Saturday, August 02, 2008


Looking like a Texas Chainsaw Masscre refugee, I was using a hedgetrimmer on the shrubbery in front of the house, when I looked up to see a woman pedestrian walking past on her way to the store. She smiled and said "You are doing an excellent job!" Fifteen minutes later, returning from the store, she passed by again and with a big smile said "You are doing a magnificent job!"

Not enough people in the world like her!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Brian May's Thesis Finally Finished

The Queen rocker's study of the Zodiacal Light is finally finished!

(Myself, I've seen the Zodiacal Light clearly just once, but it was very impressive!)
What Happens When The Credit Crunch Meets The Mojave?

Potentially a mud flat Mad-Max calamity:
Well, there's Lake Las Vegas, a 320-acre man-made lake that has high-end developments and very rich people living around it. The Review-Journal offers this summary of the environmentally preposterous development: "Lake Las Vegas has two luxury hotels, a casino, an Italian-theme shopping and restaurant area, three golf courses, marinas and 1,600 completed residences, including one owned by singer Celine Dion, according to the Clark County assessor's Web site."

...Lake Las Vegas has filed for bankruptcy and, according to the Review-Journal, without a court-approved infusion of cash for maintenance on a pipe under the lake, there is a risk the "lake" will drain away for good .... The project would lose a considerable amount of its appeal were it built around a dry lake bed."
OK, The Newt IS A Lizard - Isn't It?

What the heck IS that?:
Children have lost touch with the natural world and are unable to identify common animals and plants, according to a survey.

Half of youngsters aged nine to 11 were unable to identify a daddy-long-legs, oak tree, blue tit or bluebell, in the poll by BBC Wildlife Magazine. The study also found that playing in the countryside was children's least popular way of spending their spare time, and that they would rather see friends or play on their computer than go for a walk or play outdoors.

The survey asked 700 children to identify pictured flora and fauna. Just over half could name bluebells, 54 per cent knew what blue tits were and 45 per cent could identify an oak. Less than two-thirds (62 per cent) identified frogs and 12 per cent knew what a primrose was.

Children performed better at identifying robins (95 per cent) and badgers, correctly labelled by nine out of 10.

Sir David Attenborough warned that children who lack any understanding of the natural world would not grow into adults who cared about the environment. "The wild world is becoming so remote to children that they miss out," he said, "and an interest in the natural world doesn't grow as it should. Nobody is going protect the natural world unless they understand it."

...A surprisingly large number of children incorrectly identified the bluebells as lavender, and the deer was commonly misidentified as an antelope.

The newt, recognised by 42 per cent, was mistaken for a lizard while the primrose was thought to be a dandelion.

...Dr Martin Maudsley, play development officer for Playwork Partnerships, at the University of Gloucestershire, said that adults had become too protective of wild places: "Environmental sensitivities should not be prioritised over children."

He said: "Play is the primary mechanism through which children engage and connect with the world, and natural environments are particularly attractive, inspiring and satisfying for kids. Something magical occurs when children and wild spaces mix."
DMTC Beginning Musical Theater Workshop Recital

Left: From "You're A Good Man Charlie Brown". Vincent as Charlie Brown, Morgan as Schroeder, Madison as Lucy, Grace as Patty, and Olivia as Linus.

Here are some pictures from last night's recital. I don't have last names on most of the participants (so first names will have to suffice).

Coming to stages near you soon!

Left: From "Alice in Wonderland", McKenna as Alice and Moti as the Mad Hatter.

Left: Trevor as Stitch and Lea as Sew, from "The Emperor's New Clothes".

Left: Wyatt as King Arthur and Alex as Tom, from "Camelot".

Left: Nina (the blonde girl at left), as Miss Hannigan, berates the orphan girls, including Annie (Mina, at top left), from "Annie". The orphans were: Sabreen as Kate, Mina as Annie, Sydney as July, Cassy as Pepper, Ava (and Caroline) as Tessie, and Breana as Molly.

Left: From "Secret Garden": Kelly as Mary Lennox and Devin as Colin Craven.

Left: Brian as Snoopy, from "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown".

Left: Shay as Sally, from "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown".

Left: Nina as a Stepsister, from "Cinderella".

Left: Workshop Staff. Teenage Assistants, left to right: Chris Petersen, Kennedy Wenning, McKinley Carlisle, Rebecca Rudy, and Lisa Parente. Workshop Instructors Jan Isaacson and Helen Spangler.
Raises Yet More Questions

If Ivins had a long history of sociopathic behavior, then why was he allowed to remain as one of the nation's leading bioterrorism experts?:
AUGUST 1--The government biodefense researcher who committed suicide as federal prosecutors reportedly prepared to indict him in connection with the 2001 anthrax attacks was committed to a Maryland psychiatric hospital last month after making death threats against a counselor, according to court records. Bruce Ivins, 62, who died Tuesday of a drug overdose, had been scheduled to appear yesterday in a Frederick County court in connection with a protective order application filed by Jean Duley, program director of Comprehensive Counseling Associates. In her July 24 petition, a copy of which you'll find below, Duley referred to Ivins as a "client" who "has a history dating to his graduate days of homicidal threats, actions, plans, threats & actions towards therapist." Duley added that Ivins's psychiatrist called him "homicidal, sociopathic with clear intentions," and that "FBI involved, currently under investigation & will be charged w/ 5 capital murders. I have been subpoena to testify before a federal grand jury August 1, 2008 in Washington, D.C.." Duley's court filing was apparently triggered by several threatening phone messages left by Ivins early last month.
The Cowbirds From Mutant Island Saw Their Opportunity

Left: "Bird's Nest" image from Barbarossa, at B3ta.
Did The Bush Administration Plan The Anthrax Attacks?

Or did a loner possessed of a dogmatic Christian (possibly Catholic) streak perpetrate it? And what did ABC News know, and when did they know it?:
The 2001 anthrax attacks remain one of the great mysteries of the post-9/11 era. After 9/11 itself, the anthrax attacks were probably the most consequential event of the Bush presidency. One could make a persuasive case that they were actually more consequential. The 9/11 attacks were obviously traumatic for the country, but in the absence of the anthrax attacks, 9/11 could easily have been perceived as a single, isolated event. It was really the anthrax letters -- with the first one sent on September 18, just one week after 9/11 -- that severely ratcheted up the fear levels and created the climate that would dominate in this country for the next several years after. It was anthrax -- sent directly into the heart of the country's elite political and media institutions, to then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt), NBC News anchor Tom Brokow, and other leading media outlets -- that created the impression that social order itself was genuinely threatened by Islamic radicalism.

