Friday, March 14, 2008

The End Of Our Delusion

Last weekend, I was poking around the landscaping around the front of my house, when I found a water-damaged copy of Lyndon LaRouche's "The State Of Our Union - The End Of Our Delusion!" I guess someone had left a copy on the porch in February, and that a storm had blown the book into the bushes. Reading the title, I thought: "At last, he's come to his senses," until I realized that he wasn't talking just about himself.

The last time I paid attention, in 1984, Lyndon LaRouche was a kind of crypto-Republican: today, he is a kind of crypto-Democrat. I guess he is always a crypto-whoever-seems-to-be-on-top-at-the-moment.

So, what does the crank believe these days? Amazing things. I didn't realize how many axes he had to grind against the last several hundred years of scientific thought. He seems to believe in a mechanistic universe bereft of statistical influences. The citizenry, as usual, are lost:

Every known culture of mankind in history so far, whether a happy or wretched one, presents us with a people who, at large, are engulfed within an intricate mass of axiomatic-like assumptions. Some simplistic opinion would describe such a population as "programmed." Others would refer to sets of false beliefs which either are, or pretend to be universal physical principles, as the so-called "laws of our universe." Against this reality, the virtual idiot is the man who insists that his judgment is not affected by such cultural-environmental "fences" around the range within which his mental processes are permitted to wander. We sometimes speak, for example, of "accident proneness," or of an individual controlled, like an enraged dog on a leash, by his, or her most gripping obsessions.
"Engulfed within an intricate mass of axiomatic-like assumptions": Yup! That's me!

Times are bad:

This lack of rational rules of monetary and other economically relevant behavior, has created a British system of modern monetarism which is not merely utterly irrational, but is a degrading system of usury, which degrades the notion of economic value to the lunatic antics of a giant gambling casino, with no efficient regard for determining the relatively greater or lesser value of production and trade for specifically human objectives.
LaRouche seems to believe scientists and mathematicians had much more political influence than I believe an examination of the historical record would merit. Politicians don't give a rip about scientists, most of the time, unless they come up with a new bomb or gun. LaRouche really doesn't like that bastard, Leonhard Euler, even though Euler is prominent in the canon of mathematical thought. I've never thought of the theories of Gauss and Euler as being anything but complementary, but Lyndon saith no:

This was the same period of the writing of "Specimen Dynamicum" and of the opening of the collaboration of Leibniz and Jean Bernouilli in elaborating the catenary-cued principle of universal physical least action. This preceded the opening of Leibniz's role as a crucial political factor in the process, under England's Queen Anne, in the English succession to the institution of the British United Kingdom. During that same period, the preference of Leibniz's enemies, was to counterattack against Leibniz's powerful influence of that time by adopting the work of Descartes as the basis for an anti-Leibniz program in England itself. In light of the fact that the Netherlands-programmed Descartes retained nominally French attributes, it was deemed impracticable to import Cartesian ideology under an explicitly Cartesian label, into a France-hating England of that time. So, Hooke and other suitably skilled and witting followers of Galileo's hoaxes, were employed to synthesize a neo-Cartesian, anti-Leibniz cult in England, including a faked attribution of the invention of a calculus to an obscure academic figure known as a specialist in black magic dogma, Isaac Newton.

The most notable figure in the promotion of this creation of a synthetic, English-speaking "René Descartes" named Isaac Newton, was a Venetian, Abbé Antonio Conti, a devotee of the work of Descartes residing in Paris at that time. Conti would figure, until his death in 1749, as a keystone figure in the organizing of a network of anti-Leibniz salons throughout much of Europe, a network which included figures such as D'Alembert, de Moivre, Voltaire, Maupertuis, Leonhard Euler, Lagrange, et al., whose systemically vicious errors were demolished in an exemplary way by Carl F. Gauss in 1799. Important Nineteenth-Century followers of the legacy of those salons included London-sponsored adherents to the Newton clique such as Laplace, Augustin Cauchy, and the so-called founders of "thermodynamics" Clausius, Grassmann, and Kelvin. The concoction of the fraudulent "Second Law of Thermodynamics" was an outcome of this process.
Amazing! LaRouche doesn't believe in the "Second Law of Thermodynamics", which states that the entropy of the universe increases with time. This is problematic, but LaRouche seems to believe these concepts were foisted on an addle-brained public by a corrupt cabal of scientists in league with corrupt economists and politicians long ago. Does this mean LaRouche also believes in perpetual motion machines? How does LaRouche explain the operation of refrigerators? Can't tell.

LaRouche doesn't seem to like information theory much either:

The common feature which united such apparently diverse types of Fabians as Helphand, Crowley, Russell, and H.G. Wells, is the orchestration of diverse elements which combined "permanent war and permanent revolution," to the esteemed geopolitical advantage of an Anglo-Dutch Liberal domination of the world. "Information theory," as developed under Russell protégés Wiener and von Neumann, was among those means of the psychological-warfare methods developed with aid of the work of Rees's London Tavistock Clinic. The promotion of a recreational-drug culture, within the post-World War II U.S.A., and elsewhere, was a crucial element in this imperial scheme.
Gee, and I thought recreational drug use was all about getting high....

