Saturday, January 13, 2007

The New Dimension Of Art

Break out the wine!:
"Ladies and gentleman, bon appetit and may god bless," said Evaristti, a glass in his hand, to his dining companions seated night around a table in Santiago's Animal Gallery tonight.

On the plates in front of them was a serving of agnolotti pasta and in the middle a meatball made with oil Evaristti removed from his body in a liposuction procedure last year.

"The question of whether or not to eat human flesh is more important than the result," he said, explaining the point of his creation.

"You are not a cannibal if you eat art," he added.

... A veteran at shock-art, in an earlier work Evaristti invited people to kill fish by pressing the button on a blender the fish were held in. In April 2004 he dyed an enormous iceberg in Greenland with red paint.
Cognitive Dissonance

There's always something odd when performing artists get involved in politics:
The demonstration outside the Coliseum threatened to upset the genteel world of pirouettes and arabesques as Simone Clarke prepared to play the lead in the romantic classic Giselle.

The English National Ballet's principal dancer was named in a newspaper last month as a member of the British National Party (BNP), a minority anti-immigration party.

Campaign group Unite Against Fascism called for Ms Clarke, 36, to stand down, saying she has been used to "promote and prettify extreme right-wing politics."

"There is no place for fascist ideas in the arts," said Donna Guthrie, 36, a campaigner for the group. "We're calling on her to resign from the party or leave the company."

Thirty police lined the street outside the theatre as ballet-goers arrived for the afternoon show. Most patrons expressed support for Clarke, calling the protest undemocratic.

"They talk about their freedom, but what about ours?," said secretary June Mitchell, 58. "She shouldn't stand down because of her political beliefs."

... "I will be known as the BNP ballerina. I think that will stick with me for life," she told the Mail on Sunday newspaper. "I would rather it wasn't like that but I don't regret anything. I will stay a member.

"I have been labelled a racist and a fascist because I have a view on immigration – and I mean mass immigration – but isn't that something that a lot of people worry about?"

She said her partner Yat Sen-Chang, a dancer with Chinese-Cuban roots, had urged her to join the party. Ms Clarke could not immediately be reached for comment.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Go New Mexico!

The first effort at impeaching Bush and Cheney will start, oddly enough, in New Mexico.
Van Nuys Crash

Business aircraft crashes. May have been something simple too, which makes it all the more tragic.
Love Weather Modeling Computer Output!

Always food for thought!

I've been wondering why the annual Northern Territories monsoon, currently underway, doesn't cross into southern Australia as well. Latest NOGAPS model predictions suggest it will, and soon, heading as far south as Adelaide, and beyond! So, the next question is "why not NSW and Victoria as well?" If it works for summertime Denver and the northern Rockies, why not in the southern reaches of Australia's Snowy Range too? We'll see!

NOGAPS also says that coastal Queensland will soon see tropical moisture advection from the NE (not just the typical afternoon thunderstorms), and that in two weeks or so, a tropical storm may approach from the NE! So soon? We'll see!

The key is a stable, stationary high pressure system between Australia and New Zealand. It functions much like the Bermuda High in the Northern Hemisphere does for the American Southwest and it is required to get a good flow of moisture going into Queensland!

Meanwhile in the Northern Hemisphere, will a Pineapple Express system pump moisture in the southwestern U.S. in a week or so? Quien sabe? We'll see!
Slow, But Halting Progress

Some good comes from nearly losing elections! Rep. John Doolittle finally fires his wife. By employing his wife as his fundraiser, and funneling campaign contributions directly into his own pockets, Doolittle had made his corruption so obvious as to be blinding.
Bev's Take On "Mame"

