Friday, July 13, 2007

"Tommy" - DMTC - Concert Version

Here are some images from Friday, July 13th, opening night.

Left: Young Tommy, Adult Tommy, and Teen Tommy (Maya Rothman, Jon Jackson, and Sabrina Schloss). In background, French Horn player Scott Sablan and Hal Wright on Bass Guitar.

Captain Walker (Paul Fearn), Young Tommy (Maya Rothman), and Mrs. Walker (Kat DeLapp). Seated in background, Scott Suwabe, and Steven Ross.

"Do You Think It's All Right?" Captain Walker (Paul Fearn), Young Tommy (Maya Rothman), Mrs. Walker (Kat DeLapp), and Uncle Ernie (Steve Ross). Seated, Maya Rothman, Chris Petersen, Bob Tootle, and Scott Suwabe.

"Fiddle About". Uncle Ernie (Steven Ross) and Teen Tommy (Sabrina Schloss). Singing in background, Abram Stein Freer, Bob Tootle, and Scott Suwabe. Steve Isaacson on drums and Erik Daniells on keyboard.

"Cousin Kevin". Cousin Kevin (Abram Stein Freer) and Teen Tommy (Sabrina Schloss). Singing in background, Bob Tootle, Scott Suwabe, and Steven Ross.

"Acid Queen". Teen Tommy (Sabrina Schloss) and the Gypsy (Claire Impens). Seated, left to right, Helen Spangler, Chris Petersen, Bob Tootle, Steven Ross, Kat DeLapp, Emily Clark, and Sarah Illig. Musicians in background, left to right, Ben Wormeli, Steve Isaacson, Hal Wright, and Erik Daniells.

"Go To The Mirror". Captain Walker (Paul Fearn), Mrs. Walker (Kat DeLapp), and Young Tommy (Maya Rothman). Seated, Chris Petersen, Bob Tootle, Scott Suwabe, and Abram Stein-Freer.

"Smash The Mirror". Tommy (Jon Jackson) and Mrs. Walker (Kat DeLapp).

"I'm Free". Tommy (Jon Jackson). Seated in darkness, (obscured), Jan Isaacson, Helen Spangler, Paul Fearn, Chris Petersen, Bob Tootle, Scott Suwabe, Abram Stein-Freer, Kat DeLapp, and Emily Clark. Musicians in background, Jonathan Rothman, Ben Wormeli, Steve Isaacson, Hal Wright, and Erik Daniells.

"Tommy's Holiday Camp". Two pictures of Uncle Ernie (Steven Ross). Seated in background, Scott Suwabe, Abram Stein-Freer, Kat DeLapp, and Emily Clark. Musicians in background: Scott Sablan, Hal Wright, and Erik Daniells.

"We're Not Going To Take It". Tommy (Jon Jackson) and the Ensemble. Singing in background, Sarah Illig, Sabrina Schloss, Abram Stein-Freer, Bob Tootle, Scott Suwabe, and Steven Ross. Playing in background, Erik Daniells on keyboard.

Bows. Dannette Vassar, Claire Impens, Helen Spangler, Kat DeLapp, Maya Rothman, Jon Jackson, Sabrina Schloss,Scott Suwabe, Sarah Illig. In background, Steve Isaacson on drums and Hal Wright on Bass Guitar.
Wall Street Journal Graphs

Oh! The humanity! Matt Yglesias puts into words my horror when seeing this graph:
That doesn't even remotely resemble a best fit curve. They've drawn the line straight-through an outlier. And look how steep it is at the right hand side. They're asking us to believe that the marginal impact of increasing corporate income tax rates above the Norwegian level is not only negative, but massively negative in a way that none of the non-Norway data bears out. It's an insult to everyone's intelligence.
Mark Cuban Discusses Music Sales

Interesting views. With my antediluvian buying habits I know I'll buy the last CD ever made, so it's nice to look forward to the future when there will be no more CDs (which will arrive probably by next week):
So here we are 2 years later and the media is full of articles about the seemingly never ending decline in CD sales and the inability of digital sales to close the gap. Can anyone be surprised ?

When was the last time you saw anyone listening to music on a CD Player ? At the gym ? No. At the Mall, maybe only some of the senior walkers at 9am. On downtown streets at lunch ? No.

Does anyone even know what percent of music is listened to via CD any longer ?

I would say the music industry has put itself in the position of being incredibly stupid. They are dependent on a format, the CD, that few people listen to. Although this is a guess, my guess is that the majority of CD purchases are then put in a PC and imported into an MP3 or other format for consumption on a mobile device. Few people buy a CD and just listen to it. Which means you can say goodbye to impulse buying of CDs.

We are in a market where, whether we like it or not, the music industry has tethered us to our PCs. The easiest way to buy, the easiest way to get the greatest utillity of their products is via the PC. Thats a HUGE, HUGE, HUGE mistake. Did i say that it was a huge mistake to make the PC an inevitable part of the music buying process.

...Can the music industry be saved ? Yep. It would be so easy its scary. Make music available anywhere and everywhere.

...I would find a manufacturer of cash machines, the ones you see in every bar, restaurant, mini-mart and retail outlet and work with them to reconfigure the machines so that they can hold a hard drive that can be updated with new songs via wired or wireless internet access and whose screen can offer a simple interface for people to select music. The consumer plugs in their SD card from their phone, or plugs the USB cable attached to the machine into their IPod or similar device and the music selected, downloaded and debited to the customers credit or debit card. Pay the machine host a commission, or a per transaction and everyone goes home happy.

