Saturday, December 16, 2006

"Take A Chance"

Along with many others, I've been making periodic visits to Tower Records on Broadway in Sacramento to peruse the merchandise and partake of the sale as they prepare to close Tower Records for the last time. A week ago they closed their video store, and last night they closed their bookstore, and so all that's open now is the music portion of Tower.

Today, you could tell we were getting down to the last dregs of the CDs and DVDs on hand. Almost all the popular singers were gone, and many obscure singers were gone too, leaving just the eccentric leftovers. Even the titles told the story: Wong's "No Better Than This," or Vanessa Randall's "Take A Chance."

Some bands you could tell never took off: The Bangkok Five, for example. Others spoke of a lack of audience acclaim: Emma's "Crickets Sing For Anamaria," or Kimberley Locke's "Coulda Been." Other titles suggested oblivion: Roadtrip's "Road To Nowhere," or Samantha's "Square One," or Drywall's "Barbeque Babylon." One title suggested tedium: an opera based on Prokofiev's "Betrothal in a Monastery."

Some groups saw bright, gleaming possibilities, presumably now dashed: The Spores "Imagine The Future," or Whitestarr's "Luv Machine." Other singers seemed disillusioned: Joel Elizalde's "Ayudame a Creer" (Help Me To Believe). Other groups seemed to have missed their audience altogether: Cow's "Hear This! 3," Boy Hits Car's "The Passage," Unknown's "Volume II," or Asshole Parade's self-titled album. Other groups seemed to glory in the chaos: The Bleeding Alarm's "Beauty in Destruction."

Before walking in Tower, I had decided to degrade my already-low standards to the vanishing point, but even still, I couldn't stomach the thought of taking some of this music home to collect dust, much less pay for it.

Nevertheless, I decided to pick up two albums by Carquinez Straits. I don't know who they are, but they seemed local and ecological and thus a sure sell by my now infinitesimally-low standards. One song on their album "Humiliation Jacket" was called 'The Time We Left H-Bomb in Woodland,' a song title full of joyful possibilities. I hope it's good!

I also picked up some fairly-obscure stuff, like Moloko's Greatest Hits, and "Work This!", a collection of pump-you-up exercise music hopefully suited for aerobics and driving long distances across the Southwest.

Two genres seemed particularly slow to clear the tables: Dance and Goth. Even Dance fanatic me couldn't seem to get excited about what was left behind - obscure Brazilian DJ's mixing trashy French techno - and you could tell that the dramatically anti-commercial attitude of Goth/Metal groups like Necrodeath and Graveworm had finally come to its logical end point of dust, ruin and 70%+ discounts.

In the checkout line, a woman saw "The Cranberries" DVD I was purchasing. "Cranberries! Score!" she said. I said: "It was the last one on the shelf!" She said: "Well, I guess that means I have to beat you up now!"

Hurry up for the sale! Time is short!
"Beauty And The Beast" - Woodland Opera House

Left: Belle (Buffee Gillihan) talks to Leona Craig after the show - Beast (Troy Thomas) is at left. Buffee also gave impromptu curtsey lessons to young girls dying to know her Belle secrets.

Left: Bobby Grainger acknowledges tumultuous applause Friday night.

Excellent final-Friday show at the Woodland Opera House! Excellent costumes as well. (more)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Dagnabit! Julia Othmer Concert Cancelled

From DMTC:
We regret to say that the Dec. 16 Julia Othmer benefit concert for DMTC has been cancelled due to lack of interest/pre-sales. She may perform later as part of a another concert, but we couldn't ask her to travel here with just a few tickets sold. If you have assisted DMTC in publicizing this event, thank you very much. If you have purchased tickets, please come to the box office at your earliest convenience for a refund.
Come on people! These are great musicians!

Try, try again!
And What Were Those Final Election Results?

From the hotly-contested District 1 Congressional race in New Mexico this last November?

PATRICIA A. MADRID Democratic 105,125 49.8%
HEATHER A. WILSON Republican 105,986 50.2%

"Always Look On the Bright Side of Life!" (whistle...)
Those Who Don't Learn History...

