Friday, December 03, 2004

Images From Hubble

A nice slideshow!
The Poultry Of No Return

Posted by ProduceMonkey at B3ta
McRorie's One-Man Band

Tired of lip-synching wannabes? Here is a better use of modern music technology! (If keeping active musically is a good Alzheimer's preventative, then this guy will be alert into his second century!)

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Prelude to the Arts

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. is a campaign organization vehicle. It doesn't lead: it enables.
  4. 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).

Caution - Slow Teens

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

Irrepressible Thieves and SpongeBob SquarePants

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.

Natural Nuclear Reactors

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.)

Making Spammers Pay

Make Love, Not Spam.
Lunch Time!

(From Noel) On the cafeteria menu at the Marysville campus of Yolo Community College:

½ Dung less Crab $7
Why Don't Slot Machines Pay Off More Often?

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")
Optical Illusions

I'm beginning to feel like we're approaching The Narrows!....Ooooohhh Nooooo!
New DMTC Season

Not quite settled yet.....A few details to iron out....

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

RIP, Bruno, The Wonder Dog

(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

There Was A Time....

When educational standards were a little higher than they are now.
Revenge of the Bricks....

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.

Critics Carp...

About "JFK Reloaded," but the fascination remains. A 24-year-old loner couldn't have done such a cataclysmic thing alone....could he?

(of course he could!)
Why Not the World's Most Expensive Disco Ball?

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:

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.

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:
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.''

Ignorant Condoleezza

What's the point of having historical scholars in the White House if they can't be bothered with understanding the lessons of history?
"Reforming" Social Security

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

House Music and Henry Adams

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!

Stalker's Dance Concept

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?
Wardrobe Malfunction

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.
Goth Experiment

"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).