Friday, March 09, 2007

Bigotry And Campaigning

The recent controversy regarding Ann Coulter's 'faggot' remarks concerning John Edwards provides a useful counterpoint to the other controversy last month regarding the two bloggers hired by John Edwards, and their remarks that could be interpreted as anti-Catholic bigotry. Ann Coulter has been defended by some who claim that liberals also use the word 'faggot', even in a derogatory way, and that it is hypocrisy to complain about it.

I think that there are two angles here. The first is, were the remarks taken out-of-context in some manner? Some have argued that the comments of the two bloggers were isolated from their context and were not as extreme as they seemed. Ann Coulter has argued that she was taking aim at the (sometimes objectionable) practice of political correctness and not at John Edwards in particular. In neither case do I think the defenses are warranted. Bigot is as bigot does.

The second angle is the fora in which the bigotry was unleashed. With the two bloggers, the comments were made on personal web logs, or on small group web logs. As such, the fora were fairly small, and it wasn't until the bloggers were hired by Edwards, and the possibility emerged that the anti-Catholic bigotry might be imputed to the candidate, that the controversy arose. It was appropriate that Edwards keep the bloggers on, since the comments had not been made under his auspices. Nevertheless, once it became clear the bloggers would continue their anti-Catholic rhetoric even given their new status, it was necessary for the bloggers to resign, as they did.

Coulter made her remarks as an invited featured speaker to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) after a long career of making incendiary remarks of this sort. Her remarks thus could be imputed to all the identified Republican presidential candidates, since all the identified Republican presidential candidates were in attendance (even as they tried to distance themselves after-the-fact), as well as many politically-active conservatives. Thus, her remarks caused greater harm.

Bigotry is not illegal, even as it is objectionable. Bigotry has been used as a political tool to slime one's opponents since time began, and it is terrible when it succeeds. Gutter sniping in particular has a long, illustrious history in American presidential politics. Nevertheless, it's important to keep track of who is doing the sniping, who is hurt, and who benefits, and keep a running tally in as detached a manner as possible, because it reveals the true character of our leaders, the ones for whom it is all done.
Three Erupting Volcanoes On Io!

Wow! This is the best picture ever of Jupiter's moon! Captured by the Pluto-bound 'New Horizons' spacecraft as it whipped past Jupiter seeking a gravity-assisted velocity increase. Partial caption:
This processed image provides the best view yet of the enormous 290-kilometer (180-mile) high plume from the volcano Tvashtar, in the 11 o'clock direction near Io's north pole. The plume was first seen by the Hubble Space Telescope two weeks ago and then by New Horizons on February 26; this image is clearer than the February 26 image because Io was closer to the spacecraft, the plume was more backlit by the Sun, and a longer exposure time (75 milliseconds versus 20 milliseconds) was used. Io's dayside was deliberately overexposed in this picture to image the faint plumes, and the long exposure also provided an excellent view of Io's night side, illuminated by Jupiter. The remarkable filamentary structure in the Tvashtar plume is similar to details glimpsed faintly in 1979 Voyager images of a similar plume produced by Io's volcano Pele. However, no previous image by any spacecraft has shown these mysterious structures so clearly.

The image also shows the much smaller symmetrical fountain of the plume, about 60 kilometers (or 40 miles) high, from the Prometheus volcano in the 9 o'clock direction. The top of a third volcanic plume, from the volcano Masubi, erupts high enough to catch the setting Sun on the night side near the bottom of the image, appearing as an irregular bright patch against Io's Jupiter-lit surface. Several Everest-sized mountains are highlighted by the setting Sun along the terminator, the line between day and night.
Double-Barreled Cyclone Attack

The northern coast of West Australia is a mess, with first Cyclone George pounding the Port Hedland and Pilbara coast, and with Cyclone Jacob fast approaching the same coastlines.

Meanwhile, in drought-stricken east and SE Australia, places that could benefit from a cyclone attack, the weather is clear, warm and pleasant....
New Species Of Venemous Australian Snake

As if Australia didn't have enough old species of venemous snakes:
Similar to the western brown snake, the still unnamed species was discovered during an expedition to a remote region about 200km northwest of Uluru in September last year.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Cow And The Chicken

Why can't they just be friends?:
When dozens of chickens went missing from a remote West Bengal village, everyone blamed the neighborhood dogs.

But Ajit Ghosh, the owner of the missing chickens, eventually solved the puzzle when he caught his cow -- a sacred animal for the Hindu family -- gobbling up several of them at night.

... "Instead of the dogs, we watched in horror as the calf, whom we had fondly named Lal, sneak to the coop and grab the little ones with the precision of a jungle cat," Gour Ghosh, his brother, said.

... "The local vets said the cow was probably suffering from a disease but others said Lal was a tiger in his previous birth," Ajit added.
Stephanie Skewes In "Wild Hogs"

Left: Louise Bigelow (Stephanie Skewes) and Carnival Barker (Marc Valdez).

