Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dive alert: Grandstand Burgers

You can add a new name to the list of best burgers in Kansas City--Grandstand Burgers in Merriam, KS. Grandstand is another one of the mom-and-pop eating establishments along Merriam Lane and its little more than a hole in the wall or, in this case, a very small building.

The menu is simple, straightforward and tasty--hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches, fish sandwich, french fries, tater tots, malts/shakes, and Coke products. Standard dress on the burgers is mayo, mustard, ketchup, pickle, onions and tomato. The mayo-mustard-ketchup blends together into a nice sauce and the cheese on my burger was melted just right.

The single burger is plenty--I made the mistake of going double-cheeseburger and couldn't finish it. I had the tots and my wife had the fries--both were crispy and done to perfection.

When you come, don't expect an inside seat--by my count, there were two at the counter. There are three picnic tables outside or you can retire to the comfort of your car to consume your meal.

Check it out--Grandstand Burgers, 4942 Merriam Drive, 913-362-0111.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

How to enter a room

How do you enter a room? Yeah, yeah, I know--you open the door and walk in.

No, what I'm referencing here is the attitude one presents when entering a meeting room and the impression you provide before a meeting even begins.

Entrepreneur magazine tackled that very topic in an effort to give those of us in the business world a tip or two on how to enter, and command, a room.

Tip #1: When introduced to someone, say their name back to them and, most importantly, remember their name. Saying their name back to them, 20 or 30 minutes into the meeting, suggests respect.

Tip #2: Don't give out business cards before the meeting begins--you're not a card dealer.

Tip #3: Look everyone in the eye for a slight beat longer than is comfortable.

Tip #4: Don't carry yourself in a way that can be described as "jaunty" (their word--not mine. And, rather than explain it here, go ahead and look it up.)

Tip #5: If there are less than six people in the room, shake everyone's hand. If there are more than six, shake a few hands and nod to the rest--otherwise, the hand-shaking gets out of hand.

Tip #6: Avoid the phrase "let's do this!"

Tip #7: No fist bumps. (See #5.)

Tip #8: Don't talk about anything that isn't pleasant. For example, don't complain of the (a) heat, (b) cold, (c) that you have a cold or (d) the traffic.

The article concludes, "You're amiable and confident and pleased with the way things are going. You're ready to talk and to listen. You haven't given them any reason why they couldn't see themselves giving you a lot of money or offering you a contract or partnering with you in some way. You're someone they could see themselves doing business with, is what we're trying to say. All that, and you haven't even sat down yet."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Odds 'n' ends

- Women are better investors than men because they don't take as many risks with their money, according to a new study by Barclays Wealth and Ledbury Research. Women in the survey tended to buy stocks and hold them, trading less and thus more likely to earn more.

- If I would have told you a couple of years ago that a show called Pawn Stars would be one of the most successful on cable television, you would have laughed, right?

- Please don't tell our cat but being obese apparently has its advantages. Eddie, a 15-pound cat in Manhattan, was resting on a terrace recently when a red-tailed hawk swooped down and carried him off. Alas, the hawk wasn't able to hold on to chubby Eddie for long and dropped him in a garden behind a nearby building. Eddie fell five stories but escaped with minor scrapes and bruises. Eddie's owner had this to say, "The moral of the story is that your flaws can be an asset."

- A South Carolina couple claims that they see the face of Jesus on--get this--a Wal-Mart receipt. After returning from church recently, the couple noticed that the receipt had become discolored and looked to bear the image of a bearded man's face. Jacob Simmons, the holder of the receipt, said, "The more you look at it, the more it looked like Jesus." Everyday low prices, indeed!

- This week's TIME magazine writes about how men and women share work at home. While most believe that women carry the load at home with tasks like food preparation, child care and housework, TIME's research found that men and women with full-time jobs have almost equal total workloads, with or without kids under 18.

- Captain America is definitely a three star-out-of-four movie. If you go, be sure and stay through the credits in order to see a special trailer previewing The Avengers, due in theaters next summer.

