Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sparky Goes To The Vet

The last three or four nights have been rather rough on the little lump of love, as fluid gathered in his lungs from the advancing heart disease. His coughing remained uncontrolled, despite medication, making sleep difficult.

For better health maintenance, the vet has recommended upping his dosages, with a reevaluation in a week, to determine whether his kidneys are being adversely affected:

Dosages (pills per day)
Enacard - 1.5 to 2
Lasix - 1 to 2
Torbutrol - 1 to at least 2, and as many as 4, depending on need.
DMTC - "Brigadoon" Opens

Opening night went reasonably well. There seemed to be fewer glitches than on some other opening nights. There weren't even many dropped lines. I think it's because the grandiose pace of the show gives actors time to think ahead and avoid mistakes even before they are made.

A three-legged stool upon which Katherine Coppola jumps toppled in one scene. She had been wary of that stool during rehearsal, and now I think she'll skip the jump entirely.

Tony's big leap over Jabriel worked well, and the gasp of the audience was something to behold!

Decorative foliage mugged John Van Wart's shirt. Tonight, I fear he will seek revenge.

Playgoers sitting on house-left said they could easily see the fan blowing fog in from the wings. They could see Harry Beaton pursuers as well as they torpidly gathered, singing in the wings, as Harry Beaton ran madly past.

Late in the rehearsal period, we realized we were going to have trouble with the temperamental bagpipes. Apparently a slow leak sabotaged the instrument and made it difficult to play. Plan A having failed, Plan B was instigated. Efforts were made to have a synthesizer play bagpipe-like bleats from the orchestra pit. Only trouble was, the accordion-sounding synthesizer gave what, to me, sounded like a real norteño edge to the supposed bagpipe music. Instead of sounding like a funereal Scottish dirge, to me, the music instead sounded like a happy Bernalillo baile. Nevertheless, Plan B was the plan, until the moment of truth arrived, and the synthesizer failed. So, with the barest hesitation, Laura instead played the music on piano (Plan C), which worked out OK. Perhaps on a future weekend, we'll try to reintroduce the bagpipes....

The audience was unusually large for an opening night. DMTC is apparently participating in a promotional program offered by (the Onstage Ticket Club?), whereby people can see shows for free, or somesuch. As the former Treasurer, I don't like the sound of this program. Nevertheless, it was nice having a reasonably-large audience.

[UPDATE: Mike Mac says the bagpipes are fine. Which begs the question, what precisely was wrong? Suffice to say bagpipes, the Ethel Merman of the musical instrument family, are temperamental.]

Friday, November 09, 2007

Hiding In Plain Sight

Byron, the manager at Subway, likes to play little pranks on me when I come in - smash my Fritos, for example, or steal my glasses. He always asks how DMTC is going, and whether my wife still likes to dance with billionaires (I lent him a tape of last year's "Titanic - The Musical", where I played 2nd-Class passenger, Edgar Bean, and Lauren Miller's portrayal of social-climbing Alice Bean left an indelible impression on him).

So, today, when I came in, I noticed that, with the lunchtime crowd and all, I somehow escaped his notice. He helped out the person in line in front of me, and the person behind me, but distracted as he was, and staring at his own feet, I didn't catch his eye. I quietly and meekly passed through the line without the other employees tipping him off to my presence, and sat down to eat. Despite his eagle-eyed managerial eye, he never even noticed.

Eventually, and with great surprise, he finally did notice me sitting in the restaurant. I started laughing and laughing at him and he started flinging pickle slices across the restaurant from behind the counter...

Swedish Pole Dancing

Ah! The secret is keeping the hands on the pole!

Try, try again!

Don't Quite Get It

The press sometimes provides too little information:
AUSTRALIA should brace itself for the worst tropical cyclone season since 1998/1999, a leading catastrophe forecaster warned today.

Either five or six tropical storms will hit Australia this season, which lasts from November 1 to April 30, according to a prediction by UK-based Tropical Storm Risk (TSR).

...The reason for the higher cyclone activity is La Nina conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean, pushing sea surface temperatures there to their coldest since 1999, which helps create above-normal tropical storm activity, TSR said.
River City Theater Company Presents "42nd Street"

RCTC is staging this wonderful tap musical! Andy Sullivan sends a note:
I just wanted to send you a quick note about an upcoming production. River City Theater Company is doing a production of 42nd Street. 42nd Street is a show that is not done very often because of the huge number of tap dancers needed to pull off the story of Peggy Sawyer's travel to stardom. RCTC's mission statement is to provide young people with the opportunity to develop skills, self-confidence and self-esteem through learning all aspects of musical theater in a positive supportive workshop environment. The RCTC Special Field Trip Presentation introduces thousands of school children to musical performing arts presented by their peers. RCTC's mission is to also produce affordable family entertainment as well as cultivate community interest and support for live musical theater. All of the actors involved are high school students or younger.