Courtesy of Andy Sullivan, news that Fresno's Stephanie Skewes is in the new John Travolta, Tim Allen, and William Macy movie "Wild Hogs", which was filmed in New Mexico and which my sister Michelle just saw and says is great. Here's Stephanie on William Macy:
"He was my favorite," Skewes says of Macy. "He is more down-to-earth than many of my acting friends. I learned so much."
Stephanie was always so organized and serious and talented - you just knew she would go places!

Here are some photos (by Dannette Vassar) of DMTC's dress rehearsal for "Carousel", on November 5, 2002, featuring Stephanie Skewes.

Louise Bigelow (Stephanie Skewes).

Enoch Snow (Matt Dunn), Carrie Pipperidge (Andrea St. Clair), Louise Bigelow (Stephanie Skewes), and Enoch Snow, Jr. (David "Turtle" Akona).
Pictures In The Gloaming

Albuquerque's South Valley, with the Rio Grande River on the left, Interstate 25 on the right, and a high mesa near San Ysidro in the background. The flight headed SW from the airport, and south along the Rio Grande Valley, rather than the usual west.

The Rio Salado, flowing from the west (top) to the east (bottom), just west of Interstate 25. The Rio Salado empties into the Rio Grande about 25 miles north of Socorro.

Mesa, AZ, and the East Valley, at night.

Jiggly picture of jiggly place - The Las Vegas Strip at night.
Falling Into The Void In Phoenix

The walkway is ending! Please, watch your step!
The walk
The walkway is ending! Please, watch your step!

Just add some drum 'n bass to the stuttering walkway PSAs, and you'd get electronica!

Plane was TWO freakin' hours late leaving Phoenix for Sacramento! Something about a broken air conditioner on the flight in from Cancun this afternoon....
San Juan - Chama Diversion Project

A year later, and just as mysterious as ever!
Visiting With Dad

In the afternoons, my Dad seems to prefer watching "Laura - Sin Censura" on the Spanish-language network, Telemundo. The TV show is something like Jerry Springer on crack. First, they introduce the arrogant cad to the studio audience, then the censorious mother-in-law, who attacks and insults the cad, then the wife, who defends the cad, then the girlfriend, who attacks the wife as the surprised wife attacks the cad, then the second girl friend, whom no one but the cad (and the show's secret camera) knew about. Then everyone attacks the cad, then the sudden revelation everyone has AIDS, then the cad is thrown out of the studio to the chants of the outraged studio audience. It's all close-captioned by a hopelessly ill-equipped typist, who can't possibly keep up with all the shouting. As a retirement distraction, it beats golf. That, and Judge Joe Brown.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Scooter Libby Verdict

Yay! Justice begins to get served!
Corrales And North Valley Sojourn

Left: I grew up in this house, but the people who bought it in 1990 did so much work on it, it is now unrecognizable to me!

Corrales Rd., Corrales.

This is one of the oldest buildings in Corrales. My sister took ballet lessons here, when it was the Litka School, when she was a little girl. Interestingly, under different management, it is still a dance school.

Horse statue and Rio Grande cottonwood tree, along Rio Grande Blvd., NW.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Slacking Off At UNM

Left: "Fiesa" - "Jarabe", Luis Jimenez, 91-96, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

The university area was reassuringly familiar, for the most part, but some new buildings are going up, and there is some new statuary.

Downtown Albuquerque.

Kimo Theater - downtown Albuquerque.

My sister Michelle samples the delicacies (e.g., huevos rancheros) at the Frontier Restaurant, near the UNM campus.
"Frozen Lightning"

As a kind gift, my sister wanted to get me a hagiographic account of Governor Bill Richardson's inevitable march through New Mexico politics, and irresistable rise into national politics.

Instead, she obtained a compendium of the political misdeeds of an egotistical monster of Brobdignagian proportions.

Offhand, it doesn't look like a conservative hit job; more like someone got burned.

Some stuff is a little clunky. For example, the picture of the dancing girls doesn't make me think of political corruption. Instead, it makes me want to join the dancing chorus.

I partly blame Richardson for the Wen Ho Lee affair - a disaster spawned by the anti-Clinton hate machine and the national media, together with the help of Richardson. Anything to prove national security credentials, no matter how false.

"Frozen Lightning" looks like an interesting read - turning over the rock of State of New Mexico politics.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Trapped On The Tarmac

Left: People spring up to exit America West Flight 212 at 2:23 a.m. in Albuquerque - and wait, and wait, and wait, and wait!

The flight in from Las Vegas/Sacramento was uneventful. There was a baby crying inconsolably. Weather was nice, traffic was light, but we were still not immune to screwups.

Apparently we were supposed to exit at Gate A4. We came in at Gate B3. The jetway operator apparently oversteered the jetway and broke it, incidentally also plunging us for a full minute into a onboard power failure. And there were no tug operators to tow us to another gate at that hour - all the Albuquerque Sunport airport workers had apparently gone to bed. So, we waited for a full hour before deplaning!

