Saturday, February 14, 2009

Going With The Mop Theme

I spent most of the day mopping the floor (an activity I engage in rarely - I'm finding rabbit pellets, and Cloudy the Rabbit died 1 1/2 years ago). I thought to take a break from all this unaccustomed work and visit the dance activity mentioned a few posts back.

Many dance routines, of which I saw just a few:

Left: Mom and son hip-hop number to Kylie Minogue's "Speakerphone". (I think the mom may be M.B.)

The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades

Listening to late night Talk Radio (KFBK), one chastened caller described how foolish he had been to doubt The National Solar Observatory (NSO) when they said that the 'asynchronous' nature of people guaranteed the beginning of a Great Depression in 2007....

Apparently the NSO had forecast that there would be four generations after the Big Change (also known as the beginning of the Baby Boom, in 1947), and that after three generations (60 years, given 20 years per generation) a Crash would occur, because the two working generations wouldn't be able to support the big non-working generation (the Baby Boom Generation), or the generation just being born.

I'm confused. When Dyer worked for NSO at Sacramento Peak, NM, in the early 80's, all they did there was observe the sun (using appropriate eyewear, of course). No one there was predicting the future, but they had the best shades.

Of course, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm the one who should be chastened. Maybe they were a lot smarter at NSO than I thought. None of this prophecy shows up on Google, which really shows just how smart they really have to be at NSO. The Talk Radio caller heard the NSO prophecy, but no one else, apparently.

I'm not worried about a Crash, but I am glad there are people in the NM mountains - optimists in shades - who might be able to explain Nostradamus' quatrains....
"Lyrebird - Tales Of Helpmann"

An excellent theatrical exploration of the life and times of Robert Helpmann, who overcame great odds to help establish ballet in Australia.

Here are some excerpts from Wikipedia about Helpmann:
Sir Robert Murray Helpmann CBE (9 April 1909 – 28 September 1986) was an Australian dancer, actor, director and choreographer. Born Robert Murray Helpman, he added the extra 'n' to avoid his name having 13 letters, at the suggestion of Anna Pavlova, who was a devotee of numerology. He was born in Mount Gambier and also boarded at Prince Alfred College in Adelaide, South Australia.

...From childhood, Helpmann had a strong desire to be a dancer. This was an unusual ambition in provincial Australia of the 1920s.

...The young Helpmann enjoyed dressing up in his mother's clothing, and disliked his days at school. The pursuit of acting and performance took priority for him, rather than conventional education. His parents encouraged their son, who saw that Helpmann had such a confidence and drive in him to do so.

...In 1926 he joined the touring dance company of the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. Helpmann later recalled that the introduction came via his father, who was on a business trip to Melbourne where he met Pavlova who was dancing there.

...In 1933 he went to London and joined the Vic-Wells Ballet (which later became Sadler's Wells) and later the Royal Ballet. He was principal dancer from 1933 to 1950. ... Here he formed his great professional partnership with Margot Fonteyn. Together they created many roles in ballets choreographed by Frederick Ashton, including a comical pantomime-style ballet of Cinderella with Ashton and Helpmann creating the roles of the ugly stepsisters for the ballet.

...He also appeared in many films, including the two Powell and Pressburger ballet films The Red Shoes (1948), for which he choreographed the opening sequence, and The Tales of Hoffmann (1951). ... He co-directed with Rudolf Nureyev and played the title role in the ballet-film Don Quixote (1973) which was produced in Melbourne. One of his most recognized screen roles was that of the sinister Child Catcher in the family classic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), his performance in the film rating in Empire magazine as among the 100 most frightening ever filmed.

...In 1965 Helpmann returned to Australia to become co-director of the Australian Ballet. Since he was gay and flamboyant, his arrival in what was at that time a very conservative country caused some consternation. Australians were proud of his international fame, but not sure what to make of him personally. He did not endear himself with the comment: "I don't despair about the cultural scene in Australia because there isn't one here to despair about."

...The avant-garde nature and sexual overtones of much of his work unsettled many Australians. His most controversial work was The Display (1964), with music by Malcolm Williamson. ... The Display used the courtship dance of the lyrebird as a metaphor for Australian male attitudes. Helpmann dedicated the ballet to his friend American actress Katharine Hepburn, who wanted to see a male lyrebird dancing during her visit to Australia in 1955.

...According to the novel based upon the life of Margot Fonteyn, Helpmann is characterized as being a very hard man, but also a very kind one. Fonteyn said herself that out of all her partners, Helpmann was her favourite. He was also extremely confident and always pushed Fonteyn to her highest potential.
Two years ago, I remember visiting Roma, Queensland, a kind of raw place that reminded me of Wyoming in some ways, and suddenly being extremely conscious of the DMTC musical theater T-shirt I was wearing. That wouldn't do in the town that billed itself "Gateway To The Outback"! Or, at least that's what I felt, whether or not it was a rational feeling, or made any sense. Away from the welcoming coast, deep in the boonies, the sense of macho oppression suddenly seemed suffocating.

How much more oppressive that sense would have been in South Australia in the 1920's, when Helpmann was in his teens! No defense. To find his way, he had to go to England.

Nevertheless, Helpmann eventually returned. An innate Australian identity, and the help of friends like Audrey Hepburn, led him home again.

Helpmann was approximately of the age of the Ballets Russes. That generation of artists founded ballet companies all over the world. Indeed, his contact with Anna Pavlova, who eventually joined the Ballet Russe, was critical to his career. Interestingly, he never joined it (maybe he felt secure enough at the Royal Ballet not to want to jump???)

For me, the most touching part of the play was the story of how a talented young man with dance potential was once assigned as Helpmann's orderly and how Helpmann later overheard the young man mock him, and his Lyrebird dance. Hurt, and vengeful, Helpmann mocked the young man's ambition and destroyed his self-confidence, sending him fleeing into the hospitality trades. The story encapsulated the way the insecure old cripple the presumptuous young, and emphasized how one must be as strong and independent as possible in art, and rely on one's own opinion, alone, if need be. Not everyone can be strong, of course. Helpmann went to England, after all, to escape universal opprobrium. This experience made him hard, though - hard enough to survive. The young man was not as strong, though, and disappeared from the arts.

Left: Tyler Coppin in a scene from "LyreBird: Tales of Helpmann," which he also wrote. The one-man play tells of the life and times of Australian dancer and actor Sir Robert Helpmann. Coppin's own life has included growing up in Sacramento before moving to Australia to pursue an acting career. (State Theatre Company of South Australia, via

The Sac Bee interviewed actor Tyler Coppin:
Coppin left Sacramento as a teenager with the vague notion of becoming an actor. The 52-year-old performer returns more than 30 years later as an accomplished stage and screen presence in his adopted homeland of Australia. Coppin brings his award-winning, one-man play "LyreBird: Tales of Helpmann" to the 24th Street Theatre this week.