If the now-deceased Ivins really was the culprit behind the attacks, then that means that the anthrax came from a U.S. Government lab, sent by a top U.S. Army scientist at Ft. Detrick. Without resort to any speculation or inferences at all, it is hard to overstate the significance of that fact. From the beginning, there was a clear intent on the part of the anthrax attacker to create a link between the anthrax attacks and both Islamic radicals and the 9/11 attacks. ... By design, those attacks put the American population into a state of intense fear of Islamic terrorism, far more than the 9/11 attacks alone could have accomplished.

Much more important than the general attempt to link the anthrax to Islamic terrorists, there was a specific intent -- indispensably aided by ABC News -- to link the anthrax attacks to Iraq and Saddam Hussein. In my view, and I've written about this several times and in great detail to no avail, the role played by ABC News in this episode is the single greatest, unresolved media scandal of this decade. News of Ivins' suicide, which means (presumably) that the anthrax attacks originated from Ft. Detrick, adds critical new facts and heightens how scandalous ABC News' conduct continues to be in this matter.

During the last week of October, 2001, ABC News, led by Brian Ross, continuously trumpeted the claim as their top news story that government tests conducted on the anthrax -- tests conducted at Ft. Detrick -- revealed that the anthrax sent to Daschele contained the chemical additive known as bentonite. ABC News, including Peter Jennings, repeatedly claimed that the presence of bentonite in the anthrax was compelling evidence that Iraq was responsible for the attacks, since -- as ABC variously claimed -- bentonite "is a trademark of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program" and "only one country, Iraq, has used bentonite to produce biological weapons."

ABC News' claim -- which they said came at first from "three well-placed but separate sources," followed by "four well-placed and separate sources" -- was completely false from the beginning. There never was any bentonite detected in the anthrax (a fact ABC News acknowledged for the first time in 2007 only as a result of my badgering them about this issue). It's critical to note that it isn't the case that preliminary tests really did detect bentonite and then subsequent tests found there was none. No tests ever found or even suggested the presence bentonite. The claim was just concocted from the start. It just never happened.

...Clearly, Ross' allegedly four separate sources had to have some specific knowledge of the tests conducted and, if they were really "well-placed," one would presume that meant they had some connection to the laboratory where the tests were conducted -- Ft. Detrick. That means that the same Government lab where the anthrax attacks themselves came from was the same place where the false reports originated that blamed those attacks on Iraq.

It's extremely possible -- one could say highly likely -- that the same people responsible for perpetrating the attacks were the ones who fed the false reports to the public, through ABC News, that Saddam was behind them. What we know for certain -- as a result of the letters accompanying the anthrax -- is that whoever perpetrated the attacks wanted the public to believe they were sent by foreign Muslims. Feeding claims to ABC designed to link Saddam to those attacks would, for obvious reasons, promote the goal of the anthrax attacker(s).

...There can't be any question that this extremely flamboyant though totally false linkage between Iraq and the anthrax attacks -- accomplished primarily by the false bentonite reports from ABC News and Brian Ross -- played a very significant role in how Americans perceived of the Islamic threat generally and Iraq specifically. As but one very illustrative example, The Washington Post's columnist, Richard Cohen, supported the invasion of Iraq, came to regret that support, and then explained what led him to do so, in a 2004 Post column entitled "Our Forgotten Panic":
I'm not sure if panic is quite the right word, but it is close enough. Anthrax played a role in my decision to support the Bush administration's desire to take out Saddam Hussein. I linked him to anthrax, which I linked to Sept. 11. I was not going to stand by and simply wait for another attack -- more attacks. I was going to go to the source, Hussein, and get him before he could get us. As time went on, I became more and more questioning, but I had a hard time backing down from my initial whoop and holler for war.
Cohen -- in a March 18, 2008 Slate article in which he explains why he wrongfully supported the attack on Iraq -- disclosed this:
Anthrax. Remember anthrax? It seems no one does anymore -- at least it's never mentioned. But right after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, letters laced with anthrax were received at the New York Post and Tom Brokaw's office at NBC. . . . There was ample reason to be afraid.

The attacks were not entirely unexpected. I had been told soon after Sept. 11 to secure Cipro, the antidote to anthrax. The tip had come in a roundabout way from a high government official, and I immediately acted on it. I was carrying Cipro way before most people had ever heard of it.

For this and other reasons, the anthrax letters appeared linked to the awful events of Sept. 11. It all seemed one and the same. Already, my impulse had been to strike back, an overwhelming urge that had, in fact, taken me by surprise on Sept. 11 itself when the first of the Twin Towers had collapsed. . . .

In the following days, as the horror started to be airbrushed -- no more bodies plummeting to the sidewalk -- the anthrax letters started to come, some to people I knew. And I thought, No, I'm not going to sit here passively and wait for it to happen. I wanted to go to "them," whoever "they" were, grab them by the neck, and get them before they could get us. One of "them" was Saddam Hussein. He had messed around with anthrax . . . He was a nasty little fascist, and he needed to be dealt with.

That, more or less, is how I made my decision to support the war in Iraq.
...ABC News already knows the answers to these questions. They know who concocted the false bentonite story and who passed it on to them with the specific intent of having them broadcast those false claims to the world, in order to link Saddam to the anthrax attacks and -- as importantly -- to conceal the real culprit(s) (apparently within the U.S. government) who were behind the attacks. And yet, unbelievably, they are keeping the story to themselves, refusing to disclose who did all of this. They're allegedly a news organization, in possession of one of the most significant news stories of the last decade, and they are concealing it from the public, even years later.

They're not protecting "sources." The people who fed them the bentonite story aren't "sources." They're fabricators and liars who purposely used ABC News to disseminate to the American public an extremely consequential and damaging falsehood. But by protecting the wrongdoers, ABC News has made itself complicit in this fraud perpetrated on the public, rather than a news organization uncovering such frauds. That is why this is one of the most extreme journalistic scandals that exists, and it deserves a lot more debate and attention than it has received thus far.

UPDATE: One other fact to note here is how bizarrely inept the effort by the Bush DOJ to find the real attacker has been. Extremely suspicious behavior from Ivins -- including his having found and completely cleaned anthrax traces on a co-worker's desk at the Ft. Detrick lab without telling anyone that he did so and then offering extremely strange explanations for why -- was publicly reported as early as 2004 by The LA Times (Ivins "detected an apparent anthrax leak in December 2001, at the height of the anthrax mailings investigation, but did not report it. Ivins considered the problem solved when he cleaned the affected office with bleach").

In October 2004, USA Today reported that Ivins was involved in another similar incident, in April of 2002, when Ivins performed unauthorized tests to detect the origins of more anthrax residue found at Ft. Detrick. Yet rather than having that repeated, strange behavior lead the FBI to discover that he was involved in the attacks, there was a very public effort -- as Atrios notes here -- to blame the attacks on Iraq and then, ultimately, to blame Stephen Hatfill. Amazingly, as Atrios notes here, very few people other than "a few crazy bloggers are even interested" in finding out what happened here and why -- at least to demand that ABC News report the vital information that it already has that will shed very significant light on much of this.

