size as most art gallerys are, and those of us in the audience sat on the wood floor, with the dancers careening and undulating just a few yards away. So many intricate movements. You could see they had put a lot of work into the choreography. More collaborations like this, please!

The photo above isn't from yesterday's event, but it is from the Kacico website, and shows some of the dancers who performed in the project.

Also on their website: the announcement of an upcoming event called the 3 C Hour -Creativity+Community+Coffee. Sounds intriguing:

"An hour of communal creativity where creative people from all walks of life are invited to do their creative thing in a common space. Coffee and creativity will flow, and community will be created.

Anyone is encouraged to attend: movers/dancers, writers, visual artists, musicians, architects, engineers, graphic designers, observers, people who meditate, thinkers, and martial artists. Come create, be inspired by others' creativity, meet other creative people, do something different. Silence will be honored in Studio 1 while three other spaces will be available for activities with sound. Coffee and pastries will be available for purchase. Please no shoes on the dance floor."

Friday, April 17, 2009


Last Friday Roger and I saw a riveting piece of theatre called "Borderland". Two married couples are thrown together on a stormy night. One couple is affluent, and from the city. The other couple live a hardscrabble life in a shack just across the field from the rich couple’s big dream house. The poor wife is abused. The other wife feels isolated and frustrated after agreeing to quit her job for the move to the country, and she is slowly dying inside. Her husband struts around his big house with great self-satisfaction, unaware that his house is built on land that his neighbor (the abusive husband) had roamed as a child, when he had gone hunting with his dad. When the rich wife realizes the other woman is fleeing her husband, she wants to reach out to help, while her husband urges her not to get involved. But when the fleeing woman shows up at their doorstep, with the abusive husband close behind, the affluent pair are inextricably drawn into the other couple’s nightmare. Which only causes the fault lines in their own relationship to crack, and threaten to give way entirely.

The couples fight psychological battles—with the other couple and with each other. Yet at the same time, they struggle to hang on to whatever security they have in each other. It was an intense play, with doors banging, the lights going out increasing sense of danger as the night wore on...a threatening presence in the yard outside, a barking dog, then a gunshot...confusion, chaos, and---yes, blood. Was this going to be a tragedy? I wondered, examining my playbill for clues. If we were on a steady spiral downward, I had to know ahead of time, to prepare myself.

Things deteriorated onstage into quite a mess, but no one died or went completely insane. So I would call it a gripping drama, but not an out and out tragedy, thank goodness. By the end of the evening, there were two bloodied figures onstage, but only one person actually injured. The city slicker husband shot himself in the shoulder by accident with his own gun, and the abusive husband bandaged him so he wouldn’t bleed to death.

Borderland was performed by the KC Rep Theatre. Written by Jim Grimsley, the play "explores the uneasy borders that exist between men and women, rich and poor, and urban and rural."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Chick Named Motor

The chicks in Mrs. Galloway’s 4th grade class are OUT. They all hatched yesterday. One chick had been notably more eager to hatch than the others. Annabelle wanted to name him “Motor” because he pecked away at the egg non-stop. The other chicks would get tired and take a nap break, but not Motor. He just kept at it until he got out. I think Motor is a cool name for a baby chick, and I can already imagine a children’s book with the same name.

Most of the chicks were gray, with yellow down on their chests. But one chick had a big tuft of yellow feathers around his chin, so the children named him "Yellow Beard." They borrowed the name from the pirate-themed musical they will be performing in May. Pirates certainly seem to be a common theme this year, don't they?

One of the chicks was a dark charcoal gray, with stripes down his back, so "Skunk" he was named. Another chick had flipped out of his egg upon hatching, earning the name "Flip Star, " a compromise between what the kids wanted -"Rock Star"--and the teacher's choice --"Flip". I would have gone with "Flip Wilson" myself.

One girl in the class has mental and learning challenges, but she had no trouble picking out a name for the one chick that was all yellow. "Hi Sam!! I named him "Sam" !" she said repeatedly. She was so excited, that the class agreed to let the name stick. One chick came out feet first, and had supersized feet, so he was named "Bigfoot." The remaining two chicks were named "Powerball" and "Stripes."

