Friday, August 11, 2006

Restitution, And An Apology

And presumably forgiveness, if this Indiana Taco Bell's staff can find enough storage space:
A group of 10 to 15 masked individuals entered Taco Bell, 3244 S. Western Ave., around 10:46 p.m. Tuesday to return a three-year stash of fire sauce packets, police say.

The group returned six 40-gallon trash bags filled with approximately, 25,000 sauce packets to the restaurant.

With the stash was a note stating that they had been accumulating the sauces over three years and kept them stored in the trunk of a vehicle, but felt guilty about keeping them and decided to return them to the restaurant.
"A Chorus Line" Video Segments

Tony Davi mentioned these recent video segments from KGO Channel 7 in San Francisco several weeks ago, but they've been augmented lately. There is the delightful Kristine and Al interview (7/31) and the Charlotte d'Amboise interview (8/1 and also 8/4, although you have to first suffer through Ms. Wang's plans to avoid creature discomforts on her visit to the Idaho wilderness). And there is the 7/19 video, featuring Marvin Hamlisch. On both the 7/19 and 8/4 videos, you hear the distinctive voice of Mara Davi as 'Maggie!'
Her Perogative

Brittney Spears discusses time travel, butter beans, and beer.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Proliferation Of Really Bad Vietnam Analogies

I like nothing better than to make historical analogies, in order to better understand where we might be going, based on what's happened before. One of my favorite books from college days is entitled "Man's Past, Man's Future," that does exactly that for a number of historical events and the modern age. People being people, similar historical situations tend to evolve in roughly similar ways - civil wars, expanding empires, mass migrations, famines, etc. No series of events are identical, however, so the analogies often break down, or have alternative endings. It's more of an art than a science, but it is fun.

Joe Lieberman's defeat has brought every wacko analogy from the period 1968-1972 out into the open, with Lieberman playing the role of rejected presidential candidate Scoop Jackson. Jacob Weisberg at Slate and the insufferable Martin Peretz at TNR have led the way. There are several sites, such as TPM Cafe and Lawyers, Guns & Money where these analogies are being shredded even now.

When I was a teenager, I remember (at Walt's invitation) attending a Scoop Jackson airport news conference. At the time, Jackson had just declared his candidacy for the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination.

The MOST wooden campaigner in American political history. He muttered from a prepared text, seemed unfamiliar with use of a microphone, and never made eye contact. Even the reporters were falling asleep.

Jackson was a proto-Lieberman, trying to triangulate himself away from the rest of the Democratic Party. Fortunately, the primary voters of 1976 saw through the absurdity of his campaign and snuffed out his ambitions. As the CT primary voters in 2006 have done their best to snuff out Lieberman's ambitions.

Courtesy of the Booman Tribune, here is this strange political analysis, where the author is under the impression that Ned Lamont's supporters are mostly political neophytes who would have overlooked Lieberman's apostasy had Lieberman actually won the Connecticut Senatorial primary election. In fact, most of Lamont's supporters are from the suburbs, are middle-aged, and can scarcely be called neophytes:
Democrats lost the 2004 presidential election over leadership on national security. Last night's win by anti-war Ned Lamont over pro-war Joe Lieberman, while joyous for the far-left netroots crowd, is a bad harbinger for future Democratic Party prospects nationally in 2008 and beyond.

The closeness of the election only makes the outcome more frustrating for Democratic strategists. Had Lieberman eked out a victory, the Connecticut Senate primary would have been a huge win for the Democratic Party as they would have been able to reap the dividends of all the energy (and voters) Lamont's candidacy had attracted, while at the same time sending a message to the country that the Democratic Party is large enough for pro-war Democrats. Had Lieberman held on and won, he undoubtedly would be reaching out to left-wing Democrats and pushing further away from President Bush and the Republicans. Instead, Lieberman will now be ostracized from the party and will be reaching out to Independents and Republicans while chastising the extremists in the Democratic Party.