UPDATE II: Ivins' local paper, Frederick News in Maryland, has printed several Letters to the Editor written by Ivins over the years. Though the underlying ideology is a bit difficult to discern, he seems clearly driven by a belief in the need for Christian doctrine to govern our laws and political institutions, with a particular interest in Catholic dogma. He wrote things like this:
Today we frequently admonish people who oppose abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide or capital punishment to keep their religious, moral, and philosophical beliefs to themselves.

Before dispensing such admonishments in the future, perhaps we should gratefully consider some of our country's most courageous, historical figures who refused to do so.
And then there's this rather cryptic message, published in 2006:
Rabbi Morris Kosman is entirely correct in summarily rejecting the demands of the Frederick Imam for a "dialogue."
By blood and faith, Jews are God's chosen, and have no need for "dialogue" with any gentile. End of "dialogue."
It should be noted that the lawyer who had been representing Ivins in connection with the anthrax investigation categorically maintains Ivins' innocence and attributes his suicide to "the relentless pressure of accusation and innuendo."
"bare" Now Open!

Left: Ian Cullity

Catch the SacBee Ticket story!:
This weekend, Artistic Differences opens "bare," a new pop-rock sensation for the 21st century. The musical, with book by Jon Hartmere Jr. and Damon Intrabartolo, lyrics by Hartmere and music by Intrabartolo, tells the story of two high school students and their life and sexual confusion at a Catholic boarding school.

[Erik] Daniells didn't know what show he wanted to do until his friend and associate Kevin Caravalho brought him the music to "bare."

"It's one of those shows that just captures you," Caravalho says.

"A friend gave me a pirated CD and said, 'If you just hear a couple songs from the show, you're gonna be hooked.' And he was right," Caravalho says. "It has a voice for young America that is fresh and textured. It isn't cartoonish."

While Caravalho loved the idea of the play, he still had to persuade others, which he eventually did.

"We're taking a calculated risk, but this is our vision," Caravalho adds. He's directing the show, with Daniells leading the production's band from his piano.

"We're trying to do shows that make you think, make you question and challenge you," Caravalho says.
There Goes My Social Life

No fun at all:
SAUDI Arabia's religious police have banned selling cats and dogs or exercising them in public in the Saudi capital, because of men using them as a means of making passes at women.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Anthrax Mystery

I wonder what the story is?:
WASHINGTON (AP) - A top U.S. biodefense researcher apparently committed suicide just as the Justice Department was about to file criminal charges against him in the anthrax mailings that traumatized the nation in the weeks following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to a published report.

The scientist, Bruce E. Ivins, 62, who worked for the past 18 years at the government's biodefense labs at Fort Detrick, Md., had been told about the impending prosecution, the Los Angeles Times reported for Friday editions. The laboratory has been at the center of the FBI's investigation of the anthrax attacks, which killed five people.
Water Ice On Mars

There was no real doubt that that's what it is, but it's nice to know for sure.
Joe Used To Attack Stuff Like This, Didn't He?

But that was then, and this is now. In any event, I'm taking his advice and enjoying it very much:
Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Lieberman took a different tack, saying the ad simply compares the two candidates in a "creative" way and people should lighten up. "To some extent the appearance of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears -- people complain about it -- they should just relax and enjoy it," he said. The idea is to draw people into the ad. The point of the ad is really quite strong: Who's ready to lead America?"
Joe Used To Attack Stuff Like This, Didn't He?

In any event, Joe, I'm taking your advice and enjoying it very much:

Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Lieberman took a different tack, saying the ad simply compares the two candidates in a "creative" way and people should lighten up. "To some extent the appearance of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears -- people complain about it -- they should just relax and enjoy it," he said. The idea is to draw people into the ad. The point of the ad is really quite strong: Who's ready to lead America?"
What To Name The Fat Cat At The Pound

Fun contest:

Best Fat Cat Names (so far):
  • "Girthfield" - Al Thompson, Topeka, Kansas
  • "Roly Poly" - Nancy Sprayberry, Titus, Alabama
  • "Tiny" - Paulette, Bayside, New York
  • "Catty Arbuckle" - Sara A., Orlando, Florida
  • "Tons Of Fun" - Jesse, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • "Jabba The Cat" - Kaylee R., Bethany, Connecticut
  • "Powder Puff" - Margaret, Fort Plain, New York
  • "Beefer Sutherland" - E. Dunn, Seattle, Washington
  • "Catzilla" - Maureen Muncy, Alexandria, Virginia
  • "Sumo" - Ruth Hess, Rensselaer, New York
  • "Fatt Damon" - Jaime Cooke, Clarksville, Indiana
  • "Planet" - Monica Murphy, McSherrytown, Pennsylvania
  • "Truffle Shuffle" - Mike, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • "Porky Puss" - William, Tucson, Arizona
  • "Minnesota Fats" - Stanley R., Milford, Connecticut
  • "Sir McTubbers" - Judy Carley, Binghamton, New York
  • "Tank" - Pat, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • "Jose Catseco" - Jon U., Los Angeles, California
  • "Goliath" - Stephanie Cahill, Atlanta, Georgia
  • "Slim Pickens" - Jamye, Denver, Colorado
  • "Chowder" - Krista Clevenger, Muncie, Indiana
  • "Tony Super-ano" - Rene L., Houston, Texas
  • "El Gordo" - Margaret McColl, Denver, Colorado
  • "Raymond Purr" - Jim Rose, Las Vegas, Nevada
  • "Kirstie Alley-Cat" - Tammy Hall, Odenville, Alabama
  • "Chubalicious" - Elaine Johansen, Monroe, New York
  • "Zip Code" - Mike Rickenbrode, Council Grove, Kansas
  • "Tubby Tabby" - Janice, Columbia, Maryland
  • "Mr. Big" - M. Lou, New York, New York
  • "Fats Sajak" - Sarafina, Brooklyn, New York
  • "Cats Domino" - Chad Matheny, Brooklyn, New York
  • "Cat Albert" - Gordon Swafford, Muncie, Indiana
  • "Gorge Clooney" - Christian Cordero, Kirkland, Washington
  • "Flabulous" - David Clark
  • "Kitticus Fattimus" - PJ King, Houston, Texas
  • "Good And Plenty" - Princess J., Blooming Grove, New York
  • "Kat Kong" - Nancy, Cortland, Ohio
  • "Sir Eats-A-Lot" - Barbara White, Bronx, New York
  • "Kung Food" - Paul Platt, Wayne, New Jersey
  • "Magna Catta" - Martha, Prospect Park, Pennsylvania
  • "Hello Big Kitty" - Tom Hell, Miami, Florida
  • "Fatticus Catticus" - Keylee, Prospect Park, Pennsylvania
  • "Congress" - Kevin Rymer, Norman, Oklahoma
  • "Cinder Block" - Tom Walko, York, Pennsylvania
  • "Wide Load" - Barbara Burke, Magnum, Oklahoma
  • "Chunk E. Cheese" - Sandi Baxter, Milwaukee, WI
  • "Professor Pudge" - Steven, Quakertown
  • "Sir Chunka Lot" - Mike Burger, Roswell, GA
  • "Door Stop" - Gary, Cincinnati, OH
  • "Frank the Tank" - Greg, Cheshire, CT
  • "Ottoman" - Artue, Milford, CT
  • "Pussy Cat Galore" - Scott, Manchester, NH
  • "The Catkins Diet" - Deb, Brentwood, TN
  • "Little Boy" - Marilyn Caron, Marysville, WA
  • "The Incredible Bulk" - Dave, Cary, NC
  • "Catsquatch" - Joe B., Columbus, MS
  • "His Hugeness" - Larry Whightsil, Goshen, NY
  • "Princess Pudge" - Teresa, Princeton, NJ
  • "Meow Max" - Peanut, Bloomsbury, NJ
  • "Muscles" - Helen, Phoenix, AZ
  • "Big Daddy" - Braden Sheldon, Oxford, MS
  • "Plumpkin" - Adam Ginsberg, Brooklyn, NY
  • "White Cloud" - Ed, Phoenix, AZ
  • "Funky Chunk" - Shonese Warrington, Hamilton, NJ
  • "Prince O' Whales" - Ed, Phoenix, AZ
  • "Good Advertising Space" - Will, Whittenburg
  • "Cat A Log" - Susan Sholander, Brooklyn, NY
  • "Catamaran" - Ed, Phoenix, AZ
  • "Puffy Fluffy" - Lenore Tartaglia, Hammonton, NJ
  • "Medicine Ball" - Ed, Phoenix, AZ
  • "Butterball" - John Strickland, Avondale, AZ
  • "Blimp" - Paul Puzio, Clifton, NJ
  • "Pounder" - Ed, Phoenix, AZ
  • "Fatmandoo" - Valerie Almaraz, Glendora, CA
  • "Ateball" - Pawel, Brooklyn, NY
Oooh, It's That Damned Race Card - Again!