This show is a must see for those who like to see large production dance numbers, enjoy an all jazz score, enjoys watching students develop into the stars of tomorrow, or even those who enjoy theatre. This is a family friendly production that kids [especially little girls] will really enjoy. The run dates are Friday November 9th at 7:30, Saturday November 10th at 1:30 PM and 7:30 PM, Friday November 16th at 7:30, and Saturday November 17th at 1:30 PM and 7:30 PM. All shows are at Hiram Johnson High School in Sacramento.
Kenna Wright's Shoe Odyssey

Anita Creamer had a great story today in the Sacramento Bee regarding Step One's Kenna Wright, and her project:
Kenna Wright, who turns 16 later this month, is all about the shoes.

"I love shoes," she says.

"Kenna is a shoe fanatic," says her mother, Mary Wright.

"For my sweet 16 party, my friend's making a huge cake in the shape of a shoe," says Kenna. "It's the theme of the party."

...But Kenna's Nov. 17 party is a benefit of sorts: Instead of gifts, she's asking guests to bring new athletic shoes to be sent to the children of the Ethiopian orphanage where she lived until she was 13 months old.

"We want people to know about it and to donate," she says.

It's a quiet afternoon at Step One Dance & Fitness, the midtown studio that Mary Wright has owned for 20 years with her partner, Pepper Von. Classes haven't geared up yet for the day, but hip-hop music blares over the sound system.

Kenna, a sophomore at the Natomas Charter Performing and Fine Arts Academy, says her earliest memories are of being here in the studio. She remembers nothing of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital.

"I was told I was found on the street next to a church," she says. "It's a really amazing story. Two ladies found me and took me to the orphanage."

When Mary adopted Kenna from Le Toukoul orphanage, she was malnourished, clinging to life.

...Africa – land of her birth if not of her memories – is in Kenna's soul, too. On the Internet, she and Mary have seen photos of children living at Le Toukoul, walking barefoot through unpaved streets that stay muddy in the long rainy season.

"My mother came up with the idea of sending them shoes, and I thought it was really cool," says Kenna.

And so the party, which will also celebrate Step One's 20th anniversary, and the shoe-donation plan.

After the shoes are collected, the Wrights plan to take them to Dove Adoptions International, an Oregon agency that places children from Le Toukoul in American homes. From there, the shoes will be packed in the luggage of adoptive families traveling to Ethiopia, delivered in a way that will allow the orphanage to avoid paying exorbitant customs fees.
Making an announcement after step aerobics class on Monday, Pepper Von arched his eyes in mock horror, as if to imply that the thought was the silliest thing in the world, said "Now, on your way out tonight, don't pass by the front counter, look at the collection box, and say 'So, you're selling shoes now too?'"

So, on my way out the door, I looked at what I presumed was the collection box (incongruously filled with ballet slippers and jazz shoes) looked up at the wall, on which was posted something that looked like a price list, and thought to myself "So, you're selling shoes now too?"

Which just means Kenna's shoe project is just getting started. So, bring as many athletic shoes as you can to Step One (19th and T Streets), help bury the show biz shoes, and help Kenna out in her worthy project!

[UPDATE: Oh! I was looking to the right of the refrigerator, rather than to the left...]
Jim Carnes Hearts "Jekyll and Hyde"

At SacBee:
Tevye Ditter is commanding in the title role(s), singing in a big, rich baritone and accomplishing the macabre transformation from Jekyll to Hyde solely through hairstyle, facial expression and vocal nuance. As Dr. Jekyll, his hair is neatly pulled back into a ponytail; as Mr. Hyde, it falls loose and shaggy. Ditter gives Jekyll a clear, pure voice, and gives Hyde a bit of a rasp, both singing and speaking. He is impressive in both roles – and especially so in "Confrontation," in which he sings a rapid-fire duet with himself, instantly switching from one character to the other merely by facing in the opposite direction and flinging his hair. His performance is a tour de force.

Both of the main female characters have excellent voices. Emma, the socialite fiancée of Dr. Jekyll, is played with demure innocence by Norma-Jean Russell. The more showy part of Lucy, Hyde's delight, is played by Amber Jean Moore, who brings energy and a robust voice to the part of the prostitute. Her lustiness is evident in the song "Bring on the Men," one of the most memorable – and certainly the most blatantly sexual – scenes in the play. (Although there is a ticket price listed for children, "Jekyll & Hyde" is too dark and tragic – and racy – for younger audiences.)

DJI off 120 points right at the bell, and more-or-less flatlines.
DMTC - "Brigadoon" Opens Tonight!

I have no good pictures from final dress rehearsal last night, so here are a few more pictures from Tuesday and Wednesday night:

Left: Tommy Allbright (Brennen Cull) begins to direct awkward questions regarding Brigadoon to Fiona MacLaren (Caitlin Kiley).
"Come To Me, Bend To Me"
"Come To Me, Bend To Me"

"Almost Like Being In Love" - Jeff (Michael McElroy) and Tommy Allbright (Brennen Cull) - just prior to Fiona's entrance, from the right.

"The Love Of My Life" - Meg Brockie (Lauren Miller) and Jeff (Michael McElroy).
The Really Important Stuff

Via The Evil Beet, two news items:

Britney Spears blew a red light at a notoriously dangerous intersection last night, with her kids in the back and a court-appointed monitor crouched down in the front. Paging K-Fed's attorney!

