Friday, October 02, 2009

Vegas Hiatus

Kylie Minogue Performed At Oakland's Fox Theatre October 1st

Left: Ah, finally, Downtown Oakland! Remember to exercise - exercise to remember!

Actually, the drive from Sacramento to Oakland went pretty smoothly. The only traffic jam I encountered was the predictable one on I-80 in Berkeley. Plus, I made the ill-advised decision to try to get to I-80 in Davis by passing through Davis' downtown core at 4:50 p.m. Mistake!

I parked in a nice, spooky parking garage and walked to the theater.

The Fox Theatre is an old movie palace that has been recently-renovated in a sort of Byzantine style: intricate friezes, scalloped wall over the proscenium arch, decadent red velvet curtain, amazing lights. Like Las Vegas, but better than Las Vegas (no smoke).

Here is what the interior looks like (image from here: I didn't take a camera inside).

Two sitting figures bracket the proscenium (which has a surprisingly small arch - slightly bigger than the Sacramento's 24th Street Theatre arch). Looking at one of the figures, one fellow said "that's one scary Buddha!" Actually, they look more like fantasy Assyrian figures.

Left: A fan honors Kylie by wearing her costume from the "Can't Get You Out Of My Head" video.

Kylie Minogue has several discrete audiences: older women, younger girls, gay men. When I went to Brisbane, AU in 2006, I was impressed at how her concert was ladies' night out: 50-year-old women in tiaras and boas, 30-year-old women in tiaras and boas, 10-year-old girls in tiaras and boas. The crowd was about 70% women. I was mystified what an American Kylie audience would look like, however. I figured that since this was the Bay Area, it would be very gay, but just how gay would it be?

When I arrived, I took one look at the orderly line of people, and I was blown away. This was the gayest group of people I had ever seen! Men, men, men: 80% men! The mind reels in coming up with a comparison from Sacramento. This group was gayer than "Faces" on a Friday night. This group was gayer than "Badlands" on a Saturday night.

I still had an extra ticket that I had been unable to give away, and I had to decide what to do with it. When I approached the theater, I heard a dodgy black man talking to everyone passing by, and to no one in particular, "Tickets? Any extra tickets, anyone?" After a while, I decided to sell my ticket to him, but returning back to where I last saw him I encountered a dodgy gay man asking the same question, so I sold my ticket to him (for $40.00, nearly half of the face value of the ticket). Flush with cash, I was able to afford Black Russians (kahlua and vodka) for the evening.

As expected, the theater was posted "NO PHOTOGRAPHY". I had to decide whether to sneak a camera in, or leave it behind. I decided to leave it behind. Predictably, once the crowd had all entered, all the digital cameras came out (so hard to control!) Nevertheless, no camera meant I could focus on enjoying the show.

I had a standing-room ticket, and soon I was idling in a dense pack of bored metrosexuals forty feet from the edge of the stage. Predictably, all the Blackberries and Palm Pilots came out, and lots of people were texting. The fellow standing next to me seemed to be going blind reading dense text from some E-book, or other.

A fellow standing near me named 'Ceci' began introducing himself to nearby people and became sort of an informal MC for the local neighborhood. Ceci noted we were standing immediately above an air conditioning vent (which was great, because I was sweating just from the surrounding body heat).

Another fellow approached, whose bare arms, sturdy vest, and facial hair gave him sort of a woodsy look. A woodsy aroma - not too bad, but pervasive - came with the woodsy fellow. Ceci and friends found this troublesome, and good-naturedly started asking him - why the aroma? Instead of becoming bitchy, the gamy gay gamely replied he had not used any anti-perspirant because "of the recession." Nevertheless, feeling somewhat unwelcome, he eventually moved on. Without looking up, one of texters said he was happy he had gone because he "smelled like an old cabinet."

Kylie was late starting, and eventually I surrendered my position due to persistent bladder signals. Before showtime, a mysterious DJ sat at an Apple computer center stage and played tunes. Theatrical smoke occasionally wafted in and isolated pieces of confetti spun downwards from high aloft.

Kylie's opening was amazing - a fantastic laser light show as she descended from aloft. Those familiar with her oeuvre would have found many of the projections used and the costumes worn to be very familiar, but mixed in an unusual way - a pastiche. Kylie descended from above, perched on a miniature version of her silvery skull (2007, "X") and dressed in her pink robe with the boa (2006, "Showgirl Homecoming") while surrounded by her droids (2002, "Fever"). The first song was "Light Years", followed by "Speakerphone".

Because I'm only 5' 6" tall, I had lots of trouble seeing the stage. At one point, I perched myself on a railing to get a better view, but the seat was precarious. After a while, I discovered that the best views for standing room only folks were to be had at extreme stage left, where the theatre staff kept an open path an some relatively unfettered views were to be had.

In the big arenas, roving cameras zooming in on spectacularly-dressed attendees allow Kylie to tailor her favorite part of the audience-participation part of the show: identifying and thanking fellow slaves to fashion. The candidate in white imaged above was a perfect candidate, and well-positioned too (dead center, 25 ft from stage edge). Nevertheless, in this smaller space, there were no such cameras, and apparently it was too hard to peer into the very close audience. Instead, Kylie chose to recognize "Leopard Man". "He was here last night. Where is he tonight?" Alas, Leopard Man wasn't there - Leopard Man flaked out - so the moment was lost.

After her breast cancer surgery in 2005, Kylie was quoted as saying that one thing she would never do again was to line up her men backup dancers and step gingerly from one man's open palm to another. So daring, but so dangerous to attempt. She had apparently done just this at a very daring part of her career, but one must put youthful cavorting into its place in order to age gracefully.

