Friday, April 11, 2008

Capital Music Awards

It's that awkward time of year again, when one needs to choose among friends and acquaintances for serious cash money:
Introducing...the finalists for the 2008 Capital Music Awards! It's a singing competition for students that's a cross between "American Idol" and "High School Musical" -- and these talented teenagers are competing for a $5000 college scholarship, along with some other cool stuff!

The CMA Finals are Saturday, April 26th at the Wells Fargo Pavilion in downtown Sacramento. Tickets are $30 each and the winner will be picked by a combination of the online voting and the audience vote that night! Check out the video clips of their semifinal performances, sign up to vote and help us choose the first Capital Music Awards Champion!
The one I'm most familiar with, I'll vote for (but I'm not going to say who it is, in order to claim plausible deniability....)
And Before I Forget...

That nice write-up a few days ago in the Sacramento Bee regarding Maggie Elizabeth May:
Q: Why should anyone join a chorus?

A: You'll learn the foundations. If you start at an early age by learning to read music and learning to blend your voice, then you'll be able to take care of your voice. There are a lot of things that I learned in the chorus that I still use today.
Ghost Boat

Strange doings along the Queensland Coast:
An unmanned yacht found drifting off the north Queensland coast had computers running and even food on a table ready to eat - but no crew, puzzled emergency services say.

...Police say the missing men are from Western Australia, and aged 56, 63 and 69. Two of the men are related and the other is a friend.

They planned to take the 10-metre catamaran Kaz II, bought at Airlie Beach, back to Western Australia, first travelling north.

The air and sea search continues spanning the Whitsundays in the south to Davies Reef and Cape Bowling Green, near Ayr, police said.

Emergency Management Queensland (EMQ) spokesman Jon Hall said crews were puzzled by what they found because "everything appeared normal".

"It looked like the boat had been recently abandoned. The engine was still running in neutral (but) one of the sails had been damaged," Mr Hall said.

"There was a laptop computer on board and running with power, the computers on board were running, all of their clothing was still there.

"The table was actually set for a meal with food and cutlery in place.

"The radio was working, the GPS was working and things below deck were normal except for the absence of crew."

The GPS will be analysed for clues to see if the boat's passage can be tracked backwards over the previous five days to help the search.
College Field Trip To Brothel

Brothels' profiles have been rising of late, but this field-trip approach is novel:
Randolph College junior Johna Strickland. 21, told me after the visit: "This was the highlight of the trip. I am all for legal prostitution now once you learn the reality of how it is here without the danger of drugs and violence. But in general it is not an issue people discuss." Her conclusion: "These are real women with an unusual job."
One-Hit-Wonder Frustration

Today's cautionary example - Vanilla Ice.
One-Hit-Wonder Frustration

Today's cautionary example - Vanilla Ice.
"Imagine" - CORE Dance Collective

Left: Bows, to a standing ovation.

One more performance, Saturday night, at 7:30 p.m., at Natomas Charter School Theater, Del Paso Blvd. & Blackrock, North Natomas.

Left: "Imagine"

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries,
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Left: CORE Dance Collective

CORE Dance Collective AUDITIONS!

Where: Step 1 Dance and Fitness
1920 T Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

When: Sunday, May 4th @ 3pm

What you need? Resume, Headshot, and YOUR DANCING BODIES!

Left: Front row - Dawn Miller (green top) and Blair Kendall (reddish top). Kenna Wright, second row, right.

Left: Tina DeVine, in a rare pensive moment on stage.
Drive, He Said

I abide by two rules when looking for unfamiliar places:
  • never consult a map;
  • never ask for directions.
Thus, it's no surprise I got lost in North Natomas, looking for the Natomas Charter School Theater (which I had been to before only once).

The nice thing is that now I'm more familiar with the neighborhood. The bad thing is that I missed half the concert. But I was late anyway (and there is always tomorrow's concert).
Tokyo At Night

I'm not fond of the music (too "Eighties" for my taste) but I do like the photos of Tokyo, and the Ginza District, at night.
This Sounds Like Fun

Sort of like what "All Shook Up" had, but on the street. Wonder if it would fly in Sacramento?
For the past two years, Philippine native Isabelo “Billy” Fausto has worked on a pedestal, painted head to toe in silver, making mime movements to convince people to ignore the large resorts all around; and instead he coaxes them into the tiny La Salsa Cantina for drinks and slots. He works as a self-described “dynamic living statue.” Next to him works a man in a sort of smurf Elvis outfit. “People love taking pictures with me,” Fausto says. “I am a performer and I love what I am doing. I used to be an acrobat but the group broke up. And so I developed this.”

Fausto says he has seen so much on the Strip that nothing fazes him. When the Monte Carlo’s roof caught fire across the street from where he works in January, Fausto was pleased that his show managed to distract the tourists who came to view the flames. “They started looking at the fire. But I put on the better show.”
Strangers In A Strange Land

The importance of local knowledge:
Two women led themselves on a wild goose chase from Italy to Munich after arranging to meet their niece in Monaco - which in Italian can mean either the tiny principality on the French Riviera, or Bavaria's capital.

"The problem was they thought Munich was Monaco," said a spokesman for Munich police today.

