Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Annie Get Your Gun" Opening Night

This musical seems so-o-o-o long! Or, the rehearsal period was so-o-o-o short! One or the other!

One of the consequences was - there we were, 6:30 p.m. on opening night, starting to choreograph the end of one of the dance sequences. Fortunately it wasn't the entire ensemble, just three of us, and even though the timing was slightly tricky, the dancing itself wasn't terribly complicated, but even walking across the stage can be a challenge if it's only the second time you've ever done it. My frame of my mind going into opening night was that it was going to be an interesting evening.

Actually, the problems seemed to fairly-manageable. There were some glitches. I forgot to open the traveller curtain in the back from half to full open for the Indian dance number. Getting unified motion in the Haley-ha-blu-eh-ey section of the dance was a challenge, as well as with the most-recently choreographed section, but the dance allowed enough time for correction that nothing bad happened.

The singing in 'Sun In The Morning...' could have been better. And the dancing too.

Apparently the key to the gun case got lost, or something, so the gun-tampering scene got abbreviated. Whatever it was, I didn't have enough time to change back into my Indian outfit for the last scene. I barely got my shirt tails tucked in. I also failed to get my belt buckled, or to zip up my zipper. So there I was, standing right next to the audience, with a dangling buckle and an open zipper. The consolation was I had a blanket wrapped around my shoulders, so I didn't think anyone could notice. So I'm standing there, in the interminable last scene, trying not to telegraph my discomfort, or to unwrap the blanket inadvertently, which worked until the final bow, when I finally opened the blanket. By then, I was in the back, so I hope no one noticed.

I guess we all had things to hide. At one point, I heard a rude noise on stage.

Still, set changes seemed to go smoothly - always a danger spot on opening night.

One stellar portion: - newcomer Jennifer did a great job with the light board. Lights have always been a challenge for DMTC openings, but Dannette got them finished early, and Jennifer applied herself hard, and so what few glitches they had were so minor as to be unnoticeable.

And Lauren and MikeMac were fantabulous!
Classmate Pops Up In News

Unfortunate context, however:
HOUSTON (April 20) - A NASA contract worker took a handgun inside an office building Friday at the Johnson Space Center and fatally shot a hostage before killing himself, police said. A second hostage escaped with minor injuries.

...Christine Reichert, space station flight controller at the space center, said employees were initially told to stay in their buildings. That restriction was lifted a few hours later.

Michael Zolensky, who studies cosmic dust at the space center, said workers were gathered around a television watching news reports of the situation.
Richard Gere, Shilpa Shetty, And The Rabbits

Social commentary from the TV-watching bunnies.

Friday, April 20, 2007

"Annie Get Your Gun"

Starring Lauren Miller as 'Annie', and Michael McElroy as 'Frank Butler', opens tonight at DMTC! Come see the show!

I know I'll be there!
"Ballets Russes" DVDs

Not sure when they became available - presumably last October - but I bought five and just received them. I will pass them out like candy at Trick or Treat to all my bunhead friends!

(Boy, that sounds really bad - let me reword: I will make gifts of the DVDs to my friends who really like ballet!)
Keith Wise's Website

Left: Keith (and Yoda, apparently)

Keith Wise, who created the Bush Antichrist image I posted two years ago, now has a Web Site, where he offers talismans, tarot readings, and other items on the occult side of life.

Take a look!
Brain Fitness, And Musical Theater

MikeMac has an interesting post regarding a study concerning the benefits to the brain of doing theater:
The team argues that their results demonstrate that theater training -- even over a relatively short time period -- can help prevent cognitive decline associated with aging. They even speculate on some of the reasons why it is effective: Theater, they claim, requires sustained attention to the task in a way that other activities do not. Actors must stay in character for the duration of a scene, unlike studying visual art, where viewers might "rest" in between viewing different images. Also, the participants consistently remarked that theater was "new" to them, and novelty appears to be a key component of brain fitness.
I think there is a lot to this idea. Theater exercises many cognitive functions, often simultaneously.

Personal examples abound. For example, in the last scene change in DMTC's "Annie Get Your Gun" (which opens tonight), I wrap a blanket around my shoulders and try not to knock my hat off while walking across a stage scattered with occasional obstacles that is rapidly being filled by people, including running children - in the dark. Despite not speaking, singing, or dancing at all, brainwise, there is a lot going on with all this multitasking. Start layering the other activities on, and the brain has to fight to retain control, no doubt developing all kinds of alternative neural pathways and fail-safe methods in order to do so. The alternative pathways might help delay the onset of illnesses like Alzheimer's Disease.

For myself, musical theater helps with my inability to recall names, not only by providing an arena where there are many people whom I don't know very well (Bill? Bob? Sorry, Betty!), but separate, new character names for all these unfamiliar people as well. Oh joy! Find some new memory for that overloaded name buffer!

The limitation of theater is fatigue. Sleep often goes by the wayside while adhering to rigorous theater schedules, and nothing cripples cognition like lack of sleep. Crap diets don't help either.

The well-rested thespian on a proper diet is a step above common humanity, a wonder of nature, a black-belt brainiac!
Another Empty Bush Slogan Reaches Its Shelf Life

"As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.":
Military planners have abandoned the idea that standing up Iraqi troops will enable American soldiers to start coming home soon and now believe that U.S. troops will have to defeat the insurgents and secure control of troubled provinces.

