Friday, July 18, 2008

"Little Shop Of Horrors" - DMTC Summer Show

Opens tonight!

Here are two images from last night's dress rehearsal:

Left: The Venus Fly Trap from hell, Audrey Two! (Voice - Michael McElroy; Operator - Scott Griffith)

Left: Seymour (Joshua Smith) and not quite the Family Dentist I remember from childhood (Darryl Strohl).
Pencil Talk

Wow! Here is a Web Site all about pencils!
One Million Names, And Adding New Ones By The Day

What is the old Japanese expression? Something like: "anyone whose head pops up will be hammered down like a nail."
The post-9/11 airline watch list that is supposed to keep terrorists off of airplanes has swelled to more than 1 million names, including at least one investigative reporter who had been critical of the Transportation Security Agency, which maintains the watch list.

CNN's Drew Griffin reported on the bloating of the watch list, which an ACLU count pegged at 1,001,308 names Wednesday afternoon. Griffin's is one of those names, he says.

"Coincidentally, this all began in May, shortly after I began a series of investigative reports critical of the TSA. Eleven flights now since May 19. On different airlines, my name pops up forcing me to go to the counter, show my identification, sometimes the agent has to make a call before I get my ticket," Griffin reported.
On The Appeal Of ABBA

For me its the harmonies of Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, but there's more to it, of course:
Part of the secret of the group's allure is ABBA's startlingly spiritual foundation. Says Matt Barton, curator of recorded sound at the Library of Congress, "Here and there, there's something that's so much like a hymn." In fact, notes Barton, ABBA organist Benny Andersson has gone on to record his interpretation of a Swedish hymn. Anyone who has ever gathered to sing up to the heavens has a little ABBA in his or her cultural DNA. No wonder the group has been known to provoke near Pentecostal fervor.

But it's not the gospel-choir-like charm of the music, or even the elaborate way it comes together, that makes ABBA enduring. No, it's the potent cocktail of the subliminally spiritual mixed with the flat-out libidinous. Listening to ABBA again lately, I've become increasingly aware of something I'd only vaguely perceived at all those "Does Your Mother Know?"-tinged wedding receptions and ironically themed gay bars -- this music is actually pretty damn sexy.

There's something undeniably, urgently compelling about a song like "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!" a greedy love call for satisfaction (no wonder Madonna sampled its hook for "Hung Up"). It's there in the brazen sexual equanimity of "Voulez-Vous," with its shivery ah-has, and the kittenish oooohs of "Dancing Queen." The lyrics may not be quite Shakespeare or even Holland-Dozier-Holland, even if you grant extra slack for not having English as a first language. But oversaturated orchestration, the way the women's voices could soar through the changes in an "SOS" or "Knowing Me, Knowing You" -- they're forces too potent and insistent to be mere disco-era pastiche.
Oklahoma Electoral Eccentricity Zoo

Left: Cartoon #5 (out of 16)

J. gets agitated by Oklahoma politics. It makes sense: he lives there, and so must live with whatever consequences get thrown in his face.

Over here, behind glass for your own protection (because it bites), is an interesting specimen of Boobus americanus electoralis: Brent Rinehart, Oklahoma County Commissioner, running for re-election.

At this site is a series of 16 cartoons drawn by campaign supporter Shane Suiters.

Jeebus, Shane Suiters is the Jack T. Chick of the new millennium....

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Album In The Can

Bill The Carpenter vanished for a couple of weeks to record music, but expects to back on the job tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

AU In December?

Over at SayHey, they say the Turks are reporting this is a done deal. And what the Turks report must be so. But is it?

So, I jump through the hoops at Michael Gudinski's place and this is all I get for my trouble?:
We have a HUGE announcement to make this Sunday...check back then!
(the tension is killing me....)
The Manchurian Candidates

Funny Cartoon!
To iPod, Or Not To iPod?

Doing my utmost to stay away from the bleeding edge of technological change....
News From The Health Front

Looking for that Bridge to the 21st Century (via Wicked Thoughts):
In what hospital officials say is a financial decision but union members chalk up to spite, St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital has stopped accepting its own employees’ health insurance.

The hospital stopped taking SEIU 1199’s National Benefit Fund health insurance just before the hospital’s 800 or so service and tech employees were scheduled to switch to it, even though the change had been negotiated into the 2004 contract, union officials said.