Called Monaco di Baviera in Italian, the city is known as Muenchen in High German, Mnichov in Czech, Monachium in Polish and Minga in the local Bavarian dialect.

The two women, originally from the Dominican Republic, had driven across the Alps from Trento in northern Italy to collect the 14-year-old from the Paris-Munich train, but started to panic and went to the police when the girl failed to appear.

As the two spoke only Italian and Spanish, and because the niece had no mobile phone, it took police 1-1/2 hours to establish that she had actually gone to the Mediterranean.

Afterwards, the women got back in their car and set off on the 840km journey to Monaco, the spokesman said.

E Pluribus Unum

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ennio Marchetto And His Theatrical Skills

I first saw this over at Matt Dunn's blog; Jason is right, it's just great, and deserves even more attention!

And, of course, who deserves Ennio's attention more than Kylie?
Randi Rhodes Resigns

Air America loses its best asset.
The Power Of Suggestion

From General Petraeus' presentation to Congress.

Like they say, figures never lie, but liars figure.
Dreams And Fears

After having lost a night of sleep at Thunder Valley on Saturday, I've been having a devil of a time catching up again on sleep. No help anywhere: work is a matter of triage with irreconcilable deadlines, DMTC is edgy with "Pajama Game" rehearsal, and even Sparky is obstreperous with his walking demands. So, as a consolation, it's nice to have vivid dreams.

I dreamt I was at Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo, and reached over a small fence into an enclosure to pet an excitable wombat. Suddenly deer sprang by, and I was off in hot pursuit after the deer, running along mountain paths after them, until I was deep in the Sierra Nevada wilderness. Suddenly I heard the keening growl of a mountain lion just a short distance ahead. I turned and started running the other direction.

Suddenly, for no discernible reason, Andrea St. Clair briefly appeared, then disappeared. I was puzzled by this, but figure in crazy dreamland context - pursuing dangerous felines, and being pursued in turn - that it might make some kind of "Freudian" sense to have a woman make an appearance, however briefly.

I tried to take a shortcut across a steep canyon by running along the top of a dam that happened to be conveniently placed for the purpose, but then the dam top narrowed to a razor's edge, with thousand-foot falls on either side. I was hugging the knife edge, which was fuzzy, like the interior of a turntable, or a velvet Mexican-style Elvis Presley or John Travolta painting. (This knife edge, may represent an actual location, the "Shield" on the west face of the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico, quite a dangerous place, which does really narrow to the dimensions of an exposed rocky path, with thousand-foot falls on either side.) I shimmied off the knife edge as fast as I could.

Then abruptly, I was hunting for my old green VW Bug on the northwestern outskirts of Woodland. The neighborhood had supposedly been ravaged by a wildfire a few years before, and giant olive-looking trees, but tall, like Texas-plain water towers, and sporting green grapes, had grown to replace the almond orchards of that locale. The trees looked like a Dr. Suess fantasy, and had galls amongst the leaves the size of sofas. What a place!

Then I discovered a trove of tools and literature aimed specifically at theater strike - they were to be used for no other purpose but strike. The literature featured interviews with the tool inventors, and I was filled with admiration for their clever inventiveness.

Then I woke up.

So, I figured I covered most of the important fears: fear of carnivorous animals, fear of women, fear of falling, fear of Woodland, fear of Elvis paintings, and fear of theater strike.

I hope I catch up on sleep soon.
Dysfunctional Little Friend

I don't like Maureen Dowd all that much, but sometimes she hits the nail on the head:
Many words hovered Tuesday in the Senate — including some pointed ones by the woman and two men vying to be commander in chief. But the words seemed trapped in a labyrinth leading nowhere.

The Surge Twins were back, but the daylong testimony of David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker before two committees seemed more depressing this time. As the Bard writes in “Macbeth”: “From that spring whence comfort seemed to come, discomfort swells.”

They arrived on the heels of the Maliki debacle in Basra, which made it stunningly clear — after a cease-fire was brokered in Iran — that we’re spending $3 trillion as our own economy goes off a cliff so that Iran can have a dysfunctional little friend.
Walking Up And Down J Street - II

I hoped to take pictures of interesting downtown people but mostly took pictures of interesting downtown buildings. Strangely (or maybe to be expected, out of familiarity), I don't really know the names of most of these buildings.

Here is a mural on the side of the Masonic Temple at 12th & J Streets, a whimsical modern update to Charles Nahl's "Sunday Morning In The Mines", which is housed at Sacramento's Crocker Art Museum.

Left: The towering skyline between J & K Streets, and 12th & 13th Streets, near the Convention Center. The Sheraton Hotel is on the left.

Left: This building at 10th & J Streets is being remodeled. There was a big banner advertising "Bugatelos," but that is the company installing the new windows.

Below: The Sacramento Public Library, between I & J Streets, and 8th & 9th Streets.

