Friday, October 13, 2006

"The Departed"

Left: Thank goodness I'm from NYC, and not like those Boston cops at all! (From DMTC's recent production of "West Side Story." Photo by Dannette Vassar. But wait! Dannette is in the foreground. How can that be? I smell a rat!)

Went and saw Martin Scorcese's new crime epic, "The Departed." Lots of unexpected corruption in the Boston Police Department. There was an undercover case opened several years ago that may have been a partial inspiration for this movie - the discovery that the FBI had been using a Boston mafia member in the 70's and 80's as an informant, and hence was directly implicated in at least one murder. Nevertheless, reality aside, it appears the plot of this movie comes from a 2002 Hong Kong film, suggesting the universality of this particular theme:
Years ago, a powerful Irish mafia figure placed a small selection of his youngest, brightest men into the Massachusetts Police Academy as cadets. Their purpose is to eventually rise within the prestigious ranks of the city's police department, to serve as the eyes and ears of their boss. While somewhere else, a young cadet was assigned with an equally dangerous task: infiltrate the Irish syndicate headed by the man sending in his own to the Boston Police.

...The Departed is set in South Boston, where the state police force is waging war on Irish-American organized crime. Young undercover cop Billy Costigan (DiCaprio) is assigned to infiltrate the mob syndicate run by gangland chief Frank Costello (Nicholson). While Billy quickly gains Costello's confidence, Colin Sullivan (Damon), a hardened young criminal who has infiltrated the police department as an informer for the syndicate, is rising to a position of power in the Special Investigation Unit. Each man becomes deeply consumed by his double life, gathering information about the plans and counter-plans of the operations he has penetrated. But when it becomes clear to both the mob and the police that there's a mole in their midst, Billy and Colin are suddenly in danger of being caught and exposed to the enemy-and each must race to uncover the identity of the other man in time to save himself. But is either willing to turn on the friends and comrades they've made during their long stints undercover?
Very interesting film! The movie has the characteristic Scorcese Taxi-Driver type of bloody grandeur, with language too coarse to be realistic, and lots of blood-spattering gunplay - the inspiration for Tarantino and a whole younger generation of filmmakers. Hooray for the old man! He can still pack the theaters!

Afterwards we wondered: who can you trust? People in power? Not if they are like Scorcese's Boston Police Department. Even if you rely only on yourself, what you believe to be true may be so utterly wrong as to render your judgement useless.

Jack Nicholson, that corrupt, debauched galleon of a small-time Don, is priceless "smelling a rat".
Continued Warm In The West

So sayeth the climatologists. But what's this Indian Ocean connection?:
The West is 2 to 3 degrees warmer than its average annual temperature, calculated using more than 100 years of records, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Many studies peg the rise in the earth's average temperature since 1880 at 1 degree, making it the warmest it has been in the last 400 years.

At a conference Thursday, Overpeck said data from some 30 computer-modeling studies shows that by mid-century annual average temperatures in the West will be up 4 or 5 degrees. By the end of the century, the West could be 7 to 8 degrees warmer, he said.

..."The Indian Ocean is (one) of the key ingredients when I make seasonal forecasts," Wolter said. "(We) shouldn't get panicky that there's runaway warming right now."
Seasons Of Life

About ten years ago, I decided to let this stage of life pass me by. It's true: some things do belong to youth!

This is this week's B3ta Question of the Week:
Road Rage: Have you lost it on the roads, or have you been on the recieving end of some nutter?
Here's my response:
American Advice: Just Flip Them The Bird

Road rage? Happens all the time!

Pulling out of a deserted McDonald's parking lot late at night in my VW Bug, my friend and I flipped the bird to some cowboys in a jacked-up pickup truck who were trying to pull into the same parking lot. Aroused, they chased us all over the nearby empty roads, eventually ramming our vehicle before fleeing. When I reported their license plate number to the police, the cop 'inadvertently' released their home address. I spent the next month fruitlessly stalking their neighborhood waiting for the truck to return home (frickin' cowboys probably raping cows at night instead).

