Saturday, November 07, 2009

"Meet Me In St. Louis" - Runaway Stage Productions - Opening Night

Kay Hight (left) and Ben Herrera played Esther Smith and her brother Lon.

The casting for the lead parts was very good. Tyler Robinson had the perfect look, voice, and manner for John Truitt.

Kay was perfect for this role, of course, and I loved the way Darryl Strohl not only played Head of the House Alonso Smith, but put Ben Herrera and the ensemble to work in the 'Banjo' number in Act 2, as well as the 'Trolley' number.

The costumes were beautiful (Kay said she loves wearing such excellent clothing).

I was very impressed with the set as well. The set was functional, pretty and versatile: a tribute to Clocky's and MikeMac's skills! (I understand the portraits visible above the proscenium are not of Abe Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, as I first thought, but of Clocky and MikeMac.) And there is some kind of theatrical reference with regards to the trolley label? I'm too ignorant to get it....

Amy Jacques-Jones (left) played Rose Smith.

There was something extraordinarily familiar about the milieu of the 1903 midwestern family scene - richer than average at the times, since there plenty of collegiate men in it. Was it because I had seen the movie before? Dunno. I decided probably what it was was that my mother's mother came from the same sort of midwestern milieu. I never met the woman - she passed away long before I was born - but this sort of musical is in my blood and I probably have an ancestral memory of it hard-coded in my DNA!

I was real surprised to see Ana Hansen on stage. She in the middle of intense preparation for 'Chinese' in Sacramento Ballet's 'Nutcracker', but there must also be time to knock out a musical too!

Anne-Marie Pringle convincingly wields the accent and manner to play Katie, the Irish housekeeper!

Opening night was blessedly free of the sporadic sound and lighting problems that sometimes bedevil shows.

There were a few problems, having mostly to do with the way the show is written, particularly in Act I. The motivations to sing ballads seem contrived at first (but in perfect clunky Midwestern manner). That awkwardness eases as the show proceeds. Lighting was good (except momentarily in a portion of the 'Trolley' number, when Kay seems to retreat too far under the bright trolley roof and is simultaneously shaded and lost in the roof's glare as a result). The littlest girls need to slow down and project their voices better - it was sometimes hard to hear them.

An excellent show, with fine acting, singing, and dancing! Go see it!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Jon Stewart, aka Glenn Beck


Early Speculation Regarding The Fort Hood Shooting

It sounds like Hasan embraced a toxic cocktail of Middle Eastern and American examples of lashing out against American involvement in the Middle East, in general, and his forthcoming deployment there, in particular.

I've worried whether the military's stop-loss program would eventually lead to extreme violence, but that appears not to be directly to blame here.

PTSD could also be another explanation, and in his capacity as a psychiatrist Hasan certainly was at the receiving end of all the stories, but he had yet to be deployed, so PTSD all by itself appears not to be directly to blame here.

It's hard to be a Muslim and an Arab in the U.S. military. Ostracism is almost automatic. That isolation did not help matters.

Hasan may have been inspired by the example of suicide bombers and kamikazes, but he did not choose that route. Instead, he chose the alternative all-American example (and in particular, the alma mater Virgina Tech example): going postal, and suicide by cop.

People are often uncomfortable thinking about these mass shootings as carefully-considered, cold-blooded events. People prefer to think of these folks as deranged, lunatic loners. But there is no evidence that Hasan was a lunatic. He was a highly-educated, no-doubt sensitive individual who thought carefully about what he was going to do, and then did it.

As in Vietnam in the early 70's, politicians this decade are too slow to act in winding down their wars and moving on. There is no one to hold their feet to the flames. It's hard to be a soldier in that situation. No one wants to be the last soldier to die in Vietnam; or Iraq.

In his way, Hasan was trying to hold Obama's feet to the flames. The U.S. out of Iraq and Afghanistan - NOW!:
In an interview, his aunt, Noel Hasan of Falls Church, said he had endured name-calling and harassment about his Muslim faith for years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and had sought for several years to be discharged from the military.

"I know what that is like," she said. "Some people can take it, and some cannot. He had listened to all of that, and he wanted out of the military, and they would not let him leave even after he offered to repay" for his medical training.

...As authorities scrambled to figure out what happened at Fort Hood, a hazy and contradictory picture emerged of this son of Palestinian immigrants, a man who received his medical training from the military and spent his career in the Army, yet allegedly turned so violently against his uniformed colleagues.

Hasan was born in Arlington and grew up in the Roanoke Valley of southwestern Virginia, a bookish young man who, his father hoped, would go on to significant professional achievement. He spent nearly all of his Army medical career at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the District, caring for the victims of trauma, yet spoke openly of his deep opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

...The Associated Press reported that Hasan attracted the attention of law enforcement authorities in recent months after an Internet posting under the screen name "NidalHasan" compared Islamic suicide bombers to Japanese kamikaze pilots. "To say that this soldier committed suicide is inappropriate," the posting read. "It's more appropriate to say he is a brave hero that sacrificed his life for a more noble cause."