Training Iraqi troops, which had been the cornerstone of the Bush administration's Iraq policy since 2005, has dropped in priority, officials in Baghdad and Washington said.

...Pentagon officials said they know of no new training resources that have been included in U.S. plans to send 28,000 additional troops to Iraq. The officials spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they aren't authorized to discuss the policy shift publicly. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made no public mention of training Iraqi troops Thursday in a visit to Iraq.

In a reflection of the need for more U.S. troops, the Pentagon decided earlier this month to increase the length of U.S. Army tours in Iraq from 12 to 15 months. The extension came amid speculation that the U.S. commander there, Army Gen. David Petraeus, will ask that the troop increase be maintained well into 2008.

U.S. officials don't say that the training formula was doomed from the start. But they said that rising sectarian violence and the inability of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to unite the country changed the conditions. They say they now must establish security while training Iraqi forces because ultimately, "they are our ticket out of Iraq," as one senior Pentagon official put it.

...Throughout 2006, U.S. commanders and top Bush administration leaders touted the training as a success, asserting that eight of Iraq's 10 divisions had taken the lead in confronting insurgents.

But U.S. forces complained that the Iraqi forces weren't getting the support from their government and that Iraqi military commanders weren't as willing to embrace their tactics.

Most important, insurgents and militiamen had infiltrated the forces, using their power to carry out sectarian attacks.

In nearly every area where Iraqi forces were given control, the security situation rapidly deteriorated. The exceptions were areas dominated largely by one sect and policed by members of that sect.
Just like Vietnam, and just as likely to succeed! As long as the Republicans remain in power, and even if someone like Hillary Clinton (the new Nixon; same as the old Nixon) gains power, we will STAY in Iraq, no matter what anyone SEZ!
15th Anniversary Of Benny Hill's Death

From Wikipedia:
Alfred "Alfie" Hill was born in Southampton, where he and his brother attended Tauntons School. During the Second World War Hill was one of the scholars evacuated with the school to Bournemouth School, East Way, Bournemouth. After leaving Tauntons School, Hill worked variously as a milkman in Eastleigh, bridge operator, driver and drummer, before he finally got a foot in the door of the entertainment industry by becoming an assistant stage manager. Inspired by the 'star comedians' of British music hall shows, Hill set out to make his mark in show business. For the stage, he changed his first name to 'Benny', in homage to his favourite comedian, Jack Benny. Hill began appearing at working-men's clubs and Masonic dinners before graduating to nightclub and theatre jobs. Hill auditioned for Soho's famed Windmill Theatre (home of Revudeville, a popular show of singers, comedians and nude girls), but he was not hired. Benny's first job in professional theatre as a performer was as Reg Varney's straight man, beating a then-unknown Peter Sellers for the role.

Benny worked compulsively and had only a few friends, although colleagues who knew him closely insist that he was never lonely, but content with his own company. He never married, although he did propose to two women — one the daughter of a British writer — and was rejected by both. He never owned his own home, nor even a car, instead preferring to rent a small flat in Teddington, a convenient walking distance to the Teddington Studios, where he taped his shows. His mother lived with him until her death shortly before his.

Travelling was the one luxury he consistently permitted himself. Hill became a first-degree Francophile, enjoying frequent visits to Marseille. Until the 1980s, he could enjoy the anonymity of France's outdoor cafes, public transport, and socialising with local women. Besides mastering French, Benny also could 'get by' speaking German, Dutch and Italian in his travels. Hill's overseas holidays were often gathering missions for comedic material, some newly inspired by foreign surroundings, or borrowed from regional acts.

...Following his death, rumours circulated that despite his celebrity and on-air lecherous characterisations, Hill was very shy when it came to women.

...The English comedian Charlie Chaplin who died in 1977 and the American singer Michael Jackson were avid fans of Hill's work: Jackson found time to visit Benny in hospital when Hill was recovering from a heart attack in February 1992. Hill had earlier discovered that his childhood idol Chaplin was a fan when he was invited to Chaplin's home in Switzerland by Chaplin's family and discovered that Chaplin had a vast collection of Benny's work on video. Apparently, Hill and Dennis Kirkland (a friend, and director of Hill's show for many years) were the first people outside of family to be allowed into Chaplin's private study.

...Hill's health began to decline in the early 1990s. Weighing 238 lbs (108 kg) at 5 feet 10½ inches (1 m 79 cm) tall, he suffered heart problems related to his obesity. On February 11th, 1992, doctors told him that he needed to lose 28 pounds, and recommended a heart bypass. He declined, and was diagnosed a week later with renal failure.

Benny Hill died on or about April 20th, 1992 (Easter weekend), alone in his flat at 7 Fairwater House, Twickenham Road, Teddington, at the age of 68. On 24 April, concerned neighbours had called the police, who then found the deceased Hill sitting in his armchair in front of the television. He was buried at Hollybrook Cemetery near his birthplace in Southampton.

