Saturday, March 21, 2009

DMTC YPT - Disney's "Mulan, Jr."

Left: Casey M. as Fa Mulan, the girl with too much tomboyish energy to make an ideal bride.

"Mulan, Jr." features among the most lavish costuming efforts of any show in DMTC history! Well worth the expense.

Check show times. One more weekend, for sure!

Left: Daughters, (in no particular order) - Alice M., Genevieve K., Hattie C., Jamie B., Jessica B., Mimi M., Nina L., Sawyer Rose N., Tessa H.

Left: Sons (in no particular order) - Brian S., Davis R.-G., Jake G., JJ T., Nate S., Peter D., Steven F., Trevor R., and Turner P.

Also, Ancestors (in no particular order) - Charlie K., Katurah J., Nancy K., Camila O., Natalie M., and Will F.

Plus, Andrew L.

Left: Ana C. ("Mu") and Kailani ("Shu").

Left: Parasols. Daughters, (in no particular order) - Alice M., Genevieve K., Hattie C., Jamie B., Jessica B., Mimi M., Nina L., Sawyer Rose N., Tessa H.

Left: Grandmother Fa (Sydney M.), Fa Mulan (Casey M.), and Mother Fa Li (Danielle Rose M.)

Left: Father Fa Zhou (Henry Z.) and Fa Mulan (Casey M.).

Left: Mulan (Casey M.), with soldiers.

Left: Captain Li Shang (Turner P.) and Fa Mulan (Casey M.).

Left: Captain Li Shang (Turner P.) and Chi Fu (Trevor R.).

Left: The Tug-Of-War.

Left: Soldiers.

Fa Mulan (Casey M.), Ana C. ("Mu") and Kailani ("Shu").

Left: Shan-Yu (Andrew L.) and accompanying guard.

Left: Emperor (Brian S.) and Chi Fu (Trevor R.).

Left: Captain Li Shang (Turner P.) and Fa Mulan (Casey M.) prepare the ruse to free the imprisoned Emperor.

Left: Misfit Qian-Po (Alice M.) and Captain Li Shang (Turner P.) prepare the ruse to free the imprisoned Emperor.

Left: Ancestors (in no particular order) - Charlie K., Katurah J., Nancy K., Camila O., Natalie M., and Will F.

Left: Usurper Shan-Yu (Andrew L.) is taken by surprise by Captain Li Shang (Turner P.)

Left: Captain Li Shang (Turner P.) and Usurper Shan-Yu (Andrew L.).

Left: Captain Li Shang (Turner P.) and Emperor (Brian S.).

Left: Fa Mulan (Casey M.), Father Fa Zhou (Henry Z.) and Captain Li Shang (Turner P.).
"The Sound Of Music" - Fourth Friday

Left: Musicians meet the nuns, at the stairway leading into the orchestra pit (Rebecca, Taelen and Marie).
Wynona's Big Brown Beaver

Just because it's that kind of afternoon....
Wynona's got herself a big brown beaver
and she shows it off to all her friends.
One day, you know, that beaver tried to leave her,
So she caged him up with cyclone fence.

Along came Lou with the old baboon
And said "Recognize that smell?"
"Smells like seven layers,
That beaver eats Taco Bell."

Now Rex was a Texan out of New Orleans
And he travelled with the carnival shows.
He ran bumper cars, sucked cheap cigars
And he candied up his nose.

He got wind of the big brown beaver
So he thought he'd take himself a peek,
But the beaver was quick
And grabbed him by the kiwis.
And he ain't pissed for a week.

(And a half!)

Now Wynona took her big brown beaver,
And she stuck him up in the air.
Said "I sure do love this big brown beaver
And I wish I did have a pair."

Now the beaver once slept for seven days
And it gave us all an awful fright.
So I tickled his chin and I gave him a pinch
And the bastard tried to bite.

Wynona loved her big brown beaver
And she stroked him all the time.
She pricked her finger one day and it
Occurred to her she might have a porcupine.
Derrick Barry Dresses Up As Britney

Coming April 3rd, 8 p.m., to Badlands in Sacramento.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Stephanie Skewes (Playing Janet Klein) Interviews Rob Lowe


A Pop History Of Gays On Broadway

Featuring YouTube videos!
Digital Museum

An archive of loaders.
A Tour Of Chernobyl

Pripyat's amusement park is creepy!
Bursting Ponzi Bubbles Everywhere!

Oh my! It's a super-charged version of the Lawrence Welk show!

This article (extracts below) comes from Nouriel Roubini's RGE Monitor. Disregarding the article's dead-on accuracy, the metaphors seem overripe:
Americans lived in a Made-off and Ponzi bubble economy for a decade or even longer. Madoff is the mirror of the American economy and of its overleveraged agents: a house of cards of leverage over leverage by households, financial firms and corporations that has now gone bust.

When you put zero down on your home and you thus have no equity in your home your leverage is literally infinite and you are playing a Ponzi game.

And the bank that lent you with zero down, a NINJA (no income, no jobs and assets) liar loan that was interest only for a while with negative amortization and an initial teaser rate was also playing a Ponzi game.

And private equity firms that did over a $1 trillion of LBOs in the last few years with debt to earnings ratio of 10 or above were also Ponzi firms playing a Ponzi game.

A government that will issue trillions of dollars of new debt to pay for this severe recession and to socialize private losses may risk to become a Ponzi government if – in the medium term – does not return to fiscal discipline and debt sustainability.

A country that has - for over 25 years - spent more than income and thus run an endless string of current account deficit and has thus become the largest net foreign debtor in the world (with net foreign liabilities that are likely to be over $3 trillion by the end of this year) is also a Ponzi country that may eventually default on its foreign debt if it does not – over time – tighten its belt and start running smaller current account deficits and actual trade surpluses.

...By this standard media US households whose debt relative to income went from 65 percent 15 years ago to 100 percent in 2000 to 135 percent today were playing a Ponzi game.

And an economy where the total debt to GDP ratio (of households, financial firms and corporations) is now 350 percent was a Made-Off Ponzi economy. And now that home values have fallen 20% and they will fall another 20% before they bottom out and now that equity prices have fallen over 50% (and may fall further) using homes as an ATM machine and borrowing against it to finance Ponzi consumption is not feasible any more. The party is over for households, banks and non-bank highly leveraged corporations.

The bursting of the housing bubble and of the equity bubble and hedge funds bubble and private equity bubble showed that most of the "wealth" that supported the massive leverage and overspending of agents in the economy was a fake bubble-driven wealth; now that these bubbles have burst it is clear that the emperor had no clothes and that we are the naked emperor. A rising bubble tide was hiding the fact that most Americans and their banks were swimming naked; and the bursting of the bubble is the low tide that shows who was naked.

Madoff may now spend the rest of his life in prison. The US household and financial and non financial firms and government may spend the next generation in debtor’s prison having to tighten their belts to pay for the losses inflicted by a decade or more of reckless leverage, over consumption and risk taking.