Well, it appears the little minx lied. My heart burst with pride to see her flawless execution of just that stunt in 'Red-Blooded Woman'.


Vote Vader: I liked this bumper sticker.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Heading To Oakland

Looking forward to the trip!

Oh, So I Guess It Shows

Pepper: It's important to sleep at night. Your body can't recover if you don't let it do its thing and go into that whole other zone!

Flying Footwear

It's a trend!:
A student journalist threw a shoe at IMF Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn on Thursday and ran toward the stage shouting "IMF get out!" as the finance official answered questions at a university in Istanbul.

The white sports shoe bounced off another student's head but missed the IMF chief before landing beside him on the speaker's platform. Some students applauded. Strauss-Kahn moved to the side, and a security guard rushed to protect him.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

No, What Do You Really Think Mr. Vidal?

Gore Vidal is now at the age where he can finally say what he really thinks:
Last year he famously switched allegiance from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama during the Democratic nomination process for president. Now, he reveals, he regrets his change of heart. How’s Obama doing? “Dreadfully. I was hopeful. He was the most intelligent person we’ve had in that position for a long time. But he’s inexperienced. He has a total inability to understand military matters. He’s acting as if Afghanistan is the magic talisman: solve that and you solve terrorism.” America should leave Afghanistan, he says. “We’ve failed in every other aspect of our effort of conquering the Middle East or whatever you want to call it.” The “War on Terror” was “made up”, Vidal says. “The whole thing was PR, just like ‘weapons of mass destruction’. It has wrecked the airline business, which my father founded in the 1930s. He’d be cutting his wrists. Now when you fly you’re both scared to death and bored to death, a most disagreeable combination.”

His voice strengthens. “One thing I have hated all my life are LIARS [he says that with bristling anger] and I live in a nation of them. It was not always the case. I don’t demand honour, that can be lies too. I don’t say there was a golden age, but there was an age of general intelligence. We had a watchdog, the media.” The media is too supine? “Would that it was. They’re busy preparing us for an Iranian war.” He retains some optimism about Obama “because he doesn’t lie. We know the fool from Arizona [as he calls John McCain] is a liar. We never got the real story of how McCain crashed his plane [in 1967 near Hanoi, North Vietnam] and was held captive.”

Vidal originally became pro-Obama because he grew up in “a black city” (meaning Washington), as well as being impressed by Obama’s intelligence. “But he believes the generals. Even Bush knew the way to win a general was to give him another star. Obama believes the Republican Party is a party when in fact it’s a mindset, like Hitler Youth, based on hatred — religious hatred, racial hatred. When you foreigners hear the word ‘conservative’ you think of kindly old men hunting foxes. They’re not, they’re fascists.”

Another notable Obama mis-step has been on healthcare reform. “He f***ed it up. I don’t know how because the country wanted it. We’ll never see it happen.” As for his wider vision: “Maybe he doesn’t have one, not to imply he is a fraud. He loves quoting Lincoln and there’s a great Lincoln quote from a letter he wrote to one of his generals in the South after the Civil War. ‘I am President of the United States. I have full overall power and never forget it, because I will exercise it’. That’s what Obama needs — a bit of Lincoln’s chill.” Has he met Obama? “No,” he says quietly, “I’ve had my time with presidents.” Vidal raises his fingers to signify a gun and mutters: “Bang bang.” He is referring to the possibility of Obama being assassinated. “Just a mysterious lone gunman lurking in the shadows of the capital,” he says in a wry, dreamy way.

Vidal now believes, as he did originally, Clinton would be the better president. “Hillary knows more about the world and what to do with the generals. History has proven when the girls get involved, they’re good at it. Elizabeth I knew Raleigh would be a good man to give a ship to.”The Republicans will win the next election, Vidal believes; though for him there is little difference between the parties. “Remember the coup d’etat of 2000 when the Supreme Court fixed the selection, not election, of the stupidest man in the country, Mr Bush.”

...He observes presidential office-holders balefully. “The only one I knew well was Kennedy, but he didn’t impress me as a good president. It’s like asking, ‘What do I think of my brother?’ It’s complicated. I’d known him all my life and I liked him to the end, but he wrecked his chances with the Bay of Pigs and Suez crises, and because everyone was so keen to elect Bobby once Jack had gone, lies started to be told about him — that he was the greatest and the King of Camelot.”

Today religious mania has infected the political bloodstream and America has become corrosively isolationist, he says. “Ask an American what they know about Sweden and they’d say ‘They live well but they’re all alcoholics’. In fact a Scandinavian system could have benefited us many times over.” Instead, America has “no intellectual class” and is “rotting away at a funereal pace. We’ll have a military dictatorship fairly soon, on the basis that nobody else can hold everything together. Obama would have been better off focusing on educating the American people. His problem is being over-educated. He doesn’t realise how dim-witted and ignorant his audience is. Benjamin Franklin said that the system would fail because of the corruption of the people and that happened under Bush.”

Vidal adds menacingly: “Don’t ever make the mistake with people like me thinking we are looking for heroes. There aren’t any and if there were, they would be killed immediately. I’m never surprised by bad behaviour. I expect it.”

I'm A Powderkeg Ready To Blow

Just years, and years, and years of the sweet stuff:
LONDON — Willy Wonka would be horrified. Children who eat too much candy may be more likely to be arrested for violent behavior as adults, new research suggests.