...In October 1992, following rumours that he was buried with large amounts of gold jewellery, an attempt was made by thieves to exhume his body. However, when authorities looked into his open coffin the following morning, there was no treasure within it, and consequently, only the culprits know for sure whether anything valuable was inside. Hill was re-buried with a new coffin lid and a solid slab placed across the top of the grave.
God Helps Those Who Help Themselves

Even against the drought:
SOUTH Melbourne priest Bob Maguire says church leaders across Australia can pray for rain "until they go black in the face" but it won't solve the water crisis.

..."Now I know a lot of people won't like it, particularly if people are making their prayers over a nice bottle of Grange, but this water problem is bigger than all of us boys and girls down here on ground level."

Father Maguire, of St Peter and Paul's Parish, is among many Melbourne priests warning drought-stricken farmers not to pin all their hopes on divine intervention.

"Praying for rain is great and we will be doing it in our services, but we have to be prepared to work on finding solutions to the problem ourselves," he said.

Anglican priest the Rev Howard Langmead, of St John's Church in Brunswick West, said rain prayers had regularly been included in weekend services.

"Certainly, we will continue to plead the cause, but I don't believe God will always do what we ask him," he said.

...Bentleigh Uniting Church minister the Rev Dr Ji Zhang said that part of his weekly service would be dedicated to praying for rain.

..."But sometimes God will not intervene because we need to take action ourselves by coming together as a community to support those in need, like our farmers."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bedtime For Gonzo?

Left: A protester displays how many times Gonzales testified today that he didn't recall an event. Photo by Dennis Cook, AP.

Bad day for Alberto Gonzales on the Hill:
But even conservative Republicans expressed outrage at how Gonzales had handled the issue, putting his continued tenure at risk. Sen. Thomas Coburn (R-Okla.) asked the attorney general, "Why should you not be judged by the same standards you judged these U.S. attorneys?" When Gonzales said, "We all make mistakes" and asked for time to correct his failings, Coburn replied, "Mistakes have consequences."

Disavowing allegations of partisan motive in the firings -- "I know that's the politics of the blood sport that we're playing," he said -- Coburn argued, "The best way to put this behind us is your resignation."

...In a case-by-case litany, Gonzales was asked to explain why each of the eight attorneys was let go.

Of Carol Lam in San Diego, the attorney general said there had been complaints that she was not vigorously prosecuting gun and immigration cases. At a time when border security was a national concern, he said, "I felt we should do better, much better, in this effort."

...The Lam dismissal generated considerable anger among Democrats. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) objected to Gonzales' rendition, reading a series of commendations showing that Lam was instrumental in lowering crime and in vigorously prosecuting immigration cases.

"If this is the reason for the firing of a distinguished U.S. attorney, shouldn't somebody talk to her … and give her an opportunity to respond?" Feinstein asked. Gonzales responded that Lam "was acutely aware of the concerns."

But Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y) all but accused Gonzales of lying, saying that neither Lam nor Sampson recalled any warning from the Justice Department over not prosecuting enough immigration cases. The attorney general replied that she had to know of Washington's concerns about her immigration numbers, in part, because various members of Congress had written to complain.

Schumer replied that letting members of Congress deliver the news was hardly professional, Gonzales agreed, saying he had recommended that no U.S. attorney ever be fired in the future without a meeting with officials in Washington.

Barely containing his anger, Schumer also accused Gonzales of lying about whether he had objected to administration plans to bypass Senate approval for U.S. attorneys. The attorney general said he "never liked this idea" because U.S. attorneys "lock heads" with top political figures in their states and need the imprimatur of a presidential appointment and Senate confirmation.

...[Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.)] also said he did not buy the attorney general's argument of "limited involvement" in the decision to fire the attorneys, believing instead that the eight had "personality conflicts" with officials in Washington and that "you made up reasons to fire them" afterward.

He also warned Gonzales that he needed to patch up his relationship with Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), who believes that Gonzales lied to him about the attempt to appoint Tim Griffin as U.S. attorney in Arkansas over his objection.

..."To this day, we do not know who selected the people on that list," Feinstein said. Noting several conversations with White House political advisor Karl Rove and one with the president, she added, "How can you say the White House did not play a role in adding or taking names off the list?"
Bring Out Your Dead

Jim McElroy has been scouting the outer encampments of the Global Warming front:
This link from the Australian Science Media Center appeared briefly in Yahoo news today. I had to track it down after it disappeared so I'm attaching a copy as I don't know how long the link will be around. It's a take on global warming that has never been raised so far as I know and is interesting at many levels. Consider it the ultimate contribution versus global warming and I wonder how many legal, cultural & commercial obstructions would have to be overcome to implement the concept.
The main advantage of cremation is that it skips past the intermediate steps, cuts out of the loop all the flora and fauna that rely on bodies, and heads straight for ashes and minerals. The main disadvantage of cremation is that it requires the combustion of fuels. In the case of modern cremation, the fuels are greenhouse-enhancing fossil fuels.

The folks Jim mentions want to make burial more eco-friendly, reintroduce the flora at least, and get rid of the fossil fuels:
Professor Roger Short from the University of Melbourne is the reproductive biologist who came up with the concept of lemon juice as a contraceptive and a means of preventing HIV in women. It is currently being trialled in Nigeria. He will be discussing his idea of environmentally friendly death at the World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ) in Melbourne on Wednesday.

“Think earth to earth,” he said, “but not ashes to ashes or dust to dust”.