Coppin, who grew up in Carmichael, graduating from Rio Americano High School and attending California State University, Sacramento, is a far cry from Helpmann, the flamboyant, larger-than-life ballet dancer turned actor. But both have been driven by a passion for theater, which is how their careers ultimately intersected.

"I knew I wanted to be an actor for a long time but I didn't know how to go about it," Coppin says.

"When I was 13, my parents saw that the great Gerry Larson was putting on free acting classes downtown at St. Paul's Church. They asked me if I wanted to go and I said 'yeah,' " Coppin adds in his very Australian twang.

Though Coppin was the youngest in the mostly adult class, Larson greatly encouraged him.

"Gerry said, 'Yeah, you can do this.' I fell in love with acting through him."

Coppin subsequently went to Australia as an 18-year-old with his parents when his father received a one-year job assignment there. Coppin had been studying theater at CSUS again with Larson but left school and was by his own admission "drifting."

"While I was down there I saw that the national Institute of Dramatic Art was having auditions. I got in and was offered a scholarship," Coppin said. The school has trained numerous professional actors including Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush and Mel Gibson. Coppin sensed the opportunity and told his mother he planned to stay and join the program.

"She asked 'How long's the course?' and I said,'Three years.' I saw her gulp – I'll never forget it."

But it's all worked out rather well for Coppin, who's forged a solid performing career in Australia with an impressive and extensive range of credits.

"I made Australia my home and I work in movies, TV and theater. Theater is what I love."

He's performed with all the major theater companies in Australia, with numerous appearances for the Sydney Theater Company and at the world- famous Sydney Opera House.

One of his more high- profile jobs was playing Puck in the Opera Australia's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" directed by Baz Luhrmann (most recently director of the film "Australia").

"We did eight seasons of it and also took it to the Edinburgh Festival. It was a very lush production set in the British Raj, so I played Puck as Krishna," Coppin said.

"Luhrmann is extraordinary. I think of him as the P.T. Barnum of Australia. He just grabs it and pushes it out."
After the show, there was an interesting documentary about Helpmann running in the 24th Street Theater lobby. Take a look!

A very interesting show - very funny, and very touching. See it now, while it's in town!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bruce On Overtime

Bruce Warren reaches a pinnacle at the Auburn Journal, on a story about overtime:
Placer County spent more than $4.8 million on paid overtime to employees in 2008 during a year of budget cutbacks and layoffs.

The Sheriff’s Department spent more than $3.1 million on overtime, with one officer pulling in more money in overtime than his base pay.

Some residents are concerned about the expenditure, while Sheriff’s Department officials say the overtime is inherent to law enforcement and is a necessity to maintain levels of service.

...Debbie Putnam, a self-employed businesswoman in Loomis, questioned whether all the overtime was necessary.

“It seems excessive to me,” Putnam said. “I would want to know the fiscal oversight. Why is so much overtime needed in the Sheriff’s Department?”
Freakin' Doomed!

J. sends this, from a colleague, B. O.:
Having heard of the crash in Buffalo, NY tonight I had a look at the sounding. It is exactly the type of sounding I show my aviation weather students and tell them not to fly into it unless they have absolute confidence in their plane's de-icing capability.

If I was back East I would not get on a commuter aircraft that was going to fly through this sounding.
More Signs Of The Apocalypse

E.: The guys were arguing in the band last night. One of the guys walked out, saying that they were playing the song all wrong and that he never wants to play that song ever again. Plus, the drummer never showed up.
M.: It's hard to have a good country-western band without a drummer.
E.: I know. That's why I sat down at the drums, in order to help out. I think I want to become a drummer....
Chiricahua View

Left: View from the Heart of Rocks Trail, Chiricahua National Monument, southeastern Arizona. Those look like the Dos Cabezas Mountains in the distance, with the infinity of the Willcox Playa off to the left.

Dyer really just outdoes himself with this awesome photo!

I remember traveling to this place in October 1987, with Karl Tsuji. Karl had decided to leave geology graduate school and try his hand as a commodities trader. Only trouble? His first day of work coincided with the 1987 stock market crash....

So, with Karl completely idled, and with little else to do, we headed to recuperate from the Wall Street blues in the Chiricahua Mountains. It was windy, and somewhat cold. Cirrus uncinus cloud streets hung for miles from the upper troposphere, the ice crystals slowly descending in long, long, long hooks. The ice crystals fell so far, I swear, I felt little water droplets occasionally strike my cheeks. Meteorologists scoff when I tell them this story, but it's true: these wispy, icy clouds can reach the surface!

Different clouds in this photo, but given the endless perspective of the Arizona sky, this picture manages to capture the atmosphere perfectly!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Morgan Page Feat. Lissie - The Longest Road (Deadmau5 Remix)

By general acclaim, this excellent song was the top progressive-house favorite of all of 2008! I love the derelict western Joshua -Tree theme of the video!:

Giddy up and go
We'll go so far as we please

Giddy up and gold mine
Different place, different time
All the stars are in their prime
Pastel trailer park, stars so bright to hide the dark
All is quiet in the yard

Giddy up and gold dust, all the cars turn to rust
You've got no means for wanderlust
Pastel trailer park, stars so bright to hide the dark
All is quiet in the yard

If you are so frequently in love
If you prefer it all to me then my love
You go down the longest road to nowhere
You pull it apart and you're just left there

Giddy up and gold mine, horse dust down time
Its my life, its my time, we've been gettin' nowhere
Gold mine, different place, different time
Hold me down, Hold me down
Hope will be found, Follow me

If you are so frequently in love
If you prefer it all to me then my love
You go down the longest road to nowhere
You pull it apart and your just left there

They're waiting for it, you're waiting for it
And you're waving in it, and you're craving in it
If you fill my cup with all you must
To speak from something

If you are so frequently in love
If you prefer it all to me then my love
You go down the longest road to nowhere
You pull it apart and your just left there
You go down the longest road to nowhere
You pull it apart and your just left there.
According to Wikipedia:
Morgan Page is a progressive house and electro house DJ from Los Angeles. His most widely recognized track is "The Longest Road," feat. Lissie, which was included his debut album Elevate, released in March 2008. The Deadmau5 remix was nominated for a Grammy (Grammy Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical). Page is signed to Nettwerk Records worldwide.

Morgan Page was born in 1981, in Burlington, Vermont. Originally signed to the now defunct Fiji Recordings in 1999, Page went to on to record for John Digweed's Bedrock label, Satoshi Tomiie's SAW imprint, Force Tracks, and Nordic Trax. Prior to graduating from high school, page did a weekly show at WRUV 90.1 FM in Burlington, Vermont, then worked as a DJ and station manager at WERS 88.9 FM at Emerson College in Boston, where he attended school. In addition to his original productions, Page has remixed Regina Spektor, Madonna, Katy Perry, Nelly Furtado, Stevie Nicks, The B52s, T-Rex, Tegan & Sara, Korn, and Wax Poetic feat. Norah Jones.
Spotlight - Regional Dance Competition

There are so many dance activities occurring within the next two weeks it's enough to induce paralysis!