Doggone it, I should have taken a picture of the Downtown jail! That's a weird scene there! But it's not on J Street, it's on I Street. I'm so linear in my thinking, I'll have to put my mind in an entirely different groove for that adventure....
Chris Matthews, Buffoon

Bumbling dinosaur amongst the mammals of the Stewart/Colbert era:
Whenever Chris Matthews says something he likes, which happens a lot, he repeats it often and at volumes suggesting a speaker who feels insufficiently listened to at times. “Tim Russert finally reeled the big marlin into the boat tonight,” Matthews yelled — nine times, on and off the air, after a Democratic debate that Russert moderated with Brian Williams in late February at Cleveland State University. Matthews believed that Russert (the fisherman) had finally succeeded in getting Hillary Clinton (the marlin) to admit that she was wrong to vote in favor of the Iraq war resolution in 2002. “We’ve been trolling for that marlin for what, a year now?” Matthews said to Russert.

Comparing Hillary Rodham Clinton to a big flopping fish will do nothing to stop criticism — from Clinton’s presidential campaign, among others — that Matthews and his network, MSNBC, have treated the former first lady unfairly. But this didn’t keep Matthews from bludgeoning the marlin line to death in the postdebate “spin room.” “Russert caught the marlin; he got the marlin,” Matthews shouted to a school of downcast reporters who had been hanging on every canned word of Clinton’s chief campaign strategist, Mark Penn.

...Someone from Matthews’s staff mentioned that the office of Senator Larry Craig, the Idaho Republican who got in trouble for his “wide stance” in an airport men’s room, had been looking for interns. “Ha!” Matthews exploded, a trademark outcry. “Guess what, Mom and Dad, I just got an internship with that senator from Idaho, you know the one.


“Did you get a load of Lou Rawls’s wife?” Matthews said as he left the spin room. Apparently the Rev. Jesse Jackson was introducing the widow of the R&B singer at the media center. “She was an absolute knockout,” Matthews declared. It’s a common Matthews designation. The actress Kerry Washington was also a “total knockout,” according to Matthews, who by 1 a.m. had repaired to the bar of the Cleveland Ritz-Carlton. He was sipping a Diet Coke and holding court for a cluster of network and political types, as well as for a procession of random glad-handers that included, wouldn’t you know it, Kerry Washington herself. Washington played Ray Charles’s wife in the movie “Ray” and Kay Amin in the “Last King of Scotland.” She is a big Obama supporter and was in town for the debate; more to the point, she said she likes “Hardball.” Matthews grabbed her hand, and Phil Griffin, the head of MSNBC who was seated across the table, vowed to get her on the show.

“I know why he wants you on,” Matthews said to Washington while looking at Griffin. At which point Matthews did something he rarely does. He paused. He seemed actually to be considering what he was about to say. He might even have been editing himself, which is anything but a natural act for him. He was grimacing. I imagined a little superego hamster racing against a speeding treadmill inside Matthews’s skull, until the superego hamster was overrun and the pause ended.

“He wants you on because you’re beautiful,” Matthews said. “And because you’re black.” He handed Washington a business card and told her to call anytime “if you ever want to hang out with Chris Matthews.”

...“People are a little impressed with themselves,” Griffin went on to say, continuing his commentary about the scene. “It’s a bit of an echo chamber.” Matthews is central to that echo chamber — at the Ritz, as in the 2008 presidential campaign. He is, in a sense, the carnival barker at the center of it, spewing tiny pellets of chewed nuts across the table while comparing Obama to Mozart and Clinton to Salieri. At one point, Matthews suddenly became hypnotized by a TV over the bar set to a rebroadcast of “Hardball.” “Hey, there I am — it’s me,” he said, staring at himself on the screen. “It’s me.”

...Yet for as basic as he has become to the political and media furniture, Matthews is anything but secure. He is of the moment, but, at 62, also something of a throwback — to an era of politics set in the ethnic Democratic wards of the ’60s and the O’Neill-Reagan battles of the ’80s. And he is a product of an aging era of cable news, the late-’90s, when “Hardball” started and Matthews made his name as a battering critic of Bill Clinton during the Monica saga.

Cable political coverage has changed, however, and so has the sensibility that viewers — particularly young ones — expect from it. Matthews’s bombast is radically at odds with the wry, antipolitical style fashioned by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert or the cutting and finely tuned cynicism of Matthews’s MSNBC co-worker Keith Olbermann. These hosts betray none of the reverence for politics or the rituals of Washington that Matthews does. On the contrary, they appeal to the eye-rolling tendencies of a cooler, highly educated urban cohort of the electorate that mostly dismisses an exuberant political animal like Matthews as annoyingly antiquated, like the ranting uncle at the Thanksgiving table whom the kids have learned to tune out.

Nothing illustrated Matthews’s discordance with the new cable ethos better than an eviscerating interview he suffered through last fall at the hands of Stewart himself. Matthews went on the “The Daily Show” to promote his book “Life’s a Campaign: What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation and Success.” The book essentially advertises itself as a guidebook for readers wishing to apply the lessons of winning politicians to succeeding in life. “People don’t mind being used; they mind being discarded” is the title of one chapter. “A self-hurt book” and “a recipe for sadness” Stewart called it, and the interview was all squirms from there. “This strikes me as artifice,” Stewart said. “If you live by this book, your life will be strategy, and if your life is strategy, you will be unhappy.”

Matthews accused Stewart of “trashing my book.”

“I’m not trashing your book,” Stewart protested. “I’m trashing your philosophy of life.”