Well, you get the drift. Just toss many of the scientific thoughts behind our technological civilization, and embrace LaRouche and his new style of politics, with its rational hydrogen economy, and irrational authoritarian style....
It's Spring, And All I Want To Do Is Exercise

The women in the various Step One aerobics classes are substantially better-looking than average. It isn't just that they get lots of exercise - it's that they are a self-selected set of unusually good-looking women: former cheerleaders, and the like.

One of them, in particular, I can't take my eyes off of. It's because she's at the front of the class, and no one can get her out of their range of vision, even if they try. Still.....

"Are you coming to Monster Jam?" she asked. Monster Jam is this bi-weekly Sunday-morning class aimed at the hard-core, die-hard exercise-aholics. "When is it?" I asked. "9:30 a.m.," she replied. "9:30 a.m.!" I shouted. "But the theater crowd won't turn in until late on Saturday evening! I won't get any sleep! ....... But, I'll do my best....."

Hurts so good; hurts so good....
Brisket Of Beaks

Last night, I aimlessly wandered into the DMTC theater and watched a portion of the rehearsal for "Laughter On The 23rd Floor."

At one point Kevin Caravalho fumbled a line, and rendered a "brisket of beef" into a "brisket of beaks." I don't know about the humor in the rest of the comedy - I wasn't there long enough to come to a judgement - but "brisket of beaks" is pretty darn funny!

(Performances are March 28th, 29th, April 4th and 5th at 8:15pm and March 29th, 30th, April 5th and 6th at 2:15pm. Tickets are $10, and are available for online ordering at
"An Evening With Kevin Smith"

I gave "An Evening With Kevin Smith" a second chance, and what a difference an evening makes. I must have have misplaced a corn cob on Tuesday night. On Thursday evening, I saw Disc One: I saw Disc Two on Sunday night.

Unlike Kyle, and the younger generation, I am unfamiliar with Smith's movies, and so I look at them with kind of a jaundiced perspective. (Although now I want to see "Mall Rats" - I've often thought of the shopping mall as a special world altogether on its own, and it would be fun to see Smith's take on that hothouse environment.)

I have an initial strong, negative reaction to Kevin Smith, and I think a lot of that is class-driven. Kevin Smith looks like, and indeed apparently was just like, one of the suburban army of aimless, low-achieving slacker dudes whose milieu he portrays so well. It doesn't help that, at the start of Disc One, Smith himself is slightly-defensive in front of the audience, and acts to alienate himself from the adoring crowd with somewhat complacent, even snobbish insults. I've largely tried to separate myself from that milieu all my life (with exceptions, like the first half of 2005, when I spent so much time hanging around the AM/PM at 21st & Broadway that my nickname there became "The Perv With The Dog").

But then, as the evening progresses, a second Kevin Smith emerges, the engaged, absorbing storyteller, and the stories he tells are hysterical. Like how he ended up on the evening news, protesting the screening of his own movie, "Dogma."

Plus, one meets interesting people moviemaking in Hollywood. Regarding Director Tim Burton's reaction to Smith's suggestion that Burton stole a scene for "Planet of the Apes" from one of Smith's own comics, Smith describes Burton's reaction as related in a newspaper article:
He said "Anybody who knows me knows I would never read a comic book." Which to me, explains Batman. (much knowing laughter) "And I certainly would never read anything written by Kevin Smith." Whoa! The... the claws came out. The... the fucking scissorhands came out!
Then, Smith somehow got the job to write the screenplay for a Superman remake:

Back in '96 and '97, when I was commissioned by Warner Brothers to write a script for a new Superman movie. And how it came about *I* think was that somewhat saw Mallrats and watched Brodie and T.S. talking about the Kryptonite condom and someone thought 'This guy seems to know a lot about Superman.'
And his meetings with Producer Jon Peters, and how Peters had referred to himself and Smith as having much in common, because they were both "from the streets" - a claim that Smith knew was patently absurd all the way around. And how Peters, who was thinking about casting Sean Penn in the part, had just three requirements for Superman:
  • he had to lose the red-and-blue uniform;
  • he had to stop flying around; and,
  • he had to fight a giant spider (plus polar bears at the Fortress of Solitude).
Smith thought Peters' absorption with aggressive animals showed that he had way too much access to the Discovery Channel. Very funny stories! And a stark illustration why producers have to kept away from screenwriting: their vanity and misplaced priorities ruin perfectly-good stories (and like Kyle says, explains why so much trash comes out of Hollywood).

Disc 2 is notable mostly for the tale Smith tells of spending a week filming an album-launch festival-of-sorts with Prince, the singer. Prince is both very religious, and quite eccentric, and no one is better than Smith describing the culture-shock between an everyman, and the man who was described as having lived "in Prince-world for quite some time now." Prince apparently is prone to launching into hours-long, upbeat, evangelical speeches that left Smith "gobsmacked," as the British would say. Nevertheless, as interesting as the week was for Prince fan Smith, Smith was never paid, or even thanked, for his efforts, so the whole episode was just another illustration of what power and fame can do to people.

