Sunday, April 25, 2010

Viva Las Vegas Kindness

From the Parkville Luminary

LAS VEGAS—Is there a kinder, more considerate city than Las Vegas?

Take the casinos, for example. They’re just so nice there that you almost have to pinch yourself to see if you are dreaming. They give you a big smile when you walk in, and they always say good luck. Why, they’re so charming that they even offer you free booze—and you get as much as you want. Just like nice Midwesterners, the kind casino folk don’t seem to mind at all if you get a little tipsy (they do object to stumbling down drunk), even if your tipsiness might somehow impair your good judgment. At the friendly casinos here, they don’t judge you, they just want you to have a good time.

In addition, considerate, pretty girls, like the wholesome kind you would see in any Midwestern small town seem to congregate here in abundance. The Daisy Maes, and Daisy Dukes, are out in force. At the casinos, they have apparently taken every pain to hire only the most beautiful young ladies as waitresses, probably because beautiful women are better at serving drinks. Like their country cousins, the young casino waitresses are always dressed in only the most tasteful outfits (“ancient slave-girl” and “painful bustier” seem to be popular motifs).

The same type of young ladies can be seen on the streets of Las Vegas as well, and they are just as kind as they can be. Some of these ladies were even considerate enough to flirt with me. Now, were this any other American city, I would think that they had ulterior motives, and perhaps that they were “businesswomen” trolling for customers. But here in Vegas—perish the thought! These young women were just being considerate, knowing that it would make me feel a little less old if they flirted with me. Why, these street women are so considerate, they even wore low-cut dresses, short shorts, and makeup that looked like it was applied by a trowel. I can live without the makeup, but it was nice of them to think of me—the Las Vegas conventioneer—when they dressed themselves in the morning.

A great deal of kindness and consideration is also on display here on nearly every street corner, where clusters of racks offer up free newspapers. Of course in Parkville or anywhere else, you have to pay for newspapers that you buy from a rack, but in Vegas, they must really care about keeping their residents and visitors informed. Granted, some of these publications aren’t as famous as the kind that cost money, or have reporters, but any newspaper is a valuable community resource, right? One such publication, “College Girls”, no doubt includes study guides, fashion articles, and dating advice for coeds. Another ubiquitous publication, “After Hours”, is undoubtedly related to on-line stock trading that takes place during the evening. The most colorfully titled newspaper, “Barely Legal Asian Girls”, unquestionably tells stories about Asian women who, having recently obtained visas (that’s the barely legal part), are hard at work accumulating capital so that they can open nail salons.

Strangely, there weren’t any newspaper rack clusters at the convention center. However, there were classier gussied-up women adorning the exhibition hall there that hosted the National Association of Broadcasters/Broadcast Education Association annual convention. The exhibition hall was crammed full of advanced broadcasting electronics, fancy audio/video stuff. Every exhibitor seemed to have a considerate, well-dressed, attractive woman greeting passers-by and kindly distributing information about their camera or microphone or electronic doohickey. In other cities, these info-distributors may have been sweaty men or other unappealing types. Only in Vegas are they nice enough—considerate enough—to hire nice, pretty, friendly types that make browsing for electronics a delightful experience.

In fact, everything about Las Vegas is delightful, and I don’t just mean free booze, newspapers, and comely lasses. Many of the shows have considerately resurrected ancient stars like my son’s favorite, Cher, and Donny and Marie, who don’t look like they’ve aged a day in the last 20 years. Also, some of the big hotel shows are throwing a line to foundering “stars” of today like Carrot Top. (Is there a more annoying human being?) Since hiring Branson-quality entertainers like these can’t possibly have anything to do with making money or building prestige, the only conclusion to reach is that these delightful hotels are just being kind to the stars.

So, the next chance you get, spread a little kindness, Las Vegas style. I know I plan to start by passing out some free newspapers to my Park University students.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Census nonsense

From the Parkville Luminary

Taking a page straight out of George Orwell’s “1984”, the United States Federal Government is using the 2010 census as an excuse to compile information that will eventually be used to further enslave and control the citizenry.

Don’t believe me? Google “census and big brother”, and you’ll get 773,000 hits.

Skeptics of this government conspiracy theory (Google “census and government conspiracy” and get 1.3-million hits) need look no further than the Internet for proof of this malevolent plot.