The Popwreck approached the light slowly on Coldwater Canyon in Los Angeles. You then see Britney raise her cellphone to her face. It is unclear if she's texting or making a call. She then drives into the intersection as someone outside the car screams, "Red light, red light!" Britney then turns left onto Mulholland Drive, managing to miss oncoming traffic.
Second, Paris Hilton is worried about the drunken elephants that have been doing so much damage in India:
The big-eared boozers have become addicted to rice beer, which is brewed by locals in north-east India.

And party monster Paris was horrified to hear that 40 squiffy elephants fought with an electric pole in the West Garo Hills district last week, which instantly electrocuted six of the blotto beasts.

So the hotel heiress is launching a campaign to encourage locals to hide their vats of home-made brew from the grey inebriates, who have started to search for the free alcohol for their benders. Of last week’s jumbo deaths, Paris said: “There would have been more casualties if the villagers hadn’t chased them away.

“And four elephants died in a similar way three years ago. It is just so sad. The biggest problems are in Assam and Meghalaya. The elephants get drunk all the time.

“It is becoming really dangerous. We need to stop making alcohol available to them.”

Assam elephant expert Kushal Konwar Sharma added: “More than 200 elephants have been killed by angry villagers during the last six years in the two states in what is developing into a fierce conflict between man and drunken beast.”

And convicted drink driver Paris continued: “In Tinsukia, the elephants smashed huts, plundered granaries and broke open casks to drink rice beer. The herd then went berserk, and killed people.

“Now they’re learning to be sly about their problems.”

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Lawsuit: D'oh, Or Not D'oh?

I can't tell if these authors are committing publishing suicide (by overestimating their own popularity), or have a reasonable beef that needs correction. I suppose I should be on the side of the plaintiffs (fight the man!), but I think it would be better, in this case, if the litigiousness bankrupts everyone involved:
Five authors have sued the parent company of Regnery Publishing, a Washington imprint of conservative books, charging that the company deprives its writers of royalties by selling their books at a steep discount to book clubs and other organizations owned by the same parent company.

In a suit filed in United States District Court in Washington yesterday, the authors Jerome R. Corsi, Bill Gertz, Lt. Col. Robert (Buzz) Patterson, Joel Mowbray and Richard Miniter state that Eagle Publishing, which owns Regnery, “orchestrates and participates in a fraudulent, deceptively concealed and self-dealing scheme to divert book sales away from retail outlets and to wholly owned subsidiary organizations within the Eagle conglomerate.”

...In the lawsuit the authors say that Eagle sells or gives away copies of their books to book clubs, newsletters and other organizations owned by Eagle “to avoid or substantially reduce royalty payments to authors.”

...“They’ve structured their business essentially as a scam and are defrauding their writers,” Mr. Miniter said in an interview, “causing a tremendous rift inside the conservative community.”

...In Regnery’s case, according to the lawsuit, the publisher sells books to sister companies, including the Conservative Book Club, which then sells the books to members at discounted prices, “at, below or only marginally above its own cost of publication.” In the lawsuit the authors say they receive “little or no royalty” on these sales because their contracts specify that the publisher pays only 10 percent of the amount received by the publisher, minus costs — as opposed to 15 percent of the cover price — for the book.

Mr. Miniter said that meant that although he received about $4.25 a copy when his books sold in a bookstore or through an online retailer, he only earned about 10 cents a copy when his books sold through the Conservative Book Club or other Eagle-owned channels. “The difference between 10 cents and $4.25 is pretty large when you multiply it by 20,000 to 30,000 books,” Mr. Miniter said. “It suddenly occurred to us that Regnery is making collectively jillions of dollars off of us and paying us a pittance.” He added: “Why is Regnery acting like a Marxist cartoon of a capitalist company?”

In an e-mail statement, Bruce W. Sanford, a lawyer with Baker Hostetler, a Washington firm representing Eagle and Regnery, said: “No publisher in America has a more acute marketing sense or successful track record at building promotional platforms for books than Regnery Publishing. These disgruntled authors object to marketing strategies used by all major book publishers that have proved successful time and again as witnessed by dozens of Regnery bestsellers.”

...The authors argue that because at least a quarter and as much as half of their book sales are diverted to nonretail channels, sales figures of their books on Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 70 percent of retail sales but does not reflect sales through book clubs and other outlets used by Eagle, are artificially low. Publishers use these figures when determining future book deals, and the authors argue that actions by Eagle and Regnery have long-term effects on their careers.