Davis Enterprise reviewer Bev Sykes liked some things about "Mame", but disliked others. For example, Bev likes Ron and Jean:
If you want a good looking musical theatrical experience, make certain that your show is directed by a choreographer, and costumed by an experienced costumer.
But quality is uneven:
The production itself, however, is spotty and does not maintain the level set by the opening chorus throughout.
Bev likes Mary Young well enough, but thought Andrew Lampinen was too old to play the role of Young Patrick:
He is nearly as tall as his aunt, making description of the games played at his progressive school sound less innocent than they were intended ... I am assuming that he had the great misfortune to go through a sudden voice change during rehearsal, as none of his songs were in his key and he had great difficulty with all of them.
Bev likes Robert Coverdell and a number of other cast members, including Rebekah Shepard, the only UCD doctoral student "with an IQ of a dead flashlight battery." In general, though, I don't think we quite engaged Bev's emotions with this show:
People in the audience, and in the lobby following the performance seemed to enjoy the show very much. I would not list this among the best the company has done, but this is a hard working group and their dedication to DMTC shows.
That's what happens with shows: some shows grab you, and others don't. A show will sometimes grab some people, and leave others cold. For me, the show is growing on me with time, so the emotional appeal hasn't been immediate.

For me, Andrew's dropping voice range hasn't been the least bit troublesome - indeed, it adds to Andrew's emotional appeal as the vulnerable Young Patrick. Nevertheless, not everyone will see things the same way. Indeed, in theater, it's guaranteed no one will ever see things the same way, leading to another truism - when you put yourself on stage, you open yourself to criticism. You hope you appeal to everyone, but that's really quite hard to achieve, almost impossible, really, and don't be surprised by falling short. You struggle on, taking comfort in the knowledge that you are doing your best. C'est la vie!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

"Mamma Mia!" Motion Picture

Meryl Streep to star.
War (Apparently) Declared

Looks like Bush has decided to expand the Iraqi war, with a secret decision to declare war. Just like Nixon's incursion into Cambodia - echoes of the recent past! - it shows what a travesty of a democracy we live in!:
Washington intelligence, military and foreign policy circles are abuzz today with speculation that the President, yesterday or in recent days, sent a secret Executive Order to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director of the CIA to launch military operations against Syria and Iran.

The President may have started a new secret, informal war against Syria and Iran without the consent of Congress or any broad discussion with the country.

... Adding fuel to the speculation is that U.S. forces today raided an Iranian Consulate in Arbil, Iraq and detained five Iranian staff members. Given that Iran showed little deference to the political sanctity of the US Embassy in Tehran 29 years ago, it would be ironic for Iran to hyperventilate much about the raid.

But what is disconcerting is that some are speculating that Bush has decided to heat up military engagement with Iran and Syria -- taking possible action within their borders, not just within Iraq.

Some are suggesting that the Consulate raid may have been designed to try and prompt a military response from Iran -- to generate a casus belli for further American action.

If this is the case, the debate about adding four brigades to Iraq is pathetic. The situation will get even hotter than it now is, worsening the American position and exposing the fact that to fight Iran both within the borders of Iraq and into Iranian territory, there are not enough troops in the theatre.
In any event, the Australian press is already crowing about it:
US takes war to Iran, Syria
.... GEORGE W. Bush has defied popular opinion, top generals and Congress with a plan to escalate US military involvement in the Middle East by sending more troops into Iraq and threatening attacks against terror cells in Iran and Syria.
Lost And Found

Marlene Dietrich's earring, lost in 1934, found.

Condoleezza Rice gets all kissy-faced:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice let slip her news media preferences Thursday, saying, "I love every single one" of Fox News network's correspondents and also favors CBS anchor Harry Smith.

In comments overheard on an open microphone between morning television interviews, including one with Fox, the top U.S. diplomat said: "My Fox guys, I love every single one of them."
Watch What You Say

Sometimes I wonder if I'm developing Tourette's Syndrome. I wonder if it's normal, when driving back and forth across the Yolo Causeway, to shout obscenities at the CD player, or at wandering sea gulls, or drivers heading in the opposite direction. But one must watch oneself, because sometimes there is foreign money in your pocket!:
In a U.S. government warning high on the creepiness scale, the Defense Department cautioned its American contractors over what it described as a new espionage threat: Canadian coins with tiny radio frequency transmitters hidden inside.