I saw Emma Tom's newspaper column while passing through Australia's Gold Coast - I'm glad it's on the Web!

Australian students are just as ignorant of history as their American counterparts, but then again, our politicians are ignorant too (even as an outsider, I know 'Damien' just won 'Australian Idol'):
ONCE again, Australian school kiddies are in big trouble. According to a new report commissioned by the nation's education ministers, bucketloads of the ignorant little buggers don't know why we celebrate Australia Day, have a governor-general or whack a Union Jack in the corner of our flag.

...Australian students are a bunch of lazy pinheads who should be sent to a corner to think about what they haven't done. And while they're down there, why not force 'em to start memorising important dates such as 1788, 1901 and 1947 - the latter marking one of many previous media panics about ill-educated Aussie youngsters unable to write in proppa sentences.

Here's the thing, though. If students are required to swot up on subjects politicians think are important (namely history, civics and blindly swallowing spin), surely politicians should have to gain a rudimentary knowledge of something young people rate highly, namely pop culture.

Last week during the electioneering in Victoria, punters were treated to what has become a pre-poll staple: candidates making tokenistic appearances on yoof media programs and revelling in their dearth of pop cultural knowledge, wearing their ignorance (or at least their professed ignorance) of Paris Hilton's shaggin' habits like rosettes of honour.

On the penultimate day of the campaign, Steve Bracks and Ted Baillieu accidentally ended up on air at Fox FM at the same time. Neither was able to answer questions about Jessica Simpson, Australian Idol or even the winner of the Melbourne Cup.

...It's easy to dismiss the nipply adventures of Hilton, Simpson et al as low-brow ephemera, but this could well be at politicians' peril.

Insisting that citizens develop more interest in crucial matters of state won't change the fact that many are not interested - or at least not as interested as they are in whether bootleg honeymoon videos reveal that Britney Spears is bisexual and threesome-eager (to quote one popular, saliva-dripping internet site).

One Australian broadsheet - regarded as a quality publication - regularly charts the most clicked-on stories from its internet site ... the A and AB-demographic readers of this particular organ prefer feasting on fast food features about grisly baby deaths, celebrity sex romps and cyclops kittens. On Monday, the fifth most popular story here was Crocodile yak: Elton shouts at shoes - 321 words about Elton John dashing off stage for a Down Under chunder during the first performance of his latest Australian tour. Apparently a guitarist masked the knighted pianist's sudden and wordless exit by noodling an impromptu solo.

While I'm not suggesting that knowledge of such an event be tested in HSC exams, it is worth ditching the heated, high versus low culture debate for a moment and looking at the situation from a realpolitik perspective.

Growing political disengagement among young people is regarded by many pundits as a serious threat to democracy, with party membership, trust in office-holders and interest in traditional politics plunging faster than a Brownlow Medal ceremony neckline.

Reaching these voters requires learning to speak their language or, at the very least, not taking such elitist delight in disparaging it.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Carnivorous Plants Seem To Worry East And West Alike

Great civilizations, with little prompting, sometimes come to a common understanding. People worldwide seem to fear being eaten alive, whether by sharks, tigers - or plants.

DMTC recently hosted Steve Ross' and Jabriel Shelton's production of "Little Shop of Horrors." Fear of chlorophyll hung in the air.

Meanwhile, in Brisbane, artist Jean Poole focused on an Asian version of a Venus Fly Trap as he prepared for battle. People worldwide, in many languages, may instinctively agree: "Don't feed the plant!"

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Vietnam Deja Vu In Iraq

Remember how Richard Nixon, after exploiting how badly Democrats botched Vietnam to win the presidency in 1968, decided to go for victory instead of withdrawal? Remember how well that worked?

We are at it again, in Iraq:
Since the Pentagon has decided to discuss its new strategy in gambling parlance, it should at least use the proper terminology. Today's LA Times article says that a Pentagon official has referred to the option of sending more troops in to Iraq as a "double down" strategy. The reference is to a bet in blackjack when, based on the cards that have been dealt, the player seeks to maximize a payoff that is more likely to occur in that hand, given the probabilities. The double down is a calculated bet, made from a position of strength when the odds are favorable to the bettor.