Incredibly, for a sitting three-term Senator who just lost to a political neophyte, in many ways Lieberman is the guy who comes out of the primary with momentum. A month ago it was not unreasonable to assume that Lamont would have received a significant boost from a win, but the polls seem to indicate Lamont peaked near the end of July. Bill Clinton's July 24th visit may have been more of a turning point than was commonly thought at the time. In my pre-election analysis I suggested that Lieberman's distance from 40% would be the best tell on how the three-way would shakeout. With his very solid 48.2%, Lieberman is in an extremely strong position to win in November.

Nationally, the images from last night are a disaster for the Democratic Party. Perched behind Lamont during his victory speech were the Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, grinning ear to ear, serenaded by the chant of "Bring Them Home, Bring Them Home." For a party that has a profound public relations and substantive problem on national security, these are not exactly the images you want broadcast to the nation.

Anti-war Democrats and much of the mainstream media continue to confuse anti-war with anti-lose. The incessant commentary that 2/3rd of the country is against the war completely misreads the American public, as much of the negativity towards the war isn't because we are fighting, but rather a growing feeling that we are not fighting to win or not fighting smart.

Democrats went down this road in the late 1960's with Vietnam and they are still carrying the baggage from that leftward turn. Lamont's win is a big step back to that losing formula. During the height of the "progressive" revolt against the war in Vietnam, Americans voted 57% for Nixon and Wallace in 1968, followed by a whopping 60% for Nixon in 1972 against the avowededly anti-war McGovern.
This analysis could not be more wrong - a complete misreading of 1972, and a complete misreading of today. These analogies collapse at the slightest examination. How a defeat can be interpreted as Joementum is beyond me. But, like I say, it's more of an art than a science. In November, analogy time will be over and the proof will be (as they say) in the pudding.
Super Typhoon Saomai

A terrible year in the Western Pacific, and this storm is the worst to date. The storm is passing over areas already flattened by Typhoon Bilis - people can't catch their breath!
The most powerful typhoon to hit China in five decades raged across its southeastern coast Thursday, capsizing ships and destroying homes after 1.5 million people evacuated. At least two people were killed and dozens were injured.

... Torrential rains were forecast in the next three days as the typhoon churned inland across crowded areas where Tropical Storm Bilis killed more than 600 people last month.

Saomai, with winds up to 135 mph, made landfall at the town of Mazhan in coastal Zhejiang province and was moving northwest at 12 mph, the Xinhua News Agency said, citing weather officials.

... Saomai, dubbed a "super typhoon" by Chinese forecasters due to its huge size and high wind speeds, was the eighth major storm of this year's unusually violent typhoon season. Saomai was the most powerful typhoon to hit China since the founding of the communist government in Xinhua said, citing the Zhejiang provincial weather bureau.

Before the storm's arrival, 990,000 people were evacuated from flood- prone areas of Zhejiang and 569,000 from the neighboring coastal province of Fujian, Xinhua said. It said a total of 70,000 ships had returned to port in the two provinces.

...Saomai, named for the Vietnamese word for the planet Venus, passed across Japan's Okinawa island group on Wednesday with winds up to 89 mph, prompting airlines to cancel 141 flights and affecting 24,000 passengers.

China's weather bureau had forecast unusually heavy typhoon action this summer, saying warmer than normal Pacific currents and weather patterns over Tibet would create bigger storms and draw them farther inland.

Bilis triggered flooding and landslides as far inland as Hunan province, hundreds of miles from the coast.

Most of the deaths happened in areas away from coastal communities that have elaborate dike networks and a long history of evacuating flood-prone areas.

Typhoon Prapiroon lashed China's southern coast last week, killing at least 80 people in floods and landslides in Guangdong province and neighboring Guangxi.

Even as Saomai stormed ashore, Chinese forecasters were already closely watching Tropical Storm Bopha, which trailed behind it farther out in the Pacific. Bopha was about 110 miles southeast of Guangdong late Thursday and moving west with winds of 29 mph, according to the Hong Kong Observatory.
And yet, the Atlantic is still pretty calm - unusually calm for mid-August.