The government said the mysterious coins were found planted on U.S. contractors with classified security clearances on at least three separate occasions between October 2005 and January 2006 as the contractors traveled through Canada.

... Top suspects, according to outside experts: China, Russia or even France — all said to actively run espionage operations inside Canada with enough sophistication to produce such technology.

... Experts were astonished about the disclosure and the novel tracking technique, but they rejected suggestions Canada’s government might be spying on American contractors. The intelligence services of the two countries are extraordinarily close and routinely share sensitive secrets.

... Experts said such tiny transmitters would almost certainly have limited range to communicate with sensors no more than a few feet away, such as ones hidden inside a doorway. The metal in the coins also could interfere with any signals emitted.

... Experts said hiding tracking technology inside coins is fraught with risks because the spy’s target might inadvertently give away the coin or spend it buying coffee or a newspaper. They agreed, however, that a coin with a hidden tracking device might not arouse suspicion if it were discovered in a pocket or briefcase.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Public Opinion, And The Iraq War

For whatever it's worth. Note a trend?

As part of their unmanned space exploration policy, the Brits are considering firing darts at the moon. Darts without ale seems pointless, somehow...:
The first (foray), named "Moonlight", would fire four darts the size of suitcases onto the moon's surface from orbit to test for quakes, tremors and other data, the BBC said.

If the mission was successful, a second probe, "Moonraker" would be launched with the aim of landing on the moon.
Mission Impossible

General David Petraeus is the best general the U.S. has had in many years, as demonstrated by his canny work over the last few years handling Anbar Province, but George W. Bush has decided to saddle him with an impossible job. That is really too bad. Soldiers like Petraeus could be the genesis of a newer, smarter way of fighting our wars, but losing generals lose their careers, and Petraeus is toast:
The new commander, Lt. Gen. (soon to be promoted to simply Gen.) David Petraeus, is probably the smartest active-duty general in the U.S. Army today. Late last year, he co-authored the Army's field manual on counterinsurgency—its first in over 20 years. During the early phase of the Iraq occupation, as commander of the 101st Airborne Division, he was one of the very few American officers who understood how to win over the populace, not just bash down their doors. In those halcyon days of the summer of '03, commanders had free access to Saddam Hussein's captured slush funds, and Petraeus used the money shrewdly to build local projects and to build trust with local leaders. It may be no coincidence that things started going to hell in northern Iraq, the 101st Airborne's area of operation, when the commanders' fund dried up—and no further funds poured in.

Alas, Petraeus is in much the same situation he found himself back then—loaded with enormous responsibility, the right skills, but not enough resources, either in money or, especially, in troops.

The big talk this past week, and probably the centerpiece of Bush's announcement (to take place Wednesday night), is the "surge"—20,000 additional U.S. combat troops to be deployed to Baghdad, as part of a classic strategy of "clear, hold, and build."

...Petraeus and his co-authors discussed this strategy at great length in the Army's counterinsurgency field manual. One point they made is that it requires a lot of manpower—at minimum, 20 combat troops for every 1,000 people in the area's population. Baghdad has about 6 million people; so clearing, holding, and building it will require about 120,000 combat troops.

Right now, the United States has about 70,000 combat troops in all of Iraq (another 60,000 or so are support troops or headquarters personnel). Even an extra 20,000 would leave the force well short of the minimum required—and that's with every soldier and Marine in Iraq moved to Baghdad. Iraqi security forces would have to make up the deficit.

... Meanwhile, how will Petraeus be able to keep Baghdad's insurgents from simply slipping out of town and wreaking havoc elsewhere? This is what happened in Fallujah when U.S. troops tried to destroy the insurgents' stronghold in that city.

... Will Petraeus wall off neighborhoods in Baghdad? (The U.S. Army in Iraq does have a lot of concrete.) Is such a strategy feasible in a city of 6 million, as opposed to a town of 60,000 like Tal Afar? Moving in the bulldozers and the berms may be a dramatic first step. But then what?

