Saturday, June 18, 2005

"Batman Begins"

After Persia's wedding, H., M., and myself went out to see the movie "Batman Begins." Most of the comic-book-based movies of late have proven to be pretty good, but "Batman Begins" is particularly good: in a separate class, really.

The Sacramento News and Review review summarizes the movie well:
Stepping into the Batman role is Christian Bale, who establishes himself as the only man who should ever play Bruce Wayne for the next 20 or so years. He looks good in the suit and delivers the sort of angry, dangerous performance befitting the character. This isn’t the kind of superhero performance that will get him typecast, à la Christopher Reeve or Keaton. Bale delivers a real performance in a serious film, and I’m thinking he won’t have trouble being accepted as different characters in the future. Bale is too good an actor to be labeled.

Batman Begins, as the title suggests, is an origin story. It spends much of its time telling us why, and how, Wayne became Batman. Disillusioned and haunted by the death of his parents, Wayne goes on a sabbatical, winding up in a Far East mountain range under the tutelage of ninja leader Ra’s Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe) and the mysterious Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson). When Wayne returns to the United States, he’s on a confused mission of justice and revenge. He reunites with his guardian and butler, Alfred (now played by a truly likable Michael Caine), and his childhood friend Rachel (Katie Holmes), now a powerful attorney.
To me, several themes and points-of-emphasis make the movie the perfect post 9/11 film:
  • Gotham City is corrupt to its core, but honest people dared in years past to make it civilized, and struggle today to restore the glory years, nonetheless;
  • There is a huge, huge gap between the public face of Bruce Wayne, and the private agony of Batman;
  • Bruce Wayne spots the corruption in his ninja patrons (I didn't, until much too late) and turns the tables on them;
but above all:

  • Bruce Wayne fights hard to confront and master his fears.
We all need to confront our real (and imagined) fears these days, and official corruption is on the rise. I have a sense these days of gathering reckoning in American political life, and this movie starkly anticipates the gathering storm.
Persia and Justin Marry

Persia Nelson and Justin Crates married today in the backyard of his parents' home (helpfully tended by Persia) near Fruitridge and 24th, near Sacramento Executive Airport. Lots of good people were there: mother Katherine, brother Alex and family from Nevada City, sister Kashi, etc. There were a large contingent of photographers there as well, particularly from "The Dark Room": Persia takes numerous portraits of her own, and is well known in the Sacramento-area photography community.

C.N. (left) and Persia greet guests at the door.

Bridesmaids: Kashi Albertsen (Persia's sister) at far right; Julianna Kemp-Samans (Alex's wife) third from left.

Justin presents the ring.

The happy couple.

Friday, June 17, 2005


Friend Stacia just graduated from UCD, so the DMTC gang threw a party in her honor, at their communal apartment, where so many of the DMTC *stars* dwell (or at least loiter). Stacia injured her foot/ankle in an obscure accident with a chair, so we didn't make her leap and spin - much. We watched several episodes of "Family Guy" on DVD. I haven't watched the show, but I must admit it's very funny, with many musical theater references delivered with random, manic energy.

Portions of the DMTC scene shop will move over to the New Theater on Saturday. The money situation is coalescing - more news, maybe Monday or Tuesday.
Name Voyager

Wow! Elijah was the 625th most popular boys' name in the 60's, and its 31st now. Go figure!
"Fixing" Intelligence

The Downing Street Memos show that our intelligence problem has yet to be fixed, but maybe with some more help from the Brits, we can get to the bottom of it (from Armand Karlsen at B3ta):

A Bush Victory?

This could be spun as a victory for the Bush approach:
SEOUL, South Korea, June 17 - North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, said today that the nation was ready to resume negotiations over its nuclear program as early as next month, provided the United States treated it with respect, according to the South Korean government.
Bush wanted six-nation talks, and now he'll get them. But it still doesn't mean that Bush will know what to do with them. Already Kim Jong Il is shamelessly playing the South Koreans against the Americans - witness:
"If the regime's security is guaranteed, there is no reason to possess a single nuclear weapon," Mr. Chung quoted Mr. Kim as saying.
Having so badly lost everyone's confidence in his leadership by exaggerating North Korean nuclear ambitions, and downplaying Pakistani nuclear ambitions, Bush is now vulnerable to Kim Jong Il's bullying. I feel sorry for the Texas twerp!
Pin The Tail on the Donkey?