Then there was the time I flipped the bird to some exasperated jerk who honked and pulled in front of me, thinking I was taking too long to turn onto a major street. Instead of driving off, that incensed jerk peeled right around, stomped up to my driver's window, and quietly asked "Would you please roll down your window?" I quietly replied, "no."

Then once, I was on foot, on the sidewalk, walking across a hamburger restaurant drive-up window, when some university student 'scholars' loudly honked right in my ear - they didn't even notice me, they had seen some friends across the street. Bastards! So I flipped them the bird, and they noticed me after all. They came peeling out of the driveway, and we had a standoff in the street, in front of dozens of potential witnesses: me the matador, and they the stupid bull. I egged them on to make good their threats to attack and they burnt rubber with their hollow threats to do so. Pedestrians are more agile than cars in close quarters. Stupid university students!

Wanna meet your fellow motorists? Just flip them the bird!

The Secret Service decided to "investigate" Julia Wilson, a McClatchy High School freshman, for ill-advised anti-Bush comments. You would think that they could tell from other MySpace evidence that they weren't dealing with Lee Harvey Oswald, and I'm sure they understood that from the very beginning. The Secret Service's real purpose was to intimidate: prevent others from making threats, or indeed, express any opinions at all. The thinking supposedly will be "Wow! If they go after high school students, who won't they go after?"

Secret Service heavy-handedness will backfire, though. Think they won any friends yesterday?
"Ultimate Kylie" DVD

The going-out-of-business sale at Tower Records, Broadway, has some benefits. Last year, I ordered the "Ultimate Kylie" DVD from the UK, but had to return it, because of the incompatible European format. Nevertheless, there it was at Tower Records, in the proper U.S. format, so I purchased it.

Reading William Baker's quasi-biography of Kylie Minogue, "Kylie - La La La", he had made frequent references to Kylie's videos, but being in the U.S., I had never seen most of these videos, particularly the early ones. Some of the newer ones, I had only seen as grainy images over the Internet. The "Ultimate Kylie" DVD is a compendium of most of her videos, particularly the early, influential ones, so I finally can match words to imagery. (For a Kylie fan, I know so little!)

And what imagery! Some videos really stand out, and others are just OK. The earliest six or seven videos are just OK - her early days, before she fully gained her footing in the world of fashion and music. What Baker refers to the "triptych" of videos from the early 90's are something else, though. They rise to a new level.

"Better The Devil You Know" - Such a dynamic video! According to Baker:
Hair blowing with wind machine on full power, arms raised above her head and lifted by a black man, his hands clearly defined against her pale flesh, it was apparent she was well underway on the course of what she described as her own 'sexual revolution'. The fact that the love interest dancer in the video was black is significant: the sexualising of the black male and implied interracial relationship were pushing boundaries in Kylie's own way. This wouldn't have been worthy of comment had not her previous videos been so twee and asexual in comparison.
"What Do I Have To Do?" - Such art! According to Baker:
Kylie's drag queen impersonation in "What Do I Have To Do?" leapt out from the screen at me in those three and a half minutes of celluloid hi-camp, her whole future and its infinite diversity of possibilities opened up in my mind's eye. The shot where she is ironing, dressed in a Mugler version of a French maid's outfit, hurling the iron back and forth with more makeup than Boy George, Marilyn and Pete Burns put together, remains my all-time favourite image of her, glamorising the most mundane of household chores. Not a fraction of an inch of those eyebrows melted as the steam rose from the fifties iron and from that moment I became a Kylie fan.

...The imaginary fusion of Joan Collins meets Liz Taylor with a tattooed panther on her back perfectly expressed the playful seduction, flirtatious charm, and kitsch glamour of the girl I was soon to meet. With that video, she unwittingly cornered every conceivable member of a pop audience: Her gay fans admired the drag sensibility, her little girl fans dived into their mother's make-up bags, her straight male fans wanted to bend her over the ironing board, and older girls wanted to nip down to the wig shop and re-invent themselves.
Of the triptych, "Shocked" was the only video to disappoint, which I blame mostly at the effort at cinema verite: in close-ups, while the target can continue to move, the camera should cease moving - otherwise, when both move, the viewer tends to get ill.