... If he manages to succeed in Baghdad, how will he be able to "hold" it while proceeding on to Iraq's other troubled cities?

...Then there are the more political considerations. Nothing will work, even under otherwise ideal circumstances, unless the Iraqi government supports the effort, orders Iraqi battalions to take part, and agrees to let the counterinsurgents go after all militias, including the Mahdi Army controlled by Muqtada Sadr, a key faction of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's power base.

... But security is the prerequisite, and to achieve enduring security, the hard arithmetic indicates that Bush needs to send in a lot more troops than 20,000. The problem is, he doesn't have them, and he won't be able to get them for many years, under the best of circumstances. (Even if he reimposed the draft—a sure way to convert popular disenchantment with the war to rioting-in-the-streets opposition—it would take a few years to get the Selective Service System running and to mobilize, train, and equip the draftees.)

... I am not one who likens the Iraq war to Vietnam, but there is an eerie parallel to a memo that John McNaughton, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's closest aide, sent to him on March 24, 1965, after it seemed clear that the Rolling Thunder bombing campaign was producing scant results. "The situation in Vietnam is bad and deteriorating," McNaughton wrote. The important aim now is to "avoid a humiliating U.S. defeat (to our reputation as a guarantor)." Therefore, it is essential "that the U.S. emerge as a 'good doctor.' We must have kept promises, been tough, taken risks, gotten bloodied, and hurt the enemy very badly."

One month later, on April 21, McNamara and McNaughton met in Honolulu with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other top leaders. They concluded, as McNamara summed up in a memo, "that it will take more than six months, perhaps a year or two, to demonstrate VC [Viet Cong] failure in the South." (Both documents are reproduced in Volume 3 of The Pentagon Papers.)
Well, I am one who likens Iraq to Vietnam (the two wars are so closely allied with each other) and it's important to note that it took a decade after the meeting described above for the obvious realization to finally settle in that we weren't going to win in Vietnam. The same thing could happen with Iraq!
Hair Of The Dog That Bit Me

Loss: $500.00

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Stoned In Baghdad

Baghdad by the Bay, that is:
Bay Area residents use more drugs than any other metropolitan area in the country, and medical marijuana could be part of the reason, according to officials.

The percentage of people interviewed who had used marijuana, cocaine or heroin in the Bay Area, which included Fremont and Oakland, was 12.7 percent — 3 percent higher than Seattle, the second highest-ranking area with 9.6 percent.

... One of the reasons the percentage might be so high, according to Alice Gleghorn, deputy director of behavioral health services in San Francisco’s Department of Public Health, may be medical marijuana.

... Gleghorn said another reason for the high numbers might be related to the excellent growing conditions for marijuana in California.

“You can’t use what you don’t have,” she said.

While the Bay Area may be pro-marijuana, it isn’t crazy about cigarettes. The region tied with Los Angeles with the lowest percentage of cigarette smokers, 17.9 percent. The national average is 25.3 percent.

John Newmeyer, epidemiologist for the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, said he has watched marijuana become part of The City’s cultural norm the last 35 years. And when it comes down to it, he said, smoking pot is safer than cigarettes.

“There is a low level of people reporting to hospitals and treatment facilities because of it,” he said, adding that the real problem to watch for might be within methamphetamine use.
"Mamma Mia" - Las Vegas

Closing in the summer of 2008.
Northern Territories Monsoon Firing Up

I've been trying to puzzle out the strange phenomena of Australian weather, and one odd feature is why doesn't the annual NT monsoon extend the full breadth of the continent? Why is Australia so dry in the middle? Why isn't it like the U.S., where the southwestern monsoon can sometimes extend along the Sierra Madre and the Rocky Mountains, all the way to the Canadian border? Is the absence of the mountain ranges a key feature? But at least its raining in some places now (just not everywhere, like down south, where the aridity is unparalleled). The northern crocodiles will be most appreciative!
Malibu Fire

There is always the tendency, when homes belonging to the rich-and-connected burn down, to gloss over the loss, and say cruel, unfeeling things. I remember being shocked, with the highly-destructive 1991 Oakland fire, when 25 lives, 3,354 homes, and 456 apartments were lost, at the attitude among some in the French media, that there was little real pain, since the homes were insured. They forget that children lose their entire worlds when homes burn down, and that insurance can't cover every expense, and priceless mementoes go up in smoke, and lives are entirely dislocated. I certainly cringe when France experiences terrible fires, and I hope they would return the favor.