Kevin Drum is worried about whether the Democrats get the blame if Democrats push too hard to withdraw from Iraq, get their wish, and chaos in Iraq ensues:
Democrats will push for withdrawal, eventually they'll get their way, and the country will blame them for the resulting chaos and defeat. Dems will argue that it would have happened anyway, but the public won't buy it. The Republican party, which should get the blame, will get off scot free.
The American public was as baffled by the failure to win in Vietnam as any pundit. Their final take was something like, 'well, if we weren't going to do what was necessary to win (tantamount to genocide), we shouldn't have gotten involved.'

It would be reasonably easy to 'win' in Iraq: make it our ONLY military committment and flood it with troops and keep them there indefinitely. Bush won't do that: no one wants to do that. AMERICA won't do what is necessary to win. So, we probably shouldn't have gotten involved at all, and the sooner we cut our losses, the better.

The blame for an Iraqi civil war and a new dictatorship will fall on Bush, not on Democrats, whether the withdrawal comes before or after Bush leaves office. After all, hardly anyone blamed Ford or Carter for the Cambodian genocide. Especially after Congress tied Ford's hands in April 1975, it was understood by all that we were no longer going to be involved there, period. Such blame as there was fell on Nixon, because it was he who needlessly escalated the war there in 1971. Same here. Bush needlessly invaded Iraq in 2003: he gets the blame.

Bush will get credit for good intentions, but blame for bad execution. The entire venture has a Republican brand on it, and even if genocide occurs, under either a new Democratic administration, or a Republican administration with a Democratic Congress, responsibility can be laid fairly and squarely on the Republicans. New and unpleasant political realities in Iraq can also be blamed on ungrateful Iraqis. Democrats skate no matter what happens.
Victor Hugo Couldn't Make This Stuff Up

Come on, do it, you Power-Mad Ass!:
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Gov. Jeb Bush said Friday that a prosecutor has agreed to investigate why Terri Schiavo collapsed 15 years ago, citing an alleged gap in time from when her husband found her and called 911.

In a letter faxed to Pinellas-Pasco County State Attorney Bernie McCabe, Bush said Michael Schiavo testified in a 1992 medical malpractice trial that he found his wife collapsed at 5 a.m. on Feb. 25, 1990, and he said in a 2003 television interview that he found her about 4:30 a.m. He called 911 at 5:40 a.m.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Get Fit Jam

Took Pepper's class for the first time in four or five years. Not fit, or at least not fit yet!
More Patience

OK, if John Bolton can be "the most patient man in America" (see below), the least I can do is imitate his serenity, and stop kissing up and kicking down. Here's the latest from Frontier:
We know you’re all eager for news on the rescheduled dates for Kylie’s Showgirl tour [Eager? EAGER? ME, EAGER? No! Patience, Marc, Patience! Remember, John Bolton!] and we’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued patience [Likewise, but ditch the thanks and get on with it, man!].

However Kylie’s health is our main concern at this point in time [Kylie's health is her concern - your concern is the freakin' tour! When is it going to be rescheduled? WHEN?], and we’re sure you’ll understand when we say that none of us want to have her back on tour prematurely [Prematurely? It's not like she fell off a stage like Patti Smith and broke every bone in her body, dammit. PATIENCE, Marc! Remember John Bolton!]. Kylie’s health and recovery remains the number one priority for The Frontier Touring Company right now [And mine too, dammit, but when is the tour going to be rescheduled?].

The latest news from Kylie’s doctors indicates that a definitive answer on Showgirl’s rescheduling is still a few weeks away [Doctors? Doctors are involved? Doctors can't schedule anything worth beans! That's why they have clerical help! I don't care what the doctors think, what do the receptionists think? PATIENCE!]. Your tickets remain valid [they'd better!], so make sure you keep them somewhere safe [mine are buried in the yard]. If you do wish a refund you’ll need to contact your original authorised point of purchase to organise this [I got one of them off E-Bay...I wonder if I'm screwed? But wait, Mandy, whom I purchased the ticket from, said she'd help, and she knows the outskirts of Brisbane like, well, like, she knows kangaroos and vegemite and other obscure Australian stuff, like getting refunds!].