In a statement issued late Thursday, Hasan's family said they were "shocked and saddened by the terrible events at Fort Hood" and "filled with grief for the families" of victims.

"Our family loves America," said the statement. Noting that Nidal Hasan was an American citizen, the family said: "We are proud of our country, and saddened by today's tragedy. Because this situation is still unfolding, we have nothing else that we are able to share with you at this time.

...This morning, TV news trucks and reporters swarmed the Muslim Community Center, where Hasan had attended for many years before transferring to Texas. The mosque's leaders spoke throughout the day, trying to explain the mosque's stance for peace and distancing themselves from the shooter.

"He was a face in the crowd, one of literally a thousand people who came here for prayers," said Arshad Qureshi, chairman of the board of trustees.

...Benyedder said there was no signs of anger or frustration from Hasan during his years at the mosque, but recalled that Hasan sought the advice of a few Muslim brothers regarding a presentation he had been preparing to give to his superiors in the Army. Part of the presentation included the argument that the Army should release a soldier from duty if his religion prevented him from actions and orders by the army, Benyedder recalled.

...His aunt said he had been affected by the physical and mental injuries he saw while working as a psychiatrist at Walter Reed for nearly eight years.

"He must have snapped," Noel Hasan said. "They ignored him. It was not hard to know when he was upset. He was not a fighter, even as a child and young man. But when he became upset, his face turns red." She said Hasan had consulted with a lawyer about getting out of the service.

On the rare occasions when he spoke of his work in any detail, the aunt said, Hasan told her of soldiers wracked by what they had seen. One patient had suffered burns to his face so intense "that his face had nearly melted," she said. "He told us how upsetting that was to him."

Hasan "did not make many friends" and "did not make friends fast," his aunt said. "He would tell us the military was his life."

Hasan's father, Malik, immigrated to the United States at age 16 from a Palestinian village in the West Bank, an area controlled by Jordan until 1967 but occupied by Israel since then. There, the family tended to an olive grove, neighbors said.

Malik Hasan spent most of his life in Virginia, moving to the Roanoke area in the mid-1980s. He became a successful restaurateur in Vinton, a small railroad town of about 7,800 just east of Roanoke. His businesses included the Capitol, a well-known, blue-collar beer hall on Market Street, the Mount Olive Grill and Bar and the Community Grocery on Elm Avenue. The Hasans lived in a quiet neighborhood of brick ramblers on Ramada Road. Many in the Roanoke Valley who knew Nidal Hasan said their lasting impression was that he was highly intelligent, and somewhat introverted. Thomas O. Sitz, an associate professor of biochemistry at Virginia Tech, where Hasan graduated in 1995, said he was "one of our better students," if not a memorable one.

...Charles Garlick, who lived across the street from the Hasan family in Vinton, described Nidal Hasan as quiet and reserved. "Every time I'd see him, he'd have a book bag over his shoulder," Garlick said. Nidal Hasan's younger brother Eyad -- nicknamed "Eddie" -- played football with Garlick's son, Zachary. Nidal attended Arlington's Wakefield High School but later transferred to William Fleming High School after his family's move to Roanoke. He graduated in 1988. Hasan's mother, Hanan, who went by "Nora," was known as the "keeper of the peace" at the Hasan family's restaurants. She suffered from kidney problems and died in 2001 at age 49, neighbors said. Malik Hasan died in 1998, at age 52, after suffering a heart attack at his home. The couple is buried in Falls Church.

The Hasan family was large and had deep roots in Roanoke Valley, said Amer Azibidi, minister and imam of the KUFA Center of Islamic Knowledge. At Mount Olive, Malik worked with his brother, Jose. The pair cooked many of the dishes, including lamb kebabs and stuffed grape leaves. But the premature deaths of Malik and Nora Hasan had left the family scattered.

Nidal Hasan enlisted in the Army after high school over his parents' objections, Noel Hasan said. He was a student at Barstow Community College in California and Virginia Western Community College in Roanoke before enrolling at Virginia Tech, Tech officials said. He began his studies at Tech in the summer of 1992, eventually majoring in biochemistry with minors in biology and chemistry. He graduated with honors, officials at the university said, but was not a member of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets or any ROTC program at Tech.

All's Well That Ends Well

An illustration of the importance of staying in touch:
A BRAZILIAN man reportedly killed in a car crash shocked his mourning family when he showed up alive at his funeral.

Relatives of Ademir Jorge Goncalves, 59, had identified the bricklayer as the victim of a car crash in Parana state, in southern Brazil, AP reports.

But Goncalves had not died. He had spent the night chatting with friends at a truck stop.

Goncalves did not learn about his own funeral until the service had already started the following day.

It is customary for funerals in Brazil to be held within 36 hours of a death.

As soon as he realised the mistake, Goncalves rushed to the funeral to let his family know he was not dead.

“The corpse was badly disfigured, but dressed in similar clothing,'' a police spokesman said, according to AP.

