Saturday, June 16, 2007

History - What Does It Mean, Exactly?

Left: (picture swiped from Andrew Woods blog)

I was startled by this news from Albuquerque:
As negotiations over the fate of the historic El Vado Motel inch toward compromise, a national preservation group is trying to help keep the old motor lodge around for generations to come.

At a news conference Friday in front of the motel - on west Central Avenue near the Albuquerque Biological Park - the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced that El Vado had been placed on a list of "America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places."
The place isn't Gettysburg - would people really miss it THAT much if it disappeared? I mean, I barely remember the place, and I never slept there (and I don't think George Washington did either).

But we blithely pave over our past with heedless disregard, something we should be careful about doing, so the best to the preservationists and their efforts....
"The Fantastic Four - Rise Of The Silver Surfer"

I missed the first of these movies. This film struck me as amiable. The title is odd - exactly where did the Silver Surfer rise from? It seemed to me he just showed up one day. But whatever.....

This review (from Tucson's Arizona Star) seemed to say it all (and the reviewer also saw the first film!):
Fantastic? Maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. Thrilling, engaging and totally adequate are more fitting adjectives to the latest superhero special effects bonanza.

"Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," which opened Friday, is a breezy crowd-pleaser, and a fitting antidote for that scatterbrained downer known as "Spider-Man 3." In "Fantastic," the spryly sarcastic humor finds its mark, the action scenes are bold and flashy, and there are even traces of that element that's so rare in summer blockbusters — heart.

...This time, we catch the Fantastic Four in full stride, fighting crime and wilting under media scrutiny as they try to eke out their personal lives. Elastic-limbed Mr. Fantastic (Ioan Gruffudd) is set to marry the Invisible Woman (Jessica Alba). Their partners, rock creature The Thing (Michael Chiklis) and the Human Torch (Chris Evans), prepare for the festivities while they continue their playful personal rivalry with one another.

The villain from the first movie, metal-masked Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon), who was thought to have been defeated, is back for an unexplained reason, but Doom takes a back seat to a mysterious creature known as the Silver Surfer (voiced by Laurence Fishburne), a poorly computer-animated alien who tells the Invisible Woman that the world is doomed, set to be consumed by a planet-devouring cosmic entity known as Galactus.

As tedious as it was to watch the Fantastic Four lumber together in the first film, it's a pleasure this time out. Story lets the characters flex their powers and demonstrate personality.

Story's narrative taps into the genius of the superhero-team concept, likening the squad to a loving yet dysfunctional family. Only when they commit to working together on the fly can the Four get anything accomplished. The teammates bicker and bond, snapping tight dialogue back and forth.
General Taguba Speaks

With the most disturbing - and damning - information regarding Abu Ghraib, Donald Rumsfeld and the rest of the war criminals infesting the Pentagon:
“From the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service,” Taguba said. “And yet when we get to the senior-officer level we forget those values. I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention. We violated our own principles and we violated the core of our military values. The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable.”
The Producers Will Strive Mightily

Jessica Alba:
"I hope all my new work will help producers in getting past my hotness."
The Rain In Oz Stays Mainly On The Coast

It's astonishing just how limited to the coast the rain and the floods in New South Wales have been this month. Those pesky lows have had an amazing ability to lock into place just off the coast, and pump precipitation into a narrow coastal belt, often leaving inland areas high and dry.

The zone between Newcastle and Sydney has received more than 300 mm (~ 1 foot) of rain to date this month. There are areas NW of Canberra, not all that far away, that have yet to see any rain at all.

Friday, June 15, 2007


Out of fava beans and need to restock? Even biofuel-grade Chianti can't hold a candle to high-performance Vivoleum when it comes to those quick trips to the store:
Up to 300 oilmen at the GO-EXPO in Calgary, Canada witnessed an unusual presentation about turning human flesh into fuel by 'representatives of Exxon and the National Petroleum Council (NPC).'

The two 'representatives' turned out to be pranksters from the civil disobedience group The Yes Men.

Conference organisers billed the speech by a 'NPC rep' as a major highlight.

The real NPC, which is headed by former ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond, regularly consults with the White House on energy policy.

The 'NPC rep' was expected to present findings from a long-awaited study chaired by Mr Raymond in conjunction with the US Department of Energy.

The fake speech, delivered by 'Shepard Wolff' (aka Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men), unveiled a new Exxon oil product called Vivoleum.

'We need something like whales, but infinitely more abundant', said 'Mr Wolff' as he showed 3D animations of human flesh being rendered into the fuel.

'Vivoleum works in perfect synergy with the continued expansion of fossil fuel production', noted 'Exxon rep Florian Osenberg' (aka Yes Man Mike Bonanno).

He added: 'With more fossil fuels comes a greater chance of disaster, but that means more feedstock for Vivoleum. Fuel will continue to flow for those of us left.'
In The Blink Of An Eye

Put that car back! Fifty years isn't that long a time!
TULSA, Okla. -- Hundreds watched today as a crane lifted a muddy package from a hole in the courthouse lawn: a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere buried to celebrate Oklahoma's 50 years of statehood.

The wrapped car -- a gold and white two-door hardtop -- appeared brown and red as it came out of the hole, but it was unclear whether the color represented dirt or rust. A bit of shiny chrome was visible on the bumper.

