Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas 2009

I had a quiet Christmas weekend. There was nothing to do at work, with half our department gone. So, I left around noon on Thursday and did some quick grocery shopping before heading home. (I am astonished that roast beef is now almost $10/pound!)

As a kid, I clearly recall awakening early on Christmas morning, running downstairs, and eagerly anticipating the rest of the family waking up so we could open our presents. My father was usually up around the same time as I. By nature, we are both early risers. This year, to my surprise, we slept in until nearly 9am. Even Mason kept quiet.

Santa's li'l helper

Danny and I exchanged presents – my first present to him was some Caribou Coffee (Danny is a major coffee drinker), and I also bought him some clothes and assorted goodies. Danny bought me Star Trek and Wizard of Oz blu-rays, a wall calendar, and stocking stuffers. From my dad and stepmom, I got a reed diffuser. It was Mason who got the most booty, and he will be taken care of in the toys & treats department for quite some time.

Danny models his flannel

Danny was planning on making dinner in the slow cooker, so I took us out to IHOP for breakfast. It was rather busy there. All the stores around it were closed of course. Most of the rest of the day was quiet since Danny had to work the graveyard shift that night.

Much of the rest of the weekend involved Danny and me getting up to date with Lost and Dexter. Not very Christmas-y shows. We also did some minor rearranging of furniture to create a kind of breakfast nook and open up some counter space in the kitchen.

This morning, I woke up to a snowy driveway, and couldn’t start my snow blower. So, Danny and I shoveled the driveway the old fashioned way.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

True then. True now

“Let me warn you, and let me warn the Nation, against the smooth evasion which says: ‘Of course we believe all these things; we believe in Social Security; we believe in work for the unemployed; we believe in saving homes. Cross our hearts and hope to die, we believe in all these things; but we do not like the way the present Administration is doing them. Just turn them over to us. We will do all of them - we will do more of them - we will do them better; and, most important of all, the doing of them will not cost anybody anything.’”

-Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Blue people

Saturday, Danny & I went to see Avatar at the Capitol Theater. This was our second trip to the newly refurbished theater and our first look inside the fabulous main auditorium. I was less impressed with the film itself. Yes, there are stunning GCI visuals. But the story itself is a ham-handed allegory about America’s genocide against Native American Indians. (Even to the extent that the natives are called Na’vi, and speak a language that sounds like the Navajo language.) Dances with Wolves is far preferable for that kind of film. Avatar was worth seeing once, just for the eye candy, but not worth seeing again.

After the movie, we headed to the Big Egg for an afternoon breakfast. Cleveland has made a great splash over the last decade with the explosion in haute cuisine restaurants. But I have a fondness for greasy spoons like the Big Egg.

Danny had to work second-shift on Sunday, so I headed to several malls for once last dose of retail hell to get a few last items. I’m very glad my Christmas shopping is over & done with.

This morning, we took Mason to the vet, where he was given his updated shots and a perfect bill of health.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Vacation in Puerto Rico - final entry

Saturday – December 12, 2009

Neither Danny nor I slept much Friday night. Travelling makes me tense – worrying about getting to the airplane on time and knowing in advance about the hassles to be endured. We awakened early, had breakfast, and said our goodbyes to Gladys and her wonderful staff.

By the time we left Passion Fruit, we were a half-hour ahead of schedule. We didn’t encounter much traffic, but ran into a super-slow gas pump at one gas station. One big complaint I have about Puerto Rico is that most gas pumps there do not have built-in credit card machines, which means you have to go into the station, throw down your money, fill up, then go back into the gas station and get your change – if any. What can I say? I’m a spoiled Gringo.

As mentioned in a prior post, San Juan has a great airport. But the airline workers are as annoying and useless as in any city. The check-in desk for United was understaffed, and after a USDA check to make sure we weren’t carrying any diseased snails in our luggage, we waited an eternity in line for our boarding passes.

Our flight, including the long wait at Dulles for our connection, was uneventful. After getting home to drop off our luggage and turn the heat back up (I had set it at 50* for the trip, cold enough to save money, but warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing), we headed to Mark’s house to pick up Mason and Valdo. Mason was his usual loving self, signaling his joy at seeing us by jumping on us and emitting hypersonic whimpers. I was unable to judge Valdo’s reaction. Danny and I had a wonderful time in Puerto Rico, but it was great to be home.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Vacation in Puerto Rico - 6

Friday – December 11, 2009

Danny & I did not have much planned for Friday. We had purchased so much stuff over the last several days, carrying it home would have been impossible. So, we headed to the local post office, only to find that it didn’t open until 10am. With some time to kill, we went to the local K-mart – another example of American corporatism encroaching upon Puerto Rico. Finally, as 10am approached, we headed back to the post office. Puerto Rico is served by the USPS, if served is the right word – as the service is every bit as bad as on the mainland. Long lines, not enough clerks, it’s the same all over. We shipped much of what we bought in Puerto Rico, and even some of our laundry. This left us with plenty of room in our bags for the items, mainly alcoholic, we were planning to buy in the duty free shop at the airport.

After getting back to the B&B, we changed clothes and took a short walk to Seven Seas beach. There was a loud gathering of young servicemen near the entrance, so Danny and I headed down the beach to a deserted section for some peace & quiet. Smarting a bit from Wednesday’s sunburn, I set our beach towels under a tree and relaxed while watching the waves and contemplating my return to cold weather.
That evening, on Gladys’ advice, we headed to Ely’s Place, a small gay bar in the kiosks of Luquillo. The kiosks are an early version of a strip mall, sandwiched between the highway and the beach: Mostly restaurants, fast food joints, and stores selling convenience items. Ely’s, like the other kiosks, is mostly open to the air.


Much has been brought up about homophobia in Puerto Rico lately, particularly in light of the brutal murder of a gay teen in November. Yet, here was a place that was obviously gay oriented, playing gay associated music (like The Village People), and with rainbow items everywhere in sight - and there were no gangs of youths driving by, shouting obscenities from their vehicle (as I once witnessed in Boston), there were no strange looks from pedestrians - only the usual Puerto Rican scene of people chatting with each other in Spanglish, drinking beer and enjoying themselves. While I don’t want to downplay that homophobia exists in Puerto Rico, it’s really no worse there than in a good many places on the American mainland. Another aspect of gay life in Puerto Rico is how gay men and lesbians commingle with each other. This is in contrast to the schism that exists between gay men and lesbians on the mainland. All too often, it seems as if same-sex loving men and women only come together for political purposes.