“It’s insulting to work at a hospital you can’t get sick in,” said environmental services associate Brandon Weygant.

Many of the workers have had to find new doctors, since their previous physicians are affiliated with St. Luke’s and would not be able to treat them in the hospital, union members said.

“It was a 10 to 15 minute ride to the hospital. Now it’s 45 minutes,” said inventory control worker David Principato. “That could be somebody’s life.”

Hospital officials said spite has nothing to do with it.

The hospital stopped accepting the plan, accessed through Group Health Inc., because payments are chronically late and service is poor, said hospital spokesperson Judi Stokes.
Snakes Don't "Evolve", They Just Shed Their Skins

What gives? I thought gays were more a threat to America than terrorism, so when did 'energy crisis' get mixed up in it? (I guess the same day our Congresspeople stopped being surfers and theologians and resumed their normal reptilian ways):
Rep. John Peterson (R-Pa.) said Wednesday that the nation’s energy problem “is more important and threatening to America’s future than terrorism.”

During an interview on C-SPAN, Peterson stressed the need for Congress to act now to address the nation’s energy crisis.

Amid the partisan bickering on Capitol Hill, Peterson and Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) are leading a bipartisan group of lawmakers seeking consensus on energy legislation.

On Wednesday, the lawmakers said that their plan will not call for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

Abercrombie said ANWR has “psychological and political baggage” and Peterson pointed out the group wants to pass a bill this year.

“We can’t do everything,” Peterson said, but stressed that the scope of their package will be broad.

Drilling in parts of the United States, however, is expected to be a key part of their plan. Peterson has indicated that provisions on natural gas and shale oil in the West will likely be included in the bipartisan bill.

Patrick Creighton, Peterson’s spokesman, stressed that nothing is completely in, or completely out, of the package, but noted that ANWR legislation has never been passed in the Senate.

The two lawmakers recently said they would be announcing the members of their group this week, but have reconsidered.

Abercrombie said the members of the group are “evolving” and would be announced at a later date, suggesting that releasing the list now could subject certain members to political problems. Last week, Peterson and Abercrombie said the group would be composed of 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans.

Peterson and Abercrombie have been frustrated with the leaders of their respective parties and, despite long odds, believe their bill will be acted upon in 2008.

Peterson, who is not seeking reelection, said, “Public pressure is building.” He added that anti-drilling members of Congress were strongly criticized by their constituents during the July 4 recess.

Abercrombie said, “You can’t stand in front of a wave.”

House Democratic and Republican leaders have repeatedly relied on slogans during this election year in attempting to drive home their arguments on energy. A top slogan for Democrats has been “Use it or lose it,” while Republicans have cited the “Pelosi premium.”

Abercrombie said, “Slogans are not going to change the fundamentals of energy.”

He claimed the public is tired of the political games politicians are playing on gas prices.

“We’re legislators. We’re not theologians,” Abercrombie said, bemoaning the “sacred texts” of political rhetoric on gas prices.
Texan Tries To Psych Out The New Mexico State Police

But they watch TV too:
Thomas Hickman drove through New Mexico, police say, until his Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo ran out of gas. Then the 55-year-old North Richland Hills man walked into a field, tied helium balloons to a gun, covered his mouth with duct tape, and shot himself in the back of the head, according to New Mexico State Police.

That determination is a far leap from what authorities first suspected when Mr. Hickman's body was discovered March 15 near Santa Rosa, N.M., about 100 miles east of Albuquerque. Authorities initially thought the Red Lobster executive had been kidnapped and slain.

But investigators came to the conclusion that Mr. Hickman committed suicide. The first clue was the bundle of white helium balloons, with the gun still attached, found snagged on bushes and cactus near Mr. Hickman's body.

The grip of the Smith & Wesson Airweight had been removed and the trigger guard ground down, said Lt. Rick Anglada of New Mexico State Police.

"He took as much weight off as he could to make it light as possible," Lt. Anglada said. The plan apparently was to have the gun float far away after being fired, but that didn't happen.

The gun and balloons led police from that field back to Mr. Hickman's house in North Richland Hills.