The only good part was the inconsolable baby was finally happy, once the plane stopped moving. The passengers were peeved, and the flight crew seemed pretty grim. The woman next to me repeated over and over, "I'll never fly America West again! I'll never fly America West again!"
Weekend Of "Camelot" - Combustible Trucks

Left: Davis firefighters inspect the truck that erupted in flame during "Camelot" Sunday afternoon (apparently an alternator was to blame).

Audiences were larger this weekend. Second Friday went reasonably well. Jon Jackson has been ill and so 'Fie On Goodness' felt strange, being slightly different than practiced in rehearsal: Leighton Worthey was called to carry a bit more of the singing duties, trading off with Jon. Saturday also went well. Sunday was a bit odd. We traded a rent-a-settee for the Evita love couch because it looked like the one we had was going to break on stage - something that might surprise and alarm actors and audience alike.

Sunday afternoon at DMTC was more exciting than usual. At the start of "Camelot's" 'What Do The Simple Folk Do?' Kat Holder came back stage in a flustered state, asking where the fire extinguisher was: a pickup truck had caught fire in front of the theater. I thought we had a fire extinguisher back stage, but when suddenly pressed to produce it, I couldn't remember where it was. The fire extinguisher was right there on the wall, just a few feet away, but there were set pieces partly obscuring the view, and the lights were low because of the show, which also served to hide the extinguisher's location, so I blanked.

The song sequence of 'What Do The Simple Folk Do?' is quite long, and the hall began to fill with smoke drifting in from outside as the scene progressed. If the fire had been in the theater, neither I or anyone would have hesitated to stop the show immediately, but since the fire was outside, the audience was still safe. Nevertheless, people could rely on their senses, onstage cast and audience alike, and they KNEW that not all was right (particularly when sirens could be heard approaching from the distance).

There was the distinct possibility the audience might leave on their own, or even panic. I remember once, in 1999, when I saw "Peony Pavilion", a modern Chinese opera at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley, I nearly fled across the stage in mid-performance, in front of an audience of thousands, because I smelled smoke (from a match used to light incense). I was in the first row, and I would have preferred interrupting the show rather than having to fight with thousands over the narrow exits. Here, the smoke was much thicker, and it wasn't a match and it wasn't incense!

So, the ensuing delicate diplomatic dilemma:
Do you stop a show to inform the audience that, contrary to all they can sense, that they are still safe? And what to do about players (like Morgan La Fey - Anne Marie Trout), who are in inconvenient places to be quickly informed?
Because Kat had come back stage, most of the actors were quickly informed regarding what was going on, but there were three exceptions: Gil Sebastian and Marguerite Morris, performing on stage, and Anne Marie Trout, who had already climbed into position on an darkened, elevated platform for her upcoming scene. Her location was awkward: she was in view of the audience, she could not leave her post without assistance and she could not easily communicate with others. As smoke drifted in, she tried to signal other actors, to give warning and also to try to fathom what was going on. In the dark, she surreptitiously waved at Jon Mounts, across stage in the wings. Jon saw her wave, and gave a jolly wave in return. So much for communication!

Towards the end of the song, Lisa Holder, Kat's mom, and the lightboard operator, finally stopped the show, announcing the outside fire and also announcing that everyone was safe. I heard words of relief from Marguerite: the actors had been growing increasingly anxious. I popped onstage and Lisa asked me to summon Steve Isaacson. Steve came onstage (Steve, Dannette, and others had been out front dealing with the fire with two fire extinguishers kept under the side stairs in the lobby) and announced that a blue pickup truck had caught fire, and (to some laughter) inquired if anyone had parked out in front of the theater in a blue pickup truck. The audience remained mostly in place, the side rollup door was opened, as well as some of the other side doors, in order to increase ventilation. Then, to what would have normally been unacceptable levels of wing illumination, we continued with the rest of the show. Marguerite and Gil performed 'What Do The Simple Folk Do?' once again. The rollup door was partially-closed for the subsequent Morgan La Fey scene. And we finished the show, about twenty minutes later than usual.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Brief Hiatus - Trip to New Mexico

I'll be back on Thursday!

Exciting afternoon at DMTC. A pickup truck caught fire in front of the theater, and the hall began to fill with smoke at the start of "Camelot's" 'What Do The Simple Folk Do?' So, the ensuing delicate diplomatic dilemma:
Do you stop a show to inform the audience that, contrary to all they can sense, that they are still safe? And what to do about players (like Morgan La Fey - Anne Marie Trout), who are in inconvenient places to be quickly informed?
I'll elaborate in a few days!
Dave Cargo Makes A Funny

Cargo was not the most effective Governor in New Mexico's history, but he was always the funniest:
"If I was Heather Wilson, I'd be thinking about taking a long trip to Baghdad, where the conditions are a little more subdued."
--former New Mexico Gov. Dave Cargo, a Republican, on the fallout from the U.S. attorney purges