As soon as we have information on new Showgirl dates for Australia we will let you know. Kylie loves performing in Australia and is as eager to be back on stage as you are to see her.
I remain, as always, a serene and above all, patient Kylie fan.
Old Negro Space Program

Watch the Old Negro Space Program. Also, do a search on "I Am Drugs", and watch that too.

The achievements of the Old Negro Space Program have been overshadowed by the antics of celebrities like Michael Jackson (I must admit I was distracted too: where else but America can a poor black boy grow up to be a rich white woman? But I digress....) Still, it's important to recall more obscure episodes from our recent space history.

Also, I like the positive, uplifting "I Am Drugs" vignettes.
2007 Mortgage Shock

Interesting commentary regarding this article:
This year, only about $80 billion, or 1 percent, of mortgage debt will switch to an adjustable rate based largely on prevailing interest rates, according to an analysis by Deutsche Bank in New York. Next year, some $300 billion of mortgage debt will be similarly adjusted. But in 2007, the portion will soar, with $1 trillion of the nation's mortgage debt - or about 12 percent of it - switching to adjustable payments, according to the analysis. The 2007 adjustments will almost certainly be the largest such turnover that has ever occurred....

'I'm not sure that people are being counseled on really how big of a risk they are taking,' said Amy Crews Cutts, deputy chief economist at Freddie Mac, the mortgage company. Consider a typical $300,000 interest-only mortgage with fixed payments for the first five years. The homeowner would start by paying about $1,250 a month. If interest rates rise modestly over the next few years, as many forecasters expect, the payment will jump to almost $2,100 in 2010, according to Stephen Barrett, the owner of Redmond Financial, a mortgage business near Seattle....
The Pressure Builds on Kylie

Just another reason to get the "Showgirl" tour on the road again, whether she's ready or not:
Kylie Minogue could reportedly face a huge bill for postponing her Australian Showgirl tour because she had an incorrect type of insurance. She apparently may be forced to foot a six-figure insurance sum out of her own pocket, a bitter pill after being diagnosed with breast cancer, the reason Minogue cancelled the tour.

British newspaper The Daily Express quotes an unnamed source as saying an unfortunate mistake may have been made regarding the insurance for the 20-date tour.

"Kylie wasn't insured for this kind of eventuality," the source says.

"She's never had cause to cancel an appearance because of being ill.

...But a statement from Frontier e-mailed yesterday to Confidential contends the Express's information is incorrect, adding: "the Frontier Touring Company are not expecting any money in the near future and have not approached Kylie on this matter.

...In May, Gudinski said the Australian leg of Kylie's Showgirl tour was expected to gross "well over $20 million" and would cost half that amount to stage.

Of the more than 200,000 tickets which went on sale, Frontier had received refund requests for "less than 5 per cent".

..."It is important to remember that Kylie's tour is only postponed, not cancelled," the statement says.

The wingnuts over at Lucianne now feature a somber portrait of John Bolton, labelled:
The most patient man in America
The State Department's legendary grudgeholder, tantrum thrower, kiss-up-kick-down kind-of guy, the most patient man in America? As a friend would say, "bitter, table for two!"

Well, let's press a crown of thorns on his head, commisserate with his Job-like misery, and lead him to Calvary, shall we?
Remainder Pile

She wants me to ghostwrite her autobiography, entitled: "If you know my story, you would cry for me."

Uh, no, not likely!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Democrats Near Victory

Republicans look for an exit, and Democrats won't help them find the door:
Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said voters increasingly see Bush as the impediment to a compromise because the president has stubbornly stuck by a partial privatization proposal that has never gained broad public support. Besides, Emanuel added, after five years of pushing legislation through Congress with virtually no consultation with Democrats, White House officials can hardly complain that the Democrats are not there now.