"This was apparently an elaborate attempt to make it look like he was murdered," Lt. Anglada said. "Investigators were able to show that he purchased the balloons and purchased the gun. We also found shavings from the gun in his garage."

Partway through the investigation, one of the investigators recalled seeing a television show in which balloons were used in a suicide.

The investigator obtained a copy of an October 2003 episode of the television drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and noticed that there were several similarities between that show and Mr. Hickman's case. But Lt. Anglada said New Mexico authorities are not sure if Mr. Hickman ever saw the program.

Detectives would not speculate about the motive for his suicide, the lieutenant said.

...As the West Texas director of operations for Red Lobster, Mr. Hickman regularly traveled through the region where he died. He was last seen at a meeting in Abilene on March 13. The next day, he missed a meeting in Lubbock. On March 15, two motorists discovered his body in the field.
Colbert Rapping About Snow

So, The Song Was Called "Dancing Queen"?

One reason I keep up this blog is that, since age 38, I have a real hard time remembering names. It's like my memory buffer got stuffed with names, and now they spill out all over the floor and end up under the refrigerator. By writing down names and posting pictures, it helps me retain what ability I have left.

Bjorn Ulvaeus apparently has a more-serious version of this problem. Maybe by writing a chronicle of his life, he can recover some of those stellar times:
Who can forget the silver suits, boots, flares and big hair that defined the ABBA years? Apparently Bjorn Ulvaeus has. As a new generation of fans discovers ABBA thanks to the hit film Mamma Mia!, Ulvaeus has revealed he is suffering from memory loss and cannot even remember winning the Eurovision song contest in 1974 with one of their best-known songs, Waterloo.

It was the victory at the contest in Brighton, England, that propelled the Swedish group to international stardom.

"It is like I was not even there," said the 58-year-old father of four.

Ulvaeus composed the music for the Mamma Mia! stage musical with fellow ABBA star Benny Andersson and makes a brief uncredited appearance in the film, which stars Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth.

The movie sparked an ABBA revival, but Ulvaeus says he can't remember chunks of his life, even turning to hypnosis to find a cure.

The songwriter, who divorced ABBA's blonde singer Agnetha Faltskog in 1980, studied old photos and video to try to remember his life.
Rebranding Jiu-Jitsu

Karl Rove's karate chops are all over this!

And John McCain is the New Coke!:
The McCain campaign is taking their effort to distance their candidate from the unpopular President Bush to a whole new level: McCain's advisers are now openly attacking Bush on Iraq -- and not only that, they're also saying that Barack Obama is the one who is like Bush on the war!

On a conference call just now with reporters, McCain foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann compared Barack Obama's insistence on a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq to Bush's insistence that we were winning even as things went badly for years.

"I think the American people have had enough of inflexibility and stubbornness in national security policy," Scheunemann said. When asked later by the Huffington Post's Sam Stein whether the campaign was disparaging President Bush, Scheunemann dug in: "We cannot afford to replace one administration that refused for too long to acknowledge failure in Iraq with a candidate that refuses to acknowledge success in Iraq."
"Little Shop Of Horrors" - Tuesday Night Rehearsal

Left: Seymour (Joshua Smith) and Audrey (Lauren Miller).

Left: Seymour (Joshua Smith) and Orin Scrivello (Darryl Strohl).

Left: Audrey (Lauren Miller) and Seymour (Joshua Smith).

Left: Audrey (Lauren Miller)

Left: Ronette (Caitlin Humphreys), Crystal (Casey Ellis), Chiffon (Sarah Duvall), and Seymour (Joshua Smith).

Left: Mr. Mushnik (Dustin White), Seymour (Joshua Smith) and Audrey (Lauren Miller).

Left: Ronette (Caitlin Humphreys), Crystal (Casey Ellis), Chiffon (Sarah Duvall), and Seymour (Joshua Smith).

Left: Seymour (Joshua Smith), and one of Darryl Strohl many permutations.

Left: Seymour (Joshua Smith), and "Two-ey".

Left: "Don't Feed The Plant" - Dustin White, Darryl Strohl, Lauren Miller, and Joshua Smith. (Plant Operator - Scott Griffith: Plant Voice -Michael McElroy).

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Funny (But Depressing) Mortgage Crisis Quotes

It's a small world after all!