“People are afraid to look for very long when they identify bodies, and I think that is what happened in this case.”

Thursday, November 05, 2009

What If Tea Parties Ever Got Violent?

The potential for violence is an undercurrent at all political demonstrations and I've wondered whether the Tea Parties were prepared for that possibility. The Tea Parties are Disney versions of real (and potentially scary) political protests. Most of the Tea Party participants are firmly ensconced in the middle class and would bolt from all of them if lefty loonies showed up with guns.

The folks at this location look at the problem from a different angle, and wonder if Fox News would be liable for damages if a loony of any persuasion got violent, using, as an example, the recent Sacramento Wii case:
What steps has Fox parent News Corporation taken to protect their assets in the event of a shooting at a Fox sponsored tea party event?

Last week a jury ruled that Entercom Communications Corp (ETM:NYSE) subsidiary has to pay 16.6 million to the family of a Sacramento woman who died in a radio station water-drinking contest.. (Link) Although she signed a waiver and the station claimed they were not responsible for her actions, the jury still ruled that the subsidiary was negligent in the wrongful death case.

News Corp subsidiary Fox News has been actively organizing and promoting "Tea parties". Angry Fox viewers have brought weapons to these events to intimidated the President and other politicians. If someone is shot Fox will of course claim that they are not responsible for the actions of individuals just like Entercom did. But as we have now seen in the Entercom case that defense does not hold up in court. especially when the station is the driving force for getting people to participate.

It appears that Fox is not only ignoring the danger signs, it is actively calling for action that they have no way of controlling in an effort to boost ratings.

Birds Like Their Bread!

Trouble at the Large Hadron Collider:
The Large Hadron Collider, the world's most powerful particle accelerator, just cannot catch a break. First, a coolant leak destroyed some of the magnets that guide the energy beam. Then LHC officials postponed the restart of the machine to add additional safety features. Now, a bird dropping a piece of bread on a section of the accelerator has, according to the Register, shut down the whole operation.

The bird dropped some bread on a section of outdoor machinery, eventually leading to significant over heating in parts of the accelerator. The LHC was not operational at the time of the incident, but the spike produced so much heat that had the beam been on, automatic failsafes would have shut down the machine.

This incident won't delay the reactivation of the facility later this month, but exposes yet another vulnerability of the what might be the most complex machine ever built. With freak accident after freak accident piling up over at CERN, the idea of time traveling particles returning from the future to prevent their own discovery is beginning to seem less and less far fetched.
For some reason, I am reminded of my visit in 2006 to see Queensland's Glass House Mountains, and look at the beautiful birds there.

Andrew and I watched a kookaburra deal with a slice of toast someone had left behind in a parking lot. Kookaburras sometimes hunt snakes and lizards, generally by catching the prey and bashing them against a rock until they stop squirming. This kookaburra was treating the piece of toast the same way it would treat a snake, by bashing it against a rock.

Presumably this European bird was bashing its baguette against the large hadron collider in a similar way. If the universe imploded as a result? Well, no one said life is accident-free!

Mayhem At Ft. Hood

First reports suggest at least two shooters, which hints at some coordination between them....

The Hygenic Panhandler

He asked for a quarter, so I gave him a quarter. But I was most struck by the latex gloves on his hands....

Why Obama Will Win Reelection In 2012

Paul Krugman presents a chart comparing world industrial production in the Great Depression, and the crisis we are in today.

The hyperactive interventionism of the last year of the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration has succeeded (at least for the moment) in preventing a repeat of the Great Depression. Obama will reap the credit. For that reason (plus incumbency) Obama is likely to win reelection in 2012.

Now, I thought all this hyper-interventionism was a bad idea in the long run, leaving all sorts of moral hazards in the market place, not to mention a grotesque deficit. Better to let the Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs of the world collapse. Needed reforms will be postponed, or never implemented, permitting the contagion to run wild again in a few years. The banskters are still reaping ridiculous bonuses on Wall Street and there is little that can be done about it.

But you can see why Obama decided to save the banks at all costs and let the chips fall where they may. It might have been emotionally satisfying to see ruin befall the corrupt on Wall Street, but it was the only way in the short-term to preserve people's legitimate investments there.

And as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, my 401K is recovering. If I had been President, and followed my own advice seeking ruination for the rich, this recovery would not have happened so soon. Obama will reap the credit.

Provided recovery continues, by the time 2012 approaches (whether health reform succeeds or fails), the nation will be so grateful that Obama will win reelection in a landslide.

Ugly Collision Of Environmental Philosophies

Call the wahmbulance! Or at least call the wahmubulance chasers!

Oh, this is dreadful! It's the main reason I steered away from climate change as a career.

Environmental concerns embrace a number of romantic concepts regarding nature that sometimes approach religious intensity, as well as embracing scientific thought and insight. But science and religion belong in separate boxes and to have this cross-pollution between the two boxes, in a court of law no less, is just going to cause lots of trouble. But we've been asking for such trouble for a long time. Concepts such as James Lovelock's 'Gaia' place the two boxes right next to each other. Hermetic isolation might be better, but we're not going to get it:
A British judge rules belief in climate change deserves the same workplace protection as religion or philosophy.