...Joel Mowbray, author of “Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America’s Security,” said he was particularly disappointed in Regnery and Eagle because they had so championed conservative authors. “These guys created the conservative book market,” Mr. Mowbray said. “Before them, conservatives were having to fight, generally unsuccessfully, to get books published.”
Lowbrow Vegas - Embrace The Cheese

A fun guide to things Vegas, divided into highbrow Vegas and lowbrow Vegas. Each has its charms. A few of the lowbrow highlights:

BIG ELVIS (Bill's Gamblin' Hall and Saloon) A super-sized hunk of burning love, Big Elvis represents -- in fact, magnifies (he's much larger than Elvis ever was) -- the King's final years. Backed by a drum machine, and (when he's not seated on a massive throne), shaking like a bowl full of jelly, B.E. (Pete Vallee) masterfully croons and rocks his way through the legend's biggest hits. One lucky audience member gets picked to play "Little Elvis," which consists of strumming an inflatable guitar while wearing aviator shades and a bad wig. How lowbrow is that? Best of all, it's free!

LITTLE LEGENDS (Harmony Theater at Krave) Simply put, little people impersonate a bevy of music's superstars (and Milli Vanilli). If you think it's just novelty, though, think again. The twins who take on Michael Jackson and Terra Jole, who belts out numbers by Alanis and Madonna (among others), are knockouts. A bit long on the snarky, standard-sized host, but even he grew on us.(702) 836-0836

ATOMIC TESTING MUSEUM No ironic space-age wackiness here. The Smithsonian's sober guide to the nearby Nevada Test Site (blasts routinely shook downtown) features techie science explainers, a great photo exhibit by L.A. filmmaker Peter Kuran and bomb-blast simulations in the Ground Zero Theater.

LIBERACE MUSEUM Celebrities are so boring nowadays: None of them can hold a candle(abra) to Liberace, who didn't just tickle the ivories, he tickled them pink. The befeathered, jewel-laden costumes and customized luxury cars on display here still have the power to make jaws drop. But what really made him sparkle wasn't his bling, it was his 24-carat charisma, as the video footage of "Mr. Entertainment" on endless loop in the gift shop shows. And with an adult admission price of only $12.50, this museum is one of the best bargains in town.

THE TANK (Golden Nugget) You're flying through a long tube, mostly nude, as gambling tables flash past, then you drop through a mess of real 6-foot sharks and are dumped, squealing, into the drink. No, it's not another night at the poker table, it's this clever new three-story water slide and upscale strategy of the Nugget on Fremont Street.

BITE (Stratosphere Hotel) Topless dancing vampires! Need we say more? Bite has a plot, in the loosest sense of the word: A man in a puffy shirt lords over a coven of dancing lady-vampires with white fangs and sparkly thongs who dance to a lot of classic rock. Because vampires love Styx. Thoroughly embraces the cheese.

THUNDER FROM DOWN UNDER (Excalibur Hotel) When you watch a chiseled Australian in a black banana hammock pour beer all over himself, leap onto a table full of screaming women, rip the glasses off of a mother's face and shine them provocatively on the front of his thong, you have to ask yourself: Why don't I go to male strip revues more often?
Monsoonal-Type Antipodean November Weather

Interior thunderstorms seem to have arrived in portions of Australia, more-or-less on-schedule (unlike last year). Thunderstorm rainfall is always mercuric - big falls here, nothing at all over there - but at least some areas far inland, in Queensland, NSW, and West Australia, are seeing welcome rain.

Things seem awfully dry farther south, in Victoria, however.
Bankruptcy Reform Begins To Boomerang

You can't get blood from a turnip, and even the most lop-sided legislation ever passed (in 2005) can't change that fact. The last sentence here is the real killer. Of course "our consciences can handle the number of foreclosures we'll see if they do nothing". This is America, after all, where bad things happen all the time to good people, and where millions of families already live, more-or-less unnoticed, more-or-less on the street. Millions more? We'll shrug our shoulders and move on.:
Nov. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Washington Mutual Inc. got what it wanted in 2005: A revised bankruptcy code that no longer lets people walk away from credit card bills.

The largest U.S. savings and loan didn't count on a housing recession. The new bankruptcy laws are helping drive foreclosures to a record as homeowners default on mortgages and struggle to pay credit card debts that might have been wiped out under the old code, said Jay Westbrook, a professor of business law at the University of Texas Law School in Austin and a former adviser to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

``Be careful what you wish for,'' Westbrook said. ``They wanted to make sure that people kept paying their credit cards, and what they're getting is more foreclosures.''

Washington Mutual, Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. spent $25 million in 2004 and 2005 lobbying for a legislative agenda that included changes in bankruptcy laws to protect credit card profits, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan Washington group that tracks political donations.

The banks are still paying for that decision. The surge in foreclosures has cut the value of securities backed by mortgages and led to more than $40 billion of writedowns for U.S. financial institutions. It also reached to the top echelons of the financial services industry.

...People are putting their credit card payments ahead of their mortgages, said Richard Fairbank, chief executive officer of Capital One Financial Corp., the largest independent U.S. credit card issuer. Of customers who are at least three months late on their mortgage payments, 70 percent are current on their credit cards, he said.

``What we conclude is that people are saying, `Honey, let the house go,''' but keep the cards, Fairbank said Nov. 5 at a conference in New York sponsored by Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

The new bankruptcy code makes it harder for debtors to qualify for Chapter 7, the section that erases non-mortgage debt. It shifted people who get paychecks higher than the median income for their area to Chapter 13, giving them up to five years to pay off non-housing creditors.