"They never wanted our votes on a prescription-drug bill. They didn't want our votes on taxes, and now they want it on Social Security?" he said. "Go ahead. Have your party-line vote. We'll see how it turns out."
Fun Facts

From the LA Times:
One in every 11 people born in Mexico and still alive is a U.S. resident, and about half of these immigrants crossed the border illegally, according to a comprehensive report released Tuesday.
Sacramento Ghosts

And their haunts.
Kurdish Ethnic Cleansing

I found this article to be thoroughly manipulative. Nowhere do the authors mention that the reason the Kurds are so keen on removing Arabs from Kirkuk is that so many Kurds were removed in the 80's, to make room for these now-endangered Arabs (and apparently Turkmen). It's long-been obvious that elementary justice would require some reverse-ethnic-cleansing (done in a respectful manner, of course). Since we have troops there, we get involved in the ethnic cleansing action as well. That's how things go in Iraq: politics there ain't pretty. The least these writers could do is be honest about it.
Seized off the streets of Kirkuk or in joint U.S.-Iraqi raids, the men have been transferred secretly and in violation of Iraqi law to prisons in the Kurdish cities of Irbil and Sulaymaniyah, sometimes with the knowledge of U.S. forces. The detainees, including merchants, members of tribal families and soldiers, have often remained missing for months; some have been tortured, according to released prisoners and the Kirkuk police chief.
When Galaxies Collide - Left Blogs Suck Energy From Right Blogs

There was this interesting story regarding blogs that caught my attention:
The left-wing blogosphere is beginning to decidedly pull away from the right wing blogosphere in terms of traffic. This is largely a result of the open embrace of community blogging on the left and the stagnant, anti-meritorious nature of the right-wing blogosphere that pushes new, emerging voices to the margins.

...Of the twenty-four liberal blogs in the top quintile, Dailykos, TPM Café, Smirking Chimp, Metafilter, BooMan Tribune, MyDD, and Dembloggers are full-fledged community sites where members cannot only comment, but they can also post diaries / articles / polls. By comparison, there are no community sites among the top twenty-four conservative blogs. None, zip, zero, nada. This is particularly stunning when one considers the importance of the Free Republic community to the conservative netroots. While it would appear that there are hordes of Glenn Reynolds wannabe's among conservatives in the netroots, sticks out as the only success story for a community oriented blog within the conservative blogosphere. In fact, of the five most trafficked conservative blogs (over 200,000 page views per week), only one, Little Green Footballs, even allows comments, much less the ability to actually write a diary or a new article.
Apparently the community blog revolution happened, and I didn't notice much going on. Like Andrew Sullivan, I kind of liked spinning away in my tiny little cyberspace fish pond. I read and contribute to the comments at Dailykos, for example, one of the major community sites, but I hadn't paid attention to the Diaries, or RSS, and NOW!: here I am, stuck in nowhere land, with lonely conservatives for company!

Why should the liberal blogs be doing better than the conservative blogs, so suddenly? The most-useful conservative Web Site,, is still fairly passive in nature: people post links to stories they've seen in the media, and invite comment. The stories are media stories, first and foremost, not your own. In contrast, the liberal sites invite people posting links to comment first, or at least establish the context. If you don't want to link to anything, that's OK too. The latter process requires more thought, and maybe it's healthier. It certainly makes a better read for others.

So, making an effort to catch up with the revolution gone by, I'm investigating this RSS feed stuff, and I've signed up with Bloglines.

After receiving a comment from a reader who found it jarring to see my comments regarding Britney Spears next to political tirades, I thought about splitting my blog into several blogs, based on topic (Musical Theater, Politics, Personal, etc.) I believe I had to pay Blogspot to get them to host images, however, and I wouldn't want to pay too many times, so for the time-being, bunny stories will be found jumbled with war stories. That's the only reason I don't split the Web Log up.

This is not a community site - yet anyway. But there certainly is a logic to creating a Sacramento-area Musical Theater Community Blog, analogous to a chat room or bulletin board, where different people could write reviews, or share news, etc. Maybe one of us will do that sometime soon.....
Keyboard Kommandos

Funny stuff from The Poor Man!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Magdalena Theater

I was surprised to learn that Magdalena (located about 20 miles west of Socorro, NM) has its own theater company. Even Socorro doesn't have a resident theater company (as far as I know). When I was a student at NM Tech in the 70's, we used to pass through Magdalena on the way to Kelly, to high grade the mines there for pretty copper-bearing minerals, but we never lingered long. I remember finally being able to recognize the (altogether obvious) image of Mary Magdalene on a mountainside (the town's namesake).