Other videos surprised me with their charm: Brilliantly-colored space-age kitschy "Put Yourself In My Place" and superbly-staged "Kids" (duet with Robbie Williams) chief among them.

Then there was the first Kylie video I ever saw: "La, La, La". It was March, 2002, and I was in a motel room in Phoenix, AZ. Ostensibly I was attending a family reunion, but the real reason for the get-together was (ironically enough) for my cousin to formally announce to the assembled family that her breast cancer had spread to other organs.

Alone, I was half-watching a video channel, either VH-1 or MTV I can't recall, and suddenly I was transfixed. "Who IS she?" I wondered, as she frolicked through the futuristic cityscape of the video. She encompassed every pop ideal I had ever conceived of, but I didn't know who she was. The name brought only hazy memories (Americans unfortunately being outside her publicity penumbra). I did recall Madonna wearing a Kylie T-Shirt at the MTV awards, though, and if Madonna was a fan, then who could argue?

Shortly afterwards, I saw Kylie's "Light Years" DVD on sale at Tower Records, Davis, and blindly took a chance on it. The campy, live 2000 Sydney concert, inspired so very much by musical theater, was pure heaven! I've never looked back.

Lastly, there is the video for "Chocolate". With its superb production values, high fashion, and modern-style ballet, "Chocolate" is probably the most-artistic video ever assembled by any pop star.

Plus the extras, particularly Kylie's live performance at the Brits awards ceremony!

Kylie locates and presses every emotional button I have - no one can compare! She unites the worlds of dance and movies and pop culture and Broadway and Hollywood with a highly-intelligent yet fresh understanding of the past century of fashion and music. Both her and her creative team, particularly William Baker, seem to conceive pop culture as, first and foremost, a matter of fashion. Some people disagree, making music the primary field of action, but Kylie's impressive success argues the opposite.

When it comes to pop culture, fashion is first, followed by music, and then dance.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The 2003 Candidates Confer....

...About Ab Zurd's new movie "The Day Arnold Schwarzenegger Kicked My A**":
Diana Foss: The movie is great! And I'd say that even if I didn't make a microsecond appearance in it. (As if I'm the only one!)

Doesn't 2003 seem like a long time ago?

Marc Valdez: Have you seen the movie, Diana? How many boxes of Mentos does it rate? Has anyone else seen it?

Diana Foss: I have seen it. Abner sent me a rough cut DVD last year. I can't really use the Mentos scale (given how sick I made myself on Mentos three years ago) but I'd say the little man is definitely sitting up and clapping.

Cheryl Bly Chester: Do you think we can get all of the Sacramento Area Candidates out for next weeks showing?! - I think it would be a total blast!!

Marc Valdez: I'm definitely up for it! Let's get everybody down to the Crest Theater on Thursday evening and have a party!
"The Day Arnold Schwarzenegger Kicked My A**"

Last night, while walking my dog, Sparky, near the musical theater rehearsal space for Sacramento's Runaway Stage Productions, I started reading a fresh copy of the weekly, Sacramento News and Review (SN&R). Sparky started coughing as he snuffled through the leaves, and I started coughing as I snuffled through the ads and movie listings in SN&R - Ab Zurd has a movie coming out!!! The film is called: "The Day Arnold Schwarzenegger Kicked My A**".

Abner Zurd, filmmaker, was one of the 135 candidates on the ballot for Governor in the 2003 Recall Election, and she has made a film about her experiences in that campaign. Her statewide tour takes her to three theaters. Let's support Ab Zurd's film!!!

Tour dates:
Sunday, November 5, 2006, 4 PM
Art Share Los Angeles (in downtown arts district)
801 E. 4th Place • Los Angeles, CA 90013

Friday, October 20, 2006, 6:30 PM
The Pageant Theatre • 351 East Sixth Street • Chico, CA 95928

Thursday, October 19, 2006, 7 PM
The Crest Theatre • 1013 K Street • Sacramento, CA 95814

Promotional videos. Music by New Maximum Donkey.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"The Tonight Show" Flaunts The Law - Again!