Why wouldnt the music industry do this ? I understand the difficulty of getting an entire industry to do anything, particularly the music industry where the fault is always someone elses'. But this is a matter of survival and the solution is simple.

...None of this is rocket science. In fact, its easy. Music Kiosks have been proposed for years and years. Kiosks have been developed time and again. They haven't worked because they have been over engineered and music labels haven't made enough content available.

...The only difficult part of the music equation is buying it. Sitting in front of your PC works sometimes, but it isn't optimal all the time. Where ever you see people listening to music, they should be able to buy and immediately listen to their new music. Why can't the music industry get that we should be able to buy music when we want, where we want, in the format in which we consume it, on our IPods and comparable devices. Until that happens, total music sales will continue to decline and quickly.
Stealth Advertising

Parasites! Sounds like the "Daily Show" could do wonders with this (if they haven't already):
A few years ago, we predicted that the spread of DVRs was going to change advertising culture, as viewers gained the ability to jump past commercials and free themselves from scheduled broadcasting times. Now a new study from the University of Oregon has found that local news broadcasts are being infiltrated by advertising at around the same rate that DVR users skip ads.

The fact that DVRs allow viewers to skip adverts is seen as one of their biggest benefits by users, but advertisers—and the TV networks that depend on them—are not so happy. Ad buyers don't want to pay full price for slots that viewers will never see, and TV networks are going as far as asking fans not to watch timeshifted programs but instead watch them live, lest the show in question get canceled.

Since the economies we live in depend on consumer spending, those on the selling side of the equation need a way to get the message out regarding their new product, and if viewers aren't prepared to watch the adverts, then some other way of reaching them will be used. The researchers looked at 17 different TV stations in the US over a four-month period in 2004. The study, published in Electronic News, monitored 2 newscasts a month for each station and looked for instances where 'stealth adverts' crept into the news reporting. A stealth advert, according to Jim Upshaw, one of the authors of the report, is when a commercial message promoting a product is "cloaked in some other garment than a normal commercial."

Upshaw and his colleagues found that 90 percent of the newscasts contained at least one instance of stealth advertising, including product placement within stories or on the anchors' desks, and sponsored segments. Small-to-medium sized stations were more susceptible to the trend than those serving larger markets.
"Barebones" Coming

Tonight, just before Pepper Von's 'Get Fit Jam', the fabulous Tina DeVine was passing out cards promoting the next dance presentation of Sacramento's C.O.R.E. Dance Collective. When she said tickets can be bought on-line, I let her know I was impressed. She said "we've got it together!"

Make plans now! These are great dancers!

The show is called:


August 10th & 11th 2007

Benvenuti Performing Arts Center
4600 Blackrock Dr.
Sacramento, CA 95835

General Admission $16.00
It's interesting that they will dance at Natomas Charter School's new theater. Sort of break the place in! Tickets can be purchased on-line at C.O.R.E.'s Web Site.
The Madding Crowd At The Airport

So there is a back story here:
But there are bigger things going on, frankly. Speaking of Alan Levin, maybe you caught his front-page story earlier this week on the nightly tarmac gridlock at Kennedy airport. The situation at JFK has reached a breaking point, and it is symptomatic of a nationwide crisis. Maybe Levin was distracted by 787 fever, but like almost everyone else who has written about the worsening problem of congestion and delays, he neglects to acknowledge the elephant in the room: the hundreds of small regional planes -- those "Express" and "Connection" code-share flights -- that are jockeying for space, both on the ground and aloft, with larger planes.

These code-share arrangements have been around for decades but have spread tremendously in recent years thanks to the advent of fast and efficient regional jets, or RJs. Their small size and large numbers add up to a disproportionate impact on traffic flow. From an airspace point of view, a plane is a plane is a plane, regardless of how many chairs are on board. At some airports, regionals make up half of total traffic while carrying only a quarter of the passengers. Not to hammer this topic more than is due -- we gave it a good going over back in June -- but with summer delays at record levels it's worth reiterating, particularly since neither the carriers nor the FAA seem interested in taking the matter seriously, choosing instead to blame "weather" and air-traffic-control equipment shortcomings for what in truth is an airline scheduling issue.

I recently returned to airline flying after a nearly six-year hiatus. Obviously the business has been transformed since 2001, from security to salaries, but two unpleasant changes have jumped out at me.

First is the weather. This is wholly anecdotal and by no means a scientific observation, but the number and strength of thunderstorms and convective activity seem drastically worse than in years past. This is especially true in and around the crowded Northeast corridor. I spent several years based in New York and Boston in the early and mid-1990s. Summer thunderstorms were at worst an occasional, maybe weekly occurrence. Now they are hitting almost every afternoon, with lines of majestically sculpted cumulonimbus clouds ripping through New England as if it were tropical Africa.

Regardless of what is or isn't causing this climatic weirdness, its impact wouldn't be half so bad if not for the staggering volume of air traffic attempting to navigate through and around it. I've never seen anything like it. Long waits and holding patterns are routine now, even on clear sunny days. And an ever-growing percentage of that traffic is made up of regionals. Check out those evening conga lines at Kennedy, and you're liable to spot a 500-passenger Boeing 747 sandwiched between four 50-seaters. Elsewhere it's similar. At LaGuardia and Washington-National, the number of RJs and, to a lesser extent, turboprop feeder craft, is astonishing, often outnumbering the Boeings and Airbuses of the majors.