Listen, when McCain hires the same guy who produced the notorious lurid race/sex 2006 Harold Ford ad, and when people notice the 2008 McCain ad is very similar in nature, the people calling them on it aren't "playing the race card":
Obama has invoked the "doesn't look like other presidents" line in the past, but usually in a positive context -- as in, how his ability to attract support across various demographic groups signifies, among many voters, a "post-racial" approach to politics.

The context of the remark in Missouri, of course, was much different -- implying that the GOP was seeking to call attention to his bi-racial heritage.

The McCain forces today made clear they would have none of that. Campaign manager Rick Davis fired off a terse, two-sentence statement:

“Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck. It’s divisive, negative, shameful and wrong.”

Asked about his comment just moments ago on MSNBC, Davis stressed that he took great umbrage to Obama's inference that any aspect of the campaign's recent offensive against Obama had racial overtones.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

2008-07-25 A's Game National Anthem

Tara Barbier writes:
Hello DMTC Family!

The very talented, Main Stage & YPT Veteran, Lisa Parente sang the National Anthem at the Oakland A's last week (7/25/08.) Get out your tissues, because her angelic voice brings out the tears of pride!!

View her 5-Star performance here.

With Pride and heaps o' Braggin',
Something To Go With The Flying Car

Left: Harrison Martin takes a jet pack for a test flight at the annual EAA Airventure Fly-in Tuesday, July 29, 2008, in Oshkosh, Wis. (AP)

What's that in the sky? Is it a bird? Is it a plane?:
OSHKOSH, Wis. — This isn't how a jet pack is supposed to look, is it? Hollywood has envisioned jet packs as upside-down fire extinguishers strapped to people's backs. But Glenn Martin's invention is far more unwieldy — a 250-pound piano-sized contraption that people settle into rather than strap on.

As thousands looked on Tuesday, the inventor's 16-year-old son donned a helmet, fastened himself to a prototype Martin jet pack and revved the engine, which sounded like a motorcycle. Harrison Martin eased about three feet off the ground, the engine roaring with a whine so loud that some kids covered their ears.

With two spotters preventing the jet pack from drifting in a mild wind, the pilot hovered for 45 seconds and then set the device down as the audience applauded.

The Martin jet pack can — in theory — fly an average-sized pilot about 30 miles in 30 minutes on a full 5-gallon tank of gas. The apparatus was unveiled Tuesday at AirVenture Oshkosh 2008, the annual aviation convention of the Experimental Aircraft Association in east-central Wisconsin.

...The Martin jet pack is designed to conform to the Federal Aviation Administration's definition of an ultralight vehicle, which weighs less than 254 pounds and carries only one passenger.

Although the FAA could always change its mind, the ultralight designation means riders won't need a pilot's license.

But don't expect to see commuters rushing to work by air instead of land. Ultralights can't be operated over congested areas, according to FAA regulations, and are to be used "exclusively for sport or recreational purpose."

That's fine, Martin said. He predicts the jet packs will start out as toys for the wealthy. Then, as law enforcement officials become more familiar with them, Martin envisions jet packs used by the military, border-patrol officials and search-and-rescue teams.

...There's an emergency parachute that's effective above about 400 feet, and an impact-absorbing undercarriage that can soften a rough landing or short fall, Martin said.

He's still refining the safety features for those heights in between.

"A lot of it comes down to how do you fly, at what speed, at what angle," he said.
Celebrity Blowback

This whole business of John McCain grabbing Britney and Paris and using them against their will as cruise missiles against Barack Obama can't come to any good. These women are very public people, with entire offices full of people devoted to making them look good and jealously fighting off image-stealers and wannabees, and just who the hell is John McCain anyway?

Apparently McCain is now declaiming that there is something wrong about Barack Obama being a global celebrity. But McCain is a celebrity too: maybe more of a national one, though. So, how do you make these distinctions stick?

I see trouble ahead. Is McCain declaring war against all celebrities? Or just young, white female celebrities? Celebrities, virtually by definition, are popular people. I fear the collateral damage in the war of Uncool vs. Cool. Turning Jack Nicholson's speech in "A Few Good Men" on its head, I'm sure Britney and Paris are thinking:
You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use then as the backbone of a life trying to defend something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said "thank you," and went on your way.
And what does the Evil Beet think? Following TMZ's lead:

As John McCain released a slew of campaign videos comparing Barack Obama to that irresponsible, crotch-flashing little trollop Paris Hilton, it turns out that Rick and Kathy Hilton donated a whopping $4600 to the McCain campaign earlier this year. Ahhh ha ha ha ha ha! Somehow I doubt they’ll be doing that again.

Britney Spears’ parents are less upset, as they’d just donated one of their grandchildren to help out around McCain’s office. They figure there’ll be plenty more where that one came from.