From Spain:
Martinsa-Fadesa SA was the largest Spanish developer to seek protection from creditors since the decade-long real estate boom ended last year and won't be the last, according to Credito y Caucion, a Spanish credit insurer.

...Martinsa-Fadesa was created by the acquisition of Fadesa Inmobiliaria SA by Grupo Martinsa for 4 billion euros last year. Chairman Fernando Martin owns 60 percent of the stock and the stake's value has plummeted to 408 million euros from 1.1 billion euros in four months.

``The secret is to buy low and sell high,'' said Jose Carlos Diez, chief economist at Intermoney SA. ``He did the opposite.''
From Las Vegas:
The recession is a "self-cleaning of the economy" that will sift out developers who came to the party late, said Avi Ruimi, principal of Woodland Hills, Calif.-based Blue Marble Development. He bought the land for Paxton Walk before the runup in prices.

"They all had good intentions. I feel bad for them," Ruimi said. "Each of them made a different mistake. I can analyze those mistakes in retrospect. At the time they made the decision, they were right. It's very difficult to predict a market like Vegas. It's not a market that gives you a sign before the bubble bursts in your face."
From Minnesota:
Bendel, the mortgage trade group president, views problems with home mortgage defaults and write-offs as part of a larger pattern of concern over consumer credit.

"America is kind of living check to check," Bendel said. "It doesn't matter where you make $50 grand or $250 grand, you don't have a lot of money left over to weather a storm. When a storm comes, the boat sinks."
No, Steve, No!

DMTC is opening "Little Shop of Horrors" this weekend, not "Chess"!

Reaction To The New Yorker Cover Cartoon

What is my reaction to the New Yorker cover cartoon?


As an earnest humorless liberal, I opine "not really all that funny".

This liberal says you'd better not laugh.

Are you laughing? You'd better stop!

Then there's the reality-based stuff, like this.

This liberal says you can laugh now.

Do as your told. Laugh loud, like peasants. And be sure to eat all that arugula on your biodegradable plate, or I'll send Al Gore over to explain Kyoto Protocol carbon credits again.
The Ting Tings - Great DJ - Live in Lincoln

The drums, the drums, the drums, the drums.....
Too Freakin' Big To Fail

Getting a fix on the size of the problem:
Across the political spectrum, economists agree, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, underwriters of fully half the U.S. home mortgage market, are "too big to fail." You can have a debate over whether the collapse of Bear-Stearns really threatened the stability of the entire global financial system and justified government rescue, but you simply cannot dismiss the threat posed by a possible Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac bankruptcy. The total gross domestic product of the world is about $50 trillion. Together Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are responsible for about $5 trillion worth of U.S. home mortgage debt.

...No wonder David Warsh, an economic chronicler not prone to excitability, kicked off his weekly column on Monday with the following flat statement:
It is becoming clear that the US is indeed facing its most serious economic crisis since 1932.

Remember one of the things that happened as a result of that crisis? Funny thing: Fannie Mae was created, to provide a bulwark for the U.S. housing market, as the monopoly provider of housing loans. Only back then, Fannie Mae wasn't merely a government-"sponsored" enterprise. It was a flat-out government agency. It wasn't until 1968 that Fannie Mae (and a couple of years later, Freddie Mac) evolved into their current bizarre structure, in which they are supposedly private companies, but still answerable to Congress.

...Credit is due to those who can hold to their foundational principles in times such as these. Because one of the most astounding legacies of the George W. Bush presidency, which becomes more profound and historic with the passing of every single day, is how absurd and laughable has become the idea that unregulated markets are a sensible way to run an economy.

...In any case, it's hard to argue that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were the primary malefactors in the housing crisis -- although it is worth noting, as Financial Times columnist Clive Crook points out, that the two GSEs did, after all, invent the mortgage-backed security. But the real facilitators of both boom and bust were the fully private, non-government-sponsored lenders who flooded the market with all their innovative new mortgage products, aided and abetted by the investors who couldn't get enough of the riskiest mortgage-backed securities.

Now, like it or not, Fannie and Freddie are indispensable mechanisms for addressing the fallout from the housing bust, and they simply must be kept afloat. Paulson and Bernanke have no choice -- why even have a government, after all, if not to keep the system functioning?