Professor Short’s proposal is that everyone should be buried upright in a cardboard cylinder, next to their favourite species of tree. This would allow the remains to enrich the growth.

“Not for nothing are trees known as the lungs of the world”, he said. “A single tree over a hundred-year period absorbs over a metric ton of carbon dioxide (CO2), so imagine the difference it could make if everyone was buried and had a tree planted in their memory”.

“Photosynthesis in trees is the single most efficient way of sequestering CO2. Not only that, but they do what no other method of carbon minimisation can do, and that is to produce oxygen”, he said.

Professor Short’s idea comes in the wake of China’s policy of encouraging cremation due to lack of space and the Hindu practise in India of burning the body on a funeral pyre made of trees.

He said that in Australia during cremation, the average male produces over 50 kilograms of CO2 as the body is heated to 850 degrees centigrade for an hour and a half. “And that’s not counting the carbon cost of the fuel, and the cost of the emissions involved in producing and burning the wooden coffin”, he added.
Note that there is a misconception in Professor Short's explanation, at least as presented here. Trees and other vegetation, and people for that matter too, are just temporary storage vessels for carbon. Planting a tree does not add oxygen to the world, except temporarily. In order to get a permanent addition of oxygen, you need to permanently bury the tree's carbon in such a way that it never, ever enters the ecosystem again. Biogenic litter that gets incorporated into oceanic plates subsiding under continents - that sort of thing. Six feet under ain't far enough.

Worrying about a person's own CO2 for Global Warming purposes seems beside-the-point to me, since it the body was just a temporary closet for CO2 anyway. And didn't physicist Richard Feynmann use radionucleide decay to make a simple observation that every molecule in a person's body will be replaced anyway in a span of about seven years, leading him to remark how amazing it was that we could remember older events, when the matter of the memory itself was composed of much-younger stuff?

Nevertheless, there is some merit in Short's proposal. For example, when I buried Sylvie the Cat in 2001, I planted a peach tree on top of her, which worked well (at least until last year's madness, when Adam misunderstood my instructions and cut down the peach tree). I wouldn't mind being planted under a peach tree myself.

Here's another idea I like much better, directly from Jim, but which has little to do with Global Warming, per se, but much to do with Nature. We have been much too hard on the living Earth, and we should let Mother Nature take over, or never disturb her in the first place, if possible. As Jim relates:

I am attaching a personal photo related to the topic. It is a view of a family cemetery on a piece of land that was in the family for many generations in Indiana. I am confident that my great-great grandparents are buried there though no monument or paper record exists as proof. The cemetery was created shortly after the family arrived at the site in 1846 and served both family, neighbors, and transients until a public cemetery was opened in the nearby town of Scotland, Indiana in 1880. The old farm, never profitable, has been recycled into woodland under the guidance of the Indiana Forestry Association. The photo illustrates what the suggested concept could lead to, in a peaceful and respectful way. Looks good to me.
RIP, Kitty Carlisle

A long, full life:
In later years, Carlisle frequently repeated her mother's opinion of her chances of show business success: "You're not the prettiest girl or the best singer, or the best actress. But if you put them all together, you should do well in musical comedy. And we'll find you a husband on the stage."

...In 2002, at age 91, she was still performing around the country in her one-woman show, "My Life on the Wicked Stage," featuring songs and anecdotes about American musical theater. It grew out of material she had developed in 1996 for a talk about the genre at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

She was still touring in 2006. And to celebrate turning 96 that September, the ageless Carlisle planned to perform five nights at Feinstein's at the Regency, a Manhattan club.

Senator John McCain:
Sen. John McCain brought his “Straight Talk” tour to South Carolina Wednesday morning.

The presidential hopeful spent 90 minutes talking to nearly 500 people who crammed into the Murrells Inlet VFW Hall.

At the campaign rally, McCain was asked if an attack on Iran is in the works, The Georgetown Times reports.

McCain began his answer by changing the words to a popular Beach Boys song.

“Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran,” he sang to the tune of Barbara Ann.
Who Is Number One?

Climbing the ranks, New Mexico is now Number Two:
New Mexico moved up a notch to become the nation's second most dangerous state, according to recent rankings by Morgan Quitno Press.

New Mexico was ranked the third most dangerous state in 2006 by Morgan Quitno.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Deliberate Tampering

I am quite disturbed by this report, suggesting that the melamine in the pet food problem isn't an accident, but rather, quite deliberate, in order to fool chemical tests regarding protein content. Analytical chemical methods in use apparently aren't sophisticated or selective. The tests look for nitrogen content, and since protein is nitrogen-rich, in general, the methods work. But any source of nitrogen can fool the test, including, apparently, melamine:
Natural Balance, a Pacoima-based company, is "99.9 percent sure" that a rice protein made in Asia is responsible for the melamine detected Tuesday in some of its venison-based pet foods, company President Joey Herrick said.

"It was pretty shocking," he said in a phone interview after the company recalled several of its venison foods. "I was livid."

Herrick declined to name the supplier of the rice protein or the country it came from, saying only that a large American company acquired the ingredient for Diamond Pet Foods, which makes some Natural Balance products.

Because both wheat gluten and rice protein enhance the protein content of pet food, "it certainly is suspicious" that melamine now is associated with both, said Bob Poppenga, a UC Davis veterinary toxicology professor.

