Spontaneous

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An accidental comment passed through my brain today, and it picked up a hitchhiker. I am trying to remember a quote that it brought to mind. I have just the Gestalt of it, a paraphrase. “Spontaneous plans are best when rehearsed well in advance”. My mind wants to make it a quote from one of my favorite authors, David Weber, part of one of his Dahak books somewhere, but I can’t find the quote, and google web searches are no help in finding it.

But I did find a couple of other Spontaneous quotes I thought to leave you with:

Meticulous planning will enable everything a man does to appear spontaneous. Mark Caine

You must plan to be spontaneous. David Hockney

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Sabbatical Update: running behind

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Today is day 13 of my self-proclaimed sabbatical. The purpose of the sabbatical is to find rest, pursue new pursuits and education, and determine the direction of my vocation for the next couple of decades. That list apparently requires more time than I have currently been allocated in my days.

Well, maybe not exactly.  There are also certain projects around the hearth and home that have taken time, but are starting to wrap. Once they do so, and finish using up time, they will give that time back to my schedule, plus the time efficiency that their creation is intended to give.

The education, the Master’s Degree from Gonzaga, is proceding behind, but less behind. The career counseling had its second session today, with most of my homework incomplete. But the house now has a functional dining room and library again, both with a few objects left to be moved and repurposed.

Tonight is Tuesday night, my musical energizing night. Songflower Chorale is preparing for its April 29 concert.  I always come back with more energy, but it does take time and commitment.

Trump remains trump

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Okay, 2 years ago today I wrote this post about then-candidate Donald Trump. As you can tell, I was not a supporter, and in fact voted for neither him nor Hillary in the 2016 election. Then almost a year ago I wrote this post about now-President Donald Trump.

Today, I do an annual update. I haven’t been paying much attention to what has been going on, but I do recall catching a comment Trump made about his first year as president being the best one of any president ever. I understand why he would say that. He has achieved quite a few things. But for such an accolade I think it would be hard to beat the first year of George Washington, in creating our new nation.

But based on how the press has treated him, I can see why he would say it, even if it wasn’t the sort of thing he would say anyway because of the ego that he has.

And the treatment from the press hasn’t changed significantly from a year ago, so my statements about that at that time still hold. I still think Trump, naturally, left to himself, is a big city Democrat, not a Conservative Republican. Yet, the side he chose, the side that got him into office is that Republican, and somewhat conservative side. But as long as the press holds him to the fire his ego won’t allow him to seem to give in, and so keeps him held to the conservative cause, instead of negotiating and finding the accommodations that his natural penchant would encourage him to do.

Let me take my closing comments from a year ago, and possibly tweak them a bit for today:

Why am I cautious? Because his brand of conservatism isn’t mine. It turns the course away from the “Liberal” trend we have been on, but it doesn’t really eliminate the big government with big solutions mentality that keep increasing the size of government. True, he is cutting and gutting a lot of the burdensome regulations. But has anyone noticed the parade that continues to go through the oval office. Big CEOs of various industries marching through to show their ideas and support, of jobs, of infrastructure, of being good Americans to make America Great Again. It is all so Mussolini: the cooperation of big business and big government. Yes, it will certainly improve many things; the trains (or whatever is our modern equivalent) will start running on time. But the shrinking of government, and the increasing of freedom for everyone, particularly the individual and the small businessman, that isn’t in the cards.

Yet once we start back from the old route, the chance to really make it to a true libertarian, true constitutional sense of our freedoms again, becomes more possible. thus my cautious optimism. There are still many things that could go wrong, so many ways the course could be turned back. But just the fact that so much resistance has emerged to the old course, is itself a sign for hope. Any attempt to turn back will see the same resistance that brough Trump to power.

We will see how much of my caution, and how much of my optimism, were warranted, as we watch events progress through the next 3 years.

Riddle me this: I am a Wondrous Thing

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It was back at World Con in 2016, in our hometown of Kansas City, that we met author Rob Howell and I started reading his books. For a review of his book A Lake Most Deep just follow the link I placed in the book title.

Because today’s post is going to be on his book I am a Wondrous Thing. It is in his same World of Shijuren universe, but tracks a different part of that world. There is a connection to the characters in A Lake Most Deep, but it is indirect and not necessary to read that book to understand any of the context here. The book stands alone, but also paints with a well-defined palate another interesting piece of Shijuren.

I became intrigued with I am a Wondrous Thing at LibertyCon this past June, when I heard Howell give a reading from the book. It was a very poignant section of the book that totally intrigued me, and totally misdirected me about the core of the book. I thought the reading was from much earlier in the book than it turned out to be. His painting of Irina and the loss/death of her husbands was a very poignant reading.  Later, reading it myself in the context of the book, it was just as poignant, and also imbued with much more meaning than Howell was able to bring out in the isolated reading of the passage.

Like all of his writing, Howell paints very solid characters that ring true and believable in their world. No one is too good, too perfect, or too evil. There are no stock characters.