British experts studied more than 17,000 children born in 1970 for about four decades. Of the children who ate candies or chocolates daily at age 10, 69 percent were later arrested for a violent offense by the age of 34. Of those who didn't have any violent clashes, 42 percent ate sweets daily.

The End Of Saturn

Oh, this is a catastrophe! My car will become a historical oddity even as I still drive it around!:
General Motors Co.'s deal to sell Saturn to the Penske Automotive Group has fallen through, forcing the automaker to shutter the brand altogether.

The sale had been expected to be completed as soon as this week.

"Penske Automotive Group . . . has decided to terminate discussions with General Motors to acquire Saturn," GM Chief Executive Fritz Henderson said in a statement. As a result, "we will be winding down the Saturn brand and dealership network."

To Say "Cheese" or Not To Say "Cheese" - That Is The Question

So the question has been gnawing at me, can I bring all my new, high-powered, high-tech camera gear to the Oakland and the Las Vegas Kylie shows. I'd very much like to do so, but I also want to respect theater protocol. So, the appropriate thing to do is to ask. So I did.

Nevertheless, there seems to have been confusion even there. The final answer is "NO!" but the final answer came down just minutes ago.

Well, for a blogger this is intolerable. I will go and have nothing to share but my memories. Can life be any crueler than that?

Well, I remember a friend once saying that his worst nightmare was to arrive at a supermarket check-through without enough money to pay for the groceries. Nothing in life could be worse than that!

This camera policy approaches that level of senseless cruelty, but one must appease the diva, and if that is her price, then so be it.

Here are the contents of the E-Mail thread.

First E-Mail:
Dear Fox Theatre:

In regards to the upcoming Kylie Minogue concert (Oct. 1), I wanted some clarification regarding what cameras or recording devices the Fox Theatre will permit: i.e., what is considered a “professional recording device” for Fox Theatre’s purposes?

Would a personal digital voice recorder be OK?

Would a personal digital camera (e.g. a Samsung SL620 or an Olympus FE-240) be OK?

Would a video camcorder (Sony HDR-XR500) be OK?

Thank you for your help,

Marc Valdez
In general, a digital voice recorder or video camcorder would not be allowed inside the theater. In addition, for the Kylie Minogue shows, the artist has requested that we do not allow any cameras into the theater. Most shows do allow personal digital cameras, but not this time.

My reply:

Oh, oh, confusion!

Earlier today in regards to another question I called the theater main number and verbally asked for their camera policy in specific regards to Kylie’s shows. The woman stated that personal digital cameras were OK.

Was Kylie’s request very recent then? Contradictory policy will lead to problems.

[UPDATE] And the final answer is "NO!"
Hi Marc,

Yes, we just had our final security meeting with the tour personnel. I passed word along to our main office about the policy.



Allowing Guns In Bars - Now THAT'S Nuts!

Arizona seems to have regressed back to the 19th Century. Brings back a (perhaps faulty) memory.

I remember reading once that Billy The Kid killed one of his New Mexico victims in a bar. The fellow was drunk and carelessly left his gun unattended on the bar. He was talking smack about the Kid (a public enemy whom he did not know). The Kid surreptitiously emptied the gun of bullets, then publicly identified himself to the man. The man quickly retrieved the firearm and the Kid laughed as he heard the thrilling but satisfying click-click-click coming from the empty gun of the panicked bar patron - before blasting the fellow away into eternity.

What was old is new again!:
Arizona -- in the news over the summer for allowing gun-toters to attend presidential events -- has now passed a law allowing people to carry guns into bars. TPM has reported on 14 people in 3 separate Arizona incidents packing heat at political events - events that involved President Obama and Democratic representatives from the state.

The NRA-backed law, which takes effect today, allows those with a concealed weapons permit to bring guns into bars and restaurants. The new rules coincide with the Supreme Court announcement today that it will review a gun-control case, McDonald v. Chicago, which concerns whether state and local gun laws may be challenged under the Second Amendment.

The one stipulation that prohibits gun-toters from entering Arizona bars: if the establishment has a sign against them. So if there's a sign, you can't bring a gun in -- except there are enough loopholes to render the rule almost meaningless.

First, the signs have to be state-approved. And according to the AP:
A person would be exempt if the sign banning guns had fallen down, the person wasn't an Arizona resident, or the notice was first posted less than a month earlier.That certainly isn't making bar owners in Arizona feel better.
Mark DeSimone, who owns the Hidden House Cocktail Lounge in Phoenix, told the AP even putting the signs up can hurt business: "It looks scary. It looks to somebody like, should I go in this place because they obviously have a problem with people bringing weapons in."

Meanwhile, the NRA's Western Region Director J.P. Nelson said "if a person starts drinking and gets in a shootout and kills someone, of course they're subject to criminal prosecution."

The guns-in-bars rule is especially striking in Arizona, where Chris Broughton made headlines last month when he was spotted carrying an assault rifle (AR-15) and pistol outside the VFW Convention Center in Phoenix. President Obama was speaking there at the time. Broughton attended a virulently anti-Obama sermon just the day before the event, where Pastor Steven Anderson prayed for the President to die. Broughton even said he agrees with the pastor.

He wasn't the only one carrying a gun at that Obama event: twelve people were packing heat that day in Phoenix, sort of a trend in Arizona. Someone dropped a gun at a town hall with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), and a pro-health reform activist brought a gun to an anti-reform demonstration near the office of Rep. Harry Mitchell (D-AZ).