In Iraq, we are certainly not in a situation where the odds are favorable to winning. Our bet is not a double down. Let's call it what it is: double or nothing. This is more like the gambler who has been on a bad losing streak deciding to empty the savings account and put all of his chips on red, hoping that the roulette wheel will spin his way and bring him back close to even. Double or nothing is a desperation play. It is an ill-advised way to gamble, with chips or human lives, and such a strategy inevitably leads to another appropriate gambling term. Gambler's ruin: winding up completely broke.
"Weekly World News" On Top Of Things

Jim McElroy writes:
This afternoon I was down at SaveMart picking up E-Coli samples for some research I am conducting and noted this 4 page research report on the library rack near the checkout. I know that you are interested in Titanic Research and thought I should draw it to your attention. As is well known, most research leads to information that you were not even looking for, and I saw this other report that contradicted your recent research on drain swirl effects. Maybe you should tweak your parameters and try again (justifying NSF funding for another trip to OZ?). Also a small Item that would make a good footnote to your excellent description of various flora and fauna that you encountered.
Here are edited versions of some of the JPEGs Jim sent:

WMD sank the Titanic!

Why I had so much trouble in Australia finding Koala Bears.

The real importance of the Coriolis Force.
Rehearsing For "Mame" at DMTC

Left: Mary Young in the title role.

Mame (Mary Young) and Vera (Peggy Schechter)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Julia Othmer This Saturday

I like this concert series: it is an introduction to splendid music that one otherwise might miss.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Here is an article from Sacramento's "Inside The City" regarding STC's Peggy Shannon's STC-2 classes for young actors (and featuring Anna Miles):
Anna Miles, also 15, concurs. “Theater is literally like my home. I’ve never experienced any feeling that’s better and more amazing than when I’m onstage. I love it, and I can’t ever stop.”
Report On The Australian Drought

Here is a recent governmental report regarding the unprecedented drought affecting Australia. The figure to the right helps express the terrible nature of the drought. The new hyperaridity of Interior Queensland contributed to my unease while travelling there recently. I just hope that the climatologists will screw up with their forecasts and that things will improve over the next few months.

Key conclusions:
Much of southern Australia and coastal Queensland has experienced a protracted downturn in annual rainfall which has intensified since the 2002 El Niño event and has most severely affected the eastern states and the southwest corner of Western Australia.

Some areas of central Victoria, southern New South Wales and south east Queensland have had continuous lowest on record or very much below average rainfall since 1997.

A sequence of seven failed autumn breaks in the Murray-Darling Basin has not previously occurred in the records. Chances of a break in the current Autumn are fast receding. There is no sign that the months up to December 2006 will lead to any major relieving rainfalls, with rainfall in the southeast and even the summer rainfall in north-eastern Australia likely to be below average.

Indeed, the presence of a developing El Niño event suggests that it is very unlikely that Australia will see extensive drought breaking rain before the autumn of next year.

Major urban water storages are low and well below average for this time of the year across the south eastern part of Australia and south eastern Queensland. Storages for virtually all the major urban centres of Australia are being progressively drawn down, with no signifi cant inflows for a number of years.

Tough water restrictions, which include complete bans on the outdoor use of water, are already in place in Goulburn, Gosford, Bendigo and Toowoomba. More cities, such as Brisbane, Gosford and Ballarat, are likely to follow in the immediate future. Sydney has had a ban on sprinklers for three years. Significant water conservation measures are already in place and contingency measures for augmenting water supplies in the face of a deteriorating situation are also well in train.

In rural areas, inflows to dams in the Murray-Darling Basin System over the past five years have been the lowest on record. Consequently, irrigation allocations are significantly below entitlement.

Storages such as in the Wimmera Mallee in central Victoria have received no substantial inflow for six years.

The impact on individual farm incomes will vary depending on the way irrigators respond to low water allocations. The ability to trade water under the NWI will assist farmers adapt to the shortfalls.