Annabelle tells me that her class spent about 3 hours doing school work and spent the other 4 hours watching the chicks. Which is as it should be. I'd wager you can learn a lot from watching new baby chicks that you could never learn from a book.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


This is still on an egg theme, but today the chicks in Mrs. Galloway's 4th grade class are hatching. My daughter tells me that they were starting to peck holes in their shells yesterday, so there is a good chance they'll get out today. Have I even seen an actual baby chick in real life? I'm not sure I have.

When I was a kid, we ate this weird candy that I never understood, but I liked it anyway. It was called "Chick-O-Stick." For a while, I thought it might actually have chicken in it. I never got that it was made from peanuts. I took the name literally. I think there was a picture of a chick on it. I googled Chick-O-Stick, and found that they are still being made by the Atkinson Candy company in Lufkin, Texas. Now they offer a sugar-free version, and they offer Chick-O-Stick nuggets.But they don't call them Chick-O-Nuggets. Their website says they are "Texas-proud," but their candy is sold "all over the world." Unfortunately, they've changed the package for Chick-O-Sticks so now it is orange and boring. (I prefer the old yellow and red design pictured here). I can't verify that there was a chick on it.

Around the time that I was eating Chick-O-Sticks (they sold for 5 cents at the swimming pool), I had a vivid dream that I remember clearly to this day. In the dream I looked down and saw that I had the body of a grocery store chicken. Like a whole fryer, with the skin all slippery and with drumsticks where my legs should be. I was carrying a metal lunchbox, because I had to go to school. And I was horrified that I had to be seen with the body of a chicken. Oh, the relief of waking from that dream!

I don't know if it was because of the dream, but throughout my adult life I've avoided preparing whole chickens. Turkeys aren't the same, don't ask me why. Maybe it's because I didn't have a dream about having a turkey body. But I've always been happy to leave the major chicken work to others. I may pass through this life without ever making a really good chicken soup. I like my poultry boneless and skinless, cut up into pieces. So I have to laugh at this picture of Meryl Streep, elbow deep in whole chickens, as she plays Julia Child in an upcoming movie. Just reading about the movie makes me hungry - but not for chicken.

One more thing, as an aside---Don't go to Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede in Branson, Missouri. They will give you a whole chicken to eat, and there is nothing you can do about it. They give every man, woman and child who enters an entire chicken on a plate. But they don't give you a fork. I'm serious. I've never been there, but I heard all about it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

So Many Eggs

The after effect of Easter is to suddenly have more boiled eggs on hand than anyone cares to eat. My fridge is crammed full. Deviled eggs and dyed eggs and extra hard-boiled eggs that nobody wanted to color. When I was a kid we dyed our eggs and left them in a bowl in the kitchen---for days ---and every so often we'd peel one and eat it. How is it we never got sick? They were sitting out at room temperature. My mom seemed to have a casual approach to refrigeration. I think when she was a kid, they had an iceman who would deliver their block for the week and that was their fridge. So no wonder. Our margarine was always left out on the counter on a small plate, and bowls with mysterious chunks of leftover meat and broth sometimes sat there too. Mom would leave the turkey thawing out on the back porch. Well, I suppose in the fall and winter it was cold enough.

Since it was Easter yesterday, I was thinking of that song "Morning Has Broken," by Cat Stevens. I was looking up the lyrics, and found out that the words had been a poem written by a woman named Eleanor Farjeon (pictured above). Get out! She wrote it as a children's hymn in 1931 for an old Gaelic tune associated with the Scottish village Bunessan.

Well, I love Cat Stevens and I love what he did with the song, but I also love Art Garfunkel's rendition. Speaking of Garfunkel, one of the funniest things I heard all weekend was the Jon Bovi opposite band on SNL. They insist they are "opposite", but all they do is sing Bon Jovi songs with antonyms subtituted for the regular lyrics. They also do a Gimon and Sarfunkel opposite band, and they sang this:

"Like a tunnel under peaceful fire, I will lay you up."

