Sunday, December 26, 2004
I will be travelling to NM and back by car, starting today if I can avoid getting trapped in the Sierra Nevada Mountains by the slow-moving, yet relentlessly advancing storm, so I won't be posting again till January 4th. I hope to pass twice through Las Vegas (a convenient, fun, scary, and interesting halfway point), so I hope to have a few stories.
Christmas was nice: two (count them, two!) Christmas Eve masses at Sacred Heart Church (they always do such a nice job). And I'm not even a Catholic!
Thursday, December 23, 2004
When I was but 19, I lived briefly in Englewood, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. If I missed the first bus to work, I caught the second bus, which numerous retarded people also caught on their way to their work. It was a loopy good time, singing songs and sharing stories with these civil folk.
One weekend in downtown Denver, quite by accident, I ran into several of my retarded friends, who were busy talking to a businessman. My friends immediately pulled me into the conversation. The businessman assumed that if I already knew these folks, then I must be retarded too. None of my carefully-worded thoughts shook his considered judgment - he simply responded, in a slow sing-song voice: "So, do you go to a workshop every day too?"
It's fun trying to shake the settled opinion of someone who knows you are retarded. There is a certain contentment that comes from being misunderstood, despite one's best efforts. No need to pose: you can be exactly who you are, without apologies.
(After all is said and done, it's too bad Howard Dean didn't win the 2004 Democratic nomination.)
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Over at Legal Fiction, the conservative case for outrage over Abu Ghraib:
You can’t defeat an insurgency – whether in Iraq or in the war on terror, which is essentially a global insurgency – by military force alone. That’s because an insurgency isn’t finite. Its numbers and resources expand and contract with public opinion. (This is the main reason why the whole "so-we-don't-fight-them-at-home" line doesn't make much sense, logically speaking. Our efforts have increased the ranks of those that hate us.) We can raze every city in the Sunni Triangle (and we’re well on our way), but we will never defeat an elastic insurgency if we can’t win the hearts and minds of the local population. If you care about the success of this mission, both in Iraq and more globally, logic demands outrage.
One of the consequences of a scientific education is a kind of literal-mindedness that can cause me trouble. At the 'Office Max' checkout counter, they have a sign that reads:
We ID! You must be 18 or older to purchase canned air
Immediately, I'm thinking, empty cans will collapse if there isn't air in the can. Does everything have a price these days? But I guess they are talking about cleaning agents for electronics, sometimes abused by thrillseekers, and not actual 'canned air.'
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
In today's Wall Street Journal, the principal editorial (Review and Outlook) shows why conservatives can't be trusted in foreign affairs.
Referring to recent assassinations in Iraq, the WSJ asserts: "these events ought to put to rest the canard that what we are facing in Iraq is some kind of 'nationalist' uprising." Wake up, guys, it's not a canard! A nationalist uprising, led in part by Baathists and Salafists, is exactly what we are facing. We are the foreigner, they aren't, and in history, there is no battle-cry more persuasive than "evict the foreigner!" Besides, who is the WSJ to presume to state who the 'real' nationalists are in Iraq anyway? The WSJ are foreigners!
"If Mr. Rumsfeld has made a single large mistake...it has been underestimating the resilience of the enemy." Well, duh! that's what non-neoconservatives have been trying to say for a year-and-a-half!
"The CIA seems to have completely missed that Saddam's strategy from the beginning was to disperse his allies and conduct a decentralized insurgency." No, Saddam boasted for years before the invasion that, if ever attacked, he would pursue exactly this strategy. The WSJ must have been off on a blue dress hunt and missed Saddam's memo.
Warnings of such a strategy "were dismissed at the time, especially by the CIA, which still believed that Iraq could be pacified with a 'decapitation' strategy eliminating Saddam and his top aides." No, the CIA adopted the decapitation strategy from the Administration and the Pentagon, not the other way around. Fearing decapitation himself, Dick Cheney certainly favored a decapitation strategy. Notice how the CIA gets made the scapegoat no matter what their opinion actually was?
Referring to the need to completely eliminate the Baathist enemy in Iraq, the WSJ opines "the number of U.S. troops on the ground matters much less than the intelligence our forces can get from the Iraqis." This statement suggests that conservatives see intelligence as a much stronger force-multiplier than it probably merits. Push intelligence-gathering too hard, and you get torture and a mountain of bad intelligence. Plus others gather intelligence too: Ahmed Chalabi and the Iranian mullahs. In guerilla war, you need much more than intelligence - you need a presence, to make a difference. Boots on the ground. For a long time. And lots of help from the locals. Otherwise, you are doomed.
"When these columns endorsed the war in Iraq, we didn't sign up for a short or easy war." Well, the American people did, under the blowhard leadership of the WSJ, among many others. Remember how easy it was going to be? Flowers in the street? And I see no spirit of sacrifice anywhere, because conservatives insisted there didn't have to be any. Soon, we'll be hearing stab-in-the-back theories from the WSJ. Who would have thought: Reichstag Fire = 9/11 Attacks?
Liberals have been there, warning all along about the dangers of opening Pandora's box. Too bad George Bush's lies about knowing for certain there were WMD in Iraq proved so effective (and please, stop blaming the CIA for this lie: the analysts always said they didn't know for sure, and their leadership, under George Tenet, bent to Administration wishes for war). Conservatives (and now, conservatives alone) bear responsibility for what will come to pass from this misadventure. The blame (and glory, if there ever is any) will be theirs, and theirs alone.
In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief of Forbes Magazine, gave vent to a variety of radical recommendations to Treasury Secretary John Snow, including:
- tossing out the federal tax code, and starting over with a flat tax;
- stop messing with the dollar's value; and,
- borrow vast sums of money, to allow workers to put most of their Social Security payments into private accounts.
Most remarkable was Forbes' statement that:
The dollar's value is, fundamentally, a moral one. When an individual receives a dollar for his labor, what right have politicians, central bankers, or other "we are smarter than the American people" Mandarin types to change the value of what that individual receives for his or her labor?
I love it when the rich elite spout on in faux-demagogic fashion about siding with the common man. The flat tax does not benefit the common man nearly as much as it benefits the rich. Also, capitalism gauges the value of everything by the market, including the value of the dollar: American Mandarins, ordinary Americans, foreign Mandarins, and foreigners, in general, deciding altogether. Markets aren't moral - never have been, never will be. Markets require rules, however, and moral people tend to be better at running markets, because they tend to follow rules. Moral people aren't absolutely required to run markets, though, just people who follow orders. Just ask Saddam Hussein (Oil-for-Food), or Lockheed/Martin (aerospace contracting scandals), or people in the San Fernando Valley porn industry.
Forbes does make some good observations regarding the connection between inflation and the decay of morality:
Criminologists, sociologists and economists still haven't connected the dots - it was no coincidence that the rise of inflation in the 1960s went hand in hand with economic stagnation and saw the rapid rise in social pathologies, including crime.
These professionals may not have connected the dots, but historians like Godfrey Hodgson ("America in Our Time") already have. The pathologies of the 60's didn't happen all at once either - as I recall, in the order: crime first, then inflation, and finally, stagnation. There was cause-and-effect going on that was often difficult to spot.
Also remember that when all this was going on, the Johnson Administration was waging war without raising taxes - guns and butter, the primary source of the inflation of the 60's and 70's, and the most dishonest event of the decade - very much like events of today! There are deep connections between McNamara's Whiz Kids and crime in the street, as there will be between today's Neoconservative ideologues, and the crime wave yet to come. As far as reforming Social Security, it sounds like a big Ponzi scheme to me: borrow money, skip out on the responsibility to the aged, saddle taxpayers with the debt, and keep the cash - another form of intense, ugly dishonesty, that will lead ultimately to the capitalist's bete noire: stagnation.
Republican, heal thyself.
I was trying to chat with the clerk, barricaded after-hours within the quick market, when the couple appeared. The man and woman had had several drinks, and were desperate for a lift. This being the Christmas season, I obliged, and drove them a mile down the road, to another quick market, in appearance all but identical to the first quick market, but for some reason the preferred store. The man lost a paint scraper in my car, which I returned, and we all agreed that people spend way too much during the Christmas season.
Went over to Arden Fair Mall this evening. Christmas season wouldn't be complete without at least one mall visit. People looked just fabulous. I don't know whether it was because they were young and well-dressed, eagerly listening to their cell phones, or whether, with my old eyewear (3 years old+, and aging by the day), everybody looks just fabulously fuzzy these days, and maybe it's just a fad for everyone to hold the side of their head.
