Saturday, February 17, 2007

"Three Messiahs Walk Into A Bar" - Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre

Left: 'Honest lawyer' (and impressive deity) Paul Schecter.

The Thistle Dew Theatre is small, but large enough for original comedy! I never did learn what the set-up line title of the show really meant (Playwright: Matt Henf; Director: Maggie Adair Upton), but that is probably less important than that it starts the ball rolling on a comedic interpretation of the courtship of the Virgin Mary (Brianne Hidden) and Joseph (Ryan Williams).

There were several upbeat songs (Musical Director: Kathy Lauber) that were fun. In Act I, 'Men Are Dumb' (Brianne Hidden), and 'God Don't Diet' (Paul Schecter): In Act II, 'Stoned Like Steven' (Willie Jacobitz), and the finale, 'Give Me A Sign.'

I hadn't seen Brianne perform in six years, and I had forgotten: nice voice!

The show had a mad, improv quality about it that alternately was good and bad. The playwright was open to suggestions from the cast, which meant that an overall conception of the work tended to get lost in well-meaning but puzzling hyperbolic tangents. For example, the drug reference in 'Stoned Like Steven' seemed apropos of nothing, or at least nothing in antiquity, but present nonetheless to justify another improv riff.

The stand-up comedic monologues offered by Gabriel (Kevin Menager), particularly at the top of Act II, verged on brilliance, but the sheen did not last, and soon the show was searching for new directions.

I was also a bit baffled by some of the sexual humor in the show, which struck me as a little gratuitous, since the show was only partly about love and romance. There was plenty of sexual humor in the show we saw last night too ("Prelude To A Kiss"), but there the humor was more central to the theme of the show. Here, it was used to initiate new tangential flights of fancy, some of which weren't necessary.

So, good and bad elements all wrapped up in one. Basically, it's an entertaining show, and I liked the songs, but the playwright needs to weed out the tangents and decide what he wants to keep.

I liked the biographical note inserted into the program by Ryan Williams, which I quote:
Ryan is glad to be returning to the Thistle Dew after an occupationally imposed hiatus, having recently left the dangerous world of retail management for the much safer world of hazardous waste.
The show continues through March 10th.
"Prelude To A Kiss" - Chautauqua Playhouse

Left: 'Rita' (Lindsay Grimes)

Excellent comedy/fantasy/drama, featuring 'Peter' (Thomas J. Engstrom), 'Rita' (Lindsay Grimes), and the mysterious 'Old Man' (Michael Beckett). Fine acting, especially by 'Dr. Boyle' (Rodger - 'you are dealing with a slippery entity' - Hoopman). Julia Smyth (Mrs. Boyle) played her part with charming warmth.

I was particularly interested in seeing 'Leah' (Monique McKisson), who, as the character of the Old Man's daughter, has a short but riveting segment in Act II. Leah's emotional outburst is quite intense, and poignant.

Lindsay Grimes has been performing in Sacramento for only about a year, after having gone to school in Chico, CA. Despite her short sojourn in Sacramento theater, her fine performances have already made a mark here. In particular, her vivid portrayal of 'Tessie Tura' in Magic Circle Theater's recent production of "Gypsy" was particularly memorable. And she will playing 'Sheila Franklin' in Artistic Difference's (producer: Erik Daniells) upcoming production of "Hair" (May 4 -26) at The Space, 2509 R Street, in Sacramento.

Left: After kissing 'Rita' one too many times, T.J. Engstrom is suddenly inhabited by the spirit of Elvis ('thank you. thank you very much').

The acting demands are particularly intense on the three main actors. Engstrom, who also plays the narrator, is on stage virtually the entire time, as the lovesick, and increasingly confused and desperate character of Peter. After having graduated from CSUS with a BA in Theater Arts, and having performed with Sacramento Theater Company ("Amadeus"), Engstrom is entering the community theater with this production.

I was very impressed by the chemistry between Engstrom and Grimes.

Michael Beckett has an interesting acting challenge, which he says he prepared for by closing watching Grimes' mannerisms.

Both Beckett and Grimes are required to portray two starkly different characters, but the demand is especially intense on Grimes, whose characters differ in starkly different ways, and with the changeover virtually instantaneous. A great acting challenge! I was going to ask Grimes which of her two characters comes closest to her own, but forgot to do so. When I asked Monique's opinion, she said (the director) "can see right through you," which I took to mean that, in a sense, the director can find both characters in her, and therefore both are close.

All the actors spoke of the director, Ed Trafton, with the greatest warmth. Fine acting is hard to achieve without relying on a skilled director, and it's clear Trafton has succeeded with this cast.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Paraglider Adventures

I had a friend who once got into trouble while hang gliding off Sandia Crest just east of Albuquerque, NM. As I recall, he was caught in an updraft, taken to 14,000 feet (high enough to suffer tunnel vision and a headache) and travelled for hours and many miles, before deliberately heading down and landing on a remote airstrip near Maxwell, NM, more than 140 miles away, shortly before sunset. Another friend of his had a similar experience, and eventually landed, after travelling much further, and after nightfall, in the middle of a brightly-lit Little League baseball game in the panhandle of Texas.