In any event, Suzanne Somers and others in Malibu have lost their homes, and they deserve our sympathy. Somers puts on a brave front:
"My nature is to look at the glass half-full," Somers said in a statement Tuesday. "I truly believe we will learn something great from this experience."
What's Not To Like?

When I go down to DMV for a test, not even the thought occurs to the clerks there:
Police said Chagnon was giving a road test to the woman Dec. 13. She had failed the driving test several times previously. Chagnon allegedly told the woman he would issue her a driver's license if she would take her clothes off.

Police said the woman reluctantly took off some of her clothing, but refused to take off all of it and Chagnon issued the woman a license.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Busybody Elder Critics

Taste in metal gets personal:
A man who died after a scuffle on a city transit bus had been in a heated argument with youths about the rock band Metallica, two teens testified in court Tuesday.

A 15-year-old witness testified at a preliminary hearing into Stefan Conley's death that the 35-year-old had told the young people they had no taste in heavy metal music.
Albuquerque Satire

Lost on the Puritans of Oregon. Pity, actually:
Robert Diefenbach took his annual vacation two months ago in Albuquerque. While there, the Newport, Oregon, resident picked up a copy of the alt-weekly Albuquerque Alibi. He read ¡Ask a Mexican!, the column in which yours truly answers readers’ questions about Mexicans and which the Alibi also publishes. The questions that week concerned the Mexican love affair with chickens and similarities between Mexicans and the Irish.

Diefenbach had never heard of ¡Ask a Mexican! but thought it was “wonderful.” Upon returning to work as a handyman at Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital, the 62-year-old printed a copy of the chicken/Irish installment for a Mexican-American co-worker.

... The following day, Diefenbach’s supervisors called him into a meeting. They reportedly told Diefenbach he would be suspended for five days without pay, effective immediately. His offense: using a computer on company time, racial discrimination and sexual harassment for showing ¡Ask a Mexican! to his coworker. Diefenbach wasn’t allowed to appeal or respond to the charges.

... ”Diefenbach’s union didn’t buy his argument that ¡Ask a Mexican! was satirical, that its reference to Mexicans and the Irish as “drunk, degenerate, fornicating Catholics” and use of a fat, gold-toothed Mexican for a logo was tongue-in-cheek. So Diefenbach hired private attorney Kerry Smith to see if he could sue Samaritan for wrongful suspension.

Smith thought the ¡Ask a Mexican! in question—which also called Mexicans and the Irish “brothers in depravity” and claimed Mexican men treat chickens “as they treat their women: as purveyors of breasts, eggs and little else”—“was really funny. I’m Irish and call myself a feminist. In that particular column, I found it absolutely funny and understood the point right away.”

But Smith told Diefenbach she didn’t think any arbitrator in the state of Oregon would agree and advised him to drop the case.

“I’ve never come across anything like this before,” she says. “I see both sides. Looking at this column at face value, arbitrators could see it as offensive. However, I think that in the context in that it was presented, the hospital acted in a reactionary way.

... Read the latest ¡Ask a Mexican! Warning: Not advised at work.
Kylie's Fashion Sense Is Duly Noted

By Glamour Magazine:
Australian pop star Kylie Minogue has topped fashion magazine Glamour's annual list of best dressed female celebrities after her battle with cancer, replacing last year's winner, supermodel Kate Moss.

The 38-year-old, on the comeback trail since undergoing breast cancer surgery in May 2005, was praised for her understated look, in contrast to the flamboyant costumes she has sported during her "Showgirl Homecoming Tour."