The car spent the last half-century covered in three layers of protective material and encased in a 12-by-20-foot concrete vault, supposedly tough enough to withstand a nuclear attack.

But event officials already had to pump out several feet of water from its crypt.

The car was placed on a flatbed truck so it could be unwrapped, spruced up and officially unveiled this evening at the Tulsa Convention Center. Spectators packed the streets to glimpse its journey.

Whether the car will start was unknown. Those who gathered to watch it being pulled out of the ground did not seem to care.

...Also buried with it were 10 gallons of gasoline -- in case internal combustion engines became obsolete by 2007 -- a case of beer, and the contents of a typical woman's handbag placed in the glove compartment: 14 bobby pins, a bottle of tranquilizers, a lipstick, a pack of gum, tissues, a pack of cigarettes, matches and $2.43.

There was also a spool of microfilm that recorded the entries of a contest to determine who would win the car: the person who guessed the closest of what Tulsa's population would be in 2007 -- 382,457 -- would win.

That person, or his or her heirs, will get the car and a $100 savings account, worth about $1,200 today with interest.
Paresis In Rabbits

Food for thought:

Paralysis is defined as loss of the ability to move a body part. Paresis is defined as slight or partial paralysis. Unfortunately, companion rabbits sometimes suffer paresis of the hind limbs that makes them unable to stand with those legs, and to locomote normally.

There are several reasons a bunny can lose the use of the back legs, including:

  • trauma to the spine, pelvis, or limbs
  • arthritis of the spine or pelvis
  • degenerated, damaged, or ruptured vertebral disc
  • the sporozoan parasite, Encephalitozoon cuniculi, the pathogenicity of which is controversial.

  • Trauma, arthritis, or other degenerative process must be diagnosed via radiography. Once the exact nature of the problem is determined, some mobility may be restored in the short term by a small dose of short-acting corticosteroids under the strict supervision of your rabbit-experienced veterinarian.

    If the problem seems to be related to arthritis, then an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) such as Rimadyl (carprofen) may prove very helpful. Some practitioners have reported that glucosamine supplements appear to offer relief from arthritis and other degenerative joint problems.

    If the problem is chronic, rather than acute (as from trauma, which may necessitate immediate palliative care and cage rest, as prescribed by your veterinarian), physical therapy may be very helpful. Some rabbit "parents" report success at restoring a bunny's movement by enlisting the services of a qualified, licensed veterinarian who is also a skilled acupuncturist. Massage, acupuncture and skeletal manipulation can sometimes make a very great difference in the bunny's mobility and quality of life.

    Encephalitozoon cuniculi is a protozoan parasite that infects the renal and nervous system of rabbits. Presence or absence of the parasite may be indicated via titer test, in which the laboratory analyzes the blood for the presence of antibodies against E. cuniculi.
    That's an interesting idea - massage. Bunny masseuse. I like the idea better than bunny acupuncturist. Which I am already, with the saline. She's getting the anti-inflammatory agent, and the antibiotic, so maybe a full-court press with massage will help....

    A Little Priest

    RSP's Ruth Phillips and Ray Fisher!

    (Out of curiosity, who is "pharaohman"? James?)

    Thursday, June 14, 2007

    Positive Reinforcement Therapy

    Pleasantly soothing. What the Wizard Of Oz might say to Dorothy these days...

    DMTC's "Beauty And The Beast" Premieres Tomorrow Night!

    I haven't been there this week to check out rehearsals, but I'm sure it'll be fun!
    Need A Celebrity Today

    Late afternoon grogginess. I must confess, being in the strange televisionless media space I am, that I don't really know who Lindsay Lohan is, or why she excites people so much. On the other hand, I saw a picture of Dina Lohan, Lindsay's mom, in People Magazine, and she looks hot.

    Must find caffeine. Or Kylie videos. Or something....

    Where's the saline?
    You're Nobody If You're Not On This List

    It's the A-List of the decade:
    A terrorist watch list compiled by the FBI has apparently swelled to include more than half a million names.

    Privacy and civil liberties advocates say the list is growing uncontrollably, threatening its usefulness in the war on terror.

    ...A portion of the FBI's unclassified 2008 budget request posted to the Department of Justice Web site, however, refers to "the entire watch list of 509,000 names," which is utilized by its Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force.

    ...In addition to the NCTC list, the FBI keeps a list of U.S. persons who are believed to be domestic terrorists -- abortion clinic bombers, for example, or firebombing environmental extremists, who have no known tie to an international terrorist group.

    ..."It grows seemingly without control or limitation," said ACLU senior legislative counsel Tim Sparapani of the terrorism watch list. Sparapani called the 509,000 figure "stunning."

    "If we have 509,000 names on that list, the watch list is virtually useless," he told ABC News. "You'll be capturing innocent individuals with no connection to crime or terror."

    U.S. lawmakers and their spouses have been detained because their names were on the watch list.

    ..."There's a reason the FBI has a '10 Most Wanted' list, right? We need to focus the government's efforts on the greatest threats. When the watch list grows to this level, it's useless as an anti-terror tool," Sparapani said.
    Stormy Day On The Internets

    I'm getting many more hits than usual today, from people looking for photos of people with fumarase deficiency. Bizarrely enough, Google may be pointing them towards a Kylie Minogue image I have. No, no, no, no, no! I have no pictures of people with fumarase deficiency, but I have posted twice on the subject: this excellent Phoenix New Times article is the best I've seen on the subject.