I was wondering why there are very few hurricanes in the South Atlantic. At first, I thought it was because the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) is in the northern hemisphere, but then that doesn't explain why there are hurricanes in the South Pacific.

It's a mystery!
Midday, 19th and I

Nine times out of ten, it's the mundane things that ensnare us!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Rabbit Talk

Courtesy of James McElroy, here is this fascinating Web Site that discusses the body language of rabbits.

I remember the first time I realized that rabbits think differently than most any creature. I was trying to make my first rabbit, Sinbad, go outside, and he was resisting. I got a broom and gave his back side a little thump. Annoyed, Sinbad spun around - and started eating the broom. That is the natural reaction, after all, when someone starts thumping your back side with food!

Here are some selections from the Web Site:
Although a royal (dominant) rabbit will sometimes groom one of his or her vassals, including licking you, it commonly goes only one way. The top rabbit in the group must be worshipped and obeyed by all, and may present him or herself for grooming to any other rabbit, who must comply. ... Who would guess that getting a little forehead rub now and again could be the key to self-esteem, comfort and well-being?

A rabbit will present itself for grooming by coming right up next to you, maybe nudging you a bit with its nose or poking its nose under your hand or foot, then lowering its chin and chest to the ground, and stretching its head forward while keeping its rear up a bit. ... This is not generally a request for grooming; most often it is more like an order. Disobeying this order can lead to unhappiness, chewing on your clothing, or even an annoyed nip. Repeatedly ignoring a rabbit's invitation for grooming will lead to insult and frustration, which can in turn result in having your rugs shredded, your baseboards removed, and your pillow peed upon. It's way easier to provide at least a few strokes on the forehead upon request to support your rabbit's self-esteem.

...You may wonder how you're going to get your rabbit to obey you in anything (e.g. going back into her or his cage) if you aren't the boss. The answer is that rabbits are perfectly capable of believing several things at once. As long as you demonstrate they're the big boss by obeying the licking order, you get to be the little boss and be obeyed in everything else. That should give you some idea of a rabbit's priorities. A rabbit can be completely secure in its high status and still obey your commands.
Various cats I've had, broke all the following rabbit laws, and suffered accordingly. Sparky still hasn't figured it out:
Incidentally, it is considered very insulting to hop quickly by right in front of another rabbit or you without stopping for a moment to offer the polite rabbit greeting of touching noses. Obviously, a rabbit can't ponder peacefully while someone rushes back and forth in front of its face, and rabbits looking for trouble with other rabbits will do exactly this. You may encounter one consequence of this behavior yourself if you walk right past your rabbit quickly, in which case the rabbit might even charge at you in outrage! You can avoid this by giving an equivalent to touching noses when you walk by: a quick pat on the forehead.

Finally, there is the all-out nuclear weapon of insults, reserved only for the most offensive, utterly unacceptable, good for nothing individuals and behavior: urine.
It's fun to watch rabbits test their limits:
Rabbits recognize when a space is owned by others, and where they're not allowed to go. Of course, places owned by others just beg to be visited whenever possible, although it's understood that one might get chased back out. After all, perhaps today one might be allowed in. Testing is the only way to be sure. Accordingly, you may set aside rooms where rabbits are not allowed, but don't expect them not to try to go in anyway. They might actually hesitate at the door, though, to make sure you aren't inside and watching.
Here is Jimmy Carter's 'killer rabbit, and the rabbit from 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail':
Some rabbits, generally those with a history of frightening experiences and the resulting distrust, are simply extremely aggressive. They may actually chase you around and clamp their teeth onto you without any obvious provocation.
And the famous thump:
A rabbit that is very scared or nervous may "thump" a hind leg, slapping it hard against the ground. This isn't just a warning to other rabbits, but to you, too. Note that rabbits sometime also thump to indicate anger, or even just to say "pay attention," but it should be pretty easy to distinguish these by the context.