Americans, let us look at ourselves in the mirror: Madoff is us and Mr. Ponzi is us!
Weather Vanes

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill:
This week, Republican leaders have leapt to join the populist outcry against the bonuses that ailing insurance giant AIG has awarded its executives. But such rants against executive earnings mark a remarkable about-face for the right flank of the party, which condemned President Obama's decision to set limits on executive pay just last month.

"I really don't want the government to take over these businesses and start telling them everything about what they can do." Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told ABC News in February, when asked about Obama's proposed limits on executive compensation. Senator Jim DeMint, who attacked the original bailout bill as "pure socialism," characterized executive pay caps as a dangerous government intervention. "I think it's a sad day in America when the government starts setting pay, no matter how outlandish they [sic] are," DeMint told the Huffington Post. "This is just a symptom of what happens when the government intervenes and we start controlling all aspects of the economy." DeMint's right-wing compatriot, James Inhofe, also equated limits on compensation with the demise of the American way. "As I was listening to [Obama] make those statements I thought, is this still America? Do we really tell people how to run [a business], and who to pay, and how much to pay?"

A mere six weeks later, DeMint and Inhofe are now attacking the administration for failing to curb these executive payouts. In a long diatribe delivered on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Inhofe abandoned his earlier defense of businesses to make their own decisions about compensation to express his "deep anger" over the pay. "I don't know how someone at AIG giving out or receiving a bonus right now can look at themselves in the mirror," Inhofe thundered on the floor. "You can be sure that we will do all we can to right this wrong and get these bonuses back." DeMint has also found ways to channel his newfound anger against corporate pay. In a letter sent to the Senate Banking Committee yesterday, DeMint, along with David Vitter and Jim Bunning, demanded that AIG contracts be formally subpoenaed to determine why the company was "specifically exempt[ed]" from the executive compensation limits. In other words, DeMint is now asking why AIG hasn't been forced to comply with the conditions that he had so vehemently opposed.
"Oh Lord. Bless This Hand Grenade, That With It Thou Mayest Blow Thine Enemies To Tiny Bits, In Thy Mercy"

"Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out.":
Police evacuated several buildings, cordoned off a street and called in explosives specialists after water company workers stumbled on the film prop under a fire hydrant cover in Shoreditch, east London.

But the dangerous-looking weapon turned out to be the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch that featured in the 1975 film Monty Python And The Holy Grail.

Officers had evacuated a pub and another building, while office staff in another building were stopped from leaving.

But when the bomb squad arrived, they quickly established there was no danger and the street was declared safe.

...Alberto Romanelli, who owns the Windmill pub nearby, said the police action in ordering his pub to be evacuated had been as ridiculous as the film scene.
'They evacuated the pub while they were doing X-rays and stuff,' he said.

The prop forced the Windmill pub to close for 45 minutes while police cordoned off the street. 'It all lasted about 45 minutes before they decided it was nothing - which I thought was pretty obvious from the start. I lost a good hour's worth of business.'

...An police spokeswoman said: 'There was no danger to the public. The device is believed to be an object known as a Holy Hand Grenade.'

Copies of the prop can be bought on the internet for £14 or you can make your own by following the instructions in a five-minute video on YouTube.
On The Uses Of Twitter

Fearful of the bleeding edge of communications technology, I've been wondering what possible use Twitter could be.

Well, apparently you can follow ABC journalist Jake Tapper being an ass in real-time, rather than just waiting for the evening news.

If that isn't progress, I don't know what is!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Buzz Hunters

What's Stephanie Skewes up to now?

Fun stuff!

The Fresno Bee explains in more detail:
Clovis West High School grad Stephanie Skewes has landed a part in what could be the first episode of a new ABC series, "Buzz Hunters." She plays a fictional character who has a job similar to the real job Simonian has [entertainment news reporter].

The show centers on Janet Klein (Skewes), an entertainment reporter who is just a little obsessed with "Grey's Anatomy." Along with a cameraman and fellow entertainment snoop, Klein goes on a comedic hunt for buzz about ABC shows. So far, that has meant interviews with Rob Lowe and Tom Bergeron.

Skewes landed the role despite being nothing like the description of the character.

"They said they were looking for someone who was a cross between Tina Fey and Zooey Deschanel," Skewes says. " And they wanted someone in their 30s. I am in my 20s. But I got the part."

The first episode aired over the weekend in several markets, including Fresno. Skewes believes the reason it only aired in limited markets and at odd times, was that it was just a test. She will know soon if she will get to slip back into the interviewer role.

Either way, she got to chat with Lowe and Bergeron. She describes the interviews as part serious and part offbeat. Since she had never interviewed anyone on camera in her life, she was happy both actors were so accommodating.

If there are further episodes, Skewes would love to talk to cast members of "Lost."

Skewes has been chasing an acting career since leaving Clovis and graduating from the University of California at Davis. She had a small role in the feature films "Wild Hogs," "Growing Out" and "Kemper." She played a sexy pirate-turned creature in "Plaguers."

"This film won two awards at a festival in Argentina: best screenplay, and audience favorite," Skewes says.
What's New In The Sooner State?

A visitor from abroad:
TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- One of the most deadly spiders in the world has been found in the produce section of a Tulsa grocery store. An employee of Whole Foods Market found the Brazilian Wandering Spider Sunday in bananas from Honduras and managed to catch it in a container.

The spider was given to University of Tulsa Animal Facilities director Terry Childs who said this type of spider kills more people than any other.

Childs said a bite will kill a person in about 25 minutes and while there is an antidote he doesn't know of any in the Tulsa area.

Spiders often are found in imported produce, and a manager at Whole Foods says the store regularly checks its goods and that's how the spider was found.
A. Passes Along A Nice Web Site
Hansen Doesn't Quite Seem To Be Getting It

The democratic process is working just fine:
James Hansen, a climate modeller with Nasa, told the Guardian today that corporate lobbying has undermined democratic attempts to curb carbon pollution. "The democratic process doesn't quite seem to be working," he said.

Speaking on the eve of joining a protest against the headquarters of power firm E.ON in Coventry, Hansen said: "The first action that people should take is to use the democratic process. What is frustrating people, me included, is that democratic action affects elections but what we get then from political leaders is greenwash.

"The democratic process is supposed to be one person one vote, but it turns out that money is talking louder than the votes. So, I'm not surprised that people are getting frustrated. I think that peaceful demonstration is not out of order, because we're running out of time."
Democracy has always been OK with the idea of live today and let tomorrow take care of itself. That's why I'm so fatalistic about the idea of getting a handle on global warming. In a world where people care about their friends and families first, caring about eventual world calamity is just too abstract. The political system - democracy, dictatorship, whatever - doesn't matter.

I'll be dead long before it all becomes a serious headache.
Storm System

We need all we can get. Starts rolling in Saturday evening....
The Inquisitive Jury

The New York Times carried this article about how juries are causing mistrials by doing their own research on the Internet, or by communicating with others outside the courtroom via blackberries and cell phones:
Last week, a juror in a big federal drug trial in Florida admitted to the judge that he had been doing research on the case on the Internet, directly violating the judge’s instructions and centuries of legal rules. But when the judge questioned the rest of the jury, he got an even bigger shock.