...Your attention please: With scattered exceptions, there is no such thing as a weather delay. They are traffic delays. Your flight was not late because of the weather. It was late because there are too many small airplanes carrying too few people, end of story.
Arizona's King Lear

Interesting parallel:
Watching the mass defections from the McCain camp, I couldn’t help but think of King Lear. As the play (Shakespeare’s darkest) progresses, Lear consistently loses half of his army (or “train”) -- it dwindles from 100 to 50 to 25 on down to nothing. The loss mirrors his own descent from powerful king to senility and death.

...Here’s a man whose daughter – daughter – was viciously slandered by the GOP political machine in South Carolina, which included the social conservative hierarchy. Here’s a man who endured unspeakable torture. Here’s a man who, for better or worse, came to prominence through high-profile dissents from party orthodoxy. And in the past three years, he’s abandoned it all.

...But fast forward a few years, and we see McCain kissing up to the very people who slandered his daughter. He speaks at their commencements. He publicly hugs the man whose campaign personally and viciously attacked him and his family. It’s utter humiliation.

Same deal with torture. It's not possible for me to know what McCain endured in Vietnam, and I won't pretend to. I’ll only guess that it left a tremendous impact on him, and that he must privately detests torture. Fast forward to 2006 though and we see him betray that conviction for political expediency. Despite some initial high-profile dissent, McCain ultimately supported what everyone knew was an official sanction of state torture. Because the NRO/Reynolds/Falwell wing of the party is what it is, he decided he had to support torture in order to be president. And on this, he was right.

In short, you have a man forced to swallow his pride, to repress deeply-felt emotions, and to essentially repudiate his entire being to be President.

...That’s what makes running for president such a high-stakes gamble. To gain it all, you risk it all. McCain’s soul-selling will be remembered (forever) in one of two very different ways. On the one hand, it could be remembered as the shrewd political calculation that won him the nomination and then the presidency. More likely, it will be remembered as pathetic hypocrisy that will accompany his permanent, eternal humiliation. He will soon go from media darling to “pathetic loser.” Dukakis: Welcome to the club.

...But that’s the cost. Running for president isn’t for the weak at heart. It’s a high-stakes bet. For a chance at political greatness and immortality, you risk a great deal. McCain did just that, but it looks like he lost.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Christmas UK Television Offering

Kylie as Dr. Who's French maid.
DMTC's "Tommy" - Opens Tomorrow

Left: "Tommy can you Hear me?" (front to back) Maya Rothman (Young Tommy), Sabrina Schloss (Teen Tommy) and Jon Jackson (Adult Tommy) in DMTC's production of The Who's TOMMY.

Tomorrow night, DMTC will open a concert version of the Who's "Tommy". The show will continue for three weekends, at the usual times (Fri. & Sat. 8:15pm; Sun. 2:15pm).

The musicians at DMTC, in particular, have been pining for another opportunity to play The Who's wonderful score ever since DMTC staged "Tommy" in 2001, and now they get their chance! Wonderful singers as well!

Since it's a concert version, there won't be any choreography or scenic art, but keeping a bond with the technology-heavy Broadway show version, there will be multimedia lighting design and display.
RSP's Princess And The Pea

I liked the photo:

Left: Runaway Stage Productions "The Princess and the Pea" features, from left, Hannah Ludwig as the princess, Kathleen Flint as the queen and Jason Parsons as the prince.
Runaway Stage Productions' Storybook Children's Theatre will present "The Princess and the Pea."

This interactive and whimsical production, written by Lillian Baxter, is an original adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen classic fairy tale.

When: Noon and 2 p.m.

Saturday, July 21 and 28

Where: 24th Street Theatre

2791 24th St., Curtis Park

Cost: $5 per person

Contact: (916) 207-1226

Richard Abowitz says it's not fair that the Las Vegas Strip is not one of the New Wonders of the World:
Civic pride forces me to point out that unlike the original, our Colosseum is not a ruin and still hosts Celine Dion (call it a draw on that one) with bonus points for the weeks Elton John performs. In fact, the Las Vegas Strip was not even a nominee among the 21 choices. Yet, among the nominees we have three replicas: a pyramid (improved by a giant light bulb on top), an Eiffel Tower and a Statue of Liberty. That leaves out freaks of nature like the massive MGM Grand resort. How about the endless pool at the Flamingo. I mean, what would an alien coming to Earth think of Vegas? The entire bizarre Strip with its lakes and a volcano erupting nightly and lights reaching into the heavens and all of it built on the same street in the middle of nowhere and for no visible reason. Hello! Who wouldn't be left in wonder? Imitate enough you truly create something original. And, everyone agrees, there is no place like Vegas.

Yet, somehow the Sidney Opera House was a finalist and not the Las Vegas Strip. Maybe we are too familiar for people to give us the wonder we deserve? ...Unlike the other wonders, which are fixed to the time and date of their construction, the wonder of the Strip skyline is ever changing. But doesn't that make it even more unique among humanity's creations? There is also plenty to wonder at already. I don't see how the engineering and architectural billions poured into a tiny remote part of the Nevada desert can not be considered one of the wondrous achievements outside nature's own?

