Friday, March 31, 2006

Sacramento Ballet's "Scherherazade"

Sacramento Bee preview caption (left): Jack Hansen and Kirsten Bloom will dance in the Sacramento Ballet performance of "Scheherazade," choreographed by Kathryn Posin.
Sacramento Bee/ Jay Mather

Taking questions after Friday night's performance, March 31, 2006. Left to right; Stefan Calka (Sinbad), Nicole Haskins (Sea Spirit, Attendant of the Moon), Tarah Finley (Harem Girl), Joo Hwan Cho (Genie), Kermit Allen (King Badur), J. Benjamin Schreivogel (Vizier), Ilana Goldman (Rukh Bird), Ron Cunningham (Co-Artistic Director).

How long did it take to practice for this show? Benjamin Schreivogel answered "about a month": they started a bit earlier for "D-Construction," in order to 'get it out of the way' but the rest - about a month. One question directed toward Ilana Goldman was 'what was your inspiration in order to play a bird?' Ilana answered that there are birds in several ballets, and what she did was to assemble all the bird experiences she had ever had into one big "conglomeration of bird." I asked about the sudden drops they needed to take, and how that required a lot of trust - seemingly much more than a month's worth. Tarah Finley answered that she enjoys the high lifts and that the right approach was to "trust your partner right from the beginning." Ron Cunningham added that ballet's cardinal rule is "don't drop your partner!"

It was a busy night, Friday night, in downtown Sacramento. 'Tony, Toni, Tone,' 'Blackstreet,' 'Guy,' and 'After Seven' were performing at the Memorial Auditorium, and the line snaked around the block. But my destination was the Sacramento Community Center, to see Sacramento Ballet's "Scherherazade!"

To my surprise, I ended up sitting next to Katherine van Hoof at the show. Katherine was not only a noted modern dancer with Ruth Rosenberg in the 90's, but she also owned my home before I lived there - my home on Second Avenue. Katherine was with her mother. I explained that Adam Taylor and myself are about to address the slumping floor on the south side of the house, and they both reminisced about chairs that would roll themselves across the living room floor (and those of us who were in "Titanic" know what THAT means!)

Wonderful show! Really wonderful! Kirsten Bloom, and everyone, were just amazing! The colorful costumes were striking. Indeed, according to my "Concise History of Ballet" by F. Reyna, when Michel Fokine's "Scherherazade" premiered in 1909, the costumes triggered another one of those Asian-inspired sartorial fads that had intermittently rocked Paris since the 1870's.

Several of the stories of the Arabian Nights are told during the ballet (synopsis here):
Sinbad, danced by Stefan Calka, is a sailor whose ship encounters a storm and capsizes. He persuades a dangerous Rukh Bird (Ilana Goldman, looking more beautiful than treacherous) to allow him to tie himself to the bird's leg and be lifted to safety. He is reunited with his lost crew and returns home to Baghdad in a happy ending that is indicative of most of these tales.

The beautiful blue costumes of the corps de ballet (designed by Judanna Lynn for the premiere of this work at the Milwaukee Ballet in 2003) suggested the sea, and a large sheet of blue fabric rippled and surged and submerged the sailors in a brilliant bit of choreography.

As Aladdin, Colby Damon danced well, but the scene belonged to the Genie, Joo Hwan Cho, who brought humor and some magic tricks to his role in the story of a poor boy who uses the three wishes granted him by the resident of a magic lamp to get food, clothes, riches - and true love.

Perhaps the most interesting tale is that of the Flying Horse. In it, a sad young prince (Jared Nelson) pines for a beautiful princess (Amanda Peet), whose face he sees in the moon. He steals a magic toy - the flying horse - and flies off to be with his love. Their happiness is threatened by the toymaker whose horse the prince stole, until Scheherazade herself steps in to alter the course of the tale.

This was the most technically difficult scene of the ballet, with slides, a projected image of a flying horse that had to align with the suspended moon, and other elements, and it came together well.

The final scene, "Massacre in the Harem," is a dark one in which the evil Vizier (Benjamin Schreivogel), who has caused trouble since he revealed the first wife's unfaithfulness, seeks revenge against Scheherazade. There's a lot of mayhem - with everyone lying down, apparently dead - until Scheherazade rises like an avenging angel and shows the Sheikh that through love, life can be restored.
Jim Carnes in the Sacramento Bee interviewed Kathryn Posin, the choreographer of this staging of "Scherherazade." In Fokine's original, the character of Scherherazade isn't even present (!!!) The 'Golden Slave' tells the story, not Scherherazade. Rather, the name 'Scherherazade' is used almost as a brand, to signify the stories of the 1001 Arabian Nights.
"I told ABT (American Ballet Theater) that I was retelling Fokine's story from the woman's point of view, but everybody I've told that to has rolled their eyes," she said.

In Fokine's version, which was danced by Vaslaw Nijinksy, "Scheherazade isn't even in it!" Posin said. "Fokine only picked the frame story: The king's wife cheated on him, so he killed a virgin a night until one woman came forth. ...

"My biggest point as a woman choreographer of the 21st century is that the stories are like puzzles and riddles that teach the king to give up his rage, and to love," Posin said. "And to forgive the person it's hardest to forgive - himself.