Eight other jurors had been doing the same thing. The federal judge, William J. Zloch, had no choice but to declare a mistrial, a waste of eight weeks of work by federal prosecutors and defense lawyers.

“We were stunned,” said a defense lawyer, Peter Raben, who was told by the jury that he had been on the verge of winning the case. “It’s the first time modern technology struck us in that fashion, and it hit us right over the head.”

It might be called a Google mistrial. The use of BlackBerrys and iPhones by jurors gathering and sending out information about cases is wreaking havoc on trials around the country, upending deliberations and infuriating judges.

Last week, a building products company asked an Arkansas court to overturn a $12.6 million judgment, claiming that a juror used Twitter to send updates during the civil trial.

And on Monday, defense lawyers in the federal corruption trial of a former Pennsylvania state senator, Vincent J. Fumo, demanded before the verdict that the judge declare a mistrial because a juror posted updates on the case on Twitter and Facebook. The juror had even told his readers that a “big announcement” was coming on Monday. But the judge decided to let the deliberations continue, and the jury found Mr. Fumo guilty. His lawyers plan to use the Internet postings as grounds for appeal.

Jurors are not supposed to seek information outside of the courtroom. They are required to reach a verdict based on only the facts the judge has decided are admissible, and they are not supposed to see evidence that has been excluded as prejudicial. But now, using their cellphones, they can look up the name of a defendant on the Web or examine an intersection using Google Maps, violating the legal system’s complex rules of evidence. They can also tell their friends what is happening in the jury room, though they are supposed to keep their opinions and deliberations secret.

A juror on a lunch or bathroom break can find out many details about a case. Wikipedia can help explain the technology underlying a patent claim or medical condition, Google Maps can show how long it might take to drive from Point A to Point B, and news sites can write about a criminal defendant, his lawyers or expert witnesses.

“It’s really impossible to control it,” said Douglas L. Keene, president of the American Society of Trial Consultants.

Judges have long amended their habitual warning about seeking outside information during trials to include Internet searches. But with the Internet now as close as a juror’s pocket, the risk has grown more immediate — and instinctual. Attorneys have begun to check the blogs and Web sites of prospective jurors.

Mr. Keene said jurors might think they were helping, not hurting, by digging deeper. “There are people who feel they can’t serve justice if they don’t find the answers to certain questions,” he said.

But the rules of evidence, developed over hundreds of years of jurisprudence, are there to ensure that the facts that go before a jury have been subjected to scrutiny and challenge from both sides, said Olin Guy Wellborn III, a law professor at the University of Texas.

“That’s the beauty of the adversary system,” said Professor Wellborn, co-author of a handbook on evidence law. “You lose all that when the jurors go out on their own.”

...But juror research is a more troublesome issue than sending Twitter messages or blogging, Mr. Keene said, and it raises new issues for judges in giving instructions.

“It’s important that they don’t know what’s excluded, and it’s important that they don’t know why it’s excluded,” Mr. Keene said. The court cannot even give a full explanation to jurors about research — say, to tell them what not to look for — so instructions are usually delivered as blanket admonitions, he said.

The technological landscape has changed so much that today’s judge, Mr. Keene said, “has to explain why this is crucial, and not just go through boilerplate instructions.” And, he said, enforcement goes beyond what the judge can do, pointing out that “it’s up to Juror 11 to make sure Juror 12 stays in line.”

It does not always work out that way. Seth A. McDowell, a data support specialist who lives in Albuquerque and works for a financial advising firm, said he was serving on a jury last year when another juror admitted running a Google search on the defendant, even though she acknowledged that she was not supposed to do so. She said she did not find anything, Mr. McDowell said.

Mr. McDowell, 35, said he thought about telling the judge, but decided against it. None of the other jurors did, either. Now, he said, after a bit of soul-searching, he feels he may have made the wrong choice. But he remains somewhat torn.

“I don’t know,” he said. “If everybody did the right thing, the trial, which took two days, would have gone on for another bazillion years.”

Mr. McDowell said he planned to attend law school in the fall.
I can understand why judges want to keep this under control, but I am also very sympathetic to the inquisitive jurors.

It seems like the biggest danger might be with complex technical cases, say, regarding drug side-effects, where jurors might try to negotiate, say, the complex and vast gray literature which oftentimes is little better than advertising material.

I served on two juries where outside research came up.

On the 1984 Arizona murder trial jury I served on, against judge's orders, I went to the parking lot where the murder happened. I learned little, but I was curious about the size of the lot where so much happened, and I was able to satisfy my curiosity.

The 1983 drunk driving case was more complicated. We received testimony from the cop regarding the traffic stop, and mitigating testimony, featuring a well-written signature, from the defense, but as time went on, I couldn't help but wonder why the cop hadn't administered a breathalyzer test. The test result could have answered a lot of questions.

In the end, despite opposition by the woman on the jury who belonged to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), we voted to acquit. In my mind, the cop hadn't appeared to have done his job properly.

Two months later, I saw the MADD woman again at a bowling alley. She said she had learned recently from courthouse friends that there HAD been a breathalyzer test, but the test result, and even test's existence, had been ruled out for the jury's consideration.

For myself, I would have voted to convict even if I had known of the test's existence, much less the actual value. The adversarial jury system triumphed, but over the body of elementary justice. Another drunkard was free to drive, and to maim and kill.

So, I sympathize with the judge and the attorneys, but I sympathize mostly with the inquisitive jurors. Thank the gods for Google!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Undefined Existence"

CORE Dance Collective announces it's spring show:

CORE Dance Collective invites you to join us in celebrating our second season with a dynamic performance exploring artistic expression, individuality, and humanity through the beauty and power of dance. Undefined Existence reflects our desire to express creativity without labels or preconceived ideas. The show includes three master works utilizing the unique athletic contemporary style of Artistic Director/Founder Kelli Leighton. These master works will take you on a journey through the intertwining pathways taken through life both as individuals and as a collective. It explores our freedom from the daily grind, and what happens as our world as we know it is polluted and changed forever. CORE strives to reach, enrich, and entertain all ranges of audience members from first timers to seasoned artists. Please join us for a show that will leave you wanting more!

Undefined Existence
April 17 & 18, 2009
7:30 pm
Benvenuti Performing Arts Center
4600 Blackrock Drive
Sacramento, CA 95835

Tickets on sale now:
Student group rate: $10
Presale: $14 adult; $12 student/child/senior
General admission: $16 adult; $14 student/child/senior

For tickets or more information, contact:
Step1 Dance and Fitness
1920 T St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
Garbeau's Survives

Welcome news from Mark Ferreira:
Garbeau's Dinner Theatre in Rancho Cordova has a new lease on life.

The landmark theater raised the $8,000 over the weekend that it needed to avoid closure, reports Mark Ferreira, Garbeau's CEO.

Not only was the monetary goal met, but Ferreira said Washington-based landlord Andy Lakha has relented on certain terms and will discuss renegotiating the lease today with the company.

Ferreira said media coverage was a significant factor in keeping Garbeau's open. Theaters throughout the region also rallied behind Garbeau's efforts.

"The fact that all the other theaters said they would support us by honoring our season passes was huge. It really helped us sell an enormous amount of the passes," he said.

