Friday, January 11, 2008

I See Andrea St. Clair

Several times lately, walking down the street, I'll see someone walking along who looks an awful like Andrea St. Clair, but I'll be uncertain enough that, in order to avoid embarrassment, I don't say hello. So, I'm left to wonder. I don't think it is Andrea St. Clair, because they all seem to vary somewhat in look, so they appear to be different people, in different places.

Why the trouble with doppelgangers all of a sudden? Is it an omen, maybe? Is the world deliberately aiming to look more like Andrea St. Clair? Or am I forgetting what she looks like, given the number of different roles she's had on the local stages, so everyone kind of looks like her?

The reason I ask, is that I thought I saw her earlier today, walking eastbound on Capitol, near 18th Street. But I was afraid to say hello.....

Like Hannah Montana, she probably has body doubles....
Coughing Jag

I'm pretty sleepy today - poor Sparky the Dog coughed for hours and hours last night, defying the ameliorative effects of his heart medications, and keeping me in a state of fitful, unrestful unsleep.

I dreamt that a pterodactyl lived in my house, preying on the food in my cupboards and causing trouble for the neighbors.....

Oh, that was reality????
Wall Street Tanks Again

DJI 12,606.30.

They'll have to work through this credit crisis before stocks are strong enough to maintain their advances.
Lame, But Funny

Just trying to comply with the check-cashing rules:
Detective Travis Rapp has seen his share of corpses, but this was new: two men wheeling a rigid, pale body down a Manhattan street in a red office chair, drawing a crowd of suspicious onlookers.

...The man was dead, and two of his friends had hauled his corpse to a store to cash his $355 Social Security check, police said. They were arrested before they could get the money.

The bedraggled suspects, David J. Dalaia and James O'Hare, were scheduled to appear in court Wednesday night. Police said the men, both 65, were petty criminals with long histories of heroin addiction and arrests dating to the 1960s.

The trouble began Tuesday when Dalaia and O'Hare tried to cash Virgilio Cintron's check at a store in Hell's Kitchen on their own, police said. The man at the counter told them that Cintron had to be present to cash the check, so they went back to his apartment, which one of the suspects shared with the dead man.

Cintron was apparently undressed when he died, sometime within the previous 24 hours. Police said Dalaia and O'Hare proceeded to dress him in a faded T-shirt, pants they could only get up part way, and a pair of Velcro sneakers. They threw a coat over his waist to conceal what the pants couldn't cover, police said.

They then put him on the office chair and wheeled the corpse over to the check-cashing store.

The men left Cintron's body outside, went inside and tried to cash his check, authorities said. The store's clerk, who knew Cintron, asked the men where he was, and O'Hare told the clerk they would go and get him.

At about the same time, Rapp spotted the men and confronted them as they were trying to haul the body into the store. He said that even after he identified himself as a police officer, O'Hare told him, "I have to get my friend in here. I have to cash his check."

He ordered the men to back away from the victim. They feigned surprise when paramedics declared him dead, Rapp said.

"When they said, 'Your friend is dead,' they said, 'Oh my God, he's gone?'"
Hell Freezes Over

It snowed in Baghdad!:
For the first time in memory, snow fell across Baghdad.

Although the white flakes quickly dissolved into gray puddles, they brought an emotion rarely expressed in this desert capital snarled by army checkpoints, divided by concrete walls and ravaged by sectarian killings — delight.

"For the first time in my life I saw a snow-rain like this falling in Baghdad," said Mohammed Abdul-Hussein, a 63-year-old retiree from the New Baghdad area.

"When I was young, I heard from my father that such rain had fallen in the early '40s on the outskirts of northern Baghdad," Abdul-Hussein said, referring to snow as a type of rain. "But snow falling in Baghdad in such a magnificent scene was beyond my imagination."

Morning temperatures uncharacteristically hovered around freezing, and the Baghdad airport was closed because of poor visibility. Snow is common in the mountainous Kurdish areas of northern Iraq, but residents of the capital and surrounding areas could remember just hail.

"I asked my mother, who is 80, whether she'd ever seen snow in Iraq before, and her answer was no," said Fawzi Karim, a 40-year-old father of five who runs a small restaurant in Hawr Rajab, a village six miles southeast of Baghdad.

"This is so unusual, and I don't know whether or not it's a lesson from God," Karim said.

Some said they'd seen snow only in movies.

Talib Haider, a 19-year-old college student, said "a friend of mine called me at 8 a.m. to wake me up and tell me that the sky is raining snow."

"I rushed quickly to the balcony to see a very beautiful scene," he said. "I tried to film it with my cell phone camera. This scene has really brought me joy. I called my other friends and the morning turned to be a very happy one in my life."

An Iraqi who works for The Associated Press said he woke his wife and children shortly after 7 a.m. to "have a look at this strange thing." He then called his brother and sister and found them awake, also watching the "cotton-like snow drops covering the trees."

For a couple of hours anyway, a city where mortar shells routinely zoom across to the Green Zone became united as one big White Zone. As of late afternoon, there were no reports of violence. The snow showed no favoritism as it fell faintly on neighborhoods Shiite and Sunni alike, and (with apologies to James Joyce) upon all the living and the dead.
Like Atrios Says....

