Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Daily Briefs: Bodies Revealed; Kansas Surveillance Cameras; Tim Russert, WTF?

Posted By on Wed, Feb 27, 2008 at 9:20 AM


• Kansas City, Kansas, is mounting surveillance cameras in high-crime neighborhoods.

Community Watch volunteers will be able to monitor the cameras via the internet. And if you think there aren't any people interested in pretending that they're Batman from the warm safety of their basement rec-rooms, you haven't been watching To Catch a Predator. The cameras will give them something to do when they're not pretending to be 14-year-old girls whose parents aren't home.

• In accordance with a bold new "protecting children" initiative, local Catholic officials say the Bodies Revealed exhibit at Union Station is not appropriate for school field trips. Following the decades-long "Clergy Revealed" exhibit which closed in a cloud of lawsuits and retribution, there's a new sensitivity in the church toward exposing children to creepy stuff. Bodies Revealed gives me the howling fantods, but then, so does this:

• All that unpleasantness the church thought was behind it is still standing right in front of it. Two new John Doe lawsuits have been filed against former Kansas City priests.

• Oh, look. It's a picture of your boyfriend:


• Kids have stupid ideas for experiments. They're like adorable little bad scientists! At Schlagle High School, a student committee thought that it would be a good idea during Black History Month to segregate the dark-skinned and light-skinned students and confer special treatment and extra benefits to one group — just like in the 1950s!

My favorite detail might be that the sorting process involved comparing relative pigmentation of each student to the color of a brown paper bag. Grown-ups were involved! The kind of grown-ups who, on hearing this idea, probably thought, "Well, it's no stupider than any of their other ideas." When you work in school, I think you get pretty jaded to the ideas kids come up with. From this awesome archive, this kid's science experiment is called "PLANTS AND POP."


• Trying to convince myself this actually happened in real life, rather than in a very special episode of Diff'rent Strokes in which Arnold encounters racism, is making me dizzy with cognitive dissonance. But Tim Russert chose to celebrate Black History Month last night by pelting Barack Obama with a litany of the most horrible public statements of Louis Farrakhan — just to inject the presidential campaign with some of the creepy sublimated racial tension he thought might be missing from the debate. Last month, I founded a think-tank called the Chris Packham Heritage Eagle Forum For the Development of Enterprise, staffed with conservative ideologues and propagandists charged with the responsibility of developing suitable replacements for the word "douchebag." Until their results are in, I don't have an appropriate name to call Tim Russert. Please leave suggestions in comments.

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Not in Kansas Anymore

Posted By on Wed, Feb 27, 2008 at 7:16 AM



BlogKC spotted this link, a farcical yet helpful Web site for educating out-of-towners. It was apparently created by "Concerned Missourians for Truth," which is sick of explaining our curious twin-cities-that-aren't-really-twins phenomenon when they travel outside the Midwest.

A word of caution: They claim that the existence of a Kansas City, Kansas, is purely mythical, which is sure to spark some hurt feelings among those who know "Kansas City, Kansas: It's Not for Amateurs!"

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Daily Briefs: Funkhouser's Finances; Our Magnificent Airport; a Satanic Economic Forecast

Posted By on Tue, Feb 26, 2008 at 10:02 AM


• State ethics officials have been looking into Mayor Mark Funkhouser's campaign finance reporting, but papers reviewed by The Kansas City Star are so completely

without interesting malfeasance that reporters Michael Mansur and Dave Helling spend the bulk of the article entertaining each other with the filthiest language I've ever seen in public affairs journalism. No, I'm kidding — it's exactly as boring as it sounds! What is the exact opposite of News of the Weird? The 4 a.m. farm reports or this.

• Two Kansas City police officers were injured when one patrol car slammed into the back of another during pursuit of a carjacking suspect on slick roads.

• Kansas City International Airport ranks third-lowest on a U.S. News and World Report misery index that tracks the percentage of delayed flights and crowds. People love our airport!

