Friday, March 25, 2005

Old TV Ads

Dannette's birthday celebration tonight: dinner at Ruby Tuesday's in Woodland, followed by watching an amusing DVD collection of TV ads from the 50's, 60's, and early 70's. Funny stuff: new car ads, how cigarettes aren't that bad for you, and familiar breakfast cereals. Ben B. pointed out that we should be paid to watch this stuff, and instead it's us buying the DVD. Bugs Bunny making a pitch to buy savings bonds in blackface really made Ryan laugh!

Old TV ads: maybe a good premise for a song-and-dance number? (but who will own the rights?)
Regarding PVS

I was just listening to Rush Limbaugh on KFBK. Limbaugh was attacking the 'mercy killing' lobby for exploiting Terri Schiavo's agonizing starvation. He even featured a recent jail interview with Jack Kevorkian (Kevorkian hoped that the case would increase the public's awareness of these issues). One can hardly fail to notice, however, that Limbaugh was exploiting the tragedy himself. Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw rocks.

Here's a discussion between us three college buddies regarding Persistent Vegetative State (PVS) (Walt provided the link earlier this week):
Hi Walt,
Thanks for forwarding the link about PVS. I found it interesting but not entirely compelling. I kept getting the nagging feeling that the author was pushing some sort of personal agenda. It seemed to me that he was quick to point out cases where people had recovered but he cited only one case and even there lacked specifics. Further, he never defined "recovered". Is a recovery in which a person regains consciousness but has greatly diminished mental and physical faculties truly a recovery? By my thinking it is not.

I am personally aware of two cases in which people in a comatose state for several days fully recovered. One is my wife who suffered a massive head injury in an automobile accident in 1967; the other was the 85-year-old mother of a former employer. In the former case the doctors went to great lengths to save her life and were completely successful. In the latter case doctors held out out little hope but she awoke and, while health issues continued to plague her for the remaining 3 years she lived, her mental faculties were undiminished. So I strongly believe that medical intervention should be used in such cases.

The Schiavo case, however seems to be completely different. By all accounts there is no possibility whatsoever that she can ever recover even a miniscule amount of her previous mental and physical abilities. This is a case that should have been settled by the family and their doctors years ago. And I feel that the highest levels of the federal government getting involved in it for apparently partisan political reasons is totally appalling.

In the past this sort of case was handled quietly and with dignity. (personal information removed) A few years ago Jack Kevorkian tried to bring such practices into the open but for a variety of reasons he did not succeed. And that is unfortunate because by incarcerating him the state is effectively telling us all that metabolic activity must always be maintained regardless of the quality of life.

The thing that I find most disturbing about this whole affair is that the state is now willing to allow starvation to end a hopeless life. We go to tremendous lengths to execute the most heinous and monstrous criminals in a painless manner but we are now preparing to allow starvation of the terminally ill. Jack Kevorkian is certainly eccentric--perhaps even insane--but his methods are more appropriate and certainly more humane. Eventually society will have to give them more consideration.

And then there is the financial cost to society--mostly borne by taxpayers--of maintaining metabolism of people suffering from terminal illnesses. It may sound harsh but society does not have a vested interest in maintaining such lives. Further, in many cases the people being kept alive artificially, would never choose that existence if they had any say in the matter. Religion and news stories about miraculous recoveries have caused many people in America to expect miracles. Spending tens of billions of dollars a year on the chance that a miracle might occur is a foolish price to pay. It's time we started taking amore realistic views of things.

[Walt's contribution subsequently redacted at his request]


It's a hard case, that's for sure. If it wasn't, it wouldn't have risen so high in national attention.

I'm sure Michael Schiavo would respond to O'Reilley that he is a decent guy, and he's made up his mind that the decent thing to do is to pull the plug.

In my opinion, continued care is called for in this case. Michael Schiavo disagrees, however, and I'm willing to defer to his judgement, as I almost always do for family members.

I thought Congress' intervention was grotesque:

1.) Bill Frist compromising his medical training and offering a medical diagnosis on the floor of the Senate based on a videotape examination. Frist's concern was puzzling, since he is generally dismissive of the rights of the dying; e.g., he is favor of harvesting the organs of ancephalic babies.

2.) Tom DeLay equating a desire to stop life support for Terry Schiavo to criticism of Tom DeLay and the conservative movement.

3.) A brazen interference in the workings of the court system. There is no indication that the courts have been careless here (11 years, 39 judges: nothing hasty or ill-considered here.) Now, Congressmen are going around condemning liberal activist judges in this case, when most of the judges involved are conservatives hewing carefully and meticulously to the law. Reality and ideology are so far apart!