The wonders of capitalism:
Buy Buy Countrywide

Jim Cramer told you to buy at $44.

Countrywide will cease to exist... at $7.16.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Kylie might perform at Coachella?

Likely false.

What was that loud noise? Nothing, just the sound of my car's automatic transmission changing gears (I have an appointment at the dealership on Monday).
Bill Richardson

Packs it in:
"As I've always said, I'm the luckiest man I know," he said. "I live in a place called the Land of Enchantment. I have the best job in the world, and I got to run for president of the United States. It doesn't get any better than that."
Doolittle Gives Up

Too many investigations, too little time.
Barney's Journey

The Brahman bull takes a trip:
Through an amazing stroke of luck, and perhaps some bovine bravado, Barney survived an 87km journey through raging creeks and rivers during the weekend's wild floods.

He was washed away by a wall of water from the banks of Hopping Dick Creek on his Limpinwood property about 2am on Sunday and was considered lost before being found alive and well seven hours later near the mouth of the Tweed River – almost 90km downstream.

A passer-by at the Fingal ocean entrance spotted the exhausted and shellshocked Barney floating toward the sea and alerted park rangers.
Karl Rove, Employing Racially-Coded Language, Against Barack Obama

Gee, it's only January:
You couldn't help but smile. It reminded Democrats what they occasionally like about her. Then Mr. Obama followed with a needless and dismissive, "You're likable enough, Hillary."

Her remarks helped wash away the memory of her angry replies to attacks at the debate's start. His trash talking was an unattractive carryover from his days playing pickup basketball at Harvard, and capped a mediocre night.

...Former President Bill Clinton hit a nerve by drawing attention to Mr. Obama's conflicting statements on Iraq. There's more -- and more powerful -- material available. Mr. Obama has failed to rise to leadership on a single major issue in the Senate. In the Illinois legislature, he had a habit of ducking major issues, voting "present" on bills important to many Democratic interest groups, like abortion-rights and gun-control advocates. He is often lazy, given to misstatements and exaggerations and, when he doesn't know the answer, too ready to try to bluff his way through.
Countrywide Craziness

Shares of struggling lender Countrywide Financial Corp. rocketed today on news that Bank of America Corp. was in talks to buy the Calabasas-based company.

The stock closed up $2.63, or 51%, to $7.75 after rising as high as $8.91.

A source familiar with the negotiations confirmed the discussions and said an agreement could be reached as soon as Friday, although the person also cautioned that the talks could hit a dead end.
And not helped by:
Two groups representing union pension funds turned their sights on Countrywide Financial Corp.'s directors Thursday, saying board members failed to curb what they called excessive compensation for Chairman and Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo.

One group -- the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees -- said Countrywide directors had become conflicted by their own "excessive pay" and stock options that had allowed five members of the board to cash out more than $20 million in stock gains over the last two years.

"Directors who are making as much as CEOs make at other companies may lose the perspective of shareholder advocate, and instead blur their self-interest with that of the executive," said Gerald W. McEntee, president of the federation, which represents union pensions holding 3.5% of Calabasas-based mortgage lender Countrywide's stock.

Separately, CtW Investment Group, which represents the pension funds for the Teamsters, United Farmworkers and other unions that hold Countrywide shares, also criticized the board for excessive compensation for its directors.

"Current and historic director pay is both unjustified and a likely source of the board's passivity in the face of the company's current crisis," CtW Executive Director William Patterson wrote in a letter to Harley Snyder, Countrywide's lead director.

The letter says Snyder bears "central responsibility for Countrywide's egregious compensation."

"Your excessive compensation, together with your aggressive divestment of your own Countrywide stock at the peak of the housing bubble, militates powerfully against any inclination you might have to lead your fellow independent directors or hold Mr. Mozilo accountable," Patterson wrote.

...As the mortgage industry went into a nose dive in late 2006 and 2007, Mozilo cashed out about $140 million in stock options, becoming one of the highest-paid executives in the country.

The Countrywide board is also well-paid, according to a study released Wednesday by the Corporate Library, which studies executive pay.

Countrywide's directors each earned $344,988 to $538,824, according to the company's most recent proxy statement, compared with just over $200,000 for a director serving on a company on the Standard & Poor's 500 index of blue-chip companies, according to the study.

What is of concern to shareholders, however, is that directors were unloading Countrywide shares as the real estate market peaked, according to both groups representing union pensions.

A review of stock-trading activity "for the last two years shows directors enriching themselves by unloading Countrywide stock at a time when the CEO was suggesting a positive outlook to shareholders," McEntee said in his letter. "We think these pay practices may have influenced directors so that they crossed the line from independent to captive directors."
A Resounding "NO" From Land Park & Curtis Park

The recent ballot measure in Land Park & Curtis Park on historic street lighting went down to defeat, by a 84% - 16% margin (my "no" vote didn't count, because I turned the ballot into the Post Office on Dec. 31st, and wouldn't you know it, the Post Office closed early on New Year's Eve).