Which brings us to a news item that's become a little lost in all the furor on Monday about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: an announcement from the Federal Reserve Bank. ... An example of one of the new rules:

Prohibit a lender from making a loan without regard to borrowers' ability to repay the loan from income and assets other than the home's value.
Ponder that sentence for a moment.

The Federal Reserve has decided it must order lenders not to make loans that they should not make. ... What's most amazing is that lenders have to be instructed in such a basic economic principle in the first place. This is what we have been reduced to: The government telling the "free market": Don't be a friggin' idiot.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Kylie Minogue - Like a Drug

Hartwall Arena - Helsinki

Another view of the best Kylie number of this year.

And, again, the entire song in excellent quality:

(Sportpaleis - Antwerp)
Olive Riley Returns to Broken Hill

The world's oldest blogger, Olive Riley, passes on at age 108.
Simon Can't Get Her Out Of His Head

It's interesting how Kylie Minogue affects critics. Simon Price flipped out - not so much because of the music, but because he saw the live show:
People ask the silliest questions. For example, why is a grown man of 40 wasting his intellect writing about something as trivial as pop music? The answer I always give is that pop is the highest of the arts, because it encompasses all the others.

As well as music (obviously), pop draws on cinema (the videos), theatre (the stage shows), dance (live choreography), poetry (the lyrics), visual art (the sleeves), high fashion (the costumes), even rhetoric (the interviews).

And, in 2008, a grown woman of 40 is the ultimate practitioner of this ultimate discipline. Well, smirk at the "grown" if you wish, and maybe cross out the "rhetoric". But on the issue of her supremacy, I won't give an inch.

There was a time when the dominant attitude towards Kylie Minogue was that she was a puppet. As the years have passed, the supposed puppetmasters have changed, the only common element from era to era being the alleged puppet herself, surely forcing all but the most stubborn rockist to acknowledge that Kylie is actually a pop genius.

The X 2008 tour concentrates on Minogue's third-millennium works – apart from a superb "Shocked", a version of "Step Back in Time" which begins with some stunning close-harmony a capella singing, and a roof-raising "I Should Be So Lucky", putting clear blue water between now and the greatest-hits Showgirl tour.

In this year's X, Kylie has made the album of her life, and its finest extracts tonight – the staccato snap of "In My Arms", the piano-house euphoria of "Wow", the body-pop minimalism of "Heart Beat Rock", the Goldfrapp/ Manson glam noir of "2 Hearts", the Gainsbourg-sampling "Sensitised" – aren't merely show highlights, but career highlights.

The show itself, too, is utterly 21st-century. From the moment the stage fills with dry ice and Kylie appears suspended in a green spider's web, adored from below by dancers who look like demonic Dr Who baddies, this sets a new standard for state-of-the-art mise-en-scène.

Even the floor of the stage is a giant screen, and when the red-and-white stripes of the American flag scroll by at high speed underfoot, it's disorienting. We see Minogue manacled, emerging from an origami pyramid in a shower of petals, doing a Viennese waltz in full rock-me-Amadeus costume, and dolled up as the world's sauciest bus conductor.

It's Kylie's mortality, her humanity, which elevates her above, say, Madonna. As she accepts flowers from the big boys and kisses from the little girls, she exudes easy charm. And as if to emphasise the fact that she isn't a robot, during "Your Disco Needs You" she stumbles on her stack heels and almost falls flat.

One interlude which does fall flat is the concession to camp in the form of the oiled-up sailor boys who precede "Loveboat", and the subsequent cover of Manilow's "Copacabana". Sure, Minogue owes a lot to gay culture, but this blatant, Route One stuff I can take or leave.

There's one song, however, that I cannot live without: "Can't Get You Out of My Head", tossed nonchalantly into the opening minutes. When Kylie's big white teeth bite into the la-la-la refrain, it's a moment of jouissance: popgasm, soulgasm, braingasm, ectoplasm.

We're all living in a post-"CGYOOMH" world. Even Kylie. (Maybe especially Kylie, because she must know that nothing she's done, or will ever do, can quite outshine that one paradigm-changing moment). It's one of those rare songs which inspires a Damascene revelation: wow, you can do that with pop music?