Tonight, after Pepper Von's "Cardio Funk" class we got a special treat: two young kids from Misty Barker's class put on an exhibition of their moves, in anticipation of this weekend's Spotlight Regional Dance Competition at Hiram Johnson High School. The best of luck to them, and to all the competitors!
Organization: Spotlight Events, Inc.

Date & Time: Friday, February 13th 2009 through Sunday, February 15th 2009.

Event Location:

Hiram Johnson High School
6849 14th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95820
"Sound Of Music" Thursday Night Rehearsal

Left: Kay Hight (right) as 'Maria'.

Left: I went to the optometrist today, and they said "grab onto the handhold and look into this machine...."

Left: Ooooh, this is cool! It looks like some kind of high-tech mammogram, but in fact it is a picture of my right retina.

In 1994, I had a retinal detachment in the left eye. First, they put a silicone rubber band around my left eyeball, in order to squeeze it more-elongate, so the detached portion of the retina and the back of the eyeball would be brought closer together. (The silicone rubber band is still there, and I can sometimes feel its presence when I first wake up in the morning.) Then they reattached the retina by dabbing liquid nitrogen on the outside of my eyeball in order to freeze-tack the retina back into place.

I remember that day pretty well. They gave me truth serum (sodium pentothal) to put me under. When I woke up, surgery had just finished and everyone in the operating room was laughing their heads off. I asked, "What's so funny?" They replied, "Oh, nothing!" Then they laughed some more....

The right retina looked a little thin and a little weak, so a week later Dr. Salzano grabbed his laser, and in 20 blinding minutes flashed 500 light pulses onto the right retina to weld it more-firmly onto the back of the eyeball.

In this photo, the optometrist noted scarring on the periphery of the right retina, which probably came from the 1994 laser surgery.
Evolutionary Theory At The AM/PM

The 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth is a good time to check out the status of Evolution at the convenience market:
Clerk #1: Many people believe that people descended from apes, but in fact some people believe that people descended from different kinds of animals. Some people evolved from cloven-hoofed animals. Some people descend from horses and sheep. Some people have fish faces, and they evolved from fish.

Marc: I evolved from dogs.

Clerk #1: And some people evolved from dogs....

Clerk #2: I can make my mouth into a big "O", so I evolved from the Big "O".

Marc: If you don't mind me asking, who believes that people evolved from different kinds of animals?

Clerk #1: Well, actually, no one believes that. It's just a fantasy of mine.

Clerk #2: You shouldn't call it a fantasy, you should call it a religion! Ha! Ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha !

If this sort of thing continues, useful orbits will become unusable:
A RUSSIAN and a US satellite have crashed into each other in an unprecedented collision creating clouds of space debris.

A disused Russian military satellite, Kosmos 2251, collided with a US communications satellite about 800km above Siberia.

...The Pentagon acknowledged it had not anticipated the accident.

"We did not predict this collision," said spokesman Bryan Whitman, citing "limits" on the ability to track the thousands of man-made objects orbiting the Earth.

The debris from the defunct 900kg Russian satellite launched in 1993, and its 560kg US counterpart could be significant.

"We are looking at around more than 500 pieces of debris," said Navy Lieutenant Charlie Drey, a spokesman with US Strategic Command (STRATCOM), whose Joint Space Operations Centre tracks more than 18,000 man-made objects orbiting the Earth.

...Analysts are plotting the coordinates of each of the debris pieces, which will later be posted on the website

...Before the latest incident, there were over 300,000 orbital objects measuring between 1cm to 10cm in diameter and "billions" of smaller pieces, according to a 2008 report by the Space Security Index, a international monitoring group.

Travelling at speeds that can reach many thousands of kilometres per hour, the tiniest debris can damage or destroy a spacecraft.

In June 1983, the windscreen of the US space shuttle Challenger had to be replaced after it was chipped by a fleck of paint measuring 0.3 millimetres that impacted at 4km per second.
Our Own Little Trio Of Bernie Madoffs

Isn't he special?:
For nine luxurious days, 26-year-old Christopher J. Warren lived like a king, jet-setting around the world on a private plane, taking limousines to palatial hotels and carrying possibly millions in cash and gold with him.

The Sacramento businessman hop-scotched from Las Vegas to Ireland to a luxury resort on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in Lebanon, and then back to North America, where he landed in Toronto.

The fantasy life ended Tuesday night on the Peace Bridge, which connects Buffalo with Fort Erie, Ontario.

It was there that Warren, who had taken a taxi from Toronto, was met by federal officers. Agents had been tracking his travels since he fled a federal probe of what authorities say was one of the nation's largest real estate frauds.

When he was nabbed, authorities said, Warren had $70,000 in a shoe, $5,800 worth of platinum, phony passports and plenty of stories to tell his cellmates while he awaits trial.

"He was a man of style and means, all of it stolen," acting U.S. Attorney Larry Brown said Wednesday in Sacramento.

Warren was one of three fugitives under scrutiny in a federal probe of Roseville-based Loomis Wealth Solutions, which authorities say was a front for a Ponzi scheme that spread over five states and cost investors at least $100 million.

All three fled the country as federal investigators began to close in.

...Warren apparently had more expensive tastes than Cavell. Authorities say he chartered a private jet in Las Vegas that day, paying $156,000 in cash, and arrived at the plane at McCarran International Airport in a stretch limousine.

He ordered the crew to fly him to Shannon, Ireland, where they stayed a few hours for refueling while the crew rested.

Then they took to the skies again, headed for Beirut. En route, Warren, who was traveling under the name Mark Andrew Seagrave, boasted to the crew that he was carrying $5 million worth of gold with him and showed them some gold, authorities said.

When the plane landed in Beirut, it was met by a squad of armed guards, who escorted Warren by vehicle to the five-star resort in Kaslick-Jounieh.

Warren stayed there for five days, authorities said. Law enforcement agents had been tracking him, but FBI agents who showed up at the resort Monday just missed him, finding some personal belongings and a phony ID he had left behind in the room as he fled.

On Tuesday, Warren flew into Toronto, although federal authorities would not divulge whether he flew in a private jet or commercially. From there, he took a taxi for the 100-mile drive to Buffalo, where his odyssey ended in the hands of U.S. border officers.
And this makes interesting reading too: the Poor Dad blog, written by an investor - a fleeced investor, apparently - who wanted to document his journey to wealth, and who is still waiting for Loomis Wealth Solutions to reimburse him for the mortgage payments he was forced to make.
Te Iti Kahurangi

Racing through New Zealand in December, I never saw Maoris sing, which was unfortunate, because I understand they have one of the world's best singing traditions.

I did pick up a CD from the year 1999 called "20 Favourite Maori Songs" by Maisey Rika, and I like those songs, including renditions of 'Unchained Melody' and 'Brahms Lullaby', but especially 'Po Atarau'.

