Saturday, January 09, 2010

"Blood And Thunder" - A Biography Of Kit Carson, By Hampton Sides

Image cadged from Wikipedia.

I picked up this book at Barnes and Noble over the Thanksgiving holiday mostly out of curiosity about the history of the place I grew up: New Mexico. Frequently, we take our home's story for granted, and so sometimes it's good to re-examine one's roots. Kit Carson's name is appended to many things in New Mexico (like the Carson National Forest), and he made his home in Taos, but just who was he?

Kit Carson was an unusually-capable fur trapper and mountain man who displayed several traits unusual for the time (or, for that matter, any time). First, Kit Carson was extremely humble in demeanor, and had impressive diplomatic skills, aided by his skill in understanding Indian languages, plus Spanish. Second, he was ferocious in battle. Third, despite his warrior skills, he was extremely-cautious in the presence of danger, and rarely took unanticipated risks, which was doubly-important considering just how dangerous the Old West was. Fourth, he travelled all over the West before the area came under American domination and knew the vast area better than almost any American of the time did. Thus, Kit Carson was one of the very few Americans who had both the knowledge and skills to successfully-guide American expeditions into the wilderness, and in time, to conduct military operations there.

As Sides relates:
The special thing that Carson had couldn't be boiled down to any one skill; it was a panoply of talents. He was a fine hunter, an adroit horseman, an excellent shot. He was shrewd as a negotiator. He knew how to select a good campsite and could set it up or strike it in minutes, taking to the trail at lightning speed ("Kit waited for nobody," complained one greenhorn who traveled with him, "and woe to the unfortunate tyro.") He knew what to do when a horse foundered. He could dress and cure meat, and he was a fair cook. Out of necessity, he was also a passable gunsmith, blacksmith, liveryman, angler, forager, farrier, wheelwright, mountain climber, and a decent paddler of a raft or canoe. As a tracker, he was unequaled. He knew from experience how to read watersheds, where to find grazing grass, what to do when encountering a grizzly. He could locate water in the driest of arroyos and strain it into potability. In a crisis he knew little tricks for staving off thirst - such as opening the fruit of a cactus or clipping a mule's ears and drinking its blood. He had a landscape painter's eye and a cautious ear and astute judgment about people and situations. He knew how to make smoke signals. He knew all about hitches and rope knots. He knew how to make a good set of snowshoes. He knew how to tan hides with a glutinous emulsion made from the brains of the animal. He knew how to cache food and hides in the ground to prevent theft and spoilage. He knew how to break a mustang. He knew which species of wood would burn well, and how to split the logs on the grain, even when an axe was not handy.

These were important skills, all of them, though they were hard to measure and quantify. But in the right person, a person who was also cheerful on a trail he already knew well, who had a few jokes up his sleeve and possessed an absolute honesty - they were invaluable.
Yet there was a vulnerability too:
For all his self-assurance in the heat of a tight moment, Carson had powerful doubts and vulnerabilities. He was deeply embarrassed by his illiteracy and tried to cover it up in various ways, but the fact remained that he could not write his own name. When signing documents he simply scrawled an X (he later learned to write "C. Carson"). At times he showed something of an inferiority complex that manifested itself in an instinctive deference to culturally refined men from back east who were more intellectually accomplished and socially better-connected than he.Falling under the spell of such figures, Carson seemed comfortable playing the role of a loyal lieutenant - or, some might say, a henchman. When people he perceived as his betters told him to do something, he did it, happily and without question.
Now, we've all experienced the charisma certain leaders have. Carson's life was affected most by first coming under the thrall of John C. Fremont ("The Pathfinder" - the first Republican candidate for President, in 1856), who mounted several expeditions into the West. Fremont was so grateful for Carson's work, he sang his praises to the sky, and in the process made Carson nationally-famous.