Different kind of glider, but even more dramatic stories:
A German paraglider was encased in ice and blacked out after being sucked into a tornado-like thunderstorm in Australia and carried to a height greater than Mount Everest. She survived.

... The 2005 World Cup winner was lifted 32,612 feet (9,940 meters) above sea level by the storm near Manilla in New South Wales state while preparing for the tenth FAI World Paragliding Championships next week.

A 42-year-old Chinese paraglider, He Zhongpin, was killed by the same weather system, apparently from a lack of oxygen and extreme cold, the organizers said. His body was found on Thursday 47 miles from his launch site. [UPDATE: The coroner says He Zhongpin was killed by lightning.]

... Wisnerska, a member of the German team, had been carried to a height greater than the 29,035-foot Mount Everest — an area known to mountaineers as the death zone for its extreme cold — in just 10 minutes and was rendered unconscious for almost an hour.

She encountered hailstones the size of oranges, and the temperature plummeted to minus 58 Fahrenheit.

“There’s no oxygen. She could have suffered brain damage. But she came to again at a height of 6,900 meters with ice all over her body and slowly descended herself,” said Godfrey Wenness, one of Australia’s most experienced paraglider pilots.

Wisnerska was admitted to hospital with severe frostbite and blistering to her face and ears, but has since been released.

... Wisnerska, whose flight was tracked by her personal GPS and computer, landed 40 miles from her launch site.

A British team member earlier this month survived an attack by two wild eagles which sent her canopy plummeting while flying in the same area ahead of the championships.
We Are Who We Honor

Gabe wondered what I thought about efforts to rename Sacramento's Goethe Middle School:
The problem, the women say, is that Charles Matthias Goethe (1875-1966) was an unapologetic white supremacist whose views insult the children attending the school named in his honor.

...Demographically, Goethe Middle School is 32 percent Latino, 30 percent Asian, 27 percent African American, 5 percent white, and 6 percent other. Its mission statement celebrates "our diverse, multicultural society."
It's always troubling, of course, to rename streets and buildings that already have long histories. It must be particularly troubling to people who attended the school. Nevertheless:
During their brainstorming sessions, Aslan said, one point of contention emerged: Where do you draw the line? Many historic figures, honored in the past, have some ugly baggage by modern standards.

"Some people asked: At what point do we have the right to intervene and whimsically change the name of institutions?" Aslan said. "That's a valid point. But we think this is a special case -- this change serves the very children who were targeted by Mr. Goethe. This isn't a major historic figure we're talking about. This was someone who bought his way in."

"We're not on some kind of a crusade to change school names," Williams said. "Just this one."
So the effort is limited, and I don't see the harm in it. And with regards to Mr. Goethe:
Wanda Williams studied the portrait and shook her head.

"He proved money can buy anything," she said. "It can buy silence. It can buy blindness. But not forever."
Dog-Whistle Politics?

Or an out-of-control staff? Georgia State Senator denies he authorized a letter under his signature:
Bridges (R-Cleveland) denies having anything to do with the memo. But one of his constituents said he wrote the memo with Bridges’ approval before it was recently distributed to lawmakers in several states, including Texas, California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

“Indisputable evidence — long hidden but now available to everyone — demonstrates conclusively that so-called ‘secular evolution science’ is the Big-Bang 15-billion-year alternate ‘creation scenario’ of the Pharisee Religion,” the memo says. “This scenario is derived concept-for-concept from Rabbinic writings in the mystic ‘holy book’ Kabbala dating back at least two millennia.”

The memo calls on lawmakers to introduce legislation that would end the teaching of evolution in public schools because it is “a deception that is causing incalculable harm to every student and every truth-loving citizen.”

It also directs readers to a Web site, which includes model legislation that calls the Kabbala “a mystic, anti-Christ ‘holy book’ of the Pharisee Sect of Judaism.” The Web site also declares “the earth is not rotating … nor is it going around the sun.”
Global Warming? James McElroy Recommends "The Revenge of Gaia"

James McElroy writes:
Have you read James Lovelock's recently published (in the US) book titled, "The Revenge of GAIA"? If not, I recommend that you contact your local library and put a hold on the first copy available. I was able to get a copy fairly fast and I have not seen any prominent reviews. It is a small book, 177 pages with appendices, but has enough sharp words to offend almost everyone. It is refreshing to read analysis, written in plain language, that clearly elucidate events and processes that no one wants to hear about.
I have not read the book, but I am familiar with James Lovelock. When I was a graduate student at the University of Arizona in the 80's, my advising professor, George Dawson, was something of an acolyte of Lovelock, and would occasionally travel on pilgrimage to Lovelock's cottage in remote, rural England, where Lovelock would hand craft the most sensitive gas chromatographs in the world for NASA space probes, and innumerable other purposes, like intelligence work. Dawson would return raving about Lovelock, and I think it was clear that he yearned to be the kind of scientist that Lovelock was: genuinely independent, free from petty university details, and at the cutting edge of research, all at the same time.