I'm shocked that the folks at City Hall thought this idea would fly. The effort was pretty much under my radar. The first time I heard about it was through an official City of Sacramento mailing that announced I was going to be assessed $5,000 (about $11,000 if I chose the E-Z payment option).

And all this for an amenity.

Then I discovered that my assessment was a bare minimum - apartment building owners, and others with large holdings, would be assessed much, much more.

Livid campaigning by my neighbors ensued, but a big "NO" was all but assured anyway. I wasn't assured by the "YES" campaign that it would all amount to just $1.00 per day. This proposal must have been gold-plated with environmental impact report fees, engineering report and other consultant expenses, plus who knows, maybe even with tasteful, high-tech German lighting design.:
A $10 million plan to install 780 streetlights in the Land Park and Curtis Park neighborhoods has been rejected by property owners who cast ballots, the City Council was told Tuesday.

About 84 percent of the 1,315 ballots returned to City Hall opposed creation of an assessment district to pay for the lights, said Mark Griffin of the city Planning Department.

About 66 percent of the ballots were returned.

If the plan had been approved by a simple majority, and then by the City Council, a typical residential parcel would have paid about $4,940 in additional taxes over a 30-year period, according to the city and neighborhood activists who supported the plan.

Opponents claimed, among other things, that the ballot procedure was not properly announced and the lights were too expensive. City officials said they followed the law in the balloting.

After hearing the results, the council voted to terminate the proceedings for the Land-Curtis Park Street Lighting Assessment District.
Kafkaesque FOX News

Paul Begala's fair, balanced, and fantastical experience:
I've been dealing with the media and politics for 25 years, but I've never had a more surrealistic day than January 8. Several times that day Fox News reported that I was joining Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign. It was a big story - at least until the stunning election returns.

Fox News never even tried to contact me to verify their story, and when I contacted Fox, I felt like a character in a Kafka novel -- or at least Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Fox's Major Garrett -- a good guy whom I've known for years -- broke the story. My phone started ringing off the hook, and my email box bulged. There are still, thank goodness, a lot of real journalists out there. Tim Russert was first. I assured him it wasn't true, he thanked me for waving him off a false story, and that was that. Then my own network, CNN, called. I told them if I were quitting CNN that CNN would know before Fox News.

...After I told Fox it wasn't true -- and this is the surreal part -- they kept reporting it anyway. In fact, Fox's Garrett told me he'd "take it under advisement." Take it under advisement? I realize I'm generally seen as just another liberal with an opinion, but this was not a matter of opinion, it was a matter of fact. Fox now knew their story was flatly, factually wrong, and they took it "under advisement."

Apparently that meant repeating the falsehood with added detail: the "fact" that I had been on a conference call the previous day with the Hillary high command. Again, false. My worry is that if this is what one of Fox's best and most respected reporters is doing, what are the hacks up to?
Green Ham

All we need are green eggs:
A cloned pig whose genes were altered to make it glow fluorescent green has passed on the trait to its young, a development that could lead to the future breeding of pigs for human transplant organs, a Chinese university reported.
January 9th Birthdays

1913 - Richard Nixon
1914 - Gypsy Rose Lee

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Puzzled About Micellar Water

"La Cage Aux Folles" has provoked me to learn more about cosmetics, in general.

I'm puzzled about "cleansing water" and the amazing way it just strips makeup right off. It seems to be a fairly-new innovation, and depends on micelles formed in the water. When did it get introduced into use?

Soap also depends on micelles. So, is "cleansing water" just a form of soap?

Google runs into all sorts of impediments with a field as old and diverse as "cosmetics." People have used various cleansing solutions and ointments on makeup since the Egyptians raised the Pyramids....
Clinton Blowback

Minion of Satan, Chris Matthews:
So no, I have not been a Hillary Clinton supporter. But the torrent of ill-disguised hatred and resentment unleashed toward a briefly weakened Clinton this week shook that breezy naiveté right out of me, and made me feel something that all the hectoring from feminist elders could not: guilt for not having stood up for Hillary. I can't believe I'm saying this, but had I been a New Hampshire voter on Tuesday, I would have pulled a lever for the former first lady with a song in my heart and a bird flipped at MSNBC's Chris Matthews, a man whose interest in bringing Clinton down hovers on the pathological, and whose drooling excitement at the prospect of her humiliation began to pulse from the television last week before most Iowa precincts had even begun to report results.

...He was not alone in his glee. There was the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson, announcing before the caucuses had concluded that if Clinton lost Iowa, she would likely lose New Hampshire too! And South Carolina! She'd be lucky to scrape by with small states like Nevada, Matthews crowed. Newsweek's Howard Fineman was also excited. "If [Obama] wins this thing, even by one vote in Iowa, then that five-point lead of Hillary's [in New Hampshire] is going to disappear in a second," he said. Pat Buchanan recommended that in her still purely imagined concession speech, Clinton "be very, very gracious." It wasn't just the guys. Andrea Mitchell might as well have had canary feathers hanging from her mouth as she reported from Clinton's Iowa campaign headquarters on the "manufactured" crowd gathered for Clinton's concession speech.