Walking past the 24th Street Theater yesterday evening, I looked through the stage right side door and saw some sort of youth-oriented, song-and-dance rap number under way, probably by a church theater group of some sort. Interesting, but inexplicable.

Gazing in the windows of the RSP rehearsal space, it was apparently 'Full Monty' dance rehearsal going on, perhaps the famous last scene. Omigod! Total beefcake! Everyone had jeans on, but they didn't have shirts. Some wore caps. For those of you who may not know, Michael RJ Campbell is whiter and hairier than Craig Howard.

On the naked Sacramento theater patrol, this is your correspondent, signing off....
Is Our Old Folks Learning?

Usually the educational system gets the blame for idiocies like this, but the trouble is among the old, strangely enough:
SOME 30 per cent of Americans cannot say in what year the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against New York's World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in Washington took place, according to a poll published in the Washington Post newspaper.

While the country is preparing to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the attacks that claimed nearly 3000 lives and shocked the world, 95 per cent of Americans questioned in the poll were able to remember the month and the date of the attacks.

But when asked what year, 30 per cent could not give a correct answer.

Of that group, six per cent gave an earlier year, eight per cent gave a later year, and 16 per cent admitted they had no idea whatsoever.

This memory black hole is essentially the problem of the older crowd - 48 per cent of those who did not know were between the ages of 55 and 64, and 47 per cent were older than 65, the poll shows.
Lamont Punks Lieberman

52-48, with a very large turnout for a primary (~43%).

It's over, Joe. Don't go with the indy bid. Keep your dignity.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

"Tony, Tony, Wherefore Art Thou, Tony?

Does anyone have an idea who might make a good Tony, and might be available? DMTC's West Side Story could use one.....
Penguin Bowling

Never know what you might find on the roads of Texas:
Motorists dodged penguins on an East Texas highway Tuesday morning after a truck carrying the flightless birds overturned.
A New Political Low

Amazing! Remember Terry Anderson, the foreign correspondent who spent seven years imprisoned by Hezbollah in Lebanon? He's running for office, and his Republican opponent accuses him of being soft on terrorism, and is using a photo of him shaking hands with his captors as proof.

Just when you think it can't get any worse....
Martian Rover Opportunity In A Cool New Place

At the edge of Beagle Crater.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Confronting Failure

Don't wanna do it.....DO NOT want to do it. But the choices are getting harder - not easier. Not in my nature to give up, but the choices are getting harder, not easier.

And all I wanted was a shrubbery.....
Martin Peretz Speaks

In the Wall Street Journal, no less, about Joe Lieberman. Where to start with the TNR editor?
We have been here before. Left-wing Democrats are once again fielding single-issue "peace candidates," and the one in Connecticut, like several in the 1970s, is a middle-aged patrician, seeking office de haut en bas, and almost entirely because he can.
The domestic reaction to the Vietnam War was convulsive, but less so for the Iraq War, because fewer, volunteer troops are involved this time. So, without so many social convulsions, we will see how American democracy functions, slowly, but completely, when faced with unworkable policies. In a real sense we haven't been here before - close with Vietnam - but we are breaking new ground. Peretz's faux-populist stand against Lamont is laughable, when Peretz has been more than happy to promote the candidacies of other rich folks when their policies align with his views.
At least in this sense, Mr. Lamont comes to this campaign for the U.S. Senate from absolutely nowhere--and it shows in his pulpy statements on public issues.