I was having serious deja vu moments too. I constantly felt like I KNEW these people, or had seen them all before. Perhaps I had: last Christmas at Arden Fair Mall, and the Christmas before that. As I get older and forget everybody's name, in compensation, everyone seems to be becoming SO familiar. In a couple of decades, I'll be a familiar face at the Arden Fair Mall Food Court, rocking back and forth on my chair, calling everyone Bob and Kathy, smiling and babbling (and blogging, of course).
There was a department store security camera pointed directly at the door of a women's changing room, in just the right place to catch the bald spot on my head. I never get to see that view in normal life, so I started pacing back and forth directly in front of the door, trying to size up that spot. Pretty soon women, with odd furtive smiles, began queueing up. They too seemed surprised by the size of the bald spot.
There was a good T-Shirt slogan at Hot Topic (all the wrong sizes for me, unfortunately): "It's Fun Until Someone Loses an Eye. Then Hey! Free Eyeball!"
California mall shoppers are so multi-colored and multi-racial. It isn't like when I lived in Salt Lake City, greeting Bob and Kathy at the downtown ZCMI Mall. In Utah, there seemed to be about eight different general types of alarmingly-white facial types, all seemingly descendant from the same set of Mormon pioneers (with an odd African-American, here and there, to jar one's sensibility). Not Sacramento!
This year, I was surprised by all the Russian-speaking teenagers. I guess they are the same Russian kids I used to see about a decade ago at Arden Fair Mall. Surprisingly, their names were all Bob and Kathy too.
I caught some snippets of conversation:
- the odd cell phone utterance ("I know you know that");
- shopping plans - or maybe dating plans ("we want the cute one that doesn't look all cheap");
- trying to eat with the herd ("maybe something at that Mexican place - it's popular!");
- the realistic 12-year-old girl in Sear's ("we're too poor for this store"); and,
- the philosophical question I'm sure to answer in my Arden Fair Food Court dotage, decades from now ("are you at least happy?")
Monday, December 20, 2004
Sunday, December 19, 2004
So close, and yet so far! Martian rover Opportunity was able to get very close to Burns Cliff, on the inner eastern rim Endurance Crater, but couldn't hack the steep slope to actually touch the rock. So, like a frustrated tourist, Opportunity had to be content with high-resolution snapshots, and chemical analyses of nearby rocks. Some of Opportunity's research findings recently were published in the December 3rd issue of Science magazine.
To this Earth-bound tourist, Burns Cliff sure looks like it's made of compacted sand dunes, but they may be water sediments instead, or a complicated mix of both. Figuring out the sequence of events in its assembly will prove an interesting exercise in Martian geology.
So now, having left Endurance Crater, Opportunity heads south, to make morphological studies of Martian "etched terrain."
What gives? Peter Beinart takes a somewhat overwrought plea from MoveOn.org for the U.S. to avoid indiscriminate bombing in Kabul, and deduces "by any reasonable standard, that is opposition to war in Afghanistan," even though the U.S. military heeded exactly this advice with its own targeted bombing campaign. I'm a subscriber of a quarter-century standing, and I've never seen such asininity from the TNR Editors. Beinart cannot persuade anyone of anything with such crude misrepresentations.
Nice show on PBS last night: Sugar Plum Dreams, all about Indiana University ballet company's annual staging of "The Nutcracker."
At the end of ballet class today, Charlotte sprung a birthday surprise on Pam: a little party, featuring cake, cheese with crackers, and champagne, on a little card table, with nice china. What an excellent thing to do! I propose we end every ballet class henceforth with cake, cheese, and champagne. It's SO civilized!
Saturday, December 18, 2004
To Arthur Vassar, upon his graduation from CSU (Dec. 18)
To Jan Issacson, on her birthday (Dec. 23)
To my sister, Marra Newman, upon HER birthday (Dec. 22)
To E. & M. - good recoveries!
Jammin' to Echo and the Bunnymen: an 80's reprise (thanks, Noel!) It's a grim Saturday night: everyone's partying like it's 1999, and I'm trying to shovel work out the door like it's Y2K, to prevent various work-related calamities :(
Which reminds me: New Year's Eve will be the tenth-year anniversary that Sparky and I were first at the scene of a fatal drunk-driving accident (15 minutes before midnight). Last fatality in Albuquerque in 1994, by my accounting, or the first in 1995, by KOAT TV-7's accounting. I had just returned from a rare visit to a strip club, so New Year's Eve 1994 became, for me, the Night of Sex and Death. Better to have one than the other. Be careful while driving, always!
Australian gardeners goof.
Conservative Phoenician flips out.
Labbrosaurs, and other exotic, amateur, Italian cosmetic surgery fauna.
Plus, let's commemorate Dec. 17, 1997:
An episode of the animated TV show Pokemon induces seizures in at least 750 Japanese children. The convulsive sequence contains the depiction of a "vaccine bomb," followed by the flashing red eyes of a rat monster. Of those afflicted, 200 remain hospitalized the next day.
Thursday, December 16, 2004
Another example of cascading car crashes in the Sacramento area, due to poor visibility in the fog. Once again, the accident scene is the I-5 Bridge over the Sacramento River, between Woodland and Sacramento (a bridge I frequent).
When I lived in Salt Lake City, we tried liquid CO2 seeding of supercooled fogs, to alleviate visibility near highways. Unfortunately, the winter of 1988-89 wasn't very foggy, so the method didn't get a good workout at that time, but it did seem to show some promise. In any event, since the temperature has to be below freezing for the method to work, it won't work in balmy Sacramento. I'll have to post more on this strange project....
Here is a sketchy list I assembled of other fog crashes:
Looks to me that the main reason for Kerry's defeat was simply a badly-run campaign organization. No number of Republican outrages will suffice to alienate the public if the Democratic camp can't run anything but an amateurish operation. How pathetic is it that even I noticed?:
While certain offices seemed to have more resources and people than they knew what to do with, other crucial areas were inexplicably undercut. In Las Cruces, N.M., one of largest cities in the state and a key to Kerry's chances there (he ended up losing New Mexico by a superable 6,000 votes), there was only a skeleton crew, and key staff were arriving just weeks before the election.On July 20th, I wrote:
For example, despite large TV ad buys in New Mexico (my home state), there appears to be nothing happening in the Las Cruces area (second-largest city in the state).
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
By a margin of 5 to 0, the Davis City Council tonight approved extending DMTC a $50,000 loan to help with construction of the New Theater. This unanimous vote is very welcome, not only because of the infusion of much-needed money, but because it signals solid civic support to DMTC at its moment of need.
Potential donors can now step forward with greater confidence. Stepping forward individually is always a risk, but there is safety in numbers. If we all pitch in and work together, we CAN get this New Theater finished, and soon!
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
I haven't blogged much on current affairs since Bush got elected. With Bush in charge, the immediate future is grim, dark, and evil, as black as the inside of an Iraqi burqa.
Today, for example, the Wall Street Journal editorial page lambasted laws - any laws, that is, that may be inconvenient to the Administration, or to Wall Street, or to anyone they agree with. It's nice to know the Masters of the Universe feel secure enough that the serious law-breaking can get underway now without delay.
Nevertheless, law-breaking or law-abiding, society rolls on regardless, so it's time to look around:
- Troubles with Accutane: USA Today reported on how marketing strategies led Hoffmann-La Roche to downplay Accutane's role in causing suicidal depression. The anti-acne drug first hit the market in 1982. I remember in 1986, or '87, the Univ. of AZ hospital in Tucson absolutely rejected my effort to get Accutane for my serious acne. Liver problems were already being reported, and they were clamping down on the drug's use. In addition, Univ. of AZ absolutely-positively wouldn't put women on the drug, for any reason, because too many birth defects were already being reported. I'm shocked that Univ. of AZ's foresightful in-house ban wasn't part of a nationwide ban: birth defects attributable to Accutane occurred through the 90's, and still occur today! Such a shame, and all that tragedy totally preventable!
- San Francisco viola player recovers her stolen instrument (though not yet the bow), through investigative determination. Terrible crime, but hard work succeeds in the end!
- Honeybee mites just get worse and worse, threatening the pollination of many plants in California, including almond trees.
- Shabby but classic, even emblematic, exploitation of illegal janitors by supermarkets: the lawsuit gets settled.