...Matthews fashions himself a blend of big-think historian and little-guy populist. Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, who is also from Philadelphia, says that Matthews has internalized the “inferiority complex” of his native city. Matthews says that although he’s now 6-foot-3, he was little as a child and has always viewed himself as “a short guy.”

“I don’t think people look at me as the establishment, do you?” Matthews asked me. “Am I part of the winner’s circle in American life? I don’t think so.”

...For someone so steeped in the ego-manglings of politics and television, Matthews can be spectacularly thin-skinned. He sulks at mild put-downs and lashes out at critics (though rarely holds grudges). At one point, I teased him gently about his tendency to repeat things — it was the item about how Arthur Schlesinger, Joan Didion and David McCullough all watched “Hardball.” It seemed to deflate him. He sunk in his chair. “It’s tough, it’s a rough cut,” Matthews said of criticism. “I’m not completely Nietzchean about this. That what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger? I’ve always wondered about that. I’m not sure that’s true at all.”

When I asked his wife, Kathleen, how he takes criticism, she told me: “He hears it; he absorbs it. Then he comes home and wrestles with it.”

The 2008 campaign has provided Matthews with much to wrestle with. He has been attacked, repeatedly, for his perceived pro-Obama/anti-Clinton perspective — a bias he disputes. He notes that he and the former first lady like to “kid around” when they see each other and that he did a memorably tough interview with an Obama surrogate, State Senator Kirk Watson of Texas, who failed — despite Matthews’s grilling — to identify a single legislative accomplishment by Obama. “That was an iconic moment,” Matthews said of the Watson interview.

Still, it’s hard to watch Matthews and conclude that he has been anything less than enthralled by Obama and, at the very least, is sick of Clinton. The antipathy dates back some time. Just before the start of Clinton’s first campaign for the Senate in 2000, Matthews said: “Hillary Clinton bugs a lot of guys, I mean, really bugs people — like maybe me on occasion. . . . She drives some of us absolutely nuts.” During this campaign he has repeatedly referred to her sense of entitlement and arrogance. Meanwhile, David Shuster, a correspondent for MSNBC who appears frequently on “Hardball,” was suspended for two weeks earlier this year for asking whether the Clinton campaign had “pimped out” Chelsea Clinton by enlisting her to court celebrities and superdelegates.

By contrast, Matthews has called Obama “bigger than Kennedy” and compared the success of his campaign to “the New Testament.” His reviews of Obama’s speeches have been comically effusive at times, as when he described “this thrill going up my leg” after an Obama victory speech. (“Steady,” Olbermann cautioned him on the air.)

...In a recent interview on “Morning Joe” with Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who had just endorsed Obama, Matthews described the “stunning picture” of a Latino governor (Richardson) standing with an African-American candidate and how inspiring it was for so many voters. “That is where we should be putting our focus, not on the feelings of the Clintons, about what people owe them and their sense of entitlement,” Matthews said.

Richardson tried to say something, but Matthews just kept going. “We’ve got to stop talking about this as if this were a sitcom,” Matthews continued. “We had eight years of the sitcom. . . . It’s a sitcom, and it’s gotta end.” He lamented that 4,000 people are dead in Iraq “because of decisions made by politicians like the Clintons.”

Mika Brzezinski, a co-host of “Morning Joe,” then asked Matthews whether he was endorsing Obama.

“Why would you say that?” Matthews said, looking dumbfounded.

...The conversation moved to what Matthews calls “the sexist thing,” or what Media Matters calls Matthews’s “history of degrading comments about women, in which he focuses on the physical appearances of his female guests and of other women discussed on his program.” This would include Matthews loudly admiring the conservative radio host Laura Ingraham (“You’re great looking, obviously — one of God’s gifts to men in this country”), Elizabeth Edwards (“You’ve got a great face”), Jane Fonda (“You also dazzle us with your beauty and all the good things”), CNBC’s Margaret Brennan (“You’re gorgeous”) and Erin Burnett (“You’re beautiful. . . . You’re a knockout”), among others. The Burnett episode was especially remarked upon. In the video Matthews instructed Burnett to “get a little closer to the camera.” As Burnett became confused, Matthews persisted: “Come on in closer. No, come in — come in further — come in closer. Really close.” It was, at the minimum, uncomfortable to watch.

Matthews says the notion that he is sexist has been pushed unfairly by blogs, women’s groups and, to some degree, the Clinton campaign. His remark that Clinton benefitted because her husband “messed around” triggered much outrage from the Clinton team. Matthews eventually apologized in a rambling on-air explanation, but he hardly sounds contrite now. “I was tonally inaccurate but factually true,” he told me. I had asked him earlier if he was forced into the apology. “Oh, yeah, of course I was forced into that,” he said, laughing. “No, no, no . . . Phil [Griffin] asked me to do that.”

Matthews vigorously denies the broader charge that he demeans women on the air. “I don’t think there’s any evidence of that at all,” he said at brunch. “I’ve gone back and looked. Give me the evidence. No one can give it to me. I went through all my stuff. I can’t find it.”

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Work On Those Acting Skills

They come in handy at times:
Police and the Crespo Funeral Home said Wednesday they had no idea what the 23-year-old Spanish man was trying to steal in the March 17 break-in at Burjassot, a small town just outside Valencia.