Ferreira said Lakha could see the company has positive momentum and, more importantly, a significant amount of cash was put toward the back rent.

– [The Sacramento Bee's] Marcus Crowder
The Housing Market Is Dead; Long Live The Housing Market!

Interesting article in the Bee this morning about how newbie investors are flooding into the Sacramento housing market. That's unexpected, but welcome news.

So, the housing market is decoupling from the CDO's and other financial instruments that once held them in thrall. That's good for the future, but it makes it more and more imperative that Treasury Secretary Geithner and others of his understanding finally realize that the CDO's really aren't worth much after all. Time is moving on, and it's no use pretending they are worth their face value:
Free-falling home prices and thousands of bank repos have pulled investors back into the Sacramento housing market at levels not seen since the headiest days of the housing boom, new statistics show.

Preliminary estimates from researcher MDA DataQuick indicate that 28.4 percent of February buyers in Sacramento County were investors aiming to buy, repair and rent out their new acquisitions.

The numbers confirm a huge shift in the Sacramento housing market in recent months, one that has consumed thousands of foreclosure properties and helped prevent a once-feared pileup of for-sale signs.

Alongside an army of first-time buyers, these investors – many doing cash deals with banks – have fueled growth in home sales for nearly a year. Even as some savvy investors say they're pulling back as prices keep falling, others have moved in to take deals not available in a decade.

"I'm pretty sure in their mind the floor has been set," said Carlos Kozlowski, a Coldwell Banker real estate agent and big player in the region's bank-owned market sector. Fellow repo specialist Ian Maker of ReMax said investor opinion of bottom for the market's low end is, "We're either right before it or right at it."

Investor market share in Sacramento County last hit 25 percent in mid-2004, the most frenzied sales year of the region's housing boom. Then it declined by half as the housing market cooled in 2006 and 2007, according to DataQuick.
Stop-Loss To Be Stopped

One of the more vile policies of the Bushies will finally end:
The military will phase out its "stop-loss" program, the contentious practice of holding troops beyond the end of their enlistments, for all but extraordinary situations, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Wednesday.

...Gates said the change is one he has wanted to implement since he became secretary of defense.

"While these changes do carry some risk, I believe it is important that we do everything possible to see that soldiers are not unnecessarily forced to stay in the Army beyond their end-of-term-of-service date," Gates said.

...The Army used the stop-loss policy during Operation Desert Shield in 1990 and reinstated it after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Gates cited two factors as contributing to the end of the program.

First, he said, "We will be drawing down in Iraq, over the next 18 or 19 months, significantly more than we are building up in Afghanistan, in terms of the Army."

In addition, the Army has more troops to call on. Retention and enlistment are up, Gates said, and the service has reached its goal of 547,000 personnel sooner than expected.
Sylvester - "You Make Me Feel"

"Milk" reminded me of one of my favorites from the Seventies! Somewhere I have his biography. I should read it....

Things were a little dicey at the Tower Theatre last night. Despite the advertised movie time of 10:20 p.m., the Tower staff had planned to close early on Tuesday night. It turned out no one had come to see the movie at all the previous two nights (largely because "Milk" was just released on DVD). Nevertheless, three-strong, we were joined by two others on this St. Patrick's night, and the staff allowed us to see the film.

"Milk" follows the life of Harvey Milk (played by Sean Penn), a natural politician who started from humble circumstances and who bootstrapped his way into gay activism and San Francisco politics.

From imdb:
Upon moving to San Francisco from New York City in 1972, forty year old Harvey Milk gains focus in his life as a gay activist in the city's Castro district. Gay rights activism turns to political activism as Milk decides he can be a more effective voice for the gay community as a politician, elected or not. Through several elections and losses both for a city seat and a state assembly seat, Milk becomes the first openly gay man in the United States to be elected to political office when he wins a San Francisco supervisor seat in 1977. His many political battlefronts include one with the national anti-gay Save the Children crusade, led and fronted by singer Anita Bryant. Closer to home, Milk has a continuing struggle with his fellow supervisor, Dan White, a staunch social conservative.
The most-valuable part of the movie was illustrating the origins of the gay rights movement and the conversion of the Castro District into the gay capital of San Francisco (and gay capital of much of the world as well). That history is unfamiliar to most people, and a lack of understanding it probably the single most formidable barrier to acceptance of gays in general. Lack of historical grounding, in my view, is far more important than opposition by organized religion, and "Milk" does that historical exposition in a very effective and salutary way. Do you want the 53%-47% electoral margin in favor of Proposition 8 to change? Start with history, first! If you could clean this movie up a bit, it would work well in schools.

The movie has two crucial scenes. In one scene, Milk has dinner with, and seeks an endorsement from, an older queen, a fellow who makes contributions to, and forms alliances with, liberal politicians who might be gay-friendly, but is averse to Milk's more-direct confrontational style. They disagree on methods, and part ways. There are times to compromise, and times not to, and Milk chooses correctly here, in favor of a confrontational approach that does not yield immediate results - several lost elections result, but with a strength gain every time - and finally yields enduring strength in 1978.

The other scene shows a strategy session where Milk and allies fight back against California Proposition 6 with an approach to make the employment-bias law less abstract and more personal - a 'every one of you knows at least one of us' approach. Something like that might even work today, with gay marriage the topic du jour, rather than the more abstract theme of equality that was featured in last year's anti-proposition 8 campaign. People don't care about equality; they care about friends.

The main weakness of the movie is not showing the really hard work of politics - the phone banks, posting fliers, shaking hands, etc. That's a more-generic problem with all movies, though: day-to-day politics makes for dreadfully-dull watching.

I don't think the movie quite captures the mystery of co-SF Supervisor Dan White (played by Josh Brolin), although it takes a stab in the right direction, by showing Milk attending the christening of White's son. White spoke on behalf of a large, existing, mostly Catholic and staunchly conservative community of long-time San Francisco residents. In the movie, White is often portrayed alone, or nearly so. In reality, he was anything but. White apparently felt humiliated and snubbed by Milk - with reason - and it would have been useful to explore that angle further.

The movie captures the feel of the 1970's quite well. It was just like I remembered! I had to laugh when they brought in disco-singer Sylvester, my favorite (played by Mark Martinez).

And Anita Bryant - whatever became of her?:
The fallout from her political activism had a negative effect on her business and entertainment career. Her contract with the Florida Citrus Commission was allowed to lapse in 1979 because of the controversy and the negative publicity generated by her political campaigns and the resulting boycott of Florida orange juice.

Her marriage to Bob Green failed at that time, and in 1980 she divorced him, although he reportedly has said that his fundamentalist religious beliefs do not recognize civil divorce and that she is still his wife in God's eyes.

...Some Christian audiences and venues shunned her after her divorce. No longer invited to appear at their events, she lost another major source of income. With her four children, she moved from Miami to Selma, Alabama, and later to Atlanta, Georgia. In a 1980 Ladies Home Journal article she said, "The church needs to wake up and find some way to cope with divorce and women's problems."

In the same article, she said that she felt sorry for all of the anti-gay things she had said and done during her campaigns. She said that she had adopted a more "live and let live" attitude.