- Tavis Smiley leaves NPR. Smiley is an excellent interviewer. Even better than Charlie Rose (Rose flatters his guests too much: instead, Smiley methodically skins trophies and nails them to the wall). I hope I see more of him, and more interviewers like him!
- Hilmar Cheese in Merced County flouts clean water laws with impunity, because of its excellent political connections in the Davis/Schwarzenegger administrations.
- Strom Thurmond's African-American daughter's new book is out, with tales of a remote, loving, and seriously hypocritical father.
- Davis is having trouble opening a new elementary school in Mace Ranch, because of an unexpected drop in the number of students (I wonder if it's all those home-schoolers having an impact: a lot of people like to home-school these days).
- Oregon's Measure 37 may sound the death knell for aggressive efforts to saddle property-owners with the costs of maintaining greenbelts and other amenities for urbanites. Much as I sympathize with the environmentalists, the property owners have a point too. I hope society can come to a reasonable compromise between preservation and use, for the sake of all of us!
Thinking about Unheimlich's show last Saturday, with its focus on the equivalence between pigs and poets, started me thinking of a strange, recent Sacramento incident concerning flaming pigs:
- Combustion study goes awry: National Geographic film crew loses control of a burning pig carcass at a state testing lab (while trying to debunk the idea of human spontaneous combustion, no less)!
Maybe monks know something about spontaneous combustion that poets and National Geographic don't.
Monday, December 13, 2004
(Deborah McMillion-Nering's 2004 Christmas greeting)
Last night, I had a dream, straight from DMTC's "Anything Goes": Ryan Adame (who played Billy), dressed as a chef (he dressed in a chef's hat at one point in the show), doing a cooking show, on 1920's television. The joke, of course, is that no one in the 1920's owned a television, so it was basically a vanity stunt, but at least he was on the cutting edge of innovation!
I hate it that the dry National Weather Service seasonal weather forecast looks like it's coming to pass (it's much more to fun to bitch and moan about the transparent stupidities of the feds than to grant them credit for hard work done well). Nevertheless, the December forecast of persistent high pressure is showing up in the current short-range forecasts as well, with a big ridge building soon in the West. So, no precipitation for awhile: clear skies (at least where there isn't any fog).
Time to wash the car!
Very late at night, spectral bicyclists course through the streets of Sacramento: people on any number of inscrutable tasks: getting off from the late shift, or visiting friends, or just out for the air.
Last night about 2:15 a.m., while I was walking Sparky, in my dark wannabe Goth trench coat, a spectral bicyclist passed by, weaving down 24th Street, laughing maniacally. To me, this humor represented progress. I thought back ten years ago, when I lived on 40th Street, near Folsom. A bicyclist passed by almost daily, shouting and growling epithets (wonder how he's doing these days?)
Laughter, no matter how malicious, is better than vented rage, any day.
Sunday, December 12, 2004
Is done! Some problems, but better than I expected. The crowd pleaser this year was the Pre-Show's "Carwash," featuring Antonio Casillas doing "The Worm", as Devan Zuniga acted as 'puppetmaster.' Kelly Challender's instructional influence was felt in the better-than-usual Hip-Hop dances. Some of the kids, like Cassandra Heredia, come from families where everyone break dances for fun anyway, so the kids seemed unusually well-prepared.
Unlike the late 90's, there was mercifully little shoulder strap tugging this year, but probably only because the group this year is very young, and thus there was less need to tug on shoulder straps. Clothes tugging can be very distracting to the audience. I remember one year, one of the dancers placed herself in the wing, where many in the audience could see her, then began a meticulous examination of some fabric flaw in her crotch: I wanted to scream "no!" but I was on-stage too, and I couldn't drop character.
The 'go team' small-town sports atmosphere that previous recitals have featured, which seems so strange for ballet, but perfectly suited for these shows, was quite subdued, but probably only because most of the kids haven't hit high school yet.
After seeing her in rehearsal, I was looking forward to the blithe insouciance of 4-year-old Savannah Arias, as one of the Act III Mother Goose clowns. She was a live wire early on Friday evening, but soon tired, and when she finally hit the stage, she was in full pouting diva mode. Sunday was a bit better, but she seemed unusually interested in her elastic clown collar, and spent most of her dance time wrapping it around her mouth. So, we'll have to wait a bit longer before we can see what she is capable of as a dancer!
One of the girls asked: "when will the orientation start?" (she meant intermission.) Big words can confuse the kids. When I was her age, I was in the vicinity of my birth hospital (Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque) when I saw a sign that read "Pedestrian Crossing," and I thought it read "Presbyterian Crossing," and I suddenly had reason to doubt my father's teaching that a person's religious beliefs reflected an exclusively interior state of being.
- Friday: Ruth Krabacher's plastic sword broke unexpectedly in her Act I fight with Cleigha Gama;
- Friday: The "Waltz of the Flowers" threatened to dissolve into the "Parliament of the Flowers," over questions of timing and whether or not someone's foot should be turned out;
- Friday: Sally got distracted and was late on her "Snowflake" entrance;
- Sunday: A dancer's frantic stage whisper of 'Shit!' was a bit louder than it needed to be (if it needed to be at all) - loud enough, I suspect, to be heard in the audience;
- Friday: a girl's warm and winning smile, when the curtain opened, froze quickly into a deer-in-the headlights stare when the music (as often happens in these shows) just didn't start as quickly as it should!
- Friday: there was a moment of frozen indecision, when action stopped because no one remembered the next step. One of the dancers shrugged her shoulders in rhythm with the music. There was a sudden gasp, and everyone fell into a hasty circle, as their memories finally began working again.
Mistakes aside (and I certainly made more than my share, especially this year), we all had a lot of fun. I wonder if Sally is serious about this being the last Woodland Nutcracker?
Saturday, December 11, 2004
I was feebly trying to extract dead leaves from the grasp of the newly-lush front lawn this evening, when Samba, the absurdly-smiling dog from next door suddenly appeared, as did Gilberto Rodriguez, my poetic next-door-neighbor. Gil was in a hurry, though: "It's Second Saturday! We're doing a stripped-down version of our show. Come see it at "The Book Collector" (24th & J) at eight!"
A stripped-down version of a poetry reading? What would that be like? At first I thought of stock cars, then demolition derbies. Realizing that poets, even more than most people, probably talk too much, and that a stripped-down show might actually be pretty good (skip the Nietzsche, and get to the punch line), I decided to go.
Gil had been trying to explain what he did for several months, but since I'm not a literary type, I found his explanations hard to follow. Usually, I casually listen from over the fence to their backyard rehearsals, all the while going about other tasks, like rooting out sewer lines, or rolling squeeky dog toys past Cloudy, my irritable rabbit (the rabbit prefers an ordered yard, and it's fun to watch how a barking dog, chasing a stupid toy, can spoil her serenity.) From the aural evidence, the rehearsals next door feature lots of drumming, lots of gongs, and too much laughter for a sober Saturday afternoon.
Gil and Sheri's group is called Unheimlich (apparently meaning Uncanny, starring Sheri Adee, Rob Lozano, and Gilberto Rodriguez), performing the works of Baudelaire, Henri Michaux, Alexander Blok, and particularly the French poet Artaud, whose work is apparently difficult to produce, because Artaud appeared, most of the time, to be largely out-of-his-mind. For example, Artaud apparently was obsessed with the image of Tibetan monks flogging the dolphin in unison, and tried hard to make the audience obsessed with the image as well. Artaud behaved strangely, and his audiences rarely stayed completely through to the end of his bizarre readings.
Unheimlich approaches Artaud's writing with lots of physical, fairly low-brow, but nevertheless sophisticated comedy. Which works! Nice show! Apparently the show was stripped down because of a lack of space in the book store: thus we missed seeing Unheimlich's interpretation of Artaud's work regarding the corrupt Roman Emperor Heliogabalus, for which Sheri apparently constructed a large lingam to help illustrate.
I just bet Sheri constructed that lingam-thingum on a sober Saturday afternoon too. Probably with lots of laughter, drumming and banging of gongs, while I was busy next door scrubbing floors, or organizing dead batteries. Mysterious place, next door. Why does Samba the dog smile so much? I just don't know! I'll just have make a point of visiting my neighbors more often on weekends, it seems! And checking out Unheimlich again (maybe when they take the show to San Francisco)!
Friday, December 10, 2004
E. took sick yesterday, so I spent an inordinate amount of time in the Mercy San Juan Hospital Emergency Room. Things seemed pretty quiet yesterday afternoon at what must be, at times, one of Sacramento's crazy hot spots, so I had time to look around at the cool equipment.