Dawson was skeptical of the more spiritual applications of the Gaian concept, meaning that while the Earth might be acting as an organism, it did not have a 'soul'. Actually, I don't think Lovelock went that far either, but some of Lovelock's followers did.

We also once saw a talk by Lovelock's colleague Lynn Margulis. I had hoped for more details, but I was disappointed: it was a mixed audience and Margulis spent too much time on general aspects of Gaia.

Lovelock's sharp words have the disagreeable aspect of likely being true. Unfortunate, that.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


The new, more-realistic-looking Archie, Betty, and Veronica are out, but many aren't impressed:
The story, written by Melanie Morgan and titled "Bad Boy Trouble," will involve a new character, Nick St. Clair, a motorcycle-riding bad boy who comes to Riverdale and steals Veronica's heart, threatening her relationships with all her friends, especially Betty.

For the last several years, Archie's predominantly female readership has centered on 7- to 12-year-olds and, by revamping the characters to look more realistic, Silberkleit and Gorelick hope to capture a portion of the "tween" readers who typically move from Archie comics to teen magazines and chapter books. The story, though, stays true to the Archie sensibility, Silberkleit says.
Just Wondering....

Gusty, variable winds in the blogosphere:
I spend a lot of time not only contributing my writings to the anti-Bushite Blogosphere but also reading what other people in that realm have to say. Lately, the more I read the more foreboding I feel about what many are saying is an imminent military attack by this terrible Bushite regime on the nation of Iran.

... But I also pay attention to what goes on in the world's financial markets. And while those markets do not write commentaries and news reports, they do reflect the views of a whole lot of people who put their money where their mouths are, and who therefore have every motivation to look at least a little ways ahead for anything that might impact the value of their assets.

... In other words, if the people trading on the world's markets shared the forebodings of an outbreak of war between the United States and Iran that are now appearing all over the anti-Bushite Blogosphere, the prices on those markets would reflect those fears. The price of oil would go up. The stock markets would go down.

But that's not what's happening. The price of oil has risen some lately from its recent sharp slide, but it is still well beneath the levels of last summer, for example. It got up to the mid 70s (dollars per barrel) some months back and now it is below 60.

And as for the stock markets of the world, more of them are climbing up to new highs rather than showing signs of great anxiety. ....

So who should we believe: the stories about the great danger that the Bushites are readying the attack, or the markets who see nothing all that troubling in the foreseeable future?

... Are the financial markets full of ostriches with their heads in the sand, or is the Blogosphere full of Chicken Littles who think the sky is falling?
Good For Australia, Bad For Mexico

Cactoblastis cactorum:
A non-native moth whose larvae threaten to decimate Mexico's emblematic flat-leafed cactus has invaded the mainland for the first time, experts said Wednesday, an event that authorities have feared for decades.

Lab reports indicated that at least one moth trapped in the resort city of Cancun since January is a South American "nopal moth," a species detected last year off the coast on Isla Mujeres, said Hector Sanchez, Mexico's director of plant safety.

... Known as Cactoblastis Cactorum and native to Argentina, the moth was exported to Australia, South Africa and islands throughout the Caribbean starting in the 1920s to eradicate cacti that occupied valuable farm land.

But in countries like Mexico - where flat-leafed Opuntia cactuses known as "nopales" are a food source, an important part of the ecosystem and a national emblem - the moth poses a major threat.

... The moths - whose larvae eat away the cacti's insides - also appeared in the United States in 1989. They advanced into Florida, but scientists have managed to halt the moths' expansion near Mobile, Alabama.

... As in the United States, where experts are battling the moth by releasing sterile males and removing infected plants, Mexico could be facing a decades-long fight to keep the moth away from the vast plains of cactus in central Mexico and the U.S. Southwest.
Valentine's Day

Dilemmas everywhere (from Matthew Yglesias).
The Modern American Nightmare

Home video from a shopper at Trolley Square.
Protests, And Cross-Dressing

Down the rabbit hole (the picture is precious):
A New Zealand lawyer who took to wearing an Alice in Wonderland costume in court to highlight an alleged cover-up by the army has been found guilty of contempt. ... (H)e was convicted for publicly releasing a court-suppressed report about the fatal 1994 collapse of an army-built bridge on a property owned by his elderly clients.

Moodie admitted releasing the report, which apportioned much of the blame for the collapse on the New Zealand Army, and not his clients.

... But the court disagreed today, finding Moodie guilty of contempt and suspending him from practising as a lawyer for three months. He was also fined $NZ5,000 ($A4,430), and ordered to pay costs.

Moodie, 68, found himself named by a columnist for The Times newspaper in London as winner of the world "award for bizarre conduct by a lawyer" in 2006.