Neighbors living nearby alerted police when they heard the front door of the business being forced open in the middle of the night.

Police officers arrived with the owner, and eventually found the suspect lying on a table in a glassed-in chamber used for viewings of deceased people during wakes, a local police official said from Burjassot.

"The custom here is for dead people to be dressed in suits, in nice clothes that look presentable. This guy was in everyday clothes that were wrinkled and dirty," the police official said. Department rules barred her from giving her name.

"He was trying to fake being dead, but he was breathing," the officer said.

...The funeral home said it was mystified about what the man could have been after, because there were no valuables or cash inside the funeral parlor.
Walking Up And Down J Street

Passing back and forth in front of the Memorial Auditorium, it was clear a crowd was lining up. I asked a fellow what the event was, and he said it was the Paramore and Jimmy Eat World concert this evening. Wow! Four hours before they start, and people are lining up!

A big, black limousine pulled up to the curb as I passed by. The back window rolled down, and a girl, looking all of sixteen years of age, peered out. In a minute, her and three of her friends emerged from the car. The car could easily hold thirty people. I wonder what they plan to do with all the extra space?

According to
Mesa, Arizona's Jimmy Eat World have announced a co-headlining tour with whippersnappers Paramore. Said Jimmy Eat World singer Jim Adkins:
"We're very excited for the upcoming tour with Paramore. We got to know them last December while playing festivals together. They put on a great show and we think it's going to be an awesome bill."
Adds Hayley Williams (Paramore):
"If it all ends tomorrow, we will be happy knowing that we got a tour with the band that gave us a reason to play music."
Let's Greet The Guest In The Parlor

Isn’t this just the weirdest thing? So “New Mexico”, if you know what I mean...
Prompted by widespread looting at an historic cemetery, federal archaeologists last summer and fall dug up the remains of scores of Civil War-era soldiers and children from a site in New Mexico. Authorities kept the exhumation of the site around Fort Craig a secret until recently to prevent more thefts.

The exhumations, conducted from August to October, removed 67 skeletons from the parched desert soil around Fort Craig - 39 men, two women and 26 infants and children, according to two federal archaeologists who helped with the dig.

They also found scores of empty graves and determined 20 had been looted.

The government kept its exhumation of the unmarked cemetery near the historic New Mexico fort out of the public's eye for months to prevent more thefts.

The investigation began with a tip about an amateur historian who had displayed the mummified remains of a black soldier, draped in a Civil War-era uniform, in his house.

Investigators say the historian, Dee Brecheisen, may have been a prolific looter who spotted historical sites from his plane. Brecheisen died in 2004 and although it was not clear whether the looting continued after his death, authorities exhumed the unprotected site to prevent future thefts.

...Most of the men are believed to have been soldiers - Fort Craig protected settlers in the West from American Indian raids and played a role in the Civil War. Union troops stationed there fought the Confederacy as it moved into New Mexico from Texas in 1862.

The children buried there may have been local residents treated by doctors at the former frontier outpost, officials said.

Federal officials learned of the looting in November 2004, when Don Alberts, a retired historian for Kirtland Air Force Base, tipped them off about a macabre possession he'd seen at Brecheisen's home about 30 years earlier.

Alberts described seeing the mummified remains of a black soldier with patches of brown flesh clinging to facial bones and curly hair on top of its skull. Alberts said the body had come from Fort Craig.

"The first thing we did was laughed because who would believe such a story," Hanson said. "But then we quickly decided we better go down and check it out."

Weeks later, Hanson and fellow archaeologist Mark Hungerford surveyed the cemetery site and found numerous holes - evidence of unauthorized digging.

...Brecheisen's son told authorities where the mummified remains from his father's home were, and a person who hasn't been publicly identified handed over a more-than-century-old skull packaged in a brown paper bag. Alberts said that skull, which still had hair attached, was the one he'd seen years earlier.

Authorities also found some Civil War and American Indian artifacts in Brecheisen's home, but the display rooms that showcased Brecheisen's collections had already been emptied out and auctioned off by his family after his death, Hanson said.

Investigators believe Brecheisen did most of his looting alone, but they also know he dug with close friends and family at the Fort Craig site. Some who accompanied him led authorities to the grave sites, Hanson said.

Brecheisen was a decorated Vietnam veteran and flew for the Air National Guard during a 26-year military career. His family described him as "one of the state's foremost preservationists of historical facts and sites" in his obituary.

Those close to Brecheisen said his looting may have been motivated by anger toward the Bureau of Land Management, but no further details were available. Alberts described him as a collector; it wasn't clear whether Brecheisen sold any of the items.

Investigators believe he also dug up grave sites in Fort Thorn and Fort Conrad in southern New Mexico as well as prehistoric American Indian burial sites in the Four Corners region.

Hungerford said they also believe he may have taken the Fort Craig burial plot map, which is missing from the National Archives.
What Are The Rules?