Ding-dong, the witch is dead! Which old witch? The Clinton witch!

...But the Iowa commentary was just a warm-up for the post-Iowa free-for-all, in which everyone from the New York Times to Keith Olbermann speculated giddily, practically drunkenly, about when, exactly, Clinton would pack it in.

...For many of these pundits, especially those who pander to a mostly white male audience, a nearly pornographic investment in Clinton's demise is nothing new. Matthews made his career as a pundit in that heady era of Clinton-bashing, the 1990s. That Hillary Clinton's political career might not have only survived his wrath but grown more fulsome on it seems to have incited him further, and Matthews has shown hyperactive zeal in his hatred for her. That leads him, often, to imagine Clinton strategy and imaginatively discredit it before it unfolds, or to offer helpful Clinton-beating tips to her opponents. Eight years ago, when Utah financial advisor Howard Ruff began taking donations to bring down Hillary -- who was not yet even a senator -- he appeared on "Hardball," where he explained to Matthews that in a battle against Hillary's nascent political power, "It's a lot easier to kill a 12-inch snake than a 12-foot cobra." Matthews helped him sharpen his weaponry: "You want to destroy the missile in its silo, which makes sense to me."

...She was, after all that inevitability, just a girl. A nerdy girl at that, and an ugly, hysterical one, the tabloids showed us, with freeze-framed images of her caught making unflattering faces. The words thrown around about her fizzed with ill-disguised misogynistic energy: In her presumptive defeat, Clinton suddenly was shrill, panicked, desperate, emotional.

...Then, of course, she cried. Or, more precisely, allowed her voice to crack and her eyes to well up. How much girlier can you get? Here were just some of the congested headlines: "Clinton Fights Back Tears," "Clinton Gets Emotional," "Hillary Gets Leaky."

...The five days between Iowa and New Hampshire were discombobulating for anyone who had begun to get comfortable with the apparent ease with which American history had weirdly, smoothly made room for a female candidate. A woman had led the Democratic nominees for nearly a year with barely a whisper -- save for the occasional unflattering wrinkled photo -- of serious double-standard resistance from a nation that has yet to break its streak of white Christian guys sitting behind the Oval Office desk. It had all been so deceptively easy. But here were the buttoned-up white boys over at "Meet the Press" going all "Lord of the Flies" on her. Cintra Wilson called the spectacle "a little witch-burny," while Time's Michael Scherer blogged about a call he'd received from a conservative pundit who told him, "The witch is dead, and life is going to change." The pundits, Clinton's opponents, her colleagues -- they were making sport of Hillary's immolation. They were rolling in it. Exulting in it. It reeked of a particular kind of relief, relief from the guys who had thought they were going to have to hold their noses and get pushed around by some dame. They were behaving like men who had received a sudden and unexpected reprieve, and classily reacted by pulling down their pants and peeing on her.

And then ... people began to notice. In my circle, mothers in particular began to notice. My friends and colleagues told me of their despondent moms. Even my own, whose politics list far to the left of Clinton's, bowled me over by expressing her sadness about the treatment Hillary received. I think she was surprised herself as she confessed that she was "sad" about Iowa. "Whether or not it's Hillary," she said, "I just think this shows that any woman who's going to be aggressive enough to make a go of it is going to be too aggressive to be likable."

Gloria Steinem noticed. The Ms. founder wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times called "Women Are Never Front-Runners," a piece that was assertively retro in its "Our Bodies Ourselves," "Free to Be ... You and Me" rhetoric. Steinem pointed out that a woman with Obama's résumé would never have become even a U.S. senator, let alone a viable candidate for president; she reminded readers that black men got the right to vote 50 years before women did, that Obama "is seen as unifying by his race while [Clinton] is seen as divisive by her sex," that "she is accused of 'playing the gender card' when citing the old boys' club, while he is seen as unifying by citing civil rights confrontations," that "some women, perhaps especially younger ones, hope to deny or escape the sexual caste system; thus Iowa women over 50 and 60 ... proved once again that women are the one group that grows more radical with age." God, it was so embarrassing, so 1972, so Women's Studies 101. What was more embarrassing was that it was so right on. And I wasn't the only one who thought so. From practically the moment it was published through the results of the New Hampshire primary, Steinem's Op-Ed has been the most e-mailed story in the New York Times.

...By the time the New Hampshire numbers started to roll in on Tuesday night, the pundits were beginning to notice that something, though they couldn't quite put their finger on what, was not turning out as they had so jeeringly, confidently predicted. Women, it seemed, had come to the polls in New Hampshire and voted for Hillary Clinton.

Suddenly, the choking up that had the day before been either faked or a sign of her unraveling was being credited with changing people's minds. "I never saw her like that before," said Jack Cafferty on CNN. "Sympathetic. Real." CNN's Gloria Borger informed us that "there is a lot of talk tonight about whether Hillary's tearing up made any difference," noting that a striking percentage of female Hillary voters told exit pollsters that they had decided whom to vote for on that very day, and had, for a variety of reasons, given Hillary Clinton the New Hampshire primary.