Danny and I sat at a table near the jukebox and enjoyed our drinks and food (Ely’s has a kitchen). To my horror, Danny ordered a Coors beer. I pretended to ignore his selection while chatting with the locals and petting the stray dogs that frequent the kiosks.
On the whole, this was a fun, active trip. Danny and I have already decided to return next December, and hopefully we’ll bring along some friends as well.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Vacation in Puerto Rico - 5

Thursday – December 10, 2009
We were able to relax Thursday morning before heading to Caguas. We met up with Danny’s family at the Botanical Garden, which is a newer attraction, built on what was once a sugar cane plantation. Puerto Rico industrialized heavily in the 20th Century. But now there is a burgeoning ecological movement, with increased interest in the early, pre-colonial history of the island once called Borikén. Petroglyphs left by the Taino Indians are on display here, along with flora, fauna, and a rare species of parrot native to Puerto Rico. There is also a replication of an early settler’s shack, with a garden of the type that would have been seen at the time. Toward the front of the facility are the ruins of a sugar cane plantation, with old equipment and displays explaining how cane was converted to syrup, and then into sugar.

Our caravan headed to an open air eatery in Cayey where the cook was offering samples of roasted pork. The whole pig was roasting on a spit, and he chopped off pieces of flesh and gave it right to us. This is not the kind of thing one encounters in the mainland. But I think it’s worthwhile to be reminded from time to time that humans, even vegetarians, feed on death. The rest of the meal was mainline Boricuan cuisine, plantains, cod fritters, and guanimes, washed down with Pepsi (which is far more popular than Coca-Cola in Puerto Rico).

My GPS didn’t seem to be acting up as before, so we decided to return to Fajardo without using the highways. Our trip took us through the rural, mountainous area of Puerto Rico. We passed several horse ranches and farms. I noticed that many of the cows seemed skinny, then realized I was used to seeing American cows, pumped up on growth hormones which are not used here.

The driving left me a bit tired, so I took a nap before heading out to get some evening air by the pool. On the mainland, my favorite part of the day is morning. But in Puerto Rico, I prefer the evening, when the Coquis are singing in the tropical air.

Danny and I had planned to head to a small restaurant called La Estacion, built out of an old gas station. But we found they were not open on Thursdays. So, we headed down the road to Tasca ole Lelolai, which turned out to be an excellent choice. We were seated at a table on the balcony overlooking the Fajardo harbor, and we saw a ferry making its way to Culebra, its lights reflecting in the evening water. Our attractive waiter, Maelo, (have I mentioned that Puerto Rican men are almost universally hot?) told us about some great specials. We enjoyed our drinks and the effect they gave us as we took in the view. I realized once again how lucky I am. Great job, check; Great lover and partner in life, check; Canine companion who loves me, check. Danny and I enjoyed both our appetizers and meals, but were too full to take in dessert. We will definitely be returning to this restaurant on our next trip to Fajardo.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Vacation in Puerto Rico - 4

Wednesday - December 9, 2009
Wednesday was at once the most relaxing and the most aggravating day of our trip. It started out pleasantly enough. Gladys arranged to serve our breakfast early so we would be on time for the ferry to Culebra, where we met up with Ian. While waiting in line to buy tickets, I got a nice phone call from my niece Laura, thanking me for the Christmas card I sent. The tickets to Fajardo were only $2.25 each way.
We boarded the ferry and sat topside. The 17-mile ride was about one hour, and there were some rough waves which made the ride like a low energy roller coaster. Upon arrival in Culebra, a taxi-van took us to Flamenco Beach. This is the most pristine beach I have ever seen: Lovely, and un-crowded. I brought along SPF50, but in less than two hours I was moderately sunburned. After looking like a ghost for the last few months, I didn’t mind.

Around noon, we grabbed a snack at one of the shacks the line the beach, and I petted a stray cat before boarding the taxi-van to the 1pm ferry.

Back in Fajardo, Danny and I said our goodbyes to Ian, who was headed back to Caguas.
After a quick shower, Danny and I headed toward Bayamon to the local Costco so we could buy a gift basket for Gladys, and to see if any bargains were to be found. Driving in Bayamon was even more aggravating than in San Juan (Danny’s brother had advised us to be careful). We found the gift basket I wanted, but not much else was there that couldn’t be found at any other Costco. Nor did they have a gas station. So, out trip was mostly a bust, as we could have found a nice gift basket elsewhere.

I wasn’t about to drive back to Fajardo in rush hour traffic, so we ate at the Sizzler across the street before heading back. There are remarkably few fat people in Puerto Rico, but some obese guy kept cutting me off in the buffet there.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Vacation in Puerto Rico - 3

Tuesday - December 8, 2009
Tuesday was in many ways the high point of our trip, for several reasons.
We awakened fairly early and, after breakfast, headed to El Yunque National rainforest. This is one of the wonders of the world, set aside as a park by order of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903. We were greeted at the gate of the visitors’ center by an exceptionally good looking young man. Entrance to the visitors’ center is only $3 per person – the park itself is free.

After perusing the visitors’ center we headed toward the parking lot to meet Ian, who I've known via the Internet for several months. After watching a short orientation movie, we headed up the hill to La Coca waterfall, where Danny and I climbed a side path to a large boulder in front of the waterfall.

Then we headed all the way to the top of the hill for a long downhill hike along the river to the main waterfall – which was a spectacular sight.

The hike back was moderately challenging, and we built up an appetite for dinner. After agreeing on the relatively gringo choice of Outback Steakhouse, we headed toward the hotel/casino in San Juan where it was located. Unfortunately, upon arrival, we discovered they didn’t open until 5:30. (Establishments tend to open late in Puerto Rico. The local Post Office didn’t open until 10am.) So, we ate at the hotel restaurant. There was a great deal of very loud renovation going on, but we enjoyed our meal and our good looking waiter.
At dinner, we decided to meet up the next morning to take the ferry to Culebra. Following an adventurous drive out of San Juan (I hate driving in cities, and San Juan is one of the worst cities for driving), Ian headed home while Danny and I shopped at the outlet mall in Canovanas. We didn’t find many bargains, and made it back to the B&B early enough to get some much needed rest.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Vacation in Puerto Rico - 2