If Kylie has been valiantly keeping the flame of pure pop burning these past few years, help is at hand. Something's definitely in the air this year: autonomous, independent but proudly pop acts from Britain, continental Europe and the US, all seem-ingly sharing a belief in the uplifting power of the great radio-friendly single. The three prime examples of this pop wave are Alphabeat's "Fascination", The Ting Tings' "That's Not My Name", and Black Kids' "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You".
And now there are rumors she might tour Australia after all.
Music promoter and chairman of Frontier Touring, Michael Gudinski, said he hopes Minogue will play for Australian audiences in December this year, following the completion of her 53-date European tour in August.

"If everything can work out there's every possibility we will do some dates later this year,'' Gudinski said.

"How many dates we can do, and how many cities we do, and that stuff, will have to be worked out - it's an absolutely gigantic production, it really is like taking theatre on the road.

"But from Frontier's point of view, I'm going to make every effort possible to make sure it happens.''

The 21-nation KylieX2008 tour has received rave reviews in the UK and Europe.

Gudinski, who signed Minogue to his record label Mushroom Records in 1987 after hearing her debut single Locomotion, said he tried to discuss bringing the KylieX2008 tour to Australia during Minogue's 40th birthday celebrations in May.

She and her management were not willing to consider it then, he said.

"Today was the first time that we've ever had any real discussion about whether it could happen, and we had a good talk today,'' Gudinski said.

"She would really like it to come to Australia ... and I just think it would be absolutely unfair to her Australian fans not to see what is the most amazing production I've seen.

"Australia is her home country and she should be so proud of what she's doing.''
Anorexia, And Defying Gravity

Taking action against skinny rock-climbers:
The Swiss mountaineer John Salathe once described rock climbing as "the finest, most healthiest sport in the whole world".

But there are concerns that a number of athletes are shedding unhealthy amounts of weight in order to gain a competitive edge.

In endurance climbing, where every spare gram of unwanted weight could sap valuable energy during a climb, there are fears that female athletes in particular may be prone to dangerous eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia.

In Austria, the problem has become so acute that the country's climbing federation has banned any dangerously underweight athletes from competing until they put on an adequate amount of weight. Those athletes with a body mass index (BMI) reading of less than 17 when the rules are introduced next year will not be allowed to compete. Until then, those on the borderline have been ordered to see a doctor for advice about the effects of low weight and anorexia.

...Climbing can demand an extremely high strength-to-weight ratio. Mr Larssen believes many female athletes choose to lose weight rather than build up muscle strength. "It's such a successful formula that some of the best female athletes are as good as the best male climbers," he said. "There's nothing wrong with that as long as it is achieved through healthy means."

Professor Wolfram Müller, from the University of Graz, conducted the research that made the Austrian federation introduce its BMI limits. "It doesn't make sense to go to such a low weight and those that do should be monitored and if necessary there should probably be some sort of regulation to stop dangerously light athletes from competing," he said.
Scary Thunderstorms

It's monsoon time in Phoenix, and Deborah's cats are reacting with feline aplomb....
Moral Hazard, Fannie Mae, And Freddie Mac

Left: Customers wait outside of the IndyMac headquarters in Pasadena for the bank to open. The FDIC took over ailing IndyMac bank on Friday. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Blunt opinions:
July 14 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Treasury Department's plan to shore up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is an ``unmitigated disaster'' and the largest U.S. mortgage lenders are ``basically insolvent,'' according to investor Jim Rogers.

Taxpayers will be saddled with debt if Congress approves U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's request for the authority to buy unlimited stakes in and lend to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Rogers said in a Bloomberg Television interview. Rogers is betting that Fannie Mae shares will keep tumbling.

...``I don't know where these guys get the audacity to take our money, taxpayer money, and buy stock in Fannie Mae,'' Rogers, 65, said in an interview from Singapore. ``So we're going to bail out everybody else in the world. And it ruins the Federal Reserve's balance sheet and it makes the dollar more vulnerable and it increases inflation.''

The chairman of Rogers Holdings, who in April 2006 correctly predicted oil would reach $100 a barrel and gold $1,000 an ounce, also said the commodities bull market has a ``long way to go'' and advised buying agricultural commodities.