Stumbling through YouTube, I see they like power choruses in New Zealand, like this one, singing "Te Iti Kahurangi".

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Egads! Rain!

A troublesome development for a meteorologist!

DMTC Cast Lists

I notice someone is searching on-line for cast lists for DMTC's 1991 production of "Annie". We haven't posted complete DMTC cast lists on-line yet (there are still a few holes), but I have this information - just drop me a note in the comments of whatever I've posted last (the best way to get my attention).
Donate Now To Wildlife Victoria

A staggering need.
The Survivors

Just awful:
Kangaroo corpses lay scattered by the roadsides while wombats that survived the wildfire's onslaught emerged from their underground burrows to find blackened earth and nothing to eat.

Wildlife rescue officials on Wednesday worked frantically to help the animals that made it through Australia's worst-ever wildfires but they said millions of animals likely perished in the inferno.

...Kangaroos that survived are suffering from burned feet, a result of their territorial behavior. After escaping the initial flames, the creatures—which prefer to stay in one area—likely circled back to their homes, singeing their feet on the smoldering ground.

...Some wombats that hid in their burrows managed to survive the blazes, but those that are not rescued face a slow and certain death as they emerge to find their food supply gone, said Pat O'Brien, president of the Wildlife Protection Association of Australia.

...Hundreds of burned, stressed and dehydrated animals—including kangaroos, koalas, lizards and birds—have already arrived at shelters across the scorched region. Rescuers have doled out antibiotics, pain relievers and fluids to the critters in a bid to keep them comfortable, but some of the severely injured were euthanized to spare any more suffering.

"We've got a wallaby joey at the moment that has crispy fried ears because he stuck his head out of his mum's pouch and lost all his whiskers and cooked up his nose," Rowdon said. "They're the ones your hearts really go out to."

In some of the hardest-hit areas, rescuers used vaporizing tents to help creatures whose lungs were burned by the searing heat and smoke.

One furry survivor has emerged a star: a koala, nicknamed "Sam" by her rescuers, was found moving gingerly on scorched paws by a fire patrol on Sunday. Firefighter David Tree offered the animal a bottle of water, which she eagerly accepted, holding Tree's hand as he poured water into her mouth—a moment captured in a photograph seen around the world.

"Youall rightt, buddy?" Tree asks in a video of the encounter as he approaches the koala. Later, as Sam thirstily gulps from the bottle, he quips: "How much can a koala bear?"

...Sam is being treated at the Mountain Ash Wildlife Shelter in Rawson, 100 miles (170 kilometers) east of Melbourne, where she has attracted the attention of a male koala, nicknamed "Bob," manager Coleen Wood said. The two have been inseparable, with Bob keeping a protective watch over his new friend, she said.

Meanwhile, workers at the shelter were scrambling to salve the wounds of possums, kangaroos, lizards—"everything and anything," Wood said.

"We had a turtle come through that was just about melted—still alive," Wood said. "The whole thing was just fused together—it was just horrendous. It just goes to show how intense (the fire) was in the area."

The animals arriving appear stressed, but generally seem to understand the veterinarians are trying to help them, Wood said. Kangaroos and koalas are widespread in Australia and are not particularly scared of humans.

Volunteers from the animal welfare group Victorian Advocates for Animals filled 10 giant bins with 2,300 dead grey-headed flying foxes that succumbed to heat stroke Saturday, said Lawrence Pope, the group's president. Volunteers tried to save some of the bats by giving them fluids and keeping them cool, Pope said, but the creatures were simply too stressed and perished.

"It's heartbreaking," Pope said. "They're very endearing animals and to see them die right before our eyes is something that wildlife rescuers and carers just find appalling."
Fair And Balanced

Aaron Bruns, Fox News Channel producer, was arrested and arraigned on child pornography charges in a federal courthouse in Washington Tuesday, perhaps also revealing lies on his resume:
In 1998, the University of Michigan school paper reported, "Less than two weeks after Department of Public Safety detectives had arrested him on charges of distributing child pornography, LSA first-year student Aaron Bruns voluntarily dropped out of the University while his case was pending, his lawyer told District Court Judge John Collins on Wednesday."

The story quoted a DPS officer who told the paper that "Bruns has been trading and downloading pornography since at least late January, receiving as many as a few hundred inquiries a day from others eager to trade child pornography."

Bruns' now deleted LinkedIn profile claimed that he attended University of Michigan from 1998 to 2002. It's unknown if Bruns' official resume also claimed the same when he was hired by Fox nearly seven years ago.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Busy Tornado Day

In Oklahoma City (video).
Can't We All Just Get Along?

More about M.I.A.:
To many Americans, Maya Arulpragasam, known as M.I.A., is the very pregnant rapper who gyrated across the stage at Sunday’s Grammy Awards.

Yet in Sri Lanka, where she spent her childhood years, M.I.A. remains virtually unknown. And some who do know her work say she is an apologist for the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels fighting in the country’s long-running civil war.

M.I.A. — who has been nominated for an Oscar for the song she co-wrote for the hit film “Slumdog Millionaire” — has branded herself through music videos and interviews as the voice of the country’s Tamil minority. In the video for her song “Bird Flu,” for instance, children dance in front of what looks like the rebels’ logo: a roaring tiger.

“Being the only Tamil in the Western media, I have a really great opportunity to sort of bring forward what’s going on in Sri Lanka,” she said in an interview on the PBS program “Tavis Smiley” last month. “There’s a genocide going on.”

But her political views rankle some people at a time when most Sri Lankans are clutching to the hope that the rebels, branded by the United States and European nations as a terrorist group, are on the verge of military defeat by government troops.

“Frankly, she’s very lucky to get away with supporting, even indirectly, perhaps the most ruthless terrorist outfit in the world,” said Suresh Jayawickrama, a songwriter based in Colombo.

Mr. Jayawickrama is from the country’s majority Sinhalese ethnic group, and his reaction is similar to that of many Sri Lankans who know M.I.A.’s music. But he also said that M.I.A. deserved credit for her artistry and the fame she had achieved. “She really should have a little more recognition in this country,” he said.

...Meanwhile, M.I.A.’s claims that the government is carrying out a genocide against Tamils place her on the outer fringe of opinion about the conflict.

...“This is a conflict in which both sides have terrible human rights records,” said Yolanda Foster, a specialist on Sri Lanka with Amnesty International in London. “The Tamil Tigers have a long history of child recruitment, hostage taking, forcing civilians to the front lines. It’s complicated to assign blame.”

M.I.A. was born in Britain but moved to Sri Lanka when she was 6 months old so that her father, an engineer and a leader in the Tamil separatist movement, could help fight for an independent Tamil homeland. Her childhood took her across northern Sri Lanka, wracked by insurgency, to India and back to Britain, where her mother and siblings settled into a public housing project outside London. Her father remained in Sri Lanka. She now calls New York home.

Sri Lankans who have seen her videos say they interpret some parts as showing support for the Tigers, or at the very least glorifying their cause. But for those not familiar with the conflict, they might come across as generic third-world scenes.