Here are explanations for some of the mysteries of this season's primary campaign, like why John McCain captured the Republican nomination so quickly and the role of the Democratic super-delegates:
Here, to whet the reader’s appetite, is the little known rule change that set the stage for the McCain nomination: at its 2000 Convention in Philadelphia the GOP reversed the “order of precedence” in Rule 15 between state party rules and state law. Previously, state law had been the standard for seating a delegation at a GOP convention. State law, in other words, had legal “precedence” over state party rules. But as part of a larger package of rules proposals the GOP reversed this. As a result, beginning in 2004, state Republican parties could set their own delegate selection procedures without getting the state legislature to enact them.

...[A] few parties in traditionally under-represented East Coast states seized this opportunity to increase their influence. Florida scheduled a winner-take all primary along with a turnout-building real-estate tax referendum in late January. The Middle Atlantic GOP organizations in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware went winner-take-all on Super Tuesday. McCain’s Arizona (but not Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts) rounded out the state-wide winner-take-all list. The California and Georgia GOPs chose a Super Tuesday winner-take-all system of pledged delegates on the Congressional district level. Thus, there was a large bloc of delegates—about 50 percent of those needed for nomination—to be decided on a winner-take-all basis on or before February 5.

Winning this mostly moderate bloc was the strategic target of the Giuliani campaign. The Giuliani plan was to leverage a victory in Florida in late January into a favorite-son victory in the Middle Atlantic region and a sweep of the California congressional districts. But as it turned out, it was McCain who built on comeback victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina to win Florida. Giuliani immediately withdrew and endorsed McCain. Governor Schwarzenegger and other party leaders in the winner-take-all states followed suit, handing the Giuliani strategy to McCain on a silver platter. When McCain duly swept all the Super Tuesday winner-take-all primaries save Georgia (and even there he bled twelve district-level delegates from Huckabee to balance a fifteen-delegate leakage to Romney in California), his nomination was effectively assured.

Mitt Romney, who had concentrated on media buys, and Mike Huckabee, who had relied on faith-based grassroots organization, discovered too late that their victories, concentrated in proportional rather than winner-take-all states, could not yield the delegate margins to add up to a nomination.

...[L]et us turn to the Democrats, whose rules have become central in a race that fascinates the entire world. If the Republican nomination outcome has run counter to the normal small-state bias of its national convention, the Democrats’ drama is unfolding according to their rulemakers’ designs. As designed, the competition quickly winnowed itself down to three and then two candidates with national rather than narrow sectional or racial/ethnic appeal. As designed, it greatly increased grassroots participation. And as designed, it has provided in advance that any deadlock will be settled by a pre-existing ex officio group of “party leaders and elected officials” (abbreviated as PLEOs in intra-party documents and called “super delegates” in the press, a term originally introduced with snide intent by those opposed to their creation).

The PLEOs— present and past major officeholders, Democratic National Committee members—represent the institutional party. Their number is now pegged at about 25 percent pledged delegates (or 20 percent of the overall convention when the PLEOs are added to the total). This is not remotely enough to determine a nomination, but it does suffice to provide a corrective for a danger inherent in the proportional system the Democrats have mandated.

Proportional representation was first proposed to the Democrats in an 1875 tract by the Cambridge feminist Melusina Fay Peirce (wife of the philosopher C.S. Peirce) as a device to cordon off the growing Irish Catholic vote. Its official adoption a century later had a more inclusive purpose. As a party with diverse bases of support, the Democrats mandated proportional representation to recognize and empower all their factions. Proportional representation assures that every vote in every state counts, whereas winner-take-all and unit-rule systems give zero weight to voices that are in a minority in their geographic area. Proportional representation thus builds turnout, enthusiasm and effective participation for the Democrats.

At the same time, proportional representation brings well-known dangers of fragmentation and deadlock, as exemplified in the tumultuous Israeli and Italian parliamentary systems. For an American political party, it presents an additional competitive risk because the general election is conducted under an Electoral College system that now operates on a state-wide (or, in Maine and Nebraska, congressional district-wide) winner-take-all basis. Thus intra-party nomination procedures based on proportional representation may fail to produce a decisive victor in the states that will determine Electoral College success.

In 1984, after fifteen years of commissions and lawsuits following their 1968-1972 convention debacles, the Democrats settled on proportional representation and two corrective devices for it that have withstood the test of time: minimum thresholds and unpledged ex officio delegates (they have dropped a third option: the winner-take-all unpledged Congressional district primary originally used in seven, mostly large industrial states accounting for about a fourth of the convention delegates, above and beyond the original 14 percent allotment to unpledged ex officios).

...If anyone is needed to broker a deadlock, that role falls first to identifiable members of the institutional party—“thinking delegates” as they were called by former North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford in his influential 1981 book advocating their convention role, A Danger of Democracy: The Presidential Nominating Process. Sanford’s successor as North Carolina Governor, Jim Hunt, headed the Hunt Commission which made PLEOs a formal part of the Democratic nomination process.

The unpledged PLEOs also embody the ideal of “responsible party government” that has long held sway among Democratic-leaning political scientists. Under this ideal the mission of a programmatic party is to overcome the separation of powers with a presidency that moves, to use Montesquieu’s classic phrase, “in concert” with legislative and judicial branches in same-party hands. The doctrine of party responsibility across elections and branches of government legitimates the role of governors, Senators, Congressmen and National Committee members to function as stakeholders in the presidential nomination process.