- The Harry Potter movie franchise has earned $6.37 billion at the box office over the past decade. What's amazing is that exceeds the annual GDPs of more than 50 countries.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rant alert: Air travel

Those who are frequent readers of Musings, Notes & Quotes know that I have a low patience level for the current state of air travel in the U.S. After a full week of travel and another trip to come this week, let me expand upon my travel beefs:

- To the family of five: Do your homework and figure out that you can check in online at Southwest Airlines' website. And, also understand that those in the coveted A1-A15 slots in line paid a small premium for their tickets and also checked in prior to heading to the airport--thus they are not going to jump up to willingly give up aisle seats so that you and your three darling children can sit across the width of the airplane. (Footnote: My traveling companion, stuck next to said three "darlings," had this to say after exiting the plane last week--"I have changed my point-of-view about waterboarding." Word.)

- To the guy with the oversize duffel: The airline may not have been doing their job by allowing you to carry on this small body bag but all of the rest of us cowboyed-up and paid attention to directions. You should too--check the damn bag!

- To "chatty Kathy" sitting next to me: If my headphones are on and my face is buried in my iPad or Wall Street Journal, that is code for "please, I'm not being rude but I'd prefer you talk to the dude next to you who has no paperback, no newspaper and no apparent need for entertainment on the four-hour flight to San Francisco."

- To the guy who seemed to think that nudging me in the security line would actually make my briefcase and other items get through the x-ray machine more quickly--back off, bucko.

- To Southwest Airlines: I just want you to know how much I appreciate the lack of multiple direct flights to my intended destinations, thus setting up the dreaded "ladies and gentlemen, this is a totally full flight..." announcement on the airplane's intercom.

- And, finally, to those who think the current Kansas City International Airport is a fine facility: Really!? Have you spent any time in KCI recently in the overcrowded Southwest terminal or had your flight delayed with the only food options a Quizno's sub or pre-packaged salad which was likely made last week?

Whining? Yes, probably so. But, thanks for listening--I feel better. Now, off to KCI...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

John Mosca

Every so often, an obituary just happens to catch my eye. Yesterday was one of those moments as I perused The New York Times and other newspapers on the packed Southwest flight from Kansas City to Oakland.

In the obituary section of the Times was a reasonably sized obit for John Mosca. What was so special about Mosca? Mosca, 86, died in his Louisiana home last week, a victim of prostate cancer. What struck me was that his story was one which we now seem to read on a daily basis as we continue to lose members of "the greatest generation."

Mosca's story started in suburban Chicago where he was born and ultimately began working in his parent's restaurant. When World War II broke out, Mosca--as did so many in his generation--enlisted and served in the infantry. He was injured by shrapnel in Italy, earned two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, and came home where he immediately went to work again in the restaurant, now located in Louisiana after his family's move there. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Mosca family restaurant, west of New Orleans, became a destination for those seeking Louisiana seafood coupled with the family's Italian roots. A specialty of the house was the blue crab claws drenched in garlicky Italian dressing. Word spread of the tasty cuisine which ultimately included a broader menu and another specialty--baked gulf oysters in bread crumbs with chicken, a dish called chicken a la grande.

None other than New Yorker food critic Calvin Trillin (who once proclaimed Arthur Bryant's of Kansas City as "the greatest restaurant in the world") journeyed to Mosca's, and wrote a glowing article about the restaurant, and the owner, last November.

Mosca's survived not only time and changes in diners' tastes but also weather--the restaurant was so damaged by Hurricane Katrina that it took 10 months to re-build and re-open. Air conditioning was ultimately added to the building but a few things stayed constant--a cash only policy, the menu, the jukebox, and Mr. Mosca's constant presence.

Today, we salute another of the greatest generation who has passed--John Mosca, 86, of Hanrahan, Louisiana.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review: U2, St. Louis, 7.17.11

Guest Reviewer: Jared Goff

ST. LOUIS, MO – U2’s performance Sunday night at Busch Stadium began with a set straight from the time William Clinton was about to take the presidency from H.W. Bush. It's not at all a bad thing when the two albums from that time of U2 were like nothing they’ve done before or since. Bias aside, the three best “rock” songs U2 has written were over before we were 15 minutes into the show.

The atmosphere at the show after the opening was electric, perhaps better than any concert I’ve been at since the Stones pushed 70,000 baby boomers to fit their leather and bell-bottoms into the now Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. Busch Stadium was filled to capacity with a great mix of classic rock fanatics and young adults who grew up in the '80s and '90s.

