Friday, June 26, 2009

"The Sleeping Beauty Ballet" - Applegate Dance Studio

Left: The Lilac Fairy (Monica Fadel) and her Court.
Left: Sequence Rashad "Q" Grisby as Carabosse, and Kara Brodie as Wormwood.
Left: Sequence Rashad "Q" Grisby as Carabosse, and Kara Brodie as Wormwood.

Left: Garland Ladies.
Left: More Garland Ladies.
Left: Hanna Herrera as Little Red Riding Hood.
Left: Kara Brodie as the White Cat.
Left: Ted Keener (of the Smuin Ballet) as Prince Desire.
Left: Kara Brodie as the White Cat, and Sequence Rashad "Q" Grisby as "Puss 'n Boots".
Left: Nicole Solano as Princess Aurora.
Left: Nicole Solano as Princess Aurora.
Left: Nicole Solano as Princess Aurora, and the Four Suitors (in no particular order; Nick Cooper, Ted Keener, Maxim Lin-Yee, and Kelly Schmutte).
Left: The Queen (Dion Wiedenhoefer), Princess Aurora (Nicole Solano), and Aurora's Friends (in no particular order; Natalie Kelly, Mackie Stille, Hanna Wiedenhoefer, and Anna Wilen).

Left: Monica Fadel as the Lilac Fairy.

Left: Three peasant girls (Casey Marr in the center).

The World Isn't Quite Set Up For My Needs

I went to the doctor's office today, and while sitting in the waiting room, I picked up a magazine (forget the title - something like OUT) and saw an ad for Southwest Airlines' Gay Travel program. That made me smile: I mean, what could (or should) be more gender-neutral than hauling your ass from one side of the country to the other?

Looking online to check out Gay Travel's benefits, I see this:
Imagine 2,000 women aboard a luxury liner traveling from one sunny tropical port to the next. That’s your reality aboard the Sweet Caribbean Cruise. For an entire week, it’s all women, all the time. The result is a fun, empowering and inspiring vacation. Make new friends, dance the night away, soak in the sun, make business connections and revel in the all-star lesbian entertainment.
I know, I know - I'm not the target demographic. Nonetheless, it sounds like fun!

Jackson Five On The Ed Sullivan Show

Link To Pepper Von's 'Cardio Funk' MJ Tribute Class

I can be seen clumpin' along too.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Tonight at 'Cardio Funk' fitness class, KOVR TV-13 showed up to do a filmed news item, apparently in regards to Michael Jackson's legacy to local young singers/dancers, or somesuch. So Caitlin Kiley, and myself, will appear, with the rest of the class, on tonight's 10 p.m. news!

RIP, Michael Jackson

Huge shock.

And with Farrah Fawcett passing away too, the whole decade of the Seventies is evaporating before our eyes...

"The Music Man" - First Sunday Pictures

Below left: "(Ya Got) Trouble", featuring Rand Martin as Harold Hill.

Below right: Kendyl I. as Amaryllis Hix.

Left: "Seventy-Six Trombones" - Harold Hill (Rand Martin).

Left: "Seventy-Six Trombones" - Harold Hill (Rand Martin).

Left: "Seventy-Six Trombones" - Harold Hill (Rand Martin).

Left: "Seventy-Six Trombones".

Left: "Marian the Librarian" - Laura Wardrip as Marian Paroo and Rand Martin as Harold Hill.

Left: "Marian the Librarian". On the forward bench, Ashley H. and Kelly Soderlund.

Left: "Marian the Librarian" - Laura Wardrip as Marian Paroo and Rand Martin as Harold Hill.

Left: "Wells Fargo Wagon".

Left: "Wells Fargo Wagon", with Calvin Y. singing, and Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn (Mary Young) in pink.

Left: "Wells Fargo Wagon".

Left: "Shipoopi", featuring Ethel Toffelmeyer (Wendy Young Carey) at the front. Also visible, left to right, Lydia S., Ashley H., Kelly Soderlund, and McKinley C.

Iran Protests Continue, Despite The Crackdown

Fascinating and violent Teheran street scene, showing protestors apparently overcoming (if not necessarily repelling) an assault by basiji and other security forces at about the 5 minute mark.

Rumors abound:
Reliable sources in Iran are suggesting that a possible compromise to put an end to the violent uprising that has rocked Iran for the past two weeks may be in the works. I have previously reported that the second most powerful man in Iran, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, the head of the Assembly of Experts (the body with the power to choose and dismiss the Supreme Leader) is in the city of Qom—the country’s religious center—trying to rally enough votes from his fellow Assembly members to remove the current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei from power. News out of Iran suggests that he may be succeeding. At the very least, it seems he may have gained enough support from the clerical establishment to force a compromise from Khamenei, one that would entail a run-off election between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his main reformist rival Mir Hossein Mousavi.
Interesting image (I wonder if it's legitimate?):


Returning home late last night, I saw a panicked black cat running down the alley. "What's that about?" I wondered. At least it didn't cross my path, but still, it's probably bad luck to see a panicked black cat.

When I pulled up in the driveway, I saw another black animal (with a bit of white on him): a skunk! The skunk was in full panic, with its tail pointing straight up, and desperately trying to escape from my bright headlights by trying to find a hole in which to hide. For a couple of seconds I enjoyed the spectacle, but then the skunk found a space and disappeared through the gate into my yard. The motion-sensitive light in my garage came on, which meant the skunk was - hiding in my garage! How nice!

I gingerly entered the yard and crept into the house.

A few minutes later, I decided to check the mailbox, and went out the front door. Below, in the front yard, I heard some movement and chattering. There were two skunks down there! One must have been the one in my back yard, but I'm not sure how it got out front. But maybe there were three skunks overall.

Like they say about polar bears; 'Where does a skunk go? Wherever it wants to.'

Be afraid, be very afraid!