Manna from heaven for the climate skeptic brigade: A British judge has ruled that a man can sue his employer for unlawfully termination based on his "green views" on the grounds that environmental beliefs deserve the same legal protection as religious or philosophical beliefs.

The case is complicated, but not for those who believe human-caused global warming is a hoax, and that environmentalists who urge action restricting greenhouse gas emissions are just trying to impose their anti-capitalist Marxist agenda on society. They are cheering: See, we told you global warming was a religion!

The backstory: Tim Nicholson, head of "sustainability" for the property firm Grainger PLC, says he was attempting to come up with a "carbon management" program for the company, but couldn't get Grainger to give him the necessary information to determine the firm's carbon footprint. He claims he was eventually fired because of his belief that action needed to be taken to stop global warming. Grainger contends that "that Mr Nicholson's redundancy was driven solely by the operational needs of the company during a period of extraordinary market turbulence."

In 2003, the UK enacted a law that prohibits discrimination against employees for "religious or philosophical beliefs." In his ruling, Justice Michael Burton declared that "a belief in man-made climate change ... is capable, if genuinely held, of being a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Religion and Belief Regulations".

Oddly, Grainger's lawyer had been arguing, reports the Daily Telegraph, "that adherence to climate change theory was 'a scientific view rather than a philosophical one,' because 'philosophy deals with matters that are not capable of scientific proof.'" Which would seem to be saying that it would be OK to discriminate against an employee for views based on science, but not on religion or philosophy. Which is just plain weird.

Nicholson's own reaction to the verdict seems nuanced and reasonably clear-headed.
I'm delighted by the judgment, not only for myself but also for other people who may feel they are discriminated against for their belief in man-made climate change. This is a huge issue and the moral and ethical values that I have in relation to the imperative to do something about it, but crucially underpinned by the overwhelming scientific consensus, mean that to have secured protection in this way is, I think, a landmark decision ... It's a philosophical belief based on my moral and ethical values underpinned by scientific evidence and that's the distinction [with it being a religious belief] I think. The moral and ethical values are similar to those that are promoted and adopted by many of the world's religions. But one of the key differences I think is that mine is not a faith-based or spiritual-based belief: it is grounded in the overwhelming scientific evidence and it's the combination of that scientific evidence with the moral and ethical imperative to do something about it that is distinct from a religion.

Fishing For Sharks In The Vicinity Of Crocs

Fiji Heads Over The Precipice

Fiji dealing badly with its self-imposed isolation:
Fiji's self-appointed prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, has given Australia and New Zealand 24 hours to get their high commissioners out of Fiji.

He is expelling them both and recalling his own envoys because he says Canberra and Wellington are interfering in his country's judiciary.

Mr Bainimarama sacked all the country's judges when he did not like their decisions and he believes Australia has been trying to thwart his attempts to hire replacements from Sri Lanka.

He claims a scratchy recording proves Australia is meddling in Fiji's affairs.

"Individuals appointed to the Fiji judiciary, regardless of citizenship, became subject to these travel sanctions and so that will obviously include yourself," a voice on the recording says.

It is claimed the voice belongs to an Australian diplomat, who warns a Sri Lankan judge she will be banned from entering Australia if she accepts a job offer with the Fijian Judiciary.

"And there is a chance that the acceptance of a judicial appointment could be perceived as condoning or supporting the military regime's actions," the voice continues.

"But as I said, this is a decision obviously for yourself personally but I'm just giving you advance warning of Australia's travel sanctions."

On Monday, Fiji's chief judge, Anthony Gates, criticised Australia and New Zealand for refusing to grant transit visas to seven Sri Lankan judges, describing the action as interference and hostile.

Fiji is hiring the judges to fill vacancies, created through Mr Bainimarama's decision in April to scrap the country's constitution and sack all its judges.

The sackings were in retaliation to a Fijian High Court ruling which found Mr Bainimarama's government and 2006 coup were illegal.

And last night, after he met with the chief justice and cabinet, Mr Bainimarama announced he was expelling Australia's high commissioner, James Batley.

Don't Quit Your Day Job

Tried a few jokes at Trino's tonight, based on exaggerated incidents from my life. A little dark, but not nearly so graphic as some of the other comic's material. Got a few mild chuckles, but need to work on delivery.

A selection:
I grew up in a semi-rural area. That’s where people hoped they’d have enough money to move into a trailer.

Everyone in our neighborhood was a religious fanatic. We had fundamentalists on one side, Jehovah Witnesses on the other, and Catholics in the middle. We invited everyone over for a witch-burning, but no one had a match, so many of us were tied to posts.

Life was tough as an awkward kid on the playground. When they passed the football to me, I ducked. What do you give someone who makes fun of the way you through a baseball? A concussion!