After the opening set, things got random. The audience was treated to one of the oldest U2 radio hits then one of the newest. I judge live performances by songs I like or dislike more than the ones I’m neutral to. “Get On Your Boots” is my least favorite U2 song but was somehow very enjoyable to hear live with the booming riff from Edge. In that same category is another great song, “Where the Streets Have No Name.” I don’t listen to the studio version often--the ringing guitar riff is not done justice unless it’s performed live. Hearing "Streets” is as close to having a religious experience at a concert these days this side of hearing the Boss perform “Born in the U.S.A.”

During the second half of the show, U2 utilized the extravagant stage they’ve hung out on for nearly two years. The round and vertical display of what seems to be thousands of interconnected smaller displays is spectacular. During “Zooropa” and “City Of Blinding Lights,” the displays were extended to cover the vertical length of the set. Extravagant stages are successful if they simply complement the music rather than distract (see giant yellow arch from U2's Pop Mart Tour). The stage here put the foursome close up and personal with the audience, and Bono is better than anyone I’ve seen at interacting with an audience while performing.

Speaking of fan interaction, it was a nice touch when Bono read off the set list from U2’s first performance in St. Louis at a small venue on the Washington University campus. After 30 years, there’s no sign that they’re getting burned out or don’t enjoy performing as much as they did in the 1980s.

To wrap up the show, U2 added on a few more staples. “Walk On” and “One” seem to have become standard practice during or just before the encore. A pleasant surprise though was “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me.” My favorite song growing up along with Journey’s “Separate Ways,” it was the first time I’d heard the song performed live. The title track from Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever is an example of what makes U2 great in that it doesn’t sound like U2. So many groups either don’t know how or just don’t want to venture outside their comfort zone. U2 did that in the 1990s with mixed results but it ultimately made them one of the top five groups of all time, in this writer’s opinion.

Compared to other U2 shows, the stadium tours will always fall a little behind arena shows strictly because of acoustics. No other group could have drawn 60,000 fans without even a notable opening act as U2 did on Sunday. Even with a recent record that didn’t live up to the group’s expectations, there’s no reason to think U2 won’t be back in the Midwest a few years from now with an even bigger performance. Let’s just hope they choose their city more wisely next time.

Set list: Even Better Than the Real Thing, The Fly, Mysterious Ways, Until the End of the World, I Will Follow, Get On Your Boots, Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, Stay, Beautiful Day, Elevation, Pride (In the Name of Love), Miss Sarajevo, Zooropa, City of Blinding Lights, Vertigo, I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Walk On, Where the Streets Have No Name Encore: Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me; With or Without You; Moment of Surrender.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saturday morning coffee

- I am shocked about the news of J-Lo's split with Marc Anthony. Shocked, I say...

- Ricky Bobby turns 44 today. Happy birthday to actor Will Farrell!

- Much has been written about the passing of Friday Night Lights. Let's just say it again here, about the show which ended a five-year run last night--FNL was one of the best shows ever about the ins-and-outs of small-town life, featuring a terrific ensemble cast and a classic depiction of husband and wife, so masterfully acted by Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton.

- Speaking of J-Lo, Weeds star Mary Louise Parker had this to say about Lopez and her antics at the BAFTA Brits to Watch event which Prince William and Kate Middleton attended on their recent visit to the States. Said Parker, "I didn't meet them (Prince William and Middleton)--I was shoved out of the way by Jennifer Lopez. Uh oh, I shouldn't have said that."

- "We are sorry." That is the headline today in British newspapers as Rupert Murdoch tries to quell the uproar over the phone-hacking scandal which has shaken News Corp. It could be too little too late as Murdoch and his son and presumed successor, James, appear in front of Britain's parliament on Tuesday.

- Social media now accounts for one out of every six minutes spent online in the United States. (Source:

- A letter appeared in the Baltimore Sun on July 7 attacking U2 lead singer Bono's ONE campaign and accusing the band of moving their business to a tax haven in Holland in order to avoid the strict tax rates in Ireland. The Edge fired back with his own letter, writing that there are "so many inaccuracies that it is pointless to correct them all." He insisted that "U2 and individual band members have a totally clean record with every jurisdiction to which they are required to pay tax and have never been and will never be involved in tax evasion." The Edge, Bono, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, a k a U2, will appear at Busch Stadium in St. Louis tomorrow evening. Interpol will open the St. Louis show.