Meanwhile, Matthews was flailing. Color had begun to drain from his face as the early, close results began to trickle in. He looked like he had swallowed something much less tasty than what had been served up in Iowa. Halfway through the night he had his arms crossed defensively across his chest, a petulant and shamed schoolboy, and was proclaiming that he "was in the room" at Saturday night's debate and had thought it "a draw," but that apparently Clinton's performance had been "good enough here for women who wanted to root for her." He desperately recited the numbers of every pollster who had predicted her loss like a catechism, focusing on how it was not just he who had misfired. There must be some supernatural explanation: Could voters have been responding to Clinton's tears? Was it because the University of New Hampshire was not in session? Surely these numbers would change, and prove him right. Hillary could not simply have been winning an election.

Tom Brokaw, reduced to being a guest on Matthews' show, since he is retired and his network is reluctant to break into reality show programming to bring prospective viewers news of the presidential election, had also apparently noticed the treatment Clinton had received in the grabby hands of his colleagues, and seemed to relish his opportunity to spank Matthews. "This is one of the great triumphs of American presidential politics," Brokaw said sternly, "and the rest of us who were saying out loud that this was not going to happen, we've got a lot of explaining to do." Every time he appeared again, Brokaw seemed anxious to hammer this point home. "The people out there are going to begin to make some judgments about us if we don't begin to temper that temptation to constantly get ahead of what the voters are deciding," he told Matthews, who reflexively barked back about the commitment and quality of polling institutions. Polling "is a lot less important than letting this process go forward as it should," said Brokaw.

...An unlikely promise. But here's a message from the women of New Hampshire, and me, to Hillary Clinton's exuberant media antagonists: You have no power here. Now be gone, before somebody drops a house on you!

Rogue Traders - Voodoo Child (Live)

Just can't get enough of this band! The Rogue Traders, with lead singer Natalie Bassingthwaighte (and her remarkable scream), at Melbourne's Federation Square.

Bev's Review Of "La Cage Aux Folles" Is Out

She didn't like the opening gowns (pajamalike), but basically liked the rest.
The Queen Of Denial

E. had a fender-bender around 51st and J Street a month ago, but I didn't find out about it till yesterday.
50-Car Pileup

Smoke and fog between Tampa and Orlando meant disaster.
La Niña Rules!

Right now, the 30-day moving SOI is at a value of +21.6 - such a dramatic change from last June, when it was at -12.6!

This month, the Australian rainy season has been freakish and weird, focusing mostly at the North End, the York Peninsula, portions of Western Australia, the New England Plateaus, and coastal strips.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Rogue Traders - I Never Liked You

Very dynamic pop song by the rapidly-rising Australian "Rogue Traders."

"Parade" Magazine's Strange Untimeliness

Apparently I wasn't the only one surprised by the Bhutto interview.
Some Perspective

From Monty Python (thanks, Deborah!)


"Hookers for Jesus" hit the Strip, provoking support (and, no doubt, scorn).

Bennie and the Feds

The blues on Wall Street

Stocks Continue Tanking

DJI 12,600, and heading south....

Cramer is unhappy.
What's Chip Conrad Doing These Days?

I used to see him at the now-vanished Midtown Athletic Club, and sometimes I bump into him at Subway. Apparently he now runs Bodytribe (located at 920 21st Street, near 21st and I Streets, 916-444-2384):
You call your fitness philosophy the "physical subculture." Where does that term come from and what does it mean?

The term is a variation of the original fitness movement, which was called the "physical culture" about 100 years ago or so. That was before people realized that they could sell fitness as something to make you look better. This was when people were actually doing things; they were trying to be strong. There weren’t a lot of specialized athletes. In other words, you didn’t specialize in one type of sport. You did a little bit of everything. That was the physical culture movement and it appeals to me a great deal because it makes people realize that instead of just trying to look like they’re in shape, why not just be in shape?

But eventually, commercial America realized they could sell fitness better if they followed the motto "You are ugly and we can help." That turned fitness into an aesthetic movement, and I want to take it back to actually being in shape. It’s sort of an underground movement; hence, I call it the "physical subculture."
Combination MP3 Player And Taser

Cause you never know:
The Taser is a dedicated security device that shoots darts carrying 50,000 volts, but also fits into a "music player holster" which plays digital music files. The player has a 1GB capacity that can hold about 150 songs.

..."The Taser C2 leopard print design provides a personal protection option for women who want fashion with a bite."

As well as the leopard skin print, the Taser is available in red and pink.
Violent Movies Quell Violence

Counterintuitive, but interesting:
A paper presented by two researchers over the weekend to the annual meeting of the American Economic Association here challenges the conventional wisdom, concluding that violent films prevent violent crime by attracting would-be assailants and keeping them cloistered in darkened, alcohol-free environs.

Instead of fueling up at bars and then roaming around looking for trouble, potential criminals pass the prime hours for mayhem eating popcorn and watching celluloid villains slay in their stead.