...Mr. Lamont has almost no experience in public life. He was a cable television entrepreneur, a run-of-the-mill contemporary commercant with unusually easy access to capital.
When others feared to run, Lamont had the courage to step forward. Good for him. So, the business class of Connecticut is 'absolutely nowhere?' Interesting! I wonder where somewhere is?
But he does have one issue, and it is Iraq. He grasps little of the complexities of his issue, but then this, too, is true of the genus of the peace candidate. Peace candidates know only one thing, and that is why people vote for them. I know the type well.
Lamont is more than a peace candidate. He supports Social Security, for example, unlike a certain other Senatorial candidate from Connecticut. It isn't just about Iraq.
It was then that people like Joe Lieberman emerged, muscular on defense, assertive in foreign policy, genuinely liberal on social and economic matters, but not doctrinaire on regulatory issues.
But a politician with absolutely no loyalty to the Democratic Party.
But he has also been brave, and bravery is a rare trait in politicians, especially in states that are really true-blue or, for that matter, really true-red. The blogosphere Democrats, whose victory Mr. Lamont's will be if Mr. Lamont wins, have made Iraq the litmus test for incumbents. There are many reasonable, and even correct, reproofs that one may have for the conduct of the war. They are, to be sure, all retrospective. But one fault cannot be attributed to the U.S., and that is that we are on the wrong side. We are at war in a just cause, to protect the vulnerable masses of the country from the helter-skelter ideological and religious mass-murderers in their midst. Our enemies are not progressive peasants as was imagined three and four decades ago.
Lieberman hasn't been brave, he's been complacent. Not all reproofs were retrospective - in 2003, various authorities on Iraq and its culture feared we'd be getting into a mess we couldn't extricate ourselves from. We may not be on the wrong side, but we have to know whom to fight, when, and how. By creating many more terrorists than existed before, through our ham-handed actions, we've erased any benefit we might have had by being on the right side. If we linger in Iraq, the terrorists win.
If Mr. Lieberman goes down, the thought-enforcers of the left will target other centrists as if the center was the locus of a terrible heresy, an emphasis on national strength. Of course, they cannot touch Hillary Clinton, who lists rightward and then leftward so dexterously that she eludes positioning. Not so Mr. Lieberman. He does not camouflage his opinions. He does not play for safety, which is why he is now unsafe.
Along with other neocons, Mr. Peretz's vision of the center has weakened us, not made us stronger. Hillary Clinton is absolutely vulnerable, as long as she persists in supporting staying in Iraq. No amount 'it takes a village' babble will save her as long as she supports this war for losers. Lieberman has played for safety all along - why else the independent run? - but the ground has shifted under him. Other centrists need not be vulnerable, as long as they are not as pig-headedly stupid as Lieberman has been.
Now Mr. Lamont's views are also not camouflaged. They are just simpleminded. Here, for instance, is his take on what should be done about Iran's nuclear-weapons venture: "We should work diplomatically and aggressively to give them reasons why they don't need to build a bomb, to give them incentives. We have to engage in very aggressive diplomacy. I'd like to bring in allies when we can. I'd like to use carrots as well as sticks to see if we can change the nature of the debate." Oh, I see. He thinks the problem is that they do not understand, and so we should explain things to them, and then they will do the right thing. It is a fortunate world that Mr. Lamont lives in, but it is not the real one. Anyway, this sort of plying is precisely what has been going on for years, and to no good effect. Mr. Lamont continues that "Lieberman is the one who keeps talking about keeping the military option on the table." And what is so plainly wrong with that? Would Mahmoud Ahmadinejad be more agreeable if he thought that we had disposed of the military option in favor of more country club behavior?
How does Mr. Peretz know that negotiations with the Iranians have been fruitless? Because the result isn't exactly what Mr. Peretz desired? Who, then, is detached from the real world? Who gets everything they want, except maybe Paris Hilton?
Finally, the contest in Connecticut tomorrow is about two views of the world. Mr. Lamont's view is that there are very few antagonists whom we cannot mollify or conciliate. Let's call this process by its correct name: appeasement. The Greenwich entrepreneur might call it "incentivization." Mr. Lieberman's view is that there are actually enemies who, intoxicated by millennial delusions, are not open to rational and reciprocal arbitration.
No, the battle is between a traitor to the Democratic Party, and a loyalist - it's not about worldviews. I'm sure every day is Munich 1938 in Mr. Peretz's world, but matters are a bit more mundane in the real world.
The Lamont ascendancy, if that is what it is, means nothing other than that the left is trying, and in places succeeding, to take back the Democratic Party. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Maxine Waters have stumped for Mr. Lamont. As I say, we have been here before. Ned Lamont is Karl Rove's dream come true. If he, and others of his stripe, carry the day, the Democratic party will lose the future, and deservedly.
Well, fight back, and fairly Mr. Peretz. If the Iraq War is so popular, then let your allies run candidates supporting it. Then, we'll have a fair vetting of views, something that was sadly lacking in Vietnam, and so far, with Iraq as well.
"A Death Sandwich" At The Crest Theater