She's a human!
Senator Brownback Is Shocked!

The Chinese are spying on foreign tourists! The Senator is alarmed!:
Foreign-owned hotels in China face the prospect of "severe retaliation" if they refuse to install government software that can spy on Internet use by hotel guests coming to watch the summer Olympic games, a U.S. lawmaker said Tuesday.
Nevertheless, as Glenn Greenwald notes, exactly the same thing is going within the U.S., and companies like Qwest have paid the price:
The precise financial dynamic which Sen. Brownback is impotently protesting in China -- that corporations are highly incentivized to assent to and enable all government spying lest they lose extremely lucrative government contracts (and, conversely, that they're eager to cooperate with the Government in order to receive more contracts and become further integrated in government activities) -- is exactly the dynamic that drives America's surveillance state.
Judge Judy And The Chino Hills Quake

(via Austin Chu's

Yesterday my sister called, asking if the recent Southern California earthquake meant the long-awaited slide of California into the sea had begun.

No, only that the Big Guy Upstairs wanted to make a statement on behalf of the plaintiff.
Dullsville In Paparazzi Land

Britney Spears is being a good girl these days:
"She's boring. She doesn't even have a boyfriend," said Francois Navarre, the co-owner of X17, the photo agency that set the standard for aggressive 24/7 coverage of Britney Spears.

The Spears of today may not be any more boring than dozens of celebrities who fill magazines, but she is decidedly duller than her former self. Photographers who relied on her for hourly material for the gossip blogs are confronted by a lack of access and a lack of drama. She rarely goes out and when she does, she behaves herself. No umbrella attacks. No head shaving. No fake British accent. No panty-free car exits.

Agencies that dispatched SUV-loads of freelancers to track her every move last year have downsized their Britney teams.

"At the height of the story, we had maybe six or eight guys on it round the clock," said Chris Doherty, owner of INF, which sells pictures to magazines, websites and TV shows. "Now we would have at most two. There's no real point to being there all the time."

Spears' allure remains, as evidenced by two paparazzi arrested last week near her residence, but the coverage does not compare to the intense stakeouts that proceeded her confinement in a psychiatric ward in January.

A commissioner in Los Angeles County Superior Court subsequently named her father, Jamie, co-conservator of her and her estate, giving him and a lawyer control of the 26-year-old's medical care, finances and day-to-day activities.

Out went the paparazzi-friendly advisor, the British-accented outbursts and the aimless driving excursions that sent caravans of photographers coursing through the city. In came meals at home, family talks, conferences with attorneys and, on a good day, dance class.

The structure and supervision transformed Spears' life for the better, her representatives say.

..."Her father is doing what a good parent would do, but that doesn't help the paparazzi," said Bonnie Fuller, who was editor of Star magazine and Us Weekly when Spears was a staple.

"She's not going out with her former BFFs Paris and Lindsay anymore," Fuller said, referring to Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan.

...She dated a paparazzo. Her closest friend and advisor, Sam Lutfi, allowed photographers into Spears' house and provided them with information about her comings and goings, according to her mother, Lynne.

Her spacey ramblings and constant wardrobe changes made her a tabloid photographer's dream. Every rant meant salable video; each new outfit meant fresh photos. The prices that photos fetch are often overstated, but Navarre said an exclusive photo of Spears today would only bring a 10th of what it did during her most erratic times.

"Then it could sell for $10,000 to $15,000, but now it would be hard to get over $1,500," he said.

Others who sell photos disagreed, saying the smaller number of paparazzi has kept the prices relatively stable.

Navarre's agency, X17, had 25 people assigned to Spears duty earlier this year. Now it's fewer than 10, he said.
Uppity Negroes And Celebrity White Women

Mavericky John McCain plays race and envy for votes.
This Is What Happens When You Change Face Soap

I was rubbing the sand out of my eyes, and discovered the sand was made up small green plastic beads.
Mervyns Goes Belly Up

People saw this one coming. Earlier this month, the CIT Group (Ha! The same outfit DMTC pays for use for the copier) refused to lend any more money to Mervyns. After that, bankruptcy was just about inevitable.

Friend Helga bailed from Mervyns about two years ago, and now makes her money at the DMV. She spent many good years setting up store displays. I wonder what she thinks?:
The Mervyns department store chain Tuesday joined the parade of retailers entering bankruptcy, staggered by a tottering economy made more tenuous by escalating job losses and higher gasoline prices.

The company, which operates 129 stores in California, plans to remain open during the bankruptcy process. But its future remains clouded by a retail environment in which consumers are abandoning mid-tier retailers for bigger bargains at discount stores.

"They're one of the groups in the retail sector that's going to be most affected by the downtrending economy," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for NPD Group, a market research firm. "It's just too much for them to absorb all of these forces coming on them all at once."

Other retailers that have sought bankruptcy protection in recent months include Shoe Pavilion Inc., Sharper Image Inc., Steve & Barry's and Linens 'n Things Inc. Though the circumstances vary, retail experts say a common thread is that consumers have been pinched by the housing downturn, job losses and higher costs for food and fuel.

That's an ominous sign for the economy, leading to more job losses and more vacancies in shopping centers, said Esmael Adibi of the Anderson Center for Economic Research at Chapman University.

"The retail industry, whether it's the actual stores or vendors, will go through cutbacks in jobs, and that will exacerbate overall job losses for the region," Adibi said. "There's no ray of sunshine here. You try to find one thing positive. I can't."

California could be hit particularly hard, Adibi and others said. During the housing boom that began in the late 1990s, retailers rushed to open stores in outlying suburbs such as the Inland Empire and Antelope Valley.

But with many of those new homes now lost to foreclosure, retailers have been forced to retrench in the state, where many of them have their largest number of stores.

"If the economic pressures become more pronounced, Californian consumers will suffer more than the rest of us," said Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director for Strategic Resource Group, a business strategy firm. "And the more Californian consumers suffer the more we suffer nationally and, ultimately, internationally."

Mervyns, like Shoe Pavilion and Sharper Image, is based in California, and most of its 177 stores are here. Given the severity of the housing downturn here, "California could lead the retail bankruptcy rate in the country," said Sung Won Sohn, professor of economics with the Smith School of Business at Cal State Channel Islands in Camarillo.

In filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Hayward, Calif.-based Mervyns blamed the "state of the economy and difficult operating environment for our industry."

"After careful consideration of available alternatives, the company's management board determined that a Chapter 11 filing was a necessary and prudent step that allows us to operate our business without interruption as we seek to restructure our debt and other obligations in a controlled, court-supervised environment," John Goodman, Mervyns chief executive, said in the statement.

The company said in its filing that it had identified a "limited number" of unprofitable stores that should be closed, but it didn't divulge the locations.

The filing came on the anniversary of the company's founding by Mervin Morris.