She married her second husband, Charlie Hobson Dry, in 1990, and they tried to reestablish her music career in a series of small venues, including Branson, Missouri, and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Their plans failed, however, and Bryant and Dry left behind them a series of unpaid employees and creditors. Her career decline is detailed in her book, A New Day (1992). They filed for bankruptcy in Arkansas (1997) and in Tennessee (2001).

Bryant returned to Barnsdall, Oklahoma, in 2005 for the town's 100th anniversary celebration and to have a street renamed in her honor. She returned to her high school in Tulsa on April 21, 2007, to perform in the school's annual musical revue. She now lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, and says she does charity work for various youth organizations while heading Anita Bryant Ministries International.
Ride Of A Lifetime

A small bat that was spotted blasting off with the space shuttle Sunday and clinging to the back side of Discovery's external fuel tank apparently held on throughout the launch.

..."He did change the direction he was pointing from time to time throughout countdown but ultimately never flew away," states a NASA memo obtained by

...Officials at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., where Discovery launched from a seaside pad, said the bat's outlook after launch appears grim.

"Based on images and video, a wildlife expert who provides support to the center said the small creature was a free tail bat that likely had a broken left wing and some problem with its right shoulder or wrist," NASA officials said Tuesday. "The animal likely perished quickly during Discovery's climb into orbit."

..."The bat eventually became 'Interim Problem Report 119V-0080' after the ICE team finished their walkdown," the memo said. "Systems Engineering and Integration performed a debris analysis on him and ultimately a Launch Commit Criteria waiver to ICE-01 was written to accept the stowaway."

This isn't the first time a bat has attempted to travel into space. Another bat was seen clinging to the side of the external tank attached to the shuttle Endeavour on its STS-72 flight in 1996. That one maybe have been a bit more cautious, though: It flew away to safety right before launch.

...NASA officials said a bat also set down on the external tank for the shuttle Columbia during its STS-90 mission in 1998. That bat also flitted away to safety during liftoff, they added.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


From a picture by Nola Davies, Camden Haven, NSW, AU, as analyzed by Dr. Les Cowley:
Dr Cowley explains: 'All rainbows are made when sunlight is reflected inside falling raindrops.

'The bow we see most often and the brightest one in Nola's picture (1) comes from just one reflection inside almost perfectly round raindrops. All but the largest raindrops are round and not at all like the teardrops commonly pictured.'

He continued: 'The outer bow (2), the one we also see sometimes, comes when sunlight reflects twice in each raindrop.

'Now we enter the territory of rare and unusual events.

'A third bow (3) crosses the two brightest ones. That was made from sunlight first reflected upwards from the river before reflecting once again inside the raindrops.
'To raindrops it looks as though a second sun is shining upwards from the water. To have a chance of seeing this bow you need a large sheet of calm water in front or behind you.

'The bright upside-down bow in the water (4) is not an ordinary reflection of the one in the sky but it is made by rays of light from a different set of raindrops bounced upwards by the river.

'Bow 5 needs even more reflections two from the river and one inside the raindrops.'

The last rainbow is barely discernible, but Dr Cowley insists it is there if you look hard enough.

He added: 'Bow 6, of which Nola's camera has caught just a faint fragment, is from one river reflection and two more inside raindrops.

'It is so faint because of the many reflections and because its colours are spread out.'
Interesting Shelby Steele Essay

Steele sees the problem, if that's what it is, but doesn't propose a solution. I'm always a bit baffled why conservatives put so much weight on what happened in the Sixties, almost taking the decade as ground-zero for a new American reality. I've tended to see more continuities between the 1950's and 1970's than ruptures. People forget that, for most, the decade was actually pretty kind. But each person has their own experience:
Today conservatism is stigmatized in our culture as an antiminority political philosophy. In certain quarters, conservatism is simply racism by another name. And minorities who openly identify themselves as conservatives are still novelties, fish out of water.

Yet there is now the feeling that without an appeal to minorities, conservatism is at risk of marginalization. The recent election revealed a Republican Party -- largely white, male and Southern -- seemingly on its way to becoming a "regional" party. Still, an appeal targeted just at minorities -- reeking as it surely would of identity politics -- is anathema to most conservatives. Can't it be assumed, they would argue, that support of classic principles -- individual freedom and equality under the law -- constitutes support of minorities? And, given the fact that blacks and Hispanics often poll more conservatively than whites on most social issues, shouldn't there be an easy simpatico between these minorities and political conservatism?

But of course the reverse is true. There is an abiding alienation between the two -- an alienation that I believe is the great new challenge for both modern conservatism and formerly oppressed minorities. Oddly, each now needs the other to evolve.

Yet why this alienation to begin with? Can it be overcome?

I think it began in a very specific cultural circumstance: the dramatic loss of moral authority that America suffered in the 1960s after openly acknowledging its long mistreatment of blacks and other minorities. Societies have moral accountability, and they cannot admit to persecuting a race of people for four centuries without losing considerable moral legitimacy. Such a confession -- honorable as it may be -- virtually calls out challenges to authority. And in the 1960s challenges emerged from everywhere -- middle-class white kids rioted for "Free Speech" at Berkeley, black riots decimated inner cities across the country, and violent antiwar protests were ubiquitous. America suddenly needed a conspicuous display of moral authority in order to defend the legitimacy of its institutions against relentless challenge.

This was the circumstance that opened a new formula for power in American politics: redemption. If you could at least seem to redeem America of its past sins, you could win enough moral authority to claim real political power. Lyndon Johnson devastated Barry Goldwater because -- among other reasons -- he seemed bent on redeeming America of its shameful racist past, while Goldwater's puritanical libertarianism precluded his even supporting the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Johnson's Great Society grandly advertised a new American racial innocence. If it utterly failed to "end poverty in our time," it succeeded -- through a great display of generosity toward minorities and the poor -- in recovering enough moral authority to see the government through the inexorable challenges of the '60s.

When redemption became a term of power, "redemptive liberalism" was born -- a new activist liberalism that gave itself a "redemptive" profile by focusing on social engineering rather than liberalism's classic focus on individual freedom. In the '60s there was no time to allow individual freedom to render up the social good. Redemptive liberalism would proactively engineer the good. Name a good like "integration," and then engineer it into being through a draconian regimen of school busing. If the busing did profound damage to public education in America, it gave liberals the right to say, "At least we did something!" In other words, we are activists against America's old sin of segregation. Activism is moral authority in redemptive liberalism.

But conservatism sees moral authority more in a discipline of principles than in activism. It sees ideas of the good like "diversity" as mere pretext for the social engineering that always leads to unintended and oppressive consequences. Conservatism would enforce the principles that ensure individual freedom, and then allow "the good" to happen by "invisible hand."

And here is conservatism's great problem with minorities. In an era when even failed moral activism is redemptive -- and thus a source of moral authority and power -- conservatism stands flat-footed with only discipline to offer. It has only an invisible hand to compete with the activism of the left. So conservatism has no way to show itself redeemed of America's bigoted past, no way like the Great Society to engineer a grand display of its innocence, and no way to show deference to minorities for the oppression they endured. Thus it seems to be in league with that oppression.

