Friday, January 02, 2009

The MRI And The Aluminum Block

Almost like an anti-gravity machine.
Mexico City Mystery

Limbo at the airport:
A Japanese man who had been living in Terminal 1 of the Benito Juarez International Airport since Sept. 2 - for no apparent reason - left under equally mysterious circumstances. Authorities searched the terminal for Hiroshi Nohara on Monday but he was nowhere to be found, said an airport official who was not allowed to be quoted by name.

...Nohara's three-month residency at the airport made him a local celebrity whose life drew comparisons to that of Viktor Navorski, a character portrayed by Tom Hanks in the 2004 movie "The Terminal."

But there was one major distinction: Navorski was forced to stay at a New York City airport after war broke out in his Eastern European country and officials said they could neither allow him into the United States nor deport him.

Nohara had a tourist visa that allows him to stay in Mexico - anywhere in Mexico, not just the airport - until early March. He also possessed a ticket home.

The middle-aged foreign national, whose exact age was not known, speaks little Spanish and never did explain his motives for staying when asked by an interpreter hired by the television stations that documented his daily activities and tourists who asked for his autograph and posed with him for pictures.

Reforma reported he left Sunday with a woman who had visited him at least twice at the airport. But no one is sure who she is.

Stephanie Skewes is in this movie, which was apparently released at Thanksgiving time, (but given the nature of the movie I worry she ends up sleeping with the fishes).
New Year At The Hendersons

Jean and Alec Henderson hosted their annual New Year's party, featuring several musicians (a few of whom I blogged about last year). Pam MacKenzie (nee Kelly) sang a gorgeous "Ave Maria" and "The First Noel." Bridget Maguire sang two Broadway tunes. Jon and Alec played the bagpipes, Duncan MacMartin was on fiddle, and Doug (?) was on guitar.

The Hendersons know how to ring in the new year!
"Hello Dolly!" Preview At DMTC's New Year's Eve Gala

Because I was busy in the Southern Hemisphere, I missed seeing all the rehearsals for "Hello Dolly!". All I can say for sure is that the costumes are pretty and people seem to like the show.

I was at the New Year's Gala, but working out in the lobby, taking care of bathrooms, and the like. The big concern of the night was whether we would cut enough fruit and get the chocolate fountain working in time for intermission, when none of us had much previous fruit-cutting and fountain-making experience. Everything ultimately worked well, due mostly to the energy displayed by Rich and Julia Kulmann, Stacey Sheehan, and Bruce and Linnea Lampinen.

After the show, people ate a dinner catered by Ludy's Barbeque in Woodland and listened and/or danced to Arthur as he spun tunes from the 80's, or 50's, or from whatever decade people seemed to have fun making music.
Canines Never Listen

See, Sparky, when you get picky with your food, and ONLY eat the quality meat parts, and skip all the rest, constipation is inevitable. So stop giving me that plaintive look! You were warned! Eat your bran!
Theme From "Shaft"

Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Return Of The Prodigal Son

Connor Mickiewicz is back!:
For someone who has traveled the country and lived in America’s most exciting metropolis, Connor Mickiewicz is sure proud to be a Sacramentan. "I’ve never felt a sense of community anywhere in the U.S. like I do in Sacramento," Mickiewicz says. "I always knew I wanted to come back."

..."Lots of my theater friends here moved out at the same time," Mickiewicz recalls. "Because Sacramento was such a great place to grow up in, we made an effort to stay connected. We had this little community in New York - the ties just seemed to stick."

...This hankering for his hometown made Mickiewicz return to Sacramento far sooner than he’d expected.

...This month marks the inaugural production of New Helvetia Theatre, Mickiewicz’s first foray into artistic direction.

...At the Crest Theatre on January 17, New Helvetia Theatre will present a staged reading of the rarely produced musical Celebration by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones, the duo behind The Fantastiks, one of the longest-running shows in theater

"The show was a natural choice because [the writers] strip everything down to the bare essentials," Mickiewicz says. "They believe in the power of imagination more
than spectacle. The audience isn’t bombarded by extra theatricality or falling chandeliers. They have to sit up and listen to the words."

This no-frills approach seems to be an emerging earmark of New Helvetia Theatre, which Mickiewicz hopes to turn into a professional nonprofit within the year.

..."When I came back to Sacramento, I wanted to fill a niche that I think is missing - that is, producing musicals that maybe flopped on Broadway or didn’t get
their due. Sacramento has the perfect demographics for taking risks in a
workshop setting and trying out more commercial productions."

..."I want to give this community an alternative type of theater," he says. "I don’t want to hit them over the head with a hammer, but I also don’t want them to just sit back and tune out. I want them to create something in their minds and believe in it."
When I read this article, I felt a bit disturbed. Connor Mickiewicz is an honored member of the local theater community, and I wish him well, but I worry about the sheer number of theaters that have taken root in Sacramento over the last fifteen years. The acting pool has thinned out somewhat, as actors take advantage of the greater opportunities, but the economic hard times taking hold now will inevitably push some companies to the brink of extinction. I'd be happier if Connor had chosen an existing company within which to work.