"Fifty-nine years ago this very day we opened the first store and it was a huge success," Morris, 88, said Tuesday. "A huge success means we took in $1,500, and I thought I died and went to heaven. And today is a very sad day for me."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

K-Lo Irritates

I shouldn't let conservative columnists get to me, but they are so scurrilous these days! Regarding Barack's recent travels:
Obama’s European trip, of course, provided a wide stage for his self-assured pomp and inconsequence. The speech at the Berlin Victory Column furnished the fireworks of the trip, but it — with its Leni Riefenstahl-like rally posters translated into German — did not stand alone in audacity.
Leni Riefenstahl directed the Nazi-propaganda film "Triumph Of The Will". I don't think that Obama's campaign material had any connection, unintended or otherwise, with Nazi propaganda. Big crowds don't automatically mean fascism. Sometimes they mean genuine enthusiasm. Think about it, K-Lo.
Balloonist Found

A sad day in Brazil. Lawn-chair balloonists take note. To me, the mystery is why the priest, with all his preparations, didn't forsee this development. The ocean is to the east, the wind is from the west - it should have been easy to see this coming. But he was brimming with confidence....
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The body of a Brazilian priest who floated out over the ocean suspended by hundreds of helium-filled party balloons, has been found off the coast of southeastern Brazil, police have confirmed.

The corpse of Father Adelir Antonio de Carli was spotted by a tugboat at sea near the city of Macae, three months after he disappeared while flying a contraption buoyed by balloons over the Atlantic Ocean in a fund-raising stunt.
Add A Few Crocs And It's Haute Cuisine!

Like they say, "it's very cool!" :
Diners in Xiangfan are enjoying the novelty of eating their meals in ankle-deep water, reports Xinhua Net.

News of the flooded restaurant spread and the restaurant is now packed with diners while waitresses say they are struggling to keep up with orders.

The owner said he was prepared to temporarily close the restaurant after the heaviest rains for 50 years brought floods to the city.

But he had a change of heart when he heard how the eatery's new wet look was bringing in the customers.

"It's very cool. Not only in temperature, but also for a fun new way of having a meal," said one diner.
Tim's Texas Bar-B-Q

A Texas blogger tries out Tex-Mex cuisine - in Beijing:
They even had a Texas flag hanging, although it was upside down. Close enough!
Mortgage Brokers Need Not Apply

Tar Babies of the Apocalypse:
The pop of the housing bubble has hit few groups harder than those in the mortgage industry.

...As mortgage companies continue to fold, employees are struggling, largely without success, to find jobs with comparable pay.

...Lori Cook of Scottsdale worked as a loan closer for more than 15 years before getting laid off in February. Now, she's using Corporate Job Bank in Tempe to find an income to support her three children, two still living at home.

"I need the energy and self-esteem that come from being part of the workforce," Cook said.

...Brian Hamerla said every time he goes to an interview, the employer asks for financial advice not about his skills.

"Interviews that I have been on, they treat us like we have the plague," he said. "There's a reputation out there of mortgage brokers being untrained."

Hamerla said he's earning about a third of the six-figure salary he was making a few years ago as a mortgage broker.

He still runs his business, Hamerla Mortgage, but he works part time selling timeshares to pay the bills. It's been more than a year since his firm was earning enough money to support itself, but he's hoping to keep afloat.

"I'm not going to give up what I've worked 15 years to have," Hamerla said.

He is looking for a management position but hasn't had any offers, even though his girlfriend runs an agency.

"The biggest struggle is the stereotype put on mortgage brokers," he said.

...Denise Arana, 30, was making $80,000 a year as an account executive at First Magnus before it went under in August 2007. After a two-month stint with IndyMac Bank, she found herself unemployed, again. Living on savings and her 401(k) for a few months, she began looking for a new career. "I never thought it would be so difficult," said Arana, who has a master's in business from the University of Phoenix and a bachelor's in justice studies and policy from ASU.

She is earning $12 an hour at a data-entry position she found through AppleOne employment agency in Scottsdale.

"I basically live to pay my bills now," she said.

...Besides competing for jobs with other Arizonans, people from a mortgage background battle their lack of experience in other industries. While many were proficient in their previous positions, staffing agencies say not all job applicants are familiar with Microsoft Office, a skill required by most employers.

Staffing agencies say employers want to hire people with experience, not people they'll have to train.

...She said many people got into the mortgage business with high salaries because the industry needed people to keep up with the workloads during the boom.

Now with the large pools of job candidates, employers can be pickier about whom they hire and what they pay them.

"Companies want to hire someone who has experience," Sanguine said.
There They Go Again

TNR making up stuff.
Open Range final shootout (part 1)

At Joe The Plumber's recommendation, and with his DVD, I finally saw the 2003 movie "Open Range", starring Robert Duvall, Kevin Costner, and Annette Bening.

The movie starts out as a paean to the open range, and it's eminently dull at first, but it has a nice love story and it gets very lively at the end, with one of the best Wild West shootouts ever filmed. Here is Part I of the climactic scene. Plot summary:
Boss Spearman, Charley Waite, Mose Harrison and Button freegraze their cattle across the vast prairies of the West, sharing a friendship forged by a steadfast code of honor and living a life unencumbered by civilization. When their wayward herd forces them near the small town of Harmonville, the cowboys encounter a corrupt sheriff and kingpin rancher who govern the territory through fear, tyranny and violence. Boss and Charley find themselves inextricably drawn towards an inevitable showdown, as they are forced to defend the freedom and values of a lifestyle that is all too quickly vanishing. Amidst the turmoil, life suddenly takes an unexpected turn for the loner Charley when he meets the beautiful and warm spirited Sue Barlow, a woman who embraces both his heart and his soul.
So much of Wild West folklore derives from New Mexico's Lincoln County War. Although this movie is filmed in Alberta, you have the same ruthless Irish boss-type (Baxter here; Murphy in N.M.) And Costner fills in here as a sort of heroic Billy The Kid, with Robert Duvall as the kind of dad that Billy should have had.
Oliver Stone's "Dubya" Is Coming

I can hardly wait!
Victory Is Mine

E.: MMMAAARRRCCCC! Those musicians don't know what methaphor is!
M.: What?
E.: Methaphor!
M.: You mean m-e-t-a-p-h-o-r.
E.: They don't know what it means! For example "don't it make my brown eyes blue" doesn't mean her eyes turn blue. Blue in this context means sadness. The dictionary says a metaphor is "a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance". The musicians don't understand it!
M.: But musicians use metaphor all the time.
E.: Yes, but they are ignorant. One of them even said I had it backwards. There is no question I defeated them grammatically!
You Try Running For Governor!

Former 2003 California Gubernatorial Candidate, Beverly Hills restauranteur Jim Vandeventer, Jr., has put together a documentary of his experiences running for Governor! The trailer for "This is JIM" is available here.