...All that aside, there is a spot near my home where after sunset I can get a clear view of the Strip all lit up. I am awed every time. Yet even from a quiet distance, you know, the frantic human activity that is always thriving under those lights. Anyway, though not a finalist and a bit late, I cast my vote for the Las Vegas Strip as one of the 7 new wonders of the world.
More Trouble For McCain

Florida is an important state:
Florida state Representative Bob Allen (R), who is co-chairman of McCain's Florida campaign, was arrested in a Titusville park restroom on charges of solicitation after he approached a plain clothes police officer and offered to perform oral sex on the officer for $20.

...Late Update: TPM Reader JP notes, perhaps not surprisingly, that the Rainbow Democratic Club, a Dem gay rights group in Central Florida gave Allen its "worst of the worst" rating for his votes on gay issues.
First, They Came For The Fat People

Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani blame Michael Moore (actually, in the movie, it looked to me like Moore had lost weight recently):
The former Arkansas governor told reporters in a conference call Wednesday that he hasn't seen and probably won't see Moore's documentary "Sicko," which calls for an overhaul of America's health care system.

"Frankly, Michael Moore is an example of why the health care system costs so much in this country. He clearly is one of the reasons that we have a very expensive system. I know that from my own personal experience," said Huckabee, who lost more than 110 pounds and became an avid runner after he was diagnosed with diabetes.

"I know how much more my health care cost when I didn't take care of myself than when I do take care of myself, not only in terms of doctor visits but regular diseases, illnesses, chronic things that come up, monthly prescription bills," Huckabee said. "All of those things have gone dramatically down since I've taken care of myself and worked to live a healthier lifestyle."

No comment could be obtained from Moore, but Meghan O'Hara, producer of "Sicko," questioned Huckabee's motives in criticizing Moore.

"Looks like Mike Huckabee is auditioning for some insurance company dough, since he's raised just about no money and sparked zero interest since jumping into the race," O'Hara said in a response provided by Moore's production office. "I wonder what the good governor would say to the French, who drink more, smoke more, eat more cheese and still live longer than us despite paying less for health care?"

...Tuesday, Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani cited the filmmaker when he said promises of universal health care are hollow and simply not manageable.

"If you try to do socialized medicine, a la Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Barack Obama or Michael Moore, you're going to end up with a disaster," the former New York mayor said.

O'Hara said the comments by Huckabee and Giuliani illustrated problems with the GOP approach to reducing health-care costs.

"No wonder the Republicans are in such trouble - their entire plan to fix the health care system in this country is to tell people to lose weight," she said. "Maybe if Mike Huckabee and his Republican friends stopped sucking up to health-insurance campaign contributors they wouldn't feel the need to blame Americans for this crisis. Just because he stopped eating Twinkies by the bushel doesn't make that an outline for a national health care plan.
Alien Abduction

The Australian press takes a look at Roswell, NM:
Aliens are everywhere. They're on T-shirts, postcards, socks and keychains. There is an Army-themed restaurant called the Cover-Up Cafe ("where all the recipes are secret"). Green, two-toed footprints meander down Main Street to the local souvenir shop. The McDonald's restaurant mimics a UFO and another eatery has a sign out the front proclaiming: "Aliens Welcome."

About 35,000 people descended on Roswell at the weekend – nearly doubling the southeast New Mexico town's population – for the annual Amazing Roswell UFO Festival. The event was set up in the 1990s to debate what really happened when a supposed flying saucer (later officially claimed to be a top-secret weather balloon) crashed on a nearby ranch in July, 1947.

Besides concerts and costume parades, attendees were treated to lectures on topics such as "UFO files from the United Kingdom and government surveillance of ufologists" to cater for those who believe the US military is still hiding the truth about the crash and the existence of alien life.

It's an enduring mystery; evidence is inconclusive but tantalising enough to fuel the fervour of believers.

It all started on July 8, 1947, when the Roswell Army Air Field issued – and later retracted – a press release about a "flying disc" it had recovered from the nearby ranch.

The US military maintained it was instead a weather balloon, and fitting debris was displayed to quell the drama.

More than 30 years passed and the incident was generally forgotten.

But then, an Army officer who took part in the recovery of the debris, Major Jesse Marcel, came forward to assert that it had been from an alien spacecraft, and that the government had engaged in a cover-up.

Eventually, the Air Force disclosed it had been part of Project Mogul, a top-secret effort to monitor Soviet-era nuclear testing. But that story never satisfied believers who advanced tales of alien bodies recovered in the desert.

The Roswell Incident was born and, with it, a fascination that spread from supermarket tabloids to the popular imagination. Last month, the true believers' cause received a boost when Lieutenant Walter Haut, the public relations officer at the base in 1947 who issued the conflicting press releases, made a posthumous declaration that not only was the weather ballon story a cover up, he had actually seen the alien bodies.

It's a stunning claim, one sure to fire further fascination in the desert site – a fascination that a few hardy entrepreneurs hope will prove a money-spinner.

One keen American duo have a dream: Earth Station Roswell, a $78 million resort and conference centre for UFO enthusiasts featuring a 1000-seat concert centre, an exhibit hall, fine-dining restaurant, cafe, delicatessen, lounge, a 400-seat theatre and lecture hall, a lagoon-style swimming pool and a massive underground parking garage.

The anchor would be the "Mothership", a 23m high, 300-room hotel that one of the hopeful developers, Gene Frazier, calls "the world's largest replica of a flying saucer".

It's not just Roswell's business people who see dollar signs on space aliens.

The city is accepting proposals for a builder-operator to run the UFO amusement park, a multimillion-dollar project that could open by 2010.