Melamine isn't an edible protein, but it has plenty of nitrogen, which can be used as a marker for protein in chemical analyses.

So, if someone wanted to use less of the relatively pricey sources of vegetable protein, such as wheat gluten, and throw in cheaper starches instead, adding melamine to that mix would still make it look like a protein-rich product, numerous veterinary nutritionists and toxicologists have said. With such speculation swirling, the rice protein-melamine link further alarmed pet owners as it began appearing on Web sites Tuesday, said Gina Spadafori, a Sacramento-based author who runs a pet Web site.

"I see people who are being almost panicky," she said. "Last week, it was easy for veterinary associations to say if you want to feel better, just avoid wheat gluten," Spadafori said. "Now for this expansion to be an entirely different protein source ... I don't think right now anybody can say, 'Go feed this, it's safe.' "

Natural Balance President Herrick was so shaken by the melamine finding that he imposed a new policy Tuesday to hold all company foods in a warehouse until an offsite lab tests each batch for melamine. He won't ship anything until it has tested clean, he said.

Local veterinarians who've tracked kidney ailments nationwide have tentatively identified five more foods, not at this point under any recall, that they plan to have tested as soon as possible.

...The notion that melamine could be a deliberate additive -- not an industrial mistake -- arose as early as April 5, when Stephen Sundlof, head of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, said that the pet food recall could turn into a criminal investigation if investigators find that melamine was added deliberately.

Later, the New York Times reported that the Chinese company that supplied tainted wheat gluten to Menu Foods sought to buy large amounts of melamine through Internet trading sites.

...Amid complaints that the multiple recalls were hard to follow, the FDA tried to assemble all the recalled foods on a single list, now over 5,000 items long, on its Web site at

As of Tuesday evening, the Natural Balance recalls hadn't appeared there. Natural Balance recalled two products Monday and added more Tuesday after learning of the melamine test results. It has pulled back Venison and Brown Rice canned and bagged dog foods, Venison and Brown Rice dog treats and Venison and Green Pea dry cat food.

For pet owners, vets said, the important thing to be aware of is any behavior change that seems linked to either a new food, or even a new bag of the same food. Symptoms could include loss of appetite, vomiting, lethargy and excess drinking or urinating.
A PR Difficulty, That's For Sure

The FBI raids Congressman John Doolittle's home (but apparently last Friday).
Like Mark Twain Said: "A Lie Can Travel Halfway Around The World While The Truth Is Putting On Its Shoes"

Apparently ONE U.S. reporter incorrectly-identified the Virginia Tech shooter as Chinese. FOX News and Drudge ran with it, and caused chaos in the Chinese media universe.
Dress Not Quite PC

Left: Photo - JULIO NEVERO/Milenio Diario de Tampico

Caption: Rosa Maria Ojeda models her Miss Universe pageant dress, accented with bullets and crosses and portraying scenes from the 1920s religious rebellion against Mexico's secular government. After an outcry that the gown glorified violence, Ms. Ojeda's representatives said the dress would be modified. The floor-length dress is accented with crosses, scapulars and a sketch of a man facing a firing squad. Designers who helped select the dress from among 30 entries argued it represented the nation's culture and history. Mexico City will host the pageant in May.

The dress arouses controversy - and attention. No wonder she wants to wear it. But my understanding of the Cristero revolt was that millions, not thousands, died (Wikipedia says 90,000). It's still a source of great pain.:
MEXICO CITY – Miss Mexico is toning down her Miss Universe pageant dress – not because it's too slinky or low-cut, but because its bullet-studded belt and images of hangings from a 1920s uprising have outraged Mexicans.

Cut from a traditional natural cotton called manta, the dress depicts scenes from the 1926-1929 Cristero war, an uprising by Roman Catholic rebels against Mexico's secular government, which was imposing fiercely anti-clerical laws. Thousands of people died.

"We wanted a dress that made you think of Mexico," Hector Terrones, who served on the selection committee, told La Jornada newspaper.

...La Jornada columnist Jorge Camil said a dress was not the place to recount the event. "It would be like Miss USA wearing a dress showing images of the Ku Klux Klan in the Deep South, with their hoods, their burning crosses and beer cans," he wrote.
Rainfall Chances Increasing Next Week For NSW

For the last several days, NOGAPS computer modeling output for Australia has suggested that there might be increasing chances for rain over the next week leading up to May 1st, likely thunderstorms, particularly over New South Wales (but hopefully also extending up to Brisbane).

These forecast rains seem to reflect the autumnal seasonal shift. I wondered whether they have as a Northern Hemisphere analogue the greater likelihood of rain in California after November 1st, but I'm probably getting ahead of myself. After all, the analogy isn't exact - NSW and California are on opposite coasts of their respective continents - but I just can't help speculating!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Bernalillo, And Guerrilla Media

Very interesting article in today's Wall Street Journal (available here, at freepress) regarding the growth of viral media. WSJ focuses on a two-man company based in Bernalillo, NM. The company has seen explosive growth since being founded just last year.