(P.S.: Regarding "Clerks II", there was one part of the execrable donkey scene that made me giggle uncontrollably, and that was contemplating the absurd mobile-disco setup: the lights, the music, the fog, and the ridiculous mylar strips of the curtain, all solely dedicated to the purpose of creating a sense of fun and mystery......)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Mucus Recipe

Hmmm. The joy of nursing as a field of study. A friend shared with me her recipe for making fake mucus. Mucus is made mostly out of sugars and protein: this fake mucus just substitutes different sugars and proteins:
What you need:
Light corn syrup - unflavored
Gelatin, measuring cup, water
Microwave oven, or stove

What to do:
Heat 1/2 cup of water until it boils
Remove heat, sprinkle in 3 envelopes of unflavored gelatin. Let it
soften a few minutes and stir with a fork.
Add enough corn syrup to make 1 cup of thick glop. Stir with fork and
lift out the long strands of gunk.
As it cools, you'll need to add more water, spoonful by spoonful.
California Bighorn Sheep Trouble

In northwest Nevada:
Before European pioneers began settling the West, three species of bighorn sheep, California, Rocky Mountain and Desert, inhabited much of Nevada's mountainous terrain.

By the 1960s, only Desert Bighorns were left in extreme Southern Nevada.

Today, because of an aggressive reintroduction program, biologists estimate there are 9,000 in all, scattered across the state.

In 1989, the Wildlife Department began re-establishing the species in the Hays Canyon Range, a chain of mountains roughly 50 miles northwest of Gerlach near the California state line. Since then the herd had continued to grow.

The first hint of trouble came in August 2005, when "one coughing and one sneezing" bighorn sheep were observed, according to the Wildlife Department.

There was no other indication of disease until last October, when a hunter reported seeing a sick ewe that was found dead a few hours later.

Game wardens retrieved the carcass for testing, which confirmed the ewe had died of bacterial pneumonia.

Over the next several weeks, wildlife biologists, assisted by the conservation group Nevada Bighorns Unlimited, conducted aerial and ground surveys of the region.

"After finding that one dead animal ... we went back in there to see if we could find other sheep and see if they were healthy or not healthy," Atkinson said.

What they found were some carcasses and sick and dying sheep, from which samples were taken.

"Just the fact we found six sheep in the process of dying is unusual," said Mike Dobel, the Department of Wildlife's western region supervising game biologist.

The extent of the die-off became clear by November.

"We realized we couldn't find very many sheep," Atkinson said. "The real finding was just the absence of sheep."

Dobel said the range has experienced severe drought conditions in recent years, which might have made the sheep more vulnerable to disease.
Hello? Hello?

Walking Sparky last night at 2:30 a.m., I encountered a man in distress at 24th Street and 2nd Avenue. He was standing with a wide stance in the street, wavering with the wind (he may have been a bit drunk), holding a cell phone to his ear and shouting "Hello? Hello?" Then he would mutter desolate obscenities under his breath. It looked as if he had been abandoned far from home by a group of fickle bar friends.

As Sparky and I passed by, I looked at him. He look apprehensively back at me. We said nothing to each other, and Sparky and I continued on our walk.
It's So Beautiful!

I knew one person who stared at the sun for ten minutes because it was so beautiful. He was temporarily disabled, and even at the time I knew him, he still had trouble recognizing people in the dark, because of the permanent damage to his macula:
AT least 50 people in Kottayam district in India have reportedly lost their vision after gazing at the sun looking for an image of Virgin Mary.

Though alarmed health authorities have installed a signboard to counter the rumour that a solar image of Virgin Mary appeared to the believers, curious onlookers, including foreign travellers, have been thronging the venue of the "miracle".

St Joseph’s ENT and Eye Hospital in Kanjirappally alone has recorded 48 cases of vision loss due to photochemical burns on the retina. “All our patients have similar history and symptoms. The damage is to the macula, the most sensitive part of retina. They have developed photochemical, not thermal, burns after continuously gazing at the sun,” Dr Annamma James Isaac, the hospital’s ophthalmologist, said.
Patronizing And Disrespectful

Walt writes:
I was talking to a black coworker the other day (not the same one as previously) who was pissed at Hillary. He said that she, currently in second place, offered the vice-presidential spot to Obama, who is currently in first place. This guy felt that Hillary was being patronizing and disrespectful.
I respond:
Everything your coworker is complaining about is true. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is.

The Clinton camp is using a race-conscious (it may be too much to call it a racist) approach to winning. Frequently these kinds of appeals are usually unstated assumptions in, say, complaints about the unfairness of affirmative action, or complaints about misogyny in rap lyrics. Racist assumptions are unstated, but often lurk in the background. Hillary’s approach has been to use surrogates (Bill Clinton, Geraldine Ferraro, and others) to tap into these race-conscious themes, which generally amount to – there are more white women than black men in America, so back off!

Clinton is also using what the left blogosphere has dubbed the “bitch-slap” approach to dealing with Obama. You want a more-complaint Obama? Slap the bitch across the face. Or get someone else to slap the bitch across the face. It’s surprising how well it works. For the last decade, Republicans have bitch-slapped Democrats up-and-down Capitol Hill on any number of issues, and it has made Democrats battle-shy. Republicans have often prevailed, even when the odds were against them at first, by simply being rougher than the Democrats. So, Hillary simultaneously states that she is willing to consider Obama for the vice-presidential spot, but that Obama doesn’t have the experience to be commander-in-chief? That sounds like a classic bitch-slap.

The way to respond is for Obama to beat Hillary. Right now, it looks like the superdelegates will decide the race, but they are professional politicians – professional weathervanes – who will look at the race as dispassionately as possible and side with the contender who helps the superdelegates the most. Obama has to find a way of coping with Hillary’s approach, because McCain will likely follow the same approach, but with maybe less restraint.