“I kind of want to leave it ambiguous for my fans,” she said in the PBS interview, referring to the lyrics of her song “Paper Planes,” which was nominated for record of the year at the Grammys but did not win.

“Paper Planes,” which compares international drug dealing with selling records, drew a reaction from DeLon, a Sinhalese rapper based in Los Angeles, who made a video remix in which he interspersed images of people being blown up by Tamil Tiger bombs and subtitles about M.I.A. being a terrorist.

M.I.A. responded that she did not support terrorism.
ICUP Sketch Comedy Show

For the last two months, the three of us in Michael Rowe's Improv workshop (Tuesday nights, 7-9 p.m., at the Geery Theater, 22nd & L St.) have been saying "we need more people in this workshop!" Tonight, about six others showed up, including Bethany Hidden, whom I really haven't seen since "Tommy" (DMTC, 2001), from the ICUP Sketch Comedy Troupe, and we all had a good time.

ICUP is having a show on February 21st, at the Capitol City Hotel (which I believe was called The Clarion Hotel until just recently - near Fulton and I-80), 2600 Auburn Blvd., at 8 p.m. ($8). They have karaoke there too....

A Quiet Sunday Afternoon In My Neighborhood

Doggone it, because I was over at DMTC, I missed this:
A Sacramento man who donned a cape and allegedly robbed an adult store with a wooden sword is facing criminal charges in court today.

David William Hadeen, 36, entered L'amour Shoppe at 2531 Broadway about 4 p.m. Sunday and went straight to an area of the store that features sexual-enhancing devices, said Sacramento police Officer Konrad Von Schoech.

Hadeen was wearing an American flag sequin hat, green shirt, blue jeans, tennis shoes and red cape.

"He was carrying a 2- to 3-foot wood sword," Von Schoech said.

Hadeen allegedly took one of the enhancing devices, worth about $200, and waved the sword at a clerk "as if to ward him off," he said.

"The clerk didn't approach him," Von Schoech said.

Hadeen walked out of the store. The clerk saw the direction Hadeen left in and called police.

"Officers checked the area for the suspect and observed a man matching the description," Von Schoech said.

They stopped Hadeen at Broadway and 28th Street. Hadeen was still wearing the cape and hat. The sword was lying on the ground, along with the apparatus, which appeared to have been opened, he said.

Hadeen was arrested on suspicion of robbery and a misdemeanor arrest warrant for vandalism.
He Took It With Him

Looks like he welshed on his marker:
Two Las Vegas casinos have filed a lawsuit against the estate of a deceased Colorado man who allegedly died with $715,000 in unpaid gambling debts.

Lawyers for Caesars Palace and the Hard Rock Hotel said in the lawsuit, which was filed Friday, that Ryan Clark, 52, attempted to pay $565,000 in gambling markers at Caesars Palace with bad checks only a handful of days before his Sept. 6 death, the Las Vegas Sun reported Tuesday.

The lawyers said Clark also owed the Hard Rock Hotel $150,000 after visiting the establishment in August.

"Because Clark and subsequently the estate have failed to repay the value of this benefit, they have been unjustly enriched," the suit claims.

The suit is seeking $715,000 to cover the unpaid debts plus damages and attorney's fees the Sun said.
Pigs, Fer Sure

Your papers are not in order:
A 13-year-old girl has felt the wrath of the Kremlin for having the audacity to ask the Russian president for a new pet. Nastya Ivliyeva wrote to Dmitry Medvedev's website asking for a guinea pig to go with her existing one.

As soon as local officials found out about the request they went to the girl's school where she was called to the headmaster's office and ticked off so badly that she burst into tears.

They then summoned Nastya's parents to condemn them for bringing up a brazen child who would waste the president's time on such trifling matters. Nastya was even forced to write a letter retracting her request.

But attitudes shifted when her parents complained to the president about the officials' behaviour and a newspaper publicised the plight of the girl from Kalitvensky in southern Russia.

The next day, officials called again - but this time to hand over two guinea pigs and a cage.

The episode marked a 'complete failure by the authorities to understand real people and their problems', said youth committee leader Sergei Chyuev.

Last year, Siberian girl Dasha Varfolomeeva, nine, used a TV show to ask leader Vladimir Putin for a dress and a trip to Moscow. She got both.
Teetered On The Brink

And still teetering on the brink! We could still lose this whole thing (Rep. Paul Kanjorski is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Capital Markets):
On Thursday (Sept 18), at 11am the Federal Reserve noticed a tremendous draw-down of money market accounts in the U.S., to the tune of $550 billion was being drawn out in the matter of an hour or two. The Treasury opened up its window to help and pumped $105 billion in the system and quickly realized that they could not stem the tide. We were having an electronic run on the banks. They decided to close the operation, close down the money accounts and announce a guarantee of $250,000 per account so there wouldn't be further panic out there.

If they had not done that, their estimation is that by 2pm that afternoon, $5.5 trillion would have been drawn out of the money market system of the U.S., would have collapsed the entire economy of the U.S., and within 24 hours the world economy would have collapsed. It would have been the end of our economic system and our political system as we know it.
Bird Lady

Heidi Fleiss decides on Alternative Energy:
The Hollywood Madam turned Pahrump laundromat owner says she's abandoning her plans to open a Nye County brothel catering to women. With its stable of men, Heidi's Stud Farm would have been the first bordello of its kind in Nevada, where houses of prostitution are legal in most rural counties.

...In the years since, Fleiss has talked about the project a lot -- even agreed to let HBO shoot a documentary about it -- but she never took the first step of submitting an application for a brothel license in Nye County.

Now it appears she never will.

"I think I'm going to put all my property up for sale in Crystal," Fleiss said recently by phone from her house in Pahrump. "I don't want to work so hard ... and deal with all the nonsense in the sex business."

Instead, she is focusing her attention on an alternative energy project she said is "perfect for Nevada."

"That's where the money is," she said. "That's the wave of the future."

Fleiss declined to elaborate on her plans, but she said she has already explored the idea of a wind farm and discarded it as too expensive.

...She's had a pretty bad run of luck there, too.

First she got mixed up in a federal wire fraud case against Nye County brothel owner Maynard "Joe" Richards and might be called to testify when the case goes to trial this spring.

Then a traffic stop in Pahrump a year ago led to drug use and possession charges for which she faces a preliminary hearing in May.

And last month, her former landlord made good on a promise to sue her for damage done to the woman's house by Fleiss' 25 pet parrots.

On the other hand, Fleiss said she has met "a lot of nice people in the community" and feels "really comfortable" there.

Plus, Pahrump is where she discovered the joy of pet ownership. "I fell in love with these beautiful birds," she said. "They'll probably keep me out of prison."

Fleiss now lives in a double-wide trailer on her hillside property in Pahrump. She had the house fitted with elaborate perches on three sides, and her birds have the run of the place.