In July, London Frontier Theatre Company is presenting "Dogs!", Magdalena's answer to "Cats."
Like Shooting Fish in a Barrel

Senate Republicans maneuver one of the least popular ideas ever into legislation. Nevertheless, it's the first time the Republicans have ever spoken honestly about what they plan.
Key Senate Republicans are considering gradually raising the Social Security retirement age as high as 69 over several years as they struggle to jump-start legislation that President Bush has placed atop his second-term agenda, officials said Tuesday.

For Michael Jackson.
California Tsunami Warning

For an earthquake that happened half an hour ago (I didn't feel anything).
Pinnacle's Foolhardy Pilots

Bad training? Poor engineering design? Or just plain stupidity?:
The transcript of their conversation as captured by the cockpit voice recorder suggests exhilaration. An air traffic controller with jurisdiction over the flight asked at one point, "3701, are you an RJ-200?"

"That's affirmative," one of the pilots replied.

"I've never seen you guys up at 41 there," she said.

Then there was laughter in the cockpit.

"Yeah, we're actually a, there's ah, we don't have any passengers on board, so we decided to have a little fun and come on up here," one of the pilots answered.

In the thin air, though, the engines had less thrust, and the plane slowed further. The nose pitched up as the autopilot tried to keep it at the assigned altitude, and then an automatic system began warning that the plane was approaching a "stall," in which there is too little lift to maintain flight.

"Dude, it's losing it," one pilot said, using an expletive. "Yeah," the other said.

But as an automatic system tried to push the nose down, to gain speed and prevent the stall, the pilots, for reasons that are unclear, overrode it. So the plane did stall, and the turbulent air flowing off the wings entered the engines, shutting them down.

"We don't have any engines," one of the pilots said. "You got to be kidding me."
Mark Felt's Twisted Saga

The history of Watergate is amazing!
New Mexico Trip

I took a long weekend to visit my family in NM. My father has been ill, derived from many years of smoking. The experience makes me sad about the terrible damage that cigarette smoking has caused and continues to cause in our society. My father spends all day working on trying to breathe - something we all tend to take for granted! If you smoke, you will likely do the same at some point!

On Monday, my sister Michelle, her son Aaron, and I travelled to Corrales, to see our old childhood haunts. So strange! Many changes there. The trees are all taller, for the most part, except for the really big cottonwoods, that are now dying out. Lots of new homes and shops, and fewer open fields.

I did not recognize our childhood home! The people who own the adobe house have done many things with it, to the point where we could just walk past and not feel a sense of connection to it. In a way, my father's expansive vision for the place was eventually realized, by these new people. They are to be congratulated!

Weird stuff these days in Corrales. For example, the Milagro Winery, established next door to classmate Wesley's old house, on what I had always thought of as bad soil.

We visited the San Ysidro Cemetery, and looked at the numerous graves of our classmates. So many school chums already slammed six feet under, with deteriorating headstones and crosses on the ground above. And here we are, still walking around!

We drove to Corrales' north end and went to see the llama trotting track (looks underutilized these days): we saw only one llama.

We drove up into the River's Edge II subdivision of Rio Rancho. A suburban land, weird, even obscene, and alien to the landscape we all grew up in Corrales. Still, not all is lost: the bizarre contiguity of freestyle home sites popping up on the freely-held lots, and severe suburban plat development, may create an interesting schizophrenia among the young inhabitants of these newfound places. A new generation of suburbanites has arisen, where there should be none in a rational universe, but will they be like the old suburbanites of Rio Rancho, like the people in Corrales Heights, like my classmates living on streets like 'Sabana Grande'? Time will tell!

Back in Corrales, we first tried to eat at Tijuana Bar (established 1935), but they were closed on Monday. Instead, we ate at Village Pizza, formerly Drink, Inc. when I was young. Good food! Upon leaving the place, on the radio, we heard the outcome of the Michael Jackson trial.