I found myself admiring the cool new "nitrile" gloves, which have an unearthly blue color, like Paul Muad'Dib's eyes on Arrakin spice. I wonder about the name, though: I thought nitriles were gases - acetonitrile is a gas - so maybe the gloves are just made of a less-volatile organic. I got some powdered latex gloves in the 80's, as some kind of strange medical promotional item in the mail, and I kept them, because you just never know when you might need powdered latex gloves, but I guess some people don't like the powder, and some people itch from the latex - hence someone invented these cool new gloves. Someone please mail me some of these hot new fashion items!
They wheeled E. to the fourth floor, which appears to be staffed by all-Asians - people from a dozen countries, who are very nice, and nominally speak English: it's a veritable Tower of Babel over there. E. finds herself under the thumb of a patronizing, rainbow-language, drug-obsessed tyranny, where she can't sleep when she wants, where she can't eat what she wants, where she has to wear what they insist upon, where people only seem interested in her body: kind-of-like what being a fashion model must be like.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Last night, while driving south on 19th Street (near W Street) in the rain, a mouse hurriedly ran eastward across the street in front of my car. This mouse looked very much like the mouse that ran westward across the street (near P Street) about a year ago. That mouse looked as if it was fleeing the partiers at the Zebra Club (which opens at 6 a.m. to serve alcohol). The mouse last night looked as if it just forgot where the Zebra Club was located, or got confused by the headlights and the raindrops.
Or will it? Apparently the Vatican tops the list of a very long line of folks exercised by Madame Tussaud's tasteless but amusing celebrity nativity scene, featuring Kylie Minogue. Gabe downstairs seemed relieved that even I thought it wasn't very respectful (even as it succeeds as theater).
But then, Kylie is a survivor. She knows how to rebound from controversy. Her new release sounds like an exercise in flattery...maybe of the audience?: "I Believe in You."
On Kylie's 'Body Language' album launch concert DVD, at the conclusion of her wonderful 'Breathe/Je T'Aime', she engages in a bit of audience flattery - so lavish it feels less like praise and more like a challenge to the beauty-deprived minions outside the concert hall (in distant places, like Sacramento). I know it scares me a bit:
Thank you very much! How are you all feeling? I can see most of you so far. I don't need to see you to know how gorgeous you all are! One thing my audiences are renowned for are their utter beauty!
Welcome news to those of us without lingerie lines, but with receding hair lines!
Here's an interesting article, notable mostly for the interesting comments appended to the end. Goth has a history as a movement, as one commenter notes:
I remember my goth days, I had a black mohican and wore make up even to go to the shops. And I was a second generation Goth, not even an original (so I'm talking mid to late 90s) so let's just stop this nonsense that it's all a fad. It's a youth movement that's been going for over 20 years and I still listen to the Sisters, the Cure, Nine Inch Nails and the Neo goth bands like Razed in Black, Goteki and the likes. And now I'm a 36 year old Librarian.
I've been listening to some of the Goth-oriented dance music. So far, I like the stuff quite a bit. I can see the appeal for the musicians: instead of composing dance music using tired old themes like "boy likes girl," you can explore new frontiers like "boy hates girl," or other dark story lines.
The only missing element to get a mass movement going seems to be the ethnic ghettoization of Goth among Northern-European whites: so far I see little evidence of Goth among African-Americans, Jamaicans, and other musically-influential minorities. That's probably where the dance element comes in: making the music more palatable for a much broader audience. Musicians have certainly overcome bigger obstacles before - witness the broad popularity of hip-hop and rap. Germans seem to be leading the way, although it's interesting that German groups, two times out of three, seem to prefer singing in English, even bad English, even though the German language is perfectly suited for the music (English probably sounds sounds more 'mysterious' to a German ear, or maybe it's just another effort to broaden the audience).
The musical theater crowd seems to attract few Goth-types, although the punker B. H. once explained that when she hears late-70's punk, she gets warm and fuzzy inside, because her punk parents played the stuff as lullabys when she was young.
I think I'd like to be a Goth (but what a hell of a sight I'd be with piercings and spiked hair - what little hair is left - nevertheless, more interesting than a comb-over). The impact of my makeover would probably be contrary to my interests among the engineering crowd at work, however, and might seem....bizarre, shall we say? (or is that the point?)
But then there's always the Bob Fosse musical theater solution: always wear black....always. The effect can be powerful: actor Roy Scheider wore little except black for a year after playing a character very like Fosse in the semi-quasi-autobiographical "All That Jazz" in 1979.
Hmmm....time to look at my earth-tone wardrobe.
On the lee side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains today (forwarded E-Mail from Alison Bridger, Professor of Meteorology at San Jose State University):
If you get a chance in the very near future (before they are gone), check out the "visible 1km loop" option...watch the waves in the bottom right corner stay locked in place while the winds blow by. It's cool!
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
From the Alaska Science Forum (Courtesy of Frank):
The official high temperature record for Hawaii is identical to Alaska's warmest temperature. Thermometers in Fort Yukon (in 1915), and Pahala, Hawaii (in 1931), reached the same high temperature, a level that hasn't been reached since--100 degrees.
Monday, December 06, 2004
It was interesting to see what lines in "Anything Goes" (music and lyrics: Cole Porter/book: Guy Bolton, P. G. Wodehouse, Howard Lindsey, and Russell Crouse) generated big laughs, and which didn't. They say the key to humor is timing, but it always seems something else must be required too. Four vignettes help illustrate the mystery.
Interestingly, after all these years, the audience really seemed to appreciate the paradox of a cursing clergyman. Myself, it's just not that funny, but the audience disagreed:
(Moonface Martin, dressed as a preacher, thanks Billy for helping him hide amongst the crowd. Billy replies:)
Billy: I know, I can't say goodbyes myself. I couldn't say goodbye to a girl. Now I'm in a hell of a mess. Oh, pardon me, Doctor.
Moon: Oh, I don't give a damn.
What's so damned funny? Beats me. But the audience liked it.....
Later, there were two perfectly witty exchanges that I thought deserved big laughs, but the laughs tended to be a bit tepid:
(Billy, in bearded disguise, chats up Mrs. Harcourt:)
Billy: Yes. The French have been so kind to my poor exiled family since the revolution.
Mrs. Harcourt: Really? You have to take your hat off to the French.
Billy: That's not all you have to take off for the French.
Damned funny! Ryan played around with Billy's timing: a fast delivery (or a slow delivery) seemed to work better than an even-paced, moderate delivery, for some crazy reason. Plus...
(Moonface Martin loses at craps to two Chinese men. The Purser had brought the men to Martin for him to explain the illegality of gambling:)
Moon: And may the Lord watch over you ... and make you better men ... although you're pretty damn good already.
Purser: Thank you for your help! (to Sailor) Take them below.
Moon: Boys, before you go, give me back my pair of dice.
Ching: Third class need pair of dice.
Purser: That's the spirit, make the third class a paradise.
Very witty! Very funny! And yet, in my opinion, the laughs weren't as robust as the joke deserved. The delivery was flawless, and the timing keen: what gives?Strangely enough, the line of the show the audience seemed to appreciate most was right at the end. Interestingly, Arthur added the word "oh" (highlighted below in italics - it's not in the script), and that small change seemed to heighten even more the comic tension already established by Mary's (Mrs. Harcourt's) elliptical set-up:
(Rich and important Elijah J. Whitney charms Mrs. Harcourt:)
Whitney: Madam, may I tempt you with a little drink?
Mrs. Harcourt: Sir, liquor has never touched my lips.
Whitney: Oh, You know a short cut.
It was almost as if the audience had to laugh at that point, like a dam breaking at the very end of the show, to release the pent-up comic tension. Any satisfactory joke would do, even a fairly lame joke. Arthur innovated well, well within the spirit of the script.
The economy of humor is truly a mystery!
Sunday, December 05, 2004
Nice show: too bad it had to close. As always, it was hard to tear down the set, so recently built with such lavish care. Amy is moving to Spokane - it will be sad to see her leave. On the other hand, it was wonderful working with Doug F., Don D., and meeting people like Celia and Megan. There is only one solution, the only solution - we'll have to do it again, soon!
The "Anything Goes" cast party was on Saturday night. I went to the party expecting to find - the cast (duh!) - but I was shocked out of my socks to find Pepper Von there. I don't why he was there....I suppose there was no reason why he shouldn't be there....nevertheless, I wasn't expecting him, and for some reason the effect was unusually startling, like the first time I ever saw one of those gasoline pumps with the built-in television screen.