...There's one other thing Fleiss said she won't part with: Dirty Laundry, the coin-operated laundromat she opened a year and a half ago in a busy Pahrump shopping center.

..."It's always the times when things are really, really bad when there are the greatest opportunities," she said. "Who knows what tomorrow brings?"
Geithner's Debut

Raspberries everywhere, and laughter too, and the market sinks in response.
Presidents’ Day West Coast Swing (WCS) Convention

Above: Jordan Frisbee and Tatiana Mollmann.

Candy sends this information:
If you are looking for something different for this Valentine weekend, maybe you should come by the Presidents’ Day West Coast Swing (WCS) Convention, right here in downtown Sacramento. Information are attached below.

Some of you have asked me if I will be dancing there. Yes, I will definitely be on the floor during all the open dancing time in between/before/after the competitions. However, I won’t be dancing in the events that I have suggested below because they are too advance for me.

Here is video that may spark you interest: the 2008 routine of one of best WCS couples (if not THE Best) in the States (Jordan Frisbee and Tatiana Mollmann), and they will be dancing here this weekend.
Here is more information:
Seventeenth Annual Presidents' Day Weekend Convention

When: February 12-15, 2009
Where: Radisson Hotel and Convention Center
500 Leisure Lane, Sacramento, CA 95815

How much?
"We have spectator passes for those who do not dance. They sit on the stage, not at a table. Last year $15.00 for 3 -4 hours during competitions [per day, per person]"

*If you are planning to dance, let me know and I will send you additional pricing info for dancers.

Highlights (i.e. Time/events that you should come and watch)

10:00-11:00 am FREE Beginning WCS #302 (*Note: I am not sure if it's FREE for everyone, or just for the people who already paid for the whole weekend. Let me know if you are interested and I will check on Fri)
8:15 pm Classic Couples (Routines performances, all level)
10:15 pm Strictly Swing Champions

1:00 pm Jr Routines, Masters, All Star J&J
4:00 pm Champions Invitational J&J

1. Jr Routines are performed by dancers who are up to age 18.

2. Master dancers must be at least 50 years of age.

3. J&J = Jack and Jill, you get a random partner in a competition. A true test of leading and following skills

4. Champions Invitational J&J- competitions for some of the best WCS dancers you can find in the country. Not much of a J&J because they all know each other :D
Following Narwhals

Left: The treacherous journeys made by narwhals have been witnessed for the first time Photo: PAUL NICKLEN/BBC

Hard to find these creatures!:
These unusual whales are rarely glimpsed in the fleeting moments they break through the ice that covers their underwater world.

But spectacular aerial footage captured by the BBC shows how the groups of narwhal, with tusks up to eight feet long, crowd their way through narrow gaps between the ice sheets as they attempt a dangerous spring migration in the search for food.

...Scientists studying the impact of climate change on the Arctic have concluded that narwhals are even more vulnerable than polar bears, which rely upon the ice to hunt. They claim that without the ice to shelter them, narwhals will become more vulnerable to predators and competition from other whales.

"Narwhal need predictable conditions so they can time their migration right and get to their food sources at the right time," added Dr Kristen Laidre, a polar biologist who is carrying out the research on narwhal at University of Washington. "They are really very specialised animals that have adapted to live amid the ice, so if the ecology of the Arctic changes then it can impact on the whole food chain.

"The areas they are found are extremely remote, so they are difficult to study. We still don't know how they manage to find open water within the ice. Each year the ice breaks up in different ways, but they time their migration at the right moment."

The narwhals, which feature in the first programme of the BBC's latest natural history series Nature's Great Events, were filmed during their annual migration north from the west coast of Greenland to their summer feeding grounds in the fjords and bays beyond Lancaster Sound.

They form the vanguard of animals to migrate north as rising spring temperatures and winds start to break up the vast stretches of sea ice that form in the Arctic Circle during the freezing winter months.

The film captures the thousands of narwhals as they make the annual trip along thin channels in the ice in the ice in groups of 20 or 30, all swimming in perfect unison as they surface for air.

Occasionally channels close up and the narwhals have to swim to find openings in the ice further along their route or they will drown. The animals can also become trapped if the ice sheets close up above them and the narwhals have to break through thin sections of the ice in order to breathe.

..."When you see them, it is hard to believe they are real – they seem almost mystical as if they have come straight from some kind of fantasy world."

Narwhal tusks are thought to be the inspiration for the legend of unicorns and they can fetch thousands of pounds. Queen Elizabeth I is said to have paid a fortune for a narwhal tusk which she used as a sceptre.

Only male narwhals have tusks and they were originally thought to be used in "fencing" as males competed for mates. Recent research, however, has suggested the tusks could also act as some sort of super-sensory organ that allows them to detect changes in water temperature and salinity.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Patient Zero

Let's string hum up:
Some communicable diseases can be traced back to what medical researchers call "patient zero", the first carrier of an illness and often someone who has no symptoms. One of the most notorious examples of this is "Typhoid Mary", Mary Mallon, who is alleged to have spread typhoid fever in New York City and its suburbs between 1901 and 1906.

The global recession has a "patient zero", a single person who set off the series of events which may lead the economy into its greatest downturn since The Great Depression and, by some estimates, push 50 million people around the world out of jobs this year, according to The International Labour Organisation. (See pictures of the global financial crisis).

"Patient zero" bought a house in Stockton, California, in 2003 after getting a subprime mortgage. He defaulted on that mortgage 39 months later.

...Where was the recession's "patient zero" from and what were his financial circumstances? Based on where the real estate markets began to decline and where the most subprime loans where made, he was a client of Countrywide. He got a $250,000 mortgage five years ago, He did not have to put a nickel down to get the loan. The value of real estate in Stockton, California, where he bought his home had been rising at 10% a year for four years. He was a good credit risk not because of his income but because the value of the asset he bought was bound to go up 100% by the end of this decade. Two months after his mortgage reset in 2006, he lost his job. He was in default less than 90 days later.

Somewhere in the Countrywide archives are his number, phone number, and most recent forwarding address. He is still looking for permanent employment.
Hate On Chris Brown Day

If the stories are true:
Pop singer Rihanna pulled out of a performance at the Grammys Sunday as police in Los Angeles confirmed they were seeking her boyfriend in connection with an allegation of domestic violence.

The 20-year-old, Barbados-born singer had been due to perform early in the show at the Staples Center before organizers abruptly announced her withdrawal just before the event.

...Earlier, a Los Angeles Police Department spokeswoman would neither confirm nor deny that Rihanna was the victim in an alleged domestic violence incident involving her boyfriend, singer-songwriter Chris Brown.

Police said a woman told police she and Brown, 19, were in a car travelling in Los Angeles's Hancock Park neighborhood early Sunday when an argument broke out. Brown allegedly stopped the vehicle and the argument escalated.

According to police, the woman "suffered visible injuries and identified Brown as her attacker."

When police arrived, the woman was there but Brown had already left.