The court-ordered payment plans fail to account for subprime loans with adjustable rates that can reset as often as every six months, said Henry Sommer, president of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys. Two-thirds of debtors won't be able to complete their payback plans, according to the Center for Responsible Lending.

``We have people walking away from homes because they can't afford them even post bankruptcy,'' said Sommer, a Philadelphia- based bankruptcy attorney. ``Their mortgage rates are resetting at levels that are completely unaffordable, and there's nothing the bankruptcy process can do for them as it now stands.''

Four million subprime borrowers with limited or tainted credit histories will see their mortgage bills increase by an average 40 percent in the next 18 months, according to the National Association of Consumer Advocates in Washington. About 1.45 million of those will end up in foreclosure by the end of 2008, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's, a research firm and unit of Moody's Corp. in New York.

...``The law had an unintended consequence of taking away a relief valve that mortgage borrowers used to have,'' said Rod Dubitsky, head of asset-backed research for Credit Suisse Holdings USA Inc. in New York. ``It's bad for the mortgage borrowers and bad for subprime investors because it means more losses.''

The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 was the biggest overhaul to the code in more than a quarter of a century. The old law, the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978 that was signed by President Jimmy Carter, had loosened requirements for debt forgiveness.

...Congress may soon take action to ``reform the bankruptcy reform,'' Zandi said. The House Judiciary Committee is working on legislation to let bankruptcy judges restructure home loans by lowering interest rates and reducing mortgage balances to reflect current market value.

Banks including Washington Mutual, Citigroup and Wells Fargo & Co. sent a letter to the committee opposing the change, saying such restructurings should be done privately.

...So far, most lenders have been reluctant to change loan agreements. About 1 percent of mortgages that reset in January, April and July were modified, according to a Sept. 21 Moody's Investors Service report that surveyed 16 subprime lenders that account for 80 percent of the market.

Congress probably will approve at least a limited measure to permit loan modifications, said Westbrook, the University of Texas law professor.

``They are going to have to figure out some way to address the problem,'' Westbrook said. ``I don't think our economy or our consciences can handle the number of foreclosures we'll see if they do nothing.''
Boo Boo Visits Gibson

The same species!:
Despite their radical difference in size, these two dogs have something in common - Gibson the Great Dane and Boo Boo the toy Chihuahua are both world record holders.

Measuring a whopping 107cm, gentle giant Gibson was named tallest dog back in 2004. Joining him in the hall of fame for 2007 is tiny Boo Boo who only measures 10.16cm tall and is smaller than Gibson's head.

...Boo Boo's owner Lana Elswick has bred Chihuahuas in Kentucky for 19 years and said she always knew her one-year-old pooch was special.

The tiny mutt was only about the size of a thumb when she was born; so small, in fact, that she had to be fed with an eye dropper every two hours before she could eventually nurse a bottle. Now she is a diminuitive diva.

...Owner Sandy Hall lives with her dog Gibson in Sacramento, California. The Great Dane is also the world's tallest therapy dog and regularly visits children's hospitals.
DMTC - "Brigadoon" - Wednesday Night Rehearsal

Left: "Come To Me, Bend To Me"

"Come To Me, Bend To Me"

"Come To Me, Bend To Me" - Katherine Coppola

Tommy (Brennen Cull), Fiona MacLaren (Caitlin Kiley), and Jeannie MacLaren (Katherine Coppola).

Mr. Lundie (Arthur Vassar) and Fiona MacLaren (Caitlin Kiley).

Do I post this? Do I not post this? Do I post this? Do I not post this? Mmmm..... I think I will post this.....

Michael McElroy as Jeff.....

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Another Bad Day On Wall Street

Credit troubles and high oil prices. The bad times will last awhile - six months at least, given the subprime mortgage reset schedule:
Wall Street today suffered one of its worst routs since the global credit crunch began, as financial stocks were hammered again and a fresh plunge in the dollar deepened concerns about the U.S. economic outlook.

The Dow Jones industrials sank 360.92 points, or 2.6%, to 13,300.02, amid a broad market decline.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 44.65 points, or 2.9%, to 1,475.62. It was the biggest one-day decline for the S&P index since February, surpassing even the worst days in August, when the credit crunch rooted in the housing market's woes began to spark heavy selling of stocks.

Falling stocks outnumbered winners by a stunning 10 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange.

...Investors' fears have been compounded by streaking oil prices, which are threatening to top the $100-a-barrel mark. The price eased a bit today, however, to $96.37 a barrel.

And the dollar has continued to sink, raising the risk that foreign investors -- who have funded a huge amount of U.S. borrowing -- could grow tired of seeing their holdings devalued and could balk at buying more American securities.

The dollar crumbled today after Chinese officials suggested the country might sell dollar-denominated securities to diversify its foreign-currency reserves.

"We will favor stronger currencies over weaker ones, and will readjust accordingly," Cheng Siwei, vice chairman of China's National People's Congress, said at a conference in Beijing, Bloomberg News reported.