“Census workers are already on the streets of America, and they’re doing more than just jotting down the number of people in your home. They have been given the task to mark the Global Positioning System (G.P.S) coordinates of every house in the United States of America… Over zealous (sic) collection of facts such as household income, description of your property, whether you have running water, a shower or bathtub, type of heating system, the type of fees you have to pay in your community, rental or mortgage payment amounts, (etc.) is requested on some forms. .. This is all way too much information and power for any governing body to have over its citizens,” wrote one blogger. (
Armed with the information that I have a flush toilet, there’s no telling what our shadowy government might accomplish.

Read on: “Why would the U.S. Government desire the exact location of your front door to be entered into their GPS data base when they already have the location of your home in the system?” (one writer) asked. … What would happen in the case of a nationwide emergency? Many United Nations troops, who are not English speaking and are greatly unfamiliar with layout of your town, could use them to locate a home or business that they are required to police or the houses of citizens these UN troops are sent into to take them into custody. Foreign troops are always going to be more willing than any U.S. soldiers to stop an uprising of United States citizens fed up with an increasingly socialist/fascist governing body.” (

I had always suspected that the census is an international conspiracy featuring foreign speakers and the U.N. ready to swoop in the steal our sovereignty.
Another equally prescient Internet writer also has a firm grip on the real reasons behind the census. “What might be the purpose of asking personal and intrusive information? Among the several reasons are: For taxation; For identifying the location of each and every one of us; For deciding who is "fit" to participate in national service, whether it be in the military, paramilitary, or civilian or quasi-civilian "volunteer" organizations; To identify and locate those that might cause trouble; It's very Orwellian, don't you think?” (

For additional clarity on the issue, one need look no further than that oracle of sanity and wisdom, Glenn Beck.
“Beck: Why were they asking the race question, you said when, in 1790? … Right, they want to know, do you count as three-fifths? Do you count at all? So, you have to know how many slaves did you have?...Now reverse it, why are they asking this question today?

Co-host: Because minorities are worth more than whites.
Beck: Exactly right. So you will get more dollars if you are a minority. So you are worth more as a minority. Well there is no difference... At least in 1790, they were doing it to slow the South down on slavery…Today they are asking the race question to try to increase slavery. Your dependence on the master in Washington. No way, don’t answer that question.” (

So, if you fill out your census, you are abetting slavery, laying a foundation for a U.N. takeover of the U.S., and empowering a government bent on subjugating its citizenry. Of course if you don’t, you can be fined $5000. For those of us thinking clearly, the choice on whether to fill out the census is obvious.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

More MSG, Please!

From the Parkville Luminary

NEW YORK--This must be what it feels like when a lover of musical theater makes her first trip to Broadway or the West End. Or, perhaps this feeling is akin to the warm glow a barbeque enthusiast must get when he first steps foot into culinary nirvana at Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque.

I’ve got that cloud-nine feeling myself, but it has nothing to do with musicals or ribs. (Random thought—why not a musical about ribs, featuring a saucy chorus line?) No, I’m all aglow and atwitter (not the cyber kind) thanks to a recent visit to a personal bucket-list destination, the kind of place that is a must see for someone of my persuasion. My persuasion, my passion, is college basketball. Thus, my mecca is the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden.

For the uninitiated, MSG (the arena’s owners do not support use of this abbreviation) has been the undisputed king of college basketball for decades. It plays host to St. John’s University games as well as a number of special events like the Jimmy V classic. Those who have played and coached at MSG are too numerous to mention, but constitute college hoops royalty.

There have been four buildings bearing the MSG name, and the current one, which seats 19,763 for basketball, opened in 1968. ( )

MSG’s most famous college hoops tournament is the National Invitation Tournament, which began in 1938, one year before the NCAA tournament. For many years, it was the more prestigious of the two, but today is derided as the Not Invited Tournament, since those not good enough to get invited to the NCAA tourney end up at the NIT as a consolation prize.

Despite its diminished luster, I jumped at the chance to attend the recent NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden, since I had never been there before.

My visit to college hoops heaven actually began a stone’s-throw away from the arena at a local restaurant and watering hole. Like any serious college hoops junkie, I know that at most college events, beer isn’t served, so I figured I’d have a couple before I entered the arena. The “bahw” was filled with loud, fist-bumping, f-bomb dropping eastern guys that are so frequently, and in this case accurately, portrayed in the movies. Avoiding these guys, I got a good spot near the TV, and enjoyed a few libations ($4 pints=almost free in NYC).

My upper lip now sufficiently stiff, I walked one block to the arena in the equivalent of a monsoon. I love you, New York, but you can keep your damned nor’easters. These storms do not mess around, and I come from Kansas, where we know and respect nasty weather.