Grover Norquist On Governor Sanford's Travails

The secret revealed, at last! All my wasted time and energy!:
“It does indicate that men who oppose federal spending at the local level are irresistible to women.”

More On Modest Dress

My friend writes back with more thoughts on burqas:
It is possible, I suppose, that women in the more extreme Islamic countries wear the burqa out of choice, but I doubt it. I recall hearing of an incident in Afghanistan shortly after the Taliban was forced out of Kabul. Women, in particular, were greatly relieved to be free of the rules that kept them in slavery. One remarked that "now we no longer have to wear the burqa" at which point her husband said sternly that she must continue to wear it. She bowed her head and said nothing more.

Free choice is the crux of the issue. There may be a few women who see the full body burqa as comfortable and proper attire that reflects their religious values. I recall a woman who I would occasionally--a Huntington's victim I suspect--who would walk down the street in extreme summer heat wearing a heavy winter coat. She was controlled by her disease. The women in fundamentalist Islamic countries are, I think, similarly controlled by the disease of fundamentalist religious control. Maybe it is a reflection of beliefs that have been fed to them from an early age but I suspect it is more likely the control of violent and domineering husbands and fathers.

In many situations people doing unreasonable things will insist they do so by their own volition. Women in polygamist cults come to mind. But once they are removed from that situation where they are no longer under the physical and emotional control of their abusers they often see things differently.

The wearing of a simple head scarf is hardly any different than a Christian woman wearing a cross pendant. It is a simple statement of values. But a burqa is another matter. It seems to me to be more akin to the now-discontinued Chinese practice of foot binding--a macabre and cruel form of emotionally unstable men using their culturally-derived power to control women.

In countries such as Afghanistan the solution, in my opinion, is to get girls--and boys--into school at an early age. Teach them to read, teach them to think without fear. And then see how many of those educated, thinking women will want to wear a burqa. Get rid of the religious fanaticism and then perhaps the men will see that they do not need to keep women in their culture in slavery.

Wallabies Getting High; Setting Bad Example For The Sheep

Everywhere you look in the world, just so many problems:
Wallabies are getting “as high as a kite” on opium in Australian poppy fields and flattening crops as they hop round in circles, according to a report.

The marsupials, which look like small kangaroos, have been getting into medical opium crops in the southern island state of Tasmania and chewing on the plant’s intoxicating heads, state officials said.

...Tasmania is the world’s largest producer of legally-grown opium for the pharmaceutical market, with about 500 farms supplying approximately 50 percent of the raw material for morphine and other opiate drugs.

Livestock and other animals, such as deer and sheep, which eat the plants had also been seen acting “weird,” industry spokesman Rick Rockliff said.

“There have been many stories about sheep that have eaten some of the poppies after harvesting and they all walk around in circles,” he said.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


As a blogger, I would hope to provide the world a service by highlighting interesting or useful ideas. It seems, however, that all I may be doing is spreading memes akin to diseases. And maybe this helps explain why bad mass media coverage somehow never improves with time, but, if anything, gets worse:
A new psychology study helps explain why some stars burn bright, long, long after their talent has faded – if it ever was there to begin with.

Simply put, says Nathanael Fast of Stanford University in California, people need something to talk about. The human desire to find common ground in conversation pushes us to discuss already popular people, he says.

Fast's team focused not on gossip column celebrities, but on professional baseball players in the US

"We realised that there's a ton of stats and performance data available for baseball, so if we can show that famous or well-known baseball players become more prominent than unknown baseball players who perform just as well or better, we're able to make a convincing case," he says.

Many economists have argued that in the market of popular culture, quality marks the difference between popularity and obscurity. For instance, a 1991 study by William Hamlen Jr of the University at Buffalo, New York,found that an objective measure of vocal harmony predicted album sales, with Barbara Streisand coming out on top in both measures.

To determine if conversation could drive fame, independent of quality, Fast's team gave a list of eight baseball players with statistics on their previous season's performance to 33 male and 56 female volunteers. Volunteers picked a name from the list and drafted a short email to another person in the group about the player. In some cases, the volunteer was told that the person receiving the email was an avid fan.

More often than not, they found, volunteers conversed about popular but under-performing players like Ken Griffey Jr and Roger Clemens, rather than more obscure players who put up amazing numbers, such as Miguel Cabrera.

..."The very experts who could kind of inform everyone else don't. They actually keep feeding them the information they already know because that helps establish a connection," Fast says.

...If this whole argument seems circular, that's the point. Prominent people stay popular for longer than they ought to because they serve as conversational fodder, which in turn drives more media coverage.

"Take Paris Hilton, somehow or another she became well known and now people are more likely to talk about her," Fast says.

Mark Schaller, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, agrees. "It does provide an answer to the question of why fame is self-perpetuating, even when the famous person isn't doing anything fame-worthy anymore."

What is less clear is how people, ideas and practices become prominent in the first place, Schaller says. In baseball, performance is likely to provide the initial inertia to stardom. But other aspects of culture come into prominence because of a quality that Schaller calls communicability.

"Catching an idea is not a whole lot different in some metaphorical way than catching a disease," he says.

35,000-Year-Old Flute

Inadvertently funny:
The wing bone of a griffon vulture with five precisely drilled holes in it is the oldest known musical instrument, a 35,000-year-old relic of an early human society that drank beer, played flute and drums and danced around the campfire on cold winter evenings, researchers said today.

Excavated from a cave in Germany, the nearly complete flute suggests that the first humans to occupy Europe had a fairly sophisticated culture, complete with alcohol, adornments, art objects and music, that they developed there or even brought with them from Africa when they moved to the new continent 40,000 years or so ago.

...The flute was discovered last summer in the Hohle Fels cave, about 14 miles southwest of the city of Ulm, by archaeologist Nicholas J. Conard of Germany's University of Tubingen. Conard described the find in a report published online by the journal Nature.