The local UFO boom really began in 1992, when Walter Haut and Glenn Dennis – a local mortician who claimed a nurse on the base had told him of autopsies performed on aliens taken from the wreckage – founded the International UFO Museum and Research Centre.

Now the resort proposal and the plan by city officials to build a UFO-themed amusement park – complete with an indoor roller coaster that would take passengers on a simulated alien abduction – have fuelled talk: How much should Roswell exploit its little green men?

There are those, like Haut's daughter Julie Shuster, director of the UFO museum he co-founded, who question if UFO exploitation has gone too far.

"Greed and ego are rampant among the UFO field and among everybody who is trying to capitalise on it," she says, shaking her head.

Julie Shuster grew up in Roswell. She describes its residents as cautious people. The town's economy once relied on petroleum exploration, banking, dairy, ranching and the military, at least until the air force base closed in 1967.

They didn't talk about the UFO affair.

"People were told – people in the military, in particular – if you want a loan or government assistance for you, your kids or your grandkids, you won't say anything about it now or ever," she says.

In the face of official denials, she says the point of her father's museum is not to prove that an alien spacecraft really crashed, but simply to present information from both sides of the debate and let visitors make up their own minds.

The museum has greeted 2.5 million visitors in the 15 years since its founding.

According to one analysis, it generates $40 million in indirect spending each year for the city of 50,000 residents.

Larry and Sharon Welz, owners of the Roswell Space Centre souvenir shop, lament that Roswell has not done even more to embrace the UFO phenomenon.

"The signs coming into town say, 'Welcome to Roswell, Dairy Capital of the Southwest'," Sharon Welz says.

"Are you kidding? You should exploit the UFO thing. It's a commodity.

"When you say Roswell, everyone thinks about aliens."

But all this has produced its cynics.

"We're beginning to wonder," says one tourist, Brian Lewis of California, passing through Roswell recently with his family, "if the real conspiracy is to draw in all the tourists."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Kent Couch's Big Adventure

So much fun!:
Last weekend, Kent Couch settled down in his lawn chair with some snacks -- and a parachute. Attached to his lawn chair were 105 large helium balloons.

...With instruments to measure his altitude and speed, a global positioning system device in his pocket, and about four plastic bags holding five gallons of water each to act as ballast -- he could turn a spigot, release water and rise -- Couch headed into the Oregon sky.

Nearly nine hours later, the 47-year-old gas station owner came back to earth in a farmer's field near Union, short of Idaho but about 193 miles from home.
Been Watching "Billy Elliot"

Nothing better than my two favorites in one movie - Ballet and Marc Bolan:
Ride it on out like a bird in the sky ways
Ride it on out like if you were a bird
Fly it all out like an eagle in a sunbeam
Ride it on out like if you were a bird

Wear a tall hat like a druid in the old days
Wear a tall hat and a tatooed gown
Ride a white swan like the people of the Beltane
Wear your hair long, babe you can't go wrong

Catch a bright star and a place it on your fore-head
Say a few spells and baby, there you go
Take a black cat and sit it on your shoulder
And in the morning you'll know all you know, oh

Wear a tall hat like a druid in the old days
Wear a tall hat and a tatooed gown
Ride a white swan like the people of the Beltane
Wear your hair long, babe you can't go wrong

Da-da-di-di-da, da-da-di-di-da ....
Help, He's Melting!

No, it's just that he embraced The Surge just when everyone else headed for the exits:
John McCain's campaign manager, chief strategist and other senior aides quit Tuesday, the second major staff shake-up in a week for the Republican presidential candidate who trails his rivals in money and polls.

...McCain's fortunes soured considerably this year as he embraced President Bush's troop increase for the Iraq war, an unpopular conflict with the public but one supported by most Republicans, and a bipartisan immigration bill that has divided the GOP.

Over the past six months, his donors and supporters were turned off by what they viewed as McCain embracing the policies of a lame-duck president with abysmal approval ratings. That caused McCain's polling and fundraising to suffer.

...McCain's support in national polls has slipped. He is in single digits in some surveys in Iowa and South Carolina, trailing Giuliani, the former New York mayor; Romney, the ex-governor of Massachusetts, and Fred Thompson, the actor and former Tennessee senator who hasn't officially entered the race.
I Don't Get It

Gabe and I were discussing whether I'm a Baby Boomer (as if!) or, instead, belong to Generation Jones, and he sent me this....

Joke comprehension may decrease with age

A new psychology study at Washington University was no laughing matter: It found that older adults may have a harder time getting jokes because of an age-related decline in certain memory and reasoning abilities.

The research suggested that because older adults may have greater difficulty with cognitive flexibility, abstract reasoning and short-term memory, they also have greater difficulty with tests of humor comprehension.

Researchers tested about 40 healthy adults over age 65 and 40 undergraduate students with exercises in which they had to complete jokes and stories. Participants also had to choose the correct punch line for verbal jokes and select the funny ending to series of cartoon panels.

...The research conducted by graduate student Wingyun Mak and psychology professor Brian Carpenter showed that the younger adults did 6 percent better on the verbal jokes and 14 percent better on the comic portion than did older participants, Mak said.

The researchers, citing past work in the field, wrote that humor research is "rooted in the philosophical notion that humor arises from a sense of incongruity, a conflict between the expected and the actual."

"Successful comprehension of humor occurs upon resolving something that is seemingly incongruous with a logical but less obvious explanation."