"It's inherent in the stories and in the Islamic sensibility," she said, where "forgiveness and mercy are the highest attributes. The stories are endlessly fascinating."
In contrast to Fokine, Posin preferred to describe her reintroduction of Scherherazade into the story as almost a feminist form of empowerment, but, in fact, Posin's choice is conservative in nature: trying to stay faithful to the original stories of the Arabian Nights. It was Fokine who was the real radical, and his distortions of the stories had to be reversed. All for the better, I think!

Despite the nausea induced by looking down the tubes, I sometimes used the field glasses they rent at the Community Center to study Kirsten Bloom's face and feet during the show. If it had been me, I would have been gasping for air and melting into incoherence: in contrast, Bloom never lost her radiant expression and cool composure, and her feet looked just awesome!

Also on the program was Balanchine's "Concerto Barocco," a delightfully serene exploration of classical symmetry and grace. The dancers often moved in twos and fours, but nevertheless with surprising variations in rhythm and pattern. I was reminded of a kaleidoscope. Bobby Briscoe was amazing: so many, repeated lifts!

In contrast Septime Webre's "D-Construction" explored the power of breaking symmetry: ones and threes. Very vigorous dancing!

Overall, a wonderful show! We are so lucky to be graced by having Sacramento Ballet in our community!
DMTC Dance

Regarding things to do this weekend, I almost forgot the dance DMTC is hosting:

DMTC's Now there are 2 ways to "Cut a Rug" with DMTC

You've heard about dancing through the fabulous 40s this Saturday night, with music from the times of big band swing at the DMTC USO! Tickets for the fun are still available on the DMTC website or by calling the box office. Purchase
Dancing Through The Decades Tickets Online

But now it's time to literally cut a rug for our new theatre! Your $20 donation to the carpet fund means another square yard installed of our "ShowStopper" carpet - see the sample in the lobby to envision how this beautiful blue flooring will put an elegant finishing touch throughout!

You can drop your check with a note "carpet fund" in the Donations Box in the lobby, personally deliver to the box office, make a donation through the website with the note that it's for the carpet, or mail it on in the old-fashioned way. Please help us cut a rug for the new theatre today! Make your Cut a Rug donation here

DMTC's USO Show-Dancing Though the Decades (Where you dance the night away to the music of the 1940's) starts at 7:00pm. “Dancing through the Decades” evening includes music, dancing, snacks and dessert – fun the whole family can enjoy. Come “dressed to impress” in “period clothes” or come as you are and enjoy the best music of the decade and our sprung stage – specially designed for dancing!

Tickets for each “Dancing through the Decades” evening are $20 per person, and are available online.

All proceeds benefit DMTC’s mission to present and preserve the Classic American Musical art form.
Giant Tricycle

Crazed German fan assembles a huge tricycle featuring lots of soccer balls. Plus a feline circus, and other strange stuff.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Doofus Kaloogian

Apologizes, but then blames the military for his error:
Howard Kaloogian, the former GOP assemblyman running for the seat vacated by disgraced 50th Congressional District Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, said using the photo was "a stupid mistake'' and acknowledged in an interview Wednesday that it was brought to his attention recently by bloggers and activists on the left.

"It was wrong. We're sorry,'' Kaloogian said of the peaceful street scene from Istanbul labeled as depicting downtown Baghdad. He said his staff mistakenly put the photo on the site.

... Kaloogian and his campaign strategist, Sal Russo, confirmed Wednesday what the bloggers alleged -- that the photo was taken in Turkey -- though they insisted it was an honest mistake.

The candidate said he hadn't recognized the error because "the military asked us to use our discretion and put things on the Internet that were nondescriptive ... (because) if we posted something that was easily identifiable, it could be a target."
Harrison Ford ....

... Hates the Internet. And with reason - apparently the Internet hates him too.

Gotta spread love! Love is the answer for all this hate! (and no, Gabe, this doesn't mean I'm a Boomer...)
That Annoying Man Speaks Again

George Will takes time from baseball ruminations to opine about illegal immigration. I wish he'd go back to baseball. He starts out with a hypothetical proposition:
America, the only developed nation that shares a long -- 2,000-mile -- border with a Third World nation, could seal that border. East Germany showed how: walls, barbed wire, machine gun-toting border guards in towers, mine fields, large, irritable dogs. And we have modern technologies that East Germany never had: sophisticated sensors, unmanned surveillance drones, etc.
Anyone who's ever stood on the mountain peaks in Coronado National Monument, near Sierra Vista, AZ, and seen the grand sweep of the border, and understands just how little of it they are seeing, KNOWS, in a way no Potomac-bound pundit ever could, that no such wall is feasible. The only people who have ever tried such a thing, the Chinese, after squandering vast sums, failed completely in their efforts to keep the Mongols out. Even as a hypothetical idea, it falls flat on its face.