Irina before and after her time as Velikomat is an especially well-drawn character. Her ability to live two lives, but also how they can or cannot be totally untwined is an interesting element of the plot. One which leaves a lot of potential for future stories, and a lot of unanswered questions, while leaving the reader satisfied at the end.

Howell shows his true Puckish nature in the writing. The best example comes from page 163, the last line of chapter 26: “The idyllic time ended in a night of blood and fear”. Once you read description, later in the book, of that “night of blood and fear”, you will be ready to strangle him for the setup and misdirection that one line gave you. And then plunge back into the book to see where it leads next.

Howell has definitely improved his craft since the writing of his first book, which I found quite satisfactory, and I look forward to reading the other two books of his I currently have in possession. If only life gave me more time to read for mere pleasure.

And when you do read this book, let me know if you understand the prologue.  It is a very fascinating scene at the beginning, but if it links to something in this book, I did not find it. Perhaps the explanation is in a future book that will shine light on how it links to this one. Howell’s threads are often deep, but they always connect.

BTW, the title of the book can be found in a riddle at the end of the book (don’t flip forward to find it, read until you get there — it will have a better impact that  way). Howell doubtless understands that Riddle. I don’t — yet.

Worlds of Fun: Miscellaneous Reflections

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I realize I haven’t blogged as much recently about Worlds of Fun as I have at other times during their season, so today, I am going to put up some miscellaneous thoughts about recent goings-on at the park.

Let me start by commenting on last Saturday during the storm. People don’t always act reasonably, logically, or in their best interests when threats come upon them. Yet during the lead-up to the storm, and during the storm, the directions and information from Worlds of Fun and its staff was proactive and protective of its guests. The various places we took cover during the various stages of the storm had guests who weren’t always listening or responsive to the instructions of the staff, yet the staff managed to keep the necessary control to keep everyone safe.

When we emerged after the storm had calmed, to see the scenes of destruction: trees topped, decorations moved long distances, we realized how rational and necessary the park’s steps were.

And by the time they opened on Sunday, while not everything was repaired, they managed to have everything so you didn’t realize just how much damage there was to trees and property within the park.

Now, yesterday evening, Friday night, something was really out of whack for getting into the park. We arrived at 7 p.m. and parked in the Oceans of Fun parking lot. The lot was maybe a little bit less than half full, and there was no line of cars entering the parking lot. Yet when we got to the top of the stairs at the edge of the parking lot, we saw a VERY long line waiting to get into the park. The line was thick, and extended all the way from the security booths, up to the top of the stairs, and thus along the fence at the edge of the parking lot, until it extended beyond the Mamba in Worlds of Fun. There seemed to be no crush of people between the security booths and the ticket scanners, and people were passing through.

We had already gone by the line of cars backed up all the way down Worlds of Fun Avenue waiting to get into the park, so we knew it would be even worse trying to get to the main entrance. So we just went home.

Today, now I was particularly recognized by several people as a regular “park denizen”. Three different staff commented that I had cut my hair. The one scanning my pass into the park congratulated me on having entered the park for my 102nd day.

I also actually walked by Paisano’s Pizza in Europa when it looked open: staff was there and there was actually food behind the glass for purchase.  But I still couldn’t buy lunch there. No one was available to run the register to sell the food.

The street of shops in Americana are already “beginning to look a lot like Christmas”, with the decorations already going up for WinterFest, and the music from the speakers playing Christmas Carols.

At supper time, I tried to fill my all-season bottle at the Refresh station in the Orient, but was told it had just closed, yet I could get it filled at the MarketPlace in Americana. But when I got to the MarketPlace the door was open, but there was no staff available. There was a couple there asking if I was the staff, so they could pay for the bottled water they were trying to purchase. We finally decided they could check at the information booth across the plaza. I filled my bottle and went back to the Refresh Station at the Orient, and informed the staff there that the MarketPlace was open and unstaffed. The one associate immediately confirmed another staff was covering for her, and darted off to check on the MarketPlace. Kudos to her for showing such responsibility.

But that story followed an earlier one, where I had just entered the park at 5:21 p.m. and tried to purchase something at Chickie’s and Pete’s, only to be told they were closing at 5:30 p.m. for the Overlord’s Awakening. When I asked why they were closing one hour and thirty minutes before the awakening, they mentioned that the parade was being moved up to 6. Yet our checking on Facebook and the WOF website could find nothing about the time changes. I am not sure where the park is putting these necessary change information, but our inability to find it was inconvenient on our schedules and plans.

So, the park gets very good marks on several important things, yet also lacking on some important communication updates.

I would also mention that we renewed our season passes for 2018 finally. I tried to purchase the season drink bottle, but could only find the season drink plan online. I purchased it, hoping it actually was the season drink bottle.  We will see what happens when we try to use it next year.

Finally, below are the usage stats, to date, for this year’s All Season Dining Plan:

 

Total Price Paid $497.44
Total Number of Meals 549
Total Retail $5,719.38
Average Price Per Meal $0.91
Total Drink Price 29.64
Total number of drinks 518
Total Retail $564.50
Average Price Per Drink $0.06

Goodbye Starlight …

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Dear Richard Baker, President and CEO of Kansas City Starlight Theatre, this past summer, 2017, was the 21st season as Kansas City’s Starlight’s season ticket holders for my wife and I, and it will probably be our last.