4.) Numerous Congressmen condemning Michael Schiavo's marriage in public debate, when they could barely pronounce his name, and certainly don't know him at all.

5.) Congressmen stating over and over that this case does not serve as a precedent, when clearly it is a precedent. Some 35,000 people are in PVS right now, and even if only a tiny fraction of their cases make it to the floor of the Senate, the Senate will still be able to do nothing else but consider these cases.

There are an awful lot of cold-hearted politicos involved now who will try to make Terry Schiavo a martyr for their various causes. Sad.

And the whole case is sad, of course....

Thursday, March 24, 2005

New Helvetia

Met a Swiss doctor today, on a cross-California trip, and just arrived with his family from playing in the snow on Mt. Shasta: Philip Kutumba. Checking out Sacramento! Hope he likes New Helvetia!
Bush Administration - Dangerous, Inveterate Liars

I saw this story in last Sunday's paper (originally from the Washington Post), and could hardly believe the Bush Administration could be so stupid:

In an effort to increase pressure on North Korea, the Bush administration told its Asian allies in briefings earlier this year that Pyongyang had exported nuclear material to Libya. That was a significant new charge, the first allegation that North Korea was helping to create a new nuclear weapons state.

But that is not what U.S. intelligence reported, according to two officials with detailed knowledge of the transaction. North Korea, according to the intelligence, had supplied uranium hexafluoride -- which can be enriched to weapons-grade uranium -- to Pakistan. It was Pakistan, a key U.S. ally with its own nuclear arsenal, that sold the material to Libya. The U.S. government had no evidence, the officials said, that North Korea knew of the second transaction.

Pakistan's role as both the buyer and the seller was concealed to cover up the part played by Washington's partner in the hunt for al Qaeda leaders, according to the officials, who discussed the issue on the condition of anonymity. In addition, a North Korea-Pakistan transfer would not have been news to the U.S. allies, which have known of such transfers for years and viewed them as a business matter between sovereign states.

The Bush administration's approach, intended to isolate North Korea, instead left allies increasingly doubtful as they began to learn that the briefings omitted essential details about the transaction, U.S. officials and foreign diplomats said in interviews. North Korea responded to public reports last month about the briefings by withdrawing from talks with its neighbors and the United States.
It's bad enough to lie to the public, but when you lie to allies and cooperative governments, real consequences follow. The U.S. had almost no credibility left on these matters, and now it has none. What did the Bush Administration think it was doing? Spinning unpleasant facts? Our allies, and the Chinese government, aren't fools. They don't watch FOX News. They know total bullshit when they hear it and they are not amused.

Continuing with the Post's damage assessment.....
Two years ago, U.S. officials told allies that North Korea was trying to assemble an enrichment facility that would turn uranium hexafluoride into bomb-grade material.

But China and South Korea, in particular, have been skeptical of those assertions and are becoming increasingly wary of pressuring North Korea.

The National Security Council briefings in late January and early February, by senior NSC officials Michael J. Green and William Tobey, were intended to do just that by keeping the spotlight solely on North Korea.

Pakistan was mentioned only once in the briefing paper, and in a context that emphasized Pyongyang's guilt. "Pakistani press reports have said the uranium came from North Korea," according to the briefing paper, which was read to The Post.

After initial press reports about the briefing appeared last month, Pyongyang announced that it possessed nuclear weapons and would not return to the six-party talks.

Pritchard said North Korea's reaction was "absolutely linked" to the Green-Tobey trip.
So much for cobbling a joint defense on North Korea. Ain't gonna happen. Not now. Bilateral talks, here we come! Crafty Kim Jong-Il wins a round! Makes Bush look SO STOOPID!
Call Me An Idiot

It's intolerable that Kylie lives and yet I can't see her. So I decided to initiate a course of action. I looked up her concert schedule and noticed a very strange "Showgirl" schedule: single shows one month apart (08/04/05, 09/04/05, etc.) in Dublin. I chose the 11/04/05 show, thinking I'd have until November to prepare for a European visit, and charged 125 euros for two standing-room admissions to my VISA card.

Turns out, European date convention (DD/MM/YY) is not quite the same as the American convention (MM/DD/YY). The show schedule is actually quite logical - successive nights - and 11/04 is just a few weeks away. I've never travelled abroad, and so have no idea if my passport has expired or not, or whether I can get time off work, or plane reservations, or whether I can cancel the tickets at this late date, or anything! (Sigh!)
More Adventures of the 50-Foot Woman

You see, that's what happens when you stop paying attention! Kylie goes and makes more albums. And living in the United States, I'm at the tail end of the information stream (Sigh!)