The cave is the same one where Conard found the recently described 40,000-year-old Venus figurine, the oldest known representation of the female form, as well as a host of other artifacts, including ivory carvings of a horse's or bear's head, a water bird that may be in flight, and a half-human, halflion figure.

...The reconstructed flute, a little under nine inches long, was found in 12 pieces in a layer of sediment nearly 9 feet below the cave's floor. The team also found fragments of two ivory flutes -- which are less durable -- that are probably not quite as old.

The surfaces of the flute and the structure of the bone are in excellent condition and reveal many details about the manufacture of the flute. The maker carved two deep, V-shaped notches into one end of the instrument, presumably to form the end into which the musician blew, and four fine lines near the finger holes. The other end is broken off but, based on the normal size of the vultures, Conard estimates the intact flute was probably 2 to 3 inches longer.

In 2004, Conard found a 30,000-year-old, seven-inch, three-holed ivory flute at the nearby Geissenklösterle cave, and he has found fragments of several others, although none are as old as the Hohle Fels artifact. Combined, the finds indicate the development of a strong musical tradition in the region, accompanied by the development of figurative art and other innovations, Conard said.

The presence of music did not directly produce a more effective subsistence economy and greater reproductive success, he concluded, but it seems to have contributed to improved social cohesion and new forms of communication, which indirectly contributed to demographic expansion of modern humans to the detriment of the culturally more conservative Neanderthals.

Modest Dress

A friend writes:
I suppose the Republicans will find some angle to bitch about the French over this too...
What is this about?:
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has spoken out strongly against the wearing of the burka by Muslim women in France.

..."We cannot accept to have in our country women who are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity," Mr Sarkozy told a special session of parliament in Versailles.

"That is not the idea that the French republic has of women's dignity.

"The burka is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience. It will not be welcome on the territory of the French republic," the French president said.

But he stressed that France "must not fight the wrong battle", saying that "the Muslim religion must be respected as much as other religions" in the country.

...In 2004, France banned the Islamic headscarf and other conspicuous religious symbols from public schools, triggering heated debate in the country and abroad.

...The immigration minister, Eric Besson, has said a full ban will only "create tensions" while the junior minister for human rights, Rama Yade, said she would accept a ban if it was aimed at protecting women forced to wear the burka.

..."To raise the subject like this, via a parliamentary committee, is a way of stigmatising Islam and the Muslims of France," said Mohammed Moussaoui, head of the French Council for the Muslim Religion.

France is home to about five million Muslims.
Actually, I’m not as hardline on burkas as the French seem to be (and I know it drives them crazy). If people want to wear distinct dress for religious reasons, I think that is their right, and not even the French can take it away from them. And I understand the point the French (and other folks too, like the secular Turks) are trying to make with their anti-burka message – it’s just that I think they are overreaching. People have loyalties to religions, cultures, and families, and if they want to sacrifice what some people call dignity (and what they might call pride) on behalf of those things, then they should be allowed to do so. But should they want to do without burkas, they have that right too (which is where I suppose the trouble really starts).

I remember, on my one and only trip to the East Coast in 1978, watching an Amish family in full traditional dress negotiate the Philadelphia Greyhound bus station. The kids were a little freaked out by the stares, I think.

Earlier this year, a Muslim woman was in one of my aerobics classes. Trying to simultaneously maintain religious dignity while remaining comfortable during vigorous exercise is a challenge, but she seemed to manage OK, with loose-fitting modest clothing covering the legs and arms, plus a head scarf. And she didn’t seem oppressed or unnecessarily discomfited. (She hasn’t been around lately, though, and I worry about that).

One Big Problem With On-Line College Courses

If you can't see the people in your classroom, you don't know what they are doing:
PHOENIX -- A federal grand jury has indicted 65 people accused of defrauding the government out of more than $500,000 in federal student aid money.

Authorities say Trenda Lynne Halton, 37, of Peoria, Ariz., recruited people to pretend to be students and apply for student aid.

Halton is accused of creating fake documents and helping people enroll in online classes at Rio Salado Community College in Tempe.

U.S. Attorney for Arizona Diane Humetewa said that the alleged ruse was initially discovered by an alert financial aid officer at Rio Salado.

Halton was arrested Wednesday on charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, financial aid fraud and making false statements.

Hiking The Appalachian Trail

Silly me. I was mystified by all the fuss, and thought it was most-likely Governor Sanford was hiking the Appalachian Trail. Nonetheless, there are far worse things than getting captured by the tango culture of Buenos Aires:
South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford admitted to an extra-marital affair with an Argentinian woman Wednesday afternoon, at an eagerly-awaited press conference to explain his sudden disappearance last week.

Sanford also announced his resignation as chair of the Republican Governors’ Association, but he evaded a question on whether he would step down as governor of South Carolina.

“I’ve been unfaithful to my wife,” Sanford said in front of the cameras. “I developed a relationship with … a dear, dear friend from Argentina. It began very innocently, as I suspect these things do. In the last year, it developed into something much more than that.”

“I spent the last five days of my life crying in Argentina,” Sanford said, though it was unclear whether he had broken off the relationship with his love interest.
And then there was this, of course, and as usual:
It's becoming something of a pattern with the folks over at Fox News: All too often when a Republican politician is caught in a compromising situation, the news network declares the person in question to be ... a Democrat.

Sarychev Peak Erupts

Craig sends this:
An amazing new picture from space reveals a volcanic eruption in its earliest stage, with a huge plume of ash and steam billowing skyward and creating a shock wave in the atmosphere.

Sarychev Peak on Matua Island is one of the most active volcanoes in the Kuril Island chain, northeast of Japan.

The new photo was taken June 12 from the International Space Station. NASA says volcano researchers are excited about the picture "because it captures several phenomena that occur during the earliest stages of an explosive volcanic eruption."

The main plume appears to be a combination of brown ash and white steam, according to a NASA statement. The vigorously rising plume gives the steam a bubble-like appearance

The surrounding atmosphere has been shoved up by the shock wave of the eruption, scientists said.