This looks like it will be an awesome film! Several other candidates are featured in the trailer, such as author Warren Farrell and Jim Lane (whose heterodox views were closest to mine) and the charming and magnetic Iris Adam and Cheryl Bly-Chester (I even see myself in the background).

Many of the alternative gubernatorial candidates were successful in their various businesses and professions, but had beliefs that set them at odds with the prevailing liberal/conservative divide in the state and country. Liberal Republican Jim Vandeventer perfectly captures the political fusion that is California's political gift to the world.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Acknowledging The Racist Moment

I patronize several different Subway establishments in Sacramento and get to see how the clientele varies from neighborhood to neighborhood. This afternoon, I passed in front of one of these restaurants, but decided to visit the nearby MetroPCS store first: there was a line of customers inside Subway, and I hoped that the line would have time to clear first before I ordered.

Looking through the glass door, I could see that the last customer in the queue was a young African-American male, about age 22. He was dressed in the lamentable, but very fashionable way young men dress to impress young women: jeans slung so low over the hips that they looked like they would fall off, and a brilliant white sleeveless T-Shirt. His clothes were clean and nearly-new. Interestingly, he also had a rolling suitcase with him. He may have been a stranger to Sacramento.

So, passing by, I went into the MetroPCS store instead and asked "Are they really going to cut off my cell phone service because of this 38 cent charge?" They assured me not to worry: charges less than $3.00 simply get tacked onto next month's bill.

Returning to the Subway restaurant, the line of people had cleared, except for the young African-American man. I stood in line behind him, but he turned to me and said "Go ahead - I'm trying to get the woman's attention." He seemed to be upset: seething even.

The woman clerk behind the counter, older and Indian (from India) seemed flummoxed. As I got in the queue, she went to the back of the restaurant to get more help. The clerk in the back was reluctant to come out - he was apparently busy, probably doing something like cutting vegetables - but he came out to take my order. I started placing my order.

Just one problem: the young man in front of me was waiting in vain - he was not receiving service. The woman clerk was not taking his order. This suddenly felt quite creepy. So, in deference, I stopped placing my order and gave the young man the opportunity to place his order instead. With gritted teeth, the young man demurred and told me to complete my order. I said "OK, but you were first." So I finished placing my order.

The young man then asked the woman clerk to take his order. Waving towards the reluctant clerk, she indicated that he would take his order and she would collect the money. So, the ad hoc rule in this restaurant seemed to be 'I will take your money, but I will not make your sandwich.'

I didn't witness the beginning of this process and so I don't know if there had been some kind of friction before I entered the restaurant. From spending years as a customer of Subway, I know some customers treat the staff in an abusive way. Those people need to be hurled onto the sidewalk with maximum prejudice. Nevertheless, this didn't seem to be one of those moments: the customer was soft-spoken and successfully kept his anger under control.

Eating at this Subway before, I've noticed this clerk is very friendly, and perhaps even too quick to help me. I almost invariably carry the Wall Street Journal with me. Not that I often agree with the WSJ - the editorial pages are an adventure into the absurd - but the news pages are the best in the country. But the WSJ might label me to others as a serious businessman. The suitcase and the clothing, on the other hand, might have labeled the young man as an itinerant. Was that why the clerk got flummoxed when I got in line - a serious man was being kept from his serious business by this - this nobody? There was a clear divide in sex, age, and race between customer and clerk. Sure looked like a bit of racism to me. Or, if not pure racism, several other -isms combined together.

As the young man left the restaurant with his sandwich, he bade me a warm farewell, and I did likewise. I think he was grateful that I had at least witnessed what was going on, and that he was not alone in his apprehension that something was wrong, and that it wasn't just his imagination in overdrive.

As far as we have come in ameliorating racial prejudice in this country, we still have a ways to go.....
Brisbane Cracks 40%

Last summer's rainy season, which started strong but departed early, left the Brisbane, QLD, AU, water reservoirs at just under the 40% level required to ease official water restrictions. People fussed and fumed and chafed and hurled insults, but there was nothing anybody could do. People just had to live with it.

Because of rather unseasonable dry season winter rains this July, the reservoirs are now at 40.83%.

Go hog-wild they will, I bet! Fountains of joy!
Bob Novak Ill

His story regarding the recent pedestrian collision seemed unlikely, that he didn't see the pedestrian sprawled on his windshield. But maybe it was true; maybe he really didn't see the fellow:
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak said today he has been diagnosed with a brain tumor but says that, “God willing,” he plans to be back at work soon.

...“On Sunday, July 27, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I have been admitted to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where doctors will soon begin appropriate treatment. “I will be suspending my journalistic work for an indefinite but, God willing, not too lengthy period."
Culture War Skirmish

An American approach to an Iraqi-type conundrum:
An unemployed man accused of opening fire with a shotgun and killing two people at a Unitarian church apparently targeted the congregation out of hatred for its liberal social policies, police said Monday.

..."It appears that what brought him to this horrible event was his lack of being able to obtain a job, his frustration over that and his stated hatred of the liberal movement," Owen said at a news conference.
"Little Shop Of Horrors" Closes

(No pictures - I wasn't around enough to snap away...)

The 'Joshua and Caitlin' farewell party will be coming soon (they are headed towards college).
E., C/W Groupie

E.: MMMAAARRRCCC! Wake up! Wake up!
M.: Whuh? Huh?
E.: Show me how to tie a tie, fast. The band is playing today in Cameron Park and I have to get up there and dress them! They say it's a big fancy house. Are there rich guys in Cameron Park?
M.: Well, it's a nice place....
E.: I'm going to find a rich husband in Cameron Park!
M.: OK, well, you do that.....
Dolly Clobbers Ruidoso

Trouble in southern NM:
The storm brought five inches of rain that prompted Flash flood and flood warnings for much of the day in Ruidoso and the surrounding area. The flood crest reached Hollywood at 4:45 a.m. Sunday with a stage height of 11.15 feet.

Campers at Bonito Lake woke up to the sound of rushing water, which quickly turned to yelling and screaming. One woman said she saw a family rushing to get their kids to the car in water that was up to their knees.

Down the river in Ruidoso, the wood and metal bridges met their match in the mud and water. At least four bridges in the town were destroyed.

Early estimates indicated that 60 homes were damaged, with those closest to the water being categorized as total losses. The community had not seen any serious flooding in the past 30 years.

There were at least 7 sucessful swift water rescues in the area, however, search crews are still searching for one person. Tom Schaefer, the emergency management coordinator for Lincoln County, said helicopter rescue crews searched the area for people who needed an airlift, but found none.

At least 150 people are currently in shelters which are set up at The Bonita Nazarene Church and Gateway Church Of Christ.