He had officially changed his name to Miss Alice and began donning women's clothes in court as part of a protest against what he said was the "old boys' network" running New Zealand's judiciary.

... In its judgment, the High court said that if Moodie wanted to highlight an injustice, he should have done so through proper channels and formally sought authority to release the report.
Relatedly, two days ago, I walked past the semi-continuous, evening drive-time anti-war protest at 16th and J St. in Sacramento, and noted that Sacramento's own boa-sporting protestor (previously-mentioned in this blog) has now assumed a different style - some kind of Meso-American or Incan-looking headdress. I think it looks better than the boa, and if this stupid war never ends, I nevertheless hope to see a succession of similar sartorial statements.
Tsunami II

Here's what the beginning of a tidal wave looks like. Just like with Vietnam. And who says history never repeats itself?:
The Bush administration hopes to resettle about 7,000 Iraqi refugees to the United States this year, the State Department said Wednesday.
Green Turtles Return

Notable news from Mon Repos Turtle Sanctuary, near Bundaberg, QLD, AU:
FOR the first time in five years, green turtles have visited Mon Repos beach near Bundaberg to lay eggs.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


The RSP cast for "Chicago" has gone down into Sacramento community theater lore as one of the best ever assembled, so I'll happily follow MikeMac's lead and post the YouTube video, even though the show has now closed. History 'has it coming,' after all, and there's nothing ever outdated about watching Amber Jean Lazard and the crew perform!

Melissa McEwan Resigns

From the Edwards campaign. Once again, maybe for the best that 'Shakespeare's Sister' is free to offer critiques without worrying about drawing conservative fire to the Edwards campaign.
The Family That Models Together...

Dies together:
Preliminary tests revealed Ramos's sudden death was a result of malnutrition. She had been starving herself to keep her weight down for catwalk work.

Her death comes six months after her older sister Luisel Ramos died following a show.

The 180cm 22-year-old had wasted away to 40kg on a diet of lettuce over three months.

At the time of her death, she had a body mass index of 14.5.

The World Health Organisation considers 16 to be starvation - and anything less than 18.5 to be underweight.
Valentine's Day At The Libby Trial

Lighthearted humor anyone? (rare in Washington, D.C., I know):
When the jurors came in 45 minutes ago for the final evidence presented in this case, 13 of the 14 juros (12 jurors and 2 alternates) were wearing bright red t-shirts with a large white heart on the front. The shirts appeared to be new… The one juror not wearing a red shirt was an elderly woman who works as an art curator. A man on the jury, who is a retired school teacher originally from north carolina, then read a statement to the court. The man said the jury wanted to "thank the clerks, marshalls, and judge for all of the accomodations made" for the jury during this trial. The juror then said the entire jury understands their responsibilities in this case and that their "unanimity may now go no further." "But on behalf of the jury," said this man, "we want to wish everybody a Happy Valentine's day."

To say this moment was awkward would be an understatement. All of the attorneys, and the judge, appeared on the edge of their seats. At the conclusion of the juror's statement, the attorneys nervously and politely clapped…and the judge sheepishly thanked the panel for being "a very attentive jury." Then, the judge moved on…

What does it mean that one juror, who seemed particularly cantankerous during jury selection, refused to go along with the rest and wear the bright red t-shirt? Could it be that she is the only one on the panel with any sartorial taste? Or does it mean something more serious for jury deliberations next week? The issue was noted by attorneys on both sides of the case outside in the hallway.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Stealthy, Wealthy Gays, And Their Revenge

Infinitely interesting article regarding efforts by certain gay political activists to target down-ballot political races all across the country, in order to silently, swiftly, and economically terminate the careers and ambitions of budding anti-gay politicians: done in a bipartisan spirit as well.

Like they say, don't get mad - get even! Heck, maybe even teach Karl Rove a thing or two.

There are different ways to get things done in a democracy. There is room for the political parties, who build grand coalitions from disparate elements. But there is also room for political ninjas, stealing through the darkness.

Here are some interesting snippets:
A tough loss can be hard to swallow, and plenty of defeated politicians have been known to grumble about sinister conspiracies. When they are rising stars like Danny Carroll, the Republican speaker pro tempore of Iowa’s House of Representatives, and the loss is unexpected, the urge to blame unseen forces can be even stronger—and in Carroll’s case, it would have the additional distinction of being justified. Carroll was among the dozens of targets of a group of rich gay philanthropists who quietly joined forces last year, under the leadership of a reclusive Colorado technology mogul, to counter the tide of antigay politics in America that has generated, among other things, a succession of state ballot initiatives banning gay marriage. Carroll had sponsored such a bill in Iowa and guided it to passage in the state House of Representatives, the first step toward getting it on the ballot.