..."There are basic cognitive mechanisms to understanding what's going on in a joke. Older adults, because they may have deficits in some of those cognitive areas, may have a harder time understanding what a joke is about."

Mak said humor comprehension merits further study because of the potential physical and psychological benefits of humor.

"I think it's really important to note this doesn't mean older adults aren't funny or don't understand humor," Mak, who is from Los Angeles, said.

She said humor comprehension and humor appreciation are tested in different ways. The Washington University study didn't delve into humor appreciation. In fact, Mak said, older study participants who may have picked the wrong answers may also have been laughing at their choices at the time.
Exasperating Australian Weather

The forecast for the next week looks typically bad. Dry everywhere. Storms approach the western coast and fragment before arrival. Storms generate off the east coast, but never actually rain on land. Storms graze the southern coast. The north coast is clear. And a big fat nothing in the middle.

And the Southern Oscillation Index is plunging, down to -6.2.
Thinking Ahead To An Iraq Without U.S. Troops

From Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings:
I fully expect that when we withdraw and things go to hell, people will blame the withdrawal and those who advocated it. That will happen, but it will be completely wrong. One reason is that, as I've said, I see no reason to think that our presence in Iraq does more than delay the moment when things fall apart. But the more important reason is that the real reason why things will go to hell is not our withdrawal, but the fact that we invaded in the first place. Specifically:

  • Before we invaded, Iraq was not, and would not become, a sanctuary for al Qaeda. Now it is.
  • Before we invaded, Iraq was not about to descend into civil war; it is now in the middle of one.
  • Saddam was horrendous to his people, and I have never tried to minimize that fact, but I think that the life of an ordinary Iraqi now is plainly worse than it was under his regime.
  • Before we invaded, there was no real prospect of a regional war: Saddam was effectively contained, but not so weak as to tempt his neighbors to invade. Now, a regional war is a serious possibility.
  • Before we invaded, Saddam posed no significant threat to us. He had been disarmed and contained, and had we given the inspectors enough time to finish their work, we would have known that. Now the blowback from this war has reached the United Kingdom, and it is only thanks to the incompetence of the would-be terrorists that no one was killed. It will undoubtedly reach other countries as well, possibly including our own.
  • Before we invaded, Iran was in a much weaker position than it is in today, and it was seeking negotiations with us. The invasion has undone decades of work trying to contain Iranian influence in the region.
  • Moreover, the invasion has threatened the stability of a number of nearby countries, including allies like Jordan.

    We created all these problems -- along with others, like the immense damage to our moral standing caused by the abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere -- when we invaded and then failed to act immediately to restore order and security for Iraq's citizens. We have been trying to fix them for years, without anything remotely resembling success. When we leave, those problems will probably get a lot worse. If we leave soon, they will get a lot worse soon; if we stick around to keep a lid on them, they will get a lot worse when we eventually give up.

    The timing of our withdrawal will determine when the Iraqi people will be plunged into a deeper hell than the one they are already in. But that that will happen is not the result of the withdrawal. It is the result of what we set in motion when we had the clever idea of invading a complicated country without either a good reason or a clear idea of what we were going to do once we got there.

    We sowed the wind. The Iraqi people are about to reap the whirlwind. We can delay this, at a terrible cost, but we cannot prevent it.
Family Values

OK, then:
Asked by an interviewer in 2000 whether she could forgive her husband if she learned he'd had an extramarital affair, as Hillary Clinton and Bob Livingston's wife had done, Wendy Vitter told the Times-Picayune: "I'm a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary. If he does something like that, I'm walking away with one thing, and it's not alimony, trust me."

Monday, July 09, 2007

Investing Terrorists With Super-Human Capabilities

Today's Wall Street Journal article entitled 'The Gitmo Distraction', by David B. Rivkin, Jr. and Lee A. Casey (Justice Dept. veterans from the 80's) illustrates just how pathetic the Bush Administration has been in its approach towards handling Al Qaeda terrorists.

The problem is that the Bushies are scared witless by these terrorists, even if the terrorists are naked and folded pretzel-like into stress positions on waterboards and have been kept up all night listening to deafening Metallica and AC/DC riffs and fishing their Korans out of chamberpots. Apparently the terrorists have special intelligence that never ages, no matter how many years they spend behind bars, and special skills, like being able to read minds, expose military secrets, and corrupt the entire American judicial system with impertinent requests for habeas corpus. The Bushies have no faith at all in the American judicial system's capability of judging their cases. It makes you wonder why anyone would bother defending something called America justice at all, given these insecurities. It makes you yearn for the confident leadership of the sort that won World War II, rather than the modern sort that runs scared from ghosts like discovery and due process....

Look, you are the jailers, not the jailed. Osama bin Laden is not Spiderman. None of his followers have magical powers. Cut them; they bleed. Imprison terrorists indefinitely, they go nuts. Same goes with kidnappees that were sold to us in Afghanistan for bounties and might not belong to Al Qaeda at all. They all have cases that need ajudication under laws recognizable to civilized people. Decide these cases, and move on. This indefinite postponement of War on Terror decisions does no one any favors, least of all, ourselves. Inventing legal proceedings out of John Yoo's fervid unitary-executive imagination does not speed things along, either: it does just the opposite. So, stop doing it. If appropriate laws aren't available, get Congress to act. Above all, act humanely. Hiding and torturing people in Gitmo is dark, shameful, and advances no war goals.