Apparently "Giving You Up" is on the "Ultimate Kylie" Double-CD. Over at her Web Site, I watched the video (cute, but needs dancers!) Nevertheless, this is a superb pop song. Here are the lyrics, at Let's Sing It:

Kylie Minogue - Giving You Up

Last night I lost my head
And fell right back into your love
I lay intoxicated while angels circled high above

Deep in a perfect moment
All at once it feels so right
But when I wake I see reality turn back and bite

Ah, hah-ah hah-ah
Ah, hah-ah hah-ah
Ah, hah-ah hah-ah
Ah, hah-ah hah-ah

Your heartbeats ticking
And your cool starts dripping
And your tongue tied up on the phone

Your backbones breaking
And your smooth starts shaking
Like you can't stand being alone

Your cot starts rocking
Little doubts start knocking
Like the whole worlds slipping away

Attentions killing
But the ride is thrilling
But you can't help going again

What you want is what you don't know
Turn me on and watch your ego
What you want is what you don't need
Stand up when your talking to me

I can't start giving you up
I'm lost without you
Can't stop tickin the tock
I can't start giving you up
I'm mad about you
Can't stop slipping it off

I can't start giving you up
I'm lost without you
Can't stop tickin the tock
I can't start giving you up
I'm mad about you
Can't stop slipping it off

A girls got to suffer for fashion
She knows what her body can do-ooh-ooh
She finds a man and she makes it her passion
I'm happy trying all the time with a boy like you

A girls got to suffer for fashion
She knows what her body can do, ooh-ooh
She finds a man and she makes it her passion
I'm happy trying all the time with a boy like you

I can't start giving you up
I'm lost without you
I can't start giving you up
I'm mad about you

I can't start giving you up
I'm lost without you
Can't stop tickin the tock
I can't start giving you up
I'm mad about you
Can't stop slipping it off

I can't start giving you up
I'm lost without you
Can't stop tickin the tock
I can't start giving you up
I'm mad about you
Can't stop slipping it off

Ah, hah-ah hah-ah (to fade)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Hollow House in the Land of Enchantment

Intriguing post at The Carpetbagger. Are my home-staters trying to deliver a message? And why is Heather Wilson so cagey these days?:

John McCain's appearance at Bush's Social Security pep rally yesterday in New Mexico generated plenty of attention, but there was a tidbit that shouldn't get lost in the shuffle.
Unlike most other presidential appearances, the event inside the darkly lit Kiva Auditorium was sparsely attended, with hundreds of empty seats. (emphasis added)
That's how bad things have become for Bush's Social Security pitch. The president joined the most popular Republican senator in America, along with local star Pete Domenici, and they still couldn't fill all the seats. Keep in mind, this is state Bush won last year, many of the seats were probably filled by reporters covering the event, and the tickets were free.

The local chamber of commerce says that Kiva Auditorium only holds 2,350 people, while the NYT reported there were "hundreds" of empty seats. So, while presidential visits usually generate some local excitement, Bush visited New Mexico's largest city to discuss his signature domestic policy initiative, had a rock-star quality politician by his side, gave away tickets for nothing, and still couldn't fill a small theater.
Peaceful Picture of the Day

From Mariko D.'s niece, a pretty picture of interference patterns in the waves, near Hiroshima:

Scratch IMAX

Several IMAX theaters in the South have passed on showing a science film on volcanoes because of concerns it might offend people with fundamental religious beliefs who don't believe in evolution.
OK, what about offending those of us who DO believe in evolution? Get with the science, folks! If IMAX can't present proper science in a science film, then why should I bother going at all?
Slamming Frist

From a medical point of view.

So what happens in the Culture Wars if Terri Schiavo dies? Does Terri become a euthanasia martyr, providing the Religious Right with a needed boost of enthusiasm? Does a flurry of new bills get introduced to tighten the laws on aid to those in Persistent Vegetative State?

On the other hand, following a wave a public revulsion at Republican hard-ball tactics, would Schiavo's death be the second defeat of Bush's second term (Social Security being the first)? Might more defeats follow? Are the dominoes poised to topple?

It's dangerous for politicians to be caught on the losing end of causes. George W. Bush is usually pretty good at distinguishing winning hands from losing hands, but like LBJ in 1966, Bush is beginning to learn some hard lessons. It gets harder to avoid blame when your party controls all three branches of government.