...The smooth white cloud on top may be water condensation that resulted from rapid rising and cooling of the air mass above the ash column. This cloud is probably a transient feature, scientists say, with the eruption plume is starting to punch through. The cloud casts a dark shadow to the northwest of the island.

...The photo also shows a ground-hugging plume of light gray ash, probably a mix of hot gas and ash in what volcanologists call a pyroclastic flow, descending from the volcano summit. Pyroclastic flows — deadly to anything or anyone in their paths — are known to be up to 600 degrees and rush across the land at 130 mph.

...The last explosive eruption from Sarychev Peak was in 1989.

"Music Man" Review

Here's Bev's review!:
Choreographer Ron Cisneros and costumer Jean Henderson are the clear winners of the new Davis Musical Theatre Company production of Meredith Willson's 'The Music Man,' under the direction of Steve Isaacson.

I'm consistently impressed by what Cisneros can do with a mixed group of dancers and nondancers, while making everything look cohesive.

This 'Music Man' has a huge cast: perhaps larger than I remember ever seeing on the DMTC stage before, and many of them children of varying sizes from adolescent down to the very young. Cisneros' choreography makes this a very good show.

Henderson must have been seeing stars before she finished all the costumes, as the Independence Day scene is filled with stars and stripes of all sizes. The entire look of the production is crisp and clean, and the stage action pops.

The excellent choreography and costumes are complemented by a solid cast of performers, many of them old-timers who haven't worked together in awhile.

Rand Martin may not be the most dynamic Harold Hill you'll ever see, but he handles the role well. (Although, alas, he flubbed several lines at the performance I saw.) Hill is the traveling salesman you can't dislike, and Martin does a good job.

Laura Wardrip is excellent as Marian Paroo, the librarian not easily taken in by this stranger who promises to create a boys' band, thus preventing the youth of River City, Iowa, from being corrupted by the town's new pool table. Wardrip has a lovely voice and she looks beautiful, especially in the gown worn for the town social.

As Marian's mother, Lenore Sebastian is first-class, with an Irish brogue that sounds authentic to this American ear.

Michael Carey rounds out the Paroo family as Winthrop, the shy young boy with a lisp, who still broods over his father's death two years earlier, and whose life is changed by Hill and his promises.

Gil Sebastian makes a bombastic Mayor Shinn, master of the malaprop and home-grown phrases - 'I couldn't make myself more clear if I were a buttonhook in the well water!' - who wants his town councilmen to 'get that spellbinder's credentials,' and also hopes to keep the town hooligan away from his oldest girl.

Mary Young sinks her teeth into the role of Shinn's wife, Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn. Young relishes her many chances to sing off-key and preen over all the townspeople.

My one disappointment with the direction or choreography - it's unclear which is to blame - came during the tableau of Grecian urns performed by Eulalie and her friends.

I could detect no difference between 'one Grecian urn' and 'two Grecian urns,' nor did the women create anything close to resembling 'fountain.' Granted, this sequence is supposed to be bad, but it could have been a little better at being bad.

Paul Fearn plays Marcellus Washburn, Hill's buddy and accomplice from years earlier, who happens to be in the town when the 'professor' sets up shop. Fearn, reminiscent of Buddy Hackett (who played the role in the movie), is the perfect choice for Marcellus.

Matt Kohrt is Tommy Djilas, the town hooligan; McKinley Carlisle is Zaneeta Shinn, the mayor's eldest daughter.

They make a cute couple.

Rich Kulmann, in the small roles of the train conductor and (later) the town constable, has serious projection problems and could barely be heard (which is unusual for this veteran actor).

Marc Valdez is appropriately smarmy as Charlie Cowell, the anvil salesman determined to warn the town about Hill before it's too late.

The town councilmen - Rich Price, Rick Wennstrom, Don Stephenson and Andy Hyun - make a great barbershop quartet, although their tempos are a bit slow from time to time.

The 'Pickalittle Ladies,' who fill Professor Hill in on all the gossip about Marian, are irresistible.

Isaacson is credited with scenic design; I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, knowing that things often get done at the last minute, and that, in this case, he and his wife were called out of town unexpectedly. The backdrop seems to have no correlation to the show, and adds nothing to the look of the stage except a lot of empty sky and badly proportioned buildings that are intended to represent Main Street.

That said, you have to work really hard to do a bad production of 'Music Man.' Even with its little flaws, this one delights.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Makes It Sound Like She's Worse Than A Hurricane

Come now, she can't be that bad:
AMY Winehouse is a "tattooed reptile" who will bring "untold human suffering" to St. Lucia. The former governor of the Caribbean island has written a public appeal begging officials to stop the Rehab singer from buying a house and settling there permanently.

Jeff Fedee wrote in the St. Lucia Star newspaper: "I would strongly urge she be denied residency status to purchase property in St. Lucia. Is she being given special treatment? She'd be a menace and a dangerous influence to our society because the demons that inhabit her tortured body will have to be fed." - BANG Showbiz / AP

Balancing The Needs Of The Living With The Needs Of History

John writes:
Hi Marc,

I was reading the Socorro news on topix and came across a reference to this mostly forgotten graveyard in Socorro. From the sounds of it there were still some headstones there in the 1970's. It brings up an interesting dilemma: what do we do with old graveyards where there are few or no living people who remember the people buried there or even the names of those people. It probably would not be a big news story if there were not Confederate soldiers there; the nostalgia of the Old South and honoring of the Confederate dead is still quite strong I think. Personally, I can understand the frustrations of the landowner. She cannot sell the property but nobody has the money to prove what is really threre. And with New Mexico's 400 year history of European settlement and thousands of years of Native American settlement prior to that one would assume that this will continue to be an issue in many places there.
Here is the link:
SOCORRO — Mary Silva's vacant lot — a rocky patch of land as nondescript as any in this hardscrabble neighborhood of modest houses, ramshackle mobile homes and abandoned trailers — is among the few valuable possessions she hopes to leave to her nine children.