... Carroll certainly didn’t catch on until I called him after the election, in which Democrats took control of both legislative chambers, as well as Carroll’s seat and four of the five others targeted by Gill and his allies. ... Scrolling through the thirty-two-page roster of campaign contributors revealed plenty of $25 and $50 donations from nearby towns like Oskaloosa and New Shar­on. But a $1,000 donation from California stood out on page 2, and, several pages later, so did another $1,000 from New York City. “I’ll be darned,” said Carroll. “That doesn’t make any sense.” As we kept scrolling, Carroll began reading aloud with mounting disbelief as the evidence passed before his eyes. “Denver … Dallas … Los Angeles … Malibu … there’s New York again … San Francisco! I can’t—I just cannot believe this,” he said, finally. “Who is this guy again?”

Tim Gill is best known as the founder of the publishing-software giant Quark Inc., and for a long time was one of the few openly gay members of the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans. ... Even as he has shied from the spotlight, Gill has become one of the most generous and widest-reaching political benefactors in the country, and emblematic of a new breed of business-minded donor that is rapidly changing American politics. A surge of new wealth has created a generation of givers eager to influence politics but barred from the traditional channels of participation by recent campaign-finance laws designed to limit large gifts to candidates and political parties.

... Gill’s principal interest is gay equality. ... “My goal is to see that all Americans are treated equally regardless of sexuality,” he told me when we met. ... For years he gave generously to gay organizations and dutifully supported gay-friendly candidates. ... But several years ago, a growing number of his peers began to sense that they were playing in the wrong arena. “A lot of [gay donors] are driven, cycle to cycle, by the notion that there’s going to be an epiphany—that one day they’ll wake up and accept us,” he said. “But this group had spent millions of dollars on philanthropy, and yet woken up the morning after the election to see gay-marriage bans enacted all across the country.”

Gill decided to find out how he could become more effective and enlisted as his political counselor an acerbic lawyer and former tobacco lobbyist named Ted Trimpa, who is Colorado’s answer to Karl Rove. Trimpa believes that the gay-rights community directs too much of its money to thoroughly admirable national candidates who don’t need it, while neglecting less compelling races that would have a far greater impact on gay rights—a tendency he calls “glamour giving.”

... Together, Gill and Trimpa decided to eschew national races in favor of state and local ones, which could be influenced in large batches and for much less money. Most antigay measures, they discovered, originate in state legislatures. Operating at that level gave them a chance to “punish the wicked,” as Gill puts it—to snuff out rising politicians who were building their careers on antigay policies, before they could achieve national influence. Their chief cautionary example of such a villain is Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.... “The strategic piece of the puzzle we’d been missing—consistent across almost every legislature we examined—is that it’s often just a handful of people, two or three, who introduce the most outrageous legislation and force the rest of their colleagues to vote on it,” Gill explained. “If you could reach these few people or neutralize them by flipping the chamber to leaders who would block bad legislation, you’d have a dramatic effect.”

... In the 2006 elections, on a level where a few thousand dollars can decide a close race, Gill’s universe of donors injected more than $3 million, providing in some cases more than 20 percent of a candidate’s or organization’s budget. On Election Day, fifty of the seventy targeted candidates were defeated, Danny Carroll among them; and out of the thirteen states where Gill and his allies invested, four—Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Washington—saw control of at least one legislative chamber switch to the Democratic Party.

... “When Clinton was elected, everyone thought there would be this epiphany on gay rights,” said Patrick Guerriero, a former Republican state legislator and mayor in Massachusetts who runs Gill’s political team, the Gill Action Fund (which operates independently of his foundation). “Instead, the only two major pieces of legislation were a disaster: ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ and the Defense of Marriage Act. The experience of the ’90s taught us that there is no magic president who’s going to fix everything.”

... Jeff Soref, an heir to the Master Lock fortune who became a prominent philanthropist during the AIDS crisis and was later appointed to the Democratic National Committee, vigorously disputes the notion that Clinton’s presidency was a failure and doubts that Gill’s response to it is the appropriate one. ..."One of the problems with Tim’s strategy is that he’s turning people away from national politics at a time when Democrats have just achieved a big victory—one that we weren’t as big a part of as we might have been, perhaps because of his steering gay money away from the national level. ... Soref cited the possibility that the new Democratic Congress may soon consider a long-desired national employment nondiscrimination bill as one reason not to abandon Washington. “I can understand Tim’s frustration,” he says. “But his way, state by state, will take years. There’s nothing like passing national legislation that benefits everybody equally.”

As the amount of money in politics continues to grow, against a backdrop of deep Democratic frustration over the party’s narrow losses in the last two presidential races, the momentum of the Democratic world is moving in a direction closer to Gill’s than to that of traditional Washington insiders. Well beyond its gay facet, Democratic politics is increasingly dominated by rich donors who share Gill’s dissatisfaction with traditional methods of party politics. This group believes that conservatives were able to reshape American politics because they built, over the last forty years, a broad movement independent of the Republican Party to support conservative candidates and espouse their ideals—an achievement liberals now wish to match.