At Slate, Jacob Weisberg figures out how Bush can pull victory from the jaws of Social Security defeat:
But if Bush is shrewd enough to euthanize carve-out accounts while shifting to make solvency his goal, he will leave his Democratic opponents in a quandary. A package of innocuous tax increases and benefit cuts could extend the life of the trust fund out to 75 years in a fairly painless way. Substantively, it would be hard for even the most partisan Democrats to oppose this kind of compromise, which serves their goal of protecting the future of Social Security. But politically, Democrats would be loath to help Bush turn his first major defeat into another political victory.
In other words, to "win", Bush would have to adopt the Democratic position. Sounds like a defeat to me! Democrats won't be loath to help Bush accept, let me help! Need a face-saving compromise? I've got the best cosmetics in town! Need to stab allies in the back? Try my pocket knife!
Pix on the Internet are Forever

Navy SEALS living in a glass house shouldn't throw rocks. Sensitive pictures shouldn't be on a Web Site - period. Associated Press is doing its job. Are the SEALS motivated more by fear, or shame and embarrassment?
The Spirit of 2003

Drudge ran this for the supposed shock value of Howard Dean quoting scripture against Republicans, but what I found most striking was Dean's encouragement of political participation - what motivated 135 (plus some write-in) candidates to run for Governor of California in 2003! Good for him!:
Dean said he wanted the audience to focus not only on national politics but also on state and local elections.

He urged every person present to run for office.

"How many people in the audience think they can't be just as good a president as George W. Bush?" he said, prompting a wave of applause and laughter.

He encouraged those not able to run to donate "$10 or $15" to a political candidate they support or donate their time to a political campaign.

"It's not about Republicans and Democrats, but about democracy that works," he said. "I'd rather see someone go to work for a Republican campaign than sit on their butt."
Feed 'Em Rope

I'm glad the Democrats didn't try to put together a coherent position on the Terri Schiavo case. Save the ammunition. The Republicans have had free rein (or is that free reign?) to present a united front and display every disagreeable, culture-war quality guaranteed to make them unpopular with the public. It's a positive delight to see Tom (Hubris) DeLay equate criticism of himself with murder. L'etat c'est moi!
Post-Life Career as Crash-Test Dummy

No problem here, just more Drudge fear-mongering. When you will your body to science, you may find yourself as a crash-test dummy (slow-mo tests here though). My cousin willed her body to science: I hope the research, whatever it was, was fruitful.

Still, I was disturbed last year, when excess (I think it was Tulane Univ.) bodies were used in land-mine research. When I was a work-study student at TERA, in 1974/75, just west of Socorro, NM (NM Tech), they were detonating Claymore land mines next to sheet-metal barriers. I saw what those Claymores can do to sheet metal. Thinking about bodies...Ouch!
"Grapes of Warth" Watch

Upon seeing a restaurant called "The Melting Pot" in downtown Sacramento (after narrowly missing today's jury pool orientation):
That's it! That's the historical building!

"The Melting Pot" was an American motto back in the creation of North America.

Have you ever read that, in the history? In colonist times? I love the history - it was fabulous, it was adventurous, it was an extravaganza!
(Coming soon to a jury near you!)
"Giving You Up"

Kylie's new single! Superlatives fail.... The best Kylie song ever! I'm in heaven! (on rotation at Gay The opening is superb!

The tension is killing
But the ride is thrilling
I can't stop giving you up
I'm lost without you
Can't stop (tickin' the top?)

Can't stop giving you up
I'm mad about you
Can't stop slipping it off

A combined Styx "Lorelei" and Tommy James and the Shondells "Crimson and Clover" feel to the song. Her sense of pop music gets better with time. Can hardly wait till "Showgirl" comes out!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

DMTC's 2005-06 Season

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Into the Woods
Little Shop of Horrors
Wizard of Oz
Second Avenue

Today, when I left the house to drive to work, I noticed six gray and blue balloons, tightly tied together, lying in the driveway. The bundle looked like the pi-bond electron shells for some exotic organic chemical - acetylene, or something.

Well, that's better than last week's Great Porn Crisis. Someone cut a men's magazine into innumerable strips by the garbage cans, which the wind subsequently took and plastered the driveway in alluring 976 chat line advertisements. Young vixen still appeal from every nook and cranny by the peach tree.

Peter next-door is leaving: he's purchased a house. On the other side, a bike-riding woman has moved in. It must be springtime!
The 1995 Chicago Heat Wave

Crooked Timber has an interesting review of "Heat Wave: A social autopsy of disaster in Chicago", by Eric Klinenberg. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. It's interesting to see how differences in neighborhoods and social networks can make a difference under extreme stress.