But Ken Garrison, a Civil War buff and officer with the New Mexico Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said Silva's lot, which likely holds hundreds of human remains in a long-abandoned cemetery, should instead be restored in honor of 27 Confederate soldiers believed to be among the unmarked graves.

In keeping with the organization's mission of preserving the history and legacy of the Confederate soldiers, Garrison said if the abandoned cemetery can't be preserved, the soldiers' remains should be exhumed and reburied "in a respectable location."

State law makes it nearly impossible for Silva or her eventual heirs to do anything with the land, officially designated as an "unmarked burial ground," or for Garrison to realize his dream of relocating the Confederate graves.

For such a small lot on Socorro's west side, Mary Silva's legacy is kicking up a lot of dust.

Benny Benassi feat. Channing - Come Fly Away (Adam K & Soha Remix)

I'm glidin' in the beautiful sky,
It's such a clear day.
Go ridin' in,
Your sweet lullabies,
Come fly away.

Feels like your beatin', beatin' the drumbeats into my heart.
Feels like there's nothin', nothin' around to make me stop.
You are a motion that makes me high.
You are a dream that burns inside.
A magic potion, that's my soul.
Come fly with me.

The Chicago Way

"He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue":
LONDON: High-ranking Pakistani officials were behind the killing of eleven French ship-building engineers in Karachi seven years ago, two French judges have ruled.

Until now al-Qaida had been blamed for the bomb attack on a bus in 2002 that killed 11 engineers and three Pakistanis.

The judges suspected that the Pakistanis were retaliating over a decision by former French President Jacques Chirac, to halt payment to Pakistani officers of millions of pounds in secret commission from an 720 million pounds contract signed in 1994, for three French submarines, the Time reported on Tuesday.

The dead engineers were working on the submarine contract for DCN, the French naval shipbuilding enterprise.

Some of the money was kicked back to France to finance the 1995 presidential campaign of Edouard Balladur, Chirac's Prime Minister and rival, according to claims disclosed by the judges.

The chief of Balladur's unsuccessful campaign that year was Nicolas Sarkozy, who was then the Budget Minister.

According to media reports, the French secret service retaliated after the 2002 attack, breaking the legs of two Pakistan navy admirals and killing a lower-ranking officer.

Sarkozy, now the President of France, has dismissed as "a fable" the suspicions of the judges, Marc Trevidic and Yves Janier.

"This is ridiculous... grotesque," Sarkozy said. "Who would believe such a tale," Balladur said that everything about the submarine deal had been "completely regular".

"MySpace To Cut Two-Thirds Of Global Workforce"

When I first saw this headline, I thought, "MySpace has enough clout to drive the unemployment rate worldwide up to 67%?"

But that's not what it meant:
NEW YORK (Reuters) - MySpace, the social networking website owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, said on Tuesday it plans to cut about two-thirds of its international workforce and close at least four of its offices outside the United States.

The proposed restructuring plan would reduce MySpace's international staff to about 150 people from 450, the company said in a statement.

The planned cuts come on top of MySpace's announcement last week that it was reducing its U.S. staff by about 30 percent to 1,000 people, saying its staffing levels were "bloated" and had hurt its ability to be efficient and nimble.

Roughly half of MySpace's total user base comes from outside the United States. Rival Facebook's worldwide user base is more than double that of MySpace, according to market researcher comScore.

"As we conducted our review of the company, it was clear that internationally, just as in the U.S., MySpace's staffing had become too big and cumbersome to be sustainable in current market conditions," MySpace Chief Executive Owen Van Natta said in a statement.

Scary Washing Machine

New Zealand machine frightens the children.

Make A Happier Home, With Lard

Marc's Stir Fry

Like people everywhere these days, as part of my general belt-tightening strategy to cope with my recent 20% reduction in salary, I decided to start preparing more of my dinners at home.

The only trouble, of course, is that my cooking skills, vestigial even in the best of times, and under merciless assault from years of eating out late-night after theater fun, had essentially withered away. I can order from a menu, of course, but that skill is not of much use when I'm the one who has to take the order. I secretly admired people - say, independent 20-year-olds - who weren't chained to a restaurant and could cook for themselves. Shouldn't I be able to do the same? So, I began exercising the one or two remaining neurons where those cooking skills were stored. I decided to prepare: stir fry.

There were examples to guide my choices.....

Of course, Steve has his brand of stir fry, served at DMTC cast parties, but I find it a bit salty (I think it's the soy sauce - probably bad for the blood pressure). Anyway, by the time I make my laggard arrival at most cast parties, the stir fry is seriously picked-over of the good stuff (like mushrooms) and thus too-heavily biased towards rice, broccoli, and meat chunks for my taste. I wanted something different; maybe something more vegetably.

When I visited Andrew in Australia in 2006, I discovered an entire upside down world where eating choices were - different. Andrew preferred a diet that seemed to consist mostly of tomatoes and capsicums (bell peppers). When he wasn't eating capsicum-flavored tomatoes, he was eating tomato-flavored capsicums. At first, I wondered how the human animal could survive such a diet. But within a week, I had made the transition too, and learned that capsicums and tomatoes make a great team.

Recent forays into Mongolian stir fry restaurants suggested a general strategy of just heaping a whole bunch of good vegetably stuff into the teflon-coated frying pan, heating it up, and flailing away with a spatula. Even I could do that.

And last week, I bought a (pricey) bag of T.G.I.F. Firecracker Sesame Chicken Stir Fry and experimented with that. They used a kind of lo mein noodle for their starch instead of rice, and I thought that was a good idea. I liked their sauce too.

So, somewhat armed with examples, I went to Safeway and shopped for vegetables. I forgot to buy tomatoes or chicken chunks or noodles, but I bought a pretty little package of (Canadian) bell peppers (two green, one red, and one yellow). I also bought mushrooms.