One night, at two in the morning, while staring into space as I began pumping gas, I heard this strange voice right behind me - like fingernails on a chalkboard - and I turned around and gaped in wonder as Yasser Arafat, of all people, spoke to me from my gasoline pump. It was like a vision....or something. But what did it portend? Visions of Pepper Von can only be good, though (unlike Yasser Arafat).
Andrea Eve Thorpe will play Evita in the forthcoming DMTC show. I can think of few people better able to play the Argentine Cinderella than her! The "jackboot in the face, forever" that George Orwell associated with totalitarian ideologies like fascism and communism might be, not just tolerable but even yearned for, if the jackboot has a nice spiked high heel and bejeweled straps, of the sort Andrea likes to wear. Fashion kills, and fascist fashion will slay them in the aisles!
Friday, December 03, 2004
Thursday, December 02, 2004
Copyright Ms. Tia Gemmell at Riverview Media Photography: image use granted with permission (meaning payment). Left to right: Jan Isaacson, Dannette Bell-Vassar, Arthur Vassar, and Steve Isaacson.
Arts and Business Council of Sacramento's "Prelude to the Arts" ceremony on September 30th, 2004, at the Doubletree Hotel. Awards for Arts Management Excellence were given to the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at the University of California, Davis, (for groups with annual budgets over $125,000) and the Davis Musical Theatre Company (for organizations whose annual budgets are under $125,000).
Bloviation at the New Republic
Peter Beinart means well, but his efforts to buck liberals' spirits up, armor them with a new kind of martial fervor, and send them off to win wars (and elections again) strikes me as wide of the mark. There are many reasons why the anti-communist post-WWII challenge, and today's battles against the forces of Islamic totalitarianism are not analogous. In quick summary:
- Al Qaeda does not attract any liberals in a meaningful way (unlike Communism.) There is no reason for liberals to conduct a purge against the "softs." There is little threat to liberalism on its 'left' flank (the only meaningful threat coming from anti-Israeli liberals).
- Michael Moore is NOT a leader, he is a critic. He is not the equivalent of Henry Wallace in any meaningful way. You may disagree with Moore on many issues, but he nevertheless manages to get closer to the truth than most Beltway insiders, and so he's good to have around. There is no reason to push him out of the Democratic Party.
- MoveOn.org is a campaign organization vehicle. It doesn't lead: it enables.
- Sending Peace Corps type volunteers to the Islamic world is unlikely to help with the battle of persuading typical Muslims of our good intentions. The Islamic world already has access to modern technology: what they need is a way to knock down the (political) impediments to the best use of technology, and idealistic volunteers won't - can't - help in that task.
Beinart scants the problems war-related civil rights violations pose to American society. As risk management experts like to point out, it is very hard for people to accurately assess the hazards posed by infrequent, calamitous episodes (like Sept. 11th, or for that matter, plane crashes, or epidemics). Unlike Beinart, many liberals (like me) believe that we've over-reacted, or (better) reacted poorly to Sept. 11th, in the same way that panicked people, fleeing before a fire, often will seize a worthless article, like a broken alarm clock (or a 'Mission Accomplished' banner), but leave precious mementoes (like our civil rights) to the flames.
We very much need this debate, but Beinart starts off in the wrong, martial direction (unlike Michael Moore, whose position has slowly, but surely, shifted in a responsible, rightward direction in the last three years).
I'm a bit baffled that people like Kevin Drum are a bit baffled about an intriguing observation:
Apparently teenagers are increasingly not bothering to get driver's licenses these days....The whole story is fascinating. Part of the reason for the decline is that many states, including California, have made it more difficult for teens to get a driver's license, but the fact is that it's still not that hard.... Rather, a big part of the problem seems to be that a lot of teens are perfectly happy being ferried around by their parents, and their parents are happy — or have at least resigned themselves — to do the ferrying.
According to the story in the LA Times:
Only 43% of all 16- and 17-year-old Americans were licensed in 2002, the last year for which statistics were available, according to the Federal Highway Administration and U.S. Census Bureau. In 1992, that figure was nearly 52%. Meanwhile, in supposedly car-addicted California, teens are even less likely to be driving. Slightly less than 27% — about 1 in 4 — of the state's 16- and 17-year-olds were licensed last year, a figure that has been sliding since at least 1978, when it was 50.1%.
Not getting a driver's license, and not bothering with the hassle of getting a car, is a form of rebellion. True, it's a strange sort of passive-aggressive rebellion - but rebellion all the same.
The spirit is: if the grown-ups are going to be such miserable jerks every bloody damned day of their ugly pathetic lives, the least they can do is drive me and my friends to the movies.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Who can resist the impulse for a little crime? Can you?
Burger King officials say stealing the inflatables from atop restaurants in the middle of the night has become something of a nationwide trend. Similar thefts have been reported in 10 states, they say. "And the number is going up every day," said a Burger King spokesman in New York.
This crazy thing must have been outrageous when it was operating. How did nearby wildlife adjust? Boiled fish every few hours: a paradise for scavengers (if they could handle the radiation)! Interesting new research by Meshik, et al.:
In 1972, a site with the necessary conditions for self-sustained fission was found at the Oklo mine in Gabon: A 2-billion-year-old uranium deposit some 5-10 meters thick and 600-900 meters wide was bathed by an ancient river. That natural reactor is estimated to have operated at an average power of 100 kW over its 150,000-year lifetime.
By examining in detail the reactor's krypton and xenon isotopes in grains of aluminous hydroxy phosphate, physicists at Washington University in St. Louis have now discovered the reactor's operating cycle: 30 minutes on followed by 2.5 hours off. While on, the reactor's heat boiled the nearby water until there wasn't enough to slow the neutrons adequately, whereupon the reactor turned off until it cooled enough for the steam to condense. (A. P. Meshik et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 93, 182302, 2004.)
E. suspects that for every slot machine on the casino floor, there is a doppelganger machine hidden above the ceiling, each manned by a casino employee, whose job it is to make damned sure that three bananas don't spin onto the pay off line at the same time.
(image from the movie "Brazil")
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
(from an article written by Cory Golden, Davis Enterprise staff writer, published November 10, 2003):
His name was Bruno, and he was just the second dog in the country to have been trained as both a guide dog and service dog.
(from an article written by Eileen Barton, Davis Enterprise staff writer, published July 12, 1999):
The reason "Paws With a Cause" (PAWS) had not ventured into developing combination dogs before Bruno's predecessor is simply the difficulty of doing so, Sapp says.
The screening process as well as training are much more complex and extensive with such dogs. Training takes a year, compared to six months for service dogs and four to five months for guide dogs, he adds.
In addition, ''It takes a very special dog that can be a guide dog and a service dog in tandem,'' Sapp says.
Bruno, all of us in the DMTC family will miss you very much!
Monday, November 29, 2004
In Pink Floyd's Wall:
A group of former pupils at a London comprehensive school are poised to win thousands of pounds in unpaid royalties for singing on Pink Floyd's classic Another Brick In The Wall 25 years ago.
Now the 23 ex-pupils are suing for overdue session musician royalties, taking advantage of the Copyright Act 1997 to claim a percentage of the money from broadcasts.
Like they say, when life hands you a lemon, it's time to make lemonade. When Intel had too many reflective devices on hand, it was time to make a disco ball:
Intel's disco ball sounds like it is as poorly-secured to the firmament as the one that nearly killed Boy George in December, 1999:
One sign that Intel is having trouble dancing to technology's current beat may be the world's most expensive disco ball.
For a company holiday party next month, a handful of engineers assembled a disco ball - with hundreds of small reflective devices - to hang above the dance floor. The mirrors are leftover projection-television chips from Intel's planned effort to enter the digital television market - an effort the company recently abandoned only 10 months after a splashy introduction at the Consumer Electronics Show last January.
Boy George, the flamboyant frontman of pop band Culture Club, was nearly killed when a giant disco ball that plunged from the ceiling of a British concert hall and struck him, Reuters reports.
"It would have been both ironic and glamorous to be finished off by a four-foot glitter ball,'' he told the Sun tabloid on Thursday.
"But I have survived and I'm still here, although my back is aching like anything. It caught my ear, which is really sore as well.''