"You're taking a lot of violent people off the streets and putting them inside movie theaters," said the lead author of the study, Gordon Dahl, an economist at the University of California, San Diego. "In the short run, if you take away violent movies, you're going to increase violent crime."

Dahl and the paper's other author, Stefano DellaVigna, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, attach precise numbers to their argument: Over the last decade, they say, the showing of violent films in the U.S. has decreased assaults by an average of about 1,000 a weekend, or 52,000 a year.

..."There are hundreds of studies done by numerous research groups around the world that show that media violence exposure increases aggressive behavior," said Craig A. Anderson, a psychologist and director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University. "People learn from every experience in life, and that learning occurs at a very basic level of brain function."

The study's authors acknowledge that their research does not refute and in fact lends credence to the findings of laboratory studies. Neither does it address the long-term effects of exposure to violent media, an influence they view as pernicious.
Anne Frank - The Musical

It might not seem the most obvious material for a song-and-dance number, but the Diary of Anne Frank will take centre stage next month when a Spanish musical based on the most famous book about the Holocaust opens in Madrid.

Having been rewritten for films, plays and TV dramas, the story of the Jewish girl hiding out with her family in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam has never before been made as a musical. The Anne Frank Foundation, which jealously guards the rights to the diary - it once turned down Steven Spielberg when he wanted to make a film - has given its support. Jan Erik Dubbelman said: "This production respects the message of tolerance, within the tragedy, that we want to keep alive. Being in Spanish, it can also help to take the message of Anne Frank to Latin America."

The Spanish theatre group behind the musical has visited the tiny flat where Frank hid from the Nazis, seeking inspiration for their characters and performing some of the songs for members of the foundation. Isabella Castillo, a 13-year-old born in Cuba who has been chosen for the lead role, said she had been moved by the visit: "If you're doing a musical of the family and how they lived and the house and everything, I think it's very special, and a very important detail, to come to this house."

...Once the foundation had given its permission, the hunt for actors capable of mixing the sombre nature of the material with the high energy of a musical began. Castillo said she felt honoured to be playing such an important role, and that there were things the two had in common.

The Franks moved from Germany to Holland in 1933, when Anne was four. Castillo's mother fled from Cuba when Isabella was young, and they lived in hiding in Belize before immigrating to Miami.
Well, At Least The Kitten Is Safe

The Grip Reaper passes through the Land Of Enchantment:
A woman drowned when she apparently tried to retrieve a kitten from a 55-gallon rain barrel at her home southeast of Santa Fe.

Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano said 48-year-old Deborah Hill was found by her husband Sunday afternoon after he returned home from running errands. Solano said the couple had dragged the plastic barrel inside their home because they wanted to thaw ice that had formed in the barrel.

The barrel, which Solano said was tied to a door so it wouldn't tip, was about one-third full of water when the kitten fell in. Solano said Hill apparently was standing on something to reach down for the kitten when she slid in.

Detectives said the kitten is alive, and most likely climbed out over Hill.
What's The Line From "Chicago"?

I love ya, baby, I love ya.
Coming In On Batteries

Scary loss of power:
QANTAS faced a potential disaster on Monday when a jumbo jet en route from London lost all main electrical power and was forced to land on battery back-up.

Flight QF2 with 344 passengers on board was about 15 minutes from Bangkok when the highly unusual failure took place and a back-up system kicked in.

With the batteries providing power for up to an hour, aviation sources said the failure would have been a disaster if it had occurred further out to sea.

"If this had happened over the ocean in the middle of the night, it would probably have crashed," an experienced 747 pilot told The Australian last night.

Monday, January 07, 2008

This Is Just Pathetic

The sad, sad tale of the panicked American elephant and the Al Qaeda mouse:
UCI researchers linked psychological stress responses to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to a 53% increase in heart problems -- including high blood pressure and stroke -- in the three years after Sept. 11, 2001. It is the first study to show the effect of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on cardiac health.

The majority of those surveyed had watched the attacks on live television, and one-third had no personal connection to them.

Most of them had no preexisting heart problems, and the results persisted even when risk factors such as high cholesterol, smoking and obesity were taken into account.

"It seems that the 9/11 attacks were so potent that media exposure helped to convey enough stress that people responded in a way that contributed to their cardiovascular problems," said Alison Holman, assistant professor of nursing science at UCI and the study's lead researcher.
Shrum's Advice

Shrum has had a lot of bad luck in Presidential politics, but he seems right here:
If (although I strongly suspect the right word is "when") Hillary Clinton loses tomorrow's New Hampshire primary, there will be a few proto-obituaries for her campaign and many more stories about how it will be "shaken up" or "relaunched."

...The flaw wasn't just the attempt to go back to the future, to the 1990s, but that the Clintons picked the wrong year in that decade. Instead of 1992, when Bill was the personification of change, their model was 1996. So Hillary ran as a pseudo-incumbent, with a selection of bite-size proposals and an abundance of caution and transparent calculation. Why would any campaign ever explicitly announce a tour to make the candidate "likable"? Or, as happened when the beleaguered Clinton machine sputtered into New Hampshire, that they now had a plan for her to be spontaneous and actually answer audience questions?