So, Jay Leno is resisting inviting Democrat Phil Angelides to come on "The Tonight Show," as he is legally-required to do if Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger appears.

I remember the 10 seconds of shouting-in-unison we other candidates were so graciously allowed in the 2003 campaign.

Sorry, NBC must follow the law. If they don't, penalties must follow.
Southern Turbulence, And The Betrayal Of Nerds

Walt from South Carolina sends a gift - a spreadsheet with temperature data:
Hey Marc: I just got back from a business trip to San Diego. Beautiful city; I can see why everybody wants to live there. I got window seats on the flights. It is amazing how much one can recognize on the ground if you watch closely, and keep track of where you are. On the way out, I recognized Deming, Las Cruces, Carlsbad, and even the WIPP site! On the way back, I saw Mexicali, Yuma, Magdalena, and the VLA. Also recognized a limestone quarry in northern Alabama which Kathleen and I visited in May. I'll tell you, the desert around and south of Yuma is one inhospitable-looking place. My guess is that it's the most desolate tract of land in North America, except for perhaps Death Valley.

On the way back, the 757 had screens behind every seat. You could find a channel which listed altitude & temperature. So, in keeping with my nerd roots, I followed the temps as we descended from 41,000 feet in Mississippi, to landing in Atlanta. Check out the attached graph. I'd appreciate any insights you could give.
Hi Walt: I'm having trouble with these numbers. Particularly with the temperatures above 10,000 feet - that whole second inversion - they seem just way too high, maybe by 20 degrees F, or more, compared to temperature soundings for the day for Shelby, AL. Some of the temperatures at the highest levels loosely-follow wet adiabatic conditions when plotted on a Skew-T Log-p diagram, which makes me wonder whether the temperature thermistor was covered with some kind of water, or maybe ice. Hard to say, though.

The most interesting part of your sounding is that second inversion - what causes it? But if it's an instrument artifact, then it becomes less compelling.

The Shelby, AL soundings suggest that it was dry, with little convection, and on the whole, a nice day to fly. - Marc

Observations that day for Shelby AL, at 10/7 12Z (6 a.m. CST), and 10/8 0Z (6 p.m. CST).

Skew T - Log p diagram for Shelby AL, at 10/7 12Z (6 a.m. CST).
Skew T - Log p diagram for Shelby AL, at 10/8 00Z (6 p.m. CST).

Walt replies:
I knew it!!! Those bastards!!! When I flew over from Italy in June, at 39000 ft, the temperature was about -50 or -60 F the whole way. On this trip, they reported it at -30 to -35 F at 39K and 41K feet everywhere from CA to MS. If you can't trust data, what can you trust?

But that second inversion is interesting. I bet it could be real, because there were two periods of turbulence. Do two inversions happen often?
On most afternoons, that first inversion is almost always there - lower-level warmth comes from solar heating. The second inversion is a feature of high pressure systems, where air descends slowly from higher elevations, and warms up by adiabatic heating.

The weather maps for that afternoon (about 4 hours after your flight) show a rather striking upper-level, cold-core cutoff low centered over South Carolina. The low washes out at lower elevations (that's how one can tell it's cold-core), so at the surface, it's all but indistinguishable. At the surface, the entire eastern U.S., including the entire South, was under the influence of a high pressure system centered over New York.

What that means is that there was a significant wind speed gradient. Winds from the north over Alabama and vicinity were much faster at higher elevations than at lower elevations, meaning there was a lot of potential for turbulence.

It's plausible that there was descending air at high elevations over Alabama and vicinity, given that Alabama was on the western (upstream) side of the upper-level low, but it's not assured, since the wind speeds are not equal around the low. Also, the low was moving in a somewhat retrograde fashion (moving to the SSW rather than to the east). The temperature sounding shows a somewhat equivocal isothermal zone above the first inversion. Probably there were a lot of transient waves passing through this zone, so the situation could change noticeably from hour-to-hour, sometimes air rising, sometimes descending, and not always in synchrony from one level to the next, had one been around to measure it.