First day of P.E. in junior high we were handed a list of clothes to get, which included a jockstrap. Scared the hell out of me: tough in front and totally exposed in the back. What was scarier was getting undressed for showers for the first time and discovering I was the only one wearing a jock strap.

The kids were merciless in the shower too. They would snap towels at me. One day I lunged at one naked kid, missed his towel, but grabbed something soft and vulnerable between his legs. In basketball, don’t they call it a ‘jump ball’? When the coach heard all the screaming, he came over, picked up a towel, and started snapping away at me too.

So, the hell with sports. I tried to harden my body through wilderness adventure. My friends and I went hiking, and we went caving too. One day in a cave we had to wade through an underground pool. We saw all these white balls on the bottom of the pool. What were they? We touched one ball, and the white coating popped, leaving a mudball-like core with what appeared to be little sticks poking out. We could see there was some kind of strange gas streaming away from the mudball. It took a long, long time, passing the mudball back and forth from hand to hand and sniffing the gas to finally realize that THIS is what happens when bats die and fall into underground pools.

Of course, adulthood hasn’t been that much better.

One day the neighbor lady came over to my house, screaming that someone in the alley had exposed himself to her. I locked her in my house for her safety, she called the cops, and I bravely went out into the alley – just in time to meet the cops looking for oddballs in the alley.

I read that there are edible plants called pigweed that grows in sidewalk cracks. But the book says pigweed doesn’t taste very good – it’s gummy and makes your mouth foam. I tried to impress a date with some sidewalk do-it-yourself salad. I think she’s in the witness protection program now.

I took my date to go dancing in a discotheque. Someone stepped on my foot, so I started boogeying away to find more space. My foot still hurt, though, and the pain was increasing. Finally, I looked down, and I was shocked: a woman's stiletto heel had slipped into the narrow gap between my shoe and my foot. I had wrenched her shoe off of her foot and carried it away. I looked up, and I was shocked again: a shoeless beauty was limping across the floor, frantically trying to catch up to me. I offered her shoe back (kneel, in illustration) but she ripped her shoe out of my hands and limped away in disgust. I turned around and my date stomped on my other foot for playing Cinderella with someone else.

I’d like to finish with a sign I saw posted on a community center door. The sign read: “Anger Management Class – Is Cancelled”.

I saw something the other night I’ve never seen before. I went to a dance club and saw two women in the club with heads covered - Muslim women. Later in the evening, I saw one of the women dancing in a go-go dancer's cage. THAT’S the future, man – go-go dancers in burqas! World’s going to hell, man! Young people are in trouble! You can put me out to pasture with girls in mini-skirts and black, leather boots. Go-go dancers in burqas – you can keep that!

And finally, a joke I stole from someone else. Two blondes put the last piece in a jigsaw puzzle, were overjoyed, and started celebrating. A fellow asked what was so special about that and they said they had been working on the puzzle for four months. "Four months!" he said. "Yes," they replied, "but look at the label on the box: three-to-five years!"

What's New On B3ta?

Image by maiden at B3ta

The Mayor And His Premonition

Dark story from South of the Border:
A Mexican mayor has sparked fury by announcing the death of a notorious drugs baron - hours before the body was found and two days before it was identified.

Speculation has arisen that Mauricio Fernandez may have had something to do with the killing after he made the slip while being sworn in as mayor of San Pedro Garza Garcia, one of Mexico's most exclusive areas.

Speaking during his re-election ceremony, he announced: 'Black Saldana, who apparently is the one who was asking for my head, was found dead today in Mexico City.'

The problem was that the barefoot, blindfolded corpse of 'Black Saldana', whose real first name is Hector, was not found for another four hours, according to Mexico City prosecutors. His body was also not identified for another two days.

When questioned about whether he knew anything about his opponent's death, Mr Fernandez said: 'Sometimes there are coincidences in life. It's better to look at it this way.'

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

William Hedge At Rubino's

William Hedge is starting a new job in Rocklin tomorrow. He states:

If you ever feel you want to travel all the way up there for an incredible Italian meal, and some BRILLIANT playing and singing, and than maybe having a few of you to get up and sing, come on up the hill!!

Rubino’s Ristorante
5015 Pacific Street
Rocklin, CA 95677
(916) 624-3401

Rubino’s Restaurant is Proud to Announce the Addition of William Hedge

Rubino’s Restaurant is proud to announce the addition of Pianist/Singer William Hedge to the Dining Room, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from 6:00 to 9:30 and during “Brunch with Frank” Sundays from 9:30 AM to 2:00 PM. William will perform the timeless standards of the roaring twenties through the Romantic hits of today. He will also accompany the occasional guest and take musical requests. And on Sundays - celebrate the timeless music of Frank Sinatra and his buddies.

What The Nation Is Really Worried About

From The Onion:
NEW YORK—A group of popular teenage girls viciously insulted the United States Tuesday, causing the populace to break down and cry following assertions that its 300 million citizens are stupid and fat and that everybody hates them.