Area automated rain gauges report 2 -day rainfalls of 4.87 inches at White Mountain Meadows, Ruidoso; 4.59 inches at 15th and Juniper in Alamogordo; and 4.40 inches at Cloudcroft Fire Station 82 in Cloudcroft.
Exhibit A

Brent Rinehart impresses Leonard Pitts as exactly what he's talking about when he's talking about America's stupidification:
But here's the main reason Rinehart's work offends: It is astonishingly stupid.

Voters should support him because an angel does? His opponents are in league with Satan? Old Scratch is working to ''get kids to believe homosexuality is normal'' and Rinehart is their only defense? And I haven't even mentioned the creative punctuations and multiple misspellings.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Baghead Cometh

Sacramento actress Greta Gerwig gets an amazingly-nice profile (they crown her the 'Indie-Queen') in the LA Times! With "Baghead", her star is definitely on the rise!

If I'm not mistaken, Gerwig did shows at the Woodland Opera House in 1999 and performed at her alma mater, St. Francis High School. I blogged about a Feb. 23, 2007 Sac Bee profile of her last year. Pam Kay Lourentzos says "She has the talent to be a triple threat, but she was so smart, so verbally aware, she was instead more attracted to other aspects of theater, like playwriting. Film is a good place for her."

Apparently "Baghead" was in Sacramento-area theatres for a limited engagement earlier this month.

It's wonderful to see someone who passed through the Sacramento-area community musical theater milieu on the way to Bigger and Better, doing Bigger and Better!:
Think of her as an ingénue for the text-message set. With her offbeat allure, charm and sass, actress Greta Gerwig has become something of an indie-film sensation over the last two years after several of her movies played to swooning responses at such festivals as SXSW and Sundance. Since her insightful portrait of youthful uncertainty and anxiety as the title character in 2007's "Hannah Takes the Stairs" (the defining movie of the recent low-budget, dialogue-driven "mumblecore" film movement), she has seemed to be on the cusp of something bigger.

But not quite yet. In the new micro-budget horror-comedy "Baghead," currently in theaters, Gerwig plays Michelle, a twentysomething transplant to L.A. desperate for attention and connection. The character is by turns flighty and wily, determined to get what she wants even if she doesn't always know what that is, and provides an ideal launchpad for Gerwig's distinctively natural, goofy-yet-sultry screen presence.

"Baghead," a hybrid of mumblecore's character-based talkiness jump-started with genre kicks, follows four struggling actors as they set out to make a movie in the woods, only to find themselves terrorized by an unknown assailant. Michelle is in no small part a complicated creation of Gerwig's own devising, as filmmakers Mark and Jay Duplass, whose previous feature was 2005's small-scale hit "The Puffy Chair," allow their actors a wide berth through improvisation and collaboration.

Gerwig is something of the accidental "It" girl, a reluctant starlet whose first on-screen performance, in the 2006 film "LOL," consisted largely of saved voice mails she had left for her then-actual boyfriend. (Along with risqué camera-phone pictures she took of herself for the movie in the bathroom of a university library.) Yet with her choppy blond hair, wide eyes and pouty mouth, she has one of those faces that the camera, at whatever the budget, just seems to like.

"The way I describe it is when I'm shooting, [the camera] just wants to go to her," said Jay Duplass, who besides being co-writer and co-director of "Baghead" also shot the film. "Greta, her face, like, glows."

"She's kind of her own secret weapon," said Mark Duplass in trying to define Gerwig's appeal. "She's got a lot of things working there and I'm still not exactly sure how it all computes, how all the pistons fire."

Gerwig, 24, puts across her characters with such ease that it can seem as if she is not acting at all. Whichever performance of hers someone sees first -- mischievous and a little dim in "Baghead;" whip-smart and reckless in "Hannah" -- it's all too easy to assume that's just her.

"I sometimes wish I could lose who I was a little bit more," Gerwig said of acting. "In my mind, my performance in 'Baghead' is so wacky and out there, and then I look at it and it's still me. I sort of can't get rid of who I am.

"I don't think anybody would hire me if they wanted somebody who was completely a blank slate. I'm not comparing myself to her, but if you hire Diane Keaton you're going to get Diane Keaton. She can play lots of different things, but she more often than anything is Diane Keaton. I think that would be something closer to what I would be able to do. I don't ever see myself playing Queen Elizabeth."

The comparison to Keaton works not only for Gerwig's eccentric mannerisms and personalized sense of style: Like Keaton, Gerwig comes across as a breezy combination of native California kookiness and bookish East Coast smarts.

Originally from Sacramento, Gerwig moved to New York City to attend Barnard College. There she studied English and philosophy and was an aspiring playwright. "LOL" led to working again with director Joe Swanberg on "Hannah," which costarred Mark Duplass, leading to "Baghead" and other roles.
So How's 'Dolly' Doing?

San Manuel, Texas is at the top of the Noah's Flood list
900 PM MDT SAT JUL 26 2008










RUIDOSO 1.0 W....................2.01
SILVER CITY......................1.75
SANTA TERESA 3 W.................1.74
CAPITAN 1.0 S....................1.70
CLOUDCROFT 11.8 E................1.66
BAYARD 0.1 SW....................1.61
ANGEL FIRE 10.2 SSE..............1.43
HOLLOMAN AFB.....................1.31
ALTO 1.0 N.......................1.30
ALCALDE 19N......................1.23


SAN MANUEL......................12.00
RANCHO VIEJO 3 SE................9.67
BROWNSVILLE 4.6 NNW..............8.62
MCALLEN 3 NW.....................8.59
LA JOYA 11 N.....................7.17
MERCEDES 6SSE....................6.94
CORPUS CHRISTI 4 W...............6.83
PHARR 8SE........................6.77
FLOUR BLUFF 1.6 SW...............6.46
NEW BRAUNFELS....................4.88
CROSBY 1.3 NW....................4.25
PLEASANTON 1.8 WSW...............4.04
EL PASO 4 W USGS.................3.56
TERREL COUNTY APRT...............3.23
SCHERTZ 2.1 N....................3.20
FORT STOCKTON....................2.95
EL PASO..........................2.21
GUADALUPE PASS...................1.27


OLD JEFFERSON 1 W................3.27
GRAND CHENIER 9ESE...............3.12
INNISWOLD 4E.....................3.01
SHENANDOAH 1 W...................2.73
GRAND ECORE......................2.59
LAKE ARTHUR 10SW.................2.05
PORT VINCENT 4 W.................1.90
FRENCH SETTLEMENT................1.88



Will Durst on the Current Bush Administration

Finishing his show at DMTC on Thursday evening, Will Durst posed a rhetorical question to himself: "So, Will, as a political comic, come 2009, will you miss the Bush Administration?" Will Durst then launched into a nearly-identical rant to the one on this YouTube video, and finished: "Miss them? You bet I will!"
Creeping Oobleck

This reminds me of those brooms that Mickey Mouse deals with in "Fantasia": A non-Newtonian fluid that changes from a liquid state to a solid state when stress is applied (ie shaking of the metal sheet with sound waves).