(Left) Valerie Battenfeld, playing vixen Vivian Devereux, in "A Death Sandwich"

Midnight Madness, Saturday midnight, at the Crest Theater. About 25 people were in attendance, widely-scattered among the 400-or-so seats there.

Most of the short films were of a film-noir type. I entered late, managing to miss two (what must have been quite brief) short films. I caught the tail-end of a strange film about murder and deviant sexuality of some sort called Marionette (Director: Holly Paige Joyner). There was another gritty, violence-filled urban film called Voodoo Doll (Director: Roberto Minervini), which was even more disturbing - addicts poking themselves with needles was the least of it. 'Voodoo Doll' nevertheless made quite an impression on me - I recall it too vividly.

The most-colorful film of the program was
Confessions of a Drag Queen (Director: Darren McAllister), a frolicking interview full of fun energy. The Drag Queen liked to shock: his boyfriend was gay, but his girlfriend wasn't - that sort of thing. A good dancer too! But it wasn't film noir, so if that was the theme of the program, 'Drag Queen' was in the wrong pigeonhole.

Of course, I was there to see the film noir satire film A Death Sandwich (Director: Daniel Gurewitch), featuring Walt's friend, Valerie Battenfeld. Indeed, when the movie started running, I said (loud enough for all to hear) "Yay Death Sandwich!" Even in the near-vacuum of the sleepy audience, there was a little ripple, and I heard a faint, cynical 'yay' from across the hall: so hard-boiled you could almost imagine Humphrey Bogart himself had uttered it.

At first, I thought the audience ripple occurred because enthusiasm was so scarce at that late hour, but later, at the end of the evening, a Master of Ceremonies announced we could deposit ballots on the way out the door. Then, I realized there was a formal process of some sort at work, and people might have taken my 'Yay!' as an effort to campaign for a favorite - maybe a bit of a faux pas under the circumstances. Oh well, the laughter from the audience was real enough!

I thought the folks who produced this movie did a fine job. It struck me as juvenile (in a good way), meaning it was done by young people from a young person's perspective. I thought it was interesting that the songs were not obvious imitations of Broadway stuff, meaning they took the singing stuff rather seriously - it wasn't cobbled together in a bad Broadway imitation, in the manner of 'Family Guy.' Instead, it was original music, nevertheless using the 'Family Guy' over-the-top approach, but with an older 'South Park' edge to the humor.

There were other touches too. The chief becoming an angel at the end comes directly from 'Hudsucker Proxy': not an obvious film-noir reference, but the cinematography of that movie was captivating, and it clearly had an big impact here (it's funny how we learn about the past from movies, even the fantasy art deco past of Gotham) - I bet there are Coen Brothers fans among the film's creators. 'Double Indemnity' had its fingerprints all over this movie (Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck), and Humphrey Bogart, of course, as well as Dashiell Hammett's now-classic stories of murder and mayhem in San Francisco, where this all started!

I wonder which short film found the judge's favor? If you are Quentin Tarantino, 'Voodoo Doll' would be your choice, but if you like interviews, 'Confessions of a Drag Queen' would be the one. And if you like musical comedy - 'A Death Sandwich!'

Sunday, August 06, 2006

"Falsettos" Strike

Went over to help clean the warehouse while everyone else was involved with the "Falsettos" strike. I was impressed with the Ken-like Erik doll the cast got for Erik - just need a Barbie-like doll for Sarah!