Monday - December 7, 2009
Fajardo is a smallish town on the far northeast corner of Puerto Rico. The economy is almost entirely driven by tourism. The terrain is very hilly, and like everywhere in Puerto Rico, the streets are very narrow. The houses, which are built of concrete due to the hurricanes, are placed very close to the street, and front yards of the type seen in the Midwest do not exist. Status in Fajardo is displayed by having a home on a hill. The higher on the hill, the more upscale the owner. Our B&B was near the top of a hill, just below some very expensive condos and some astronomically priced homes in a gated neighborhood.
Monday morning, Danny and I headed west to see his family in Aguadilla. It’s a two hour drive from the far east end of the island to the west side – although heavy traffic can increase that time. Danny’s father has done some renovation to his home since we were there in 2006, and the result is most impressive. Sitting in the driveway was the Range Rover he bought via Ebay from a man in Mentor earlier this year. Danny’s brother, Javier lives a few blocks away with his wife and two children. Their son, Gabriel, is six years old, goes to a bilingual school and speaks English fluently – better than many American kids of his age. Their black Labrador dog, Foxy, just gave birth to a litter.

We all hopped into Javier’s Astrovan and went to Pino’s in Cabo Rojo for an early dinner. The food was authentic Puerto Rican cuisine: mofongo, tostones, and pollo with rice & beans. After eating, we trekked over a very bumpy dirt road to view the lighthouse there. We had to hike to the top of a steep hill. Danny’s father and I, the two oldest people in the group, made it to the top first. We took in a spectacular view of the Carribean from the southwestern coast of Puerto Rico.

On the way back to Aguadilla, we were nearly struck by a van headed the wrong way down the street, driving with its lights off in the dark of night. This was followed by a torrential but relatively brief downpour. By the time Danny and I were on our way back to Fajardo, the rain had stopped and the roads were dry. It was a long day, and we got back to the B&B around 10pm.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Vacation in Puerto Rico - 1

As I type this, I am sitting poolside at Passion Fruit Bed & Breakfast in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. It is Friday, the last full day of our trip. As always when traveling with Danny, our time here has been a pleasure. Danny has an easygoing vibe that makes time spent with him very agreeable, and is in marked contrast to my own rather hypertensive nature.
Sunday - December 6, 2009
We dropped off Mason and Valdo (Danny’s fish) at Mark’s around 8:30am. Then we headed home and took care of a few incidentals before heading to the airport for our two part flight to San Juan. Our flight to Dulles was in a small commuter plane, and the highlight of that was a twinkish flight attendant with a rather cheesy flight routine. Our layover at Dulles was about two hours. The plane was bigger for the flight to San Juan, of course. Our experience was typical of the new airline service, we paid for our meal: $9 for a sandwich and chips. Then I slept for the rest of the flight since we were getting at 10:45pm and had a long drive to Fajardo. San Juan’s airport is exceptional: very clean and well organized. We hopped a shuttle and were at the Hertz counter within minutes. Renting a Toyota Camry, we were soon on our way to Fajardo.
Immediately, I realized how out of date my GPS is, as there is a new highway in eastern Puerto Rico, Route 66, that didn’t even show. We took it and made it to B&B shortly after midnight.
Gladys, the owner of Passion Fruit Bed & Breakfast was there to greet us, show us around, and take us to our room. I’ve stayed at a number of B&Bs over the years, and this is by far the best. The rates are very reasonable, the location is prime, and our room was immaculate. There is also the service: Each morning at poolside, we were served a full breakfast, including oatmeal and fresh fruit, and alternating dishes of eggs, bacon, toast and home fries; or banana pancakes with bacon (featuring bananas grown right on the property); or French toast and bacon. There were beverages also, of course. At most B&Bs I’ve been to, I was lucky to get coffee and a stale doughnut.

A word about the Camry we rented: rather disappointing car for the price point. Comfortable ride, but louder than I expected, and – as usual with Toyota – the ergonomics are counter intuitive. Just reaching for the door handle or the window controls was an exercise in frustration.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My review of: Vladimir Horowitz- The Complete Original Jacket Collection

Vladimir Horowitz- The Complete Original Jacket Collection
Vladimir Horowitz- The Complete Original Jacket Collection

4.0 out of 5 stars Horowitz finally gets his due - sort of, December 2, 2009
By Hank Drake (Cleveland, OH United States) - See all my reviews
After being released in a piecemeal, disorganized manner for decades, all of Vladimir Horowitz's RCA, Columbia, and Sony recordings are available in one convenient, budget priced boxed set. (The Deutsche Grammophon recordings are not included, of course, nor are the HMV/EMI.) This set contains some newly issued performances, which I will comment on below. For space reasons, I refer you to my other reviews on Amazon for the previously issued material.

While this 70CD set is not remastered from scratch, this set does use the best existing versions of each recording. As for the RCA recordings, wherever possible, the Gold Seal versions from the 1980s and early 1990s are not being used. For example, the Beethoven Moonlight and Waldstein Sonatas from 1956 utilize the Classics Library master from 2004, which is far superior to the Gold Seal CD that was issued around 1990. Likewise, the 1943 Tchaikovsky Concerto with Toscanini uses the source material that appeared in the 1992 Toscanini Collection, rather than the lower quality version that was used in the Gold Seal CD issued in 1990. There are numerous other examples. For those of you who are wondering, the correct takes for the 1976 Schumann Concerto without Orchestra are used in this issue (a set of outtakes was briefly issued by mistake in 1989).

As to the Columbia recordings, Sony is using the same remasterings that were used for the big blue boxed set in 1993. (The sole exception is the 1962 Kinderszenen, which was remastered in 2003.) In the 1969 Kreisleriana, the (wrong) takes that were issued on the 1993 boxed set and every CD since are used again here. So, hang on to your LPs and the MK42409 CDs if you still have them.

As with all the Original Jacket issues, the cover art from the original LPs (or, in a few cases, CDs) is used. The original programming is also strictly being adhered to, which has not always been the case with this series. The advantage is that Horowitz's programming concepts are respected (and Horowitz was a master at building a contrasted and interesting program). The disadvantage is that the playing time for most of these CDs is short. However, at budget price, I'm not complaining. Some trivia: in the early LP era, RCA issued both 10" and 12" LPs, depending on the playing time of the program. For this set, only the 12" LPs are used, with one exception: the Brahms Violin Sonata with Millstein, which was originally issued as a 10" record and only appeared on a 12" LP decades after the fact. Also, none of the 45RPM issues are being used (RCA had issued 45s as a transition between 78RPMs and LPs).