There are 138,350 people in Arizona with concealed weapons permits. Travel writer and publisher Arthur Frommer said that he won't be traveling to the southwestern state anymore after all the political gun-toters of August. Arizona's new gun law may only harden the positions of those who feel similarly.

"The Cats Are All Here"

New Zealand coastal areas bore no resemblance to the tsunami-ravaged islands in the Pacific, as many treated the warning of a large swell as entertainment.

After the Civil Defence and Emergency Management Ministry issued a tsunami warning at 8am, low-lying coastal areas around the Bay of Plenty and the East Cape were evacuated to the eerie sound of warning sirens.

The potential for damaging waves from the huge earthquake near Samoa also caused communities on the west coast - Raglan, Kawhia and Mokau - to move to higher ground.

But at Mt Maunganui and Gisborne, many residents ignored warnings, headed to the beach and, in some cases, kept surfing.

Even as the Trustpower TECT Rescue Helicopter flew over the coastline, urging people by loudhailer to get away from the tide, families with small children played nonchalantly in the sand.

"It is a first, being kicked out of the water for a tsunami. I was more worried about my 2-year-old on the shore. I wasn't bothered until police starting yelling at us to get out."

A crowd of more than 300 stretched along the boardwalk and up the Mount, but left deflated after an anti-climax.

By the time the waves had travelled 2800km from the earthquake's epicentre to the east coast, they were not detectable by the naked eye.

At New Brighton beach in Christchurch, surfer Shayne Baxter took to the water as the tsunami was due to arrive. He had heard nothing about it until the Herald raised it with him as he kitted himself up.

"A metre? Aw, a metre's not too big," said Mr Baxter, who has just finished a stint surfing big waves in Fiordland for a documentary on the Discovery Channel.

"I might even be able to catch it. If it does come through, probably the safest place is in the water."

Fellow Christchurch resident Simeon Beckett, 23, said he was too curious to miss a potentially dangerous tsunami.

"I was actually in the shower and my mum said, 'Oh, there's a tsunami on its way, and don't go down to the beach.' I said, 'Don't tell me that, because now I'm going to go'."

He added: "It proves the old axiom we are the only species that runs towards danger. It's great, isn't it? Curiosity killed the cat, and the cats are all here."

In the end, he sat perched on a concrete wall at Brighton Beach, feeling cheated by the lack of large waves.

In Auckland, the city council advised people on Great Barrier Island and Waiheke Island to move to higher ground between 10am and midday. Police were out on Tamaki Drive asking people to stay off the popular beaches in the area.

Civil Defence reported tide gauge information received at East Cape indicated an 80cm tsunami reached that region. On the North Cape swells of 25-30cm were measured.

Portable Grill For The Taking

Today, sitting on the grass at the southwest corner of 19th & L Streets in Sacramento, next to the City Suds Laundromat, sits a small portable Weber barbeque grill for the taking.

How it got there is a curious story.

I was driving west on L Street about 11:15 a.m., just approaching the red light at 19th Street, when a man (age of about 28), who had been cradling the portable grill in his arms while bicycling south on 19th Street, lost control, began slipping off his bicycle, missed the wheelchair cut in the curb, instead slammed into the curb, and fell unconscious onto L Street. Several people, including myself, parked to see if they could render aid.

The first fellow on the scene immediately called 911. I was second on the scene. As the first fellow talked to the emergency responders, I picked up the barbeque and reassembled it on the grass. Then I went to see if I could rouse the unconscious man and ascertain whether, or how badly, he was hurt.

In response to a question from some new pedestrian arrivals, the 911 caller stated either that he had just called the Fire Department or that the Fire Department would arrive soon. The unconscious bicyclist, upon hearing the words "Fire Department" immediately roused, jumped to his feet, and said: "No way am I going to let the Fire Department inject me with insulin! No way! Fuck that!" The bicyclist, by now quite irritable and angry, quickly tried to cycle off, but was foiled by minor damage to his rear brake, among other things. He began walking back to the street corner, perhaps to challenge us, perhaps to argue, but held his temper in check when he saw an arriving police car.

I immediately tried to talk sense to the bicyclist and slow his departure by holding firmly onto the bicycle handle. "You aren't feeling well," I said. "You were unconscious in the street for more than a minute!" He replied "I am NOT going to let the Fire Department shoot me up with insulin!" He said it with authority, as if he had already experienced the tender mercies of Fire Department insulin injection and wasn't looking forward to another such experience.

Meanwhile, I was doing an awkward kind of dance, employing stern persuasion while trying to arrest the fellow while simultaneously holding his bicycle upright so he could reassemble the rear brake, and helpfully pointing out broken pieces to him, such as the broken tail reflector lying in the grass.

The bicyclist prepared to take off just as the cop arrived on the scene on foot. Since the bicyclist seemed to be now in full control of his faculties the cop allowed him to depart.

Several of us quickly explained to the cop what had happened. One fellow said he had seen the bicyclist cycling dangerously just before the accident, e.g., by carelessly pulling in front of cars that had the right-of-way. The cop nodded to signal he understood. The fellow who had first alerted 911 called them back to cancel the call.

The Fire Department arrived just as everyone began leaving. A bit bewildered, the driver of the ladder truck stopped in the middle lane of L Street, looked at the more-or-less empty intersection, and tried to puzzle out how to respond. I went over to the driver, informed him that the 911 call had just been cancelled, and briefly explained what had happened. When the driver asked where the bicyclist had gone, I pointed south and said "He went that-a-way!"

But in all the fuss, the small portable Weber barbeque grill got overlooked. It's still there, sitting on the grass, and presuming the irritable cyclist doesn't return for it, it's free to a good home.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Getting Psyched!

Card-Carrying Member Of The ACLU

I thought this portion of "Prairie Home Companion" (9/26/09), featuring Garrison Keillor as Guy Noir, was just brilliant.

Of course, I strongly favor Western Scrub Jays as the most intelligent bird around these parts. They are Corvids too, just like Crows! And brilliant birds all Corvids are!

New Mexico's state bird is the Roadrunner, and they are good to have around when snakes need to be defeated, but if you hide 100 objects from a Roadrunner, the poor Roadrunner will never find the objects again. And California's state bird, the California Valley Quail, is as dumb as a doorknob:
GK: In my desperation to bring in a little cash, I had for the first time in my life become a lobbyist for the ACLU. The American Corvid Lovers Unlimited. Corvids are crows. Black crows. And the ACLU was trying to remove the Loon as Minnesota's State Bird and replace it with the crow.

SS: The crow is an intelligent bird, Mr. Noir. Look at this video. See? (CROW)

GK: Okay, but the legislature named the loon Minnesota's state bird and it's a done deal, ma'am, and I don't think they're about to—

SS: They did it on the assumption — which turns out to be erroneous — that loons form stable monogamous relationships for a lifetime. As it turns out, loons mess around more than just about any other species. Look at this video. (LOON CRY OF SEDUCTION)

SS: Disgusting. And male loons invade another male's territory and kill him and take his wife. It's like a Greek tragedy or something.

TR: And they're not that good at flying— Ever see a loon try to take off? They're white knuckle fliers. Look at this video. (LOON FLAPPING WINGS HARD, PANICKY CRY, AND SPLASH)

SS: Ludicrous.

TR: Whereas the crow is the most intelligent of all birds. A crow is able to hide as many as 100 objects and remember exactly where they are. An intelligent and dignified bird.

SS: And a good flier.

TR: A bird that Minnesotans could be proud of. Instead of this sex-crazed murderer we have now. (LOON CALL)

GK: The ACLU offered me a thousand dollars and I took the money. I made big banners that said “Support the CAWS” (spelled c-a-w-s) and we brought in crows marching and holding picket signs.

ALL (AS CROWS): Whose woods these are, I think I know.
These woods belong to us, the crow.
So we do not have miles to go before we sleep — oh no, oh no.
We will not sleep or use that word
Until you make us your state bird.

GK: Every day, crows flying in C-formation, singing: (WINGS)

Over hill, over dale, with the wind behind our tail, and the corvids go flying along...

GK: I wasn't proud of it, but it was money, and I was able to mail in my rent check.

Bush Antichrist

Bush Antichrist
credit: Keith Wise

OK you jokers!

I'm reposting this image several years after the fact because SOMEONE figured out how to tamper with the original image and right now Blogger won't let me edit that old a blogpost.

Could that someone be Satan?????

John Went To The Interbike Convention In Vegas, But All I Got Was This T-Shirt

John reports from his recent trip to Las Vegas:
Hey Marc,

Ah, Las Vegas. It seems about the same as last year except there is a bit more desperation in the air. We stayed at the Riviera which, being one of the older casinos, seems to be on an even keel. However, just north of there is the Fontainebleau which stands unfinished as a striking, blue-windowed piece of early 21st century optimism. And then across the street from the Riviera was the old Westward Ho and to the south of that the Sands and then the Frontier. I say "was" because they are now all gone. Two years ago there was a half mile long vacant lot where they stood but last year a huge steel skeleton of a new multibillion dollar casino called the Echelon began to rise in their place. Today is sits unchanged from a year ago as another failed monument to excess. And farther south on the Strip one finds the new City Center, a behemoth hotel/casino which will add another 4800 hotel rooms to the strip when it opens soon.

Aside from all that, however, I would say that the crowds seem as big as ever. My aunt and uncle who live in the area tell me that the main problem is that LV visitors are not spending money as freely as they did in the past. That seems like a plausible explanation. I did try to see the Cirque du Soleil show "Love" at the Mirage but there were no tickets available for either night I was there. From what I'm told that is the most popular show on the Strip so I cannot say if those sellout crowds are indicative of what is happening at other shows.

The local news talked of 30,000 foreclosures and 21,000 personal bankruptcies last year in Las Vegas. How much of that is a result of the subprime mortgage fiasco and how much is a direct result of declining tourism is hard to say. Overall I would say Las Vegas seems about the same as ever from a tourist's point of view but I wonder what the effect of huge bankruptcies such as Fontainebleau and Echelon will be. Let me know what you think after next weekend.

Enjoy the Kylie show!

It’s amazing – I passed through there three times this summer, but somehow the place didn’t leave much of an impression on me, at least so far. There is a Basic Vegas Holiday that goes like:

Leave hotel to go to casino
Lose a ton of money at the casino
Return to hotel from casino

The summer visits were more like the Basic Vegas Holiday.

Nevertheless this weekend is likely to be different. Sally is coming with me and that will change the dynamic. I’m worried that she’ll eschew the late hours more than I do, and that could be stressful if we stayed a long time, but we likely won’t be there long enough for the mismatch to become an issue. One thing I’ve always liked about Vegas was the tendency for every trip to be different from every other trip (excepting the tedious Basic Vegas Holiday, of course). So, we’ll see….

I Am Somebody Because I Get $200/Column

The Washington Post is sponsoring a contest to find America's Next Great Pundit:
Use the entry form to send us a short opinion essay (400 words or less) pegged to a topic in the news and an additional paragraph (100 words or less) on yourself and why you should win. Entries will be judged on the basis of style, intelligence and freshness of argument, but not on whether Post editors agree or disagree with your point of view. Entry deadline: Oct. 21, 2009 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

...Beginning on or about Oct. 30, ten prospective pundits will get to compete for the title of America’s Next Great Pundit, facing off in challenges that test the skills a modern pundit must possess. They’ll have to write on deadline, hold their own on video and field questions from Post readers. ... After each round, a panel of Post personalities will offer kudos and catcalls, and reader votes will help to determine who gets another chance at a byline and who has to shut down their laptop.

...The ultimate winner will get the opportunity to write a weekly column that may appear in the print and/or online editions of The Washington Post, paid at a rate of $200 per column, for a total of 13 weeks and $2,600.
I may just have to phone this one in: $200/column seems fairly low-wage by Potomac Pooh-Bah Pundit standards.

What could I write about? I suppose I could elaborate more on the Fatness of Teabaggers: that seemed to have caught people's eyes most-recently. But that would be more photoessay, not opinion piece, and would no doubt be unnecessarily cruel and step on the toes of important, late middle-aged folks (who can't see their toes anyway) and cause nothing but heartburn for the Editors and chastisement for myself.

No, blogging for free is the life....

Tsunami Watch

Lisa writes:
Hi Marc~
Web page / pic that you may find interesting:
Wow! Cool picture - looks almost like a polished geode, or semi-precious concretion of some sort.

But it's bad news, of course. I hope the tsunami is a tame one:
A powerful earthquake with a magnitude of up to 8.3 struck off the South Pacific island nation of Samoa on Tuesday, triggering a tsunami as coastal residents fled to higher ground.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said waves 1.57 metres (five feet) tall hit American Samoa, while 0.7 metre waves were recorded in Samoa.

The centre had earlier issued a tsunami warning for a large swathe of the South Pacific including Fiji, New Zealand and Tonga after the US Geological Survey (USGS) reported a 7.9 magnitude quake.

The centre later said an 8.3 magnitude quake had been recorded at a depth of 33 kilometres (21 miles). It was not immediately clear if this was the same quake and the USGS's website did not provide exact details of its location.

"Sea level readings indicate a tsunami was generated," said a statement from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre.

"It may have been destructive along coasts neat the earthquake epicentre and could alo be a threat to more distant coasts. Authorities should take appropriate action in response to this possibility."

Today The Internets Ask About Silos

Today's interesting question (that got referred to my Web Log by Google due to some fractured coincidence in word use) is:
how is the wizard of oz an example of tearing down silos
That's a very interesting question! Very interesting! "The Wizard of Oz" is very High-Concept, as any number of sociological, historical and religious academicians can testify, and being all Kansas-oriented as "The Wizard of Oz" is, it wouldn't surprise me at all if there were some subtle silo references there too.

In today's business world, silos are generally believed to be bad, bad, bad:

It may surprise you to learn that, for more than one hundred years, business "silos" have been a very good thing. In fact, ever since the start of the Industrial Revolution (in the mid 1800s) functional experts have done most of their work inside of silos. And silo structures empowered and protected their expertise.

But, as we all know, in the 21st Century business world silos have come to be very bad things. That is because, in today's collaborative environment, silo walls isolate the people working inside of each silo from the people who are working inside each of the other silos.

More important, a company's silos isolate everyone who works inside one of them from the company's customers (who are outside).

So, the second step that a quantum leap team needs to take is to tear down their silo walls.
In the Nuclear War biz, one needs sturdy silos, but in the absence of a major enemy, tearing down silos is probably a good thing too.

Nevertheless, not everyone agrees about the merits of tearing down silo walls:
More and more analysts, consultants, and business people have come to the conclusion that "the problem" with IT is silos.

...Silo bureaucracies impede communications, reduce efficiency, and increase costs. Unique silo agendas prevent teamwork and attainment of common objectives. Thus many come to the conclusion that silos are bad and must be torn down.

I disagree. I think silos are useful and need to be strengthened, not torn down. But before we tear them down or build them up, let’s slow down and talk about how silos are built.

Silos can be created by location, technology, capability, language, and many other means. The occurrence of silos within organizations is not only natural, but it is also common. Contrary to popular belief and the prevailing thoughts of many IT consultants and industry analysts, silos are actually a very good thing.

Consider the field of medicine where healthcare providers all work in silos, which is a very good thing -- I for one would be quite wary of going to a podiatrist when I need an ophthalmologist. ... Silos are the only proven way to manage a hierarchy of related groups of specialists and their support systems.
This fellow does have a point. There is no point in going to the Ophthalmologist Silo when you need to find a podiatrist. The podiatrists are all in the Podiatrist Silo! Duh!

I think Dorothy's problem in "The Wizard of Oz" is that the Tornado put her in the wrong silo. She should have been in the Kansas Silo, but she found herself in the Oz Silo instead. That made for some very interesting adventures - heck, if not for her would they even have thought about making "Wicked"? - but you have to ask what the end result ultimately was. After some tentative balloon flights Ozians didn't start taking flights via Southwest Airlines to Kansas, or vice versa. No, lots of adventures were had by a few, but there was no real commerce to speak of, in the end. Despite some good stories the silo walls didn't get torn down. The silos stood intact in mute witness to the strength of their construction.

So, "The Wizard of Oz" is more a misfiling error than an example of anything good about tearing down silo walls. It's like the introduction of prickly-pear cactus from Argentina to Australia in the 1840's. The Australian climate was perfect for the cactus and there were no predators to keep it under control. By the 1920's, places like Queensland were overrun with the prickly stuff, and they had to introduce the Argentine Cactoblastis moth to infest the cactus, kill it off, and rebuild those precious Pacifican silo walls. Today, Queensland is in better shape (although the slower-paced three-pear cactus might also prove a problematic pest in the future).

So, to each, their proper place.

Here's a amusingly-xenophobic (but spot-on) video about knocking down silo walls.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Dang, I Can't Spell "Seussical"

Out of curiosity, after Steve's recent correction, I checked all my other blogposts regarding the spelling of "Seussical". I've misspelled it every ding-danged time as "Suessical". I pride myself on near-flawless spelling. Dang it, I'll have to go back and check every reference.

Like the Sour Kangaroo says: "Humph!"

Image from Dr. Chalkwitheringlicktacklefeff at B3ta

Arizona Alligator

Hmmmm. An alligator in the San Francisco River? Before you know it, people will start reporting UFOs in the desert:
Though no proof of a gator has been found, police and wildlife officials have responded to at least two reports of an alligator roaming the shallow waters of the San Francisco River in Clifton.

"We have not seen or been able to document evidence of an alligator, but we're not discounting it," Arizona Game and Fish Department wildlife manager Devin Skinner said. The sightings have occurred over the past three weeks, and "we just wanted the public to be aware."

According to the Eastern Arizona Courier, a weekly newspaper based in nearby Safford, a 21-year-old town resident has made two reports of seeing an alligator while fishing along the river behind the LDS church on U.S. Highway 191 in Clifton, about 120 miles northeast of Tucson.

"There was no mistaking what it was," Jacob Mitchell told the Courier. "I heard a big splash in the water and saw something that looked like a log. It swam right up to me. The thing looked at me, then swam off."

Mitchell said he called 911 and Clifton police responded. Greenlee County Sheriff's Department officials have also inspected the area, as has Skinner, who said none of the telltale signs of an alligator — footprints, tail tracks, remnants of devoured animals — has been found along the river.

"None of the enforcement officers have been able to see anything," he said.
In case you're wondering, alligators are not indigenous to Arizona. That means if there had been one in the river, Skinner said, it was put there by someone.

Manila Swamped

Massive typhoon Ketsana:
PEOPLE watched in horror and disbelief as the extent of typhoon Ondoy’s devastation in Metro Manila and other areas in Luzon was exposed yesterday, a day after the storm (international code name: Ketsana) unleashed the heaviest rainfall in history, bringing misery to millions of people in the metropolis and in 25 provinces.

Tales of death and terror filled the airwaves and even the Internet. As of press time yesterday, many remained trapped on rooftops, and government officials and civic groups appealed for donations for thousands of victims needing food, water, clothes and blankets.

The deluge left some areas under up to 20 feet of water, stranding entire families on rooftops and forcing the government to declare a state of calamity.

Highways were turned into raging rivers that swept away shanties and cars. Video footage from military helicopters showed desperate residents marooned on rooftops pleading for food and help.

...Local Red Cross chairwoman Gwendolyn Pang said rescuers struggled to reach many areas, with many highways rendered impassable.

“This has never happened before. Almost 80 percent of metropolitan Manila is under water,” Pang said.

The government’s chief weather forecaster Prisco Nilo blamed “climate change” for the extreme weather but said he expected the weather to ease when the storm dies down today.

Kylie Ticket

My efforts to arrange a home for my spare Kylie ticket for the Thursday, October 1st show in Oakland have so far come up empty. Send me a message at
if you are interested. It's a standing ticket - there's no seat - so it's rigorous and hard on the feet. Nevertheless, it's for the area near the stage of the Fox Theater, so you'll actually be quite close to the star!

The Utilities Are Fleeing

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been captured by climate-change denialists, and that means the big utilities have to go. Pacific Gas & Electric, Public Service Co. of NM, Exelon, and others are now hitting the life rafts:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the largest lobbying force in the nation, promoting a right-wing agenda as the “voice of business.” The Chamber claims that a cap-and-trade program to limit global warming pollution would “strangle the economy” and has even called for a “Scopes monkey trial” on the science of global warming.

Today, Exelon CEO John Rowe announced that his company — the largest electric utility company in the United States — would not renew its membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because of its opposition to global warming action.

Cat Congress

What they need is a nice warm bath:
WASHINGTON—The current session of the 111th Cat Congress was once again suspended Tuesday following the sudden introduction of a sunbeam onto the Senate floor, a development that has left a majority of transfixed lawmakers unable to move forward.

..."We've come up against an unforeseen circumstance, but we'll resume deliberation and voting as quickly as is reasonably possible," said majority leader and Budget Committee chaircat Sen. Creamsicle (D-ND), stretching out to his entire length and repeatedly kneading the chamber carpet. "I think I speak for most of my colleagues when I say that, while it is extremely important we continue the legislative work at hand, we must first give this warm and bright beam of light the due consideration it deserves."

...Some legislators refused to participate in the debate altogether, most notably Sen. Ruby (R-SC), who spent several hours sitting motionless in front of the northwest wall of the Cat Capitol Building, staring unblinkingly at an unknown object.

The sunbeam marked the fourth event to suspend congressional activity this week. According to sources, other disruptions included a thunderclap on Monday that instantly adjourned proceedings; Wednesday's chaotic introduction of a laser pointer; and the discovery of a large cardboard box in the Capitol Rotunda Thursday that prompted minority whip Sen. Tiddles (R-TN) to call a recess so that he could sit inside of it.

None of these delays, however, compares to the appearance of a small sparrow outside the congressional chamber last month, which completely mesmerized House Speaker Jeffy-Boy (D-CA) and brought all government activity to a standstill for approximately 17 minutes.

Big Stripey, founder of the influential political watchdog, said he isn't surprised by the latest sunbeam debacle, claiming that years of corruption and mating scandals have shown just how ineffectual the current Cat Congress really is.

"Our lawmakers were elected to serve the common cat, not their own self-interests," Big Stripey said. "With over 6 percent of the population stray, millions more going hungry or only getting dry food, and the dogs next door developing a very real litter of puppies, we need action now for the sake of our kittens and our kittens' kittens."

"We're not paying these idiots to sit around and lick each other all day," Big Stripey added.

Many congressional insiders refuted accusations of indolence, saying that the rigorous schedule of cat legislators entitles them to periodic breaks in addition to their 18 scheduled hours of sleep per day.

"Our Founding Toms understood that certain provisions must be made in the interest of the public good," congressional spokescat Georgina said. "Democracy is not always so cut and dried. Sunbeams are going to happen. Vacuum cleaners are going to happen. Those little springy wires with a piece of cardboard at the end are going to happen. It's simply the way the system works."

According to late reports, the Cat Congress had briefly reconvened due to cloudy weather, but was quickly adjourned again after a crumpled up piece of aluminum foil suddenly rolled across the Senate floor.

Oklahoma Entrepreneur

Just trying to make a living:
OKLAHOMA CITY -- A veteran of the Iraq War faces numerous charges after prosecutors said he videotaped himself setting off bombs and talking about it.

Prosecutors said Steven Jordal, 24, was making the bombs to make money and hoped the videos would help him line up business. He's charged with manufacturing explosive devices.

...Jordal served one tour of duty in Iraq. Prosecutors said that's where he started to learn about improvised explosives.

Prosecutors said he had a price list that detailed what he would charge for various types of explosive devices, including a car bomb for $400. They said he estimated he would make close to $43,000 a year selling the devices.

Roman Polanski Arrested

Amazing - the Dead Hand of the justice system finally catches up with the fugitive.

If by seeing Paris Hilton go to prison we can work up a lot of schadenfreude, we can do the same with Roman Polanski.

Life's A Whole Lot Different On The Inside

Less deference, for example:
Allen Stanford's jail woes continue. The accused $7 billion Ponzi schemer sustained minor injuries after getting into a fight last week, reports the Houston Chronicle.

It's not clear how the fight between Stanford and the other inmate got started. But the one-time billionaire banker looks to have gotten the worst of it -- he was the only one taken to the hospital, with bruising and other superficial injuries.

...Since going to jail in July, Stanford has complained about the conditions, including the heat, and has now twice been hospitalized, the first time because of an elevated heart rate. In addition, his one-time defense lawyer, the heavy-hitting Dick DeGuerin, has quit the case because Stanford, with his assets frozen, could not guarantee that DeGuerin would be paid.

Sac Bee "Seussical" Review

"Cool Cat":
The Cat in the Hat (the magical Kevin Caravalho, clearly enjoying the romp) leads the show, which starts with an imaginative little kid named Jojo (Ana Chan) from Whoville, who thinks things unimaginable to ordinary, unimaginative types.

The story � seemingly all in her imagination � centers around Horton the elephant (sweetly comic Kyle Hadley), who finds himself in a double bind, trying to help his tiny friend Jojo (and all the other invisible Whos) when their too-tiny-to-see world lands on a clover he has picked.

At the same time, he's guarding an abandoned egg left in his care by the lazy Mayzie La Bird (Kay Hight).

Horton, faithful and true, tries desperately to fulfill his obligations despite cold, rain and ridicule. He's even kidnapped and sold to Circus McGurkus (Steve Isaacson in one of several fine roles, including Judge Yertle the Turtle and the Grinch).

As might be expected in a cast that involves both children and adults, the acting can be uneven, with the adults faring better.

There's no question that Caravalho is the standout. His ad-libs (sniffing a sparkly glove and proclaiming it smells of "Bubbles and Macaulay Culkin"), for example, are edgy and exciting. What won't he say?

Chan seems rightly cast as the imaginative Jojo, too. She's just a little shy but obviously capable of big "thinks."

A Few "Seussical" Pictures With The New Camera

Kyle Hadley (Horton the Elephant) and the four Bird Girls (Eimi Stokes, Christina Rae, Chanel Charity, and Monica Parisi).
The four Bird Girls (Monica Parisi, Chanel Charity, Christina Rae, and Eimi Stokes).

The Whos. Michael Yambrovich, Gerald Shearman, Christine Deamer, Jan Isaacson, Karina Summers, William C., Riley S., Kristofer Y., Victoria Shao, Jason Hammond (The Mayor of Whoville), Elena L. (Cindy Lou Who), and Erin Renfree-Davis (Mrs. Mayor).

Erin Renfree-Davis (Mrs. Mayor), Jason Hammond (The Mayor of Whoville), various Sneetches, and Kyle Hadley (Horton the Elephant).

The Whos, left to right: Karina Summers, Riley S., Jeffrey Lloyd Heatherly, Elena L., Christine Deamer, Ana C. (JoJo) Jennifer Berry, William C., Kristofer Y., Jason Hammond (The Mayor of Whoville), and Erin Renfree-Davis (Mrs. Mayor).