...She will have to get off the mat and recast her case. Contrary to the caricatures, Hillary Clinton is a real person, often funny in private, with engaging qualities that have been well-hidden in this campaign. But the hour is late and even if the real Hillary emerges, voters might see it as just another contrivance.

...Moreover, the wave that is rising across the country is steadily eroding her lead in national polls. She has probably spent much of the $100 million that she's raised, and last week her big givers were being urgently importuned to raise more. Incredibly, the one-time Dem juggernaut may struggle financially to reach Feb. 5.

So it's a long shot, with one and only one possible road to recovery: Let Hillary be Hillary. Throw away the product packaging - those poll-tested small-bites of policy - and set out a big case about what she wants to do in the next four years, not what she has done for the past 35.
Poles Finally Get A Clue

And finally begin realizing that George Dubya Bush doesn't have their best interests at heart:
Signaling a tougher position in negotiations with the United States on a European anti-ballistic missile shield, Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski says the new Warsaw government is not prepared to accept U.S. plans to deploy part of the shield in Poland until all costs and risks are considered.

"This is an American, not a Polish project," Sikorski said in an interview published in the weekend edition of the daily Gazeta Wyborcza.

The previous Polish government had consented in principle to accept parts of the U.S. shield, but no formal agreement has been signed. Now Sikorski is saying that the terms under which the shield would be deployed were unclear and that the new government wanted the risks to be explained, the financial costs to be set out and clarification on how Poland's interests would be defended if the shield were deployed on its territory.

"We feel no threat from Iran," Sikorski said, challenging the U.S view that some of the biggest threats facing the security of Europe and the United States are from "rogue states" in the Middle East, including Iran.

He added: "It is not only the benefits but the risks of the system that have to be discussed fully. It cannot be that we alone carry the costs."

...Sikorski also said he was worried that the United States could abandon the project after the American presidential election in November. In that case, Poland would nevertheless have to bear political costs, like the deterioration of relations with Russia, if it signed on to the shield prematurely.

The deployment of the U.S. missile shield has become such a contentious issue between the United States and Russia - and indeed between Poland and Russia - that President Vladimir Putin of Russia has warned of a new arms race if Washington proceeds with deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Having accused Washington of threatening Russia's national security interests, Putin last month suspended his nation's participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty.

Under that treaty, one of the last major arms pacts concluded between the former Cold War foes, countries stretching from Canada across Europe to the eastern parts of Russia cut their conventional forces and agreed to on- site inspections and an elaborate system of verification and notifications. It was implemented in 1992.

The Kremlin did not say how long it would suspend its participation. But Russian diplomats said it depended on not only what kind of concessions the United States was prepared to make concerning changes to the treaty, but also whether Poland and the Czech Republic would deploy part of the U.S. missile shield.
Mexican Hat Bus Accident

Sounds awful (eight fatalities, so far):
Danny Palmer was spending Sunday evening at home with his family when he heard a report about a bus crash crackle across his scanner. Not too long after, at about 9:40 p.m., Palmer, a funeral director at San Juan Mortuary in Blanding, Utah, got a call from the San Juan County Sheriff's Office. There were three fatalities at the scene, they told him, come down.

It was a 40-mile drive in the snow and the rain from his home to the scene of the accident. As he got closer, all he could see in the black of night were floating police lights. “It's kind of a grisly sight when you see in the darkness that amount of lights, flashing lights, red and blue,” he said.
The Rumor Cheryl Heard....

....Looks increasingly like it might have legs...
Embattled Congressman John Doolittle, the focus of a federal corruption probe, will announce that he will not seek re-election paving the way for former State Sen. Rico Oller for the 4th District Congressional seat, the California Majority Report has learned. The move, first noted back in November in the Stockton Record, could come as early as this week.
Fun China Fact

I wonder what they all blog about?:
The China Internet Network Information Center reports that as of the end of November 2007, there were 47 million bloggers in China. That's one out every four Chinese Internet users, or one out of every 30 Chinese citizens. Or one out every 138 human beings on the planet.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


Missing the 80's, but somehow don't even remember this.....

"La Cage Aux Folles" Actually Performs This Weekend!

Left: Cagelles line up during the Can-Can. It almost looks as if Catherine is admiring Tim's legs in this picture.

The power finally came on in the theater Saturday afternoon about 4 p.m. - after Saturday evening's performance had already been cancelled and we had all decided to go see RSP's "All Shook Up". But at least we finally got to perform, Sunday afternoon.

The crowd was very appreciative. I think the Cagelles were having some problems: we were late getting on stage for the final scene in Act I; Tim's peacock tail fell off and he converted it instead into a giant fan; Daryl's black bootie didn't want to stay on.....(let me rephrase)..... Daryl's black shoe fell off. But the crowd was appreciative nonetheless. Ben & Noel Bruening, and Darryl Strohl came to see us. It was fun!
Strange Floods

Fernley, Nevada and Coraki, New South Wales.