I was trying not to pay much attention to the Jackson trial, on general principle, but I felt the case against Jackson was seriously compromised by the money at stake. I wasn't surprised by the verdict.

My sister was upset with the verdict: she wanted the jury to send a clear message to molesters everywhere that money and fame are not enough to protect you against the wrath of parents everywhere for crossing the line. That wasn't the jury's mandate, though, as even she recognized. If the case had been stronger, then maybe the message would have been clearer. It should be absolutely clear to Jackson, however, that he is vulnerable and has real enemies, and he MUST change his ways to avoid bankruptcy and prison.
Lila Lipscomb Brigade

The mothers of dead soldiers:
Since her son's death, Sheehan has made opposition to the Bush administration a full-time job.

"We're watching you very carefully and we're going to do everything in our power to have you impeached for misleading the American people," she said, quoting a letter she sent to the White House. "Beating a political stake in your black heart will be the fulfillment of my life ... ," she said, as the audience of 200 people cheered.
Broken Tool

Why is he resigning? After all, Cooney was just following the Bush line on these matters. It's hard to shame the shameless. Where is The Village when you need it!
A former oil industry lobbyist who changed government reports on global warming has resigned in a long-planned departure, the White House said Saturday.
Roadside Crosses - Descansos

Oral historians in New Mexico have started paying attention to the practice of placing crosses at the exact site where a loved one died, generally in an automobile accident. That's great, but I wonder whether the focus on just New Mexico is too limiting. After all, the practice is common in Arizona as well, and has doubtless spread to many other places. And who knows about Mexico? But you've got to start somewhere. Here is another interesting Web Site....
McRee and oral historian Troy Fernandez, both Santa Feans, have spent years researching, photographing and interviewing people about the roadside crosses known variously around New Mexico as descansos, crucitas or memorias.

...Descanso is a word derived from the Spanish verb descansar, to rest. Because of the differences in terminology in various parts of New Mexico, McRee and Fernandez decided to use the English term "roadside crosses" for their research project. The crosses are erected where there is an accidental or unattended death.

Although roadside crosses can be found around the world where Christianity is practiced, crosses were first erected in New Mexico by Spanish settlers heading north from Mexico to explore the new territory. Now, deaths from driving accidents are the most frequent cause— but not the sole— for erecting a roadside cross.

McRee and Fernandez discovered that crosses have been erected for people who were struck by lighting while hiking or on horseback or hit by cars while walking or who had committed suicide.

In a unique case, a young man had caught the train to Lamy during the month of February. He started hitchhiking to his destination but froze to death during the night before he reached it. His family set up a roadside cross where his body was found.

The earliest description uncovered by the researchers of a roadside cross is found in a 1744 writing. Frey Miguel de Menchero describes an area around Embudo as being full of crosses erected for people who had been ambushed and killed by Indians while attempting to make it through Embudo Pass.

An 1826 map of northern New Mexico marks the location of many roadside crosses. The oldest cross McRee and Fernandez have found was erected near El Rito in 1948 for a priest who was hit by a drunken driver.

...According to McRee, the place where the cross is erected is paramount because that is where the deceased's spirit is believed to exist. In some cases, where a car may have plummeted into a ravine, one cross was erected in the ravine and another on the side of the road where the car veered off.

The roadside cross also serves as a warning to drivers that an accident occurred at that spot.

...Some states have discouraged the erection of roadside crosses, or at least the personal, home-made shrines that New Mexicans are familiar with.

Last year, the Colorado legislature passed a law that allows the families of traffic accident victims to request that the state put up a small sign, with the victim's name, at the site of fatal crashes in lieu of a shrine. The signs cost $100 and can stay up for six years.

Texas and Florida have also required state-funded, standardized memorials— Florida's are made of PVC pipe. In Wyoming, families may put up an aluminum sign picturing a gravestone, a broken heart and a dove at the accident site. Washington state encourages tree plantings in lieu of crosses or shrines.

New Mexico so far has no official policy. State Department of Transportation spokesman S.U. Mahesh said last year that about dozen crosses along the Santa Fe-to-Pojoaque highway corridor were stored by families or the department when work on widening the highway started several years ago and that the shrines will be re-installed once the work is complete.