The elite clique, which consists of high school sophomores Ashley Powell, Courtney Hughes, and Marisa Reynolds, reportedly preyed on the nation's insecurities by mocking the way Americans were dressed and proclaiming that every U.S. resident was "a complete loser."

"Those girls are so cruel," said Pittsburgh construction worker Joe Miller, wiping away tears from his eyes. "They made all these really mean comments about my weight and the way I smelled, and then one of them, I think it was Courtney, said that the color of my hard hat really brought out the ugliness in my face."

Added Miller, "I don't ever want to go back to that construction site!"

Sources confirmed the entire Midwest was filled with self-doubt after the girls ridiculed the region by yawning in an exaggerated manner and declaring that everything its citizens had to say was "bor-ing."

In addition, the girls' merciless attacks left the state of Nebraska so mortified that all its residents stayed home the next morning, unable to go about their daily routines for fear of what the teenagers might be telling others about them.

..."They do this every time," said 51-year-old Portland, ME resident Sandra Thompson, who takes a different route to work each day in order to avoid the mean-spirited clique. "You leave the house thinking you look great. Then they invite you over, smile that little perky smile of theirs, and tell you that your new skirt almost hides your huge ass."

Social worker Janet Martin, who said the popular teens were only using derision to overcome low self-esteem, sobbed with her hands covering her face after the girls made fun of her low salary, meager benefits, and lack of career-advancement opportunities.

...Though an overwhelming majority of the country fears being ostracized by the popular girls, many admitted they wished they could do something, anything, to be noticed by them.

"It's like they don't even know I'm alive," said John Green, 91, of Miami. "I don't know why I let it bother me. I've lived a rich, rewarding life. But they're so pretty, and their hair is so perfect!"

"Why don't they like me?" Davis continued. "What did I ever do to them?"

...At press time, the group of girls reiterated its long-held stance that no one in the nation has any friends. When asked for further comment, the teenagers pointed at reporters, giggled, and said, "Whatever."


It was quite amazing to watch conservative activists torpedo the Republican Party's chosen candidate for the special Congressional election held in NY-23 yesterday. In general, as proved the case yesterday, such an extreme breakdown of party discipline automatically leads to the election of the opposing party's candidate. The only reason the race remained in suspense was because of the unusually-conservative electorate there. New York has 29 congressional districts: Democrats now control 27 of those seats.

Today, Rush Limbaugh (and others) are proclaiming that the Republican Party nominated the wrong person in Dede Scozzafava. They also proclaim that Scozzafava was a turncoat for endorsing her Democratic opponent Bill Owens over Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. But, really, what did they think was going to happen? Who are the turncoats here? To win, party discipline has to hold. Hoffman had no command of local issues and didn't even live in the district. He was a much weaker candidate than either Owens or Scozzafava. The conservative scorched-earth vilification campaign yielded a natural result: the loss of Congressional representation. Serves them right!

Conservatives will apparently use this disastrous election template to purify their ranks of RINOs. Florida is next (Marco Rubio vs. Charlie Crist). Well, OK, let's get the pitchforks out and start harvesting Republican heads! As California went in 1994, so goes the nation. A purer GOP will soon be reduced to near-irrelevance if this keeps up.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Controlling Tree Squirrels

In this month's "Inside The City" Anita Clevenger writes about pestilential squirrels. Oh, has there ever been a pest as pesty as a squirrel?:
Before I was a gardener, I thought squirrels were cute. I now realize they are just rodents with fluffy tails. They’ve eaten my fruit, destroyed my sunflowers, raided my bird feeder, dug up my pots and planting beds, chewed twigs and leaves off my trees and planted a veritable pecan forest. They’ve gnawed utility lines and invaded the attic. They sit just out of reach and taunt my cat. They’re about as cute as a gang of juvenile delinquents.

It’s hard to prevent squirrels from wreaking havoc. They are agile and single-minded. Our overhead wires, fences, rooftops and trees are one big jungle gym for them. It may be possible to trim back overhanging trees to reduce access, but it’s unlikely that you will slow them down much. I’ve talked to many people who harvest almost no fruit from their trees because the squirrels beat them to it.
Of course, I managed to control my local population of squirrels, so I speak with a bit of authority on the subject, but I hit on the method quite by accident.
  • I wanted to feed the birds in my small yard, but worried about squirrels raiding the feeder and about cats hiding in the foliage that might attack the birds; so....
  • I moved the feeding location to outside the yard, on the pavement on the opposite side of the alley running behind my house, where the birds would be safer because there was little cover for hiding cats.
  • The alley is adjacent to the DMV parking lot, and carries more traffic than most local alleys do.
  • Squirrel brains, unlike bird brains, don't deal effectively with automobiles. Moving the feeding location across the alley safeguarded the birds but put the squirrels in grave jeopardy.
  • The final result: after a year, the local population of squirrels plummeted from about twelve to about two. By providing squirrels with easy access to food in a dangerous location, I killed them off - with kindness.
There was lots of bloodshed, of course, which was messy, and there were some misunderstandings too. Dead squirrels attract crows. There was the day that two girls happened upon a crow dismembering a crushed squirrel behind my house. They were so incensed by what they thought was the crow's villainy in attacking a squirrel that they threw rocks at it and called it names. But I speak on behalf of the crow to say that the fault lay beyond the bird.

