Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Majoring in Minors for 68 years

Today is my birthday. (6/27/39) It is the 178th day of the year. (187 to go) It is less than 10 days to halfway through this calendar year. It must be a holiday somewhere. Let's see: It is Independence Day in Djibouti. (that's a fun place to say, but I wonder where it is?) It is the Feast Day of St. Cyril of Alexandria, (Egypt?), St. Zoilus and St. Samson of Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey - been there)

James Smithson died today in 1829 leaving his vast fortune to establish the Smithsonian Inst. in Wash. D.C. I'm a member and will be taking my favorite magazine with me on my trip. In 1893, the New York Stock Market crashed. (I used to live on York Blvd. and I love to sing/teach about the "Grand Ol' Duke of York") In 2003, more than 735,000 phone numbers were registered on the first day of a "national do-not-call list". It hasn't worked well with me yet. In 2005, the BTK serial killer pleaded guilty to 10 murders in Wichita, Kansas. He is now serving 10 consecutive life sentences and won't have the possibility of parole for 175 years. (much better than a lethal shot)

Also born on this date: 1859, Mildred J. Hill, the American Composer of "Happy Birthday to You" and "Good Morning to You" (with her sister, Patty Smith Hill) (but could she sing, "Estas Son Las Mananitas"?) 1880, Helen Keller, American Author, educator and advocate for the blind. 1827, Bob Keeshan, American actor, "Captain Kangaroo" (now here's a Bob I can relate to) 1930, Ross Perot (I voted for him) and 1975, Tobey Maguire, American Actor -"Spiderman" (can't relate)

Died on this date: 1844, Joseph Smith, Mormon founder and his brother, Hyrum, killed by a mob in Carthage, Ill. 2001, Jack Lemmon, Am. Actor (I can relate, "everyman") 2002, John Entwistle, bassist for "The Who" (can't picture him) 2005, John Walton, son of Wal-Mart founder Sam. (just went to their store today)

I had lunch with my oldest son, his wife and their son, Xavier, yesterday. Loving family. I'll see Soren, his other son soon, I hope. Had dinner at the Spaghetti Factory with my third oldest son and his wife and two Grand Children last weekend. Wonderful group. Got an email from my second son, and his lovely wife today. He has great plans to search the stars and vacation with his ol' bud Scott. Just talked to my youngest son and his girl on the phone. They are in love.
All is well with the Burgan Clan.

We are going on a Baltic Cruise tomorrow. It will be a trip of a lifetime for us. My wife has been to Sweden before so she'll show me around with her sister and brother-in-law. We are excited. What a Birthday Present!

The above may seem minor to you, but they are "major" to me in this, my 68th year. I've lived nine years longer than my dad was allowed to. I still miss him. My mom was 83 before she passed. She was a teacher of all 8 grades in one room when she started. I'm retired from teaching 2nd -8th for 38 years. I've just made the decision to do some Substitute Teaching in our local schools this next semester. We'll see how that goes. I do miss the eager smiles and joys of learning with these "Minors". It just gets in your blood I guess.

So, I don't mind saying that "I've majored in minors." It has been a good life and hopefully will continue to be the best. "A hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the type of house I lived in, the kind of car I drove, where I cruised,...but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child...or children." Keeping that child-like humor and openness is my continued goal. Bob!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Exclusive Club 33

You talk about exclusive, even their logo can't be copied or pasted off the internet. It just makes it that much more mysterious and unattainable for most of us. Club 33 is a rarely advertised restaurant in New Orleans Square in Disneyland. It is only marked by a single green door next to the Blue Bayoo Restaurant entrance and the address marker "33". It is locked. There is a doorbell and a speaker phone but no one responds without the secret code. Yes, very mysterious, indeed. The significance of the number "33" is just an address: 33 Royal St. in the park, so it could serve alcoholic beverages.

Walt Disney himself started it back when he was alive for wining and dining potential investors and celebrities. It has only been open for "business" after his death around 1967. It has earned many strange rumors and tales on the internet. i.e. a talking vulture, microphones in the lobby near the antique, glass elevator. (you can also use the stairs, it's upstairs above N.O.S. There is a gourmet buffet and a very small, dark and lushly appointed dining room with appolstered everything. How do I know?