Rather than raising taxes a little bit to handle any long-term problems with Social Security, Republicans would prefer to rely on markets to make up shortfalls, despite the markets' proven ability to slide into long-term funks (e.g., 1968-1982) that could jeopardize the entire project.
The White House and Republicans in Congress are all but certain to embrace large-scale government borrowing to help finance President Bush's plan to create personal investment accounts in Social Security, according to administration officials, members of Congress and independent analysts.
The White House says it has made no decisions about how to pay for establishing the accounts, and among Republicans on Capitol Hill there are divergent opinions about how much borrowing would be prudent at a time when the government is running large budget deficits. Many Democrats say that the costs associated with setting up personal accounts just make Social Security's financial problems worse, and that the United States can scarcely afford to add to its rapidly growing national debt.
Amazingly for a supposedly "conservative" Administration, Bush's clique wants to borrow the entire transition cost, which might absorb most, maybe all, of the savings on Earth. What planet do these ideologues live on? Good luck with their scheme! As Kevin Drum points out:
The White House is planning to recruit yet another economic team, and what seems to be driving it is their difficulty in finding people sufficiently willing to sell their souls to the devil. Anyone with a remaining shred of integrity knows that financing Social Security privatization via higher deficits is madness, which means Bush's task is to find people from the ever dwindling pool of loyalists willing to make the case anyway.
Sunday, November 28, 2004
Henry Adams was well-known to Gilded Age America: a first-rate medieval historian, yet also an insufferable snob. Great-grandson of President John Adams, grandson of President John Quincy Adams, Henry Adams naturally thought of himself as presidential timber. As Adams writes in his masterful autobiography "The Education of Henry Adams":
The Irish gardener once said to the child: "You'll be thinkin' you'll be President too!" The casualty of the remark made so strong an impression on his mind that he never forgot it. He could not remember ever to have thought on the subject; to him, that there should be a doubt of his being President was a new idea.
Despite Adam's efforts, Gilded Age America turned its back on his leadership, preferring people whom Adams considered vastly-inferior beings, people like Ulysses Grant, Grover Cleveland, or (God forbid) Theodore Roosevelt. Adams became a querulous eccentric: FDR's generation quietly mocked Adams' vain pose before a rapidly-changing world.
Nevertheless, Adams saw some things more clearly than others, even as he lamented the frightening future taking shape before his eyes. He wrote eloquently of science's discoveries in establishing the unique character of his time. To Adams, the keening whine of the Electric Dynamo represented the incalculable power of the Industrial Age, just as the Cult of the Virgin Mary represented the incalculable power of the Medieval Age. Speaking of his own wonderment, Adams wrote:
No more relation could he discover between the steam and electric current than between the Cross and the cathedral. The forces were interchangeable if not reversible, but he could see only an absolute fiat in electricity as in faith.
Adams rarely wrote of the music of his day: he cited the influence of Wagner, but made allusions to the more-vital (and perhaps more-productive) anarchic artistic chaos of New York. Adams might have understood (even as he likely would have hated) the development of House Music, much as he might have understood (even as he likely would have hated) the development of the popular Jazz Music of his day.
House Music attempts to create a bridge between the Dynamo and the Virgin: music taking inspiration from industrial rhythms, yet also finding inspiration from the soaring religiously-inspired vocal arrangements of the late Middle Ages. Indeed, people sometimes call discotheques "Sonic Cathedrals". Dance Music reaches for a Grand Synthesis, and Adams, no slacker when it came to Hegel, would have understood the effort:
Adams proclaimed that in the last synthesis, order and anarchy were one, but that the unity was chaos. As anarchist, conservative and Christian, he had no motive or duty but to attain the end; and, to hasten it, he was bound to accelerate progress; to concentrate energy; to accumulate power; to multiply and intensify forces; to reduce friction, increase velocity and magnify momentum, partly because this was the mechanical law of the universe as science explained it; but partly also in order to get done with the present which artists and some others complained of; and finally - and chiefly - because a rigorous philosophy required it, in order to penetrate the beyond, and satisfy man's destiny by reaching the largest synthesis in its ultimate contradiction.
Henry Adams, whose critical inspiration lives on, unremarked, on dance floors all over the world!
Traditional Broadway, with a Sex-in-the City edge: heroine, a Greta-Garbo look-alike in white, dancing with 50 tuxedoed men with canes, on a grand staircase. The heroine sings "I Just Vant to be Left Alone!" The men pull her here and there into little groups, and hiss at her with various asides: "I called, but you never called back;" "Can we get together after the show?;" "Why can't I ever reach you at work?;" "I know you got back home late last night;" "I understand why you don't want to get into a relationship, but let me explain my case again;" etc., etc.
Good concept? Men who just can't say stop? Now? Ever? Please?
This afternoon, during "Anything Goes," the dreaded wardrobe malfunction D. warned of last week nearly happened. A safety pin broke, fortunately while S. was still awaiting her entrance in the stage right wing, unfortunately opposite the stage-left wing, where her ever-helpful Stage Manager waited with duct tape, glue guns, rivet guns, nail guns, solder, baling wire, double-sided tape, glo-tape, and epoxy resins to solve wardrobe failures. S. improvised quickly with another pin, and joined the rest of the dancers a little bit late.
"Is there something I can help you with?" Thus spake Robert, occasional KDVS DJ and Tower Records representative, as he saw me puzzling over the Goth/Industrial selection. Informed that I was thinking of experimenting with dance-oriented Goth music, Robert launched on a disquisition of the various modes, styles and trends of Goth/Industrial music - very helpful to an insensible soul such as myself.
I emerged with two CD Goth/Industrial collections: DAC's "Advanced Electronics," and Cleopatra Records' "This is Neo-Goth." Robert informs me that there are many essential groups not on these particular collections (e.g., "Sisters of Mercy"), but it's not possible to span any musical field with just two purchases, and it would be silly to try. Nevertheless, this is a start, and to my surprise, I've liked all four songs I've had a chance to listen to so far (this despite my iron rule that one should expect 90% of anything to be crap).
Saturday, November 27, 2004
Grueling day today, posing for pretty pictures for Woodland Dance Academy's 28th annual Nutcracker show (my 12th year with the show). Brian introduced a new technological innovation this year, a television monitor, to allow people to review their digital pictures before they get printed. There was no matching technological improvement, however, to speed people's self-critical judgements (I look funny, my arm was too low, I wasn't centered, my makeup is all wrong, can we get a third picture?, etc., etc., etc.) Thus, even though the school isn't that large, and even though some folks never even showed up, the process took longer than ever.
(in a querulous old-age voice, much like SNL's Dana Carvey's "Old Man"):
In my day, we almost never got pictures, and it was over before we knew it. Weeks would pass before we saw the prints, and if our smiles looked like frowns, or our eyes were crossed, or our eyes were closed, or we looked like geeks, well that's the way we looked, and it's too bad our friends were too polite to tell us, but even though we looked like hell, and we embarrassed the neighbors, no one wasted any time, and THAT'S THE WAY WE LIKED IT!
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
And living to talk about it! It can be done under some circumstances. In the Great Patriotic War (aka WWII), at the Battle of Stalingrad, Soviet soldiers were pushed out of low-flying troop transport planes without parachutes, in the hope that snowdrifts would be adequate to cushion their fall, and allow them to soldier on (many didn't make it, though).
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
With flight security:
The TSA has found knives disguised as lipstick, a radio with a handgun inside, a loaded gun stuffed into a teddy bear. Several people have tried to bring chain saws onto planes. An Army sergeant was kicked off a flight after an inert land mine was found in his checked luggage. One man packed gunpowder and a fuse for his hobby of shooting golf balls out of cannons.
Is Super Mario Brothers responsible for the recent escalation of plumber-on-turtle violence in America? Plumber-on-mushroom violence? Discuss.
Questions like this makes me nervous, like when when I took History 101 as a junior instead of a freshman, and the teacher made us read something St. Benedict wrote about how to organize a monastery, and the teacher asked what the reading revealed about the political structure of the Roman Empire, and as far as I could tell, St. Benedict said nothing about the Roman Empire, just what the monks should eat and where they should go, and so I hoped it was a trick question, and I answered that St. Benedict didn't even mention the Roman Empire, and he was mostly just worried about the monks, and the teacher gave me a "D" and I was labelled everlastingly as just an engineering blockhead, and of course St. Benedict didn't actually come right out and say that he was writing about the Roman Empire, he was hoping I could read between the lines, like all the "A" students could, and why did I wait till junior year to take History 101 anyway?