One CD includes assorted RCA recordings that were never issued on LP. This includes both the 1928 and the 1957 expanded version of Horowitz's Carmen Fantasy. The Chopin Mazurka in A Minor, Op. 17, No. 4 from 1975 that was issued on the Japanese version only of Horowitz Rediscovered is likewise included.

Now, some information on the two "new" recitals: both the 1951 and 1967 recitals show Horowitz in excellent form and are valuable additions to his discography - though there is no new repertoire in either recital. The sound for the 1951 recital is mixed, because two different sources are being used: RCA's tapes and 33 1/3 transcription discs that were made for Horowitz's review. Both the taped and disc items sound cleaner than those in the Private Collection recordings. Mozart's K. 333 Sonata is a radically different (and more musicologically "correct") interpretation than the pianist's 1987 performances - yet I find the later recordings more pleasurable to listen to. Prokofiev's Seventh Sonata is thundering and compelling, similar in conception to Horowitz's 1945 studio recording, but with the added adrenaline he invariably put into his live performances. The Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 illustrates one of Horowitz's unique attributes: he could play "cool" and "hot" at the same time. The ending to this piece defines the word climactic.

The 1967 recital from Brooklyn College is in spectacular sound - indeed it sounds more like the Horowitz I heard live than many of his digital recordings. Horowitz plays the music (including Beethoven's Sonata, Op. 101, five Scarlatti Sonatas, Chopin and Rachmaninoff) in much the same manner as his existing Columbia recordings. Two exceptions are Chopin's Barcarolle, which is played lovingly and in contrast to his other rather tempestuous recordings, and Horowitz's own Carmen Variations, which has a different coda. Both the 1951 and 1967 recordings are unedited, so this is the real Horowitz without any interference: imperfect and compelling.

Where this set falls short is documentation. While the liner notes are reproduced on the back of the mini-LP jacket, not all the LPs have notes. The 200 page booklet includes track listings, recording dates (some of which are not accurate), another photo of each LP cover, a perceptive essay on Horowitz by Jon Samuels, and a chronology of his life. The chronology contains errors, and there is a humorous misspelling on one of the LP jackets. (I detect the work of interns.) It's not realistic these days to expect that Sony/BMG can give Horowitz the red carpet treatment that Arthur Rubinstein was accorded in 1999 (although Horowitz certainly deserves it), but is it too much to ask for adequate and accurate documentation? The above complaints demote this set from five stars to four.

One further note: The Horowitz material issued in 2009, including the 1986 Berlin Concert and the two Private Collection recitals (an additional CD is planned for 2010) are not included in this set. 2009 is the twentieth anniversary of Horowitz's death. It's nice to know he hasn't been forgotten.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Murder in Puerto Rico...

Over the weekend the brutalized body of gay teen George Steven Lopez Mercado was found by the side of a road in Cayey, Puerto Rico. The police investigator suggested that he deserved what he got because of the "type of lifestyle" he was leading.

Uninformed people love to bash Cleveland as backward and homophobic. But I could never imagine any investigator here implying the victim had it coming. (In fact, Cuyahoga County has an openly gay deputy.) The Federal government needs to step in and, under the Matthew Shepherd Act, take over the investigation.
As to the killing itself: I doubt this was the work of a garden variety gay basher. Most homophobes would not go to the trouble of dismembering, decapitating, and burning a corpse. That speaks to someone with a truly sick mind - going far beyond mere homophobia. Apparently, there was recently another murder in of a gay man in Condado - San Juan's predominently gay neighborhood. But without knowing more about the victim or his death, it's impossible to know if there is a pattern indicative of a serial killer.
11/17/2009 - Follow up
Police in Puerto Rico have arrested a 28 year old man, who is now the prime suspect in the murder. The police investigator, Angel Rodriquez Colon, who made the remark which outraged gay activists, has been relieved of duty and placed on administrative leave.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

New Review: Horowitz plays Schumann

Schumann: Kinderszenen Op15
Schumann: Toccata, Kinderszenen, Kreisleriana, Arabeske, Blumenstucke
Vladimir Horowitz,

5.0 out of 5 stars An inspiring and inspired Kreisleriana..., November 11, 2009
By Hank Drake (Cleveland, OH United States) - See all my reviews

Schumann was Vladimir Horowitz's favorite German composer. (Once, when asked why Horowitz felt "at home" in Schumann, his wife responded that "they were both crazy".) This compilation, recorded from 1962-1969 and issued on CD in 1987, offers both the Florestan and Eusebius sides of Schumann's dual nature.

Here we have a reflective Kinderscenen, featuring some remarkable voicing. Horowitz obviously plays the work as an adult looking back on childhood, which is how Schumann wrote the work. This recording is notably more straightforward than the pianist's live 1982 performance, yet somehow less moving emotionally than the wizened recordings from Horowitz's final concerts in 1987.

Less successful is the Toccata, which is pianistically unstable and was heavily, and audibly, spliced. This does not rise to the remarkable level of the pianist's famed 1934 recording.

I vividly remember the first time I heard this 1969 recording of Schumann's Kreisleriana. It was September of 1985 - I was fresh out of high school. I worked at a classical record store and bought a cassette tape (it was a "Masterworks Portrait" reissue that also had the 1962 Kinderszenen and Toccata).

Dusk was falling and it was misting outside, as I slipped the Walkman headphones on. I had already heard Rubinstein's recording of Kreisleriana about a year earlier and thought "this piece is boring." The rapture of Horowitz's performance sent me into another world. Every moment held me spellbound. By the time I got home, I was soaked through. During my walk I took no notice of the weather.

Horowitz learned Kreisleriana in the 1930s, but did not play it in public until 1968. Several attempts to record the work in concert were not successful, and Horowitz came to the conclusion that he needed the peace and quiet of a recording studio to achieve the concentration for a performance suitable for posterity. Horowitz recorded the work at one inspired session on December 1, 1969, and this may well be the most successful Kreisleriana ever recorded. Ironically, Horowitz, who often had trouble holding together a Beethoven Sonata, makes this structurally splintered work emerge as one piece. This is one Kriesleriana which is never rambling or boring. There is virtuosity here, but never for its own sake, and there is poetry in plenty. This stands alongside the 1932 Liszt Sonata and 1951 Rachmaninoff Third Concerto as one of Horowitz's greatest recordings. It should be pointed out that this is the only CD reissue (MK 42409) of Kriesleriana where I can guarantee that Horowitz's approved takes are used. All issues from 1993 onward (with the possible exception of the Blu-spec release, which I have not heard) use alternate takes, which are noticeably different from the original LP and this CD issue. Although the performance is basically similar, there are several important differences in detail.

