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.