Turbulence acts in funny ways. Over mountain ranges, it can propagate forward and up, so flying over central or eastern Nevada, you can intercept Sierra Nevada-triggered turbulence, even though the mountains are many miles away. It can also propagate through atmospheric layers defined by inversion layers, sometimes long ways. The turbulence you noted was likely at the boundaries of different atmospheric layers defined by temperature inversions, or at least different temperature properties. There was certainly the potential for it, that day, given the presence of the upper-level low and the wind speed gradient, and despite the fact that elsewhere, it was A VERY NICE DAY.
Sending The Sick Overseas

First there was the business of sending the aged to overseas nursing homes. Now, there is the business of sending people overseas for surgery. The slippery slope of globalization....
Home State Cuisine

Why California fast food just isn't the same:
The Isleta Police Department officers had eaten about half of their burgers from a Burger King restaurant in Los Lunas before realizing that something was wrong. Opening the burgers, they discovered marijuana sprinkled on top of the meat.

“One of the officers, when he was eating his hamburger, he said, ‘This thing tastes like it has marijuana in it,’” said Lieutenant Joseph Sanchez of the Los Lunas Police Department. “And that’s when he opened it up to see what was inside."

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


It's like "West Side Story," only without Lieutenant Schrank and with better weapons:
President Evo Morales replaced Bolivia's minister of mines and also the head of the state mining company Friday following clashes between rival bands of miners that left at least 16 dead and more than 60 injured.

...Violence began Thursday morning in Huanuni, a mining town 180 miles south of the capital La Paz, where rival mining groups battled with guns and dynamite over access to Bolivia's richest deposit.

...The violence began Thursday morning, when hundreds of miners belonging to independent cooperatives stormed the state-owned Huanuni mine, demanding more access to its tin deposits. State-employed miners counterattacked to regain control of the mine and the groups exchanged gunshots and dynamite.

Miners from both sides, some only in their teens, threw dynamite and homemade explosives at each other from ridge to ridge, sometimes separated by no more than 50 feet (15 meters).

On Friday morning, members of the miners' cooperative rolled three tires packed with explosives down the side of the mountain toward town, causing an enormous explosion.

The violence followed a breakdown in negotiations in the nearby city of Oruro in which the miners' cooperatives rejected a government proposal dividing Huanuni's veins of tin between the two groups.
"West Side Story" Ends

A few good pictures. Here are some snapshots from Friday, October 6th. Plus, here's Bev Sykes review of West Side Story.

Left: "Cool." Seated on floor, Anybodys (Chloe Condon). Facing camera, Katy Fast, Kristin Cunningham, Hannah Allen (although she's kind of hard-to-spot), Bess Toyama, and Katherine Vanderford.

"Get smart, you stupid hoodlums!" Lt. Schrank (Mike Jones) delivers some rough advice to Bernardo (David Ott).

Anita (Amanda Morish) in "Quintet."

Tony (Colby Salmon) and Anita (Amanda Morish) in "Quintet."

Study in ballet. Tony (Colby Salmon) and Maria (Chelsea Baldree) in "Somewhere" ballet.

Saturday night, October 7th.

Anita (Amanda Morish), (Maria Chelsea Baldree), and the Sharks (Nick Peters, Jason Masino, Hermenio Torres, and David Ott), in "Quintet."

Marisa Casillas and Edward Nelson in the "Somewhere" ballet.

Baby John (Ryan Warren, back to camera) dolls it up as the social worker in "Gee, Officer Krupke." Facing the camera, Edward Nelson; kneeling, Alex Poe and Andy Hyun.
Happy 25th Birthday, Lauren!

Nice evening with MikeMac and Lauren and everyone!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Call Of The Wild Marsupian

E.: I've had it with that sick psychopattic nut in the head. He is SO ugly! He looks like a alien. His neck looks like a - heron. His voice sounds like a marsupian - Mwauffgh, mwauffgh, mwauffgh, mwauffgh, mwauffgh, mwauffgh, mwauffgh, mwauffgh, mwauffgh.....Marc! Are you listening to me? MARC! Are you listening to me? MARC! M-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-rc!

M.: What does the marsupian sound like again?