The Fernley flood reminds me of what we saw in Corrales, NM one summer in the early 70's - blocked irrigation canal led to a rupture - but this Fernley stuff looks pretty darn big in camparison.
A canal ruptured early Saturday after heavy rainfall, pouring 3 feet of near-freezing water into about 800 homes and stranding about 3,500 people, authorities said.

A 30-foot-long section of the Truckee Canal broke shortly before 5 a.m. in the desert agricultural town east of Reno, officials said.

...Water was 3 to 4 feet deep in parts of the town, resident Mariana Hicks told CNN.

...Residents were being taken by 10 school buses to a local shelter, and bulldozers were being brought in to shore up the levee, said Chuck Allen of the Nevada Department of Public Safety.

...The break occurred in freezing weather. "Coupled that with cold water, folks have just woken up to a terrible event," Allen told CNN.
The Coraki flood is occurring just a few kilometers from where I passed on last year's trip to Australia. In addition, it's weird to hear about a flood on the Condamine River system, which had seemed so dusty just a short time ago:
More than 240mm of rain has fallen in some areas on the Gold Coast hinterland, which feeds the Albert and Logan river systems.

The Condamine River is expected to rise to 6.5m at Warwick late this afternoon, with a second peak expected later tonight.

..."At a techno music festival about 40km out of Tenterfield at a place called Boonoo Boonoo there are about 600 or 700 people there who can't get out,'' Mr Campbell said.

"The stream there is normally 10 metres wide and is (now) more than 100 metres wide and is well above the roads in and out.

"We expect those people will be isolated for at least several days.

"We can't take them out by helicopter because all their hundreds of cars are still there.

"There will be a lot of head scratching today about how to effect (their removal) but in the meantime we will just make sure we can supply them with food and any necessary medication.''

More rain and thunderstorms are forecast for parts of northern NSW this afternoon when massive floods not seen in 50 years are expected to isolate the small town of Coraki at the junction of the Tweed and Richmond rivers.

But, Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Michael Logan said the worst had passed for residents in the region.

''(This afternoon's rains) won't be as widespread in their nature as what that rainfall was two nights ago that was unbelievably torrential,'' Mr Logan said.

"The flood that they had at Kyogle and also at Casino - it's the second largest that they've had in history and it's the largest flood in that area since about, I think 1954 was the year - so we are talking about a very major event.''

...Floodwaters are forecast to reach 6.9m at Coraki tonight, completely isolating the town, Mr Campbell said.

"Once the flood goes through Coraki, it will go through a whole string of little communities in that region but I don't think we're going to have any real problems in any of those small towns,'' he said.
"All Shook Up" - Runaway Stage Productions

Left: Final tableaux.

Great, energetic show! Very clever sets and props (only shortfall may be lighting).

Once again, Pam Kay Lourentzos' choreography shines! Her energetic style is perfectly-suited to the show's energy.

The show resembles "Mamma Mia" in that it is built around a catalog of songs - in this case, Elvis Presley songs (as opposed to Mamma Mia's catalog of ABBA songs).

Fine performances by Kay Hight and Joshua James. Megan Sandoval is excellent as well, as are Andrea St. Clair and Anne-Marie Pringle.

Apparently there was a cast reshuffling at one point. Brought late into the cast, Michael R.J. Campbell nevertheless plays a winning Jim Haller.

Left: Bows. Jim Haller (Michael R.J. Campbell), Miss Sandra (Andrea St. Clair), Dennis (Kyle Young), Natalie Haller (Kay Hight), Chad (Joshua James), Lorraine (Megan Sandoval), Dean Hyde (James Sgambati).

Left: Bows. Miss Sandra (Andrea St. Clair), Dennis (Kyle Young), Natalie Haller (Kay Hight), Chad (Joshua James), Lorraine (Megan Sandoval).

Left: Chad (Joshua James).

Left: Miss Sandra (Andrea St. Clair).

According to Andrea, "All Shook Up" is based on Shakespeare's "Twelth Night" (with a dash of "Footloose" tossed in there as well).
DMTC Show Cancelled Saturday Night Too

But at least the electricity finally came on about 4 p.m., so we'll have a show after all on Sunday afternoon.
Checking Out Downtown Sacramento Windstorm Damage

Left: Center of Praise Ministries, at 23rd & Capitol. I saw coverage of this on Channel 3 while waiting in line at the post office Friday afternoon. While there is roof damage, the building itself is almost unaffected, and so there will be services here on Sunday morning. It looks like the smaller branches of the canopy shattered as the tree came down, somewhat cushioning the blow, and the weight is well-distributed on both the lower and upper roofs. Could have been a lot worse!

Left: House at 27th & F Street. Massive, massive damage here - it looks like Godzilla stomped on it (SacBee article).

Left: McKinley Park.

Left: Palms dropped everything when the winds picked up (28th Street, between Broadway and X Streets).

Left: Tons and tons of finely-divided, salady-vegetably junk lines the streets everywhere.

Left: This dog found something yummy that had washed onto the drainage grate in this alley (near Smart & Final, near Broadway & 28th.)