• Do you remember the restored scene in the 25th Anniversary Edition of The Exorcist when the kid came spider-walking down the stairs upside down? And how unbelievably scary that was? Larry Elliot, economics editor of The Guardian, explains the coming global economic collapse to similar effect. Like any good economics reporter, I was going to post a picture of Linda Blair, but I just remembered that I already did that yesterday. Instead, here is a picture of the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference at Bretton Woods in 1944:


• As the corporate headquarters of Sprint, Overland Park has the distinction of being the bad-customer-service capitol of the entire planet. It's a real point of pride for the company, based on the duration and consistency of its service. The Consumerist has this hilariously awful story in which a man's new contract is quadrupled and his bank account drained, all during the course of a weekend when — of course — the ordering department is closed.

• Look, I enjoy Dario Argento movies, violent auto collisions and comedy derived from inhuman cruelty as much as the next diagnosed borderline personality. But I'm not made of stone, people. I'm flesh and blood, just like you — I can be killed by fire, tornadoes and bullets and absolutely destroyed by a 3-year-old kid explaining the plot of Star Wars:

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Joe Posnanski Goes to Arizona and Loses His Grip on Reality

Posted By on Tue, Feb 26, 2008 at 9:54 AM



Kansas City sports fans are lucky to have a writer as talented as Joe Posnanski covering their teams. If you don’t know what I mean, spend a few weeks subsisting on the poop Woody Paige leaves on Denver doorsteps every other day.

Yeah, it’s nice to be greeted by Joe’s big ol’ round head after getting through the Metro section. But his annual “The Royals are going to win the division!” column is a source of dread.

The Royals have been so bad for so long that even sunny Joe can’t write the column with a straight face. In this year’s edition of Hope Springs Eternal, Posnanski cops to thoughts of suspending the tradition. But the smell of freshly cut Arizona sod and an e-mail poll trumped reason. So at spring training, the Poz huddled with some unnamed baseball men, and from under their Panama hats out came these turds:


Hillman got tossed in Japan  

“To me, the difference is [new manager] Trey Hillman. Take a look and see what Eric Wedge did as manager in Cleveland.”

Number of years it took Wedge’s Indians to win the division: Five.

“Team environment is everything.”

Things actually more important than “environment”: Hitting, pitching, defense, base running, powder-blue uniforms, bat day.

“Brian Bannister is going to win 15 games.”

Bannister is a fun player. Not overly talented, he tends to get outs with his wits more than anything. But as much as they might be rooting for him, few educated people expect Bannister to match his 2007 performance (12-9, 3.87 ERA).

To evaluate pitchers, nerds have to come like a stat called batting average on balls hit in play. The research indicates that BABIP is largely a function of defense and the whims of the baseball gods. A typical BABIP is .290. Bannister’s was .264 last year, suggesting that Royals defenders’ mitts intercepted an unusually high number of hard-hit balls. Watch, those line drives will land for doubles in 2008.

“Brett Tomko is going to win 15 games.”

If a scout really said this, he should be fired immediately for incompetence. Brett Tomko sucks. The man hasn’t won 15 games, like, ever. Yet, according to Posnanski’s column, some sunburned, cigar-chomping fool actually thinks Tomko, at age 34, is going to win as many games as Johan Santana and Daisuke Matsuzaka did last year. Instead of writing down this quote, Joe should have punched the scout in the face.


Yes, David, you’re out  

“You know, David DeJesus, last year was really his first full season.”

Year DeJesus made his major-league debut: 2003.

Year DeJesus first started the majority of Royals games in CF: 2004

Year DeJesus first logged at least 450 at-bats: 2005.

“It was really Mark Teahen’s first full season.”

Teahen’s career at-bats: 1,384.

2006 NL MVP Ryan Howard’s career at-bats: 1,461.

“I think with David DeJesus, Mark Grudzielanek, Mark Teahen, Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Joe Guillen and all the others, we’re going to score a lot of runs.”

In 2007, only Guillen was better offensively than the average player at his position. Gordon and Butler seem poised for great things. But when DeJesus, Teahen and a 37-year-old second baseman comprise the core of your attack and you play in the American League, the words “a lot” and “runs” do not belong in the same sentence.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Monday Music Junkie: The Black Keys, the Roots, Live tracks from the National, and More

Posted By on Mon, Feb 25, 2008 at 11:53 AM




Photo by Melanie Pullen for Fat Possum Records

Akron, Ohio’s Black Keys called on Danger Mouse and a handful of guests to flesh out their two-piece sound for LP5. Stream the first single, “Strange Times,” at the duo’s MySpace page. Attack & Release hits stores April Fool’s Day on Nonesuch.