    Is it this Reuters article that's causing today's storm?
    Earmark Addicts

    Keeping the Republicans away from the juice is serious work:
    For the second straight day, minority House Republicans ground the House to a standstill Wednesday as they drove home their objections to a Democratic plan to deny a floor vote on lawmakers' thousands of pet projects.

    Public anger over the surging number of special member projects called earmarks -- derided as pork barrel spending -- was a factor in the Republicans' loss of House control last November, GOP members concede, and now they say they've gotten religion on the need for openness in government.

    Charges of hypocrisy flew in floor speeches as House leaders huddled behind closed doors to seek a way out of a dispute that Republicans said showed Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi had backed down on promises of openness and disclosure made when they took power last January.

    Democrats had hoped this week to pass four of the 12 annual bills that pay for federal operations beginning Oct. 1. Instead, Republicans have offered 116 amendments to a $37.4 billion Homeland Security spending bill -- the first of the bills on the floor -- in a bid to stall it. And on Tuesday they offered repeated motions to adjourn the House, each requiring a vote, keeping a wary House in session until 2:10 a.m. Wednesday.

    Democrats argued Republicans were engaging in partisan attacks to try to embarrass Pelosi. They charged the GOP lawmakers lacked credibility on earmarks, the number of which exploded during their 12 years of House rule.

    But Republicans cried foul over a plan by Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., for the House to pass all of the dozen spending bills without any earmarks.

    Obey said House members from both parties -- even while expressing concern about rising government spending -- had inundated his committee with 33,000 earmark requests. He said it would take the committee's staff four weeks to study all those pork barrel requests and pare them to a manageable level.

    Obey proposed to put the earmarks into the bill as the House prepares to confer with the Senate to reconcile the two chambers' different versions of the spending bills. Obey promised to disclose the list of the earmarks a month before such a conference, which Democrats hope to hold by late summer, so members and the public will have time to scrutinize and react to the projects.

    But once the House-Senate conferees agree on a final bill, the rules of the House and Senate bar members from amending the legislation to remove individual items. That means, the Republicans charge, that Obey alone will decide on billions of dollars of federal spending affecting projects in practically every House district.

    "The Obey policy is indefensible ... Obey's slush fund is indefensible," Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., said as the House debated the Homeland Security spending bill, which provides a 6 percent increase over President Bush's request and would be 13 percent more than was spent last year.

    "The new majority ran on a policy of openness, honesty and candor, and I suggest this is a policy that hardly promotes openness, honesty or candor," said Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga.

    Thoughtful analysis of why some women get biopics, and some don't:
    Dr Arrow says biopics typically require its female protagonist face a series of struggles against adversity before she can emerge triumphant.

    So Tina Turner survives being a punching bag in What's Love Got To Do With It?, while June Carter Cash endures husband Johnny Cash's alcoholism and drug addictions in Walk The Line.

    Alternatively, the actor portrays those who endured a downward spiral into drug hell, mental illness or murder before a tawdry death.

    Think Sylvia, in which Gwyneth Paltrow's Sylvia Plath suffers writer's block, depression and a bad marriage to poet Ted Hughes before killing herself at age 30. Or Diana Ross's depiction of a drug-addled Billie Holiday in Lady Sings The Blues.

    These conventions also affect the stories that are chosen, Dr Arrow adds. "As American film scholar Dennis Bingham points out, we make films about Billie Holiday not Ella Fitzgerald, Dian Fossey not Margaret Mead, Frances Farmer not Katharine Hepburn.

    "I think women are often shown to have more difficulty combining a public role with their private life than men."

    But why do famous women have to suffer to earn a biopic in the first place? Is fame and success that difficult to swallow?

    Dr Arrow says biopics were first made in the 1930s as part of a wave of social responsibility that washed through cinema.

    "Biopics were committed to educating and uplifting the population by celebrating the achievements of great figures from the past, usually men," she says.

    "They were there to provide role models for audiences, with a crucial sheen of truth, given that they were based on real life."

    Dr Arrow says biopics of the famously tragic fulfil this educational role, with the audience clearly meant to worship the likes of Tina Turner, Loretta Lynn or June Carter Cash because they are survivors.

    ...Life lessons aside, biopics are also a symptom of Merchant-Ivory syndrome: making low-profit films for the greater good of cinema as well as an Oscar. While summer blockbusters bring in the box-office dollars, biopics allow studios to maintain their cultural and critical kudos, says Dr Marc Brennan, of Sydney University's department of media and communications. "This is as important for those who work for the studio as those who have shares in these institutions."

    And job satisfaction, as much as a regular pay cheque, is ultimately what makes us get out of bed every morning.

    As Paltrow puts it: "Films like Sylvia are obviously not blockbuster material, but they make me feel like I'm doing something worthwhile."

    ...Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher is set to be the next famous woman to be immortalised on celluloid. The BBC's website reports the proposed film will focus on the weeks leading up to the Falklands War in 1982. However, no one has yet been signed to play the Iron Lady.

    Also in the pipeline is The Gospel According To Janis, which documents the hard-drinkin' antics of Janis Joplin, who pickled herself to death in Southern Comfort in 1970. Movie news website reports Zooey Deschanel will take up the bottle as Joplin in the film, yet to begin production.