Examples from this lame, fearful article:

From the start of this conflict, al Qaeda's strategy has been to take maximum advantage of Western sensibilities and institutions, including public opinion and legal rules which limit what states can do in their own defense....Detaining captured al Qaeda and Taliban operatives as enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay was, and remains, a central aspect of [Bush Administration wartime paradigm] policy and there is little doubt that abandoning it will be seen by al Qaeda as a failure of American nerve and a vindication of their strategic vision.
This is raw fear masquerading as analysis. There is no evidence for such far-sighted strategic thinking by Al Qaeda, and much evidence to argue the opposite. 9/11, for example, was not a brilliant public relations maneuver for Al Qaeda in the West.

...[B]ringing the detainees into the U.S. also would be no panacea. This too would be costly, involving creation of new maximum-security prison space in an already overcrowded federal system.
We are spending ten billion dollars a month, just in Iraq. Tossing in a fancy prison for a hundred million dollars, something that might save our worldwide reputation (the real source of our international power) is something we can easily afford - chump change, actually.

And what if the courts rule that classified information must be revealed to guarantee a fair trial? Oh! The horror! Why it's 'damaging the war effort'! We'll be defeated because secrets about what brand of handcuffs we use will be revealed!

Look, a prisoner mop-up operation is not the same as the Manhattan Project. Have some perspective, and some sense, about what 'classified' information is all about, and what can be revealed to secure a conviction. If Valerie Plame's identity can be revealed without caring the least bit for the consequences, so too can details about American soldiers arresting people in Afghanistan.

And what about our fickle allies? Lies about what they want are helpful....

However, Europe's real objection is not to the detainees' location at a U.S. naval base in Cuba, but to their confinement as enemy combatants in the first place. By and large, Europe has never accepted that there is a "war" on terror. Moving detainees to Afghanistan or the U.S. will not change this.
Since Europe has been the site of many Al Qaeda terrorist efforts, the Europeans most certainly understand and support the concept of detaining terrorists. What Europeans object to is the torture of suspects, abandoning more than a century of hard-won Geneva Convention progress, and the surrender of human rights available to detainees even during the worst of the Middle Ages, available even when Hitler was in power. Europeans have hard experience watching dictatorships strip their citizens of rights, and that's what they see here - a new Orwellian American Fascism that will eventually threaten them as well.

Rivkin and Casey are such cowards. If they fear American Law, no wonder they can't defeat terrorists, even disoriented terrorists on hunger strikes. Call your pliable Congress persons and get them to help with what you can't find in the law. Make some phone calls. Even call a few Democrats. They are nice people, and won't bite. If these political windvanes won't help, however, then maybe there is something wrong about what you want in the first place....

Wanna scare a Bushie lawyer? Just say "The Hague".

Electrocuting Hot Dogs

Deborah recommends this. Where James the Gourmand stands is unclear (he probably plugged the dang thing in and isn't available to speak for himself anymore):

If you're *not* going to eat the hot dog, a neat trick is to stick a bunch of standard LEDs into it. (Yes, this really works!) Apparently the voltage between nearby points on the hot dog is fairly low, since the LEDs don't seem to burn out.
As the hot dog cooks, the resistance of the hot dog increases and the LEDs get dimmer since less current can flow through them. If you look *very* closely (or take a time lapse movie) you can see the LEDs move further apart as the hot dog swells during cooking.


Lethal current, voltage, and fire can result from attempting this project. Just because we lived to tell about this doesn't mean that you will. That cord is called a "suicide cable" for a reason-- building one is asking to be killed by one. Do not, under any circumstances, cook hot dogs this way. We mean it.
Have a nice day. =)
"Beauty And The Beast" - DMTC

Left: Rachelle Jones (Belle) and Tevye Ditter (Prince/Beast)

(first draft - a few photos with my new camera)

A strong finish to the 2006-07 DMTC Season!

We had switched BATB with West Side Story in the 2006-07 season, in part, out of concern whether we could have staged such a costume extravaganza last September for anything less than $10,000 (at least, that's what a lot of the BATB costume rentals on the Internet seemed to tally, and frankly, we were worried whether we could have afforded that).

But where there's a will, there's a way! The costuming proper (by Denise Miles, with help from Jean Henderson, and with props by Marie Petersen) cost under $1,700. There will be costume cleaning to deal with, and all the prop receipts have to be tallied, but it's possible the entire costuming expense might be little more than $2,000!

Bows: Rachelle Jones (Belle) and Tevye Ditter (Prince/Beast)

Some people had expressed concern whether all the actors could be heard properly. Where I was sitting, house left on the last Friday night, I had no problem hearing everyone. Chip (Sara Pinto), in particular, was the easiest to hear and understand (which is ironic, given that she was the smallest, and youngest, cast member, and sitting in cramped quarters on her tea tray that might have inhibited her full voice). Acoustics in the space may be a little strange, however, so others might have had different experiences sitting in different places.


The cast gestures appreciatively towards Erik Daniells and the DMTC Orchestra. There were many compliments of the highest regard for the Orchestra.

Loved Lumiere's headpiece here (my picture is a bit blurry). The plasticky candley stuff was a wonder to see, but also rather hot for Jon to wear in the summery weather.

Chris Petersen (La Fou). Chris sure took the blows well from J.R. Humbert (Gastogne)! The perfect foil!