...One component of Gill’s strategy includes courting that element of the Republican Party that’s open to compromise, while at the same time making clear that gay bashing will now come at a price. “You have to create an atmosphere of fear and respect,” said Trimpa, “and set up the proper context for them to do the right thing.”
Japanese Idea For Valentine's Day

Chocolate baths:
"This bath is my Valentines Day gift for him this year,'' said Mayumi Uekusa, who travelled more than two hours with her boyfriend to the Yunessun spa in Hakone, north of Tokyo, to soak in a mixture of warm water, cacao and aromatic bath powders.

"Life ain't as sweet as this bath, darling,'' quipped her boyfriend Yuichi Omata. Japanese women have long been the ones to give their guys gifts on Valentine's Day.
Slaughter At Trolley Square

When I lived in Salt Lake City, Trolley Square was the closest mall to where I lived. I can't even wrap my mind around the concept that a lone gunman with a shotgun killed five people at random at that very place.

A very sad time for everyone....
Amanda Marcotte Resigns...

...From the Edwards campaign.

Probably not the best of fits. If you start working on behalf of a campaign, thenceforth, even on your own personal blog, your words are no longer strictly your own, but represent the candidate's words as well. Discipline is required.

That's one reason I rarely blog about the workplace: the material at work is sometimes confidential and therefore incendiary for the purposes of blogging. Some things are fair game, like whatever I learn about California air quality while at work, since all that information is clearly in the public domain. But anything that might be attributed, even by accident, to the company's opinion about any subject, or about a client's plans - forget it!

Nevertheless, bloggers can provide helpful assistance to candidates and would make useful campaign adjuncts, provided the bloggers can be made to toe the line.

In this case, apparently not.....

Monday, February 12, 2007

Scared Sober

The Land Of Enchantment, my fair home state, has decided to freak guys out in its never-ending guerrilla war (the last state in the Union to get rid of drive-up liquor windows!) against what the Aussies call 'drink-driving':
New Mexico has taken its fight against drunken driving to men's restrooms around the state.

The state has ordered 500 talking urinal cakes that will deliver a recorded anti-DWI message to bar and restaurant patrons who make one last pit stop before getting behind the wheel.

The top of the devices feature the state DWI slogan -- "You drink, you drive, you lose."

... The cakes have enough battery power to last about three months.
Over at the Daily Rotten, one commenter notes:
Honestly, I think that sanctimonious little messages will just annoy the drunks. I think the urinal cakes should say, in a chipper, friendly Australian accent reminiscent of the late Steve Irwin, "You're blasted, mate, 'ow 'bout callin' a cab?"
It's Been Raining In Brisbane

Over the last several days, and it's likely to continue, since that high pressure system between New Zealand and Australia is staying put over the next week.

Nevertheless, the new rain hasn't been enough yet to bring lake levels higher at Lake Wivenhoe, which stores water for the entire city, and now sits at an alarmingly-low 20% of full storage.

A whole city. At 20%.....

Right now, by grabbing a ruler and holding it against the monitor and doing a linear extrapolation, the city is on schedule to run out of water in about a year. And the eastern Australian drought has been bad enough that that dread day may actually arrive.....

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Derren Raser and Rhiannon Guevin, In Concert

Left: Rhiannon Guevin, with the DMTC band, Erik Daniells, Ben Wormeli (obscured), Hal Wright, and Steve Isaacson.

Superlative singing and musicianship by all involved!

I didn't know what we'd get with Rhiannon. My understanding is that she has been studying opera of late, and so I expected arias, or something. Instead, what we got was a mix of contemporary hits and Broadway standards. She dedicated 'Far From The Home I Love', from "Fiddler on the Roof", to a friend who was soon leaving for a year in Argentina. She sang Jewel's 'You were Meant For Me':
Dreams last so long, even after you’re gone
I know, that you love me and soon you will see
You were meant for me and I was meant for you
She also sang Sarah MacLachlan's 'Angel', and the band's tempo seemed unusually slow, which gave everyone a perfect opportunity to hear Rhiannon's clear, bell-like enunciation:
In the arms of the angel
Fly away from here
From this dark cold hotel room
And the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie
You're in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort here
Rhiannon finished with that excellent jazz standard 'Summertime'.

Left: Daniel Rhine (upright bass), Derren Raser (guitar), and Kelly Bennett (violin).

The Derren Raser Band, which is based in San Diego but was travelling on a north-state tour (Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Davis), played the title song from its new album "King Of I'll Tell You Next Week", plus other songs, like 'Call On Me', and 'Bright As Midnight.' Violinist Kelly Bennett also played a heartfelt solo, 'Ashokan Farewell,' which was used by Ken Burns for his 1990 Civil War PBS miniseries theme.

The use of strings seemed reminiscent of the late Beatles - one song even sounded a bit like 'Eleanor Rigby.' Bennett's harmonious violin at times even sounded a bit like a voice all on its own.

Strictly as a matter of business, we had been concerned about the fate of the concert series, because of moderate turnout (~40) for David Nachmanoff last September, light turnout for Andrew McKnight last November, and having to postpone/cancel the concert for Julia Othmer. We badly needed a success in order to continue offering DMTC as a venue for emerging music professionals to perform.