Added to this, American minorities of color -- especially blacks -- are often born into grievance-focused identities. The idea of grievance will seem to define them in some eternal way, and it will link them atavistically to a community of loved ones. To separate from grievance -- to say simply that one is no longer racially aggrieved -- will surely feel like an act of betrayal that threatens to cut one off from community, family and history. So, paradoxically, a certain chauvinism develops around one's sense of grievance. Today the feeling of being aggrieved by American bigotry is far more a matter of identity than of actual aggrievement.
Beer Bottle Dominoes

Chameleon Alcopops

Funny business with funny drinks:
Reporting from Sacramento -- Substance-abuse foes cheered last year when state officials cracked down on sweet, sometimes fizzy, intoxicating drinks such as Mike's Hard Lemonade that -- save for their alcohol content -- bear a remarkable resemblance to soda pop.

The sugary beverages had long been taxed as flavored beers. But state authorities reclassified them as liquor, raising the levies on a six-pack by a factor of 16 to match the rate consumers pay on vodka, rum and other distilled spirits. The move was supposed to generate $38 million in annual revenue for the state.

Now the numbers are in: The state has collected about $9,000 since the new tax rate kicked in Oct. 1. Some officials and activists suspect fraud.

Beverage makers admit they aren't paying the new taxes. They say they don't have to because they have reformulated the drinks -- more than 6,000 varieties -- to transform them into simple beers by limiting the amount of distilled spirits they contain.

They won't explain how. The formulas, they say, are trade secrets. And beverage-industry officials and federal regulators say there are no tests to determine how much distilled spirits the drinks contain.

"We're suspicious," said Mike Scippa, advocacy director at the Marin Institute, an alcohol-industry watchdog. "These drinks are not beer. They don't taste like it, smell like it or look like it. But they are being sold like beer."

A showdown is brewing between the beverage companies and state officials.

...The feud is being watched nationwide. California is one of a handful of states aggressively campaigning against makers of "alcopops" -- also called flavored malt beverages -- such as Smirnoff Ice Raspberry Burst, Bacardi Silver Peach and Mike's Hard Lemonade.

Critics, including the American Medical Assn., say manufacturers are using the cheap, sweet, convenience-store beverages to lure teenagers into drinking. They point to marketing campaigns that they say are aimed specifically at underage girls, something the manufacturers deny.

The Board of Equalization approved the reclassification in November 2007 after extensive testimony from anti-substance-abuse activists, including some teenagers. The new levies were intended to raise the price of a typical six-pack by $1.74 -- or 20%. Advocates were hoping that would deter teenagers from buying the brews.

Just before the new tax rate took effect in October, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law requiring alcopop containers, many of which resemble soda bottles, to have a prominent label that states: "CONTAINS ALCOHOL."

But manufacturers now say that since the drinks are no longer alcopops, the products are not subject to labeling requirements. In fact, they say, they're simply doing what they said they would do if the tax rules were changed.

"What happened is exactly what we said was going to happen," said Marc Sorini, an attorney with the Flavored Malt Beverage Coalition, a consortium of producers. "We told them over and over again at the hearings that this is what we would do."

The only government agency that has access to the formulas is the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which is declining to share them with California investigators. Bureau spokesman Art Resnick says his agency is prevented from providing the information to state officials by the Federal Trade Secrets Act and provisions of the federal tax code governing such confidential material.

Jim Mosher, an analyst at the CDM Group, a consulting firm that researches substance-abuse policies, called the refusal of federal regulators to provide the formulas "an outrage."

"They consider protecting industry trade secrets more important than protecting the public's health," Mosher said.
Another Tool From Tooele

One day in 1989, when I lived in Salt Lake City, I was walking home from work, and about to cross a street, when three teens jumped out of a passing car, hosed me down with seltzer bottles, jumped back into their car, and sped off. The police traced the car to Tooele (west of SLC, one valley over).

They seem to raise jerks out there:
The Tooele City Attorney’s Office has filed charges against a 19-year-old man who allegedly stole and then decapitated two pet pygmy goats last Halloween.

Orion Kent Mitchell Stoltman, formerly of Tooele, and a male juvenile accomplice allegedly stole the goats from a backyard pen and took them to Northlake Elementary School, where they proceeded to cut off the animals’ heads. The crime was discovered just before 2 a.m. by a neighbor whose fence borders the school yard.

...Police were able to connect the goats back to their owners — Dena and Zack Linnell — because of a collar found around one of the goat’s neck. The Linnells had purchased the pets less than a year before for their 2-year-old son.
Don't Procrastinate, Plastinate!

There once was a boy, Michael Jackson
Who yearned for better wax than Lenin
His honker was a project
Surgery thoroughly wrecked
What better fate than plastination?

It's better than putting razor blades under a pyramid!:
MICHAEL Jackson will achieve his dream of immortality by being stuffed with plastic by Dr Death.

The King Of Pop, who calls himself Peter Pan, has had a string of cosmetic surgery ops to try to defy the ageing process.

But he is now preparing to strike the ultimate blow against death and decay by having his whole body “plastinated” by controversial doctor Gunther von Hagens.

Jacko, who is a fan of the German anatomist, was said to be thrilled his Body Worlds exhibition would be on at the O2 Arena during his This Is It concerts, which start in July.

...Dr Von Hagens, 64, explained: “Human transience is countered by a need as old as humanity itself: the longing to be immortalised.

“The invention of plastination is an aesthetically sensitive method of preserving meticulously dissected anatomical specimens and even entire bodies as permanent, life-like materials.”
On The Darkest Street In Woodland

11 p.m. Monday night, with only a half moon....

Young Man: Hey! (stage whisper)
Marc: ?
Young Man: Hey!
Marc: ??
Young Man: Hey!
Marc: ???

About 50 feet away, behind a fire hydrant and half-hidden by a hedge, I barely make out the silhouette of someone dressed in black, with discontinuous, fluorescent white stripes speckling his jacket.

Young Man: Do you know how to open this? I want to ask this girl out to the prom and I want to paint her windshield, but I can't open it.

I can't see anything, but I can just hear the rattling metal ball in some kind of spray can.

Marc: No. I have no idea. I don't know if you pop it or shake it....

Young Man: Thanks. Sorry.

I suppose the wannabe tagger was having trouble with those damned adult-proof caps that you have to pry off with a screwdriver blade. In any event, his approach was so guileless, so eager-to-please and naive, that I think he was probably the most sincere person I've met so far this year.
AIG Bonuses

Makes me laugh!:
And get this: Though the payments were called "retention" bonuses, 11 of those 73 millionaires, including one who got $4.6 million, are no longer even at AIG. So if, as AIG has claimed, the bonuses were handed out for the purpose of holding on to talented employees, they often didn't succeed in doing so.
Americans Are Too Nice

The trouble with Americans is that they take the necessary edge off their rhetoric. You should say what you mean, and mean what you say, and almost never apologize. Like the Brits do! Do you think any self-respecting British politician would grovel like this after saying the necessary thing? It's like Dick Cheney's friend, the lawyer who apologized after Cheney shot him in the face. What was that all about? If you don't apologize it doesn't mean anyone will like you less:
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Sen. Charles Grassley wants AIG executives to apologize for the collapse of the insurance giant—but said Tuesday that "obviously" he didn't really mean that they should kill themselves.