...Despite today's losses, major stock indexes still are in the black for the year. The Dow is up 6.7%, and the S&P 500 is up 4%.
DMTC - "Brigadoon" - Tuesday Night Rehearsal

Left: Fiona (Caitlin Kiley) and Tommy (Brennen Cull).

Left: Fiona (Caitlin Kiley) and Tommy (Brennen Cull).

Left: Jean MacLaren (Katherine Coppola) in "Come To Me, Bend To Me".

Left: "Come To Me, Bend To Me".

Left: Charlie Dalrymple (J.R. Humbert) in "Come To Me, Bend To Me".

Left: Harry Beaton (Tony Gabrielson) and Archie MacLaren (Steve Isaacson).

Left: Meg Brockie (Lauren Miller) and Jeff (Michael McElroy).
Sturm und Drang, Drang und Sturm, Sturm und Drang, Drang und Sturm, Sturm und Drang, Drang und Sturm, Sturm und Drang, Drang und Sturm, Sturm und Drang, Drang und Sturm, Sturm und Drang, Drang und Sturm, Sturm und Drang, Drang und Sturm, Sturm und Drang, Drang und Sturm

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Uncertainty In Tucson

About U of A basketball coach Lute Olsen:
Several recruiting analysts said the vague nature of Olson's departure Sunday may have added to speculation about his future. He left behind a statement from a Phoenix-based public relations firm saying he was facing a personal matter that was not a "health scare."

"Any time a coach is sort of up in age, something like this is going to raise eyebrows, and you have to wonder how long he will be coaching," Rivals analyst Jerry Meyer said. Recruits could think "'Will he be there all four years?' But it's a little early to tell because you don't know what is going on."
Al-Jazeera Annoys Al-Qaeda

Seems like everyone has a media complaint these days:
The main charge being leveled against al-Jazeera, in fact, is that its presentation of the tape was fundamentally misleading because it made it seem like he was talking about al-Qaeda's mistakes and misfortunes when the full tape makes quite clear that he wasn't - he was offering advice and praise to all mujahideen, which to these interpreters was the whole point. There's also a lot of anger out there that the people who made their instant analyses based on the al-Jazeera version haven't come forward and changed their public views. Ah, media criticism and bashing pundits- the common glue which binds together internet activists across cultures and political divides.
Animal Paranoia

Times in Iraq are tough:
A 2m shark has been caught in a river in southern Iraq more than 200km from the sea - prompting locals to accuse American troops of dumping it there.

Karim Hasan Thamir said he was fishing with his sons last week when they spotted a large fish thrashing about in his net.

"I recognised the fish as a shark because I have seen one on a television programme," he said.

...Dr Mohamed Ajah, assistant dean of the college of science at Thi Qar University in Nassiriya, said barriers in river estuaries usually prevented sharks swimming upstream.

"In this case, I think this animal was there for a long time but no one had managed to see it," he said.

Locals blamed the US military for the shark's presence.

Tahseen Ali, a teacher, said there was a "75 per cent chance" Americans had put the shark in the water.

"This is very frightening for us. Our children always swim in the river and I believe that there are more sharks. I believe that America is behind this matter," Mr Ali said.

British forces in Iraq were blamed for the alleged discovery of killer badgers who preyed on Iraqis - although the British have denied any such treachery and doubt that such creatures even exist.

And Iran's so-called intelligence service claimed allied forces in the Gulf were fitting surveillance devices to squirrels to act as miniature spies.
The World Of John Waters

He wants to make a movie about Larry Craig? Please! Stop! Now!

But this is funny:

Q Anyway, surprising ideas. The question then is, does it get harder --

A No, every day I'm inspired by things. I live in Baltimore, that always inspires me. Things happen to me in my daily life that are funny every day. I was in a bar in Baltimore and I asked a guy what he did for a living. He said, "Can I be frank? I trade deer meat for crack." I can't think that up. I could think of three movies about him. I mean, does he wait at a deer crossing sign and gun it when he needed a fix? It takes a while to get deer meat so you have to plan ahead, which isn't what most junkies do. Little things like that, anything can inspire me.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Another Big Fog Crash

Once again, near Fresno. I used to study these things, and I have a list of previous fog calamities. I need to keep a list because these accidents happen so damn often, and it's so easy to forget the anonymous dead. It's sad to add another event to the list:
Two people were killed and dozens injured in the massive pileup Saturday morning involving more than 100 cars and trucks, the California Highway Patrol said. Officials identified one victim as Travis Rogers, 26, and a 5-year-old boy, who were traveling in separate vehicles.