"He has not been arrested, but we are attempting to locate him so he can be taken into custody," said LAPD Officer Karen Smith.
Exhibit C: Google = Stoopid?

If only our lives were so well-documented as Lily Allen's!:
"But I'd passed out in bed and saw my Glamour award on the floor and thought, 'How did I get home? I Googled myself."

Lily won the Editors Special Award at the bash last year before passing out and the incident shocked her into cutting back on alcohol.
Scared In Churchill

In The Dark

Left: AP – A stone chapel is shown on the edge of Lake Tekapo under the sparkling sky in New Zealand's South Island …

Left: Statue of the sheep herder's favorite dog, a collie, near the Church of the Good Shepherd, on the shore of Lake Tekapo.

Andrew and I passed through Tekapo on December 19, 2008! It was overcast then, so we didn't have any great view, but it just means we have to return:
TEKAPO, New Zealand – This little town is in the dark and proud of it.

Where other places greet the night by lighting up their streets and tourist attractions, this one goes the other way — low-energy sodium lamps are shielded from above, and household lights must face down, not up.

The purpose: to bring out the stars.

The town of 830 people on New Zealand's South Island is on a mission to protect the sight of the night sky, even as it disappears behind light and haze in many parts of the world.

The ultimate prize would be UNESCO's approval for the first "starlight reserve," and already the "astro tourists" are coming.

A group of 25 are huddled at midnight on a bare New Zealand hilltop, their faces numbed by an icy wind as they gaze up at the Milky Way.

"It's awesome, I mean it's like beyond words," says Simon Venvoort, 46, a management consultant from Amsterdam. "You see so much you aren't aware of."

"You know that two generations now are growing up not being aware that all this is out there because ... half of the world is light-polluted."

It's estimated that about one fifth of the world's population and more than two-thirds in the U.S. cannot see the Milky Way from their homes.

The "starlight reserve" idea germinated in UNESCO in 2005. Tekapo, in the McKenzie Basin of South Island, was already on its own track, seeking what locals were calling their "park in the sky." So Tekapo was suggested as a pilot site because of its haze-free sky and lighting controls already in place.

A UNESCO working party agreed last month to study what Graeme Murray, chairman of the Mackenzie Tourism and Development Board, calls "a heritage park in the sky."

"We helped make UNESCO world heritage look upward as well as around them in protecting the world's heritage," he says.

The U.N. body has extended world heritage status to 878 historic, cultural, ecological and natural sites around the planet, but none includes the sky.

The idea faces significant challenges — UNESCO's conventions do not mention the space above and around heritage sites, and there's still the question of how to define a piece of open sky for conservation purposes.

The darkening of Tekapo began in 1965 to serve the Mount John Observatory that opened on nearby Mount John. Town officials later turned necessity into a virtue by expanding controls on public and private lighting in a 19-mile ring around the town and observatory to keep the sky dark.

Three new housing developments have spent extra money for "sky-friendly" lighting. A skating rink even installed special lighting to prevent ultraviolet light reflecting off its ice surface into the night sky.

"We've got a dark sky and we've got to hang on to it," said Murray, who also runs a sky-watching ecotourism company.

Not that people here are bumping into each other or driving blind during the night hours. And anyway, there's plenty of starlight, as residents note.

"We're certainly not living in the dark," said Lorna Inch, a real estate agent. "We've got a beautiful sky that we all enjoy many nights of the year. There's a lot of natural light from the stars," plus those dimmed residential lights.

Some 150 years ago, unlit nights were the friend of a sheep rustling legend named James McKenzie and his faithful dog, Friday, as they stole through the landscape, driving flocks of stolen livestock deep into the basin that is now named after him.

Today a bronze statue of McKenzie's sheepdog stands — not floodlit — on Tekapo's lake front.

...For the guide, Chris Monson from Phoenix, Tekapo offers a chance to see something long lost to city-dwellers — "such pristine, dark skies."

Back in cities like Phoenix, grandparents may have seen starlit skies, but "now it's just something we hear about," he said. "We don't get to experience the stars and those constellations."
Catastrophe In Victoria

These Australian fires look like the Apocalypse come alive! The mounting death toll (131 and climbing) can only have risen so high if people are getting surprised by the speed of the fire. Indeed, they say the Kinglake fire complex has a 100 km long front (interactive map), which means it's damned hard to escape if you don't have at least an hour's notice:
PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd said arsonists in Victoria had committed mass murder as the death toll in Australia's worst ever bushfires rose to 131 this afternoon, with the final toll expected to be much more.

Authorities are being warned that the toll could climb to 230, The Australian quoted sources inside state emergency meetings as saying.

The public response to the catastrophe has been immediate, with thousands of people donating millions of dollars to the official Red Cross relief fund. Concerned friends and relatives have also used the Herald Sun bushfire message board to post pleas for information on loved ones.

Thirty-one fires are still burning out of control across the state. Dozens of communities in Gippsland, including Churchill, have been put on bushfire alert. Towns at risk in the northeast Victoria include Beechworth, Yackandandah and Toolangai.

Amid speculation some of the fires were deliberately lit - and with reports yesterday that people were returning to relight blazes after fire crews had left an area - Mr Rudd said: "There are no words to describe it other than mass murder."

At least 750 homes have been destroyed and 3733 people have registered with the Red Cross after evacuating their properties. The number left homeless is expected to be far higher, the Red Cross said.

It was confirmed that at least four children have died, but that figure would also be expected to rise as full details emerged.

A two-year-old girl was among 13 in intensive care in hospital. Twenty-two people with shocking burns were admitted to the Alfred hospital, the state's main trauma centre, where staff ran out of morphine trying to ease patients' pain.

Most of the damage was done by two massive fires - one that virtually wiped out towns northeast of Melbourne including Kinglake and Marysville with a 100km front - and a second inferno that raced across Gippsland. At least 33 people were killed in Kinglake alone.

...Six victims were in one car trying to outrun the inferno which swept through Kinglake in minutes. A resident said the town was littered with burnt-out cars and he believed many contained bodies.

"It's going to look like Hiroshima, I tell you, it's going to look like a nuclear bomb," he told Melbourne's Herald Sun.

His daughter told of another resident who "went to put his kids in the car, put them in, turned around to go grab something from the house, then his car was on fire with his kids in it, and they burnt".

Among the survivors, families sat in dazed disbelief, surrounded by mattresses, dogs and whatever meagre possessions they managed to gather as they fled the fires.

Some talked of friends who had lost children, brothers and sisters, kids who have lost best friends and of a woman who has not seen her husband since Saturday. They said they had no warning before daylight turned to night and their communities were enveloped in a wall of fire and smoke.

"We looked over and there was a wall of flames looking at us and everything went pitch black. There was no warning," Joanne Fisher of Kinglake said. "I've never seen anything like it in my life ... You see this on TV, it doesn't happen to you."

It was believed the fire in Bendigo was caused by a cigarette, but Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon said she was sickened by the fact some other fires might have been deliberately lit.