The next big race is Pennsylvania, and there is an entire month to campaign. Clinton has a big advantage there, but if Obama can close the gap, or beat Clinton, Obama will be almost impossible to stop. So, if I were in Obama, I’d hop on a bus and campaign in every single small town in Pennsylvania for the next month – Hillary’s strongholds. Beat her there, or even come close, and the nomination is his. Then Obama can do his own trash-talking, if he likes, to the convention, and beyond.

A basketball analogy is appropriate: the 2002 NBA Western Division Playoff Series between the champion LA Lakers, and the challenger Sacramento Kings. Sacramentans were shocked at how the referees would not call obvious fouls by the rough-playing Lakers. The attitude of the referees seemed to be: “If you want the Western Division Championship - if you really want the Western Division Championship – you have to beat the Lakers, and not go whining to us, because we’re not going to do your job for you.” Sacramento couldn’t quite do it, which was bad for the team that Shaq liked to call the Sacramento “Queens.”

Here’s a bit more on that basketball series:

With the addition of Bibby, the Kings had their best season to date in 2001-02. The team finished with a league-best record of 61-21, going 36-5 at ARCO Arena, and stormed through the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Kings then faced the L.A. Lakers, the two-time defending champions in the western conference finals. In what has been widely acclaimed as one of the greatest playoff series of all time, the Kings jumped out to a 3-2 lead. In a highly contested game 6 at the STAPLES Center, the Kings lost narrowly. The Kings shot nine free throws in the fourth quarter to the Lakers 27. The Kings would go on to lose the series. In the seventh and final game, poor free throw shooting would doom the Kings; making only 16 of 30 free throws (53.3%).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Clerks II" And "An Evening With Kevin Smith"

Like Kyle mentioned in yesterday's comments, "Clerks II" is cruder than "Clerks": crude to the point where it stops being funny and starts just being tedious. It makes you wonder about discretion. Maybe these guys are just spoiled by success. Maybe the demographic for this kind of humor is huge. Whatever. A little subtlety would be appreciated.

Like, cut the donkey scene, for chrissakes.

Some aspects of "Clerks II" seem OK - better acting, some tugging of heartstrings, although the writing is a little less crisp than with "Clerks".

I did like that they had Rosario Dawson in the movie, and even gave her a little dance sequence, to the Jackson Five's "ABC". Great! That's just what I like (which is why it seemed so strange to see it here). I couldn't help but wonder, though, what is she doing in a movie like this? There's a million other places where her talents would be on better display. I guess now that Kevin Smith is a big success, he can now pull in big names into his vortex of mediocrity - the privilege of success, after all.

I was baffled, in "An Evening With Kevin Smith", by how many fawning university students showed up for his talks. Every single person in those auditoriums would seem to have more on-the-ball than the marble-mouthed yo-yo at the podium - something of a failed clerk, after all. So why is it that it's the marble-mouthed yo-yo talking?

I will never understand the roots of success, and the roots of failure. Perhaps they are so-closely aligned as to be opposite sides of the the same card.
Southwest Storm Brewing

Deborah in Phoenix writes:
My weather 'widget' says low 80's all week but takes a huge plunge Sunday--what's up Saturday night??????
The Web Site I usually look at is off-line at the moment, but this Web Site shows the situation well enough - a massive trough that develops off the San Diego coast and sweeps inland over the Southwest.

The modeled images represent the upper atmosphere (at the 500 mb level) every 3 hours. By sweeping downward, you can get almost an animated quality from the images. The big trough appears near the bottom as a massive yellow, red, and purple monster sweeping into Arizona.

Unfortunately we won't get much from it here in Sacramento (and it's been dry here lately), but Phoenix will see rain (and colder temperatures) for sure.
What's New Down Under?

Same thing that's new here:
IT is interesting to note that 5116 NSW students last year studied drama as an HSC subject – twice as many as a decade ago. There were also more than 700 HSC dance enrolments in 2007, triple the number of 1995.

Talent agencies, dance studios and drama classes are springing up all over Sydney at an unprecedented rate, with the highly regarded NIDA and long-established Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP) about to substantially increase the number of their short courses and school holiday workshops such is the demand for acting classes.

Even in this celebrity era, the influx reveals an extraordinary desire for fame.

But does it also reveal an amazing level of naivety on behalf of not only these aspiring youngsters, but parents too?

How many of last year's 5000 HSC drama students will go on to be household names or, at best, have a career in the arts world successful enough to pay the bills? After all, for every Nicole Kidman or Russell Crowe there are many, many more "actors" waiting tables.

Even among those who reach the apparent pinnacle of stardom there can also be a high toll, with Britney Spears and Heath Ledger recent examples.

Yet youngsters continue to strive to be the next big thing, perhaps in a belief fostered by the likes of TV programs such as Australian Idol and So You Think You Can Dance.

Add to this the number of private schools seemingly outbuilding one another with state-of-the-art facilities such as cinemas, performing arts centres and video-editing suites plus government high schools dedicated to performing arts.

While I applaud teenagers choosing to spend holidays and weekends pursuing something other than loitering in shopping centres or spraying graffiti on trains, I also can't help but wonder if they all have real talent and appeal or are simply delusional in their aspirations?