For example, Fremont was amazed how Carson and another man took it upon themselves to avenge the injury of two Mexicans they came upon in the Mojave Desert (the party had been attacked by Indians, and their animals stolen). As Fremont wrote:
Two men, in a savage desert, pursue day and night an unknown body of Indians into the defiles of an unknown mountain - attack them on sight, without counting numbers - and defeat them in an instant. And for what? To punish the robbers of the desert, and to avenge the wrongs of Mexicans whom they did not know.
A nation eager for heroes could not ignore chivalry of this order; practically of Arthurian scale when one considered the extreme danger of it. And that was just one instance: there were others too. Soon, Kit Carson's name was known everywhere - the "Nestor of the Rockies".

But there were questionable moments, too, including what could be called a war crime (relating to the summary execution of two Californios following Fremont's implication - not even a direct order!) No one surpassed Carson at 'following orders'.

Later, Carson came under the influence of Brigadier General James Henry Carleton in his obsessive project to break the back of the Navajo Nation and transport the entire tribe to Bosque Redondo (aka Fort Sumner), NM (known as The Long Walk) for their permanent settlement and Christianization. That project was utterly-impractical, but Carson was good at the tasks Carleton assigned. Very good! Carson managed to first break the Navajos with a scorched-earth campaign in 1864, hurtling the tribe to the brink of starvation, and then enticed them to relocate. Upon returning to Santa Fe, it was no surprise that the New Mexicans, having fought the Navajos for hundreds of years with little to show for their sacrifices, greeted Carson "as a god". Carson had done the impossible! Ultimately, of course, the relocation was an utter failure, with one out the three of the 9,000 Navajos who made the trip dying before being allowed to return home. But whether you loved him or hated him, no one could fault Carson's skills!

Ultimately, when Carson was at death's door (suffering from an aneurysm) Abraham Lincoln named Kit Carson "Brevet Brigadier General Of Volunteers": very likely the only illiterate man ever to reach the status of U.S. Army general in American history. Upon his death in 1868, Kit Carson was the most-esteemed and celebrated man in New Mexican history (and as far as I know, 142 years later, still can claim that title: a few years later, Billy The Kid became the most notorious man in New Mexican history).

The book was very enjoyable to read; unfamiliar people doing unfamiliar things in familiar places. Kit Carson prefigured almost everything that happened in the American West in the 19th Century. He was always first to do things. For example, with his stock-raising operation in NE New Mexico, Kit Carson was one of New Mexico's first "cowboys" (others would take up that large-scale profession later). And when anything important seemed to be happening anywhere in the American West, Carson had a knack for showing up for the action. (I mean, please! The West is a big place! But there he was!)

In addition, it was enjoyable to read about very familiar places. For example, riding east through the Gila River Valley towards Washington, D.C., with messages of California's naval capture from the Mexicans, Carson "accidentally" ran into Stephen Watts Kearney conquering army in Valverde, just south of Socorro. (I mean please! The West is huge! How do people "accidentally" meet, and in Valverde, of all places? But they did!) Kearney made Carson turn around and lead his army west to San Diego. Carson's skills proved crucial in breaking the siege of San Pasqual. As always, if it wasn't for Carson, history would have been different!

(How is it Carson went more places in the American West on mule than I ever will by car?)

And then there was the Battle of Valverde, of course, where Carson led troops (a far bigger and bloodier battle than I had thought). And other familar places - the Rio Grande Valley and Albuquerque, for example.

It was also enjoyable to read about how Gen. Carleton took a vacation in the summer of 1864 to Lake Katherine in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and planted an American flag on Santa Fe Baldy (when John and I visited in 1974, 110 years later, the flag was gone).

But it was sobering to read about the bloodshed of the conquest of New Mexico - more than I realized. for example, nearly 200 were killed and many more were injured, in 1847, when American troops subdued the anti-American revolt at Taos Pueblo. Taos Pueblo is small. That kind of death toll is staggering!

Wonderful book!

Eureka Struck By Quake

Eureka took a hit this afternoon:
A magnitude-6.5 earthquake struck off the coast of Northern California Saturday afternoon, shaking buildings, knocking out power in several coastal communities and leaving a trail of broken windows and dishes south of the Oregon border.