Regarding draconian measures, Will continues:
It is a melancholy fact that many of these may have to be employed along the U.S.-Mexican border. The alternatives are dangerous and disagreeable conditions for Americans residing near the border, and vigilantism. It is, however, important that Americans feel melancholy about taking such measures to frustrate immigration that usually is an entrepreneurial act: taking risks to get to America to do work most Americans spurn.
How "white" of you, George, to feel this noble melancholy! But then, here's George's bullet-point agenda:
But control belongs at the top of the agenda, for four reasons. First, control of borders is an essential attribute of sovereignty. Second, conditions along the border mock the rule of law. Third, large rallies by immigrants, many of them here illegally, protesting more stringent control of immigration reveal that many immigrants have, alas, assimilated: They have acquired the entitlement mentality created by America's welfare state, asserting an entitlement to exemption from the laws of the society they invited themselves into. Fourth, giving Americans a sense that borders are controlled is a prerequisite for calm consideration of what policy that control should serve.
Regarding point three, people are under the misapprehension that these rallies are being organized by illegal aliens. Some illegal aliens are protesting, to be sure, but most of the rally participants are legal citizens exercising their rights as citizens, as guaranteed under the Constitution, to assemble peacefully. This is not an entitlement mentality, unless the exercise of rights by all citizens who don't live in cloistered gated communities is an entitlement. And point four sounds like a veiled threat: leave us in peace, or else who knows what we'll do?!

Even Will recognizes there are limits to what is possible to solve illegal immigration problems. He embraces guest-worker programs, despite the risk of creating a second-tier of citizenship, much as Europe has experienced, to its chagrin:
Facts, a conservative (John Adams) said, are stubborn things, and regarding immigration, true conservatives take their bearings from facts such as those in the preceding paragraph. Conservatives should want, as the president proposes, a guest worker program to supply what the U.S. economy demands -- immigrant labor for entry-level jobs. Conservatives should favor a policy of encouraging unlimited immigration by educated people with math, engineering, technology or science skills that America's education system is not sufficiently supplying.
Why just these skills? After all, the H1-B program was first initiated to help with the entry of foreign fashion models into the U.S. for extended work contracts. Only later, was it expanded for techical workers.

Will does recognize some of the dangers regarding illegal immigration:
And conservatives should favor reducing illegality by putting illegal immigrants on a path out of society's crevices and into citizenship by paying fines and back taxes and learning English. Faux conservatives absurdly call this price tag on legal status "amnesty." Actually, it would prevent the emergence of a sullen, simmering subculture of the permanently marginalized, akin to the Arab ghettos in France. The House-passed bill, making it a felony to be in the country illegally, would make 11 million people permanently ineligible for legal status. To what end?
But then, Will gets all teary about George Bush's wretched Social Security scheme:
The president, who has not hoarded his political capital, spent some trying to get the nation to face facts about the bleak future of an unreformed Social Security system. Concerning which: In 1940 there were 42 workers for every retiree; today there are 3.1. By 2030, when all 77 million baby boomers will have left the work force, there will be only 2.2.
Earth to Will: in 1940, Social Security was barely five years old. Very few workers had paid into the system and were collecting benefits. If looking for a proper comparison to the good old days, why not use 1960 figures, after the system had had time to mature? Then, it would become clear that today's system, rather than having a bleak future, has instead quite a cheery future, at least in comparison to the Dickensian nightmare conservatives had all planned out for us.

Just go back to baseball, you exasperating pundit!
Winter Wonderland

A remarkable March for Lake Tahoe:
An unending series of March snowstorms pasted the Sierra in white, with one Lake Tahoe ski resort reporting more snowfall than during any other month over the last 35 years.

At Alpine Meadows, the resort received more than 16 feet of snow at its base lodge since March 1. Midway up the mountain, more than 22 feet fell, resort representatives said Wednesday.

That's a record. It surpasses the previous high of 15.6 feet that fell at Alpine during the "Miracle March" of 1991.

... Alpine Meadows received the most snowfall for a single month since resort operators started keeping records in 1970.

Other areas have seen much the same thing. At Tahoe City, nearly 6.8 feet of snow has fallen since March 1, making the month the fourth snowiest March since 1931. And there are still two days of the month left, with more snow likely Friday.

"There's been a huge increase. It's dramatically improved the snowpack," said Gary Barbato, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Reno.

The change was particularly remarkable in some lower elevations of the Sierra, Barbato said. At Fallen Leaf Lake near South Lake Tahoe, for example, the snowpack went from 39 percent of average on March 1 to 166 percent on Wednesday, Barbato said.
Glenda's Biggest Punch

Lands first, on the Pilbara coast:
Residents in the Western Australian coastal town of Onslow are feeling the full brunt of cyclone Glenda as it crosses the state's Pilbara coast.
Theater Now

Interesting article this morning in the Sacramento Bee regarding Christian Brother's High School's production of "Fiddler on the Roof" at the renovated Guild Theater.

Also, don't forget, Ryan Warren (among others) is starring in "Crazy For You" at RCTC, opening this weekend.

And Sacramento Ballet is doing "Scheherazade."

And Sacramento Light Opera is doing "Pirates of Penzance" at the 24th Street Theater.

And if you haven't seen it, "Man of La Mancha" is a must-see at the Woodland Opera House.

And as Laura points out, Natomas Charter School is doing "Anything Goes."