    There are plenty more big-living ladies ripe for a big-screen biopic, as opposed to a two-bit telemovie or walk-on part in someone else's film (think Gwen Stefani's Jean Harlow in The Aviator). Or a thinly veiled fiction like Beyonce's "I'm not Diana Ross" role in Dreamgirls or Bette Midler's Joplin-like character in The Rose.

    Hollywood's elder stateswomen must be champing at the bit to play presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, especially since Emma Thompson showed how it should be done in Primary Colors.

    Condoleezza Rice's life story - who else has an oil tanker named after them? - screams Oscar winner.

    Nor can it be long before Here Lies Love - A Song Cycle, former lead singer of Talking Heads David Byrne's musical about Imelda Marcos, follows Evita onto cinema screens.

    It must be only a matter of time before we see a Bollywood musical about assassinated Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi and a Lollywood spectacular about former Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto.
    Becoming A Vet Tech

    Learned this morning how to set up a saline drip into a fussy rabbit.

    If I get the hang of this, maybe I should branch out, and subject all my fussy friends to saline drips.

    Wednesday, June 13, 2007

    A Confederation Of Pirates

    Via Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings, an academic paper on the organization of pirates:
    This paper investigates the internal governance institutions of violent criminal enterprise by examining the law, economics, and organization of pirates. To effectively organize their banditry, pirates required mechanisms to prevent internal predation, minimize crew conflict, and maximize piratical profit. I argue that pirates devised two institutions for this purpose. First, I analyze the system of piratical checks and balances that crews used to constrain captain predation. Second, I examine how pirates used democratic constitutions to minimize conflict and create piratical law and order. Remarkably, pirates adopted both of these institutions before the United States or England. Pirate governance created sufficient order and cooperation to make pirates one of the most sophisticated and successful criminal organizations in history.
    Of course, in the Gulf Of Musicals, what makes "The Pirates Of Penzance" notable is their exceptional sense of order despite extreme economic inefficiency - just like the rest of the British Empire!
    Salt Lake City Hyper Blimp Goes Astray

    Oh! The humanity!:
    The powerless blimp floated over Salt Lake City and eventually went down in the foothills east of downtown. Scott Duehlmeier, who works in the area where the blimp went down, ran over to see what it was. He picked it up and found it to be a balloon-type object....

    Salt Lake City Police later contacted a man, Daniel Geery, of Salt Lake City, who claimed ownership of the object and admitted that it was a craft he was developing.

    Geery told 2News that he was using a remote control to perform a test flight of his "hyper blimp" at dawn Wednesday when a power pack on the object failed, and drifted away.

    ...Geery knew that he would have trouble retrieving his hyper blimp -- mainly because there was little wind and he knew that meant the balloon would hover for hours.

    Air traffic controllers at Salt Lake City International Airport did not pick up the object on radar and were unaware of what was generating the UFO buzz. Officials say it is possible that federal air traffic regulations were violated and charges are possible against the owner of the blimp.

    ...Some witnesses also reported seeing the same object over the Sugar House area on Tuesday night. However, Salt Lake City Police have not been able to corroborate those claims.
    I used to take ballet in the Sugar House area! I'm sure there was no corroboration because everyone there does tour jetes on Tuesday night!
    "Dreamgirls" - on DVD

    (first draft)

    Overproduced. Wooden dialogue. Motown, without the genius. Predictably, I fell asleep in the easy chair and lost the continuity, and so I'll have to see it again. Eddy Murphy was surprisingly good, the only one with sparkle - Jamie Foxx was surprisingly bad: I can't believe it's the same guy who did such wondrous things with "Ray: Unchain My Heart". Jennifer Hudson was great: fantastic. I like Beyonce Knowles, but I find her arrogance a bit grating: can't be the best without a few foibles, I suppose. Isn't she getting married soon to Jay-Z? That should be fun! Two egos, each the size of Jupiter, crammed into a recording booth....
    Bunny Nurse

    Unfortunately not that kind of bunny and unfortunately not that kind of nurse.
    "Decapitated Woman Defies Odds"

    What a headline! What could it mean?

    Good grief!

    Shannon Malloy's blog....
    Trouble With The Trevi

    Infrastructure issues rear their ugly heads:
    For 2,000 years the Trevi Fountain in Rome has provided a constant influx of fresh water for one of the most fabled sites in the city. Now, with summer around the corner, the supply has dried up....

    Water engineers blame the reduction to a trickle of the normally gushing Aqua Virgo on damage to underground conduits caused by work on a suburban garage.

    ...So as not to disappoint tourists — who throw coins into the Trevi Fountain to make a wish to return to the Eternal City — Acea, the Rome water authority, has been recycling the fountain water for two weeks. Visitors have until now been unaware of the problem. But there is a crisis looming.

    “The problem is that we cannot do this for long,” Acea said. “The Trevi Fountain has to be drained and cleaned every two weeks.”

    ...The severing of the Aqua Virgo has highlighted the remarkable extent to which Rome depends on engineering from two millenniums ago. Its absence has also dried up fountains in the Villa Borghese Gardens, the main park in Rome, as well as on Piazza Colonna in front of Palazzo Chigi, the Prime Minister’s residence, and at the Pantheon.

    Unlike many other Roman water supplies, which were carried above ground, the Aqua Virgo ran largely in conduits beneath the surface and thus survived the neglect of the Middle Ages, when many Roman overground aqueducts collapsed.