It's interesting to compare this version of Schumann's Arabeske, from 1968, with Horowitz's studio recording from 1962. The earlier version features swifter tempos, more delicate colors, and a more structural approach, which contrasts with the comparatively laid-back, yet somehow bolder performance given here.

The Blumenstucke (Flower Piece), Op. 19 is almost a companion to the Arabeske. Horowitz plays the piece in a rather breezy manner, with less rubato than his 1975 recording.

The sound is more than acceptable here, and especially fine in Kreisleriana.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Dog in need of a home...

Please pass this on to all your friends in the Cleveland area:

This is Marley, a female Labrador/Pointer mix. Marley is 11 months old and has been spayed. She is sweet, but like many puppies, rather rambunctious. She is good with people, including children. Marley is looking for a home. Ideally, Marley would like to live with people who can match her energy level, take her on walks, and play with her.   (I'm tempted to adopt Marley, but Danny & I already have a dog who is a handful).  

If you know anyone who would be interested in Marley, please email:

Music at the White House

At a time when there is so much violence in the world, it is heartening to see young people adding to our culture, and our leaders taking an interest.

Monday, November 2, 2009

1 Year with Mason

The time change was to my benefit this weekend. I slept a lot – more than I have over one weekend in many months. Saturday, I awoke at 8:30 - which is phenomenally late for Mason. Sunday, I awoke at 6:45 – which was really 7:45 without the time change.

For my latest house project, I have decided to match the fixtures in the bathroom. The sink has Franciscan fixtures, and I installed a matching towel rack a few weeks ago. Now, I am searching for matching fixtures for the bathtub, but am having trouble. The bathtub is a lower priority, however, because the fixtures are concealed by the shower curtain. I found a match for the toilet handle, and will get it shortly. This it what my life has been reduced to: toilet handles.

Just one short year ago, Danny and I adopted Mason. It has been quite a year! Observing Mason’s growth – physical, mental, and in confidence – has been enthralling. We celebrated Mason’s anniversary with extra treats and a long walk. I also gave him a haircut and nail trimming, which he patiently accepted.

Mason at 8 weeks. 11/9/2008

Mason in October, patiently waiting for me to take the photo.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Shame on Lieberman and Bayh.

Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Selfish Politician Hall of Shame...
Joseph Lieberman: Spouse, Hadassah Lieberman, is employed by Hill & Knowlton as "senior counselor" in the firm's "health care and pharmaceuticals practice." She is a lobbyist for the health care industry.
Evan Bayh: Spouse, Susan Bayh, sits on the Board of Directors at Wellpoint Insurance, the largest health insurance company in the USA.
Lieberman and Bayh are threatening to obstruct the public option - thus putting personal profit ahead of the public welfare. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid needs to grow a pair and strip Lieberman of his Chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. The Democratic National Committee needs to fund a strong challenger when Bayh is up for election in 2010. A majority in Congress is of no use when too many Democrats are in name only.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Shame on the Obama Administration.

Attorney General Holder Claims ‘Forced’ Sex is Not Rape;
Married Couple Readies DOMA Challenge

The linked story involves a Massachusetts man named Tim Coco. I've known Tim since 1985 and it pains me to know he's being treated so dishonorably by an Administration elected, in part, by LGBT Americans.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sick as a Dog...

Poor Mason was sick for part of the weekend. He awakened Danny & me Saturday around 4AM, pacing in the bedroom and whimpering. I took him out for a walk and he did his business. Thinking all was well, we went back home. But an hour later Mason had an accident, and a half hour after that, he vomited. Fortunately, our vet was able to squeeze us in that morning. When this kind of situation happens, vets most fear an obstruction (such as when a dog eats a sock), but the vet didn’t detect any lumps or sore spots in Mason. So, he gave him an IV to rehydrate him, some meds, and feeding instructions: small portions of white rice, warm chicken broth, and some lean ground beef. Mason spent the rest of Saturday cuddling with his two Daddies, while we watched TV.

By Sunday, Mason was back to his usual bouncing, happy self, and he consented to have his photo taken.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Oh, my...

It appears that on August 18, someone wrote a Wikipedia article on me . I'm flattered, even though the article has two glaring innaccuracies: I was born in and reside in Cleveland (actually, a suburb of Cleveland), not Columbus. Also, I am not bisexual, I am flat out gay - which I've aknowledged since 1985.

I have requested that the article be deleted. In all likelihood, this is the result of some unwanted attention from another Wikipedia user with whom I had a dispute around the time the article was written. I'm very happy to be non-notable and utterly ordinary by Wikipedia standards. I only play the piano for my own amusement, and am probably more known at this point for my reviews on Amazon.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A great American road trip

Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip
Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip
by Matthew Algeo

David McCullough's Truman
is the definitive biography of the man from Missouri. But I felt that book did not give enough coverage to the twenty years after Truman left office. Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure, by Matthew Algeo, is a partial remedy to that. A relatively apolitical book, it covers a 1953 car trip Truman took with his wife, Bess, from their home in Independence, Missouri, to Washington, DC, up to New York City, and back to independence. Harry drove while Bess sat in the passenger seat, watching the speedometer to make sure Harry didn't speed. There was no secret service protection in those days, and while Harry and Bess tried to travel in anonymity, the press managed to track the couple down from time to time.

For those accustomed to thinking of Harry Truman as the plain spoken, quick tempered man who once threatened to punch a music reviewer for panning his daughter's singing, this book will come as a surprise. One factor that comes through is Truman's meticulousness. As the former owner of a men's clothing store (known as a haberdashery back in the day) Truman was always a snappy dresser, with a pocket kerchief carefully folded so that all four corners showed. The former president was just as particular about the way he packed his luggage (so that clothing emerged perfectly folded), the care of his new car (with Bess keeping tab of the gasoline expenditures), and the trip route (planned by Truman himself, long before the days of GPS).

Another factor of Truman's personality that emerges is his essential populism. He was not a demagogue populist like Pat Buchanan, or a corporate pseudo-populist like Glenn Beck. Harry Truman was always for the "little guy". He loved people, cared about them (he even took a two hour side trip to spend time with an elderly woman he'd never met), and was genuinely interested in learning about their lives.