And so all's quiet in the neighborhood these days!

Thursday Evening That Weak Storm Rolls In?

And I had such hopes for it too.

In Praise Of Karaoke

Over at Pandagon they are talking about karaoke:

Halloween seems like a good day to discuss a book I just finished reading: Don’t Stop Believin’: How Karaoke Conquered the World and Changed My Life by Brian Raftery. I picked this book up because I was a fan of karaoke long before it was cool, back when it was distinctly not-cool, and people couldn’t understand the appeal of a bunch of amateurs gathering around to sing popular songs to each other.

...Raftery decides the switch is due to three factors: the emergence of late 90s/early 00s super-singable pop songs by Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys that are easy enough to sing that anyone feels comfortable trying, the popularity of “American Idol”, and the normalizing karaoke scene in “Lost In Translation”, a scene that really captures how karaoke works a lot better if people involved take their performances seriously, instead of doing a performance whose whole point is how you’re above all this. I think he’s on to something, but he doesn’t go far enough, though part of the reason is the culture changed even more since he was writing this book, which came out in 2008. I think it’s because Americans are increasingly putting a premium on fantasy and performance as valuable things, when in the past, these things were considered children’s fare that proper adults grow out of. (Unless they’re professionals, like actors or musicians.)

... It’s about playfulness, at its core, and once you start allowing and even requiring adults to be playful, then fantasy and performance are not far behind.

...Performing for others has almost completely lost its stigma, and thank god. The performer enjoys it, and the audience enjoys it (even if they’re waiting their turn).

...Even a few years earlier, I think more people would be wildly ashamed to strap on a plastic guitar and pretend to play it. Nowadays, though? People fight to get the chance.

...It’s the sort of thing that causes all sort of reactionary hand-wringing, especially when faced with the incontrovertibly evil influence of reality TV shows, but I tend to think that on the whole, the trend is a positive thing. And that’s why I loved Raftery’s book. He’s relentlessly upbeat about karaoke, and he talks about how singing it gave him a place to express himself and helped him develop confidence. And I think that’s true for a lot of people, whatever their preferred form of performing is. Being able to put yourself out there and finding out that not only does the world not end, but often people applaud for you can be a huge boost to the self-confidence. And the reason is that these spaces give us a place to be acceptable even when we’re not the best at something. I’m sure a lot of people would think that I should feel a crushing shame because I’m not a good singer in any objective sense, but I don’t have to be at karaoke. The brilliance of it is that you find a way to do it that makes it fun for people while playing to your strengths. I can’t sing, but I can vamp comically and I usually pick great songs that people didn’t realize they want to hear until I play them. And I love music, and it’s infectious. Performing gives you a place to figure out what your strengths are, instead of focusing on the shame of having weaknesses.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Messages From Space

"Large Array"

Not sure what to make of this....

Capturing Japanese Folk Dancing

Sally joined an ongoing Japanese folk dancing class and is trying to ramp up to the class' level, so she asked if I could shoot video of the class so she could later view the video at home and puzzle out the moves at her leisure.  So, after a vigorous and exhausting step aerobics class at Step One, I headed over to the Nihei hall and videotaped one-and-a-half hours of class.  Now, to put it a form she can access....

Armin Van Buuren At Sacramento's "Empire" Nightclub

Left: Armin Van Buuren starts his set.

With resignation, I accepted that accepting dinner at Sally's Sunday evening meant that I couldn't go to see famed DJ Armin Van Buuren at Empire, but one of the oddities of the end of daylight savings time was that it felt late even though the clock said it was early. So, I left Sally's at what seemed like a late hour according to the body's circadian clock, but I was still able to make it to Empire on-time and catch the show!

Trying to get the technology going....

The human heart as a V-8 internal combustion engine. Nice!


The view from above.

This cross-like stance was characteristic for Armin Van Buuren (granted, over the din it's hard for the DJ to communicate with the audience, but Van Buuren consciously chose religious symbology, and the theme of love, for his message). With his projections he seemed to be emphasizing something called UR (an acronym for Universal Religion), Chapter 4. Discotheques are 'sonic cathedrals' and it's hardly surprising, with all the accolades that they get and the energy they summon, that DJs feel in-touch with something deeper - something truly religious. They don't call it 'Trance' for nothing!

Visible in this photo is one of the go-go dancer cages at Empire. Early in the evening, I saw two women in the club with heads covered - Muslim women, evidently. Later in the evening, I saw one of the women dancing in a go-go dancer's cage, with head still covered, of course. Now THAT I've never seen before! Interesting night!

I was surprised, given the concrete tilt-up nature of the nightclub, that the evening wasn't louder. When DJ Tiesto was in town, the volume was so loud that the hairs jumped on your arms and made your skin feel like it was crawling with beetles. I didn't get that feeling Sunday night.