- And, finally, in the category of "I'm not making this stuff up," a prison inmate in Michigan is suing his jail for the right to read pornography. The convicted bank robber claims that he has "Chronic Masturbation Syndrome," and that the jail's ban on pornographic materials constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The 2011 Emmy nominations

- There are four actors from Modern Family nominated in the Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy category. Yet, this isn't the most nominees ever from one show. In 1982, five actors from Hill Street Blues were nominated--winner Michael Conrad, Charles Haid, Michael Warren, Bruce Weitz and Taurean Blacque. This year's nominees from Modern Family are Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, Ed O'Neill and Ty Burrell.

- This is the first year that only one drama from the broadcast networks is represented in the Best Drama Series category. CBS' The Good Wife garnered the only drama nomination from the four primetime networks.

- The Best Drama category is packed with worthy candidates, yet it's a shame that Justified didn't make the cut. Thankfully, Timothy Olyphant was nominated for Best Actor.

- Even with the controversy about the historical facts of the show, The Kennedys, which aired on ReelzChannel, scored a nomination in the Movies or Miniseries category.

- Nominee Chris Colfer (Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy) claims that he learned via Twitter that he'd be leaving Glee after next season. Colfer's Kurt Hummel character will, apparently, graduate from the show's fictional McKinley High.

- Mad Men scored 19 Emmy nominations. It's thus ironic that the popular series has been dark since October 17, 2010 and won't start again until sometime next year on AMC.

- Every year there are notable stars and shows left out when the nominations are announced for the Emmys. Here are some notable snubs given today's announcement: Sean Bean from Game of Thrones, Kyra Sedgwick of The Closer, Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele from Glee, Katey Sagal of Sons of Anarchy, plus The Walking Dead and True Blood from the Best Drama list.

- And, our quote of the day goes to Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter. Sons did not receive any nominations in the major Emmy categories so Sutter went to Twitter to air his frustration. Tweeted Sutter, "Best part of not getting an Emmy nod--now I don't have to pretend to give a s--- about the profiterring d-bag academy." Sutter, by the way, is married to Sagal, who stars as Jemma Teller on the show and deserved a nomination. (Sagal won a Golden Globe earlier this year for her role on Sons.)

Comings and goings

- Chief Executive magazine (yes, there is such a publication) selected Alan Mulally as CEO of the Year. Mulally is a 1969 graduate of the University of Kansas with undergraduate and graduate degrees in aeronautical and astronautical engineering.

- Tomorrow is a big day in Kansas City--the two Trader Joe locations open in our cowtown. The Missouri side location is at Ward Parkway Center and the Kansas location is at 119th and Tomahawk Creek Parkway.

- Also in the 119th Street corridor, there still is no confirmation that Oklahoma Joe's will go into the old TGIFriday's location.

- Need an app recommendation for iPad? Check out HitPad, a daily listing of the hottest trending topics on Twitter with resulting news information and stories.

- U2 invades the Midwest on Sunday with a stop in St. Louis at Busch Stadium. Check back in this space for a concert review next week.

- While bottled water sales have gained in the U.S., far more American consumers drink carbonated soft drinks than water. In 2010, per capita beverage consumption showed soft drinks in first (44.7 gallons), bottled water in second (28.3 gallons) and beer in third place (20.8 gallons.) Both soft drinks and beer declined from 2005 levels while water increased. (Source: Advertising Age)

Friday, July 8, 2011


Greetings from Branson! Yep, that's right, Branson, MO--home of fried foods; early dinners; bodies of every shape, size and mullet color; American flags (with a few Confederate flags thrown in); and amazing southwest Missouri scenery. I'm here for my annual golf trip with my son and there are few places better to observe the middle-class American consumer.

- Things you don't find in Branson: foreign cars, dinner reservations, linen shorts, bookstores, Apple products, Whole Foods and Starbuck's. (Okay, there's one Starbucks...)

- A year after Facebook achieved 500 million users, it announced that it now has 750 million users. Yet, there are lingering concerns that Facebook has plateaued, or at least slowed its growth. Last May, its audience in the U.S. fell from 155.2 million to 149.4 million. Globally, Facebook's reach continued to expand thanks to gains from heavily populated, developing countries. There is speculation that users of Facebook in the U.S. have tapped out on who they can "friend"--once you have friended past girlfriends/boyfriends, high school pals and current colleagues, your friends list stagnates. (Source: USA Today)

- How many bad movies is Kevin James going to be allowed to make?