The Iowa Republican raised eyebrows with his comments Monday that the executives—under fire for passing out big bonuses even as they were taking a taxpayer bailout—perhaps should "resign or go commit suicide."

But he backtracked Tuesday morning in a conference call with reporters. He said he would like executives of failed businesses to make a more formal public apology, as business leaders have done in Japan.
"The Sound Of Music" - Third Weekend Pix

Left: Kay Hight as Maria.

Left: Giorgio Selvaggio as Captain von Trapp, Emily Cannon-Brown as Elsa Schraeder, and Herb Schultz as Max Detweiler. Of the children, Louisa (Jasmin M.) and Gretl (Rose M.) are the most-visible, with Marta (Ani C.) and someone else obscured.

Left: Liesl (Moriah H.) and Maria (Kay Hight).

Left: Maria (Kay Hight) and Liesl (Moriah H.).

Left: Louisa (Jasmin M.), Friedrich (Rami R.), Gretl (Rose M.), Liesl (Moriah H.), Kurt (William C.), Marta (Ani C., obscured), Brigitta (Kendyl I.), and Herb Schultz as Max Detweiler.

Left: Emily Cannon-Brown as Elsa Schraeder and Herb Schultz as Max Detweiler.

Below: Moriah H. as Liesl and Matthew Kohrt as Rolf in "You Are Sixteen".

Left: "Doe A Deer". Marta (Ani C., kneeling), Gretl (Rose M.), Maria (Kay Hight), Kurt (William C.), Brigitta (Kendyl I., obscured), Louisa (Jasmin M.), and Liesl (Moriah H.).

Left: Gretl (Rose M.), Marta (Ani C.), Brigitta (Kendyl I.), Louisa (Jasmin M.), Friedrich (Rami R.), and Liesl (Moriah H.).

Left: Kay Hight as Maria and Marguerite Morris as Mother Abbess.
Below: Maria (Kay Hight).

Left: Moriah H. as Liesl and Matthew Kohrt as Rolf in "You Are Sixteen".

Below: "Doe A Deer". Liesl (Moriah H.), with Louisa (Jasmin M.) visible, and others obscured, and Maria (Kay Hight).

Left: Friedrich (Rami R.), Louisa (Jasmin M.), Liesl (Moriah H., obscured), Brigitta (Kendyl I.), Maria (Kay Hight), Kurt (William C.), and Gretl (Rose M.).

Left: Kay Hight as Maria.

Last week, we had the Swedish chimp stockpiling stones to throw at humans.

This week, we have Thai monkeys (macaques) teaching their infants how to floss, using human hair.

Que es más civilizado?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Method Acting

Some people do it better than others:
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - A judge locked up killer Clifton Bloomfield for 195 years, but now the multiple murderer is out--on video--in a movie role he filmed between homicides.

Bloomfield described himself as trustworthy and reliable a year and a half ago when casting director David Córdova was auditioning extras for the Sony Pictures movie " Felon " starring Steven Dorff and New Mexico resident Val Kilmer.

And he got the movie role he was seeking playing a convict in a violent prison drama. He already had killed two people, and a month after "Felon" wrapped he resumed his real-life killing spree.

"We're expecting actors to come to our casting calls," Córdova told KRQE News 13. "I'm not expecting the real thing to come through.

"I don't think anybody else was actually aware that we had cast a mass murderer on the film."

Last October Bloomfield pleaded guilty to murdering five people in four separate crimes.

When Bloomfield showed up at the open casting call for "Felon" he said he was an actor with previous experience in the movie " To Live and Die ," which was filmed in Albuquerque, and the cable TV show " Breaking Bad " being produced out of Albuquerque Studios .

"He actually was what he came in to be," Córdova said.

In the movie Dorff plays a homeowner sentenced to three years in prison for killing a burglar who had invaded his home. Kilmer, serving a life sentence, is Dorff's cellmate.

Dorff's character struggles to stay alive behind bars dealing with inmates and violence, away of life all too familiar to Bloomfield. The film was shot in part at the Penitentiary of New Mexico, scene of the nation's deadliest prison riot in 1980.

Bloomfield already knew something about prisons after pleading guilty in 2005 to an armed home invasion in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque.

He was out on probation in November 2007 when he filmed "Felon." A month later he broke into the home of Tak Yi, 79, and his wife Pung Sil Yi, 69, in northeast Albuquerque and killed the couple.

Then in June 2008 he and a friend broke into a downtown home seeking a man suspected of being involved with the friend's wife. However new tenants had just moved in, and Bloomfield shot and killed newlywed Scott Pierce, 38.

That's when police arrested him. In exchange for avoiding a possible death sentence he pleaded guilty to those killings and the 2005 murders of Josephine Selvage and Carlos Esquibel.
Good For Kucinich

Imprison the scum:
After comments made by a New Yorker journalist about Vice President Dick Cheney's alleged involvement in a "executive assassination ring" abroad, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) called Monday for a formal congressional probe.

...“If true, these operations violate longstanding U.S. policy regarding covert actions and illegally bypass Congressional oversight," Kucinich adds. "Hersh is within a year or more of releasing a book that is said to include evidence of this allegation. However, we cannot wait a year or more to establish the truth.”
I Want To Buy A SUV, Bad

If it helps this process along:
A predicted slowdown in Atlantic Ocean currents will cause sea levels along the US northeast coast to rise twice as fast as the global average, exposing New York and other big cities to violent and frequent storm surges, according to a new study.

Manhattan's Wall Street, barely a metre (three feet) above sea level, for example, will find itself underwater more often as the 21st century unfolds, said the study, published online Sunday in Nature Geoscience.
Dream About Pigeons

Ordinary pigeons are among the birds that eat the bird seed I lay out every morning behind my house. I have become a critical link in the neighborhood's pigeon support network.

Pigeons are messy, but I still like them. They are pretty. They are silly.

Traveling in New Zealand last December, I marveled at the New Zealand Pigeon, amongst the largest birds in New Zealand. Apparently this forest bird is the only seed disperser on the islands, making it a keystone species for the entire forest ecosystem. The New Zealand Pigeon is indispensable!

People have only nice things to say about the New Zealand Pigeon:
They seem totally unafraid of man which is much to their detriment. They are entirely vegetarian not even feeding insects to their young as do the honey eaters. Harmless as a dove is an old adage, and like the dove the symbol of purity and peace, they are faithful to their mates, defenseless, gentle and innocent of sin.
Yet, for being a forest bird, the bird seems much too large to fit comfortably in a forest. Walking along Paparoa National Park's Truman Track, several of us awestruck hikers watched two of the pigeons flopping and blundering their way through the tree canopy, crashing into branches, and threatening their own health. I wondered why they did it. Like white doves embody Peace, New Zealand Pigeons seemed to embody Absurdity.