I learned some surprising things about the Empire nightclub. At one point, a drop of water hit my forearm. I eventually realized that water was condensing on the air conditioning conduits above and dripping onto the floor (and people) below. It's hard to tell what was more unbelievable: that it was so humid, or that the conduits were so cold that condensation would occur.

At one point, I realized that my zipper was down. No second chance to make a first impression, as they say! Here is a bit of my own video:

Here is one of Armin Van Buuren's recent music videos, with some Australian and New Zealand footage, for local color.

The best part of Armin Van Buuren's show was the karaoke-style sing-along for Oceanlab's "On A Good Day". Wonderful choice! Here is the official video assembled from submittals from Oceanlab's fans:

And the lyrics, of course:

Little bit lost and...
A little bit lonely
Little bit cold here
A little bit feared

But I hold on
And I Feel strong
And I Know that I can
Getting used to it
Lit the fuse to it
Like to know who I am

Been talking to myself forever, yeah
And how I wish I knew me better, yeah
Still sitting on a shelf and never
Never seen the sun shine brighter
And it feels like me On a good day
And it feels like me On a good day

I'm a little bit hemmed in
A little bit isolated
A little bit hopeful
A little bit cold

But I hold on
And I Feel strong
And I Know that I can
Getting used to it
Lit the fuse to it
Like to know who I am

Been talking to myself forever, yeah
And how I wish I knew me better, yeah
Still sitting on a shelf and never
Never seen the sun shine brighter...
And it feels like me
On a good day

Been talking to myself forever, yeah
And how I wish I knew me better, yeah
Still sitting on a shelf and never
Never seen the sun shine brighter
And it feels like me
On a good day

Halloween Party At The Red Lion Inn

KHITS KCCL FM Oldies Radio 92.1 hosted this costume party, featuring the "Unknown Comic" doing standup comedy. Here, he wears an all-purpose paper sack on his head.

I was impressed how this fellow could keep going on and on. The jokes were often lame, but there were so many of them, and they went for hours!

My favorite example: Two blondes put the last piece in a jigsaw puzzle, were overjoyed, and started celebrating. A fellow asked what was so special about that and they said they had been working on the puzzle for four months. "Four months!" he said. "Yes," they replied, "but look at the label on the box: three-to-five years!"

Music was provided by the oldies band "Too Smooth".

The people at the party were interesting. One woman in her fifties said that she and her friend were crossing things off their list of things to do before they die. Neither had been in a bar since they were 21 years old and tonight was the night they decided to return!

Another fellow stood by the door and muttered rather incoherently to himself, often responding to voices that weren't there. He said: "You are an elder!" I wondered if he thought I was some kind of Jedi, or maybe Yoda himself; He eventually revealed that he was "on mushrooms." Ah-ha! That explains it!

There were several witches at the party, but the Young Witch was by far the most interesting person at the party. She was in that difficult-to-reach state: Happy Drunk. She was capable of doing almost anything at the drop of her pointed hat. For example, the Unknown Comic started to set up a joke: "Some people say I have a drinking problem..." Before he could finish the setup she replied, in the most charming way possible "I do!" The audience roared! She started dancing with me and then abruptly dragged me up to the front of the room for a vigorous swing dance. Very fun! I gave her an impetuous kiss on the cheek. She smiled.

But not all was well in Witch land. Just before the costume contest started a grim, clenched-jawed brother/husband/boyfriend suddenly appeared, seemingly from nowhere, clamped her wrist in an iron grip, and hauled her off the dance floor, out the door, out the hotel, and away from the fun. Jealousy - the green-eyed monster - reared its ugly head and diminished the fun of the party.

The costume contestants line up in order to vie for the $ 921.00 grand prize.

Several semi-finalists: The White Rabbit half of 'Alice in Wonderland', The Blind Ref, A Bag of Groceries, some weird fellow that looked like Howard Stern, and Jetta as the Two-Headed Woman.

I didn't wear a costume, and so it was extra-amusing to hear one fellow offer 'Rick Moranis' as his candidate.

The eventual winner: "Three Blind Mice"

Halloween Night Crash

A dark-colored sedan blocks the northbound lanes of the Capitol City Freeway near the N Street exit. 

Gotta be careful driving around!  We are all vulnerable (I have no word regarding Mary Young's accident apart from what daughter Wendy has posted on Facebook).

Not Many Monsters For Trick-Or-Treat

Just four little demons this Halloween.  I guess there aren't that many kids where I live.....

Stick Management Morphs Into Leaf Management

A Visit With Bill O'Brien

Bill O'Brien has been bedridden for much of this decade, but he's still curious about the Sacramento Modern Dance scene....

Goodpasture Syndrome

On Friday came news that Dr. F. has a very rare disease called Goodpasture Syndrome, an auto-immune ailment sometimes associated with young people inhaling solvents.

He was always interested in the price of gasoline; has he also been siphoning the stuff?  Otherwise, how to explain the strange ailment?  Unless he got the worst of very slim odds by accident.