The powerful quake hit at about 4:27 p.m. PST about 22 miles from Ferndale, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Authorities in the nearby city of Eureka and other area communities said no major injuries have been reported. But several people received minor cuts and scrapes from broken glass at the Bayshore Mall in Eureka, and an elderly person fell and broke a hip, authorities said.

"We're mostly getting reports of bumps, bruises and hits on the head," said Laurie Watson Stone, a spokeswoman for St. Joseph Hospital, a 146-bed hospital in Eureka. "The emergency room is busy, but we haven't heard of any major injuries."

Amanda Nichols, a dispatcher for Eureka Police Department, said she received a report that an infant was struck in the head with some flying debris at the mall.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spokesman J.D. Guidi said power outages were widespread across most of Humboldt County, affecting about 25,000 customers.

Nearly 10,000 remained without power some five hours after the quake, and some could remain without power through Sunday, said PG&E spokeswoman Janna Morris.

No damage was done to the company's former nuclear power plant outside Eureka, Morris said.

Several traffic lights fell and numerous residents reported water, gas and sewer leaks, Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services spokeswoman Jo Wattle said.

"People have chimneys down, and we're hearing about minor property damage and lots of glassware broken," Wattle said. "People are really shaken up. It was shaking pretty good, then it had a big jolt to it at the end."

...There is a small chance — 5 to 10 percent — of another magnitude-6.5 temblor or larger hitting the area over the next week, but the odds dramatically decrease as time passes, the USGS said.

There's also a 78 percent chance of a strong and potentially damaging aftershock magnitude-5 or larger over the same period. The earthquake probabilities are based on statistical observations of past earthquakes in California and are not predictions, the USGS said.

...Dan Bowermaster of San Francisco was with relatives in Eureka when Saturday's quake hit, moving the refrigerator in his cousins' home about 3 feet. He said he had been in several moderate and large quakes throughout California but had never felt anything as strong as this one.

"It was extremely unsettling, it was shaking in kind of a circular way," he said.

Sandra Hall, owner of Antiques and Goodies in Eureka, said furniture fell over, nearly all her lamps broke and the handful of customers in her store got a big scare. She said it was the most dramatic quake in the 30 years the store has been open.

"We'll be having a sale on broken china for those who like to do mosaics," she said.
When the quake struck this afternoon I was outside, trimming and raking, but I didn't feel the quake.

It's too bad I wasn't in my bedroom. I've discovered that the room is exquisitely-sensitive to shaking of all kinds, and the paintings will squeak against the wall during even the most-minor Napa Valley quakes: the ones no one else in Sacramento feels. I bet the bedroom was doing all kinds of squeaking, but like I say, I was outside at the time.

This map (reproduced above) indicates I SHOULD have been able to feel it, if I had been in bed.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Temperature Comparison - Sacto Vs. OKC

I'm sure John in Oklahoma City is asking "Why is Marc so damned complacent about the bitter cold temperatures the center of the country has been experiencing?"

Well, this graph explains a lot....

Everything should start changing this weekend though. The pleasant and salubrious weather should start doing one of its fickle changes.....

You Must Eat Your Potassium!

So commandeth the doctor!

But I swallow two capsules a day of potash, on top of my normal, crap diet! Isn't that enough?

Apparently it's not enough.

Why do science fiction creatures always come to Earth? It's not because they are in search of intelligent life, but that they are in search of potassium!

(but at least I have no HIV, or any of that other stuff....)

George Zoritch Passes On

Caption: George Zoritch performs in "L'apres midi d'un Faune," circa 1937. The ballet star was best known for his work with the Ballet Russe companies beginning in the 1930s. (Zeitgeist Films)

And so his work is finally done.

I must not have been paying attention. George Zoritch, ballet great (and by happenstance, my first ballet instructor) passed away on November 1, 2009.