E.: Mwauffgh, mwauffgh, mwauffgh, mwauffgh, mwauffgh, mwauffgh, mwauffgh, mwauffgh, mwauffgh, mwauffgh, mwauffgh, mwauffgh, mwauffgh, mwauffgh, mwauffgh, mwauffgh, mwauffgh, mwauffgh.

M: Mmmmmm.....
The Folks Back Home Take Notice

The Half Moon Bay Review does an excellent feature article on Robert Coverdell:
On Sept. 24, Coverdell was also named Best Supporting Actor (for his portrayal of Isaacher) at the 24th annual Elly Awards. The awards ceremony recognizes performers and theater technical talent in the Sacramento area.

"I was shocked," said Coverdell. "I wasn't expecting to win."

Coverdell traces his dance roots back to the Coastside and years of study at the Susan Hayward School of Dance in Montara.

Having grown up in Half Moon Bay, he appeared in musicals in all his four years at Half Moon Bay High. As a freshman, he played Harvey Johnston in "Bye Bye Birdie;" as a senior, he played Evelyn Oakley in "Anything Goes." In between, he had ensemble parts in "42nd Street" and "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."

At 18, with Coastal Repertory Theater, he played the hero role - named Hero - in the comedy "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" in 2003.
Bobbi Bader, RIP

The Sacramento ballet community has been thrown into turmoil by the abrupt death of Bobbi Bader, a Capitol City Ballet Company alumnus who has taught ballet for a number of years at 'The Ballet Studio' in a shopping plaza near Bradshaw and Folsom, near Rancho Cordova. Services were held Saturday at East Lawn Cemetery, at 43rd and Folsom, in Sacramento, with a reception following at her studio. Here is the Sacramento Bee obituary notice:
BADER, Roberta Ann (Bobbi)

Born September 20, 1951, in Sacramento, CA; passed away September 30, 2006, at the age of 55. Bobbi was the owner of The Ballet Studio for over 20 years. She was the beloved daughter to Robert and Marjorie Bader, who preceded her in death. Survived by her sister, Cynthia Holloway and her husband Thomas; nephews Thomas (TJ) and Robert Holloway of Rescue, CA, niece Elisa Holloway of Lowell, OR. She will be greatly missed by numerous relatives and friends. Funeral services will be held East Lawn Memorial Park, 43rd & Folsom Blvd., Sacramento, Saturday, October 7, at 2pm.

Published in the Sacramento Bee from 10/4/2006 - 10/5/2006.
People are working backwards from symptoms in order to figure out how this happened. She had apparently been unable to keep food down, suggesting a digestive ailment of some sort. She apparently hadn't consulted doctors - a practice discouraged by her Christian Science faith.

Ballet friends had apparently tried to help. One friend, E., in addition to being a student, is also a highly-regarded M.D., and she had offered to shop, or do anything that might be of service, but ever the stoic, Bobbi had firmly refused. I'm sure E. wasn't the only one to offer assistance.

Dance teaches many things. One of these things is a prickly sort of independence, a stubborn determination to master one's own body. In a moment like this crisis, when one should reach out, dance discourages doing so. Plus, reaching out for help to one's long-term friends - often, one's students - means inverting the traditional student/teacher relationship - another no-no.

The ballet community is reacting now by trying to cobble together a response to keep 'The Ballet Studio' open. One student suggests that 'Heidi and Pam' might jointly-offer classes, while inviting others to offer classes in their specialties as well (I don't know who Heidi is, but Pam is Pam Kay Lourentzos). I don't know what Pam's response is, though.

The studio's rent (~$850/mo.) is reasonable, and no upfront expenses are required to install floors and barres. For young, up-and-coming ballet teachers, this may be an excellent opportunity to get business experience.

People will be affected by Bobbi's passing for a long time. In Sunday's ballet class with Pam, E. got emotional when Pam highlighted a particular detail of port de corps as 'something Bobbi had emphasized for many years.' And I got emotional when Pam played Pachelbel's Canon in D Major - Bobbi's trademark barre music - for a floor exercise (I took class with Bobbi from 1991 to 1997, before getting so involved with community musical theater).

Bobbi inspired many students to work their hardest. We will miss her very, very much.