    In the 15th century the Aqua Virgo was extended by the papal authorities across Rome to what is now the Trevi Fountain. The present fountain, designed by Niccolò Salvi in 1732, was completed in 1762.

    Officials said that work on the underground garage at a villa in the suburb of Parioli had ruptured the pipes carrying the water. Workers, apparently not realising the consequences, had blocked the conduits with cement and rubble.
    Biting The Hand That Fed Him

    Almost makes you yearn for the days of sexed-up dossiers! Remember, Tony Blair ran with scissors (Dr. Kelly, anyone?) and has only himself to blame for getting sliced up:
    In a sweeping critique of the industry, Mr Blair claimed newspapers, locked into an increasingly bitter sales war in a 24-hour news environment, indulged in "impact journalism" in which truth and balance had become secondary to the desire for stories to boost sales and be taken up by other media outlets.

    He admitted that his own attempts to bypass traditional media through websites and press conferences had been "to no avail". He also conceded that he was partly to blame for the predicament, saying his determination to convey the Labour message in the period of opposition and early years in government had made him complicit in the decline in news standards.

    But he said the fierce competition for stories had led to the media now hunting in a pack. "In these modes it is like a feral beast, just tearing people and reputations to bits, but no one dares miss out."

    He added that distinctions between comment and news had become so blurred that it was rare to find newspapers reporting precisely what a politician was saying. It was incredibly frustrating, he said, adding that politicians had to act immediately to rebut false charges before they became fact.

    Mr Blair said he was describing "something few people in public life will say, but most know is absolutely true: a vast aspect of our jobs today - outside of the really major decisions, as big as anything else - is coping with the media, its sheer scale, weight and constant hyperactivity. At points, it literally overwhelms."

    ...In a world of 24-hour news and huge diversity of outlets, he said, it is impact that gives a competitive edge. "Of course the accuracy of a story counts. But it is secondary to impact. It is this necessary devotion to impact that is unravelling standards, driving them down, making the diversity of the media not the strength it should be but an impulsion towards sensation above all else."

    "News is rarely news unless it generates heat as much as or more than light. Second, attacking motive is far more potent than attacking judgement. It is not enough for someone to make an error. It has to be venal. Conspiratorial."

    Moving on to the regulation of newspapers, Mr Blair said changes were inevitable: "As the technology blurs the distinction between papers and television, it becomes increasingly irrational to have different systems of accountability based on technology that no longer can be differentiated in the old way."

    He also questioned whether papers needed some system of accountability that went beyond sales. He said: "The reality is that the viewers or readers have no objective yardstick to measure what they are being told. In every other walk of life in our society that exercises power, there are external forms of accountability, not least through the media itself.

    Tuesday, June 12, 2007


    It's what made America strong:
    1. Family Guy asks Carol Burnett if they can use the theme to her 1970s variety show.

    2. Carol Burnett says no.

    3. They draw her into the cartoon as the adult bookstore’s cleaning woman.

    And then comes #4 — Carol Burnett sues them.

    The Fox Network has expressed surprise, since she appears in the cartoon for only four seconds, but Burnett’s lawsuit reportedly claimed violations of copyright and trademark law, plus a misappropriation of her name and likeness. This weekend a judge revealed what happens in step 5: Carol Burnett loses that lawsuit.
    The Monsoon Must Be In Full Swing

    Shocking amounts of rain are forecast to fall along the SW coast of India this coming week. The heat low centered over the Empty Quarter of Arabia, and linked with the low over Tibet, are so-o-o-o-o strong that they reverse what should be the normal flow of air from east-to-west at those latitudes. SW India should be a desert, but it's a swamp!
    Get Over It

    Once again, Digby hits the nail on the head:
    Scooter screwed up, pure and simple and whether it was on his own or to cover for his boss, it doesn't matter. To those of us who live out here in the real world, his conviction is not a surprising outcome. If you screw up when you are dealing with the FBI, the DOJ and the CIA and you get caught --- you pay. End of story. Yet, the DC establishment is weeping and wailing and clutching their pearls over this as if Scooter were Emmett Till while the rest of us watch with our jaws agape at their disorienting, inconsistent worldview that seems to operate on some other plane than the rest of us. When we joke about Versailles on the Potomac, this is what we're talking about.

    It is not surprising that people like Scooter Libby and Paris Hilton refuse to accept responsibility for their actions. They are rich and spoiled and don't believe that the rules apply to them. But unlike the limousine liberal Hollywood left, the conservative, law and order DC establishment enlists all of their heavy hitters to keep poor Scooter out of jail no matter what. Here in LA the only one making an ass of herself defending Paris is her mother, who, like the DC courtiers, verbally assaulted the prosecutor and the judge, much to Paris' detriment. It's one thing for a dim-witted socialite to do it in defense of her daughter, but it's a sad day when highest levels of the DC establishment issue puerile threats of political retribution and obscenely assert that "a good man" like their friend Scooter shouldn't have to pay for his crimes.

    ...The problem, of course, is that their "town" isn't really their town and these town elders haven't been elected by anybody. It's the seat of government of the most powerful nation on earth and their little social construct has ramifications for everyone on the planet. When they become screaming gorgons to irrationally protect one of their own (or destroy an outsider) they are telling people that they "are different from you and me," which may have been fine in feudal Europe, but it's a little out of place in 21st century America.