Then I let everything sit in the refrigerator for four or five days. Just 'cause.

Last night, after body-slamming aerobics (particularly hard after Music Man tech week and suffering through a cold), it was time to prepare stir fry!

I didn't have noodles, but I did have some Top Ramen packets (shades of college days!) I didn't know how old the packets were: 2 years? 5 years? 10 years? As long as I could remember, these same Top Ramen packets have been in this same kitchen drawer. And they do tend to store well. These were probably left behind by Egyptian priests to nourish King Tutankhamen on his journey through the underworld. So I boiled up a Cajun Chicken Top Ramen packet, but used only a fraction of the flavor packet, since that's where they keep the salt and the MSG. I didn't have chicken chunks, but I did have some smoked turkey breast - not quite the same, but close enough, so I cut that up. I found some rather-mature carrots in the refrigerator's vegetable bin - a little hairy with roots, but what the heck. I had no spices that I knew of (terra incognita, that pantry), but I found a little bit of A-1 Steak Sauce, and that seemed good enough as a flavoring.

So, I added the mushrooms to the mix, plus a green and yellow capsicum, and whomped up stir fry. Plus some boiled corn on the side, for variety.

Result: somewhat bland, but filling, and probably reasonably healthy. And having made this first step, I can start making more steps, on my 12-step cooking skill recovery plan. Because all journeys start with a single first step.....

Here is an interesting discussion on Wikipedia regarding bell pepper nomenclature:
Bell pepper is a cultivar group of the species Capsicum annuum. Cultivars of the plant produce fruits in different colors, including red, yellow, green and orange. Bell peppers are sometimes grouped with less pungent pepper varieties as "sweet peppers". Peppers are native to Mexico, Central America and northern South America. Pepper seeds were later carried to Spain in 1493 and from there spread to other European and Asian countries. Today, Mexico remains one of the major pepper producers in the world.

...The term "bell pepper" is the American name for some vegetables of the Capsicum annuum species of plants. The misleading name "pepper" (pimiento in Spanish) was given by Christopher Columbus upon bringing the plant back to Europe. At that time peppercorns, the fruit of Piper nigrum, an unrelated plant, were a highly prized condiment.

The term "bell pepper" or "pepper" or "capsicum" is often used for any of the large bell shaped capsicum vegtables, regardless of their color. In British English, the fruit is simply referred to as a "pepper", whereas in many Commonwealth of Nations countries, such as Australia, India, Malaysia and New Zealand, they are called "capsicum". Across Europe, the term "paprika", which has its roots in the word for pepper, is used—sometimes referred to by their color (e.g., "groene paprika", "gele paprika", in Dutch, which are green and yellow, respectively). Paprika also refers to the powdered spice made from the same fruit. In France it is called "poivron", with the same root as "poivre" (meaning "pepper"), or "piment. " In Japan, the word ピーマン ("pîman, " from the French) refers only to green bell peppers, whereas パプリカ ("papurika, " from paprika) refers to bell peppers of other colors. In the United States and Canada, the fruit is often referred to simply as a "pepper" or referred to by color (e. g. "red pepper", "green pepper"), although the more specific term "bell pepper" is understood in most regions. In parts of Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, the fruit is called a "mango".[where?] Bell peppers are botanically fruits, but are generally considered in culinary contexts to be vegetables.

In Russia it is commonly called болгарский перец (bolgarskiy perets), meaning Bulgarian pepper. In Denmark the bell pepper is referred to as "peberfrugt", meaning pepper-fruit. In the rest of Scandinavia it is known as "paprika".

In Brazil it's commonly called Pimentão, meaning Big pepper. It's widely used in a variety of dishes, like pasta, rice and other dishes from Cuisine of Brazil.

In Argentina it's called "Morrón", green and red bell peppers are usually found in small grocery stores, the yellow ones tend to be in the supermarket. Grilled, they may form part of the traditional barbecue of this country, called "Asado" (Castilian Spanish for 'grilled').

In Nepal it's called "bhede khursani". It is eaten with fried noodles, and is cooked and eaten with any vegetable, but bhede khursani is never eaten raw.

In Sri Lanka it is called "Maalu Miris" in Sinhalese language and used in "curries" as a vegetable. "Miris" is Chilli, the hotter variety which is used as a hot spice, and "Maalu" means Vegetable, hence "Maalu Miris" indicates the less spicy version, which is suitable for cooking as a vegetable, instead of using as a spice. With the similar meaning, bell pepper is called "kaRi miLakaay" (கறிமிளகாய்) in Tamil language.

In Egypt it is commonly called "filfil akhdar", where "filfil" means pepper and "akhdar" means green. It is eaten as a raw snack, in salads, in various soups and stews, and is also cooked stuffed with a rice and beef filling.

Ornery UK Livestock Pose Hazard

Left: New Zealand sheep unhappy about encroaching humans.

Clueless walkers get into trouble. (Interestingly enough, last night I had a dream of being attacked by some kind of a boar, or a javelina):
New right to roam laws are opening up large areas of England's green and pleasant land to the public, but dangers lurk behind the hedgerows.

This week a 66-year-old woman was killed by a herd of cows while walking her dog in Warwickshire.

And just a few weeks earlier a walker in Derbyshire was badly injured when charged by cows. He was carried for a kilometre by a mountain rescue team before being put on an ambulance.

...Roger Vincent, press officer for Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) said: "There have been a number of deaths where people were crushed by cows.

"Some walkers are simply not very aware of the potential dangers, they need to have more respect for the animals.

"Once I was chased by a pig in Scotland. It just charged out of the undergrowth and I was surprised at how fast it went.

"In the end we had to jump over a wall to escape. It seemed very upset.

"People have to keep and eye out for problems and behave responsibly."

In 2002, the last year for which Rospa has figures, 80 people were injured by cows, 120 by goats, 220 by pigs and a hefty 317 by sheep.