In any event, last night, I dreamt I owned a Very Large Pigeon. Since dreams employ symbolism to make their point, I'm sure I must have been dreaming about the absurd....
The Big Model Brawl In NYC

I don't like the look of this - way too many people crammed into a small space.
After 27 - Hell, After 22 - It All Goes Downhill

I thought as much:
Old age is often blamed for causing us to misplace car keys, forget a word or lose our train of thought.

But new research shows that many well-known effects of ageing may start decades before our twilight years.

According to scientists, our mental abilities begin to decline from the age of 27 after reaching a peak at 22.

...The first age at which performance was significantly lower than the peak scores was 27 – for three tests of reasoning, speed of thought and spatial visualisation. Memory was shown to decline from the average age of 37. In the other tests, poorer results were shown by the age of 42.

...There is some good news, though. The report states that abilities based on accumulated knowledge, such as performance on tests of vocabulary or general information, increase until at least the age of 60.
Like Rumsfeld Did To Iraq, Cheney Did To The Economy

He even uses the same rhetoric:
"Stuff happens," Cheney summarized," and an administration has to be able to respond to that -- and we did."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Martin Peretz Is So Clueless

He completely misunderstands why Jim Cramer is on the air at CNBC. The network's demographic isn't middle-class investors. Plus, he doesn't get Jon Stewart's Daily Show's crucial satirical function in American society:
I've known Jim for more than 30 years. We've had spats two times. He was responsible once. I, the other. I've done business with him and made money with him. And we started The together. He is a trusted and loving friend.

He is now being battered in the press. Mostly by people whose careers are built on ridiculing others. I happened to have watched the "Mad Money" show in which he spoke about Bear Stearns. He did not not not not say that you needn't worry if you had stock in Bear Stearns. He said you need not worry if you had a brokerage account with Bear Stearns. That was true... and still is true. But we all utter silly enough words in the ordinary course of life that we don't have to invent them, and Jim has his share of them. I do, too.

What I think has happened between Cramer and part of the entertainment industry--which the fact and opinion industry is fast coming to resemble--is that Jim is actually animated by a passion. It is the passion of democratic capitalism. That concern is very different from the concerns of the $10-20 million television comedians who ride around in stretch limousines. Those folk are happy when the people are in trouble. Even Jon Stewart and the makers of his "Daily Show" are happy. Jim Fallows, an always righteous commentator (like his ex-boss Jimmy Carter), has elevated him to Edward R. Murrow who was also over-rated in his time.

The folk Cramer has been trying to help all these years with "Mad Money" are basically middle class investors.
This just shows that, like so many other elite folks, Martin Peretz thinks he's middle-class, but isn't. Like Gabriel Winant noted:
CNBC's audience is not a demographic cross section of America. If it was a cross section, the network wouldn't make any money; CNBC attracts advertisers not with the size of its audience but with its maleness and its affluence. The network gets about a quarter million viewers a day, a tiny fraction of the U.S. population, but those viewers have a median household net worth of more than $1.2 million. Still, the financial pundits flatter viewers into thinking, as Rick Santelli put it during his famous trading floor rant, that they are "a pretty good statistical cross-section of America." For these guys, investors are America. Jim Cramer asked at one point, of the Obama administration, "Who do they think owns stocks?" As if the obvious answer is, "Everybody!"
Outtakes From A Turkish Version Of "The Wizard Of Oz"

What they really need is a big Balkan line dance with the Munchkins. I keenly feel the absence of line dancing.
DMTC's Theater As Bat Cave

Above: Yolo By-Pass Wilderness Area - Free tailed bat fly-out on July 27, 2006. Estimated 250,000 bats in this migrant colony which departs for Mexico in the fall. Colony roost is below I-80 Yolo Causeway.

The I-80 Yolo Causeway crosses the Yolo Bypass (a sort-of alternative Sacramento River bed, down which snowmelt is diverted in the spring to prevent flooding) between Sacramento and Davis. The I-80 Yolo Causeway is sister to the I-5 Yolo Causeway, which also crosses the Yolo Bypass, but between Woodland and the Sacramento International Airport.

In the warm months, every evening precisely at sunset, thousands of bats leave their roosts under the I-80 Yolo Causeway and head as a flock, generally to the west, to spend an evening catching insects. It's quite a sight, and available to all travelers on I-80 at sunset! But not all bats return to their roosts by dawn....

Apparently a week-and-a-half ago, a bat found its way into the theater (perhaps during set-building for Disney's "Mulan, Jr.", when the big rollup door had be open). The bat has been seen only sporadically, leading the theater's consultant on bat activity, a woman known as the Bat Lady, to suggest that perhaps two separate bats have flown into the theater at different times.

Saturday evening, just a few minutes prior to "The Sound Of Music," the bat appeared backstage, flying to and fro in the spacious zone behind the cyc. The bat flew into the theater proper (the House) and seemed particularly attracted by the curtain fabric above the stage, trying several times to roost there. We opened backstage doors, including the big rollup door, to coax the bat outside, but the bat was flying too high (12 feet up, at a minimum) to be tempted to leave. Timorously, Jan announced to the waiting audience, gathered in the lobby, that a bat was present in the theater and not to be too worried about it if it appeared during the show. Remarkably, judging by the lack of a reaction, the audience seemed to have no problem with a flying bat.

During the show, the bat stayed out of sight. I have no idea what the bat was doing during that time, but I'd like to think he was clinging upside down from the ceiling, transfixed by the story of Maria and Captain von Trapp, and enjoying the music.

After the show, just before the lights were turned off in the entire theater, the bat reappeared, flying to and fro in the lobby. Jetta (a friend from Tuesday's Improv class) and I opened the doors of the lobby, but the bat was flying too high (12 feet up, at a minimum) to be encouraged to leave.


Following the post-show gathering for dinner and pie at Baker's Square, Jetta and I decided to return to the darkened theater (about 12:45 a.m.) to try again to remove the bat. We both worried about the poor, trapped bat, cut off from insects and its fellow kind. Plus, a trapped bat wouldn't be any great boon to the theater.

We opened up a door to the lobby, turned on the lobby's lights, and saw nothing at first. Suddenly, the bat appeared, circling right in our faces, flying to and fro in the lobby, between knee and head height (apparently the bat had been on-or-near the floor when we startled it). We quickly scrambled to open the rest of the lobby's doors.

As I opened one glass door, in the reflection of the door's glass, I saw the bat directly behind my head (and since I could see a reflection, the bat wasn't a 'vampire'!)

Then, suddenly, the bat vanished. Did the bat leave unobserved? Maybe, maybe... Jetta thought she had caught motion out of the corner of her eye, however, suggesting the bat had flown back into the theater proper, but after turning on lights all over the theater, we were still unable to locate it. After a while, she began doubting whether she had actually seen anything. I thought there was a real chance the bat had managed to make an escape through the lobby's doors, but we had no real confirmation.

Today, during Sunday matinee's "The Sound Of Music," no bat was sighted. Either the bat was keeping a very low profile, or the bat had vanished entirely. I hope the latter!
Doggone It, I Left The Camera At The Theater

Weekend pictures up tomorrow night, at the earliest.