Just so much to see and do!
Tango At Aioli's

Here's another Aioli's event, but this time a tango show:
Enjoy "Una Noche de Buenos Aires" at the newly-opened Aioli restaurant in Davis (808 2nd street) on Sunday, April 9th at 8:30 pm.

Come and join us for a celebration of authentic Spanish cuisine and a spectacular tango show with Gato Valdez and Andrea Monti, a professional tango couple from Argentina, and Paul Wheeler and Rita Yanson, invited instructors from the Sacramento tango studio "Tango by the River." There is no charge for the show! There are limited seats available, so make your reservations now by calling 530 757-2766.

Tango cheers!

Donna Tielsch
Tango by the River
128 J Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
916 443-7008
Rooster Amok!

Roosters can be pretty damned violent. One once attacked my sister, when she was about four year's old, when she was visiting the fundamentalists next door. They rip and slash! Pretty scary, even if you're an adult!:
Her uncle, Ben Angel, told that Grace and her two sisters were "feeding the chooks" when the rooster went "berko".

"It's gone off its tits. I don't know what it was doing. You hear of cranky roosters but I've never heard of one actually attacking anyone like that," Mr Angel said.

"It's just a dumb bloody white rooster. I didn't think roosters were that violent actually."
Must Be Arthur's Nephew

When the 3-year-old Austin, Minn., boy crawled through the discharge chute of a Toy Chest claw machine at a Godfather's Pizza in his hometown, he ended up on the other side of the glass surrounded by stuffed animals.
Advancing The Pagan Cause, One Soul At A Time

The family who lived next door to us when I was a kid in New Mexico were fundamentalist Christians. That didn't matter too much as a kid - I remember attending Vacation Bible School with them, and learning, not the Bible, but rather how to make fake grape clusters, using Elmer's Glue, and lots of purple marbles.

In the 90's, 'Eddy' and I got back in touch. I'd send him a Christmas card once a year. Eddy would send me letters, sometimes one a day. Since he apparently ran a Bible book store in Silver City, NM, he would also send me books, pamphlets, and T-Shirts. He apparently wanted to save my soul, even if he'd have to drag my sorry, leaden ass every damned step up the Stairway to Heaven.

I never read his letters, or opened his parcels. Instead, I put everything in a box, and put the box in the basement.

These days, I'm spending a lot of time in the basement, as I shred Katherine's old law files. Eddy's box has been sitting there, quietly mocking me. So, two nights ago, I finally opened up the box, and unwrapped one of the parcels. In 1998, Eddy had sent a book named "The Bible Code." Presumably it's about hidden messages in the Bible. According to the book cover blurbs, the Bible apparently forecast the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, and the election of Bill Clinton. Who knew the Bible was SO into the 90's?

This wasn't up my alley at all, but I knew Keith at Subway would like it, since he's been translating Sanskrit, and scrambling Nostramus' quatrains, and otherwise looking for hidden meanings in sacred texts. Sure enough, when I gave it to him last night, he seemed happy: he had heard of the book, and apparently put out a silent psychic call into the ether, kind of like a dog whistle, to attract the book to him, and the call had been answered!

So, bond with your fellow pagan - that's what Jesus would do!

(Bush Antichrist - credit: Keith Wise)

[UPDATE: Keith Wise, who created the Bush Antichrist image I posted two years ago, now has a Web Site, where he offers talismans, tarot readings, and other items on the occult side of life.]
You may remember Keith, he created this last year, and more and more people have been accessing it, via search engines like Google.

(P.S.: I apparently also have a pretty, sparkly T-Shirt that says "Grace" across the front, plus probably several other related items, courtesy of Eddy, if anyone's interested.)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Alternative Futures

Gabe warns me that religious tradionalists are outbreeding secular humanists, like myself, and soon we'll be outvoted:
Tomorrow's children, therefore, unlike members of the postwar baby boom generation, will be for the most part descendants of a comparatively narrow and culturally conservative segment of society. To be sure, some members of the rising generation may reject their parents' values, as often happens. But when they look for fellow secularists with whom to make common cause, they will find that most of their would-be fellow travelers were quite literally never born.
I don't take the bait so easily: "Oh, it's already happened - that's old news! I routinely get outvoted on almost everything. C'est la vie!"

Gabe then tries a different approach: "But that memorial to George McGovern would have been a great addition to the town square, really!"

Only then did I become wistful: "I always wanted to make John Lennon's 'Imagine' the national anthem." Just another great, secular-humanist kind of idea that'll never happen!
Some Good Witch YOU Are, Glenda!

The latest forecasts show that Cyclone Glenda will first clobber the NW Australia coast as a hurricane, then rake the ENTIRE western coast as a tropical storm or tropical disturbance, THEN become an extra-tropical low in the Great Australian Bight, and THEN plaster New South Wales AND Tasmania. ONE storm will terrorize HALF of the entire coast of the entire continent of Australia, in one way or another, at varying strength, over the next week! Damn! Such mileage!
Wonderment Over Kaloogian

Nell makes an excellent comment regarding Tristero's post over at Digby's regarding Kaloogian's geography (comment reproduced here):
Here's what puzzles me: Kaloogian's background is Armenian. A ton of Californians, presumably many voters in his district, are of Armenian heritage. There's enormous, justifiable sensitivity in those households and communities to all things Turkish.