To improve the odds of success, we decided to couple the travelling artist with a promising standout in the Young Performer's Theater (YPT), so that at least there would be a nucleus of an audience (the young performer's local friends and supporters) about which a large audience could be built, in the event the travelling artist was too obscure locally to attract an audience all on their own.

Ben Wormeli has been a strong advocate of Rhiannon's talents, and he criss-crossed Davis with promotional zeal, putting up posters in places like all the local high schools, getting announcements in the Davis Enterprise, getting Derren Raser's CD played on KDVS and KDRT, getting mentions on local cable TV, and basically doing everything short of kidnapping people to make sure the seats were filled.

Nevertheless, very late, we noticed a flaw in the approach. Rhiannon hasn't done a show with the YPT since spring 2005 (as Belle in 'Beauty and the Beast'). Even though many adults in the Main Stage theater knew Rhiannon reasonably well, and even though the DMTC Board knew her very well, given the rapid turnover of kids in the YPT, many of the current group of kids in the YPT do not know her at all.

Sure enough, Saturday night, while some of the stalwarts of the YPT were there (e.g., Jeni Price, Bruce Wallace, Anna Johnson, Poppy Strode, Mike Elfant, etc.), most of the current set of YPT parents were not there. Instead, an entirely new group of people appeared. Some were acquainted with Rhiannon from other places (e.g., her high school friends) and some were local fans of the Derren Raser band, and some had happened across the advertisement in the paper and thought it looked like a good night out. Most were making their first visit to DMTC. So, with ticket prices at ($10/$15), paying attendance was 72 (83 if comps are included), double what had turned out for locally-known David Nachmanoff. In short, a big success!

The lesson learned seems to be that persistent promotion can prevail against weaknesses in the program. Having two acts on the bill helps to stabilize attendance.

So, many deeply-felt thanks to Ben Wormeli for his persistence, and for his vision! We will continue the concert series, and offer a variety of acts as well in the future.
Club Empire Friday

(second in an irregular series regarding the nightclubs of Sacramento, the first installment having been Faces Friday, Jan. 27th)

This was my first time at Empire. I was attracted to the club because it seemed to be a rather large place, frequently-advertised on the radio, that I hadn't seen before. The line to enter moved fairly-quickly, which was good, because it was raining outside....

Entering the club, I was frisked by a security guard, who announced with a hint of menace that I had to remove my humble washcloth from my pocket and either stash it or throw it away. I carry a washcloth with me to soak up perspiration, because when I dance I sweat quite a lot. So, not wishing to either throw it away or stash it, I left it behind on a windowsill, for later retrieval. I wasn't prepared to quibble over the order, but it seemed a little odd as a security measure. After paying $10 cover and receiving a mysterious wristband, we entered the club.

I was disappointed entering the club. The name Empire seems to conjure up images of imperial splendor, and not the gritty concrete tilt-up warehouse that it appeared to be. Ce'st la vie. D. marvelled at the size of the house and speculated that they must be making a killing on the cover charge and the sale of alcohol. Let's see: $10 times roughly 400 people = $4,000 or so for the cover charge. Let's say $10,000 - $15,000 for the evening once alcohol gets included. But then, you've got to pay the security guards and the DJ and everyone else. Pshaw! It's nothing! A dozen drunken Filipinos drop that kind of cash all by themselves nightly at Thunder Valley Casino.

The evening was sponsored by 102.5 KSFM radio, featuring a variety of hip-hop, rap, and R&B music. Everyone sure looked young. In fact, everyone was young. I slowly became aware that it was an 18-and-over event. The wristbands apparently controlled who could buy alcohol, and who couldn't. The seats surrounding the dance floor were pushed forward and policed, so 21-and-uppers near the bar couldn't easily pass alcohol to under-21's on the dance floor.

D. wanted to dance in one of the cages, but it wasn't clear how to get there easily. There were a number of incongruities, like the snowboarding videos, apropos of nothing; the occasional fog machine blast; the empty wheelchair on the dance floor (the young owner of the wheelchair had limped over to a bar stool, but wanted to keep his ride nearby); and what I thought at first was a scrap of tar paper on the floor, but which eventually revealed itself to be a pair of panties - less incongruous than tar paper, maybe, but more mysterious. Whether I stepped to the left, or stepped to the right, I couldn't help but step on the panties.

It brought back memories of when I worked as a janitor at Lerners Stores, back in high school, and one day I had to do inventory on the bin-o-panties. At first, I counted them individually, tossing each carefully and lovingly into a second bin, but seeing that there were thousands of panties in the original bin, I started grabbing handfuls of them and shouted: "12! 24! 36!" as I tossed away. Anyway, I digress.... Given the unknown provenance of the panties, I resolved that, later that evening, when I walked Sparky through Sacramento's darkened, muddy gutters, we would take the LONG way around....

Lots of hip-grinding excitement on the floor. A little much, even for the libidinous teenager in me. At one point, Three Asian Girls approached, and danced nearby.