The PLEOs on this view are not a sinister presence, but transparently designated officials whose individual careers have made them accountable locally to intra-party electorates and who as a group are indispensable nationally as presidential campaigners and governing allies.

Finally—and most importantly in a closely contested race—PLEOs provide an element of discretionary judgment. to counter numerical quirks in any system of mechanically pledged delegates. The Democratic convention is riddled with such incommensurables.

...In all, 2008 presents quite a test for PLEOs and The Charter and the By-laws of the Democratic Party of the United States, as the rules are officially called. Quite a test, in other words, for the leadership of the National Democratic Party in convention assembled. For the first time since the McGovern candidacy of 1972 the Democrats can expect to be judged by the electorate on how they conduct themselves under their own procedures. The Democrats control both houses of Congress. Voters will surely consider how they govern themselves in deciding whether to entrust them with the White House as well. And that is why the topic of party rules, usually so arcane and tedious, can and should interest every citizen this year.
Upcoming CORE Dance Show

Some of Sacramento's best dancers! Don't miss them!

And John Lennon's "Imagine" is the theme. The best song just about ever! Don't miss out!
CORE Dance Collective presents Imagine
April 11th and 12th, 2008
7:30 PM
Benvenuti Performing Arts Center
4600 Blackrock Drive, Sacramento, CA 95835

CORE Dance Collective is pleased to announce its upcoming show, Imagine, to be presented April 11th and 12th, 2008 at the Benvenuti Performing Arts Center in Sacramento, CA. The performance includes choreographic works by artistic director Kelli Leighton, assistant artistic directors Anne David, Blair Kendall, and Dawn Miller, and guest choreographer, Adam Petersen. Inspired by John Lennon’s “Imagine,” and imagination itself, each piece in the show seeks to explore fantasy, reality, and humanity.

Discounted Pre-Order Group Tickets (10 or more): $10.00 (Student)

Individual Pre-Order: $14.00 (Adult) - $12.00 (Child/Student/Senior)
These tickets may be purchased online for either of the following show dates.
Friday, April 11, 2008 Saturday, April 12, 2008

General Admission: $16.00 (Adult) - $14.00 (Child/Student/Senior)

Sometimes work-related tasks make for entertaining speculation. Today a co-worker asked:
Does anyone know why the 24-hour SO2 levels at Calexico were so high in August of 2006 (max of 0.041 ppm when all other years had a max of no higher than 0.003 ppm)?
Sulfur dioxide isn't much of an air pollution problem in California, except maybe around oil-industry locations in Ventura County, and not even much there. The Imperial Valley and areas along the border aren't oil country, so it's a valid question why there would be a problem. I replied:
The top four days with high SO2 in Calexico in 2006 were all in August, suggesting something episodic. There are power plants in the area, including geothermal power (H2S), and fossil fueled (natural gas) powered plants, plus other industry. I don’t know the cause – maybe they were using higher-sulfur fuels for a brief period?
Another co-wroker replied:
It is unlikely that gas fired plants were the problem, and there are no high sulfur fuels that are allowed there. The geothermal plants are a possibility, but my impression is that they are located quite a ways from Calexico.
So, what caused the high SO2? What else was going on in the Imperial Valley in August 2006?

I don't know if this is the cause, but this article from July, 2007 certainly suggests a possibility:
SALTON CITY (CBS 5 / AP) ― Millions of tilapia died in the annual summertime Salton Sea fish kill in what is described as the largest die-off ever at the giant desert lake.

Salton Sea Authority Project Manager Dan Cain says it's too early to estimate how many tilapia died, but the number appears to have surpassed the three million that died in August 2006.

Fish die-offs occur at the lake every summer because of natural biological and chemical reactions that sap oxygen from the water during July heat waves when temperatures soar near 120 degrees.

There are an estimated 200 million tilapia in the Salton Sea.

...The Salton Sea authority has about 45-thousand dollars in its budget to remove the fish.

Cain says, "Everywhere you looked, there were dead fish. Fish were floating as far as the eye could see."
Like I say, who knows if this is what my co-worker was looking for, but certainly millions of dead fish would create an air contamination issue for someone.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Pole Tax

Texas judge can't follow the logic:
Texas lawmakers last year imposed a $5-per-patron fee on strip joints to raise more than $40 million annually for anti-sexual-assault programs and healthcare for the uninsured.

The fee, which took effect Jan. 1, infuriated the owners of Texas' 162 strip clubs, who said politicians were cynically taxing a population they knew would not fight back. After all, critics reasoned, men who make a habit of drinking and stuffing currency in the attire of scantily clad women are usually not eager to tell the world about it at legislative hearings.

...On March 28, however, Texas strip club devotees found a powerful ally: An Austin judge declared the pole tax unconstitutional, saying it infringed on expression protected by the 1st Amendment.

Travis County District Judge Scott H. Jenkins said in his ruling that laws limiting such expression had to pass strict constitutional tests and that the pole tax didn't because, among other things, indigent healthcare had no connection to strip joints.

"There is no evidence that combining alcohol with nude erotic dancing causes dancers to be uninsured," he wrote.