And yet someone on his staff put up a picture from suburban Istanbul, with Turkish signs clearly visible, and thought no one in the district would notice it's not from Baghdad? I can't believe someone from Kaloogian's office didn't spot it.
Very good point, Nell!

Makes me think his campaign crew just doesn't have their act together. Given the high-quality of Photoshopped material these days, we are fortunate that this was such a botched, amateurish job.
Mark Of The Beast

A warning from the sky:
The most memorable moment of Terica Washington's 30th birthday Monday was looking into the sky and seeing an airplane towing a black banner with words written in white: "6/6/06 You have been warned".

She was alarmed enough to call the FBI.
Still Showing!

The Crest Theater has extended the run of "Ballets Russes" yet again, through Thursday, April 6th! They are moving the times around to accomodate newer films, however, and presumably matching the hours of cinema buffs who otherwise have trouble making it, so check the Crest Web Site, or the newspaper, before you do down there!
Howard Kaloogian, Faker

That's funny! Howard Kaloogian, noted Republican hatchet type (particularly in the 2003 California Recall campaign), and current candidate for Congress from San Diego, has been misrepresenting photos of Istanbul as Baghdad, trying to show what a normal place that Mesopotamian hell is these days. Exactly the kind of Congressional Representative scandal-burned San Diego needs these days!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

El Tricolor

The Mexican flag has been a potent symbol in the latest protests:
That image -- protesters waving and wearing Mexican flags -- has angered anti-illegal immigration activists.

"This isn't Mexico," said Joseph Turner, founder of Save Our State. "This is America. . . . What (annoys me) most is the arrogance that they are going to fly a foreign flag on my soil."

The Mexican flag has long been a hot-button issue in the immigration debate. For some, the flag represents cultural pride and unity among Mexicans and Mexican Americans fighting for their rights here. For others, it symbolizes an invasion by Mexicans into the United States.

... University of California, Irvine, Professor Frank Bean said the flag doesn't signify loyalty to Mexico, but rather loyalty to each other.

"They are saying, `We are together in fighting against these people who are trying to make felons out of us,' " said Bean, co-director of UC Irvine's Center for Research on Immigration, Population and Public Policy.

... Jose Covarrubias, 16, a junior at Garden Grove High School in Orange County, carried both flags Monday. He doesn't think anyone should read too much into protesters' use of the Mexican flag.

"St. Patrick's Day just passed," Covarrubias said. "Just because they wave an Irish flag doesn't mean that they care about Ireland more than they do the U.S."
My suspicion is that the Mexican flag is as much about nostalgia as it is about unity - the remembered, nuturing mother land. But in the context of a demonstration, many protestors also understand that American nationalists will be annoyed by the tricolor's presence, and that is exactly why they'll make certain the Mexican flag is just as ubiquitous as it is possible to make. It's all about ordinary people taking a stand against their detractors!
Sweet Voices, And The Radio Isn't Even On

Apparently I'm not alone - Kylie tells me when the traffic light is about to change:
One of the most notorious drunk drivers in the Ottawa area has been found not criminally responsible on his latest impaired driving charges because of a mental disorder that makes him believe female celebrities are controlling his actions.

Matt Brownlee was arrested last October after police spotted a pickup truck speeding along a busy street in downtown Ottawa. ... The 33-year-old man told psychiatrists that he knew the legal repercussions of his actions, but believed singer Shania Twain was helping him drive.

... On Monday, the judge drew on several psychiatric assessments in ruling that Brownlee was not criminally responsible for his actions because he suffers from delusions that celebrities such as Twain are communicating with him telepathically.
Aqueduct For German Cargo

Food for your inner civil engineer! Today, Gabe highlights this interesting water bridge over the River Elbe. Even (unreliable) Snopes says it's for real!
Deer In The Headlights in Iraq

I remember once finding my cat, Ashley, and another strange cat, yowling at each other at close range. Both cats were in an extreme state of agitation. I thought to put an end to the confrontation, so I stomped directly between them. The chance of retribution removed by the presence of an intervening leg, both cats immediately attacked, and savaged my leg from both sides.

Something like that might be happening in Iraq. By and large, and with notable exceptions (Muqtada al-Sadr), we've been supporting the Shiite communities there as they flex their political powers, but we've also been trying to mollify the Sunni communities as well. Since we don't understand the neighborhood very well, we've been having trouble calibrating our efforts, and we've been making tons of terrible mistakes. Thus, we are in an unenviable place, with the possibility, maybe even likelihood, that both communities will unite to attack Americans. All that's required is a temporary truce between the warring communities, and it's open season on the Yanks!:
Some Shiites, according to al-Hayat, are saying that the US is deliberately attempting to provoke a civil war in Iraq. Among their concerns was the US military's announcement that the attack on the Mustafa Husayniyah in Ur was the work of an Iraqi military unit. Which unit? Where? To whom does it report? Is it little more than a death squad? Is it commanded by the Americans? Why didn't the Prime Minister know about this attack, which spilled over on Dawa Party offices? PM Jaafari is a member of the Dawa Party.