It would be interesting to see a comparison (if possible) between Chicago and Baghdad, Iraq. Temperatures and humidities make southern Iraq in the summer among the world's most climatically brutal places. Social networks really count there, but the extreme violence there these days assuredly threatens the lives of those vulnerable to the heat.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Terri Schiavo

Courtesy of Walt, here is a handy link regarding Persistent Vegetative State (PVS).

I've mostly been trying to avoid the Terri Schiavo case in the media, but it's practically inescapable. As a general rule, PVS does not seem severe enough to merit withholding of feeding (it's not precisely a 'brain-dead' state), but then there may be other considerations involved - each case may be different.

Mostly, I'm appalled that Congress and the President are inserting themselves into this case, trampling all over federalism and the U.S. Constitution in the process. Every controversial PVS case henceforth is likely to become a legislative football (Persistent Legislative State, as 'Slate' puts it). Even more ironic is that George Bush, when Governor of Texas, signed a law allowing authorities there to pull the plug whenever care becomes onerous. Life is cheaper in the West, I guess. The evangelical leaders (not the evangelical rank-and-file) must really be yanking Bush's chain pretty hard for him to interrupt his vacation to return to Washington and sign emergency legislation to reinsert Terri Schiavo's feeding tube.

It will be interesting to see what happens next, for sport, if nothing else!

Sunday, March 20, 2005

"Annie," and "Beauty and the Beast," Close

Today was the last performance of "Annie" at DMTC. The last several audiences were very large. The Orphan girls were getting very confident - almost too confident - towards the end. Confidence is great, but there is always the danger of becoming complacent. Live theater is always a hazardous undertaking. According to Dianna Craig, little 'Molly' (her daughter Leona) was keenly saddened by the closing of the show. I can understand that emotion, but the antidote to closing sadness is always there: try out for another show! If not for that option, I think we would all die of broken hearts!

Today, Ray Fisher (Big Bald Blog) and Colby Salmon were in the audience. Colby now attends Azusa Pacific College in Glendora (near Pasadena), CA. Colby's voice was a little hoarse - he's apparently in "Suessical" down in the Southland. We talked about Glendora air pollution - being elevated just enough to intercept LA's semi-permanent air pollution layer, the city is among California's smoggiest (maybe the hoarseness comes from that!)

I was very glad Ray was there, but I was still a bit surprised: he's apparently played 'Daddy Warbucks' in "Annie" four times, which means the show has few surprises for him. Still, there's the aspect of seeing what new faces and voices can do with the old roles, plus Runaway Stage Productions (RSP) is doing "Annie" next year. And Colby was visiting (Colby's sister Amanda was one of the Orphans), so what's not to like? Good fellowship and a good show!

Yesterday, "Beauty and the Beast," the Young Performer's Theater (YPT) show closed. I'm glad I finally got to see this show. I now understand why Rhiannon Guevin is so popular over at Davis Comic Opera Company (DCOC) - what a fabulous voice! Colin Wallace was Beastly (which is good!) and Cody Craven did marvellously as the selfish but articulate Prince. I was intrigued watching Jocelyn Price's choreography for the song 'Fine Gifts,' featuring Rain Quinlan, Cody Craven, Elsbeth Poe and Danielle Fio. Simple movements were utilized in an intelligent and charming way (I particularly liked Greedo and Graspo's side-to-side sway: a simple, unexpected, and effective way to use second position, in plie). Anna Johnson's costumes were great, particularly the beautiful teacup costumes.

I was pleased to see Julia Robinson at the show - I hadn't seen her since Fall, 2003. She's attending school in Utah now. She commented on the passage of time, and how oldtimers in the YPT have moved on, and newtimers have taken their places. And so quickly too!

In many ways, the YPT has the best thing about DMTC, a marvellous display of what theater can and should be.

The young are favored in Musical Theater, in general. There is something about facile movement, quick memorization, ambitious singing, and clever characterization that the young are particularly well-equipped to handle. Of course, there is always a different way to look at youth's advantages. Here is an eccentric outlook, part of an interview with actor and playwright Wallace Shawn in the New York Times Magazine (January 11, 2004):
Q. Do you follow Broadway theater?

A. No. I don't see that many plays, and for me, musicals are rarely pleasing. I feel the actors are being put through a kind of nightmarish labor. They're like animals being forced to pull heavy carts of vegetables at incredible speeds.

Q. Can't you make an exception for "Oklahoma" or "South Pacific"?

A. I saw "South Pacific" as a child and thought it was terrifying.
Well, can't convince everyone, I guess! For myself, I like my fast cart of vegetables, and the younger you are, the speedier you like your cart of vegetables!