How often have you been bored by parents espousing how their child is destined for the stage or screen when in fact they can't hold a tune, they dance as though they have two left feet and realistically has more chance of becoming a lesbian than a thespian?

But apparently, to point this out is rude. Instead, I believe you and I would be far better off cashing in on it like a host of others are currently doing. Take Nikki Webster, who rose to fame as the star of the Sydney Olympics opening ceremony, and will shortly open a dance studio. Not even the delay in its opening (due to legal issues) has deterred wannabe pop-dancing princesses who ring daily wanting to know when classes start.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hatin' On The Phone

A month ago, my home phone broke, and I'm just loving the peace and quiet! I'm taking my time calling in for repairs.

I hate cell phones too. Don't have one (though you never know, I might change my mind if I feel the need). Never tried texting - it might be OK.

I think what I don't like about phones are their noisy, commanding rings. "Answer me now!" they say. I like to think through my thoughts, not have them interrupted by the impertinence of others.

I hope this trait I have in common with the successful bloggers means I am a successful blogger too. So far, though, it just means I'm difficult to reach.
PHONE HOSTILITY....Lots of hating on telephones today:

"I couldn't be more thrilled with the phone's decline. I used to be painfully
shy as a person, and while I've largely gotten over that IRL I still find it
incredibly stressful to talk to people on the phone."

"I think I enjoyed chatting with girls when I was 13 or so, but since then I've
pretty much hated the phone."

Alan Jacobs:
"This is a loathing I share, and have for a long time."

"Weird fact: every single (successful) blogger I know hates talking on the
phone. I'm gregarious face to face, and I'm an inveterate user of various kinds
of textual messaging, but I would rather scrub my floors with a toothbrush than
get on the phone."
Sue The Casinos

I am sympathetic to the woman who is suing to recover her losses from problem gambling, but disagree with her analogy to problem drinking, where bars can be held liable for providing too much liquor to patrons. In those cases, drunk driving and the slaughter of innocents can ensue, but there is no such wreckage with problem gambling. There can be wholesale destruction of family finances and family life, of course, but as bad as that is, it does not compare in scope and scale, and society suffers less for it. Maximum freedom for all does have its downside, but we should prefer it, compared to the overly-oppressive nanny-statism that is the alternative approach.

Now, it's important to remember that, with the various ways casinos now have to track patrons, such as those ID cards they now foist on customers, that casinos know to a surprising degree who is a problem gambler and who is not. I remember, after long, losing nights at Cache Creek in the 90's, that as I returned from the bathroom, I would pass by blackjack dealers heading on break, who would quietly whisper "Go home!" as they passed by. I mean, the dealers, as well as the casino, knew. The casinos knew there was a problem, but not only did they not have a duty to cut me off, they didn't particularly care to do so, since it was their livelihood to keep me going (although I must thank the dealers for having a heart). This was a consequence, unfortunate as it may have been, of personal freedom.

This woman needed to go home.....
She was an ambitious lawyer and TV commentator who starting going to Atlantic City casinos to relax and soon was getting high-roller treatment that included limousines whisking her to the resort.

Arelia Margarita Taveras said she was even allowed to bring her dog, Sasha, to the blackjack tables, sitting in her purse.

But her gambling spun out of control: She said she would go days at a time at the tables, not eating or sleeping, brushing her teeth with disposable wipes so she didn't have to leave.

She said her losses totaled nearly $1 million.

Now she's chasing the longest of long shots: a $20 million racketeering lawsuit in federal court against six Atlantic City casinos and one in Las Vegas, claiming they had a duty to notice her compulsive gambling problem and cut her off.

"They knew I was going for days without eating or sleeping," Taveras said. "I would pass out at the tables. They had a duty of care to me. Nobody in their right mind would gamble for four or five straight days without sleeping."

...The casinos denied any wrongdoing, maintaining in court papers that Taveras brought her problems on herself. Casino representatives either declined to comment for this report or did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

...Paul O'Gara, an attorney specializing in Atlantic City gambling issues, said it will be difficult for Taveras to prove that the casinos knew she had a problem but ignored it.

"How are you supposed to know whether this was a woman who was just having a good time, or had money and was just lonely, as opposed to someone who couldn't control themselves?" he said.

...As a young lawyer, Taveras made a name for herself representing the families of victims of American Airlines Flight 587, which crashed in New York City's borough of Queens in November 2001, killing 265 people.

Her practice had 400 clients and earned her $500,000 a year. She appeared on TV and radio to discuss legal issues, wrote a guidebook for women dealing with deadbeat dads in the court system, titled "The Gangsta Girls' Guide To Child Support," and was a regular contributor to Hispanic culture Web sites. In 2000, the New York Daily News named her one of "21 New Yorkers to Watch in the 21st Century."

As an escape from the seven-day-a-week pressures of her law practice, she started going to Atlantic City to unwind in September 2003.

During one five-day gambling jag at Resorts in June 2005, Taveras said, she existed on nothing but orange juice and Snickers bars that the staff gave her. On the fifth day, she said, a dealer told her to go home because she appeared exhausted and unable to keep track of her cards.

Taveras spent nearly a year in clinics to treat her gambling addiction. She filed her lawsuit last September, representing herself, and is now working at a telephone call center in Minnesota.