CHP Officer Paul Solorzano Jr. described the scene as "something out of a movie, walking up and seeing all the cars mangled and crushed."
Amy Winehouse In Berlin

Watch out! :
"About 90 minutes before the show, Snoop (Dogg) said he wanted to see Amy. When we got there, she was in a bad way. Everyone, including her management, just stood there as she threw spaghetti on the walls. She then started kicking the walls and throwing whatever she could get her hands on - even the tables and chairs. Then she started cutting up the rug. Snoop was just standing there open-mouthed, he couldn't believe what he was seeing." Amy's team have no idea what triggered her rage.
Uncovering The Ship Graveyard At Pisa

Some interesting ships have sunk there over the millenia:
So far the excavation has turned up 39 ancient shipwrecks buried under nine centuries of silt, which preserved extraordinary artifacts. The copper nails and ancient wood are still intact, and in many cases cargo is still sealed in the original terra cotta amphorae, the jars used for shipment in the ancient world. They have also found a cask of the ancient Roman fish condiment known as garum and many mariners' skeletons—one crushed under the weight of a capsized ship. One ship carried scores of pork shoulder hams; another carried a live lion, likely en route from Africa to the gladiator fights in Rome.

...Researchers say that starting around the 6th century B.C. the cargo docks of the port of Pisa were accessed by a canal that made a loop connecting the harbor to the open sea. Every hundred years or so over the course of nearly a thousand years, tsunamilike waves violently flooded the waterway and capsized and buried ships, their cargo and their passengers and crew, alongside uprooted trees and even tiny birds and animals.

...Studying the oldest boats' contents and the way those ships were built, archeologists now better understand just who the Romans and Etruscans traded with and how they lived and utilized the Mediterranean Sea. Some of the oldest ships belonged to the Greeks and the Phoenicians, which implies that the mysterious and little-understood Etruscans were in fact active traders. One ship carried amphorae sealed with sand from both Spain and from the volcanic regions of Campania in Italy, giving scientists vital clues to where these ships traveled.

Other ships carried various types of cutlery and crockery, from utilitarian ware used by the seamen to more expensive, signed pieces. None of the vessels examined so far were warships, and back then passenger boats did not exist. Researchers have concluded that it was common practice for wealthy citizens to effectively rent space on cargo ships, which explains why some of the vessels had expensive personal effects obviously not belonging to the crews. One boat thought to be a 15-yard riverboat was found still moored to a sunken pile with perfectly preserved rope. It contained a wide range of personal belongings, from fine jewelry and hand-carved pottery to simple tools. One of the rowing benches on this ship still bears the faint inscription, in the Greek alphabet, of the word akedo, the Latin word for seagull, which is believed to have been the name of the ship. Another ship, known as the Chiatta, was capsized in a storm and lies upside down, perfectly preserving the mast and upper reaches of the boat.
It's Tough Having A Loser Currency

People can't wait to unload it:
Gisele Bundchen wants to remain the world's richest model and is insisting that she be paid in almost any currency but the U.S. dollar.

Like billionaire investors Warren Buffett and Bill Gross, the Brazilian supermodel, who Forbes magazine says earns more than anyone in her industry, is at the top of a growing list of rich people who have concluded that the currency can only depreciate because Americans led by President George W. Bush are living beyond their means.

Even after the dollar lost 34 percent since 2001, the biggest investors and most accurate forecasters say it will weaken further as home sales fall and the Federal Reserve cuts interest rates. The dollar plummeted to its lowest ever last week against the euro, Canadian dollar, Chinese yuan and the cheapest in 26 years against the British pound.

``We've told all of our clients that if you only had one idea, one investment, it would be to buy an investment in a non-dollar currency,'' said Gross, the chief investment officer of Pacific Investment Management Co. in Newport Beach, California, and manager of the world's biggest bond fund. ``That should be on top of the list,'' said Gross, whose firm is a unit of Munich- based insurer Allianz SE.

The dollar fell 0.8 percent last week and touched $1.4528 per euro, the weakest since the euro's debut in 1999. It traded at $1.4484 at 9:37 a.m. in New York. The dollar lost 2.8 percent last week to 93.47 Canadian cents and 1.8 percent to $2.09 per British pound. The Fed's U.S. Trade Weighted Major Currency Index measuring the dollar's performance versus seven currencies, such as Japan's, slid to a record low of 72.22.

BNP Paribas chief currency strategist Hans-Guenter Redeker, the most accurate foreign-exchange forecaster last quarter in a Bloomberg survey, said the dollar may drop to $1.50 per euro by year-end. The median estimate of 42 strategists surveyed by Bloomberg is for the currency to end the year at $1.43. Among those surveyed last week, the forecast ranges from $1.42 to $1.50.

When Bundchen, 27, signed a contract in August to represent Pantene hair products for Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co., she demanded payment in euros, according to Veja, Brazil's biggest weekly magazine. She'll also get euros for the deal she reached last October with Dolce & Gabbana SpA in Milan to promote the Italian designer's new fragrance, The One, Veja reported. Bundchen earned $33 million in the year through June, Forbes reported in July.

...Buffett, whom Forbes in April ranked as the world's third- richest person behind Bill Gates and Carlos Slim, told reporters in South Korea last month that he is bearish on the U.S. currency.

``We still are negative on the dollar relative to most major currencies, so we bought stocks in companies that earn their money in other currencies,'' Buffett said Oct. 25. Buffett, 77, is chairman of Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

Jim Rogers, a former partner of investor George Soros, said last month he's selling his house and all his possessions in the U.S. currency to buy China's yuan.