Plus, despite their overlooked charms, there are often sound reasons why musicals fail on Broadway. Seems risky to spend much time on them!

Nevertheless, this underserved theatrical niche that Connor has identified does exist, and the community will be better served for his efforts.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Meanwhile, Back On Planet Duh....

Too little, too late:
The divisions taking hold among Republicans are becoming more severe as the party prepares to accuse its outgoing president of embracing "socialism."

The slur that conservatives were so fond of lobbing at Barack Obama during the presidential campaign is now being directed toward President Bush and GOP lawmakers who supported federal bailouts of the banking and auto industries.

At its meeting next month, the Republican National Committee is set to vote on a resolution formally opposing the bailouts, accusing Bush of helping nationalize the banks and taking "another dangerous step closer toward socialism," the Washington Times reports Tuesday.

"We can't be a party of small government, free markets and low taxes while supporting bailouts and nationalizing industries, which lead to big government, socialism and high taxes at the expense of individual liberty and freedoms," Solomon Yue, an Oregon member and co-sponsor of the resolution told the Times.
This attack against 'socialism' would have more credibility if it wasn't just Southern politicians angling with the Asian car companies hosted in their states to finally destroy competitive American-based auto manufacturers.

And then this:
Chip Saltsman, a candidate to lead the Republican National Committee, distributed a CD to RNC members containing the parody song "Barack the Magic Negro."

The song created a stir among some party members worried that Saltsman would damage the RNC's ability to appeal beyond its dwindling base of Southern whites; current chairman Mike Duncan condemned Salter for distributing the CD as did Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis, another candidate in the RNC chair race.

Now some party members are coming forward to defend Saltsman from the criticism. In the view of these Republicans, there are no racial overtones in a song sung to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon," whose verses deliberate whether Barack Obama is black enough. The only problem, to them, is suggesting that there's anything wrong with such a parody.
The irony, of course, is that as a film device (personalized by actors like Sidney Poitier), the concept of the 'Magic Negro' works. The 'Magic Negro' will solve all your pesky problems, particularly those grounded in racial differences.

The only question, when Rush starting flogging this during the 2008 election campaign, was whether the 'Magic Negro' concept works in politics too.

Fact is, as witnessed by the 2008 election results, the 'Magic Negro' works like a charm in politics! The harder the RNC pushes the 'Magic Negro', the better Obama looks.

Get a clue, get a clue.....
Yellowstone Is Rocking

Earthquakes under the lake are proliferating!

Looking to see interesting rock performances on film, and curious about its reputation as the best of the English rock festivals, I rented a DVD regarding the Glastonbury Music Festival. What an interesting and colorful experiment in organized chaos Glastonbury is!

The Bath Festival and Woodstock served as examples to the founders, who taught themselves how to run music festivals. Among the founders, Methodist farmer, left-wing acolyte, and music lover Michael Eavis began hosting the festival on his own land in 1981: 1969 Eavis and his second wife Jean Hayball visited the Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music 1970. Inspired by seeing the performance of Led Zeppelin, they hosted a free festival the following year. This developed into the Glastonbury Festival as it is known today. Jean died in 1999, since then his daughter Emily has taken a more active role in running the event. In common with his third wife and mother, Eavis remains a committed Methodist chapel-goer.
Because Eavis was able to retain sufficient control of the festival (on his own land) and because of his remarkably tolerant and eccentric vision, he and his colleagues were able to do the impossible; basically, to institutionalize unconformity. Thus, today, hippies in full counterculture glory live and thrive peaceably with others who think much differently - punksters and the glam crowd - but are united in a spirit of musical creation.

In addition, Glastonbury never went corporate - never had to and didn't want to! - and thus the ethic guiding its development has been unique.

We need more of these kinds of festivals in the world.....
Beverly Hills Pomeranian

Sparky want some leftovers?


Sparky want want some IAMS dog food? It's nutritious!


Sparky wants some rotisserie chicken? The best human food in the house....

Ah, Sparky wants the rotisserie chicken!

Look at the baby!:
Amani is the Detroit Zoo's newest aardvark, born Dec. 8 to mother Rachaael and father Mchimbaji. The zoo is awaiting a DNA test that will conclude the gender.

"This baby can only be described as hideously cute," said Scott Carter, director of Conservation and Animal Welfare, in a statement today. "Rachaael is a first-time mother and is showing great maternal instincts."

Amani (Swahili for "peace") was born 23 inches long, about 3½ pounds and hairless, with ears pointing 4 inches from its head. It has more than doubled in size.

Due to the animal's clumsiness and poor eyesight, vets and zookeepers are helping Rachaael raise Amani to prevent injury.

Zoo visitors won't get to see Amani until the spring, when it will join the zoo's other aardvarks.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Scots Created Rap

When I saw an excerpt of this story on the Daily Rotten, essentially that Scots created rap, I thought it was the ultimate piece of academic crap - total rubbish - but to my greatest shock, the supposed academic pinhead pushing the crap rap theory is none other than Ferenc Szasz, who was my favorite history professor EVER at the University of New Mexico. And he's NEVER wrong, so.....