Some have complained about the author's insertion of himself into the narrative and comparisons of present-day America with Truman's era. But Algeo's contemporary narration points out how America has changed since 1953. In some ways for the better: racial integration, and equality of the sexes. But we are a less personal, more corporate country than we were in 1953. Harry Truman would be saddened to know how many of the little diners, shops, and motels he stayed at have either gone out of business or been co-opted by large corporations. (I could never imagine Harry shopping at a Walmart.) Despite the number of times I smiled when reading this book, there were tinges of sadness as well.

Direct link to my Amazon review

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Sorest Losers

What has happened to the Republican Party? A once honorable institution (wrong on most issues, but honorable), has become so embittered that their leaders cheer when the United States loses an Olympic bid and rant when the President wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

Have they, at long last, no sense of decency?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Movie and a Walk

Danny’s work schedule has changed from the graveyard shift to 2nd shift, with alternating weekends off.

Friday night, Danny was at work, so I accepted Zsolt’s invitation to a quick dinner before he headed off to Severance Hall to hear the orchestra. We enjoyed ourselves at Mi Pueblo, although I prefer the more downscale, hearty food at El Rodeo. Still, it was fun to watch Zsolt down a giant margarita.

Saturday, Danny and I headed to the west side to see the newly reopened and renovated Capitol Theatre. Most impressive. The theatre, which opened in 1921, had been closed since the 1980s. The restoration respects the era when movie theatres were elegant gathering places, but also features digital projection and a new sound system. The concession will feature beer and wine, once the theatre receives a liquor license. Danny and I saw Capitalism: A Love Story, shown in one of the two small screening rooms, which have been incorporated into what used to be the main theatre’s balcony. It’s nice that the west side now has a theater which will show off the beaten path films, and a further positive development for the Gordon Square area. Another nice touch: ample and free parking.

We had some time to kill before the movie started, so we enjoyed lunch at Rincon Criollo, a small Puerto Rican restaurant around the corner. There’s also a kitschy store across the street, which seems to be an attempt to fill in the void left by Diverse Universe’s closing.

This afternoon, we met up with some people from Out & About for a nature walk at Orchard Hills, behind Patterson Fruit Farm in Chesterland. We took Mason with us, who was a little rambunctious. The trails were paved, which made the walk easier than usual, but we went pretty far. In all, we walked around two hours.

Danny being walked by Mason.

Friday, October 2, 2009

This will tick off the Kissin fan club...

Schubert: Piano Sonata in B-flat; Schubert-Liszt: Four Songs; Liszt: Mephisto Waltz

Portentous Schubert and Stunning Liszt

By Hank Drake (Cleveland, OH United States) -
See all my reviews (TOP 500 REVIEWER)

Evgeny Kissin's recording of Schubert's B-flat sonata begins at a crawling tempo that sounds like an attempt to imitate Sviatoslav Richter. One wonders if Kissin actually feels the music should go this way, or is dragging the tempo in order to seem "profound". (He includes the exposition repeat, which adds another five minutes to the proceedings.) In the development, Kissin briefly kicks up the tempo a bit. While this should seem to enliven the movement, his acceleration (which reverts back after the development), merely throws it off kilter. It's a mite schizoid.

The second movement fares even worse. Labeled an "andante sostenuto", it's played at a tempo that could be called an "adagio quasi largo." The problem with this tempo is not merely that it makes the music crawl, but it would have been unworkable on the pianos of Schubert's time: the music would have sounded dissociated due to the short sustaining power of the instrument. There's even a technical bauble at 6:26, surprising given how tightly edited Kissin's recordings are usually.

Kissin rips through the outer sections of the Scherzo, turning them into a Presto. He slows down for the Trio - - about the most normal playing to be found in this piece. The concluding movement zips along without incident, although there are some annoying cutesy-poo effects like playing legato chords as staccato. After the dragging of the first two movements, and the rushing of the third, it comes as an anticlimax.

If the former wunderkind Kissin wanted to prove he was mature by playing Schubert this way, he overshot the mark. Schubert is not merely a "winter wandered shadowed by death", there is joy and charm to be heard in his music as well - - even the late pieces. Kissin's Schubert is portentous and pretentious.

The song transcriptions fare a bit better. One secret to playing these pieces is to remember that they are not Schubert, but rather Schubert-Liszt. Both factors need to be respected. In Ständchen, Kissin holds his own against mighty rivals Rachmaninoff and Horowitz, but he is considerably less imaginative than either. He let's some color unfold in Wohin and Aufenthalt and the effect is like a flower blooming.

The high point of this disc is Liszt's Mephisto Waltz. This performance is an excellent example of how to build toward a climax: Kissin starts the piece rather coolly, with lighter than usual articulation and spare use of the sustaining pedal; about three minutes in, he slows down for the hypnotic, ruminative part - he's hold back, milking the music; about eight minutes in, Kissin goes into overdrive lets loose a fury of demonic passagework, bringing the piece to a resounding finish. This is one of the best Mephisto Waltzes I've ever heard - and I've heard many. I can only respond to such playing with a stunned "Wow."

Given how Sony/BMG is constantly repackaging recordings, this Mephisto is a candidate for a "Best of Kissin" disc. The unfortunate performance of the Schubert can be left behind. The sound is fine.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cleveland, Ohio to Host 2014 Gay Games

No doubt the religious right in Northeast Ohio is collectively crapping its pants about this.

Cleveland won out over Boston (which didn't make much of an effort) and Washington, DC. Miami, once under consideration, dropped out.

Predictably, the chat boards are filling up with snide comments, particularly from sore losers in Boston. The bitterness, condescension, and sense of entitlement emanating from these chowderheads serve only to remind me of the nine largely miserable years I lived in Boston.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Why I Like Mondays

Most people don’t like Mondays, and complain about them no end. Not me.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy my weekends, and I’m as happy as anybody when leaving work on Friday.

When I awaken on Monday mornings, I am invariably well rested. I am refreshed and my attitude needs no adjustment. I let the dog out, have a quick breakfast, and head to the gym.

The people at the gym at that hour are my comrades. They are not stand & pose muscle heads. They are middle aged, over weight, and non-pretentious. They are fighting gravity and the advancing years just as I am. They have a sense of humor about it, because the right attitude is worth a thousand sit ups.

When I walk into work, I see my co-workers. We catch up on each others’ weekends and share a few laughs. I’m lucky to have the greatest colleagues. There is work to be done as well, but I’m still riding my weekend high and the work is more enjoyable that way.