The Badr Organization, a political party that represents the paramilitary Badr Corps, the Shiite militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, demanded Monday that Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Iraq, be expelled from that country.
Tropical Storm Season in Australia

Threats on all sides!:
Australia was bracing for its second top-category superstorm in a week as tropical cyclone Glenda headed toward the western coast. The storm was becoming more powerful and was likely to reach category five status as it hits the Pilbara mining area in the next few days, said Noel Puzey from the bureau of meteorology.

Emergency workers in the sparsely-populated region urged residents to batten down in order to avoid a repeat of the devastation tropical cyclone Larry wrought on the other side of Australia last week.

... yet another tropical cyclone, Wati, have provided an unwanted headache for lifesavers along Australia's entire east coast. Wati has whipped up massive surf along the coast, with swells of four metres (13 foot) on tourist beaches such as Sydney's Bondi.

Authorities have warned people to stay out of the water but have been forced to recue dozens of surfers determined to test their big wave riding skills in the rare conditions.

Monday, March 27, 2006


If "Carpathia" had been piloted by the Germans.
Pittsburgh Freak-Out

Much ado about nothing:
Heavily armed shock troops took to the streets of Downtown, police officers barked at pedestrians to take cover and Pittsburgh's mayor donned a bulletproof vest yesterday afternoon as reports of a sniper in the heart of the business district triggered a massive police response and paralyzed both commerce and traffic.

... There was no sniper after all, only a maintenance man at the Pittsburgh Allegheny County Thermal plant shooting at pigeons inside the 10-story facility with a pellet rifle.

Police declined to identify the man. But PACT president Robert Fazio said he was Richard Wills, an "excellent" longtime employee who has worked single-handedly for several years to eradicate the plant's pigeon problem after poison and plastic owls proved unsuccessful. PACT provides steam heat for buildings throughout Downtown.

When police discovered that tidbit of information, they also learned another. Despite the rapid response and overwhelming police presence, the worker, a Fayette County resident, had quietly left, possibly oblivious to the uproar he had caused.

... Chief Dominic J. Costa, who was Downtown along with Mayor Bob O'Connor and other top local officials, said merely carrying a pellet rifle Downtown might not be against the law. However, he added, it flew in the face of common sense.

"Look at the alarm he caused. Look at all the inconvenience he caused," Chief Costa said.

... "It was confusing and more than a little aggravating," manager Debbie Doucette said. "Now that it turns out to be a pellet gun, I'm really aggravated. We were all held up for two hours for pigeons and pellet guns."

Compared to Sharon Stone, Madonna sounds like Edward R. Murrow. First, Sharon Stone:
I THINK Hillary Clinton is fantastic. But I think it is too soon for her to run. This may sound odd, but a woman should be past her sexuality when she runs. Hillary still has sexual power and I don't think people will accept that. It's too threatening."
Next, Madonna:
"Hillary should go for it. I don't think now is necessarily her time, or the Democrats' time, but she should certainly go for it. You've got to start somewhere, in terms of a woman leading the U.S. In Europe and Asia and elsewhere, women have ruled over millions, it's not an abstract concept. But in America, men are still afraid. And I don't think women are too comfortable with the idea of a female in charge. I find that really amazing."

So, what's Kylie up to?
Australia's sweetheart made headlines in her adopted UK home again yesterday, with reports Minogue has already created a fragrance and is now negotiating names and packaging with a cosmetics company.

Additionally, the singer is set to launch a new range of designs for her "Love Kylie" lingerie line.
It's a good idea to expand that lingerie line. It seems aimed for young, svelte women - nothing for the middle-aged man (well, actually everything for the middle-aged man, just nothing to wear).

Last time I tried wearing something skimpy (a Speedo swim suit), I was 24-years-old, and already embarrassingly unsuited for it. I've gained fifty pounds since then.

Expand that "Love Kylie" range of designs - expand it A LOT!
Stayin' Alive In Las Vegas

Two articles that explore why so many have so much trouble stayin' alive in that blasted desert fantasy metropolis, the one with a burnt, coal-black cinder where a heart should be. When I go there, I see angry, preoccupied people walking around on the fringes of life - in the endless trailer parks, at bus stops, at the mini-marts, behind the glittering facades:

Why is the suicide rate so high in Nevada?:
As far back as 1929, the first year Nevada registered vital statistics with the federal government, the suicide rate here was more than twice the national average.

... Newly compiled data by state Suicide Prevention Coordinator Misty V. Allen shows that 480 people took their lives in 2004, up 9.7 percent from the previous year. That's more than the 398 individuals who died in traffic accidents in Nevada that year.

From 1990 to 2000 Nevada led the nation in the number of suicides per capita. In 2004 the rate dropped slightly, to 18.5 suicides for each 100,000 population.

The national average in 2003, the last year for which comparison figures are available, was 10 suicides per 100,000 people. That year Nevada's rate was 19 per 100,000, which placed the state fourth nationwide.