``The dollar is collapsing,'' Rogers said last week in an interview. ``I'm moving to Asia because moving to Asia now is like moving to New York in 1907 or London in 1807. It's the wave of the future.''
So, Noel Became A Hurricane After All

And caused problems for the Canadians:







DMTC "Brigadoon" - Tech Week Starts

Left, and below: Lauren Miller (Meg Brockie) and Michael McElroy (Jeff) in "The Love Of My Life".

Pictures from Sunday night rehearsal.

Left: Brennen Cull (Tommy Albright) and Kaitlin Kiley (Fiona MacLaren) in "Almost Like Being In Love".

Left and below: Michael McElroy (Jeff) and Brennen Cull (Tommy) in "Almost Like Being In Love".

Left: J.R. Humbert as Charles Dalrymple in "Come To Me, Bend To Me".

Left and below: Katherine Coppola as Jean MacLaren in "Come To Me, Bend To Me."
Sparky Wants To Go For A Walk

And what Sparky wants, Sparky gets....

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Runaway Stage Production's "Jekyll and Hyde" (or, Tev Mixes Some New Meds And Goes Feral)

Left: Tev Ditter as Dr. Jekyll (and his alter ego Edward Hyde).

Wonderful new show at RSP's 24th Street Theater!

"Jekyll and Hyde" starts in a strained place - Dr. Jekyll makes an appeal for research support to his hospital's Board of Governors, and they turn him down flat. The idealistic Dr. Jekyll is impatient with the Board's failure to recognize the duality of good and evil in human nature, and the possibility of using medications to elicit one from the other. The Board, to its great and everlasting credit, sees ethical and moral dilemmas in Dr. Jekyll's proposed research. The Board, however, has dilemmas of its own, chiefly being its own hypocritical nature - do as we say, not as we do.

Because the show starts off where most 19th Century theatricals end, in a highly idealistic, sharply-delineated, even arid zone of moral clarity, the show moves creakily forward at first. The slow, cerebral pace is a vice of most new Broadway (post-1975) shows - RSP is not at fault here. The show is lit up, however, by some excellent songs, like "Facade", and "Take Me As I Am", featuring gorgeous singing by Tev Ditter in a duet with the wonderful Norma-Jean Russell, who plays Dr. Jekyll's caring fiancee, Emma. But the show's pace is slow until......

Left: Amber Jean Moore Lazard as Lucy

....until the beautiful and sexy Amber Jean Moore, together with the sexy ensemble, take the stage in "Bring On The Men".

Amber had some wonderful songs to sing, including the power ballad "A New Life".

The unusually-capable ensemble seemed unusually well-rehearsed. Choreographer Pam Kay Lourentzos has (once-again) done a very good job! Notable standouts include Joshua James as the evil Spider, Megan Sandoval as Nellie, and Jonathan Blum as Simon Stride. Really, just a wonderfully lithe group of people!

Once Tev had started displaying his drug-induced bipolar identity issues, the show really began to rocket forward. Tev has twenty (good grief, twenty!) songs to sing in this show, including the stellar "This Is The Moment". Tev is singing just about the best he ever has, so all you Tev Ditter fans, take note and check out this show!

Left: Karen Day as Lady Beaconsfield (check out her bling!)

My understanding before the show (from talking with Karen Day several weeks before the show) was that the hospital's Board of Governors was supposed to be quite evil. Actually, I liked the Board of Governors. I mean, when the hypocritical Board member, the Bishop of Basingstoke (Patrick Coughenour) was enticed by saucy Nellie (Megan Sandoval), I understood. Wouldn't you get enticed too? It was exceedingly cruel of Edward Hyde to get all judgmental and go medieval on the Bishop, when he was just doing what comes naturally, dontcha think?

Left: Bill Trainor as Sir Danvers Carew.

Microphone and feedback issues were mercifully few in this show - another indication of an unusually well-rehearsed cast.

The only jarring note in the show was that the prerecorded voice instructing the audience to turn off its cell phones sounded remarkably like the introductory narration to the show, and so instead of an instruction to the audience not to take flash photos, as I expected, I heard instead a somber commentary of the base evil lurking in the human soul.

Left: Frank Hardin as General Lord Glossop.

I liked Michael Jones as Dr. Jekyll's loyal friend, confidant (and solicitor, as he is in real life), Gabriel John Utterson. So sad he has to resolve the unresolvable!

Robert Louis Stevenson's novel "Jekyll and Hyde" has many similarities to its fellow gothic classic, Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein."

The 19th-Century was the first to really encounter, and grapple with, the scourge of addictive, mind-altering drugs. We still haven't conquered that dark corner of the human psyche.

On a scarcely-relevant note, I am reminded of Amy Winehouse's refrain (which may as well be Dr. Jekyll's refrain):

They tried to make me go to rehab, I said 'no, no, no'
Yes I've been black but when I come back you'll know know know
I ain't got the time and if my daddy thinks I'm fine
He's tried to make me go to rehab, I won't go go go