Arthur Christmas

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Okay, the movie is 6 years old, but saw it for first time tonight. Interesting and worthwhile.  Here is a clip:

 

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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

Review: Driving Miss Daisy

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(Note: Recommend you start the video at the bottom to listen to the music while reading this blog.)

We attended the Wednesday matinee performance of Driving Miss Daisy at the New Theatre Restaurant in  Overland Park, KS. — as some of the youngest people there.

The matinees, and especially the Wednesday one, are the shows where the chartered groups, usually the 50+ crowd, blocks out the seats and the shows. Thus there are few cars in the parking lot, but the buses block the access to the doors. We parked easily in the parking lot, but had to go around the bus parked in the crosswalk to get to the steps leading up to the main door.

The dinner was everything that could be asked for of a buffet. In fact, we’ve reached the stage where one trip to the buffet tends to be enough to fill us up, though the one plate is usually full, and usually not balanced to a nutitionist’s satisfaction.

They waitstaff took orders for drinks. I got hot tea and Betsy her blended soda. I only got one pot of tea before my meal, and despite the pot being open and empty while they walked by during the meal, no one asked about more hot water. They did bring a refill during the intermission dessert course. It was so full putting in the tea bag made it splash all over me. And I only got one tea bag the whole evening, and apparently the flavor I chose only has enough in the teabag for one pot of hot water. My second pot of water was almost drinking straight hot water.

But the dessert was good. We tried the pecan pie. Each of us could have eaten one ourselves, but splitting one between us was all we really needed for a sweet taste.

But the review should say something about the show. Driving Miss Daisy. The show is really more a series of vignettes than anything plot driven. But the slices of life shown are well placed for humor and reflection on the events the present.

Emmy-Award winning actress Michael Learned plays the ascerbic personality of Miss Daisy to perfection, including the sense of her aging through the years, and her development of understanding. Charles Robinson (Night Court) effectively plays her friend, chauffer and foil in this witty series of vignettes. She never gets the best of him.

The play is one worth watching for the quality of the actor’s portrayals, and the writing. Dinner isn’t bad either, and despite my comments earlier, the waitstaff pleasant and efficient as well.

 

 

Falling like Dominos

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It started as such a good idea. Dominos Pizza was having a Buy-One-Get-One free promotion through Sept. 24. We needed lunch for the kids on Sept. 24 before I was headed out to the Renaissance Festival to sing. So we went online to try to order.

The offer was for online carryout only, which is what we usually do, and that is where the issue began. We went to the website and our store — the one listed on all the promotional e-mails we get — 2516 NE 43rd St Kansas City — MO 64116, wasn’t available for online ordering.

The whole plan was getting out of church right after the choir sang, rushing to pick up the pizza, coming home, and then getting attired in my Renaissance outfit before rushing off to sing. The five-minute drive to our local store worked. The next closest store we could find would be 15 minutes both ways, or another 20 minutes out of the schedule.  This still seemed doable, but tight.

This was Saturday Night.

So I placed the order online. Two large hand-tossed pizzas, one pepperoni, one cheese. Had to revise my credit card information twice, since the card’s expiration had changed, before it went through. But it gave me a total, a confirmation, showed my piece of the rewards earned went from 50/60 to 60/60 towards earning a free pizza, and even gave me the progress bar to watch the progress of my pizza.  Set to be ready at 11:30 a.m.

I thought I was fine.  I never realized that the system never generated a confirmation e-mail.  So while the web page was plastered with all sorts of assurances that my order had been made, it sent nothing to the store itself.

Oblivious to this, I rechecked the route to STORE #9573, 7302 N Oak Trafficway Ste G, Gladstone, MO 64118. When I originally checked the address, I assumed it was in the same strip mall as the Fedex (Kinkos) store at northeast corner of 72nd and North Oak Trafficway. But a quick look at Google Maps confirmed that was close but inaccurate. It was on the West side of North Oak Trafficway, and just above 73rd street.