..."While they are just chewing grass, cows don't seem like much of a threat, but they are big, big animals and if the mood takes them they can do a human a lot of damage."

A third of people who go into the countryside take dogs, a combination which can lead to disaster.

A Rambler's Association spokesperson said: "Spring and early summer are particularly dangerous times as there are lots of young animals about and that is one thing that will get animals anxious.

"If they see a threat, especially from a dog, they will turn on that threat and won't mind too much about the human on the end of the lead.

..."While dogs should be kept on leads most of the time, if you are charged by an animal, let the dog off the leash.

"It can run faster than most animals and will probably be perceived as the main threat.

"The mistake that walkers make is to get between the cow and the dog and the cow's main reaction to a threat is to lean on it, and cows are very big."

Potential perils have increased alongside the diversity of the British countryside.

While bulls are a common sight in the countryside, attacks have been reported from a territorial Reeves pheasant and even wild boar.

Single boars have been recorded facing down walkers while entire packs have chased horse riders from their territory.

You Can't Have Just One

And as luck has it, they will oblige with more, if given half a chance:
PORTLAND, Ore. – Washington County's "Bunny Lady" is back in the hutch after violating a court order not to own or control animals for five years. Miriam Sakewitz, 47, was arrested again Tuesday at a Tigard hotel after an employee reported finding rabbits hopping around in her room.

Problems for Sakewitz started in October 2006 when Hillsboro police found and confiscated nearly 250 rabbits in her home, including about 100 dead ones in freezers and refrigerators.

Police said she broke into the facility where the survivors were being cared for in January 2007 and stole most of them back. Authorities found her a few days later in Chehalis, Wash., with eight live rabbits and two dead ones in her car. Another 130 were recovered at a nearby horse farm.

She was placed on five years probation, banned from owning or controlling animals and was told not to go within 100 yards of a rabbit.

Tigard Police spokesman Jim Wolf said Washington County animal control officers removed eight adult rabbits, five young ones and a dead one from her hotel room Tuesday.

...Then county probation officer Susan Ranger testified in August of 2007 that Sakewitz had a rabbit in her home in June, had canceled counseling sessions and refused to open the door for unannounced visits.

Ranger said she found no rabbits when she finally got inside but did find a half-empty 10-pound bag of carrots. Sakewitz was sentenced to three days in jail.

She was to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon on animal neglect charges.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tim Burton's "Alice In Wonderland" Coming Next Year!

Important news from the Evil Beet:
The movie isn’t scheduled for release until March of 2010, but the first stills released of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland look absolutely amazing. I’m convinced that Burton must be slightly insane in that way that geniuses usually are.

Johnny Depp plays The Mad Hatter, Helena Bonham Carter is Queen of Hearts and the Snow Queen role is played by Anne Hathaway. No picture has been released of Alice yet, but Australian actress Mia Wasikowska (best known for her role on HBO’s In Treatment) stars in the film.

If you click on this link to USA Today, it will take you to a really cool interactive site where you can scroll around a couple of the movie scenes.

Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev - Don Quixote

Conversation turned towards the Bolshoi Ballet, and Elaine said "Oh, you MUST see Natalia Osipova dance!"

Natalia Osipova was not among those at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley two weeks ago, but looking at this video, you can see why she, and Ivan Vasiliev as well, make Elaine so excited!

I'm Falling For Sylvia Tosun....

Rethinking Abs

I've been lackadaisical regarding my core, and these folks suggest that may be all right:
Perhaps, the researchers theorized, increasing abdominal strength could ease back pain. The lab worked with patients in pain to isolate and strengthen that particular deep muscle, in part by sucking in their guts during exercises. The results, though mixed, showed some promise against sore backs.

From that highly technical foray into rehabilitative medicine, a booming industry of fitness classes was born. “The idea leaked” into gyms and Pilates classes that core health was “all about the transversus abdominis,” Thomas Nesser, an associate professor of physical education at Indiana State University who has studied core fitness, told me recently. Personal trainers began directing clients to pull in their belly buttons during crunches on Swiss balls or to press their backs against the floor during sit-ups, deeply hollowing their stomachs, then curl up one spinal segment at a time. “People are now spending hours trying to strengthen” their deep ab muscles, Nesser said.

But there’s growing dissent among sports scientists about whether all of this attention to the deep abdominal muscles actually gives you a more powerful core and a stronger back and whether it’s even safe. A provocative article published in the The British Journal of Sports Medicine last year asserted that some of the key findings from the first Australian study of back pain might be wrong. Moreover, even if they were true for some people in pain, the results might not apply to the generally healthy and fit, whose trunk muscles weren’t misfiring in the first place.

...Instead, he suggests, a core exercise program should emphasize all of the major muscles that girdle the spine, including but not concentrating on the abs. Side plank (lie on your side and raise your upper body) and the “bird dog” (in which, from all fours, you raise an alternate arm and leg) exercise the important muscles embedded along the back and sides of the core. As for the abdominals, no sit-ups, McGill said; they place devastating loads on the disks. An approved crunch begins with you lying down, one knee bent, and hands positioned beneath your lower back for support. “Do not hollow your stomach or press your back against the floor,” McGill says. Gently lift your head and shoulders, hold briefly and relax back down. These three exercises, done regularly, McGill said, can provide well-rounded, thorough core stability. And they avoid the pitfalls of the all-abs core routine. “I see too many people,” McGill told me with a sigh, “who have six-pack abs and a ruined back.”

Left My Camera At The Theater

It'll be Wednesday before I'm over there again and can retrieve Sunday's photos.

The Artwork of Deborah McMillion Nering: Sleepers & Dreamers

Very nice! Deborah writes:
I have a 'real' video, designed by my webmaster, J. Bucanek, showcasing this series of work now
As the video caption states:
A new series of oil paintings by Deborah McMillion Nering. These and more recent works can be seen at Hotel Midnight.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fanciful Interpretation Of Our Cool June

This article seemed very playful and it made me smile:
So far this June the average high temperature in Sacramento has clocked in at a paltry 80 degrees, a full six degrees below a normal June.