I spent portions of my childhood in Bernalillo. For example, I stuck a large screw up my nose, when my parents lived near my grandmother's house in Bernalillo, adjacent to the train tracks, when I was three years old. My mom and my grandmother had to wrestle with both pliers and me, in order to fish the screw out. Ah, the good old days!

WSJ refers to Bernalillo as a 'suburb' of Albuquerque, which made me laugh. I suppose these days it's true enough - it's only ten miles from the Albuquerque city limits - but, in fact, Bernalillo is the third-oldest European-founded town in the United States (only St. Augustine, FL, and Santa Fe, NM, are older). You'd never know that, however, because much has been erased, with the outer edges of town swept aside by mobile home tracts. Bernalillo may be a 'suburb', but it ain't New Rochelle....

But Bernalillo is nevertheless on the frontier of guerilla media. Maybe Bernalillo's permanent place in history is yet to be written:
From a small outbuilding alongside the train tracks in this Albuquerque suburb, two men in their twenties are peddling something that has become a big threat to big media companies.

The men, Sam Martinez and Billy Duran, use two low-end desktop computers to run a Web site that offers a remarkably broad menu of television shows and movies free of charge. They provide online access to 17 episodes of NBC’s “Heroes” TV series, 49 installments of ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” more than 70 feature films and hundreds of other videos. Within four days of Walt Disney’s theatrical release of “Meet the Robinsons,” the men had the movie available for viewing through their site,

As media companies fight to keep control over distribution of their shows, they have focused their guns on big sites like the YouTube unit of Google Inc. But little sites like this one in New Mexico collectively represent an equally thorny challenge. They are like guerrilla squadrons that are constantly shifting tactics to defy big media and keep offering consumers free programs.

... Last year Mr. Martinez’s childhood friend, Mr. Duran, built on the idea and created a site called “VTele” as an assignment for a computer-science class at Central New Mexico Community College. Through it, users could view TV shows and movies that he and Mr. Martinez copied from DVDs and uploaded to the school’s computer servers. The 23-year-old Mr. Duran says he got an “A” on the project. But within a month, the site attracted so many users that some of the school’s computer servers crashed. Administrators threatened Mr. Duran with expulsion.

“In any court of law I’m sure we’d be found guilty,” concedes Mr. Martinez. “But how else are you going to put something together?” Mr. Martinez says he sent emails to TV networks suggesting they adopt his idea but never heard back.

...Mr. Duran dropped out of Central New Mexico, and the two friends relaunched the site in September. At first it relied on volunteers to store video files on their own servers, until a user pointed Mr. Martinez to Dailymotion. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh — gold mine!’ ” recalls Mr. Martinez. “We had all 18 seasons of ‘The Simpsons’ in two hours.”

...Mr. Duran still works in a tech-support job at a medical center, but he and his friend consider themselves pioneers in online television. “With the right technology and investment, this idea could blow away a lot of other ideas out there,” says Mr. Duran.
Vandalism Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

Zealous politician trips up:
A POLITICAL stunt to remove graffiti has come under police investigation after it was revealed that the graffiti was, in fact, a commissioned artwork.

Canberra Liberal MP Steve Pratt, who has run a campaign against vandalism, spent four hours cleaning graffiti from a concrete bridge in Woden on Saturday, calling the artwork an "obnoxious piece of vivid graffiti vandalism".

However, it emerged late yesterday that Mr Pratt's efforts had destroyed a mural artwork commissioned by a local sporting club.

..."Legal mural sites ... help reduce anti-social activity and create opportunities for graffiti artists to display their skill legally and constructively," Mr Stanhope said.

"Whether or not a particular piece of art is attractive or engaging will always be a matter for individual taste.

"In his eagerness to thump the law-and-order tub, it seems that Mr Pratt may have joined the ranks of those he so consistently reviles - the vandals of our community."
Bigger Deal Than I Thought

Regarding Kylie Minogue, from Andrea St. Clair:
Hi Marc!

I saw this article and thought you might enjoy this. H&M is a huge retailer, with the closest to us in Concord and San Francisco. Popular among the hipster set. But it looks like Kylie is going to model for them!

Hope you are well!!
I responded:
Thank you, Andrea:

I had seen a similar announcement in the Australian press, but since I know little about hipster fashion, I had no idea how much weight to give it. Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? Presumably a good thing, but how good? Real good? Real, real good? No idea! I do know I like the pictures..... Since you are closer to hipster fashion, I will take your word that it is a big, weighty thing.

Andrea replied:
I'll put it this way: I wish Sac had an H&M. There literally is an H&M in pretty much every neighborhood of New York City.

Remember the fiasco regarding Kate Moss and the picture of her doing cocaine and how it landed on the front page of every tabloid? Well, that incident led to a dismissal of one of her largest contracts: modeling for H&M.

When the store in SF opened about a year ago, lines went around the block to gain entrance into the store. (And mind you, each store averages 2-3 stories.)

Check out for info.

It's an AWESOME thing for Kylie!!!


I like the pictures, but I'm intimidated by the copyright restrictions. Sigh.... I'll have to check out H&M when I get a chance. Maybe even buy something. Probably not a 'cossie', but maybe something - I don't know - appropriate. Maybe even stylish....
Buy A Pub

The Bun Pub is on the market.

I missed visiting this place on my trip, but judging from the picture, it seems to capture the essence of Queensland.