I can recall when we moved to Kansas City in 1997, our daughter just a few months old, my wife convinced me to buy season tickets in the terrace section to Starlight, having been familiar with Starlight from her having lived here previously. It was a very good decision for us. We love musical theater and we loved what we got to see at Starlight those first few years.

Over the years we continued to attend, and moved forward into the plaza section. Soon we were using the applause club dining, and saw several different outside restaurants cater it: Jack Stack, Hereford House, Cinzetti’s, to name a few. Then Starlight decided to bring the catering inhouse, and the catastrophe’s started happening.

I am a regular blogger; below is a list of posts I have made over the past few years about Starlight:

https://beswiftbeprecise.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/kc-starlight-vip-club/

https://beswiftbeprecise.wordpress.com/2014/06/14/andrew-lloyd-webber-updates-wizard-of-oz/

https://beswiftbeprecise.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/5313/

https://beswiftbeprecise.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/what-is-the-sound-of-music/

https://beswiftbeprecise.wordpress.com/2015/07/03/pippin-a-review/

https://beswiftbeprecise.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/cinderella-surprisingly-traditional/

https://beswiftbeprecise.wordpress.com/2015/08/01/starlights-mary-poppins-magic-and-puppetry/

https://beswiftbeprecise.wordpress.com/2016/05/25/matilda-fun-but-not-magic/

https://beswiftbeprecise.wordpress.com/2016/06/30/starlight-theatre-decent-show-dining-staff-underwhelms-with-lack-of-service/

https://beswiftbeprecise.wordpress.com/2016/07/21/one-final-beauty-and-the-beast-before-vaulting/

https://beswiftbeprecise.wordpress.com/2016/07/28/ifthen/

https://beswiftbeprecise.wordpress.com/2017/06/08/a-look-ahead-and-a-review-look-back/

https://beswiftbeprecise.wordpress.com/2017/06/29/a-look-ahead-9/

https://beswiftbeprecise.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/something-rotten-it-smells/

As I did a scan of the above posts, I got a better feel for how and where our drift of caring about Starlight Theatre went. If you read carefully, you will see that my displeasure, while tending to start and be most strenuous about the lack of attention to the dining experience, also experienced a drift and malaise about the shows themselves.

I should mention, that until this season I have been very faithful about filling out the surveys sent to us after each show. In those surveys I have expressed the comments I expressed on my blog, sometimes even posting my full blog comments. In particular, the 6/30/2016 blog I printed a copy of and brought to the next dining event, and asked to speak to the manager in charge of the food. I presented her with a copy of the post, mentioned that I had put all these comments in a survey “which obviously you should have seen,” only to find out that she was receiving no comments  from anyone from the surveys.

In our discontent, over the past few years, we have put our contact information in and offered to be contacted, and no one has ever responded to anything we said to the surveys at Starlight. So every time you talk about the importance about the surveys, and how you listen, I come away not believing you.  How could someone see some of the carefully-worded yet scathing comments I have made in surveys, and not take us up on our offer of contacting us?

If you read the links above, you will get a partial perspective of the shows we like to see, which ones we appreciated, and which ones we found underwhelming. You will also notice that, for the first time in 21 seasons, we actually won the door prize this season. Do read that link, and see our response. Despite the door prize, which was a very nice culmination to our experience, we are still not feeling like doing season tickets next year.

Looking at the 2018 slate, we feel terribly underwhelmed. I certainly don’t need to go see Hairspray Yet again, and Dirty Dancing is a terrible turnoff for us. Now, the King and I is a really good draw, if they get the casting right. On Your Feet might entice us. My wife is hoping that it does just a good job with their story and Jersey Boys did with the story of the Four Seasons this year.

It might be heretical to some to say, but while I’ve enjoyed listening to some of the music from it, I’ve never been drawn to actually watch “Phantom of the Opera”, so I’m not really sure what I would think of “Love Never Dies.” So 2.5 out of 5 shows isn’t really a good number.

That said, the weekend specials present their own mix. Chicago is the only show my wife and I have every actually walked out on at Starlight, so we definitely wouldn’t choose to substitute that. Cinderella, you will find a very good review above from the last time it was here — do I want to risk being disappointed in something not as good, or would I enjoy seeing something equally enjoyable? The Illusionists, sounds like it could be good as well, just really hard to say.

Let me conclude by saying we have tried, over and over, to explain how we feel, to get a response, to know that someone heard and listened.  We have spent a lot of years enjoying Starlight, and to find that joy diminish, we keep hoping to find that it might return. But it is getting so we can no longer invest that sort of emotional capital in Starlight, and might just have to let it go. If no one cares what we think, we will bid Starlight Adieu, keeping the memories we enjoyed, and shaking the dust of the place off our feet for the moments of disdain we have experienced.

Respectfully,

Jonathan R. Lightfoot