That's painfully obvious to veteran Sacramento gardeners and farmers who've taken note of the short tomato plants and slow-growing fruit.

Kelly Redmond, a regional climatologist at the Western Region Climate Center in Reno, said lower-than-normal temperatures in June have "held up the snowmelt a little bit."

Extending the life of the snowpack can help with water supplies over the summer and even prevent forest fires because vegetation doesn't dry out as quickly.

...The weather patterns leading to cooler June temperatures in Sacramento trace back halfway across the world – to the western Pacific and Japan. There, in an area of convective activity – thunderstorms – the pattern is interacting with high pressure that persists in an area just north of Hawaii. This mix pushes the jet stream farther south than normal. This, in turn, has opened the door to storms and cooler temperatures over California.
I'm not quite so playful - maybe more prosaic. The trough off the West Coast has just been terribly persistent (as with the high pressure system north of Hawaii and the Japanese mirror trough on the other side of the ocean. When trough-ridge-trough arrangement stays in place for weeks, the weather stays in place for weeks too.

I got all holistic looking at the World surface weather forecast for today:

You can tell the Southern Hemisphere is the winter hemisphere, because of how tight the isobars are there. The temperature gradient is much greater in the Southern Hemisphere right now. And the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), where Air France's AF447 met its doom, shows up as a nice, pleasant green belt of precipitation clear around the globe, just north of the equator.

Kaskade & Deadmau5 vs. Sylvia Tosun Mashup

Here is a great mashup! Both songs complement each other well:

Sylvia Tosun Web Site.


Singer/songwriter, Juilliard graduate, ethereal vocalist, holistic medicine guru and dance diva - Sylvia Tosun has an interesting combination of talents and influences. Having traveled the world performing music in many different languages, her new single "Underlying Feeling" is gaining a huge buzz in the UK (hitting number 2 on the club chart) and getting ready to explode in the US. If you've missed previous club hits "Sanctuary" and "Head Over Heels," check them out on her dynamic website and preview the video for "Underlying Feeling."

...RS: Your newer music seems to be more upbeat…is that a transition in your music in the way you're doing?

Sylvia Tosun: Yes, actually. We all as musicians and I think even as people; we kind of evolve in whatever we do. I don't want to be in a state of inertia. Even if I like a certain style, I like many styles and lately, I've been more towards the progressive house movement. I feel it's transcendent and I love to go to Allegria parties and I used to love to go dancing at the Roxy on a Saturday night. I love what movement does for people dancing on a dance floor and the concept of movement; I think we are dancing together, we are moving forward together. As I got deeper in to the dance world I realized that I really enjoy writing to something that's got a faster BPM to it.

Sylvia Tosun & Loverush UK! "5 Reasons"

A Personal Bankruptcy

Life on the bleeding edge:
Paul Moller, the Davis engineer/entrepreneur whose dream of a mainstream-use flying car has been a years-long adventure, has filed for personal bankruptcy protection, but his companies continue to function.

Semi-Automatic Wild West Shootout

Calamities of family friends:
NEAR COACHELLA - Interstate 10 east of the Coachella Valley was closed for some time Monday evening after a burning motor home filled with live ammunition shut the eastbound lanes down.

It caught fire about six miles east of Dillon Road near Chiriaco Summit.

There were rifles, handguns, and ammunition inside the motor home.

California Highway Patrol officers say the fire sparked some shots but no one was hit.

The owner of the motorhome is a professional sports shooter and won't face any charges.

The motorhome and the weapons were destroyed. The owner suffered minor injuries.

Iranian Propaganda Film From Early Last Year

River City Dance Academy - "Poison Ivy"

Britney Spears - CIRCUS Opening

Featuring the imitable Perez Hilton.

Support The Mousavi Forces

Music Man Weekend, So Far

Exciting weekend, so far!

Opening night, we had one person missing. 'Rock Island' was weak (I slipped into a comfortable revery at one point, and jolted alert when I realized no one was singing. Who was supposed to be singing at that juncture? Me, of course!)

The musical beginning of 'Shipoopi' was awkward. Mayor Shinn had a 'spell'.

But everyone loved it all anyway!

Saturday night, four people were absent (that debbil sickness is spreading in the cast!). Some awkwardness in the dancing, as a result, but everyone loved it anyway, no matter what the dancers might have thought. Ah, the luxury of having a very large cast! You had to know the show well to spot the holes!

On to Sunday afternoon!

Late Night Radio

There was a man on the radio tonight who believes he is a reincarnated horse. I'm not sure why.

I may be a reincarnated dog, but I'm not sure about that either.

The Shame Of Justice Roberts

The recent Alaska ruling demonstrates that Justice Roberts does not understand that justice is the point of the justice system's existence:
Yesterday's court ruling in Osborne was simply one of the most absurd and appalling rulings I have ever read. Chief Justice Roberts should be ashamed of himself. Because of his ruling, innocent men are going to die in prison or via the death penalty. It really is that simple. What is absolutely shocking about the ruling is how utterly dishonest it is. Roberts is usually a careful judge who at least can state the legal issue accurately. In this ruling, his portrayal of the facts and legal questions in the case is one dishonest statement after another.

...But perhaps worst of all:
There is no long history of a right of access to state evidence for DNA testing that might prove innocence. "The mere novelty of such a claim is reason enough to doubt that 'substantive due process' sustains it."
Of course there's no long history of a right to access DNA evidence for testing. You know why? Because we've only had DNA testing for a couple of decades.

Most Supreme Court rulings have at least minimally plausible arguments on both sides. The cases that reach the court have vexed the lower courts and are typically close calls. This one is not. This one is nothing short of vile and disgusting. Innocent people will die as a result of it. And none of the five justices who signed on to the majority opinion could possibly care any less. Shame on them.