Rogers, a former partner of hedge fund manager George Soros, predicted the start of the commodities rally in 1999 and started buying Chinese stocks in the same year. He traveled the world by motorcycle and car in the 1990s researching investment ideas for his books, which include ``Adventure Capitalist'' and ``Hot Commodities.''

Billionaire investor Soros said today that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac face a ``solvency crisis,'' not a liquidity one, and that their troubles won't be the last financial disruption, Reuters reported.

``This is a very serious financial crisis and it is the most serious financial crisis of our lifetime,'' Soros told Reuters in a telephone interview. ``It is an idle dream to think that you could have this kind of crisis without the real economy being affected.''

...``These companies were going to go bankrupt if they hadn't stepped in to do something, and they should've gone bankrupt with all of the mistakes they've made,'' Rogers said. ``What's going to happen when you Band-Aid and put some Band-Aids on it for another year or two or three? What's going to happen three years from now when the situation's much, much, much worse?''

...Rogers said he had not covered his so-called short positions in Fannie Mae and would increase his bet if it were to rally. Short sellers borrow stock and then sell it in an effort to profit by repurchasing the securities later at a lower price and returning them to the holder.

The U.S. economy is in a recession, possibly the worst since World War II, Rogers said.

``They're ruining what has been one of the greatest economies in the world,'' Rogers said. Bernanke and Paulson ``are bailing out their friends on Wall Street but there are 300 million Americans that are going to have to pay for this.''
Honky Tonkin' In Rio Linda

After a nice potluck dinner with Lisa C. and friends, I finally bent to six months worth of pressure from E., and went dancing.

Ended up at the Moose Lodge in Rio Linda, dancing to country music.

The band seemed to be a pick-up kind of affair. I asked the drummer what the band was called and it turned out he didn't know. Either no one told him, they told him but he didn't understand (he may have been a bit deaf - a hazard of the profession), or more likely, it wasn't important: everyone who could play a tune or sing a song was welcome.

Towards the end of the evening "Julie Ann" and friends noodled with their own newly-created country songs. And they didn't mention prison, mama, Texas, or pickup trucks, even once....
RIP, Michael DeBakey

The most important heart surgeon ever to have lived, and maybe ever will live. A true titan!
Whiplash Light

Ow! Ow! Ow!:
DOZENS of young revellers were blinded by a laser show at a dance music festival near Moscow last week and doctors fear the damage may be irreparable, the Kommersant daily reported today.

"More than 30 people between the ages of 16 and 30 have ended up in hospitals in the capital with the same diagnosis - damaged retinas - since July 7,'' the report said, quoting doctors.

One doctor told Kommersant: "All of them have burnt retinas, you can see scars on them. The loss of eyesight in some cases is up to 80 per cent and it's unlikely it can ever be restored.''

Festival goers being treated in hospital said they were blinded when lasers intended to light up the night sky were trained on dancers.

"I immediately saw a black spot like the kind you get when you look at the sun,'' said one of the patients.

The Aquamarine festival took place near the town of Vladimir, some 170km east of Moscow.
The Touching Power Of Faith

What could possibly go wrong? I mean, it seems to work OK in the madrassas of South Asia:
OKLAHOMA CITY -- An Oklahoma church canceled a controversial gun giveaway for teenagers at a weekend youth conference.

Windsor Hills Baptist had planned to give away a semiautomatic assault rifle until one of the event's organizers was unable to attend.

The church’s youth pastor, Bob Ross, said it’s a way of trying to encourage young people to attend the event. The church expected hundreds of teenagers from as far away as Canada.

...“I don’t want people thinking ‘My goodness, we’re putting a weapon in the hand of somebody that doesn’t respect it who are then going to go out and kill,'” said Ross. “That’s not at all what we’re trying to do.”

Ross said the conference isn’t all about guns, but rather about teens finding faith.

“You make a lot of new friends down here,” said Vikki Goncharenko, who attended the conference. “You get to meet new people. There's a bunch of things that are going on. It's just, you have a wonderful time.”

Friday evening, Ross said the gun giveaway had been canceled. Pastor emeritus Jim Vineyard, who ran the event, injured his foot and wouldn’t be able to attend. The gun giveaway was also removed from the church Web site.

Ross said the church would give the gun away next year instead. He said the church spent $800 buying the gun for the promotion.