But the best is their opposite version of "That's what friends are for."
They sing:

"Keep frowning,
Knowing I can never count on you
Five Speedstick, (instead of For Sure)
That's what enemies are five"

Watch the whole thing here:

Friday, April 10, 2009

Steer Clear Of Strolling Picasso Heads

You may not have guessed that you would ever encounter the stern visage of Picasso during a casual walk down a city street, but as you can see here, it is a possibility, no matter how remote. Consider yourself warned.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Support Low Power FM Radio

What Is LPFM?

Low Power FM – or LPFM -- stations are community-based, nonprofit radio stations that broadcast at the local level, to neighborhoods and small towns throughout the country.

Run by non-profits like colleges, churches, schools, labor unions and other community groups, LPFM stations provide local coverage, information and perspectives that are not available anywhere else. These non-commercial stations are uniquely positioned to meet local needs by:

Giving a voice to local groups and people who otherwise lack access to the media.
Offering a platform for discussing local issues.
Providing news, information and viewpoints ignored by traditional media.
Offering a training ground for students and others looking for a start in the radio business.
Strengthening neighborhood and community identity.
Issuing vital safety information during local emergencies.

LPFM stations operate at 100 watts or less and have a broadcast reach of just a few miles – but from the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts to Southwest Florida to the farming fields of the Pacific Northwest, LPFM stations are injecting a much-needed vibrancy into a radio dial gone stale from years of commercial consolidation.

After Congress first authorized LPFM stations in 2000, the Federal Communications Commission began to issue LPFM licenses, awarding more than 800 licenses to civil rights organizations, schools and church groups across the country.

Soon after, Congress – under pressure from Big Media lobbyists – passed a misguided piece of legislation that radically reduced the radio spectrum available to LPFM stations because of claims of LPFM interference with signals from full power radio stations. Since then, thousands of applications for LPFM licenses have been blocked, preventing local communities from launching their own LPFM stations.

Congress ordered the FCC to study the issue, and, in 2003, the FCC released a $2 million study -- known as the "Mitre Report" -- which found that increasing the number of LPFM stations would not interfere with full power stations. The FCC then urged Congress to repeal the LPFM restrictions.

Now, new bipartisan legislation in Congress (H.R. 1147 / S. 592) promises to open the radio dial to thousands of new LPFM stations across the country, bringing fresh music, local perspectives and community news to the public airwaves.

The bipartisan Local Community Radio Act (HR 1147/ S. 592) sponsored by Reps. Mike Doyle and Lee Terry and Sens. Maria Cantwell and John McCain would expand noncommercial, Low Power FM (LPFM) radio to towns and cities across the country.

Expanding LPFM radio is an issue that has received widespread support from Republicans and Democrats alike. It will help restore much-needed diversity to our airwaves, bringing forth new voices and viewpoints that are often overlooked by large commercial broadcasters.

Please support the Local Community Radio Act. Tell Congress to open up the radio dial to more LPFM Stations.

Click here to sign the letter.

From the website:

Monday, April 6, 2009

Pots Of Fury

Uh-oh. My blog is having re-runs. I've already posted this cartoon once before. But it was all I had on hand to show pots getting really hot. Which is what happens on the electric stove in my new abode. I affectionately refer to these steaming vessels as "pots of fury." I turn my back and the water is boiling, veggies are steaming, meat is, yeah, we're cookin' now! It's so much better than the vintage gas stove I had at the old place. I loved that old gas relic, but trying to heat anything required the patience and spiritual detachment of Buddha. Now I no longer have to take several centering breaths before putting the kettle on. Oh the joy of over-cooking! I'd forgotten what it's like.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Flea Market Find

Will the economic downturn make flea markets and swap meets more popular? I imagine more people combing their basements and garages for something they can trade or sell, and more oddities like Mr. Big Head here (is he supposed to be Humpty Dumpty?) re-surfacing to see the light of day.

The photo above is from a card my sister Suzanne gave me, from a card line called "Flea Market Photos."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Happy Birthday Aunt Virginia! You're No Fool!

"I wish we could do what they do in Katroo. They sure know how to say "Happy Birthday to You!"

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

Shout "I am ME! I am I!"