    My advice for Scooter is to tell all these crybabies to back off and take a lesson from Martha Stewart, who showed twice the class and three times the grit he has. Shut up, suck it up and do your time. It won't be the end of the world --- he'll have a lifetime of wingnut welfare waiting for him when he gets out and the GOP mafia will take care of his family while he's in the joint. Let's face it, his career in government was over anyway --- anyone closely associated with Dick Cheney now has the mark of the kevorka. No president will ever trust him again. So, show some class and take it like a man. It's not such a bad fate for a man who helped bring misery, heartache and death to hundreds of thousands of people.

    I'm not sure what to do about the DC establishment, but something must done. They may run the social circuit in their "town" but they don't own this country and somebody needs to make sure these "elders" understand the difference.
    Emergency Room Hell

    King-Harbor Hospital emergency room, where the people working there won't assist you, and where 911 actively insults you for trying to help:
    Subsequent investigations have shown that she writhed on the ground for 45 minutes while being ignored by hospital staff. At one point, a janitor cleaned around her. The episode was captured by the hospital's video cameras.

    ..."He needs to contact a nurse or a doctor and let them know she's vomiting blood," a dispatcher told the interpreter translating for Prado. She also directed him to the county police office, located near the emergency room.

    The other conversation grew heated, as the female bystander refused to be told no.

    "Ma'am I cannot do anything for you for the quality of the hospital there," the second dispatcher said. "Do you understand what I'm saying? This line is for emergency purposes only … 911 is used for emergency purposes only."

    The woman replied, "This is an emergency, Mister."

    The dispatcher cut her off, "It is not an emergency. It is not an emergency ma'am."

    "It is," the woman said.

    "It is not an emergency," the dispatcher replied.

    "You're not here to see how they're treating her," the bystander said.

    "OK, well, that's not a criminal thing. You understand what I'm saying?" the dispatcher said.

    "Excuse me, if this woman is gonna fall out and die, what do you mean that ain't a criminal thing?" the woman said.

    The conversation ended on a hostile note.

    "May God strike you too for acting the way you just acted," the woman told the dispatcher.

    "Negative ma'am, you're the one," he said before disconnecting.
    Flatlander Article Out

    My understanding is that the bimonthly Yolo County "Flatlander" is out, containing my article regarding Baby Blue, the Scrub Jay (written and submitted before her unfortunate demise, however). For the record, here is that article:

    On April 28th, about noon, a strange springtime event occurred. I was raking just outside my back yard gate, when I looked down and found a baby blue jay writhing around, overheating in the sun. I scooped up the hot featherless, closed-eye baby, took him into the kitchen and washed him off under the water tap. I got the ladder and put the bird back in its nest in the hedge, as the mother bird screeched her displeasure from a few feet away.

    The next day, Sunday, about 11:30 a.m., I opened the back gate, looked down, and found two baby birds writhing around. I was getting exasperated. My religious obligation on Sunday doesn’t include this preservation-of-life stuff. Nevertheless, once again, I put the birds back in the nest.

    Four a.m. Monday, I cast a flashlight around under the nest where the baby birds had been falling out that afternoon. Splat on the ground was a very cold, very baby bird! It was clearly going to die soon.

    What to do? I decided to sleep with the bird and nurse it through the night. I cut a sock in half and put the bird inside the bottom end. Then I placed the sock inside a rigid ring of a roll of masking tape, making a nest. I prepared a syringe of water, to hydrate the bird.

    What to feed the bird? In the refrigerator, I had some smoked salmon. I washed the salmon to remove some of the salt and started feeding the bird. She seemed to be a Western Scrub Jay, a common bird which can eat many things. In time, I provided an entire buffet to the bird:
    Do you want the salmon? Lot's of good salmon! How about rice? Here's some hamburger! Or maybe the pineapple? Crushed peanuts? Strawberry is good this time of year. The tuna part of the tuna/cucumber delight is excellent. Apple? How about the beans? Beans are very nutritious! Navy or pinto? The cat food looks great. Asparagus tip is great. You should try it. Look - shrimp! Banana is wonderful (maybe a bit pasty, so don't choke, but yummy!) Mandarin oranges? Lots of vitamin C! How about grapes? Here, let me peel them.... And don't forget the chicken chunks!
    By May 3rd, I had noticed that the jays had disappeared from the vicinity of the house. I got the ladder and checked out the nest – empty. Something bad happened - a predator attack? In any event, it now looked like Baby Blue was a foundling.....

    What a fine companion! Two weeks after I started caring for her, Baby Blue started to fly. Mostly it was a matter of short hops. At home at night, lying on the bed, she’d hop down from her nest and cuddle near my face, poking and tasting my nose, or trying to grapple with my rubbery thumb, fingers, or lips, or fussing with tiny hairs on my hands. When I opened my eyes, she looked up, eager to poke curiously at that huge, magical, mysterious blinking eye.

    Monday night, May 14th, I was sitting in an easy chair and Baby Blue was fluttering about the living room, when she landed on my crossed leg, slipped off, and fell. Even though the drop was only a foot-and-a-half, she hit hard on her breast, and instantly retreated under the coffee table in the manner of a wounded animal.