My wife and I have been lucky enough to be invited there, separately. We didn't even have to pay. Oh yes, we're celebrities now!...not really. You see, my wife's sister has inlaws who are members of the exclusively small list and they are invited annually(probably to renew their investment in it). They are guests of the park for the day with special entertainment and then dinner. Oh so posh! I, on the other hand, was part of a group of So. Calif. Pardee Employees who had a party there two or three years ago. I'm guessing the Pardee Brothers, true blue southland developers, who go way back, were connected to the originally building or the land where Disneyland is. They still have a corporate membership. At least for now...with new homes not selling much nowadays, maybe they won't be able to pay ther annual fees either. These are rumored to be: initial: $25,000. and then annual: $5,925. Whereas the individuals only have to pay $9,500. and $3,175 annually. This wouldn't be so bad, but the list is only 487 people/companies long. They are in the news, L.A. Times Business Section because they are thinking of increasing the list to 500. Big whoop, 13 +!
Still there are over 1000 on the waiting list or more just dying to get in and experience it, spend their money and try the buffet. There's even a website hosted by Dale Mattson who has been on the list since 2001 http://www.disneylandclub33/ Think how frustrated he must be.

Elton John, Kobe Bryant and Arnold Schwarzenegger have all dined there. (not together, I'll bet) When I went, it capped a day of "Trivial Pursuit" with 20 questions our team had to find the answer for to be revealed at Club 33 that evening. Our group came in third. We got most of our answers on Main Street at the "Memorabilia Store" from a friendly clerk...who may have been pulling our collective "leg".

As a family we used to go once a year, free, because my wife was the "Employee Group Rep." for places like Disneyland, Knotts, Magic Mountain etc. This was great when you have four boys and like to stand in lines alot. We got a free annual picture with Mickey or Minnie and we just loved it. Later on, I went with my church choir at Christmas and or took my own classes there as rewards in classroom contests. I've already mentioned in this blog that I've seen "behind the sets/streets" because several of my students (Jr. Hi.) were picked up for "shoplifiting" and their parents had to be called. I met them at the Disneyland Police Station (full size). Come on, we couldn't watch them all the time. We'd let them go off for acouple hours and then "touch base" or check-in before we let them go again. No one could leave until all had checked in...bummer with the late-comers.

Now we have So.Cal. Season tickets and try to take our grandchildren when they aren't busy, in school, etc. This is difficult. So we usually just spend a day there ourselves and reminisce. "Soaring over California" is our favorite. We are looking forward to getting back on those submarines too. The last time they were in operation, I got claustrophobic and had to sit by the door (hatch?) It should be better this time. (and dryer)

What is it with this attraction to "exclusivity"? We all want to think we are special or different or something, don't we. I wonder if this is the way Walt wanted it to be? Probably. After all, when you're at the "Happiest Place on Earth", what more could you want? Rat...atouille? Bob!

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Have you ever wanted your own musical theme which always accompanies you wherever you go? I have. And, at times, I do have one; inside my head. It is not one of those nagging pop tunes that just keeps repeating itself mindlessly once you hear it. It is changeable though, according to my mood and circumstance. Sometimes there are lyrics with it, sometimes not. It is not that profound or mood changing, but it is just a part of me.'s "Word of the Day" says: 1. In music drama, it is a marked melodic phrase or short passage which always accompanies the reappearance of a certain person, situation, abstract idea or allusion in the course of a play or opera; a sort of musical label. 2. A dominant and recurring theme.

Leitmotif (leitmotiv) is from German Leitmotiv, "leading motif", from leiten, "to lead" (from Old High German leitan) + Motiv, "motif" from the French. It is especially associated with the operas of German composer Richard Wagner.

An up-to-date example of its modern use would be in my wife's favorite "Soap" DOOL* "Days of our Lives". The archetypal villain, Sephano Dimara, has just reappeared, like the "phoenix" of old to complicate and threaten the good lives of the "Bradys" etc. and his leitmotif is his constant playing of "Die Valkyrie" from "Der Ring des Nibelungen" by Richard Wagner. It is classically ominous. Even though he is Italian and he has a vendetta against the Bradys, an Irish family, he just loves this Norse themed opera. It just heightens the suspense and flesh-crawling quality of the soap's summer episodes.

There are those in my family to whom I could easily assign a leitmotif. They would also vary but have an over-riding theme and mood. It is fun to do. Music has that ability to move me and help me understand life's circumstances and those around me. The classic example for my wife and I was my choosing the theme from "Tristan und Isolde" (also Wagnerian) for one of our Wedding songs. Of course we had the traditional ones, sung by our favorite baritone, wedding singer from our church, but I just had to have this leitmotif. I wouldn't use the word "pathos" for our wedding, but it has that quality of yearning. There are certain Italian Opera Arias, especially tenor ones, which also have the same effect on me.