"Everybody says 'You gambled and you enjoyed yourself, then lost your money and now you want it back,'" Taveras said. "They think gambling is fun. It isn't, believe me. Not when you get like I did."
Salacious Details

Elliot Spitzer's crazy sex scandal is chockful of steamy, seamy detail. But what got me was the NY Times getting, on record, a major donor's sudden realization that he was unwittingly involved as well:
The law enforcement official said that several people running the prostitution ring knew Mr. Spitzer by the name of George Fox, though a few of the prostitutes came to realize he was the governor of New York.

Mr. Fox is a friend and donor to Mr. Spitzer. Asked in a telephone interview Monday whether he accompanied Mr. Spitzer to Washington on Feb. 13 and Feb. 14, Mr. Fox responded: "Why would you think that? I did not.”

Told that the Room 871 at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel was registered in Mr. Fox’s name but with Mr. Spitzer’s Fifth Avenue address, Mr. Fox said, "That is the first I have heard of it. Until I speak to the governor further, I have no comment."
Boy, journalism never gets better than that!

The ultimate impact of this on Democratic Party politics is hard to project. The bimbo eruption came so suddenly that there was no time for the steady, erosive drip-drip of information that usually does so much damage. So, for the moment, the damage is bad, but still contained: they just seal off that deck on the Star Cruiser and hope for the best. Nevertheless, this Emperor's Club had other big-name clients, some of whom may be even more interesting than Elliot Spitzer, so, we'll see what happens....
Fallon Resigns

Very bad news:
The Navy admiral in charge of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan announced Tuesday that he is resigning over press reports portraying him as opposed to President Bush's Iran policy.

Adm. William J. Fallon, one of the most experienced officers in the U.S. military, said the reports were wrong but had become a distraction hampering his efforts in the Middle East. Fallon's area of responsibility includes Iran and stretches from Central Asia across the Middle East to the Horn of Africa.

"I don't believe there have ever been any differences about the objectives of our policy in the Central Command area of responsibility," Fallon said, and he regretted "the simple perception that there is." He was in Iraq when he made the statement.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a Pentagon news conference that he accepted Fallon's request to resign and retire from the Navy, agreeing that the Iran issue had become a distraction. But Gates said repeatedly that he believed talk of Fallon opposing Bush on Iran was mistaken.

"I don't think that there really were differences at all," Gates said, adding that Fallon was not pressured to leave.

...Fallon was the subject of an article published last week in Esquire magazine that portrayed him as at odds with a president eager to go to war with Iran. Titled "The Man Between War and Peace," it described Fallon as a lone voice against taking military action to stop the Iranian nuclear program.

Gates said he did not think it was that article alone that prompted Fallon to quit. Rather, Gates thought it was "a cumulative kind of thing" that he and Fallon had failed to put "behind us."

It is highly unusual for a senior commander to resign in wartime. Fallon took the post on March 16, 2007, succeeding Army Gen. John Abizaid, who retired after nearly four years in the job. Fallon was part of a new team of senior officials, including Gates, chosen by Bush to implement a revised Iraq war policy.

...Some Democrats in Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, seized on Fallon's resignation to assert that it reflected an effort by the Bush administration to stifle dissenting opinion.

"I am concerned that the resignation of Admiral William J. Fallon, commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East and a military leader with more than three decades of command experience, is yet another example that independence and the frank, open airing of experts' views are not welcomed in this administration," Reid said.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said the White House played no role in Fallon's move.

"People should not misconstrue this as the price to be paid for speaking out within the Pentagon," Morrell said. "This is not indicative of a hostile environment toward free thinking. This is indicative of what sadly became a perception problem that dogged Admiral Fallon - this perception that he was in a different place than the president and the administration when it came to Iran."

...Fallon, 63, a veteran of the Vietnam War and a former vice chief of naval operations, has had a 41-year Navy career. He received his commission through the Navy ROTC program at Villanova University in 1967. Before taking the Central Command job he was commander of U.S. Pacific Command.
Like Josh Marshall says:
The resignation of a CINC is a big deal, under almost any circumstance. But considering the Bush Administration's seven-year effort to put the Pentagon under its thumb, the resignation of a commander like Fallon, who by most accounts was willing to exercise his independent military judgment, is another setback for the professional officer corps as an institution.

Make no mistake. None of the Bush Administration's efforts in this regard has been about re-asserting civilian control over the military in some constitutional sense. The effort has been focused on degrading the autonomy, independence, and institutional authority of the Pentagon in order to further the narrow ideological and partisan aims of this particular White House.
More MFL Pix

Left: Lauren Miller as Eliza Doolittle.

Left: "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?"

Left: Steve Isaacson as Henry Higgins.

Left: "The Rain In Spain" Henry Higgins (Steve Isaacson) refines his matador skills with Colonel Pickering (Herb Schultz) and Eliza Doolittle (Lauren Miller).

Left: Tea at Ascot.

Left: Ascot (front row, left to right, Stacey Sheehaan, Marisa Casillas, Herb Shultz, and Scott Sablan.

Left: Trevor Hoffman as Alfred P. Doolittle and Lauren Miller as Eliza Doolittle (Eva Chu in the foreground).

Left: Trevor Hoffman as Alfred P. Doolittle and Lauren Miller as Eliza Doolittle (with an obscured Michael McElroy as Freddy Eynsford-Hill).