When I come home from work, Mason shows his appreciation for me. After a weekend together, he sometimes takes me for granted. But after I’ve been gone for ten hours, he misses me.

Danny and I enjoy a quiet evening together – settling down to watch Heroes.

It’s Tuesdays that I hate.

Monday, September 21, 2009

My not-so-fabulous weekend.

Our house has a large basement, it runs underneath the entire structure – except the add-on. The basement is divided into two parts: an open area which has been filled with boxes and other items since we moved in; a utility room which holds the washer/dryer, sink, furnace and a small tool room.

Last Tuesday, I decided to look for some old piano videos I made from 1998-2001. I found one tape (there are several more) but also discovered mold leaching its way into some boxes in the basement. It was apparent that all cardboard boxes had to go and everything had to be sorted through again. With that in mind, on Wednesday I bought several large plastic containers at Target.

George Carlin had a routine about buying houses, and that the main reason one bought a house was to hold all of one’s “stuff” and as we accumulated more stuff, we moved into bigger houses. I have a lot of stuff, and going through things Friday evening and Saturday morning, it astonished me how much of it was unnecessary.

Among other items, I found three boxes of cassette tapes – many with music I would never listen to, or other items I now have on CD. Many of those tapes are now on their way to the landfill. There was a collection of paperwork which is far from relevant to my life. There was some bric-a-brac that was intended for my desk at Progressive – where it will return this week.

All in all, I was able to condense twelve boxes of varying sizes into three equally sized and stackable plastic containers. After going over the floor with a bleach solution, I restacked the containers and there is considerably more room in the basement. Danny also bought some containers and is doing the same with his stuff.

Unfortunately, during the restacking I strained the top of my back and my neck and was in considerable pain for much of Saturday. Taking a Flexeril with a Vicodin chaser did a bit to alleviate the pain, but I spent much of Saturday afternoon dozing on the futon.

Once I’m fully recovered, I’m going to reassemble the old kitchen table my grandfather built, which is currently unassembled in the basement. I’m also cranking up the dehumidifier.

Sunday afternoon, I felt well enough to see The Informant! with Matt Damon. An amusing romp, with a touch of Catch Me if You Can, and a dash of The Talented Mr. Ripley.

In other news: On Thursday, I ordered Vladimir Horowitz’s 1986 Berlin concert from Amazon in Germany – released for the first time. I’d been under the impression that it was being released in Germany only – as it stems from a radio broadcast with announcements in German. On Sunday evening, I found out it is being released on October 27 in the US. As the item was already on its way from Germany, it was too late to cancel the order. Grrrrr.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What do doctors REALLY favor?

A random poll of over 2,000 physicians found that over 70% favor access to a public option.  Most favor a public option as an alternative to private insurance.  Ten percent favor abandoning private insurance in favor of a single-payer system.  Only 27% are in favor of  keeping America's health system as-is. 

The numbers revealed in this poll are in stark contrast to the American Medical Association poll, which only questioned AMA member physicians (less than a third of all physicians).

Full story here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Requiem for the Classical music store

Once upon a time, namely, the mid-1980s, a classical music fan in Cleveland could hop the bus to Shaker Square and visit a record store dedicated to Classical music. This store, The Music Box, had a nearly comprehensive selection of Classical music on Lp, cassette tape, and a new format called Compact Disc. There was also a smattering a jazz, but this was stocked for appearances and seldom visited. Classical music, riding the coattails of the hit movie Amadeus, was in vogue. The emergence of the CD contributed to the renaissance, allowing novice and seasoned classical fans the opportunity the hear great music in pristine sound.

By the early 1990s, the entire active Classical repertoire was on CD, in multiple renditions, with reissues of historic recordings with refurbished sonics, performed by the greats of the past, alongside newer renditions by the well known, the moderately known, and the unknown. Even as hitherto forgotten repertoire was being rediscovered, the experts were talking of a CD glut – as titles sat on the shelves, some unsold for years. To the listener, this embarrassment of riches didn’t matter. We may have shed a crocodile tear when chain stores like Borders pushed aside independents like The Music Box and Music of Note. We may have even pontificated over the fate of the “little guy”, but that didn’t stop us from hightailing it to Borders on Tuesdays to browse the bins for the latest releases and enjoy an overpriced coffee. As for the clerks who didn’t know squat about Classical music: a small price to pay – and we didn’t have to hear a lot of opinionated talk from insolent music students.

Things became even easier for the consumer in the late-1990s, with the advent of online retailers like Amazon. Now, a selection dwarfing that of any brick & mortar retailer was just a click away, and often at deep discounts. Looking for a rare release from Europe or Japan? Not only could it be found online, we could read the reviews of listeners (the new version of the opinionated clerk), and we could listen to tantalizing sound-bytes from the recording in question. Eventually, we could skip the CD shipment and simply download the album, cover and all, to our computer. Instant gratification!

We could visit Borders one weekend in 2009, and see the Classical selection had been reduced to mere shadow of its former self – a victim of the Great Recession and the petrifaction of the recorded repertoire. We could head to Joseph-Beth, and find the entire selection of CDs, across all genres of music, had been eliminated – all that remained was a lonely box of closeout items. This time, we did not shed a tear, crocodile or otherwise. It was too late for tears.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Joe Wilson - Unstable Liar

Apparently, people were so outraged (and rightfully so) at South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson's outburst at President Obama, his own website was crashed.

If a Democrat had dared to do the same when George W. Bush lied about WMD in Iraq, he would have mysteriously disappeared, only to surface years later at Guantanamo.

At a minimum, Wilson should be censured. Speaker Pelosi needs to grow a pair and ensure that it is done. If Wilson had an ounce of class (which, judging from his previous record, he doesn't) he would resign from public life.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

Painting and dining

An eventful week passed that found me feeling defeated one day and accomplished the next.

Much of the week, I was feeling the effects of a tendon strain that seems to be turning into a chronic condition. I have come to the conclusion that I must indefinitely suspend strength training on my legs (at least my upper legs), but I can continue working the elliptical machine as long as the resistance settings are not set too high. Tuesday evening, things were painful enough that I took a
Flexeril and Vicodin and within an hour I was a zombie.

I spent much of the rest of the week trying to regain enough focus to do my work and put together plans for the weekend. The major item on the agenda was painting the dining room, which I’ve been wanting to do for ten months. (The previous owner killed the first floor with beige, and I decided to paint the dining room a shade of red to break things up.) Friday evening, I felt well enough to tape off the moulding and, with Danny’s help, move the furniture out of the way.