Thought @ Work

The Roots return with Rising Down on April 29. Lyricist Black Thought has been quoted as saying, “I want to be the first rap artist to actually make a good 10th record,” although there isn’t much competition (LL Cool J?). “75 Bars (Black’s Reconstruction)” is the first taste from the upcoming LP. Listen to it at


Click More for more Junkie.

Continue reading »

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And the Winner Is...

Posted By on Mon, Feb 25, 2008 at 11:47 AM

The winner of The Pitch Ultra Music DJ Contest is... these guys!


Photo by Emily Moore (

Woo! Congratulations, Nomathmatics. You guys rocked this past Friday night at NV. Enjoy your trip to Miami. Send us a postcard.

To the other DJs: Thank you — you were all phenomenal.

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Daily Briefs: Be Afraid of, and for, the Children

Posted By on Mon, Feb 25, 2008 at 9:07 AM




• In a potentially lethal collision of trucks and children, a pickup truck rear-ended a stopped school bus in Kansas City, Kansas, injuring 10 students. Remember: School buses don't have seat belts, and I understand that children have soft little fontanelles where their skull bones have not yet ossified. That's what a local news broadcaster might be inclined to call a deadly combination. If you're allowing your children to ride to school each morning in the district's yellow death machines, I hope you've been paying the premiums on their Li'l Colonial Fidelity Tiny Tyke term life insurance policies.



• Jacob Jett, the Independence teen who allegedly hired hit men to kill his parents, apparently had some grown-up gambling debts. Could your children have gambling debts? Be very, very afraid of your children, because I swear to Christ, they are coming for you. If you're afraid that your child has a gambling problem, call 1-888-BETS-OFF, or screw it, just wrestle him to the ground and pin him until the police arrive. Although he'll probably kill you and escape.


• Christopher D. Snyder, the Lee's Summit firefighter accused of attempting to entice a simulated internet teen into illegal sexual activity, pleaded guilty. This is why you should be terrified for the virtual e-children. If you cyber-prick them, do they not iBleed? The victim in this case was an undercover law enforcement officer, but it could just as easily have been a living, breathing 14-year-old girl loaded up with societal narratives about brave, strong firefighters and their sexxxy fundraising calendars. If you live near a fire department, or you're afraid your house might catch on fire and attract the attention of firefighters, you should protect your children with firearms. Please note that your children are extremely likely to find your firearms and accidentally kill themselves, in which case you should be terrified for them. Unless they use those firearms to deliberately kill you, in which case you should be terrified of them.



• Jackson County prosecutors charged three teens with robbery. Police suspect that they were members of a gang tied to a good dozen robberies. This is why kids should not be allowed to congregate in unsupervised groups. If you see two or more teens standing in proximity to one another, assume they're hunting the deadliest prey -- humans. Retreat in an evasive zig-zag path, keep your head low, and look for the nearest policeman. Firefighters should be avoided.


• Not only did sixth-grade teacher David B. Shanks, who taught students in Holden, Missouri, have child pornography on his home computer, he allegedly attempted to entice a virtual 13-year-old boy who lived in the internet realm where all virtual boys live. I don't want to linger on this creepy story because, like Shiites and Sunnis, irony and child porn don't mix well. But if you are sending your children to school each day, be aware that their teachers will probably molest them.



• Three Independence boys were hospitalized after taking what KMBC Channel 9 describes as "too many boxes of Benadryl." The story does not specify how many boxes of Benadryl are safe to take at one sitting. Two? Three? Benadryl overdose causes sedation, highs and hallucinations. Which is why you should be absolutely terrified about all the advertising pharmaceutical companies do on Nickelodeon. However, the story quotes a doctor saying, "You can become combative, start punching people -- punching doctors and parents and nurses and friends." If your child exhibits any of these symptoms, you can legally shoot them because they now meet the legal criteria of zombies. Remove the head or destroy the brain.

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One-Way Fare to St. Joe, Please

Posted By on Mon, Feb 25, 2008 at 7:13 AM



The Kansas City, Clay County & St. Joseph Railway collected fares from more than 2 million passengers in 1923. Known as the “maroon line” for the colors of its cars, it stretched 78 miles and touched four counties.

Today, of course, Amtrak is the only passenger rail option in these parts. But a century ago, five independently owned and operated companies connected Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri, to suburban areas.