... "Suicide victims seem to have a much higher rate of alcohol and substance abuse," Thienhaus said. "The vast majority of victims also have a mental illness that should have served as a warning."

... "Long term care doesn't just mean hospitalization," Thienhaus said. "It must also include supervised housing, sheltered workshops, access to outpatient care, all of the things necessary to avoid a recurrence of the factors that precipitated the initial suicide attempt."

... It is a common assumption, for example, that gambling is a major factor in Nevada's high suicide rate. But other so-called frontier states that do not have legalized gaming also rank high on the list.

In addition, New Jersey, which also allows gaming, consistently ranks near the bottom of the list.

The fact that so many frontier states top the list suggests there may be something about living there that contributes to suicide attempts.
Looking at street life:
Norman Bangs had finally had enough of the streets. He'd had enough of the cold and dusty back lots, the police harassment, and the mocking teenagers. He'd had enough of the newspaper beds, the relentless sun and the lack of running water. He'd had enough of the drinking and the drugs.

He just wanted a little help. What he got was the cold shoulder and a one-way ticket back to the streets, where he died earlier this month.

"He seemed like a fine fellow to me, but he had two vices: alcohol and drugs," said Greg Malm, who occasionally ran into Bangs at the Fremont Street Experience and Circle Park. "That's the trouble with this town. There's so many doors that are being closed in your face. It really shouldn't be like that."

... Sacco drove Bangs to WestCare, which serves the valley's homeless who abuse alcohol and drugs. After being ignored, said Sacco, she asked if any beds were available. A receptionist said no. When Sacco asked if there was anywhere else she could take Bangs, the receptionist explained that WestCare was the only free detox center in the valley.

Discouraged, Bangs asked Sacco to drop him off at the Salvation Army homeless shelter. She did, not knowing whether he entered the building. About a month later, she heard that Bangs died of a drug overdose behind an abandoned building near Maryland Parkway and Charleston Boulevard.

... "It's always painful to hear stories of somebody who wanted to get help, and it just wasn't to be," said Lera-Randle El, adding that about 17 people have died on the streets of Las Vegas this year. "There's a lot of would've, could've and should've. Also, in order to deal with the grief, I hope that Norman Bangs' death will shed more light on the issue. I've had homeless people who've died over the years for various reasons. Their cases brought light to the issue. They're still helping from beyond the grave. They're still reaching out to show what's actually going on out there."
Love Bunny

B3ta is posting this exasperating game again.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Flash: Pro-Immigration Blob Devours The Nation

And everyone thought Americans wanted to 'go medieval' on illegal immigrants! As you might expect, it's just clueless people talking to each other, and not bothering to talk to anyone else. Half a million protestors! Perhaps the largest protest in American history!:
Thousands of immigration advocates marched through downtown Los Angeles in one of the largest demonstrations for any cause in recent U.S. history.

More than 500,000 protesters - demanding that Congress abandon attempts to make illegal immigration a felony and to build more walls along the border - surprised police who estimated the crowd size using aerial photographs and other techniques, police Cmdr. Louis Gray Jr. said.
Vladimir Putin

Mr Putin was labelled a plagiarist at the weekend after a pair of researchers at the Brookings Institution, a Washington DC think tank, established that the President's academic credentials were based on a dissertation he had lifted in part verbatim from the Russian translation of a management study written by two professors at the University of Pittsburgh in 1978.
Right Outta 'Nam

I always wondered about the black helicopters:
Former Reagan-era Pentagon official Kathleen "KT" McFarland stunned a crowd of Suffolk County Republicans on Thursday by saying:

"Hillary Clinton is really worried about me, and is so worried, in fact, that she had helicopters flying over my house in Southampton today taking pictures," according to a prominent GOP activist who was at the event.

...Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson denied any spying was going on.

"We at the Hillary campaign wish Ms. McFarland the best and hope she gets the rest she needs," he said.
"NOBODY Expects The Spanish Inquisition!"

(Left) Fine food and fine company at Ludy's!

In honor of the Dannette's birthday, and since this was a 'dark' weekend, with no DMTC shows open, the DMTC crowd decided to travel and see Woodland Opera House's production of "Man of La Mancha," starring Rodger McDonald as Don Quixote and Michelle Drever as Dulcinea.

DMTC has done "Man of La Mancha" three times, the two previous times quite recently: in 2000, with Rodger McDonald as Don Quixote and Beth Nilsen as Dulcinea, and in 2005, with Byron Westlund as Don Quixote and Lauren Miller as Dulcinea. Given the fondness of the company for the show - almost a proprietary sense - and given the certainty that Woodland would do things differently than Davis would, I steeled myself for a night of complaint, intrigue, nay, even an auto-da-fe, which reminds me of, strangely enough, of Monty Python! :

Chapman: *I* don't know - Mr Wentworth just told me to come in here and say that there was trouble at the mill, that's all - I didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition.

(The door flies open and Cardinal Ximinez of Spain (Palin) enters, flanked by two junior cardinals. Cardinal Biggles (Jones) has goggles pushed over his forehead. Cardinal Fang (Gilliam) is just Cardinal Fang)

Ximinez: NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise ... surprise and fear ... fear and surprise .... Our two weapons are fear and surprise ... and ruthless efficiency .... Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency ... and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope .... Our *four* ... no ... *Amongst* our weapons .... Amongst our weaponry ... are such elements as fear, surprise .... I'll come in again. (Exit and exeunt)

Chapman: I didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition.