    The next morning, she wobbled and weaved and fluttered. Twice, she screamed in pain. Nevertheless, she kept her appetite, which suggested to me that the injury, if that’s what it was, need not be life-threatening if she got care. For an hour, we cuddled in the back yard. I called a vet, but he couldn’t respond immediately, so I called the Wildlife Care Association (WCA – phone no. 916-965-WILD) and left a phone message. Before hearing back from them, I decided to take Baby Blue directly to the WCA baby bird nursery in Carmichael.

    The WCA had a reception area in one room and the nursery in another. I could see a woman tending racks of boxes from which the cacophonous roar of many dozens of birds could be heard. The WCA clerk asked me to fill in a form describing how I came to find the bird as he removed Baby Blue from her cardboard box, did a quick inspection, and placed her in a small container topped with a screen. Our conversation was confrontational, however:
    MPV: May I come and visit the bird?
    Clerk: No, you may not.
    MPV: I just want to make sure she is OK.
    Clerk: In our six-month season, we receive five to seven thousand birds. You may not come and visit the bird.
    MPV: Well, then, may I have the bird back?
    Clerk: It is illegal to keep wildlife. You may not have the bird back.
    I was reminded of a scene from the musical "Oliver!", when the opportunistic character of Mr. Bumble is reminded that, in the eyes of the law, he is responsible for his wife's actions. He replies sarcastically, "Well, if the law supposes that, then the law is an ass." Continuing, the clerk said:
    Clerk: The bird needs to be among her own kind. We will take care of her. You did the right thing.
    But it sure didn’t feel like I was doing the right thing! I was fuming. Dagnabit, the dad gum gummint took my bird! Well, not the gummint exactly, not the one we pay taxes to, but a dad gum flock of righteous, liberal, bicycle-riding, mass-transit commuting, Birkenstock-wearing, tofu-eating, pencil-necked geeks who thought they were SO superior in their college educations (ignoring my own degree for the moment…)

    That evening, I returned the three calls on my answering machine from the WCA. Being a decentralized organization, the WCA phone volunteer had returned the calls from her home while I was delivering Baby Blue to the WCA. She was much more sympathetic than the clerk had been. We both agreed that Scrub Jays are remarkably agreeable birds to work with. We discussed the foods that young Scrub Jays should not eat (not avocado, nor chocolate, and probably not the overly-salty smoked salmon I had been feeding the bird with) and the foods they should eat (hard-boiled egg yolk rendered into a paste, stringed-chicken baby food, bananas, peanuts, etc.).

    One reason she began volunteering to help birds was her earnest first experience of saving a Scrub Jay, only to later fail in adequately socializing the bird with other Scrub Jays. The Scrub Jay vanished one day, likely in the claws of a silent, circling hawk the song bird never properly learned about. Found baby birds, even if nursed, are highly-unlikely to survive the real world unless they get proper social skills of the sort untrained people can’t provide.

    I asked if she would check into how Baby Blue is doing at the WCA. She said she would do that for me. I look forward to the occasional updates! I hope Baby Blue will socialize well, and can learn to react to dangerous cats and hawks.

    Monday, June 11, 2007

    Port Of LA Air Pollution

    What I do at work keeps filtering into the real world:
    And that particulate pollution is about to get worse. In light of a court ruling two weeks ago that allows trains to continue to idle on the tracks near Wilmington, pouring diesel fumes into the air hour after hour, a new application by Union Pacific to expand their truck-train hub is attracting more criticism. The company filed an application in March that would double the capacity of its Intermodal Container Transfer Facility (ICTF), but the L.A. Board of Harbor Commissioners rejected it, demanding that Union Pacific adopt new environmental standards. Community activists expect a revised application to be resubmitted any day now.
    Caitlin Humphreys, Anna Miles, And Derren Raser Band, In Concert

    Left: Anna Miles and Caitlin Humphreys

    Saturday night at DMTC featured YPT chanteuses Anna Miles and Caitlin Humphreys in concert (with assistance from RCTC's Gabriel Moctezuma).

    Derren Raser and his band from San Diego performed as well, featuring several songs (including the title song) from their most-recent album "King Of I'll Tell You Next Week".

    Left: Daniel Rhine on bass guitar, Derren Raser with acoustic guitar, and Cole Petersen on the Cajon (Spanish for 'box' - a Peruvian percussion instrument).

    Derren and his band wove a spell with their special brand of folk/rock/jazz music. Just wonderful!

    Quoting from a fine review of "King Of I'll Tell You Next Week" (and referring to the band members):

    Their unfailing belief in Raser’s abilities has kept them following him for more than three years, during which time the band’s unique blend of folk and acoustic rock has emerged as a pleasant new sound in the San Diego music scene. It’s a sound that is at once classic and fresh, hard to classify but easy to listen to. Although the most common comparisons made are to John Mayer and Dave Matthews, these fail to grasp the depth of the band’s roots. Well-schooled music fans will likely recognize a resemblance to the work of James Taylor and Paul Simon, two of Raser’s musical heros.

    Taylor, in particular, is an inspiration for Raser. “I’m a big fan. He loves, I think, to write music that is therapeutic for him but also for other people. A lot of his music is looking at life in an honest way, and I really appreciate that.”

    More pictures of the girls, and Gabe....