I'd buy it myself, for the atmosphere, but I don't like beer....
Natalia Clare, RIP

Famed Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo dancer:
She studied ballet with Bronislava Nijinska, one of impresario Sergei Diaghilev's stable of choreographers, and made her professional debut in 1940 dancing for Nijinska at the Hollywood Bowl.

In 1942, Colonel de Basil, director of the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, invited her to join his company, and she danced for him throughout the world.

She married Oleg Tupine, a Ballets Russes star, in 1945, and they became a team onstage as well. A 1956 Times review praised their "virtuosity of more than average caliber and, above all, teamwork which, for its unusual precision, pointed to a long association in many a recital."

In 1948, Clare joined Sergei Denham's competing Ballet Russe company as a principal dancer, performing leading roles in such classics as "Les Sylphides," "Gaîté Parisienne," "Raymonda," "Coppélia," "Graduation Ball," "Aurora's Wedding" and "The Nutcracker." She and Tupine then danced for the Markova-Dolin Ballet and other troupes, including one of their own.
Classes Of 2005 And 2006

Trouble in River City,:
DataQuick said 1,505 homeowners in Amador, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties lost their houses to foreclosure during January, February and March. That's up from 865 the previous three months.

DataQuick reported just 143 foreclosures in the eight-county region in the first quarter of 2006.

"A lot of these lenders are going to end up with an awful lot of properties," said Pam Canada, executive director of Sacramento-based NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center, which counsels people with mortgage trouble.

"It's been difficult these past weeks particularly. There's more of a tone of desperation from people we're finding now. They have very few alternatives."

DataQuick attributed part of the record-breaking numbers to a greater supply of homes and loans in the Sacramento region since previous records were established during the recession-plagued mid-1990s. But the bigger factor is a combination of risky 2005 and 2006 loans and falling home prices that make it difficult for owners to refinance out of trouble. Even in a time when the economy continues to generate job growth, selling the house is becoming harder.

Belle in the Golden Mickey's Disneyland Hong Kong

Courtesy of Kathleen Flint, here is the sublime Melody Davi as Belle in Golden Mickey's Disneyland, Hong Kong!

Listening To AM Talk Radio Regarding The Virginia Tech Shootings

George Noory on Coast-to-Coast AM had a guest, Howard Bloom, author of 'Global Brain', who made a striking observation regarding the Virginia Tech shooter's state-of-mind. Bloom emphasized that it was the "humiliation and isolation" of the foreign student that ultimately led to the tragedy - humiliation and isolation primarily from the experience of not speaking the language well in a land far from home. Bloom alluded to what appeared to be his own experience of being a student in a foreign land, where, presumably, he experienced humiliation and isolation firsthand. Bloom made clear he was not excusing or justifying the shooter's actions, only that people do not do well when they experience both humiliation and isolation, in any context, and that we need to keep an eye out for others who need a helping hand.

I thought it was an interesting and insightful observation into the misery of being thwarted in a foreign land.
"The Drowsy Chaperone"

Here's the Playbill link Kathleen Flint mentioned regarding Mara Davi's new show:
Two dames (Sutton Foster and Georgia Engel) are exiting the original cast of The Drowsy Chaperone this spring, and three (Janine LaManna, Mara Davi and Jo Anne Worley) are taking their places.
A Surprising Meeting Of The Minds

"Annie Get Your Gun" rehearsal, Monday evening (as amended according to Mike Mac's memory - help me out if I've still got it wrong!):
L: "Anything you can do
I can do better.
I can do anything
better than you."

M: "No ya can't"

L: "Yes I can"

M: "Yes you can"

Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech Rampage

What was the motivation?
Run, Bunny, Run!

Thousands of bunnies, everywhere:
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) -- Five thousand rabbits blocked a highway Monday, tying up traffic after the truck that was carrying them collided with another vehicle and overturned.

Neither driver was hurt, but some 500 rabbits were killed, authorities said.

The M1 highway - the main road between the capitals of Hungary and Austria - was closed for hours while authorities gathered up the animals, Highway Patrol Spokeswoman Viktoria Galik said.

By midday, 4,400 bunnies had been rounded up, but 100 were still roaming the fields surrounding the highway.

"Those 100 are free to go. We will not collect them," Galik said.
California, Land Of Fruits And Nuts

Not very PC:
A woman accused of targeting a gay couple with a selection of produce in Pacifica in March was arraigned Friday in a South San Francisco courtroom, the San Mateo County district attorney's office reported.

Tiffany Adler, 20, is accused of heaving an assortment of apples and asparagus at the couple from the interior of a van driving past them as they walked down a city street, according to the district attorney's office.

Adler also allegedly yelled a slur at the victims, the district attorney's office reported.

Both victims were struck by the fruits and vegetables, and police investigating the incident reportedly discovered a piece of asparagus in Adler's purse, according to the district attorney's office.
May I Have Another Internet?

The current one is unsatisfactory:
The idea may seem unthinkable, even absurd, but many believe a "clean slate" approach is the only way to truly address security, mobility and other challenges that have cropped up since UCLA professor Leonard Kleinrock helped supervise the first exchange of meaningless test data between two machines on Sept. 2, 1969.
"Annie Get Your Gun" Tech Week Starts

My feet hurt, my head hurts, and my patience is frayed. And it's only Sunday!