Of all the actors on stage Friday night, J.R. Humbert's Gastogne made the boldest impression - loud, vain, loutish, preening - yet, not unpleasant, but rather perfectly in character. Very cartoonish, in that special Disney way.

Jon Jackson (Lumiere), Lenore Sebastian (Mrs. Potts), Cogsworth (Adam Sartain).

Cogsworth (Adam Sartain)
WATB Wants Money

So, off to the casino.

Lots of slamming into a glass ceiling, all night long.

Loss: $680 - $306 + $80 = $454

Sunday, July 08, 2007

"Sicko" - Michael Moore's New Movie

Just great! Social commentary that is direct, and on-target, but not the least bit heavy or didactic. Just saying what we all know is the truth about the HMOs that run (and ruin) our lives, and in a funny, amusing way.

Funny quotes (from imdb):

George W. Bush: We got an issue in America. Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB/GYNs aren't able to practice their love, with women all across the country.
And this one too:
Tony Benn: Keeping people hopeless and pessimistic - see I think there are two ways in which people are controlled - first of all frighten people and secondly demoralize them.

Tony Benn: An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern.
And many more not given on imdb. Michael Moore asks a Frenchwoman about the most costly things in her life. Instead of kvetching about medical bills, like an American woman might, she instead complains about the prices of fish and vegetables.


Based on what I wrote above, Friend John writes:
I saw on your blog that you saw Sicko. We went to see it yesterday also. I must say I wasn't as impressed with it as I was with Moore's previous films. There just seemed to be a lot of weak points that detracted from the theme. It seemed to me that it was a film about feelings more than facts and I imagine that the right wing will hone in on that.

First, the parts that impressed me. Moore's look at the national health care systems in Canada, the UK and France seemed fair, and it made a very compelling case for such systems. Also, his trip to Cuba, while clearly an entertainment stunt, was effective in adding some drama to the film.

My biggest problem with Sicko is that it missed the proverbial elephant in the room which is the American tort system and the antagonistic doctor/patient relationship which has developed as a result. Physicians--even those who have never been sued--are often paying in excess of $100K per year in malpractice insurance and they are constantly having to document every detail of everything they do and say to defend themselves from frivolous lawsuits. While I personally favor a national health care system I also believe, as I have said many times before, that tort reform is absolutely critical to any move in that direction.

Secondly, while I'm sure Cuba has a decent health care system, I wonder if Moore made it look a bit more rosy than it really is. Havana has a good hospital but what happens to people in smaller towns throughout the country? Do they get the same level of health care? It seems likely to me that Cuban authorities saw Moore's presence as a good opportunity to score propaganda points against the US. That may not really be correct but it's something to bear in mind.

Also--and this may sound very cynical--I wonder how sick the people he took to Cuba really are? Some appeared to definitely have some health issues. And one firefighter clearly was having some emotional problems but we both know that there are plenty of people out there who decide that society owes them and they want to be declared disabled so they do not have to earn a living. I've seem it a number of times, including with a dentist who paid massive disability insurance for a few years and then found a psychiatrist who decided that the stress of working on teeth made him unable to work. Such things happen and, while people in such situations may need counseling, society does not owe them anything more than that.

In general, I find for-profit health care in the US overpriced, inefficient and frequently ineffective. Moore's film is good in the sense that it may begin or at least add to an important national dialogue on health care in the US, but I wish it had been produced by a less biased figure such as Tom Brokaw or Walter Cronkite.
I respond as follows:

Hi John:

It’s true that the tort system wasn’t mentioned, except in the most glancing way (Bush’s malapropism). Michael Moore is excellent at propaganda, which depends above all on simplicity, and not confusing matters too much with busy facts (like the tort system). But it also hinges on getting the biggest facts approximately correct, or the propaganda rings false.

I tend to think that the tort system is not as big a driver of health costs as people assume. If the HMOs had wanted to put their energies into changing these laws, they could have done so, and Congress would have responded. Instead, they have focused on exclusion of the unfit, and charging excessive rates. It’s a matter of priorities….

I have no doubt that Cuba saw Moore’s film as an easy way to score political points. They were right to see the opportunity this way. They shoot; they score!

My complaints about previous movies by Michael Moore is his willingness to entertain, and follow into blind alleys, strange ideas that are actually not central to his main points, thereby shooting himself in the feet, so to speak. One example is from ‘Bowling for Columbine’, when he entertains the idea that just by growing up in a suburb of Denver where strategic arms are produced makes one susceptible to fantasies of mass murder. It’s a strange idea and probably doesn’t have much merit, but he pursues it nonetheless.

In this movie, he largely avoids blind alleys. His visit to Guantanamo struck me as more of a stunt, same as his tour of Capitol Hill in an ice cream truck in Fahrenheit 911, but it allows him to open the door to look at the Cuban health care system, so there’s no dead end there.

It would be nice to have a documentary on the U.S. health care system produced by a less-polarizing figure than Michael Moore – a Brokaw or a Cronkite – but our entire experience of the mass media in the last fifteen years is that these non-polarizing figures either no longer exist, or are sidelined on PBS (Bill Moyers) or forced off the air entirely (Dan Rather). It’s all propaganda, all right-wing propaganda, 24/7 on all the cable channels these days. FOX is the worst, but CNN isn’t much different, really. That’s the new reality. We grew up in a blessed time, when the Fairness Doctrine gave second opinions a chance. Those days are dead. Michael Moore is the best we’re going to get.