Wonderful, ominous article regarding credit card debt, drastically unfair increases in fees, and a major threat to middle class life.
Oklahoma's Representative Ernest Istook, caught red-handed in a massive lie.
American oligarchs, and Latin American oligarchs, start intermarrying, the start of a new and disturbing trend.
The new JFK assassination video game has deeply disturbed the Kennedy family, for understandable reasons. Nevertheless, there is no better way for curious people, trying to puzzle out whether there was a conspiracy to murder Kennedy or not, to engage in a video game and see how it was possible. Books like Gerald Posner's "Case Closed," plus the Warren Report for that matter, long ago established that a lone sniper was more than able enough to do the deed, but missteps by the CIA, among other agencies, helped provide the ammunition to keep the argument alive. Games can settle the matter for most people, and therefore this is a positive development.
"Polar Express" is apparently a turkey of a movie, just in time for Thanksgiving. I'd still like to see it, but last week I offered H.'s kids the option of seeing it for free, and they winced, and asked if they could see "The Incredibles" for a second time instead. Ouch!
Sunday, November 21, 2004
Saw Pinocchio tonight. One fine show! Everyone did fine - the Grafft sisters, Cody Craven, Chloe Marr, Carver Simmons, Ed Bianchi - everyone!
At one point, I began to get hazy from fatigue from the busy day. Looking up at a blonde girl, I wondered to myself, "Why is Jennifer Walley in the Land of the Toys?" I quickly caught my error, though.
I was just amazed by the limber plasticity of Meeka Craig as Signor Volpone. The mark of a true actor to me has always been a trait that I can only label as versatility: at a suggestion's notice, the actor can assume almost any character under the sun. Few actors actually have this trait, but I suspect Meeka Craig has it. Her Volpone was elastic and physical - Ray Bolger-like: very impressive! Her Miss Hannigan in this summer's workshop, "Annie," was also impressive: the discontented middle-aged woman brought to life. And yet Meeka is only twelve!
Auditions were underway for "Evita" when I stopped there briefly this evening. Some excellent people were there: may the most versatile, ambitious, fascist saint prevail!
I had a strange DMTC dream last night. Even though I never watch these things on TV, I nevertheless dreamt I was in a MTV Reality TV show, staged in a Las Vegas casino, accompanied by the Four Angels of "Anything Goes." Reality show or not, the event seemed to be a total, staged sham, so several of us guys escaped across a busy boulevard to a soggy, roach-infested strip mall, where I fell through a rotting wooden platform into a dark pit, and had real, untelevised adventures trying to get out.
Too many angles to analyze. The soggy, roach infested strip mall was triggered by a conversation earlier in the day concerning how much pesticide Disney World has to use to keep the swamp creatures at bay. The dark pit was suggested by an event a week ago, when I unwisely stood on the fragile sheetrock ceiling above the DMTC Clubhouse office while looking for props, punched my way through the ceiling, and startled Arthur, who was directly below in the office. The male vs. female angle was suggested by another backstage event on Saturday. And there are other angles too.
Reminds me of the story my father told of being a volunteer fireman in rural Corrales, New Mexico, my hometown. Their crew once responded to a nighttime fire at a farmhouse, and almost immediately, their chief disappeared. The firemen put the fire out, and then began searching for their chief. Turned out, one of the first things the fire had consumed at the farmhouse was the outhouse, and their chief, running around in the dark laying out hoses, failed to discern the outline of the black hole - into which he stumbled.
Not that I'm saying anything here of any importance - just that being Stage Manager, even of a smooth-running show like "Anything Goes," nevertheless exacts a toll in tension and psychic turbulence. Time to rest!
Saturday, November 20, 2004
We opened last night! In general, I thought it was the smoothest opening night I've ever seen at DMTC. The reason for the smoothness is that we are beginning to reap the benefit of investments of time and energy that Michael Miiller, Jennifer Walley, and Mike McElroy have made over the last six months in the nuts and bolts of set design: reusable, sturdy, modular platforms being the principal example. Plus the hard work of Doug Freeman and Don David. And again, Jason Hammond had the set design planned out well in advance (it always helps to be prepared). I feared the size of the set required to simulate a large ship would cripple and distract our available manpower, but that did not happen. And the set design is clever, and it economizes on work required during the show. So, the cast was free to concentrate on the show itself rather than being unnecessarily distracted by the set and furniture hustling. Excellent work by everybody!
As the hyperalert Stage Manager, it doesn't mean the performance was flawless. There were still some issues. Don was flung into running the light board with little preparation, so there were some lighting miscues. Herb and I carefully worked out when I was supposed to call lights on the second scene: it was when "she" came on-stage with him. Only trouble, I didn't know who "she" was, so Kelly and Herb idled away impatiently in the dark as I waited for "she" to make some kind of magical appearance. Noel was carefully trying to move her cart of refreshments backstage, but instead bounced the cart like a pinball off the closely-packed furniture - I thought the strange jangling sound of rattling bottles was some kind of bizarre cellphone ringtone. Megan and Steve would have bumped bellies in the dark if not for the table between them that Megan was carrying, so instead, both merely ended up with gouged shins from the table base. Andy missed a rimshot because of too much backstage conversation. And lastly, Gayle didn't get the memo about wearing gloves in the last scene.
Still, considering some of the nightmarish things that have occurred on opening nights in the past, I am immensely relieved. We've got a great show, and the audience loved it!
Friday, November 19, 2004
There is a wonderful story, in the December 2004 issue of Harper's Magazine. In 1963, Thomas de Zengotita, and a studio full of Method Acting students, mistook fragmentary news of JFK's shooting for the premise of an acting improvisational exercise. On cue, the actors plumbed their souls for the emotions they would express if JFK had been shot. The students were very good at their craft, and their pain was inconsolable. News eventually filtered in, however, that JFK really had, in fact, been shot and killed, leaving the students, who had already been in a state of shock, in an embarrassed agony too deep for their formidable acting skills to express.
I began thinking about the event moments of my lifetime - those moments where you can't help but remember where you were when you heard the news. These are close cousins to the vivid memories associated with crises.
The most important series of events in my lifetime so far have been the dissolution of the Soviet Union. No other events come close in regards to their unexpected surprise and historical importance. There are so many stories to tell, and no time! Here are partial lists of both Crises and Events that come to mind:
Cuban Missile Crisis
1967 Urban Riots
Invasion of Cambodia
Iran Hostage Crisis
1983 S. AZ Floods
1989 E. European Crisis
Berlin Wall breached
Soviet Union dissolved
Bush vs. Gore
No Iraqi WMD
Apollo 1 Fire
Apollo 11 - Landing On the Moon
Reagan's Attempted Assassination
1987 Stock Market Collapse
Invasion of Kuwait
Soviet Coup Attempt
OJ Simpson Verdict
Princess Di's Death
Thursday, November 18, 2004
What exactly do the lyrics of "Beautiful Things" (Andain/Gabriel & Dresden mix: also, DJ Tiesto) mean?
Over at Let's Sing It, the discussion starts wide, but gets very close to the mark. First, there is the general sense that the singer "isn't the same anymore and she thought she was doing the right thing but was wrong and all she is really doing is standing still." Another suggests that she has committed suicide: "she is talking about her regrets and in hind sight looks back at all the beautiful things she's missing out on." A third contributor makes a much better analysis, though:
The words in this song lead me to believe that she is talking about marriage!
She's wakes up early to find her only name is missing. No one sees but she got stuck since forever (marriage is forever) came. Her name must have crept away. No more unpredictability of the single life. No one's calling for her, no more men coming and going in her life.
Take this happy ending away its all the same! Marriage is suppose to be a happy ending. But shes feeling like perhaps this is not what she wanted. "I forgot that I might see, so many beautiful things" Life is beautiful, love is and perhaps having children and those moments. In the chorus, she is saying that it can be so beautiful, but in the lyrics she is questioning all that.
I think the words that really get me is "look straight ahead there's nothing left to see, what's done is done this life has got it hold on me", she is saying that there is no use in looking at what she left behind and her new life has a hold on her, perhaps she's happy with it and is trying to talk herself into not thinking about what she has left behind.
At the end she's doubting she made the right choice, wondering if she could change her mind, looking at the life she had.
This song is about conflict, giving up one life for another and the stuggle in doing that.
I guess it hits me because I have been there. Marriage is beautiful but sometimes it's hard to imagine what you gave up for it.