I walked silently and reverently into MSG, awestruck. Now, there’s nothing especially extraordinary about the building itself. (The same can be said of old Yankee stadium, which was a real dump). Still, you can almost feel the ghosts inside MSG, hear the crowd, and see the buzzer-beaters from generations past. I slowly promenaded entirely around MSG, trying to notice every little detail. First, it seemed surprisingly small to me. There isn’t one giant concourse, instead, there are multiple levels, each with a smaller enclosed concourse just serving that one section. This contributes to a sense of intimacy. I also loved the banners hanging from the ceiling, most of which celebrate ancient Knicks or Rangers titles. My favorite banner said “Lou Carnasecca—526”, for the impressive number of wins rung up by the former St. John’s coach.

Even if there had been no basketball, I would’ve gotten my money’s worth out of my visit to MSG by just looking around. This is a good thing, since the NIT semifinals that night really stunk. Yes, the games (Mississippi-Dayton; North Carolina-Rhode Island) were tight and competitive, but it didn’t take a college basketball junkie to see why these four were not invited to the NCAA tournament. Carolina was by far the most athletic of the semifinalists, but played very erratically, good only for a few minutes at a time. It’s clear how they lost 16 games this season.

Even with the mediocre basketball, I consider my trip to MSG a rousing success. Next up on my mecca list: visits behind the scenes at the New York Times; to the most expensive, snottiest, highest rated restaurant in Paris; and to the Oval Office. No beer before my White House visit, I promise.

Friday, April 2, 2010

All students deserve state support

From the Parkville Luminary

My nephew is like a lot of young people his age—hard working, ambitious, and strapped for cash. Like many of his peers, he is both working full time and attending college full time. Since his parents can’t help him financially, he is paying for his classes at Park University himself, although his salary isn’t enough to cover all of his expenses. My nephew depends on Missouri Access needs-based grants to help him get by.

If Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and some legislators have their way, my nephew and 452 of his Park University classmates may be out of luck next year. Gov. Jay Nixon has proposed cutting $50 million in state funding to private university students throughout Missouri by completely eliminating the need-based Access Missouri and merit-based Bright Flight scholarships for private school students. There are 15,550 students at private universities benefiting from Missouri Access/Bright Flight this year, according to the Keep Me in College Coalition. Aside from Park, other smaller universities and their students will suffer, like the 437 Missouri Baptist University students who receive Access Missouri/Bright Flight funds. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 3-24-10). The reason for the bill is to help close the state’s anticipated $500-million budget gap next year.

This short-sighted proposal must be stopped dead in its tracks.

First, eliminating funding denies private university students the option of choosing the university that best fits their needs. MU-Columbia and UMKC are fine colleges, but they’re not for everyone. Since 1875, students have chosen more intimate universities like Park because of the smaller class sizes and faculty committed first and foremost to teaching.

In an open letter to the Park community, Park University President Dr. Michael Droge expressed his alarm at Nixon’s Missouri Access proposal. Dr. Droge wrote, “The suggested redistribution of these much needed scholarship funds may force students to public institutions, which do not always offer the academic programs or student services available in private colleges and universities.”

There is a fundamental issue of fairness at play. Families of private college students pay taxes too, and have a right to see at least some of their tax money wisely used to support higher education grants for their students. “Shrinking financial aid resources have made it a challenge for all Missouri students; therefore, eliminating these tax-funded programs for students whose families have paid taxes is wrong. Parents pay state taxes in part to ensure that their children’s education, including higher learning options, is secure. Private colleges and universities serve thousands of Missouri’s need-based students each year, without receiving the significant state funding public universities do,” penned Dr. Droge.

In making this recommendation, Nixon is rejecting the recommendation of the Access Missouri Work Group. This group, consisting of 10 private and public higher education institution presidents, came together to reach consensus on the distribution of financial aid in Missouri. This group wrote, "The state should continue to provide need-based financial aid to eligible students attending public two-year, public four-year and independent [private] institutions in Missouri through a program that is easily understood, predictable and portable."

Though the proposal to completely cut aid is clearly misdirected, one possible solution might be to equalize the grant amounts available to both private and public university students. Currently, Access Missouri awards a maximum of $4,600 a year to private university students and up to $2,150 for students at state schools. Although it wouldn’t be desirable, at least retaining private university grant funding up to the state level of $2,150 would be much better than nothing, particularly for students at Park, where the tuition is comparable to that at state schools.

Nixon’s proposal was winding its way through the legislature at presstime. If the bill is still “in play”, and if you are concerned about Park University and its low income students, contact Gov. Nixon (573-751-3222, e-mail- ) and voice your objections. My nephew, and hundreds of others like him, appreciate your efforts.