The dining room last November. Nice but rather plain.

Saturday morning, I had to get some more masking tape to finish off the moulding, fill out some areas with spackle, and then I went to work painting, starting with the areas around the trim.

By 1pm, the first coat was completed. After relaxing for a few hours, I applied the second coat, and the dining room was done by evening. Unfortunately, as I was removing the masking tape, some layers of paint on the trim came off, so I will have to repaint the trim eventually. It’s not a high priority for now. The room now has a more vibrant look, contrasting with the mellow ambience of the living room. The darker color also highlights the artwork.

Mostly finished, with the masking tape still on the trim.

Sunday morning, my alarm went off at 6:25 as usual, and Mason was there to enforce it. But as he was licking my face, I told Mason it was “quiet time”, and he promptly laid down and let out an exasperated sigh. He let me sleep in till 8am. After a quick glass of OJ, I took Mason for a ride to my buddy Stan’s house to pick up a
Star Trek cookbook for a party we’re having next week. After we got back, Danny made waffles and we relaxed between folding loads of laundry. At 4pm, we had Zsolt over for drinks and dinner in our “new” dining room. It was a pleasure sharing dinner with a friend, especially one who was open to Mason’s exuberant affection.

Zsolt dances with Mason

Zsolt and Mason, last November

My latest review

Vladimir Horowitz at Carnegie Hall: Private Collection:Schumann,Chopin,Liszt & Balakirev
Vladimir Horowitz at Carnegie Hall: Private Collection:Schumann,Chopin,Liszt & Balakirev
4.0 out of 5 stars Horowitz Rocks the House with Islamey, August 31, 2009
By Hank Drake (Cleveland, OH United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)      
Sony/BMG is digging into the Vladimir Horowitz archives at Yale University and unearthing more treasures. The items on this CD were recorded privately for Horowitz's use, and sat in his attic for decades before he donated them to Yale a year before his death.

Horowitz's fans will already be intimately acquainted with his 1965 live performance of Schumann's C Major Fantasy, available in edited and non-edited versions. This 1946 recording shows a more volatile approach to the opening movement, with the tempo pushed forward and doubling of bass notes. Much of the tenderness of the 1965 recording is not to be heard here. The March bursts forth at a brisk tempo, but there will be controversy due to Horowitz's deletion of 19 measures midway through. Indeed, I can find no musical justification for this cut. The pianist throws caution to the wind during the infamous contrary motion leaps, and there is a clinker toward the end. Horowitz settles down for the contemplative last movement and there are some lovely moments and beautiful shadings. But on the whole I prefer the more poetic 1965 performance of the Fantasy, wrong notes and all.

Evidenced by his recordings, Horowitz saw Chopin's Barcarolle as more of an erotic tone poem than a gondolier's song. His performance of the piece grows fervent towards the climax, and is more straightforward that his 1980 recording.

Two items here are new to the Horowitz discography: Balakirev's Islamey, and Liszt's St. Francis Walking on the Water - both works with extensive revisions by Horowitz himself. Wanda Toscanini Horowitz was opposed to the release of these two works, on the ground that they were flashy repertoire that Horowitz did not play in his later years. (It should be noted that Wanda approved the release of Horowitz's disjointed 1986 Schubert B-flat Sonata, so her musical judgment was suspect. In any event, copies of these recordings have been circulating on the Internet for years.)

St. Francis is problematic, partly because the work itself combines Liszt's best and worst qualities: spiritual luminosity and empty bombast. Horowitz tilts his performance toward the latter, adding interlocking octaves that suggest stormy weather, and an apocalyptic ending. Under his hands, the piece could be retitled St. Francis Surfing on the Waves during a Hurricane.

Islamey, said by some to be the most difficult piece for solo piano ever written, gets a no-holds-barred, virtuoso performance. Horowitz begins the work at a breakneck tempo and, save for the lyrical central section, never lets up. But with all the speed and fury, Horowitz's coolness and nonchalance point out the work's humorous aspects. In addition to adding a more firecracker ending, Horowitz tightens some repetitive and rambling sections. The audience can barely contain itself and the raucous applause erupts well before the pianist plays the work's final two chords.

The sound quality, restored by Jon Samuels, varies here. The source material was 78RPM and 33 1/3RPM discs, and only single copies were made. The Schumann and Liszt items suffer from wear and tear (likely by Horowitz himself) and sound muffled, while Islamey sounds nearly pristine. A few quibbles: At 60 minutes, this disc is not well filled - and with the huge cache of unreleased material in Sony/BMG's vaults, there is no excuse. And this CD, like many of Sony's new releases, is packaged in cheap "digipack" paperboard - so handle with care.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Click picture for full size

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Last Brother

It can be said without hyperbole that Ted Kennedy was the most powerful senator in U. S. History, and one of the most controversial.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Ted Kennedy did more for ordinary Americans than either of his brothers. It was Ted who stood up for the Forgotten Man, and it predated his entry into politics. At his brother Jack’s birthday in 1946, 14 year old Ted proposed a toast not to Jack, but to the memory of Joe Kennedy, Jr., the brother who was killed in World War II.

Whatever his flaws, and there were many, peaking with the indefensible events at Chappaquiddick, his accomplishments as Senator were formidable and will live on after him. Kennedy was the spearhead behind the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the National Cancer Act of 1971, the Federal Election Campaign Act Amendments of 1974, the COBRA Act of 1985, the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Ryan White AIDS Care Act in 1990, the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, the Mental Health Parity Act in 1996 and 2008, the State Children's Health Insurance Program in 1997, the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, and the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act in 2009 (one of the few times he allowed his name to headline legislation).

But what would have been his greatest accomplishment, Universal Health Care, has yet to pass. Kennedy’s interest in health care goes back to 1964, when his back was broken in an airplane crash. During his 6 month recovery, he spoke with a friend who suffered from long term tuberculosis, and learned of his friend’s struggles to cope with the financial aspects of health care. In 1969, Kennedy first proposed Universal Health Care. The fact that it was not to come to fruition during his life time is one of the cruel ironies of history, where the architect does not live to see the final structure. Lincoln did not live to see Reconstruction; FDR died four weeks before victory in Europe; JFK was murdered before he could pass the Civil Rights Act. Going further back, Moses led his people to the Promised Land, but was not permitted to enter it.