Myself, I think the song is not just about marriage, but about aging, in general. Distracted by the beautiful things of youth, one day we notice that life has moved on and we remain stuck.
"Beautiful Things" (DJ Tiesto):
Got up early, found something's missing
my only name.
No one else sees but I got stuck,
and soon forever came.
Stopped pushing on for just a second, then nothing's changed.
Who am I this time, where's my name?
I guess it crept away.
No one's calling for me at the door.
And unpredictable won't bother anymore.
And silently gets harder to ignore.
Look straight ahead, there's nothing left to see.
What's done is done, this life has got it's hold on me.
Just let it go, what now can never be.
I forgot that I might see,
So many beautful things.
I forgot that I might need,
to find out what life could bring.
Take this happy ending away, it's all the same.
God won't waste this simplicity on possibility.
Get me up, wake me up, dreams are filling
this trace of blame.
Frozen still I thought I could stop,
now who's gonna wait.
No one's calling for me at the door.
and unpredictable won't bother anymore.
and silently gets harder to ignore.
look straight ahead, there's nothing left to see.
what's done is done, this life has got it's hold on me.
just let it go, what now can never be.
Now what do I do?
can I change my mind?
did I think things through?
It was once my life - it was my life at one time.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
If Chinese cuisine prizes soup made from the saliva-cemented nests of cliff-dwelling birds, what won't they celebrate? Here are some cheap condiments to die for. Posted on Die, Puny Humans:
Chinese soy sauce manufacturers say they want to continue making human hair sauce because it's much cheaper than using soybeans. But outrage caused the Chinese government to ban the process, although many unscrupulous soy makers continue prowling barbershops for their economic alternative.
An underground subculture of teenage girls who bond over their eating disorders and glorify bone-thin celebrities has surfaced on the Internet, in a growing trend that experts say frustrates treatment.As harmful as it is, there is a certain kind of lunar, mind-over-matter glory to anorexia.
I remember once at my relatives, waiting for the arrival of one of my cousins: the "anorexic" one, whom I hadn't seen in quite a while. As we waited, we talked among ourselves about body self-image, healthy eating, peer pressure, and fashion industry imagery.
Expecting an ethereal waif, I was more than a little surprised when a bronzed Amazon strode through the front door. She skipped the inane pleasantries, sallied forth into the kitchen, yanked opened the refrigerator and shouted, "Isn't lunch ready yet? I'm starving!"
An above-ground uberculture of middle-aged worrywarts who bond over their eating disorders and glorify morbidly-obese celebrities has surfaced everywhere, in a growing trend that experts say frustrates treatment.
A walk down memory lane by the folks at Daily Rotten:
NBC preempts the final 1:05 from a very close Jets-Raiders NFL football game with "Heidi". Two touchdowns were scored during this missing time. Sports fans everywhere applaud and understand the network's decision.
Usually lunchtime consists of sitting in the little booth at Subway, and blowing a fuse as I read the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Lately, though, K. has been explaining his theories regarding the proper interpretation of Nostradamus' quatrains as I eat my lunch.
Normally, the predictions of Nostradamus are ominous and portentous, but they make little sense. It doesn't matter whether you read them in French or English.
K. is convinced that a numerologist like Nostradamus would have encoded the true meaning of the text. One should read the quatrains like a page written in HTML, with the various lines as hyperlinks to the true meaning.
When K. arranges the quatrains with the Chaldean numerological system, the predictions of Nostradamus are ominous and portentous, but they make little sense. When K. arranges the quatrains with the Pythagorean system, the predictions are portentous and ominous, but they still make little sense. It still doesn't matter whether you read them in French or English.
I mean, come on Nostradamus, the North African Arabs and the Poles will never be at war with each other. Neither will they ever be allies. It's not personal. It's geography. So why write about it?
And famous bridges that collapse. It's happened many times in the past. It will happen many times in the future. A famous bridge was destroyed in the city of Mostar in the recent Yugoslav wars. Doesn't mean Nostradamus predicted it.
In fact, I predict that a famous bridge will collapse or be destroyed sometime in the next 7,000 years. Guaranteed. Nothing ominous or portentous about it.
All this begins to make me pine for the stupidities of the Wall Street Journal. At least their predictions have to meet the acid test of reality (excepting the economists who use dynamic scoring to measure the economic effects of tax cuts, of course).
Last night, several of the dancers were standing in the wings, bent over at the waist, vigorously shaking their bodices. D. explained that, with these particular costumes, there was some danger that their boobies would escape and come squirting out the sides.
Well, I'm always ready to help remedy wardrobe malfunctions. If frantic stuffing fails, we can always try duct tape.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Growing up in New Mexico, I was always painfully aware how dependent we were on the kindness of the coasts, and how perilous a course it would be to 'go red'. As the Wall Street Journal recently pointed out, New Mexicans receive two dollars from the feds for every dollar taxed, the highest disparity of any state.
You gotta do what you gotta do. The blue states need to teach the red states some lessons in power (easy for me to say this - I live in California now).
Monday, November 15, 2004
Saw Runaway Stage's Fiddler on Saturday. Even though I expected to be bored stiff (having done the show twice), it was actually quite nice to see. I had heard beforehand, through the grapevine, that there were dancing issues, but I didn't see choreographic problems, just a group of dancers with varying levels of experience trying to function in a very crowded space. Our crowd had many issues of varying importance, of course, the most serious of which was the misstep of having Fyedka beat Perchik at the end of the wedding scene (would Chava risk offending Hodel by marrying Fyedka after such a faux pas?) Nevertheless, there were many nice touches: Fruma Sara, Tzeitel, and I liked Bob Baxter's quickness. The set and lighting were fine (the house, small as it was, was nevertheless awkwardly large for the space).
Being stage manager for 'Anything Goes' looks like oblivion. By design, many of the normal stage manager functions will not be required: no curtain opening and closing, little furniture shuffling, and not many blackouts to administer. Basically, my role seems to be to make unnecessary conversation, impede the progress of the dancers in and out of the wings, and sweep the floor. Time to bring a book.
Yes, you are right. Better government comes from friendly women lying communally in ponds:
Deborah McMillion-Nering's Weeki-Wachi Mermaids
It can be maddeningly difficult to spot the events in popular culture that truly have an impact on people's lives. Three years ago, in 2001, my 20-some year old friends were agog when I announced that I had no idea what "The Princess Bride" (1987) was all about. How could I have missed the most influential movie in world history? I was importuned incessantly with, "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father: prepare to die." But it turned out, when I finally rented this movie to see what it was all about, that I HAD seen it, back in the late 80's: it was just that the movie made no real impression on me at the time, and I had forgotten it. I was not in the real target group (birth years approximately 1977-1980, age range approximately 9-12 when the movie was released) for whom this movie became a touchstone.
My touchstone, when I was that age, was the heroic effort of the U.S. Space Program to send men to the Moon. Sputnik echoed through my childhood. Musicwise, tunes like Tommy James and the Shondell's "Crimson and Clover" caught my imagination. I wrote earlier how I suspect the movie "Xanadu" was Kylie Minogue's touchstone.
So, what are likely generational touchstones for the generation born about 1985-1987? My favorite candidate is "Sally's Song," Danny Elfman's creation from 1993's "The Nightmare Before Christmas." Unlike "The Princess Bride," "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is darker, in many ways more powerful, and is even more likely to have left a big imprint on young minds.
I remember how "Sally's Song," sung dolefully by Catharine O'Hara, really took my breath away when I first heard it. It reminded me of the day I listened, as a hummingbird rested nearby, and sang an eerie, high-pitched song of longing and loss - until then, I never knew hummingbirds could sing! The bird was so pretty - what could possibly be sad in its life? Did she miss her home in the cool mountain forests of Mexico? Quien sabe?
Sally, having witnessed an omen of doom, tries to divert Jack Skellington from his dangerous Christmas mission, but fails. She sings of unrequited love, looming loss, and a sense of her own insignificance (eternal themes of childhood and adolescence). Here is a photo, from this Web Site, with lyrics:
I sense there's something in the wind
That feels like tragedy's at hand
And though I'd like to stand by him
Can't shake this feeling that I have
The worst is just around the bend
And does he notice my feelings for him?
And will he see how much he means to me?
I think it's not to be
What will become of my dear friend?
Where will his actions lead us then?
Although I'd like to join the crowd
In their enthusiastic cloud
Try as I may, it doesn't last
And will we ever end up together?
No, I think not, it's never to become
For I am not the one