Scots created rap!:
Professor Ferenc Szasz argued that so-called rap battles, where two or more performers trade elaborate insults, derive from the ancient Caledonian art of "flyting".

According to the theory, Scottish slave owners took the tradition with them to the United States, where it was adopted and developed by slaves, emerging many years later as rap.

Professor Szasz is convinced there is a clear link between this tradition for settling scores in Scotland and rap battles, which were famously portrayed in Eminem's 2002 movie 8 Mile.

He said: "The Scots have a lengthy tradition of flyting - intense verbal jousting, often laced with vulgarity, that is similar to the dozens that one finds among contemporary inner-city African-American youth.

"Both cultures accord high marks to satire. The skilled use of satire takes this verbal jousting to its ultimate level - one step short of a fist fight."

The academic, who specialises in American and Scottish culture at the University of New Mexico, made the link in a new study examining the historical context of Robert Burn's work.
Sympathy For The Perp

There but for the grace of God....
A man enraged by a noisy family sitting near him in a movie theater on Christmas night shot the father of the family in the arm, police said.

James Joseph Cialella, 29, of Philadelphia, faces six charges that include attempted murder and aggravated assault. He remained in custody Saturday.

Police said Cialella told the man's family to be quiet, then threw popcorn at the man's son. The victim, whom television reports identified as Woffard Lomax, told police that Cialella was walking toward his family when he stood up and was shot.
Reflections On Kylie's Dec. 9th Auckland Show

Kylie Minogue put on two fine shows in Auckland (I saw the Dec. 9th show)!

I liked the glitter cannons that fired confetti chaff for several minutes when she sang "The One". DMTC recently used one small cannon for a few seconds during the YPT's show "Footloose", and we are still finding confetti in the theater several months later. Kylie used two industrial-strength cannons for several minutes. The janitorial staff at Vector Arena will certainly be finding confetti for years afterwards!

Some people complained about short gaps between certain songs. I noticed these gaps too, but they really didn't bother me. In general, most shows strive to avoid any gaps, however, and I'm not sure why they occurred here (dressing room too far away from stage, perhaps?)

In 1973, I had the good fortune to see Elton John perform in Albuquerque, NM, at the UNM Arena (aka "The Pit"). His album "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" had just been released, and the songs from that album were as yet unfamiliar. It was great to hear classic rock songs like "Grey Seal" and "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fightin')", for the first time ever, in a concert setting.

Later, I was surprised to hear that Elton John would never again return to perform in Albuquerque. The reason? The ceiling of "The Pit" was not sufficiently strong to bear the weight of Elton John's sound and light equipment. Apparently Elton John's later shows were more elaborate than the 1973 show had been, featuring much more equipment. This equipment was designed to hang from the ceiling, and apparently "The Pit" couldn't keep pace with stronger arenas in larger cities in catering to the demands of Elton John (and by extension, other rock artists).

Kicking off her 2008 Southern Hemisphere "X" Tour, Kylie was performing for the first time ever in Auckland. The reason cited for not having performed before there was an inadequate venue.

I was eagerly looking forward to one of my favorite songs from the "X" album, "Like A Drug". The YouTube videos from the European shows of that song showed Kylie riding into the arena on a large skull suspended from the ceiling. As theater, I think it's absolutely brilliant - a sort of Mexican-style "Dia de los Muertos" approach: the best entrance ever in rock history!

But instead, Kylie rode into the Auckland show on what appeared to be a rolling door frame. It's the sort of quick solution we might come up with in community theater.

Kylie performed well, no doubt, but I missed the grand entrance of the human skull that I had seen on YouTube. Certain evidence, like certain edits of the preliminary multimedia projection sequence, suggests that the changed approach had been planned well in advance, probably to accomodate some inadequacy of the setting.

I guess rock performers have to make adjustments to the venue, particularly in smaller cities. I can't help but wonder whether the ceiling strength issue had reared it's ugly head again.

This was my only disappointment of the show, and probably not in the capability of Kylie's team to fix.

Left: Part of the ballroom number.

Left: Kylie, with Ensemble.
Left: A Space-Age Ensemble.
Left: "Copacabana".
Left: "The Love Boat".
Left: American football treated as glamorous foreign exotica (I wonder if this was inspired by Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl"?)

Like a Drug (Live in Paris) - Kylie Minogue

My favorite number of the "X" tour! Original conception, prior to rolling door frame....
Sparky Improves A Bit

After an entirely listless day, Sparky stirred Saturday night, and insisted on the nighttime walk. He could barely struggle on, and taking the three-legged peeing stance made him stumble, but he did it.

He seemed a bit more lively last night, and managed to do previously out-of-bound activities like stepping off of curbs.

He is completely off his meds, and he is barely eating, but strangely enough, his coughing has almost stopped.

Life goes on, for now.