...Stewart Whitehead, an attorney for the Texas Entertainment Assn., which challenged the law along with an Amarillo topless bar called Players, stressed that adult businesses supported rape crisis centers and other programs Cohen wanted to beef up. However, he said, strip clubs do not want to be singled out for taxation.

"We hope this sends a message nationally that these establishments are protected by the 1st Amendment and you can't impose an unfair tax on them just because they are an easy political target," Whitehead said.

Texas lawmakers tried to pass a fee on strip clubs in 2004 to finance education, but the levy, derogatorily dubbed "tassels for tots," failed.

When lawmakers debated the new fee last year, supporters did not claim a link between strip clubs and sex assaults, only that a business that hired women would benefit from programs women used.

But after the law wound up in court, lawyers for the state argued that it was really a regulation, and summoned witnesses who said strip clubs contributed to sexual violence.

"Our customers are not happy about that. They find that very insulting," said Dawn Rizos, co-owner of the Lodge, a lavish club near the Dallas Cowboys stadium that has a VIP room inspired by the movie "Casablanca." "We obviously don't feel there is any correlation between what we do and [sexual] assault."

Rizos said some club owners thought Texas should fine sex offenders to pay for the programs, a model already used to raise revenue from drunk drivers. Hoping to avert a long and costly legal battle, she said some would also accept being part of a solution -- as long as others were taxed.

"I'm in the minority here, but I would not mind partnering with the state to do something like this that would help a lot of people and put a positive face on our industry," she said.
Finally Emptied E.'s Storage Unit

Since I was increasingly bearing the cost of renting E.'s storage unit, it was important to empty out that packrat nest and slam the furniture into my basement (another packrat nest). Last weekend, we got about 40% of the stuff.

On Saturday morning, Joe The Plumber and I took a U-haul truck up to Citrus Heights and filled it up, but made only one trip, since Joe had arranged to see "Laughter On The 23rd Floor" in Davis with two of his friends at the most awkward time of the weekend for sustained physical labor, Saturday afternoon. So, there was still some furniture left for Sunday.

The U-Haul truck was awkward in its own right. Driving through one gas station, I sideswiped a telephone pole, but engineers with foresight had shielded a conduit attached to the pole with a plastic cover, so despite shredded plastic, no damage was done to either truck or conduit.

On Sunday afternoon, we made two pickup truck trips. Opening and closing the lock had been stiff all along, and on the very last visit to the storage unit, the key snapped off in the lock. A tough biker-looking dude two storage units away tried to help us with some tools, but soon abandoned that idea in favor of a mammoth bolt cutter that quickly cut through the lock like a knife through butter. E. had gone to get the storage center staff for help. Soon, one staff member arrived, and when he realized the tough-looking biker dude possessed such a tool, which could break every lock in the joint, he told the dude he wasn't supposed to have such a tool, and they never wanted to see it again. So there! (We paid the dude $12 in gratitude.)

Joe and I didn't realize what would happen to the two little doors of one cabinet we placed in the back of the pickup truck for transport. We didn't realize the doors weren't secured, so when Joe joined I-80 at Madison Avenue, and accelerated to freeway speed, the turbulent wind caught the doors and soon ripped them off, tossing them into traffic. Joe called me by cell phone to let me know of the approximate door locations. I had already passed one location without seeing anything, but soon arrived at another, in the Marconi curve on the Capitol City Freeway. I saw the door in the right traffic lane, and circled back around and tried to retrieve the cabinet door.

The Marconi curve is dangerous, because it is a curve, and it's hard to see traffic until it's quite close. The cabinet door had been repeatedly run over, and the finish was gouged, but at least we got it back. The other door is still out there somewhere, along the freeway near Madison Avenue.

Afterwards, it was time to eat spaghetti, at Crepe Escape, located at Sacramento City College, on Freeport. To my surprise, Katherine Vanderford, well-known in local community musical theater, was our waitress. Good food, and the very best in service. Now, if she had sung, the meal would have been sublime! Check out Crepe Escape!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Another Saturday Night At Thunder Valley

Arrived at 8:30 p.m.: left at 5:00 a.m.

The first table started well, but then the fellow at home base split tens, and then split tens again, and then thoroughly ruined the hand for everyone else.

The second table was much better, and soon the money began flowing - $500, $1,000, $1,500. I even won the split 8's, where many small cards emerged from the shoe, and I managed only a 15 on one hand and a 16 on the other. I saw the same fellow I saw last week, the one who told of having lost $19,000 in one day. I asked him how he was doing, and he said: "Terrible." From where I was sitting, I could see the pretty girls heading into DJ night at the big bar they have there. Feeling good....

Soon, I was totally wired and betting very aggressively: $100, $200, $300 a hand. Winnings peaked at $3,000, then slid to $2,000. Then, before I could quite grasp, I was crashing, like a European swallow roped to an anvil, tossed off a rope foot bridge into a gorge.

Final win = $1,220 - $650 = $570, minus $40 E. stake, minus $13.45 ATM fee = $516.55.
Another Squashed Squirrel

Squirrel #4 was pregnant: maybe that's why she was too slow to avoid the car in the alley as it silently rolled past her and the stash of seed I lay out daily for the birds. On the other hand, no birds have ever suffered this fate. So, Wings 1: Feet 0.