Voltaire is quoted: "Anything too stupid to be said, is sung." I disagreed, sorry, Voltaire. I would say, "Anything too profound to be said, is sung." From the early cavemen, who probably gathered for the first concerts at the mouth of enormous caves with the first percussion insturments and vocal to the latest rock concerts under the stars in gigantic amphitheaters, trivial and profound communication does take place and we are moved. Digital recordings of it now just don't do it justice. Live performances stir the soul for me. I only wish that the best concert venues, i.e. The Disney Concert Hall in downtown L.A., weren't so out of reach for me. Rarely do you get any big concerts, even at the colleges anymore. Everything is eventually recorded and put on the smallest of screens like ipods etc. Big thrill!

Maybe that's what "heaven" (or hell) will be like for massive concert after another of all my LEITMOTIFS forever after... Ah Bliss! Bob!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Ten Thousand Veiled Suns

Pardons begged from Khaled Hosseini and his latest best seller, "A Thousand Splendid Suns". This is a quote from one of his favorite Farsi Poets about the beauty of Afghanistan. It may have been a land of beauty to some but to me, the culture that continues to barely survive there is anything but Splendid. Now we are hearing of the return of the Taliban. I can only imagine with horror what atrocities will also return.

Hosseini's first book, "Kite Runner" was a wonderful book. I blogged on it here. Now, I guess, it is being considered for a movie. It gave just the beginning insights into the "Male Dominated" culture of Afghanistan a few years back. What an eye-opener. It is so hard to believe that such a "tribal mentality" still exists in this world, especially in the Islamic World. Now his second book continues to reveal this primitve culture from the "Submissive Female" point of view. Actually, these women are only outwardly submissive. His story offers a glimmer of hope for those who can survive the physical part of the domination. (a feeling of "safety" inside a burka is reported) In an recent article in the L.A. Times, he expresses the hope that this society will progress and evolve to one of equality but not through "Macho American Intervention" i.e. forced democracy etc. like we are trying to do in Iraq.

How can any society hope to make it when they discount half of their human resources, hiding them in burkas and let the other half blow themselves up? There was an excellent commentary on Good Morning America today with Diane Sawyer about this very situaltion in the Gaza Strip. When you have jihadists blowing up their own, not just Jews and Christians, what have you really got...idiotsy. How long can they continue to do this? Their sense of frustration is so great, with their daily needs not being met by any kind of civil government, that they just continue to self destruct. (Almost like rats in a blistering hot desert cage)

A few days ago the L.A. Times had another excellent article in their "Column One" feature on the left of the front page entitled: "A Veiled-eye View of Saudi Segregation" It was a heart-felt report from Megan K. Stack who was recently back from being "embedded" in the above culture (Saudi) based in Egypt for many years. What insights she had, being a female reporter and having to wear the abaya, which, I guess is similar to the burka. She expressed an exasperation with it from the moment she had to don the full-length veil in the airplane arriving, to when she threw it off departing. And no one seemed to notice her frustration. It was as though women were expected to cover themselves completely so they won't "tempt" the men into any "unholsome thoughts or acts". Ridiculous! And yet, it wasn't too long ago that our leading presidential candidate, Jimmy Carter, had to publically confess that he had "lust in his heart" when he looked at certain women. And then, of course, there's Bill Clinton.

What is so fearful about an "empowered woman"? Is she going to cut your "you know what off"? Is she going to "swallow you up" with her superior competence? Are we that threatened by them? Our pop culture sure has fallen for the young, lean ones lately, who "kick butt". Jessica Alba after all is one of the "Fantastic Four". She better watch out, look what happen eventually to Jane Fonda...hip replacement from all that aerobisizing.

Seriously though, what will Islamic women have to do to be considered equal and valued. The poor heroine in "Thousand" eventually had to kill her husband in self-defence. Then she was summarily sentenced to a swift death in the arena. This was less than 10 years ago in Kabul (in the book) but I bet it is still happening all over the Islamic world. They just don't have a chance, even with increased educational opportunities. They are allowed to be doctors, teachers etc. all service and helping occupations, but not leaders politically or scientifically.

When we visited Istanbul, Turkey last year around this time I was struck with a number of incongrueties: gigantic mosques, lavishly carpeted, (smelly too) but only for the men; women beggars, who turned out to be pick-pockets, used by men in cues of tourists; proud husbands (heads up) carrying their male infants to the mosque to be dedicated with the dutiful wife(s) following the appropriate steps behind, heads downcast; circles of men only chanting and beating themselves in a public display of sadistic sanctitude(?). So they not only beat on their women.

What do we (our culture) have to fear from such a "primitive one"? Much. One of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, read the Koran for just this reason. When he was president, he had "dealings" with this culture and it was not even then in its early stages. We are the "infidel" and we are to be eliminated, not assimilated as we might try to do. i.e. Congressman Ellison's swearing on T.J.'s Koran recently. What are we thinking? We are not "The Borg"! Bob