Sunday morning came, choir sang its anthem, and we left church. Usually we walk down the hill to church, but today the car was in the parking lot, saving another 4-5 minutes. We drove the 15 minutes to the store, which I noticed was in the north end of its strip mall, and appeared a very new store in a very new strip mall, that wasn’t yet completely rented out. We arrived around 11:45 a.m

I left Betsy in the car and popped in to pick up the pizza. They didn’t seem to recognize my name and tried to make me Jason. When they looked they couldn’t find anything under my last name. They kept on asking me if I was sure I had the right store.

By this point I had wasted 5-10 minutes I didn’t think I had trying to get this worked out. Yes, I know I had the right store. Seventy-Three hundred something North Oak, Suite G. None of them were sure that their store address had a suite G in it.

Yes, I know I have the right store, I copied the address from the website and pasted it directly into Google Maps and it brought me here.

Still they didn’t have it. I was getting something frantic, with my voice rising. I placed the order online, I saw it give me a completion, I had just enough time to pick this up and get the pizza home to feed my kids before I have to dash to another appointment. Finally, realizing that staying would do no good, I rushed out of the door and left.

We called home and had the kids look up the website on my computer, since I had left the page up. They confirmed the order did not show up on my recent orders tab anywhere.

When I got home I finally made the decision that I needed to order pizza anyway. So while trying to change into my performance attire, I dialed the store and tried to talk to someone on the speaker phone while changing.  I asked if the guy was there to have seen the person whose online order got lost. He said he was a delivery person and he didn’t seem to know what I was talking about, and said he’d have to hang up on me for yelling at him.  I explained I was talking on a speaker phone and wanted to make sure he could hear me. He couldn’t seem to understand what I needed, but passed me on to a lady who was supposed to be a manager.

She did remember me. I apologized and said I needed to get pizza ordered. So I went through and placed the order with her over the phone. Somehow the price for the two pizzas, without the BOGO (only available online), came to $17 something carryout instead of the $13 from the online BOGO carryout. But I need delivery, that’s the whole reason I’m calling, I don’t have enough time to get there.  So she got full address and phone number to the name, and said some sort of $30 figure for delivery. But when I tried to give her payment information, she said if corporate was taking care of it, she didn’t need it. This was 12:20 p.m.

I finished dressing and pulled out, and managed to reach my stage at the Renaissance Festival at 12:58 p.m., two minutes early. Usually I plan at least 15 minutes.

My texts during breaks, from the backstage area, said that the pizzas had not arrived each time I asked. So at 4:35 p.m., after I finished the final set and was out the gate into the parking lot. I called again. This time I talked to a gentleman manager. Rehashed the whole story., but this time more calmly, since I wasn’t struggling with two competing priorities and deadlines.  He couldn’t find any record of any order by me online or anywhere else. Somewhere the order I placed with a manager over the phone at 12:20 p.m. had also disappeared. He took the order, this time for carryout. and said it would be 25 minutes.  It took me 35 minutes to get there, and this time the pizzas were there.

So we took them home. Enjoyed them.

But I did go online and send a note to the Website about the issue. They responded that since it was a local store issue, they were forwarding my note to the franchise owners to respond. To which I responded, that I would be glad to talk to the local owners, but that it wasn’t the local owners who were responsible for the corporate website screwing up my order. I never did get a response from them on that.

But the following Thursday I did get a call from the local store owners. She admitted that they weren’t sure what had happened to the order. I rehashed some of my story for her, and told her that I really appreciated her call, and that I had told corporate that I knew it wasn’t her fault that the website had goofed up.

I got the story about the store where we usually place our orders. It was closed due to some plumbing issues that were being resolved. The store where I went to pick up the pizza was being crewed by the staffs from two stores, serving both areas, and it created a fair bit of controlled chaos keeping them all straight.

I told the lady that I appreciated the call, that having that understanding gave me the closure I needed to the story, and apologized to any of her crew. I told her I was able to think more clearly during the final call, where the successful order got placed, once I wasn’t trying to juggle multiple responsibilities.  I also told her that they didn’t charge me for the pizzas I had received, and that I had been willing to pay for them, I had just wanted to know what had happened.

She thanked me for my understanding, and said most of her customers (by which I’m sure she meant the ones with complaints), weren’t usually as nice. She said she was going to send us a coupon for a free pizza for our trouble.  I told her it wasn’t needed, that her call and the understanding is what I had hoped for, but that if she wanted to send it, I obviously wouldn’t refuse it.

And so Last weekend we received the coupon letter.

There was a lot of chaos and confusion involved in the whole event, but even with my being less than polite during my initial interactions, I was pleased with the way the people handled, or tried to handle, and resolve the incident.  The local store owners and their staff aren’t perfect, but they attempted to make the best of an unfortunate incident, which from me earns my kudos and continuing loyalty.  We will be continuing to order Dominos Pizza.

Corporate did a good job in responding to my original complaint, though their passing the entire responsibility off to the local franchise shows to me that someone didn’t pay enough attention to all the details of the case to recognize the elements of shared responsibility. I still laud them, but give the franchisee the high marks for customer service.

 

 

Worlds of Fun: Park Denizens converse

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Today’s post is about something that happened a week ago at Worlds of Fun. I went in the evening to grab supper and some entertainment, while avoiding the excessive, for me, atmosphere of the Halloween Haunt’s Overlord’s Awakening.

The current trick is to drive in through the secondary entrance — the Oceans of Fun parking lot side — and walk in to the places we want to go.  It neatly avoids the sound buildup to the Overlord’s Awakening, along with the crowds waiting to see it. All that sound is projected out towards the main parking lot, and doesn’t bother much in the rest of the park.

It doesn’t avoid the fog from the stage fog machines, but even that can be worked around, to some extent.

Anyway, back to last Saturday. I parked, got scanned by security, season pass confirmed by admissions, and walked over to the BattleCreek Barbecue. The Barbecue must have had a busy day, because there didn’t seem to be a lot left.  The animated menu sign still had rotating images for the Brisket Sandwich, Pork Sandwich, and BBQ Nachos meal deals.  But the static menu screen only showed Pork Sandwich and BBQ Nachos. Which meant what I thought it did. When I got up to the register they confirmed that they were OUT OF BRISKET.

So I ordered the Pork Sandwich with side and looked over the dining area, which was mostly empty. It also had mostly tables that hadn’t yet been wiped down after their last use, obviously so.  Which is how I ended up as a single person sitting at one of the largest circular tables, meant to seat six.  It was the table that looked the cleanest (though also in need of being cleaned). And for the same reason I chose it, another single-dining patron asked if she could sit there across from me, which I agreed to.

And thus the chance meeting of two strangers turned into a conversation of two park denizens discussing their experiences about the park, and their general satisfaction of their season passes, all season dining plans, etc.

It was a pleasure to discuss the park with someone else who spent much of the summer there with her kids, and discuss the benefits that variously accrued to the plans. She hadn’t heard about the Platinum Passes, which grant access to any park in the Cedar Fair network, I learned more from her about the fast passes. Both of us are very curious about the new and  upcoming WinterFest season that runs the end of November and through December.

I have been an interested participant and observer over the past few years, as the park has developed and integrated, and become more of a definite social setting for the local and regional community. We are generally pleased with its role and participation within the Cedar Fair Network, and that organizations definite commitment to amusement parks and the communities that they reside in.

While my family is not big on the Halloween Haunt, our visits there this fall just confirm to us what a good thing and boon it is to the area to have such an attraction in place; just as my walk through Planet Snoopy today — though no longer a parent of kids of the age Planet Snoopy is intended for — that this children’s area of the park is another thriving blessing to the area. My kids enjoyed it when it was Camp Snoopy, and I am glad other kids are still enjoying it as Planet Snoopy. We were able to go into the store inside Planet Snoopy and see the banner from the grand opening on  May 28, 2011 — and still find all four of our names there, part of the history of the park.