Ed Conrad, a retired technical writer who lives in Blue Springs, tells the story of Kansas City’s interurban lines in a book titled Heartland Traction. With Mayor Mark Funkhouser attempting to muster support for a regional light-rail plan, I decided to chat with Conrad about the days rail tied Olathe, Leavenworth and Liberty to the urban core.

We think of rail as a means of ameliorating sprawl. But your book seems to suggest that interurban lines played a part in spreading us out.

[City] streetcars, you might say, contributed to some what we now think of as suburban sprawl. But it was the interurban that contributed even more so, because interurbans allowed people to live in communities much further removed from the city than what the streetcars would allow.

Interurbans, having their own private right of way, could go fast, and that means people could travel longer distances in the same amount of time they could on a city streetcar. So that’s when started we seeing outlying places like Lenexa, Overland Park, Olathe, Leavenworth, Bonner Springs and to the north, Excelsior Springs, and to the far north, St. Joe. And then communities in between all those began to develop as a result of the interurban.

You have the ability to time travel. Which of the five lines you describe in your book would you want to ride first?

Well, I’d probably want to ride the Kansas City, Clay County & St. Joe, because that was built to such high standards. It was a very fast line. There is evidence that in the flats area north of Kansas City, going up to St. Joe, it could reach speeds of 70 miles an hour. Seventy miles an hour to people around the turn of the [last] century would be almost like supersonic travel today in an airplane.


Cable car employees in 1895 Kansas City.

What’s the condition of the tracks these lines used? Can they be of use to transportation planners today?

Well, no, the tracks are all gone. All of these interurban lines – with the exception of some tracks that have been relaid in one of the parks in Overland Park, where the Strang Line used to run, and they’re only there like museum pieces – but all of the tracks that the lines ran on are all gone.

What about the right-of-way?

Some of the right-of-way still exists, particularly on the Kansas City, Clay County & St. Joe, because the northern part of Kansas City was not developed as much and as fast as the southern part. So there are places, especially along the line that ran between Kansas City and Excelsior Springs.

I’m making you king. Give me a practical light-rail proposal.

Well, I’m not a real proponent of light rail… I feel that light rail has to serve all parts of the metro area, which means Missouri but also Kansas. But the folks in Kansas are really dragging their feet. Which is unfortunate, because right now that’s where the wealth of Kansas City is… So right now we need their support – their financial support, their political support, and we're just not getting it. Mayor Funkhouser has work cut out for him trying to bring them into the fold.

Beyond that, I really don’t have any preferences about particular routes. I think the routes that would have to be considered, though, would basically be the corridors of our freeways. [Interstate] 35 South, that would be the route I would start with first, because that’s where so much of the traffic is. And then I would probably look at 35 North and portions of 29…

So when you say you’re not a fan of light rail, does that mean you don’t think the starter route would really accomplish anything? You think we have to build something monumental.

That would be the preference. But from a practical point of view, we’re going to have to get in line to get the federal money to do all this. There are lot of other cities that are in line already. I would think it would probably be somewhere between five years at the very least and probably more like 10 years before we get the money to do very much. Because of that, some people say that what we ought to do is build a starter line within the city that we could finance through our means. But a starter line like that is just nothing more than another streetcar line, and it’s not going to have all the attributes that a real light-rail system is going to have. [Light rail] does have some street running, but it also has a lot of private right-of-way running. And that’s what you need -- you need the speed so that people can travel from outlying areas easily and rapidly into downtown Kansas City.

There are a lot of obstacles that have to be considered. The other obstacle is we have such a low population density here. Even though light rail in none of the cities makes money, they have to make a certain amount of money in order to quality for matching funds. And it would be difficult for us because of our light population density to achieve even that minimum. We have a lot of strikes against us here with trying to build a light-rail system here in Kansas City.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Pitch Ultra Music DJ Contest TONIGHT

Posted By on Fri, Feb 22, 2008 at 10:03 AM

Don't miss it.

Five of the best DJs in the city.

Facing off.

At NV (220 Admiral Blvd.)


Holy shit, it'll be good. So good, you'll jump like Tactic.


The contest begins with the first beat dropping at 8:30. The Mighty Five will play one 30-minute set each. There's no cover to get in before 9 p.m. Afterwards, it's $5.

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