(Focus - remember, patience will get you everywhere!)

(Wait a minute, that's flattery....)
First Yolo Flatlander Contribution

Someone acquainted with this blog apparently recommended my name to the Yolo Flatlander community newspaper's editor, Sally Parker, as someone who might be a good contributor.

Thank you!

Here is the text from my first article published in the Yolo Flatlander (April 2007, p.20):

Chewing The Scenery With DMTC

Lancelot came alone and unannounced to Guenevere’s bedchamber. She sat alone at a makeup table, combing her hair. Hearing him enter, she said, “Did anyone see you?”

Just then, the lighting director, fiddling with switches in the light booth, plunged the entire theater into darkness. From somewhere in the inky blackness, Lancelot said “No, no one.”
It was “tech week,” the final, hectic week before the opening of “Camelot,” presented by Davis Musical Theatre Company (DMTC), Davis’ own year-round community theater troupe.

Tech week is when big plans meet obstreperous reality, when costumes have to fit and scene changes have to work. Boy, I could tell you stories! For example, in a recent show, one actress struggled to master a revealing costume. Amply-endowed, she needed the costume’s boostiere like the Pacific Ocean needs water, and she grew concerned at one point: "I'm afraid!" she exclaimed in her soprano voice. In spontaneous bass unison, two of us males intoned, "I'm not." (In the end, she did just fine).

And then there’s the rehearsal period too. For example, the script for the musical “Showboat” (written in the mid-1920’s) opens with the racist boor Pete (played by myself in DMTC’s 2003 production) hurling the n-word at the lead African-American actress (in order to link racism with uncouthness with one quick shock). The director carefully briefed the cast that we were NOT going to follow the script in this production, and use a milder epithet instead. I was doodling inattentively, however, and what I thought I heard was that we WERE going to follow the script. I was amazed: it was the first and last time any DMTC cast was ever rendered – completely speechless. Was it something I said?

Musicals engage many different talents (acting, singing, dancing), and the complicated endeavor of staging musicals engages yet more talents, of an organizational sort (set design, light design, scenic design). In a town dominated by academe, DMTC can function as a welcome release from the books, for the muse trapped in us all, where people’s kinetic intelligence can be engaged. For example, in “Camelot” the men have had to learn sword safety: we have real swords, after all. Outside Renaissance Fairs, where else are you likely to need to learn sword safety?

Oddly enough, many of the players in DMTC’s “Main Stage” productions, mostly adults, do not come from Davis, but hail instead from a free-floating population of theater gypsies from all over the Sacramento Valley, some coming from 70 miles away, or more, to participate. The children in DMTC’s Young Performers’ Theater (YPT) are largely from Davis or its immediate vicinity, however. Thus, DMTC, is both community-based and family-based, yet not in the least bit insular.

In America, people like to talk about equality, but the truth is we often segregate ourselves into like-thinking, age-stratified communities: academic towns like Davis are not immune either. Community theaters are among the few institutions in American life where an approximation to genuine equality can be found, where seven-year-olds and seventeen year olds and seventy year olds, rich and not-so-rich alike, can all sit down to dinner and talk about common experiences. No matter how yawning the class distinctions onstage, backstage, no one can be left out without harming the overall production. Everyone has a role to play and inclusion is stressed.

Community theaters like DMTC serve as both a springboard for new talent to enter the professional world, and a landing place for former professionals to keep their instincts sharp. Volunteers who have never done theater before can learn directly from their peers. Here’s a small selection of notable DMTC players, and what they are doing now:
  • Kelly Daniells – First role ever, at age 8 as ‘Fatima, the Dancing Doll’, in YPT’s “Aladdin” in 1994; currently playing the young lead, Sophie Sheridan, in “Mamma Mia” in Las Vegas.
  • J. Scott Browning – First DMTC role as Albert Petersen in “Bye, Bye, Birdie” in 1999; just appeared in “Emma: The Musical” in San Francisco, in February.
  • Mara Davi – First DMTC role as Maria in “West Side Story” in 2001; currently playing ‘Maggie’ in “A Chorus Line”, on Broadway.
Theater talent is widespread in the community and thus it is wise for all theaters to follow DMTC’s example and maintain an open audition policy, because you never know who will show up. Even first timers can dazzle, as Bev Sykes, theater reviewer for The Davis Enterprise, recently noted regarding “Camelot”:

As the royal couple exited, the curtains closed and Lancelot du Lac (Tae Kim) appeared in a spotlight. When Kim opened his mouth to sing, everybody in the near-capacity audience sat up straighter. We all experienced a stunning moment together. Kim, a medical student newly moved to the Davis area, is, amazingly, making his very first theatrical appearance--ever, yet he has the confidence of a seasoned professional and a voice worthy of any professional production.

With those kinds of possibilities at hand, who wouldn’t like to do musicals? Despite a 22-year history, with 10 YPT and Main Stage shows a year, only about 3,100 people have ever participated in DMTC shows, indicating that many people love to come back for more. DMTC strives to maintain an energetic balance between newcomers and established players, though, so you never know who might be onstage next – it might be you!

Marc Valdez is a frequent spear-carrier at DMTC ( He details his misadventures at: