Saturday, October 24, 2009

Kylie Fan Shares Vegas Story

Via YouTube, a Kylie fan who was also at the Las Vegas concert at the Palms Pearl Concert Theatre on October 3rd shares his most-unusual experience about queueing early and meeting great people. The 'Better The Devil You Know' video he refers to is here:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Leave Us Alone; We're Busy

We said leave us alone!:
WASHINGTON - Federal investigators are scrambling to determine what happened aboard a Northwest Airlines jetliner whose crew flew 150 miles past its destination while air traffic controllers, other pilots and even a flight attendant back in the cabin tried to get their attention.

Investigators don't know whether the pilots may have fallen asleep, but National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Keith Holloway said today that fatigue and cockpit distraction will be looked into.

...The crew told authorities they were distracted during a heated discussion over airline policy, the NTSB said.

Wednesday night, the airliner with more than 140 passengers aboard zoomed past Minneapolis at 37,000 feet at what was supposed to be the end of a flight from San Diego. Worried about who was actually at the controls, officials asked the crew to prove who they were by executing turns after they finally were contacted.

On the ground, police and FBI agents prepared for the worst, and the Air National Guard put fighter jets on alert at two locations as the drama unfolded.

Pilots from two other planes in the vicinity were finally able to reach the pilots using a different radio frequency, a controllers union spokesman said. A flight attendant in the cabin also was able to contact them by intercom, said a source close to the investigation who wasn't authorized to talk publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

By that time, the Airbus A320 was over Eau Claire, Wis., and the pilots had been out of communication with air traffic controllers for over an hour. They turned back and landed safely in Minneapolis, the plane's scheduled destination.


Deborah writes:
Here's a favorite sign from Tucson, AZ.
"When Donna Lee's Studebaker broke down on the beach she took it in stride and was glad she brought her suit."

Art Imitates Life Imitates Art

Deborah likes neon, as seen here in "Diving".

And the neon diver still dives in Mesa!

"This Love" - The Veronicas

Exploring The Early History Of Hip Hop, With The Aid Of A Banjolele

Twenty percent of your midterm score will be based on this material.

Cheney's Recent Comments

Joan Walsh has the best take:
Where do I begin? How does a man who spent much of his vice presidency hiding in a secret bunker get off accusing the president of being "afraid"? How does a guy who got five deferments from service in Vietnam, because he famously had "other priorities," call someone else a coward? (Still, Chickenhawk Cheney had no problem sending other people's children off to die in needless wars.) How does a guy who dropped the ball on the Afghan war, letting Osama bin Laden escape and the Taliban retrench, blame someone else for "dithering" on Afghanistan?

I Like The Pugnacious Democrat

It's time to give Alan Grayson his due. We need stand-up representatives like him!

One of the most annoying things about periods of time when Republicans dominate national politics is having them question the patriotism of anyone and everyone who doesn't think exactly like them. Having a Democrat do the same could be problematic in the end.

On the other hand, we have just one Democratic officeholder doing it now, when we have (or have had) EVERY Republican officeholder doing it, aided 24/7 by the Right Wing Noise Machine. Turnabout is fair play.:
Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), however, believes that an enemies list is exactly where Fox belongs.

"Fox News and their Republican collaborators are the enemy of America," Grayson told MSNBC's Ed Schultz on Wednesday. "They're the enemy of anybody who cares about health care in this country, the enemy of anybody who cares about educating their children, the enemy of anybody who wants energy independence or anything good for this country. And certainly the enemy of peace, there's no doubt about that. They are the enemy."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Time To 'Think Of England'

OK Marc, it's time to think of something else besides women dancers - something like traffic engineering, for example, and this excellent example of a cloverstack interchange.

Unmata Tribal Fest 09

But I wasn't really looking for Kings dancers, as nice as they are. Instead, what I wanted to learn was - within a local Sacramento context, of course - what are the points of contact between Belly Dancing and Hip Hop?

This video single-handedly answers that question.

Sacramento Kings Dance Team Auditions

From July.

No, nothing to object to here, no sir!

Rogue Arctic Elephant On Questionable Rampage Impales A RINO

Movement conservative Sarah Palin chooses a different path than party conservative Richard Nixon took to win power within the Republican Party. Nixon worked within the party at all times, no matter what he may have felt. Palin doesn't see the need for that discipline. That's a bad sign for both Palin and for the Republican Party. Palin will no doubt learn the hard way about defying her party's elders (feeble as they may be these days) on important matters like endorsements:
Former Alaska GOP Gov. Sarah Palin on Thursday endorsed Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman over Dede Scozzafava, the Republican Party's choice, in the special election for New York’s 23rd congressional district.

“The people of the 23rd Congressional District of New York are ready to shake things up, and Doug Hoffman is coming on strong as Election Day approaches! He needs our help now,” Palin wrote in a statement that will be posted on her Facebook page late Thursday.

“I am very pleased to announce my support for Doug Hoffman in his fight to be the next Representative from New York's 23rd Congressional district. It's my honor to endorse Doug and to do what I can to help him win, including having my political action committee, SarahPAC, donate to his campaign the maximum contribution allowed by law,” Palin continued. “Our nation is at a crossroads, and this is once again a 'time for choosing.'”

Scozzafava has been plagued throughout her campaign by grassroots conservative activists who have questioned her credentials, and Palin is the latest in a slew of prominent national conservatives who have weighed in for Hoffman.

...“Political parties must stand for something. When Republicans were in the wilderness in the late 1970s, Ronald Reagan knew that the doctrine of ‘blurring the lines’ between parties was not an appropriate way to win elections,” she added, launching into an attack of the Republican Party.

“Unfortunately, the Republican Party today has decided to choose a candidate that more than blurs the lines, and there is no real difference between the Democrat and the Republican in this race. This is why Doug Hoffman is running on the Conservative Party's ticket,” she wrote. “Republicans and conservatives around the country are sending an important message to the Republican establishment in their outstanding grassroots support for Doug Hoffman: no more politics as usual.”

PC Run Amok

I agree that PC has run amok in Waiau. Rural communities have their own standards that should be given precedence here. As much as I like rabbits, in New Zealand, the original Paradise For Birds, they are pests. Rabbits there need to be flung, stomped, broken, and ground into a fine powdery meal. Do you see what they - rightfully - do to Cane Toads in Australia? Why should rabbits be any different?
In the contest, which is held each year to coincide with the start of the pig hunt, children see how far they can throw a dead rabbit.

But the RSPCA said the rabbit-throw sent a message to children that dead animals were fun and could legitimately be used as a form of entertainment.

Charles Cadwallader, animal cruelty inspector, said the rabbit-throw was also cruel.

"Do you throw your dead grandmother around for a joke at her funeral?" he said.

However, not everyone in the town agrees with the ban.

The organiser of the pig hunt, Jo Moriarty, said the decision to can the event was political correctness gone mad.

"You know, the children of the community here are fantastic, they love their animals," she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Ms Moriarty said children communities like Waiau had a better respect for animals because they are brought up with them.

Rabbits are considered to be pests in New Zealand.

The country has more than 30 million wild rabbits, which cause an estimated $22 million worth of damage. In Waiau there are farmers employed full time for rabbit eradication.

Theater Fundraising Meeting

Last night, the DMTC Fundraising Committee met. Committee members had different ideas regarding how best to raise funds, but there was general unanimity on the idea that the theater should have just as much money as possible! I'd issue a report to that effect, but it's probably best to just shut up and raise money.....

Yes, can't forget, the upcoming DMTC Karaoke (10/24) and Poker (11/7) fundraising nights!

We're Number One!: In Australia, They're Still At The Drunken Riding Mower Stage

A motorized menace:
DULUTH, Minn. (AP) -- A Minnesota man has pleaded guilty to driving his motorized La-Z-Boy chair while drunk. A criminal complaint says 62-year-old Dennis LeRoy Anderson told police he left a bar in the northern Minnesota town of Proctor on his chair after drinking eight or nine beers.

Prosecutors say Anderson's blood alcohol content was 0.29, more than three times the legal limit, when he crashed into a parked vehicle in August 2008. He was not seriously injured.

Police said the chair was powered by a converted lawnmower and had a stereo and cup holders.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Heather Sweetland stayed 180 days of jail time Monday and ordered two years of probation for Anderson.

The Internet Neighborhood Is A Cozy Place

After posting the blog entry about the "Cary Grant" biography, the author Marc Elliot E-Mailed just to say hi!

Slipperier Than An Eel

Or never there to begin with:
The UK's biggest ever investigation of sex trafficking failed to find a single person who had forced anybody into prostitution in spite of hundreds of raids on sex workers in a six-month campaign by government departments, specialist agencies and every police force in the country.

The failure has been disclosed by a Guardian investigation which also suggests that the scale of and nature of sex trafficking into the UK has been exaggerated by politicians and media.

Current and former ministers have claimed that thousands of women have been imported into the UK and forced to work as sex slaves, but most of these statements were either based on distortions of quoted sources or fabrications without any source at all.

...The analysis, produced by the police Human Trafficking Centre in Sheffield and marked "restricted", suggests there was a striking shortage of sex traffickers to be found in spite of six months of effort by all 55 police forces in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland together with the UK Border Agency, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, the Foreign Office, the Northern Ireland Office, the Scottish government, the Crown Prosecution Service and various NGOs in what was trumpeted as "the largest ever police crackdown on human trafficking".

The analysis reveals that 10 of the 55 police forces never found anyone to arrest. And 122 of the 528 arrests announced by police never happened: they were wrongly recorded either through honest bureaucratic error or apparent deceit by forces trying to chalk up arrests which they had not made. Among the 406 real arrests, more than half of those arrested (230) were women, and most were never implicated in trafficking at all.

Of the 406 real arrests, 153 had been released weeks before the police announced the success of the operation: 106 of them without any charge at all and 47 after being cautioned for minor offences. Most of the remaining 253 were not accused of trafficking: 73 were charged with immigration breaches; 76 were eventually convicted of non-trafficking offences involving drugs, driving or management of a brothel; others died, absconded or disappeared off police records.

Although police described the operation as "the culmination of months of planning and intelligence-gathering from all those stakeholders involved", the reality was that, during six months of national effort, they found only 96 people to arrest for trafficking, of whom 67 were charged.

Forty-seven of those never made it to court.

Only 22 people were finally prosecuted for trafficking, including two women who had originally been "rescued" as supposed victims. Seven of them were acquitted. The end result was that, after raiding 822 brothels, flats and massage parlours all over the UK, Pentameter finally convicted of trafficking a grand total of only 15 men and women.

Police claimed that Pentameter used the international definition of sex trafficking contained in the UN's Palermo protocol, which involves the use of coercion or deceit to transport an unwilling man or woman into prostitution. But, in reality, Pentameter used a very different definition, from the UK's 2003 Sexual Offences Act, which makes it an offence to transport a man or woman into prostitution even if this involves assisting a willing sex worker.

Internal police documents reveal that 10 of Pentameter's 15 convictions were of men and women who were jailed on the basis that there was no evidence of their coercing the prostitutes they had worked with. There were just five men who were convicted of importing women and forcing them to work as prostitutes. These genuinely were traffickers, but none of them was detected by Pentameter, although its investigations are still continuing.

Two of them — Zhen Xu and Fei Zhang — had been in custody since March 2007, a clear seven months before Pentameter started work in October 2007.

The other three, Ali Arslan, Edward Facuna and Roman Pacan, were arrested and charged as a result of an operation which began when a female victim went to police in April 2006, well over a year before Pentameter Two began, although the arrests were made while Pentameter was running.

The head of the UK Human Trafficking Centre, Grahame Maxwell, who is chief constable of North Yorkshire, acknowledged the importance of the figures: "The facts speak for themselves. I'm not trying to argue with them in any shape or form," he said.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Seagull Takes Unexpected Interest In The News

Channel Nine, Melbourne, faces a new avian dilemma.

How To Aggravate A Judge

By blaming someone else:
Bernard B. Kerik, the city’s former police commissioner, was sent to jail Tuesday by a federal judge who said Mr. Kerik had leaked sealed information from his future criminal trial as part of an attempt to generate public sympathy.

Judge Stephen C. Robinson of Federal District Court in White Plains revoked Mr. Kerik’s $500,000 bail and delivered a withering criticism of Mr. Kerik from the bench, describing him as a “toxic combination of self-minded focus and arrogance.”

“And I fear that combination leads him to believe his ends justify his means,” Judge Robinson said. “He sees the court’s rulings as an inconvenience, something to be ignored, and an obstacle to be circumvented.”

Mr. Kerik, 54, who was once President Bush’s top choice to lead the Department of Homeland Security, faces three criminal trials in federal court. Jury selection in the first trial — in which he faces corruption, conspiracy and tax fraud charges — is to begin on Monday.

Judge Robinson said Mr. Kerik had violated the terms of his bail in providing the sealed information to a New Jersey lawyer who has helped raise money for Mr. Kerik’s defense but is not formally part of the defense team.

The lawyer, Anthony K. Modafferi III, e-mailed the material to The Washington Times in an effort to generate coverage that would disparage prosecutors, Judge Robinson said. The judge did not reveal the nature of the information, which remains under seal, but said the newspaper did not publish any of it.

...Interestingly, both the judge and the defendant worked under former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. Mr. Kerik was appointed commissioner of the Correction and Police Departments by Mr. Giuliani and later worked at Mr. Giuliani’s private consulting firm. In the 1980s, Judge Robinson served as a federal prosecutor under Mr. Giuliani, who was then the United States attorney in Manhattan.

...Prosecutors have alleged that while Mr. Kerik was correction commissioner, a construction company paid for renovations at his home in the Bronx in the hope that he would help the company obtain a city license.

Mr. Kerik also faces federal charges that he failed to report more than $500,000 in income while he was in charge of the Correction and Police Departments, and that he provided false information while being considered for the nomination as secretary of homeland security.

Mr. Kerik has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges. In 2006, he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors in state court stemming from the apartment renovation.

The issue of leaked material in the first federal case had been brewing for some time.

Last year, prosecutors accused another lawyer, who was not formally involved in the Kerik case, of passing confidential information, which they said he had obtained from Mr. Kerik, to potential witnesses. At that time, Judge Robinson threatened Mr. Kerik with jail if he ever again violated the consent order barring parties in the case from revealing confidential information about it.

Last month, Judge Robinson asked the defense team to submit briefs about the e-mail message from Mr. Modafferi.

“My thought is the relationship between Mr. Modafferi and Mr. Kerik has little to do with legal counsel,” the judge said at the time. “He’s hired Mr. Modafferi as a propagandist and chief fund-raiser.”

On Tuesday, Michael F. Bachner, a lawyer for Mr. Kerik, argued that the consent order was vague. Defense lawyers said that the e-mail message that Mr. Kerik sent to Mr. Modafferi was labeled “confidential” and that Mr. Kerik believed that Mr. Modafferi would understand that it could not be made public.

“There is no way that Mr. Kerik would engage in conduct that was bound to be discovered, and he had no reason to anger this court,” Mr. Bachner said.

Mr. Bachner later added, “Mr. Modafferi ran with that ball on his own, which nobody condoned.”

Judge Robinson’s rejection of that position went on at considerable length. He quoted much of Shakespeare’s Sonnet No. 29 in likening Mr. Kerik to a man who, “in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes,” laments his “outcast state.”

...Thomas A. Reppetto, who co-wrote a history of the Police Department, said Mr. Kerik was the first former city police commissioner to be put in jail, and would be the first to be convicted of a crime should he be found guilty.

“There have been investigations, but nothing like this,” said Mr. Reppetto.

There Is A Frog Somewhere In My Back Yard

As long as I had rabbits, cats, and dogs living with me, the amphibians stayed away. But now that there are just handfuls of birds (plus the odd cat from next door) passing through the back yard, the amphibians are finally starting to make their move....

I Prefer To Starve, Thank You

Today, I am wandering through a dense thicket of gratuitous advice from the Government of Canada. Example:
Eating well on outings

•Don't start a strenuous activity on an empty stomach.
•If the activity is longer than three hours, plan to bring along at least a snack.
•Bring foods that are easy to carry and provide plenty of energy, such as citrus fruits or carrot and turnip sticks.
•Don't forget something to drink, exercise causes the body to lose moisture. Fatigue can be a sign of dehydration.

Playing Doctor On The Internet

I'm guessing I injured my left ankle's tibial anterior ligament.

Not that I'd ever talk to a doctor about it, if I have a choice. 'Cause what are they going to say? "Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation, yada-yada-yada."

I should probably change the blogpost title to "Using The Internet As A Health Resource".

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Retirement Investments Recovering

The rally on Wall Street has gone on long enough that my 401(K) is beginning to look viable again. The big question, though, is why. If anything, the real economy continues to deteriorate. Surely the improvement can't last.....

Probably best not to gaze too long into the mouth of the gift horse, lest it all disappear again.....

RIP, Vic Mizzy

Wherever there's a rerun, there he is!:
Burlingame on Monday described the themes for "The Addams Family" and "Green Acres" as "two of the best-remembered sitcom themes of all time."

"Vic was an old-school songwriter who believed in melody and hummability," Burlingame said. "He thought that people ought to be able to easily remember a theme.

"Vic was one of the wittiest composers I ever met, and he had an uncanny ability to incorporate his own personal sense of humor into his music."

Mizzy's use of bass harmonica and fuzz guitar in the music of "Green Acres," for example, "was somehow perfect for that show's setting, and it only added to the humor of the situations," Burlingame said.

In the case of "The Addams Family," he said, "you've got the harpsichord, which lends this antique, sort of macabre quality to the theme. But then you add the lyrics, which make it funny. So you have the perfect combination of macabre and amusing. It was just right for that show's sensibility."

Cary Grant: A Biography, By Marc Elliot

I finished reading this book, which I read at the insistence of my friend Jetta, who said: “You’ve got to read this book! You’ve GOT to read this book!!”

And she was right!

It's amazing, considering how pinched the circumstances most people faced during the Depression, just how expansive and interesting a life that Briton Archibald Leach (aka Cary Grant) was able to fashion for himself, based on his grace (he started life in the circus as a stiltwalker), his physical conditioning, his fine acting talent, and his extraordinary good looks. His father and family could be cruel to him too: told that his mother had unexpectedly died when he was ten, her continued existence was not revealed to him for twenty years. One strange life!

Amazing too are the number of film roles that Cary Grant rejected - the Reject Filmography. The history of cinema would have been much, much different had Grant changed his mind. "The Music Man" with Cary Grant instead of Robert Preston would have been - truly different!

Here are excerpts from another review, by Anthony D'Amato that does better justice to the subject (even as he pushes a theory of androgyny that doesn't necessarily work for me):

First and most obviously, Grant was your basic bisexual. He lived openly with Randolph Scott and had serial affairs with other men. He also married, for love, five women. “Every one of my wives left me”, he told The New York Times in 1971.

In addition to the five Mrs Grants, Cary became totally smitten with several of his leading ladies such as Katharine Hepburn, Irene Dunne, Eva Marie Saint, Sophia Loren, and Grace Kelly. It’s noteworthy that every one of these world-class beauties rejected his passionate advances. Was it because they detected a certain insincerity in Grant? An incapacity for true love? One cannot tell on the screen what Cary Grant is really thinking – a mysteriousness that’s indeed part of his magnetism. He could make screen love to a tarantula and do it just as convincingly as with Kate, Sophia, or Grace.

Prior to The Awful Truth ([Leo McCarey] 1937), a romantic male who was at once charming, intelligent, romantic, sensitive, witty, sexy, rascally, and as beautiful as a leading lady simply did not exist in American movies.

Hollywood’s first generation of leading men, Eliot continues, were the courtly European types with sculpted moustaches such as Ronald Colman, elderly lechers like Adolphe Menjou, or devilish hedonists like Rudolph Valentino. Then as the talkies took over in the early 1930s, the image shifted toward the humorless hunk – Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Gregory Peck, and John Wayne.

Although these guy types may have represented the ideal male of the era, there was nothing remotely androgynous about any of them. Eliot quotes Andrew Britton, writing in Cine-Action, who nailed the Cary Grant difference:

Grant’s performance in The Awful Truth (co-starring Irene Dunne) was “remarkable for the extent to which gender characteristics assigned to women could be presented as being desirable and attractive in a man.”

This androgyny made for high-voltage comedy on the screen as Cary Grant and Irene Dunne continually tried to one-up each other. But the lasting impact of the film and those that were to follow was on world culture – it was OK for men to be like Cary Grant.

The third component of my androgyny theory is the consummate care that Grant took with his image, both on screen and off. He only wore custom-made suits and shirts. Eliot tells us: “He advised men who wanted to emulate him to never wear suspenders, belts, or garters but instead to go with hidden waist-tabs to keep their pants up and straight.” His most important obsession was keeping his waist slim. He also carried a toothbrush with him at all times, and after a smoke or after lunch or dinner with his friends, he would excuse himself and go to the men’s room to brush his teeth. He worked out every day. He paid as much attention to his face as Marilyn Monroe paid to hers. During the filming of Blonde Venus (1932), director Josef von Sternberg took a comb and parted Grant’s hair on the right side rather than the left, the way Grant had always combed it before. For the rest of his life Grant kept his hair that way. I had never noticed the right-sided parting until Eliot’s book brought it to my attention. However, I have always noticed subliminally that there was something magnetic about Grant’s hair, something that created a pleasant kind of tension. It’s like the well-placed beauty mole near Cindy Crawford’s lips – the mole that made her a model.

...There was no “method” in Grant’s acting of the kind we might associate with the early Marlon Brando. Grant was a “natural” actor, which means he had to work furiously hard in order to appear natural. In this respect he reminds me of the sublime natural actress Nicole Kidman. What made it especially hard for Grant, however, was that his naturalism was based on an androgynous model that he was inventing at the same time that he was trying to be true to it. He was his own work-in-progress.

...In addition to being a natural actor, Grant was an interactive actor. He worried over the scripts, taking notes and discussing lines with his directors. He came up with witty lines not only for himself but for his co-stars. Some directors are annoyed when the actor on the set “knows better”. But the best directors, such as Alfred Hitchcock, positively welcome creative input from the actors. Indeed, Hitchcock cast his movies on the expectation that by choosing great actors, they would make important contributions to the production. It should come as no surprise that Hitchcock’s all-time favourite actor was Cary Grant.

As if to return the favour, Cary Grant gave the best performances of his career in films directed by Hitchcock: Suspicion (1941), Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955), and North by Northwest (1959). Marc Eliot’s favourite is North by Northwest; mine is Notorious.

When he was directing movies in London, Hitchcock watched Grant’s movies with great interest. On the other side of the pond, Grant was an avid student of Hitchcock’s films. When Hitchcock came over permanently to Hollywood in 1939, he lost no time in contacting Grant for a new project eventually called Suspicion. Hitchcock’s interest in Grant was not just because of marquee power. Rather, Hitchcock saw something in Grant’s screen performances that wasn’t there.

What Hitchcock saw, as Eliot so well describes, was the possibility of a hidden dark interior in Grant’s screen persona. Given the right role, Hitchcock thought, the dark interior could be brought out and pitted against the light comedic exterior, with the result that Grant would be a walking composite of precisely the good vs. evil tension that makes a screen thriller exciting. The audience would be torn between rooting for Grant as the good guy and hating him for being the bad guy. And Grant, with his precise facial control and body language, would be the person to pull off this feat.

...Maybe the hardest thing to do in criticising a movie is to imagine what it would be like with a different actor playing the lead. Would The Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean, 1957) have been improved if Grant hadn’t turned down the William Holden role? I think so, to the following extent: that Grant would have been better playing off against Alec Guinness and making him more believable. Holden’s serviceable acting gave Guinness too much room to sail off into the domain of the comic book. Grant also rejected the lead in The Music Man (Morton DaCosta, 1962), which then was given to Robert Preston. Preston was splendid in the role he had originated on the Broadway stage, and his comedic timing was as good as Grant’s would have been. But the musical sags badly when Preston tries to romance the town librarian Shirley Jones. Preston is simply not believable; he looks too old and worn for her. Grant would have been completely believable and the movie at that point would have soared instead of sagged. But get this: Grant was in fact fourteen years older than Preston.

I could go on and on with the Reject Filmography of Cary Grant. Let me list just a few with the name of the actor who eventually got the lead role:

Around the World in Eighty Days (Michael Anderson, 1956) – David Niven
Can-Can (Walter Lang, 1960) – Frank Sinatra
Guys and Dolls (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1955) – Marlon Brando
Lolita (Stanley Kubrick, 1962) – James Mason
My Fair Lady (George Cukor, 1964) – Rex Harrison
Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953) – Gregory Peck
Sabrina (Billy Wilder, 1954) – Humphrey Bogart
A Star is Born (George Cukor, 1954) – James Mason
What’s Up, Doc? (Peter Bogdanovich, 1972) – Ryan O’Neal

These films are all-time classics. Could they actually have been improved if Grant had accepted the lead role? Readers can answer this question for themselves. It is a question we perhaps would not even think of asking of any other movie star.

Warmest September, Evah! (At Least, Until Next Year)

Plus, California had it's warmest September on record.

Worldwide, it was the second-warmest September on record.

California, Land Of Extremes

Egads! Nothing for the Tehachapis?

Superconducting Trains

John writes:
Hey Marc,

This is pretty bizarre. It made some degree of sense until it was turned upside down. Any thoughts?
My reply:

Here’s another YouTube video - longer, and in English.

I’ve forgotten enough physics that it seems like magic to me. Apparently the key is what kind of magnetic field you first induce in the superconducting material. Once it’s locked in, it will maintain it, since current in the superconductor has no resistance. Magically that translates to maintenance of a fixed distance, no matter what direction the gravitational force is. Think of the roller coaster fun you can have with that!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sixties Nostalgia: Do It Yourself Cartoon Kit

It's less than two weeks before I reach 53 years of age! Fifty-three freakin' years! What, after all this time has passed, have I learned? Do I have any wisdom to convey to today's youth?

It's funny what sticks with you after half a century of sunrises and sunsets. I remember one tedious New Mexico evening, watching television, sometime around 1964. I think I was watching NBC's 'Friday Night At The Movies'. Occasionally, if the night's film was rather short, they had time for an extra short film or cartoon, and that night they had the funniest cartoon ever: Bob Godfrey's "Do It Yourself Cartoon Kit", which apparently dates from 1961.

FUNNY! What I most remember was their crude, jerky illustration of animated arm movement. The movement required maybe three or four separate drawings, but it was coupled with the outrageous claim that eight million separate drawings were required to make it. The brazenness of the claim made me double up with laughter! Plus, the cartoon is THE direct ancestor of Terry Gilliam's animation style, as used by Monty Python. As a historical relic it is even more important than the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.

But is the cartoon available on the Internet?

YouTube used to have it, but copyright claims have shut it down. Increasingly desperate, I turned to that one place where copyright claims seem to have no weight - yes, China! Yes, this Chinese Web Site hosts the "Do It Yourself Cartoon Kit", and for 500 guineas and an Australian wombat, you too can watch it. The first play is very jerky due to the slow download speed, and eventually the site virtually locks up your computer, but for a short interval, for the second through fourth plays, you too can drink in the style of comedy that eventually made Monty Python the epitome of British humor and helped relieve the tedium of a New Mexican childhood.

After 53 years, that is all I know. I'll get back to you after another 53 years.

Damned Environmentalists

This annoys me:
Reporting from El Centro, Calif. - Across the desert flatlands of southeastern California, dozens of companies have flooded federal offices with applications to place solar mirrors on more than a million acres of public land.

But just as some of those projects appear headed toward fruition, environmental hurdles threaten to jeopardize efforts to further tap the region's renewable energy potential.

The development of solar-power facilities in the desert has been a top priority of the Obama administration as it seeks to ease the nation's dependence on fossil fuels and curb global warming. In addition, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has urged that the state meet one-third of its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2020.

Companies are racing to finalize their permits and break ground by the end of next year, which would qualify them to obtain some of the $15 billion in federal stimulus funds designated for renewable energy projects. At stake is the creation of 48,000 jobs and more than 5,300 megawatts of new energy, enough to power almost 1.8 million homes, according to federal land managers.

But the presence of sensitive habitat, rare plants and imperiled creatures such as desert tortoises, bighorn sheep and flat-tailed horned lizards threatens to stall or derail some of the projects closest to securing permits.

"There are significant environmental issues involved in the California gold rush-like scenario unfolding in the desert," said Peter Galvin, conservation director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "We are not going to just roll over when critical wild lands and last habitats of endangered species are in the mix."

...Even further along in the permitting process is BrightSource Energy, which plans to start construction in March on a 6-square-mile solar facility in eastern San Bernardino County's Ivanpah Valley.

BrightSource says the site is ideal, in part because it has been used for cattle grazing and off-road vehicles. It also has a major gas line and two major transmission lines.

Ivanpah is "a showcase of world-class technology and environmentally friendly development, and serves as a catalyst for economic growth," said company spokesman Keely Wachs.

But environmental groups say it would destroy what they see as a relatively pristine habitat that is home to a colony of about 30 threatened California desert tortoises. It is also studded with endangered cactuses, including varieties of cholla, a ground-hugging species also known as "horse tripper."

Of particular concern are BrightSource's plans to move the California desert tortoises. Environmentalists say the tortoises often die as a result of attempts to relocate them.

The Sierra Club has recommended that the company instead develop its facility in wide open, ecologically disturbed areas a few miles to the east, next to Interstate 15.

"We believe there is room for solar energy development in the California desert," said Joan Taylor, chairwoman of the Sierra Club's California/Nevada desert energy committee. "But there is no reason to put it in the wrong place."

BrightSource is "very concerned about the welfare of the desert tortoise," Wachs said, adding that the company has worked extensively with regulators and environmental groups to come up with a strategy that protects the species.

State and federal regulatory agencies are reviewing BrightSource's tortoise relocation plan, but one state official was critical of the project's location.

"BrightSource did not choose an ideal site. They are going to have to do some serious mitigation," said Dan Pellissier, Schwarzenegger's deputy secretary for energy and development.

He said the state energy commission and Bureau of Land Management "are working on a plan" that would require the company to buy three acres of habitat elsewhere for each acre developed. "It looks like we'll get them through" the permitting stages, he said, "and we'll end up with a responsible process that will keep us from ever allowing this to happen again."

Meanwhile, pressure to approve solar plants continues to mount in Bureau of Land Management offices throughout Southern California.

"Bullying us to step up the pace won't help," said Greg Miller, head of a new team created to speed up the bureau's permitting of renewable energy projects. "We're going to do this right; this land belongs to the American people."
The trouble with the Sierra Club's proposal is that all that nice, suitable land next to I-15 they'd instead prefer to sacrifice for development is very likely playa lake bed. The land is effectively desolate, but the place floods - not often, but often enough to play havoc with equipment and cause lots of damage! What does the Sierra Club prefer to do about all the damage?

And what does this mean?:
"It looks like we'll get them through" the permitting stages, he said, "and we'll end up with a responsible process that will keep us from ever allowing this to happen again."
There is no land, anywhere, that will not have the same issues crop up, again and again. Solar power collection surfaces take up a lot of space, no matter what. It's a feature, not a bug. If it's a problem in the Mojave, think how much bigger a problem it would be - wherever!

This is all just so annoying. Conservation is the answer, of course, but who listens anyway?

It's time to hear from "The Knights Who Say 'Ni'":

Ramshackle Zoos

Popular and pathetic:
GAZA—Something didn't quite look right about the zebra, but it was hard to say exactly what. Of the several ramshackle zoos in Gaza, Marah, located not far from the Bureij refugee camp, is by far the cheeriest: The animals are lively, the enclosures clean, and children gather around the cage of a resting lion.

Then again, the competition is hardly stiff: The zoo in Rafah features dead animals left to rot in their cages; another animal park, situated in a densely populated neighborhood in Bureij, recently shut down amid financial difficulties (and after neighbors complained of the smell). A third, also in Bureij, is so short of funds that a fox is kept in a grocery cart with a board over the top.

Yet Marah, with its broken-down bumper cars and a pit filled with sadly deflated balls, had its own not-quite-right feel—particularly the zebra. Standing near the back of its cage, facing away from the spectators, the animal kept its head tucked down.

"It's really a painted donkey," admitted Mahmud Berghat, the director of Marah, when asked about the creature. Making a fake zebra isn't easy—henna didn't work and wood paint was deemed inhumane, so they finally settled on human hair dye. "We cut its hair short and then painted the stripes," Berghat explained behind the closed door of his office.

It did the trick—if not for zoologists, then at least for legions of Gaza schoolchildren who have never seen a real zebra. When I asked him whether anyone had ever caught the ruse, the director admitted that two sharp university students had IDed the counterfeit creature. "But don't tell anyone," he said. "The children love him."

The idea of a zoo creating a fake zebra sounds preposterous, but this is Gaza, which, after two years of an economic blockade, is renowned for recycling, repurposing, and smuggling just about anything that can't be imported legally. The zoo, in a way, represents all three of these coping mechanisms: a couple of house cats stand in for wild cats; the lion was drugged and smuggled through a tunnel from Egypt; and the zebra, as Berghat joked, was "locally made."

Rings, And Moons, and Shadows, Oh My!

John sends this link to spectacular pictures of Saturn from the Cassini mission.

Commisserating With Tourette's

Sometimes I think I have a mild form of Tourette's Syndrome. I'll start shouting "bitch!" and shorten it midstream to "bit!" People say "what?" and I say "oh, nothing...." Or at home I'll shout "money!" for no particular reason, or start reciting DMTC's or my indebtedness with a glazed-eye mumble, or state grandly "Ronald Reagan is dead!" But, in public, I keep this side under control.

As I get older and older I care less and less what the public thinks. I mean, who cares, after all? Someday, I'll just let rip....:
Former nightclub bouncer Paul Stevenson was busying himself as a stay-at-home dad when Tourette syndrome turned his life upside down at age 46.

Until the start of this year he had shown no signs of the expletive-laden and often "bizarre" outbursts which now form a constant part of his daily routine.

The father-of-three now shouts "I'm a gay man" as he wakes next to his wife in the morning and can't prevent himself from swearing in front of his young children.

...But the ex-doorman believes certain mild symptoms were not spotted in his youth and that his now severe condition was triggered by the trauma of his best friend committing suicide in March.

Mr Stevenson, of Scremerston, near Berwick, Northumberland, said: "He was like a brother to me, so the news of his death hit me really bad.

...In August he was finally diagnosed as having Tourette syndrome with Coprolalia, which is the form of the condition which involves involuntary swearing.

...Mr Stevenson, who is originally from Darwen in Lancashire, said he was determined to come to terms with the dramatic change in his life, despite admitting to a current reluctance to leave his home.

He said: "Other than attempting to suppress the urge, I have no control over what I'm going to say and the tic is like a lottery machine in that it just says what pops into your mind.

..."I was speaking to a police officer recently and shouted out 'I sell drugs to kids'.

"I realise that it is bizarre and that it can be humorous but I can despair at times.

"People have followed me in the street thinking it's funny and obviously some people just stare at you like you're from a different planet.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Analyzing Conservatives

Among their many other complaints, conservatives often feel like liberals patronize them, and this analysis could fit that mold. Nevertheless, it is an interesting analysis, with some insights.

Liberal that I am, I dismiss most of the concerns conservatives have regarding Obama, and find their kvetching to be fairly hallucinatory. Obama is a pretty conservative fellow, in the end - how can one make him more liberal? - is what I wonder. I am more disturbed by conservative penchant to misremember recent history and to concoct political fables explaining recent events. That will be where the trouble comes....:
The Very Separate World of Conservative Republicans
Why Republican Leaders will have Trouble Speaking to the Rest of America

The self-identifying conservative Republicans who make up the base of the Republican Party stand a world apart from the rest of America, according to focus groups conducted by Democracy Corps. These base Republican voters dislike Barack Obama to be sure - which is not very surprising as base Democrats had few positive things to say about George Bush - but these voters identify themselves as part of a ‘mocked’ minority with a set of shared beliefs and knowledge, and commitment to oppose Obama that sets them apart from the majority in the country.

They believe Obama is ruthlessly advancing a ‘secret agenda’ to bankrupt the United States and dramatically expand government control to an extent nothing short of socialism. While these voters are disdainful of a Republican Party they view to have failed in its mission, they overwhelmingly view a successful Obama presidency as the destruction of this country’s founding principles and are committed to seeing the president fail.

Instead of focusing on these intense ideological divisions, the press and elites continue to look for a racial element that drives these voters’ beliefs – but they need to get over it. Conducted on the heels of Joe Wilson’s incendiary comments at the president’s joint session address, we gave these groups of older, white Republican base voters in Georgia full opportunity to bring race into their discussion – but it did not ever become a central element, and indeed, was almost
beside the point.

The Republican base voters are not part of the continuum leading to the center of the electorate: they truly stand apart. For additional perspective, Democracy Corps conducted a parallel set of groups in suburban Cleveland. These groups, comprised of older, white, non-college independents and weak partisans, represent some of the most conservative swing voters in the electorate, and they demonstrated a wholly different worldview from Republican base voters by dismissing the fear of “socialism” and evaluating Obama in very different terms. Most importantly, regardless of their personal feelings toward Obama or how they voted in 2008, they very much want to see him succeed because they believe the country desperately needs the change he promised in his campaign. Though we kept discussion points constant between the two sets of groups, on virtually every point of discussion around President Obama and the major issues facing our country, these two audiences simply saw the world in fundamentally different ways – underscoring the extreme disconnect of the conservative Republican base voters.

Despite this growing disconnect, the base voters remain relevant – particularly for Republican elected officials who must face them at home. The conservative Republican base represents almost one-in-five voters in the electorate, and nearly two out of every three self identified Republicans. The universe of our focus groups is representative of this conservative Republican base.

Ideologically, these voters possess a deeply engrained conservatism. In our
favorability exercise, they give the National Rifle Association a 74.3 mean rating on a 100-point scale, and pro-life, anti abortion groups a mean score of 61.8. They have extremely low feelings toward gay marriage, rating it even lower than they rate the state of the economy, and almost all – 90 percent – oppose health care reform out of hand.

These views are more than matched by their views of President Obama: only 12 percent approve of his performance, 75 percent do not like him and 91 percent say the country is off on the wrong track. That is not out of line with how liberal Democrats viewed George W. Bush at a comparable time. But liberal Democrats are outnumbered by moderate Democrats (36 to 61 percent of all Democrats) and their reactions lacked the absolute and apocalyptic character of judgments about Obama.

First and foremost, these conservative Republican voters believe Obama is deliberately and ruthlessly advancing a ‘secret agenda’ to bankrupt our country and dramatically expand government control over all aspects of our daily lives. They view this effort in sweeping terms, and cast a successful Obama presidency as the destruction of the United States as it was conceived by our founders and developed over the past 200 years.

This concern combines with a profound sense of collective identity. In our conversations, it was striking how these voters constantly characterized themselves as part of a group of individuals who share a set of beliefs, a unique knowledge, and a commitment of opposition to Obama that sets them apart from the majority of the country. They readily identify themselves as a minority in this country – a minority whose values are mocked and attacked by a liberal media and class of elites. They also believe they possess a level of knowledge and understanding when it comes to politics and current events, one gained from a rejection of the mainstream media and an embrace of conservative media and pundits such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, which sets them apart even more. Further, they believe this position leaves them with a responsibility to spread the word, to educate those who do not share their insights, and to take back the country that they love. Their faith in this country and its ideals leave them confident that their numbers will grow, and that they will ultimately defeat Barack Obama and the shadowy forces driving his hidden agenda.

And yet remarkably, these voters had virtually nothing positive to say about the Republican Party. They see their own party as weak, old, and out of touch. They feel it has lost sight of conservative values and conservative voters and is in desperate need of new leadership. They identified a clear disconnect between ‘the people’ and ‘the politicians,’ which poses a growing threat to the party’s ability to challenge Democratic control in Washington. While they continue to defend George W. Bush personally, his presidency is an embarrassment to them and represents the culmination of a creeping betrayal of conservative values that started with the election of his father more than 20 years ago. The lionization of Ronald Reagan in these groups was as strong as we have seen for any political figure, as was the desperate desire for a new Reaganesque figure to lead them out of their current wilderness.

Looking at the current political debate, it was evident in our focus group discussions that the divide between conservative Republicans and even the most conservative-leaning independents remains very, very wide. Independents like those in our suburban Cleveland groups harbor doubts about Obama’s health care reform but are desperate to see some version of health care reform pass this year; the conservative Republicans view any health care reform as a victory for Obama and are militantly opposed. Asked about the issues of greatest importance to them in choosing a candidate for Congress, health care ranked sixth among the Republicans, below issues such as tax cuts, immigration, and a candidate’s personal values and faith; but for the independents, health care was number one.

The language they use further reflects this divide. Conservative Republicans fully embrace the ‘socialism’ attacks on Obama and believe it is the best, most accurate way to describe him and his agenda. Independents largely dismiss these attacks as partisan rhetoric detracting from a legitimate debate about what many of them do see as excessive government control and spending.

In the wake of Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst during the president’s joint session health care address and other strident personal and political attacks against President Obama, many in the media and Democratic circles advanced an explanation that this virulent opposition is rooted in racism and reactions to President Obama as an African American president. With this possibility in mind, we allowed for extended open-ended discussion on Obama (including visuals of him speaking) among voters – older, non-college, white, and conservative – who were most race conscious and score highest on scales measuring racial prejudice.

Race was barely raised, certainly not what was bothering them about President Obama. In fact, some of these voters talked about feeling some pride at his election. They were conscious of the charge that opposition to Obama is racially motivated and that bothered conservative Republicans and independents alike. They basically could not let it go and returned to this issue again and again throughout our conversations across myriad topics.

...They see this as a personal rights issue because the racism charge is being used to prevent them from fulfilling their duty to stand up to Obama and his agenda. They see no difference in the opposition Obama faces and the opposition other liberals have faced, because they believe it is based in the same unwavering, bedrock conservative principles that have always led them to oppose liberal policies.

...The conservative Republican base is deeply suspicious of Obama’s political success and true motivations. These questions were part of the conversation throughout the 2008 electioncycle, but now they feel their greatest fears are being realized, and they do not understand the lack of outcry from the rest of the country. They believe Obama is determined to fundamentally change and weaken our country, taking it away from its founding principles. Four central pillars support their beliefs:

Pillar #1 – Deception and a Hidden Agenda
Their feelings toward Obama are not simply a reflection of intense partisan differences. They are actively rooting for Obama to fail as president because they believe he is not acting in good faith as the leader of our country. Only 6 percent of these conservative Republican base voters say that Obama is on their side, and our groups showed that they explicitly believe he is purposely and ruthlessly executing a hidden agenda to weaken and ultimately destroy the foundations
of our country.

...Closely related to this well-established notion of a secret agenda is a hidden set of liberal elites or power brokers who have guided and directed Obama as a puppet, helping him to reach the highest office in the land. It is simply implausible to them that Obama has reached this position on his own without some greater force at work. ....

Pillar #2 – Speed
A key piece of the hidden agenda identified and detailed by conservative Republican voters in our focus groups was speed, which was linked to the larger pattern of deception detailed above. They believe Obama is pushing his agenda at record pace because he does not want the American people to know what he is doing. The decision to tackle so many major issues at once early in his term is born not out of necessity, but out of secrecy and political calculation. And the media is once again a key part of this strategy, refusing to expose information that might slow down his legislative march. ....

Pillar #3 – Driving Government to the Brink and Total Control
Conservative Republicans do not oppose Obama’s policies simply because they think
they are misguided or out of partisan fervor. Rather, they believe his policies are purposely designed to fail. When they look at the totality of his agenda, they see a deliberate effort to drive our country so deep into debt, to make the majority of Americans so dependent on the government, and to strip away so many basic constitutional rights that we are too weak to fight back and have to accept whatever solution he proposes. The numbers from our database also demonstrate this belief – 92 percent of these voters believe Obama is a “big spender” and only 17 percent
believe he has good plans for the economy. ....

Pillar #4 – The Ultimate Goal: Socialism and End to Liberties
There is no doubt in their minds that the ultimate goal of this strategy is to change our country to a socialist nation. In their minds, this is the key to truly understanding the Obama presidency and what is happening in our country today. Everything goes back to government control and Obama (aided by Democrats in Congress and the liberal media) seeking to systematically strip away individual rights and insert government into every aspect of our daily lives.

...The final, and in many ways most important, piece of evidence they cite is the planned government takeover of health care. The notion that Obama's health care reforms represent a government takeover of all aspects of health care is an article of faith; they reject as laughable the suggestion that it might not, pointing to his arguments to the contrary as further proof of his determination to lie and deceive to fulfill his ultimate agenda. Even after a description of the health care reform plan in our recent polling, these conservative Republican base voters reject it by a 59-point margin, with nearly two-thirds (64 percent) strongly opposed to reform (77 percent total opposed).

...One of the most telling differences between the partisan Republican groups and the independent groups was the language they used. Conservative Republicans fully embrace the ‘socialism’ attacks on Obama and believe it is the best, most accurate framework for describing him and his agenda. Independents largely dismiss these attacks as the kind of overblown partisan rhetoric that obscures the facts and only serves to cheapen the political discourse.

...The other dominant lesson that emerged from our focus groups and provides critical insight into the thinking of today’s partisan Republican voters is their clear sense of shared identity. In our focus group discussions, we quickly noted how they routinely used plural firstperson pronouns to describe a group of individuals (including all those in the room but extending far beyond those walls) who share a set of beliefs, knowledge, and commitment to oppose Obama that sets them apart from the majority of the country. Democrats may joke that Republicans seem to live on a different planet sometimes, but in some important ways, these Republicans
would happily agree.

...Conservative Republicans passionately believe that they represent a group of people who have been targeted by a popular culture and set of liberal elites – embodied in the liberal mainstream media – that mock their values and are actively working to advance the downfall of the things that matter most to them in their lives – their faith, their families, their country, and their freedom.

...The notion of a liberal media using its reach and power to advance a radical agenda is a given for these voters. If you do not see and understand this reality, you are not a part of their collective group and you cannot possibly understand the current political environment in our country. This creates an almost siege-like mentality, in which these conservative Republicans are always on the defensive, at all times looking for any slight against them and their beliefs and seeking to link it back to a broader effort rooted in the liberal media.

...A central part of the collective identity built by conservative Republicans in the current political environment is their belief that they possess knowledge and insight that the majority of Americans – whether too lazy or too misguided to find it for themselves – do not possess. A combination of conservative media outlets are the means by which they have gained this knowledge, led by FOX News (“the truth tellers“), and to a lesser degree conservative talk radio. Their antipathy and distrust toward the mainstream media could not be stronger, and they fiercely defend FOX as the only truly objective news outlet.

...The final aspect of the collective identity shared by conservative Republicans is the call to action. The attacks they suffer for their values and the special knowledge they share as a result of their devotion to conservative media and active rejection of mainstream media are ultimately meaningless if it does not help defeat Obama and his hidden agenda. This is where the sense of collective purpose is greatest. They see a nascent movement building, still not fully realized or activated but with a growing number of people watching and listening, growing increasingly frustrated, and looking for ways to stop the growing threat they perceive.

...The religious undertones to this language – planting a seed, a people awakening – are unmistakable and speak to the fervor of these partisans. This is about an attack on their most closely held beliefs and values, and they will not simply turn the other cheek. They passionately believe that, through their hard work and determination, Obama and his agenda will ultimately be defeated.

They celebrated the tea parties as early signs of this movement coming together, talking about the tea parties in first person despite not having attended any events themselves.

...The symbolism of the tea parties reflects one of the key findings of this research. Asked what it is that they want out of this movement, aside from defeating Obama and his agenda, conservative Republicans constantly returned to a common refrain – returning our country to its founding principles. While they do not necessarily agree on what this means, they can agree that the country has wandered dangerously far from the vision of our founding fathers and that Obama wants to take us even further from that foundation.

...The disconnect these partisans see between the party leadership and the party faithful is at the root of their discontent. They have no intention of leaving the party per se – they still believe it is the best and only means of opposing Obama and the Democratic Congress – but they also have little confidence in its current direction or leadership, and there is an emotional distance that can be damaging.

...This crisis within the Republican Party is nothing new from the point of view of its most ardent supporters. As strong believers in the power of leadership and symbolism, this is a trend that they believe started with the end of the Reagan presidency and the election of George H.W. Bush and his subsequent tax increase. Of course, the Clinton administration was a nightmare for these voters, although the Obama experience has created some revisionist history in their minds.

...The eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency created a great deal of dissonance for these voters. Overall, they are embarrassed by his presidency. They are most likely to cite the prescription drug benefit and his failure to rein in spending or the size of government, although his public speaking and blunders also play a role in their overall disappointment. Nonetheless, they will passionately defend him on a personal level and praise him for his conviction and devotion to doing what he felt was best for the country.

...Asked what their party needs to reinvigorate itself and close the gap between its leaders and its rank and file, these conservative Republicans are almost unanimous in their solution – new leadership. And although they expressed some hope for a variety of names (Gingrich, Romney, Huckabee, Jindal), there was only one figure who truly excited them and created real passion – Sarah Palin. They see in her the uncompromising personal conviction and integrity that they admired in Bush, but with an authentic conservatism that reflects her personal background.

...They disagree on her viability as a candidate for national office, but they do not disagree on her ability to lead. Some say she needs to get more experience or take on responsibilities that will burnish her credentials and reassure uncertain swing voters while others maintain she has nothing to prove and is already more experienced and qualified than the current incumbent.

...The independent voters in our groups clearly viewed these issues very, very differently. They share the conservative Republicans’ disdain for the current Republican Party, but their critique is not that the party has abandoned its conservative principles but instead that it advances the interests of the rich and big businesses at the expense of the middle class. They worry about the Democratic Party’s proclivity to spend tax dollars and provide ‘freebies’ to those who do not
do their fair share, but they appreciate the Democrats’ focus on ‘the little people’ (among which they included themselves) and the fact that ‘it’s not all about the money.’

They view FOX News as another media outlet, decidedly conservative in its point of
view but no more or less biased than any other media outlet; their assumption is that every outlet has a bias that reflects the interests of its own bottom line. FOX is no different, and certainly not a source of special insight and information that cannot be gained elsewhere. They generally laugh at conservative commentators such as Limbaugh (‘overbearing,’ ‘egotistical,’ ‘idiot’) and Beck (one man called him a ‘crybaby’). When it comes to Sarah Palin, there was almost universal agreement that she could never be elected president, with most citing her inexperience and
baggage as obstacles too great to overcome. But even more important to them, most felt she was ultimately driven by greed and ambition more than anything else and would rather use her newfound fame to enrich herself than improve the country.

...All of which underscores how much the conservative Republicans are a world apart – with big consequences for the Republican Party.

Two Loudmouths Square Off

What's that African saying? "When elephants fight, the grass suffers":
The Reverend Al Sharpton wants an apology from right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh, or he's filing a defamation lawsuit.

"In the op-ed published in Saturday's Wall Street Journal Limbaugh writes Sharpton 'played a leading role in the 1991 Crown Heights riot (he called neighborhood Jews ‘diamond merchants’) and 1995 Freddie's Fashion Mart riot,'" CNN reported.

“Not only did Rush Limbaugh try to criminalize the NFL,” Sharpton told a columnist with the Palm Beach Post."But now he is saying I’m a criminal. He can call me a race-baiter and all that stuff like he does. But don’t call me a criminal.”

Sharpton issued the following statement on the matter to CNN: "Mr. Limbaugh's blatant and defamatory statements regarding the Crown Heights Riots falsely give the impression that Rev. Sharpton was present during the violence that occurred when in reality he had been called in by the family after the violence.

Sharpton told news agencies that he was not in Crown Heights until after the violence, calling Limbaugh's statement false.

"Starmites" - DMTC

Last show this afternoon! Check it out!


Not to put too much weight on a show based on a comic-book theme, but sometimes musical theater strains the boundaries of the credible, just a wee bit. Here, the Banshees sing and dance while they surreptitiously kidnap the sleeping Starmites.

It works as camp, though....

It's "Hard To Be Diva"!

(Ain't that the truth!)

"Hard To Be Diva"

What to do with the captured Starmites?


"The Connuptial Dance" - Bizarbara tries to find a suitable mate.

Frightening times in a distant galaxy.

Bizarbara's Wedding.

Bad times on Bizarbara's Big Day.

Diva (Kaitlyn C.) and Eleanor (Amanda C.).

Balking at the first kiss....

Shak Graa (Matthew F.) plays 'Cruelty', and transfixes both Starmites and Banshees.


Shak Graa (Matthew F.) faces defeat as 'Milady' is revealed to be none other than Eleanor!