"It makes me very angry ... to then have someone who may have lit these fires. Fires are so devastating. The injuries we are seeing. We are talking about a massive death toll."
Signs Of The Apocalypse In Davis

I hit every traffic light heading into downtown Davis. My luck had run low on a Sunday evening....

As I walked into one of my favorite Davis eateries, everyone seated inside turned in unison towards the door to watch me enter. "We are having a meeting," the woman behind the counter snapped. "Oh, sorry," I apologized as I beat a hasty retreat. Just a little tense in there! I headed down the street towards another eatery.

Walking into the second eatery, I overheard a cook at the doorway shout into a cell phone something like "A quien saber un abogado?" (which I may misremember since it's not quite grammatically correct), but which roughly translates as "Who knows a lawyer?" Later, I saw the cook behind the counter, looking unhappy.

Dark times in Davis eateries....

Leaving the eatery, a man approached from behind and said "Hey man, check it out! My friends and I want to buy a bottle of vodka!" I ignored this entreaty to charity - I mean, do I get any, or am I just buying? - and crossed the street.

On the other side of the street a street preacher was lecturing about the Last Days. A street preacher. In Davis! Ah, evil days have befallen us! I hope we don't go back to the late 70's and early 80's, when street preachers were everywhere. I had hoped we moved on from all that, but with all our economic troubles and accumulated sins it looks like it's finally time to reap the whirlwind....

Sunday, February 08, 2009

SENSE Theatre Benefit At DMTC

Left: Finale. Frank D'Ambrosio and the theater kids sing "High Hopes".

Since the organization of this fundraising event was handled largely outside the usual DMTC channels, I didn't quite know what to expect on Friday evening.

Left: What transpired was one of the largest and most enthusiastic events in DMTC history!

The preview article in the Davis Enterprise explained the event well:
The Davis community has an opportunity to help the formation of a new inclusive theater program for youth called SENSE Theatre, during a benefit program taking place at 7 p.m. Friday at Davis Musical Theatre Company's Hoblit Performing Arts Theater, 607 Peña Drive.

...The event will raise funds to create a program for the dramatic arts that is structured to include children with autism, a developmental disability that affects a person's ability to communicate and interact with others in various ways, and to varying degrees.

Patrons will be treated to wine and cheese appetizers, followed by a program that will feature autistic children performing with neurotypical actor peers. Broadway actor Franc D'Ambrosio also will give a musical performance.

D'Ambrosio made his debut on Broadway in the first revival of "Sweeney Todd," and also has been called "the world's longest-running Phantom," thanks to performances in the national tour of "Phantom of the Opera," and a San Francisco run that lasted more than five years.

SENSE Theatre is the brainchild of several acquaintances, and resulted from a mutual passion for the theater and a desire to create a social environment for children with autism, so they could interact positively with others. Experienced young actors will be cast alongside their autistic peers, to perform entire plays or musicals.

The idea to create SENSE Theatre came about during ongoing conversations between Blythe Corbett, an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at the UC Davis MIND Institute; Christine Totah, a devoted parent advocate; and Jeni Price, a theater director and special educator. They met often to discuss their mutual love of theater, and their background in autism.

"I've crossed paths on a number of occasions with Christine," Corbett said, "and she's very involved with the autism community for personal and professional reasons; she also has children who are very involved in theater. We have these mutual interests that evolved over our interactions."

Totah's autistic son has prior experience doing theater with Price.

"It's scripted with all the social cues. It's written out for us," Totah explained. "All of the sudden he had social skills therapy, speech therapy and movement and music therapy, and he was having fun and I was having fun, and we were participating in the community. I told Blythe that I had to figure out a way for other parents and kids to do this!"

Corbett, after a 12-year career as a professional actor and writer, went on to college to become a clinical psychologist.

"I have an abiding love and passion for the theater," she said. "Theater can really help many of us to understand human behavior: especially social behavior and emotional expression, a lot of the things that children with autism have difficulty with.

"Many of us learn by observing others; that's how a lot of us naturally pick up our skills. Children with autism often have difficulty with this; they have to kind of be 'trained' to be observers of behavior. We don't want the children to watch videotapes all the time, or learn from computers; we want them to learn from the real world.

"That's really where the theater comes in, on a number of levels."

Both Corbett and Totah strongly felt that they were on to an intervention theater program that would be of great value to the young autistic community.

"The Davis Musical Theatre Company has been fantastic," Corbett said. "They've really opened up their theater family to us."

As for the evening's "star act":

"Franc D'Ambrosio is performing for all the right reasons," Corbett added. "He is a gifted and generous performer and person.

"He gets it."

The group's first undertaking will be a full-stage production of Disney's "The Jungle Book," scheduled for June.

"It will be a community-based environment that's real world," Corbett said, "integrating a child with autism into a theatrical community where we all belong, and making everyone fit."

To say that this group is excited would seem an understatement, and Totah summed it up best:

"Come to the show; come to the show!"

Left: Master of Ceremonies Ed Bazel, and two of the SENSE Theatre founders, Blythe Corbett and Christine Totah.

Left: 'Just One Person', from "Snoopy!"

Left: 'Just One Person', from "Snoopy!"

Left: Esteban M. sings "Your Song".

After the show, I talked to E.B., who was very moved by the entire show, but particularly by Esteban's performance. Paraphrasing the fellow, he said: "I work with autism, but as a scientist, in the lab. I see the data; generally I don't see the kid. You should be very proud of what you are doing here. That performance - that should be impossible, but here it is, right before your eyes! It inspires me to try harder in the lab!"

Left: The "Blue Skirts" from St. Francis High School sing 'Kiss The Girl' from "The Little Mermaid".

Left: Cody C. as 'Horton' sings 'Alone In The Universe' from "Suessical".

Below: Ana C. as 'Jojo' sings 'Alone In The Universe' from "Suessical".

Left: The Ambassadors of the Sacramento Theatre Company - Young Professionals Conservatory, sing 'Sing a Song' (by Earth Wind And Fire).

Left: The Ambassadors of the Sacramento Theatre Company - Young Professionals Conservatory, sing 'Sing a Song' (by Earth Wind And Fire).

Left: Anna Miles sings 'It's An Art'.

Left: Anna Miles sings 'It's An Art'.

Left: Kyle Nielson, Davis Muncy, and Ryan Buesch, from Galena Street East (with guest Ben Lewis) sing 'Bye Bye Bye' (by N*SYNC).

Left: Flying Monkey Productions sing 'Children Will Listen' from "Into The Woods".

Left and Below: Frank D'Ambrosio sings 'Almost Like Being In Love' from "Oklahoma", 'Phantom Medley' from "Phantom Of The Opera", and 'This Is The Moment' from "Jekyll & Hyde".

Left: Finale. Frank D'Ambrosio and the theater kids sing "High Hopes".

Left: Finale. Frank D'Ambrosio consults the lyrics to "High Hopes".