Left: "Get Me To The Church On Time"

Left: Jenny Parks as Mrs. Higgins and Lauren Miller as Eliza Doolittle.
"Clerks" And "Waiting"

Byron at Subway asked "have you ever done any customer service in your life, like being a waiter, even when you were younger?" I answered no, except maybe now: as "My Fair Lady" Stage Manager, I prepare some finger cakes to be eaten on-stage, and wash dishes, as well as wash Eliza's marbles. Byron is slightly-familiar with Lauren Miller (who is playing Eliza Doolittle), having seen the DMTC "Titanic" video, where she played second-class striver Alice Beane, opposite my Edgar Beane, and he sometimes asks "How's your wife doing? Does she still like to dance with billionaires?" I generally answer something like "Yup. I can't control her worth beans."

Anyway, Byron said "You have GOT to watch these videos: they are classic!" So, I watched Kevin Smith's 1994 "Clerks" (the Miramax collector edition tenth anniversary 'X' reissue, with the kind of loving detail I usually associate with Humphrey Bogart classics, or "Gone With The Wind"):
Its just another day for Dante Hicks, until his boss calls him into work at the Quickstop on his day off. With a hockey game at 2, and his girlfriend still hacking him about going to back to school. Dante begins to get into a bigger frenzy when he learns his ex-girlfriend, Caitlin, is getting married. With his always late accomplice Randall strolling in to work at the video store, Dante is left with no choice but to bend the rules a little with work, customers, and most of all his love life. Can he get away with it all? (Plot summary by Bryanne Marks).
Plus, I also watched Waiting:
Young employees at Shenaniganz restaurant collectively stave off boredom and adulthood with their antics.
Well, I do have to say I found some of the crude humor somewhat off-putting: to my mind, the crude humor interferes with the real comic gold to be found in these particular settings. After all, millions of people have done customer service jobs and strongly empathize with the various situations one can find oneself in. "Clerks" ("the vulgar thinking-man's film") is better than "Waiting", but even "Clerks" suffers from amateurish acting. "Clerks" grunge motif works better than the slick suburban setting of "Waiting" for conveying the desperation that lies right at the surface, like a ravenous crocodile, or some kind of angst-ridden land shark. Nevertheless, some beg to differ:
I hated (HATED!) being a waitress, but this movie is so hilarious and so ballsy that it almost makes me want to go back to the summer of 1999 to work one more shift at TGI Fridays. Waiting is the best, most accurate, most honest, and most riotously funny movie ever made about the service industry. Here's how I see it – the world is divided into two groups of people: those who have waited tables and those who haven't. Those who have never worked a day of their lives in a restaurant may find this movie amusing, but they'll think it's too absurd to be real, and they'll probably never give a second thought to this movie ever again.

But those of you who have felt the pain, degradation, and humiliation of waiting tables will p**s your pants laughing at how PERFECT this movie is. First-time writer/director Rob McKittrick has created a dead-on depiction of 24 hours in the restaurant biz. The movie opens at a late-night party with lots of underage drinking, smoking, and sex. Then we see the wait staff hung-over at work the next day. The restaurant they all work at is called "Shenanigans," but it looks an awful lot like the TGI Fridays I worked at.
One thing that struck me, however, is how much "Clerks" lead character Dante Hicks reminds me of Byron at Subway. He looks like him - he even sounds like him. It's no surprise that Byron identifies with Dante, and that unprompted, Subway customers often tell Byron the stock line from "Clerks": "you're not even supposed to be here today!"

I liked the way QuickStop customers in "Clerks" often uttered exactly the same lines over and over again: "Are you open today?" then "I wanna buy some cigarettes." I liked the gum salesman masquerading as a tobacco prohibitionist:
You're spending what? Twenty, thirty dollars a week on cigarettes... Fifty-three dollars. Would you pay someone that much money every week to kill you? Because that's what you're doing now, by paying for the so-called privilege to smoke!... It's that kind of mentality that allows this cancer-producing industry to thrive. Of course we're all going to die someday, but do we have to pay for it? Do we actually have to throw hard-earned dollars on a counter and say, "Please, please, Mr. Merchant of Death, sir; please sell me something that will give me bad breath, stink up my clothes, and fry my lungs... Of course it's not that easy to quit; not when you have people like this mindless cretin so happy and willing to sell you nails for your coffin... Now he's going to launch into his rap about how he's just doing his job; following orders. Friends, let me tell you about another bunch of hate mongers that were just following orders; they were called Nazis, and they practically wiped a nation of people from the Earth... just like cigarettes are doing now! Cigarette smoking is the new Holocaust, and those that partake in the practice of smoking or selling the wares that promote it are the Nazis of the Nineties! He doesn't care how many people die from it! He smiles as you pay for your cancer sticks and says, "Have a nice day."
And I liked the inadvertent sale of cigarettes to a four-year-old girl. And video-store clerk, Randal, and his philosophizing to Dante:
You sound like an asshole! Jesus, nobody twisted your arm to be here. You're here of your own volition. You like to think the weight of the world rests on your shoulder. Like this place would fall apart if Dante wasn't here. Jesus, you overcompensate for having what's basically a monkey's job. You push fucking buttons. Anybody can just waltz in here and do our jobs. You-You're so obsessed with making it seem so much more epic, so much more important than it really is. Christ, you work in a convenience store, Dante! And badly, I might add! I work in a shitty video store, badly as well. You know, that guy Jay's got it right, man. He has no delusions about what he does. Us, we like to make ourselves seem so much more important than the people that come in here to buy a paper, or, god forbid, cigarettes. We look down on them as if we're so advanced. Well, if we're so fucking advanced, what are we doing working here?
I especially liked the booklet enclosed with "Clerks" X edition, featuring Director Kevin Smith's reminiscences about youthful years working in, and getting trapped in a suffocating embrace by, a New Jersey QuickStop - the ultimate source of his career as a movie director.