"We've seen a newer, softer-looking Kylie emerge this year -- she's still sexy, but she's not flaunting that side of herself in gold hotpants any more," said Jo Elvin, editor of Glamour.

"She's letting it shine through subtly, with a class personal style that women really identify with."

Minogue jumped from No. 26 on the list in 2006, while Moss slipped to fourth this year from first in 2006 -- and her British rocker boyfriend Pete Doherty, frontman of the band Babyshambles, was named one of the worst dressed males.
Opening Weekend For "Mame"

Left: 'We Need A Little Christmas' - Young Patrick (Andrew Lampinen), Mame (Mary Young), Agnes Gooch (Monica Parisi), and Ito (Andy Hyun).

Several months ago, wondering whether she should audition or not, Kristin Cunningham asked "what is 'Mame' about?" I couldn't really answer the question: I just had a fuzzy idea it was about a rich woman in Virginia horse society. I had no idea what the trajectory of the musical was, or any special feature of interest. Unable to get intelligence on "Mame" from her other acquaintances and friends, I suspect Kristin ultimately decided to try out for other shows.

All the pity, actually, because I'm really beginning to like this show, about an eccentric woman of the theater devoted to helping out the weak and living life with zest. Kristin, Ryan, and the rest of the gang would have been great in the show, but we are doing all right with the crew we have. Ron Cisneros did an excellent job of putting the show together without extraneous histrionics, and, because of the New Year's preview, we are better-rehearsed than usual.

Left: Sometimes flawed pictures express the story better than good pictures. Here is Monica Parisi as the bewildered Agnes Gooch in 'Gooch's Song' Right, Mary Young as Mame.

Indeed, as feared, Wendy Young Carey broke her wrist with her fall on the bundle of carpet near the roll-up door on Thursday evening. Nevertheless, with some costume adaptations to accomodate her new cast, Wendy did just fine in her role.

There were the usual minor errors and omissions, as in any show: missed dance steps and incorrect dialogue and muffed lyrics. For me, on Sunday afternoon, I managed to get a red vest on inside-out. That didn't bother me so much as the fact that I had been very careful in the fairly-quick costume change to check myself out in the mirror before going on stage. Despite my deliberate, precautionary pace, I failed to notice the flagrant error. I carefully looked at myself in the mirror, yet somehow failed to see the flaw.

Left: The fine fedora accessorizes Steve Isaacson's Mr. Babcock really well.

Audiences Friday and Saturday night were small (the consensus is that people are tired after the holidays), but the Sunday audience was large and responsive. It was nice seeing Ben and Noel Sunday!
Less Blunder, More Thunder

E. greeted Sunday by saying "it's such a bright, beautiful world, and it is filled with people I hate." Such a cheery start to the day! Then she began fantasizing about a slot machine at Cache Creek Casino, the one that plays cheery tunes, featuring green aliens who lay eggs filled with money. I could tell the worm of addiction was eating at her, and, to tell the truth, to my moth-eaten mind, it didn't sound like such a bad thing. So, Sunday evening, I suggested a trip to Thunder Valley casino - I would stake her. She insisted I wear a new sweater - a lucky sweater. I complied.

The blackjack was quite good. I made four runs that collapsed, but with each collapse, the total advanced forward, like a ratchet: $900 to $500; then $2,800 to $1,600; then $4,100 to $3,300; then $6,000 to $4,700. I left before the last run collapsed, nearly at the peak of my winnings, for the best night at the tables in three years.

A strange, well-dressed Filipina escorted me as I left the table. Turned out, she was a beggar, looking for a handout. I gave her $20. The other Filipina had had a bad night (Thunder Valley doesn't have aliens, but rather some kind of 'Milk Machine' that had gone dry Sunday evening), but under the circumstances, it didn't matter.

Profit: $7,100 - $100 initial amount - $160 E. stake - $20 beggar - $10 tip to cashier = $6,810.00

Now, dividing the spoils (credit card, theater, Filipina, etc.)