    Left: Anna Miles and Caitlin Humphreys

    The song order for the girls was:

    • 'Cabaret', from "Cabaret" (Anna & Caitlin)
    • 'Always True To You In My fashion', from "Kiss Me Kate!" (Caitlin)
    • 'Don't Call Me Trailer Trash', from "Cowgirls" (Caitlin & Anna)
    • 'My Beloved', from "Kismet" (Caitlin)
    • 'Roxy', from "Chicago" (Anna)
    • 'How The Other Half Lives', from "Thoroughly Modern Millie" (Anna & Caitlin)
    • 'The Man That Got Away', from "A Star Is Born" (Anna)
    • 'Ice Cream', from "She Loves Me" (Caitlin)
    • 'For The First Time', from "Tarzan" (Anna, with Gabe)
    • 'Disneyland', from "Smile" (Caitlin & Anna)

      Left: Gabriel Moctezuma

      Left: Anna Miles and Gabriel Moctezuma

      Left: Caitlin Humphreys
    Cloudy At The Vet

    Left: Cloudy the mini-lop explores the vet's office.

    Today I took Cloudy down to VCA Elk Grove Animal Hospital to look into a health issue. She's had a gradual onset of paresis (weakness akin to paralysis) in her hind legs. The folks in Elk Grove took X-Rays, blood samples, urine samples, and perhaps as early as tomorrow will have a preliminary diagnosis.
    Last Week's Floods

    Flood waters are receding from last week's storm in New South Wales, but leaving many headaches.
    More Weekend Musicals On DVD

    Left: Hospital hallucinations.

    Picked up three DVDs, and looked at two: my favorite movie of all time, 1979's Bob Fosse quasi-autobiography, "All That Jazz" , a musical look at Fosse's heart attack while working on the Broadway musical "Chicago", plus 1980's disco-roller skating musical "Xanadu", Gene Kelly's last major motion picture, and a strange mish mash of 40's and 70's influences.

    I just love the scene when Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider), Bob Fosse's alter-ego, escapes from his hospital bed, and winds up in the water-logged basement, where he kicks and splashes in the world's most-pathetic imitation ever conceived of Gene Kelly in "Singin' In the Rain". Gideon stops, looks up at the camera, and plaintively asks the audience: "What's the matter? Don't you like musical comedy?"

    At my funeral, I will need to have "All That Jazz" on closed-loop video feed....

    Then there is Gene Kelly himself, leading the roller skating pack (much later, mocked by roller skating Goldmember in Austin Powers III). What I like about "Xanadu" is that it seems to be ground-zero for many stylistic ideas that inspired Kylie Minogue (who was a very impressionable 12-year-old when this movie came out). Many Kylie ideas lay around like unexploded dynamite, waiting for later use: the Green Fairy from Moulin Rouge; the open eyes emblazoned on the Tubes' drum set; the white regal outfit used in the finale of the "Showgirl - Homecoming" tour (and also claimed by Cher); and in the very same dance, the odd hats adapted for the "Chocolate" video; the "Fever" cityscape, the Village People-type dance corps in "Step Back In Time", etc., etc.

    Two things about these movies made a big impression. First, the lead dancer in the extended 'Take Off With Us (reprise)' dance number in "All That Jazz", Sandahl Bergman, also played Muse #1 in "Xanadu". Amazing - two very different movie musicals, more-or-less coinciding in time, and she was in both! Plus, Kenny Ortega, the director of "High School Musical" (watched that last weekend!) also was co-choreographer of "Xanadu", and therefore worked closely with Gene Kelly, as well as being choreographer for many other 80's and 90's musicals: "St. Elmo's Fire", "Pretty In Pink", "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", "Dirty Dancing", "Newsies", etc. etc.

    Amazing - there is an astonishingly-short, two-generation direct line between 1952's "Singin' In The Rain", and today's Disney "Cheetah Girls".
    SacBee Review Of "The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer"

    Many familiar names in today's review by Jim Carnes:
    [Matthew Taul] also acts very well. His scenes with Huck (well-played by Nicolas Candito, although he looks a little older than the character's 13), Ben Rogers (Cooper Salmon in a restrained and "proper" performance) and Joe Harper (a lanky Alex Ahlstrom in a perfectly kidlike portrayal) are loose and natural. Likewise, his proposal scene with Becky (played by a too-reticent Ginny Gardner) has the feel of youthful innocence that strikes just the right tone. Tom is both con man and confidant. (The role of Becky is played in some performances by Erin Solomon.) Frances Swickard admirably portrays the thoroughly honorable, though less-fortunate, young Gracie Miller. Her character represents Twain's acknowledgment of a social stratification that is at odds with the otherwise perfect community he creates.

    Among the adults, Zach Wiedenhoeft, who plays teacher Walter Potter, and Brandon Johnson, who plays his father, the alcoholic Muff Potter, are most successful. Their tenuous relationship -- the son's love constantly threatened by disappointment in the father, the father's love always inadequately expressed -- is finely crafted. Michael Manley, his 40 years of acting experience showing, is solid in the dual roles of Doc Robinson and Judge Thatcher, and the single-named actor Roscoe brings a frightening intensity to the character of Injun Joe.

    The women are less successful, and it must be partly due to Twain's approach to the story. He's obviously more interested in telling the boy's story.

    A way-too-young Isabel Siragusa plays an ineffectual Aunt Polly; as the Widow Douglas, Melissa Rae Frago presents a character who speaks with the reluctance of a woman who has yet to learn to assert herself; and Athena Bergen as Mrs. Thatcher is given little to do except to sing a bit of opera to Potter's students, which Bergen does very well.