Strange announcements from the speakers. Someone's mother was at the door, the MC announced, over and over. Then the MC announced: "They've been saying a lot of shit about us on other radio stations around town, how we couldn't have an 18-and-over event here tonight, but yes we can!" I found this to be totally mysterious. Who is to say what they can, or can't, do at Club Empire? Who are THEY?

Then I saw this announcement in the paper, regarding rival radio station, 103.5, KBMB:
A hip-hop event, sponsored by KBMB (103.5 FM), "The Bomb," and planned for Friday night at the Hard Rock Café, was canceled based on police concerns about safety, according to the radio station.

Police spokesman Sgt. Matt Young said officers received "credible information" that gang members would be attending the event "in force" and passed the information on to event sponsors but did not cancel the event themselves.

KBMB representatives said the station agreed to the cancellation of planned performances by MIMS and Frontline.
But looks like a bigger event than a regularly-scheduled event like this one at Empire. Hmmmm.....Professional jealousy??? Don't know, because whatever was said on the radio, I never heard it. In any event, the crowd seemed pleasant enough, although perhaps a bit randy....make that, a lot randy....

The music featured nostalgic old standards, like Sir Mix-A-Lot's 'Baby Got Back':
[I've decided to remove the lyrics I excerpted, because they are provocative]
and new standards, like (Alex Powell's and Andrew Lemon's favorite song - not!) The Black-Eyed Peas' (featuring Fergie) 'My Humps':
[I've decided to remove these lyrics too, for the same reason]
Plus a few songs I was barely-familiar with, like the Sugababe's 'Freak Like Me':
[If those lyrics were provocative, these are worse]
Some other song called 'White Girls', where that seemed to be the only lyric, and for a minute everyone was muttering 'White Girls', plus lots of other songs I couldn't recall ever having heard before, but songs that the crowd nevertheless knew well, because the DJ would occasionally turn down the music and everyone would sing the mysterious songs by heart.

A fun night!
Donors Night At DMTC

Left: 'We Go Together,' from "Grease." YPT singers, left to right: Rebecca Rudy, Utsav Bhargava, Cass Olson, Nora Unkel, Lisa Parente, Kennedy Wenning, Rachel Pinto, Jessica Strode-Elfant, Sarah Rudy, Chris Turner, Sarah Pinto, and Kat Holder.

A nice night was had by all! Even though the evening was designed to be a thank-you to our donors, and not designed as a fundraiser, several new donations were received as well. According to latest report:
Jeni's rough calculation on the money shows that we netted about $5,370 new income (on top of $2500 debt relief, paid for all installations, paid for bathroom cleaning for the season, got an insulated ceiling commitment and put on a Donor Event!)
Many thanks to the YPT Parents who organized this wonderful thank-you!

Left: '(Donor) Alma Mater,' adapted from "Grease" by Kennedy Wenning. Left to right: Cass Olson, Kennedy Wenning, Kat Holder, and Rachel Pinto.

Left: 'We're All In This Together,' from "High School Musical." YPT singers, left to right, Rebecca Rudy, Nora Unkel, Chris Turner, Sarah Pinto, Kat Holder, Utsav Bhargava, Jessica Strode-Elfant, Lisa Parente, Cass Olson, Kennedy Wenning, Sarah Rudy, and Rachel Pinto.

Left: 'Somewhere It's Green,' from "Little Shop Of Horrors." Lauren McElroy and Jonathan Rothman.

Left: 'I Believe In You,' from "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying." Robert Coverdell.

Left: 'Wherever We Go,' from "Gypsy." Left to right: Steve Isaacson, Dannette Vassar, and Andy Hyun.

Left: 'It Takes Two,' from "Into The Woods." Left to right: Lauren Miller and Michael McElroy. Most of my pictures of MikeMac and Lauren were pretty muddy. This photo is simulatenously the muddiest, and the clearest.

Left: 'Till There Was You,' from "The Music Man." Andy Hyun. Andy will soon be appearing as 'The Cat In The Hat,' in "Suessical," at California State University, Sacramento. Other friends will be in that production as well: Brad Bong as a Wickersham, and Micahel R.J. Campbell as Horton.

Left: 'Over The Rainbow,' from "The Wizard Of Oz." Marguerite Morris. Marguerite will play 'Guenevere' in DMTC's upcoming "Camelot."

Left: 'The Impossible Dream,' from "Man Of La Mancha." Tae Kim. Tae will play 'Lancelot' in DMTC's upcoming "Camelot."

Left: 'Any Dream Will Do,' finale to "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." Left to right: Cass Olson, Kennedy Wenning, Sarah Pinto, Chris Turner, Andy Hyun, Robert Coverdell, Jessica Strode-Elfant, Tae Kim, Utsav Bhargava, Nora Unkel, Kat Holder, Rachel Pinto, Steve Isaacson, Rebecca Rudy, Marguerite Morris, Lisa Parente, and Jan Isaacson.