(The cardinals burst in)
Ximinez: NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as: fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, and nice red uniforms - Oh damn! (To Cardinal Biggles) I can't say it - you'll have to say it.

Biggles: What?

Ximinez: You'll have to say the bit about 'Our chief weapons are ...'

Biggles: (rather horrified): I couldn't do that...

(Ximinez bundles the cardinals outside again)

Chapman: I didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition.

(The cardinals enter)

Biggles: Er....

Ximinez: Expects...

Biggles: Expects... Nobody expects

Ximinez: Inquisition.

Biggles: I know, I know! Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. In fact, those who do expect -

Ximinez: Our chief weapons are...

Biggles: Our chief weapons

Ximinez: Surprise...

Biggles: Surprise and --

Ximinez: Okay, stop. Stop. Stop there - stop there. Stop. Phew! Ah!...our chief weapons are surprise...blah blah blah. Cardinal, read the charges.

Fang: You are hereby charged that you did on diverse dates commit heresy against the Holy Church. 'My old man said follow the--'

Biggles: That's enough. (To Cleveland) Now, how do you plead?

Cleveland: We're innocent.

Ximinez: Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
So, beginning the evening, I was somewhat apprehensive about how the evening was going to go.

We began with a nice dinner at Ludy's, next door to the Woodland Opera House. Celtic music by Day Griffin (left) floated through the restaurant. The DMTC crowd looked forward to seeing the show, particularly since an E-Mail message from a cast member had been received earlier in the the week. The message extolled the superb quality of the cast and the orchestra, and created a favorable anticipatory buzz.

(Left) Just before curtain. Here, Steve Isaacson coverses with woodwinds wizard Paul Wurschmidt. A strange haze filled the theater. We thought a fog machine had been used recently, but none was used in the show, so the source of the haze remained a mystery. [Update: Steve says Jeff Kean at WOH has a haze machine. Maybe so. But then, why was haze necessary for this show?]

The show was quite nice. Rodger was just as I remembered in 2000: strong and vigorous. Michelle was fiery as Aldonza, and had a beautiful, gorgeous voice.

I liked the opportunity to see the 'gypsy' portions of the show (those parts had been cut from the DMTC shows). I especially liked that the show started with the gypsies. Great start! In the gypsy segment Kevin Little and Monika Neal had a fine dance. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Monika is focusing on dance. She has been attending Natomas Charter School of late, and clearly picking up useful knowledge. I particularly liked the whimsical little parade in 'Golden Helmet of Mambrino.'

My major complaint regarded the use of recorded music at selected places where an atmosphere of dread was required. The music just wasn't ominous enough, and seemed jarring and unnecessary, given the presence of a fine orchestra. Why use a recording?

Afterwards, we regrouped at Arthur and Dannette's. Steve, Lauren, and Andy came up and began tormenting me by croaking in unison, "M-A-R-C!" (it's a long story), so I pulled my coat over my head and gritted my teeth against the grating sound. Driven to madness by the endless sound, and imitating Rodger, I finally blurted (to general laughter) "My name is Alonso Quijana!" (Humor: the ultimate weapon!)

DMTC criticism regarded two general points. DMTC took seriously, raising to the point of principle even, the prison setting. That meant people and objects shouldn't enter or leave the stage, unless absolutely necessary. The lack of freedom of movement helps create the oppressive prison atmosphere.

Most DMTC people felt the prisoners and various objects were leaving and entering the stage unnecessarily. From where, and to where, could they possibly be going in a prison? Plus, stronger emphasis on Cervantes' trunk as the source of props should have been made.

But there are other ways to create an oppressive atmosphere. Woodland emphasized set design and lighting to do just that. The tall, imposing set accentuated the already tall, imposing proscenium arch of the Woodland Opera House. By allowing objects to fly in, they were able to use a confessional as a set piece - really, to me, a magical effect - but unavailable to the DMTC productions, given the stricter interpretation of what sort of movements were allowable. And (to belabor the obvious) the stage is not a prison. Can the director be faulted for taking advantage of a stage's possibilities?

The other general point regarded show direction. Certain relationships, such as that between Dr. Carrasco and Antonia, could have been developed better, given different direction. Some interconnectedness was lost at the beginning, such as when Cervantes first invites the prisoners into his imagination. Director Bob Cooner had the prisoners keep their distance from Cervantes, but a closer approach seemed called for.

But, in general, the DMTC crowd had a good time, liked the show, found much to admire about the actors, and was hardly in the mood to punish heresy. The cardinals had a soft touch for good theater, well done.

"Antonia" (Andrea St. Clair) heads home after a fine show!
Yet Again!

The Crest Theater has extended the run of "Ballets Russes" yet again, through Thursday, March 30th! Don't delay - see it while it's here! Sally saw the film today, and was shocked to see her old teacher, Alan Howard, in the movie. Go down there and get shocked too!