Next, Byron will loan me "Clerks II" and a documentary featuring Kevin Smith.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Paying-The-Bills Blues

There is constant interplay between community musical theaters like DMTC, and the various royalty companies that hold the rights and own the materials from which theaters spin fantasies into reality. Scripts are constantly being shipped for inspection, lost musical books are being returned as others are being rented, royalties are being paid, contracts are being signed and fees assessed, and thousands of dollars are changing hands. Thus, it is little surprise that what money DMTC sends them sometimes doesn't quite match what they require, and that I, in my capacity as DMTC Treasurer, end up with a past-due bill for $57.31 that requires payment. The past-due notice reads, in part:
Our goal is to work with you to reconcile your account, however, understand, that failure to respond to this norice may result in your account being put on credit hold and we may require pre-payment for future orders.
This isn't even grammatical! Norice? Norice? What is this, a Charlie Chan audition?

The norice continues:
Note: Please don't be confused by this statement - your original invoice showed our New York address (which is still correct), however, for this account, we would appreciate it if you would send all remittace to our Los Angeles office....
Remittances! Remittances! Spell it properly! OK, I promise I won't be confused by this norice, provided it is written in proper English.

(I must be slowly turning into Henry Higgins....)
Meet The New Neighbor

Last night, about 1:30 a.m., as Sparky and returned home from our nightly walk, I heard some unexpected scratching from the landscaping surrounding a house about half a block from where I live. Dimly, I realized there must be an animal in there somewhere, but what kind of animal? It couldn't be a bird, because they chirp, if they make any sound at all. Cats are virtually silent, and dogs would come bounding out of the bushes upon seeing Sparky, so neither seemed likely candidates. Possums sometimes make noise, but their noise is inadvertent, and I suppose it could be from raccoons, but I see them rarely. So, what kind of animal was in there?

Suddenly, I saw it, waddling away across 22nd Street. Alerted to my presence, it turned towards me and pointed its tail straight into the air, an unmistakable warning. Omigod, it's a black-and-white striped skunk! Here, at the edge of Curtis Park! Sparky, who had been trailing, investigating scents, never saw it. Reassured that we weren't in pursuit, the skunk turned and vanished into the inky dark along Sloat Way.

Now I realize skunks do get into the city: sometimes you smell them around the I-5/Highway 50 interchange, but at least at that location, the river is nearby, and there is a bit of land to support them. It must be harder here, closer to the urban core of the city. Next to polar bears, skunks have the least fear of humans - for good reason!

Sometimes it's a blessing that Sparky isn't a younger dog.....
News From New York

Turned on the radio this morning, and Rush was chortling in full, blood-thirsty humor, but since I tuned in late, I couldn't quite figure out what was up.

Apparently, Elliot is in some unexpected trouble.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

"My Fair Lady" Saturday Night

Left: "Ascot". In white, Crystal Low and Jenny Parks.

Left: Steve Isaacson as Henry Higgins and Lauren Miller as Eliza Doolittle.

Left: "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" Street urchin Marisa Casillas catches up on the day's Tottenham Court gossip with Crystal Low and Laura Woodruff. Behind the flower cart, Lauren Miller as Eliza Doolittle.

Left: Tea at Ascot.

Left: The Embassy Ball. Foreground, Stacey Sheehan and Julie Kilpatrick.

Left: Success, after the Embassy Ball.

Left: Steve Isaacson as Henry Higgins and Lauren Miller as Eliza Doolittle.

Left: "Get Me To The Church On Time"

Left: "Get Me To The Church On Time"

Left: Steve Isaacson as Henry Higgins and Lauren Miller as Eliza Doolittle.
Who Is The Alpha Dog?

Left: Canines like Sparky tend to identify the Alpha Dog as the one who towers over them. Here, I am the Alpha Dog.

Left: Every day when I go to work, Sparky stands on the back porch, and I stand below him. Here , Sparky is the Alpha Dog. Sparky really likes this practice - a lot!
So, What's New At Arden Fair Mall?

Left: A bumping soundtrack (Nelly Furtado's "Maneater") and an empty catwalk at Macy's practically beg to be used!

Even though the shopping mall has an infinite variety of first-rate goods, and even though there is an infinite variety of people there, somehow the mall experience never changes much - it's always reassuringly familiar. So, what's new the mall?

Well, this is new - an empty catwalk! What is going on? Turned out, I was an hour early for "Perfect Prom 2008," an event co-sponsored by Seventeen Magazine and Macy's Stores.

Left: This is new - eye candy for all your friends!

Over at Abercrombie and Fitch, a male model poses with all-comers.

Left: Everyone join in!