- The American Idol tour kicked off in West Valley City, UT this week. The top 11 finishers on the show are part of the entourage which will perform 47 shows over the next few months. As expected, the Utah show was a sellout.

- Curb Your Enthusiasm starts season number eight on HBO, debuting this Sunday. Entourage will begin its eighth and final season on Sunday, July 24, also on HBO.

- Kansas City peeps--the Trader Joe's at Ward Parkway Center opens on Friday, July 15.

- Back on Branson--this tourist area tranformed into a major destination in 1983 when the 7,500 seat Swiss Villa Amphitheater opened. The venue was later named the Black Oak Mountain Amphitheater and, ironically, became a place where acts like Def Leppard, Lynryd Skynyrd, Ozzy Osbourne and REO Speedwagon performed. The next major move, also in 1983, was when Roy Clark of Hee Haw fame opened the Roy Clark Celebrity Theater. Clark thus became the first major country performer to have his own venue in Branson, paving the way for others to follow.

- Music sales are up 8.5%, year-over-year, during the first half of 2011, meaning that this is likely to be the first year of positive music sales since 2004. Not surprisingly, digital sales are driving the growth--digital album sales are up 20% and digital track sales are up 11%. (Source: AdAge Mediaworks)

- R.E.M is working on a new album, according to a web post from Michael Stipe. The band's last release, Collapse Into Now, was the last record of their contract with Warner Bros.

- Can someone explain why certain California wineries will ship product to Kansas and others will not? Just wonderin'...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Comings and goings

- Bridesmaids officially passed Sex & the City as the highest grossing female-based comedy ever.

- In local Kansas City news, Oklahoma Joe's is rumored to be soon opening a third barbecue restaurant, joining the original location off of Mission Road and the newer, suburban venue in Olathe. The speculation is that Okie Joe's will take over the former TGIFriday's space at 119th and Roe in Leawood.

- Glee's Darren Criss (Blaine Anderson) will be a regular cast member when the season begins anew in the fall. And, Chord Overstreet (Sam Evans) will occasionally appear on the show but will no longer be a regular actor on the hit series.

- Blair Underwood is going to make his Broadway debut in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire. Underwood is best known for his small screen turns on The Event, L.A. Law and Dirty Sexy Money.

- Quote of the week: The View host Joy Behar, when she heard that Oprah Winfrey wanted to interview O.J. Simpson if he'll confess to the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, said, "Oprah said her dream interview is O.J. Simpson. I can't wait for this to happen...I always wanted to know O.J.'s favorite things."

- According to various sources, American Idol judge Randy Jackson has been pitching a talk show concept to potential buyers. The proposed show would not be limited to just musical guests.

- And finally, I keep expecting a fantasy fashion league to start so that we can all guess Kate Middleton's wardrobe selections for the three days she'll be in Los Angeles with that Prince William fellow.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following entry is reprinted from this blog on July 4, 2010.

I have an axe to grind, America. Can we please stop commonly referring to this weekend's holiday as the "Fourth of July," and refer to it as "Independence Day?"

For a quick history lesson, on July 2 (yes, 2nd), 1776, the American colonies legally separated from Great Britain. This was accomplished when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve the resolution offered up by one of our Founding Fathers, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia. After voting for our country's independence, Congress then focused on the Declaration of Independence. This statement explained the decision of our forefathers and had been prepared by a committee of five men with Thomas Jefferson as the principal author. The wording was debated and reviewed by Congress and ultimately approved on July 4.

A day earlier, John Adams, another one of the five authors, wrote this to his wife Abigail:

- The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

The suggestion that Adams offered up, in this letter to his wife, turned out to be two days off from the ultimate date used for celebrating America's independence. While resolution of our independence occurred on July 2, the date on the Declaration of Independence is July 4.

To further complicate our history's calendar, the signing of the Declaration of Independence did NOT occur on July 4--rather, it was signed on August 2, 1776. So enduring was the myth that signing occurred on July 4 that both Jefferson and Adams, late in their lives, recalled the signing occurring on that date. And, as we all know, both men died on that very day--July 4, 1826--our country's 50th anniversary.

So, when observing our country's independence this weekend, and carrying out Adams' vision of how we should celebrate, let's do just that--honor our "independence"...not the "4th of July."