One of a kind! I was very fortunate to meet him!:
George Zoritch, an international ballet star who had a second career as a well-respected teacher, died Nov. 1 at Carondelet St. Mary's Hospital in Tucson. He was 92.

...Zoritch had retired in 1987 from teaching dance at the University of Arizona. He also taught at his studio in West Hollywood and had several stage and film credits.

Zoritch was best known for his work with the Ballet Russe companies starting in the 1930s. His dashing good looks complemented what Dance Magazine in 2000 called "his ability to delve deeply into the heart of a character and to embody the essence of emotion in a restrained, elegant fashion."

"He had a lot of feeling when he danced," said Paul Maure, a fellow Ballet Russe dancer who knew Zoritch for more than 60 years. "Technique is important, but you have to feel what you do. Zoritch had everything."

Born June 6, 1917, in Moscow, Zoritch started his training in Lithuania under Pavel Petroff when he was 11.

"I went to train for the first time and [Petroff] . . . asked if I would be able to follow," Zoritch told the Arizona Daily Star in 2007. "I was so scared I just nodded yes.

"When we finished, people in the class had surrounded me, asked where I studied before and how long I had studied. All I did was look around and went along with what others were doing. I wouldn't say I was God's gift. But I was right for ballet."

Zoritch and several Ballet Russe contemporaries were honored in 2007 at a Los Angeles tribute. Two years earlier, the documentary “Ballets Russes” brought renewed attention to Zoritch and his contemporaries.

"He was a very charming man who still had a lot to tell the ballet world," said Natasha Middleton, artistic director of the Media City Ballet, who produced "The Men of the Ballet Russe" tribute in 2007 that also honored her father, Andrei Tremaine.

"Technique doesn't sell," Zoritch told The Times in 2007. "It's what you offer from the heart, and what made Ballet Russe so successful was that it was composed of half-starved ballet-craving dancers who gave everything from their inner souls."

Milada Mladova, who was with the Ballet Russe from 1939 to 1942 and later worked in movies, danced with Zoritch in "Night and Day" (1946).

"He had a perfect body for dancing, and he had very good technique," she said. "We were all in awe of him, but he was a very nice man."

Zoritch's other film credits include "Escape Me Never" (1947), "Look for the Silver Lining" (1949) and "Helen of Troy" (1956).

Zoritch taught at his studio in West Hollywood in the 1960s and in 1973 joined the faculty at the University of Arizona.

"He gave us careers, he gave us a life," said Leonard Crofoot, who with his brother, Ronnie, and sister, Gayle, took classes at Zoritch's studio from 1960 to 1967. They all have danced professionally. "He had a way of turning the head to the side that shows the muscles of the neck and you could see the line in such a graceful way. It took your breath away."

Middleton recalled Zoritch teaching a master class at her Burbank studio in 2007 from a wheelchair. "He was still able to move his hands . . . and go into depth about the dancers finishing their movements. He had a lot of magic in the way he spoke," she said. "He was very encouraging . . . and very, very opinionated."

And people have a few memories too:
When 19-year-old George Zoritch first leaped out onto a London stage in 1936 with the Ballets Russes, dancing the poet in Massine’s Jardin Public, a breathless critic declared, “At last the company has found its pure classical dancer.”

Zoritch had a barrel chest, perfect lines and a face so dazzling that one of his partners, Maria Tallchief, called him the “most handsome man I’ve seen in my life.” His bravura grands jetés, beautiful port de bras, and engaging personality made him stand out in an age of strong male dancers. Critic Walter Terry declared that Zoritch embodied the “real spirit of the rose” in Fokine’s Spectre de la Rose. He was “poetic” in Fokine’s Les Sylphides, another wrote; in what became his signature role, the Faun in Nijinsky’s L’Après-Midi d’un Faune, he danced “with exquisite grace.”

He danced with nearly all the reincarnations of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes: Nijinska’s short lived Ballet Russe de Paris, Col. de Basil’s Ballets Russes, and Serge Denham’s Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. (He is featured in the Ballets Russes documentary; see After working in Hollywood during World War II, he returned to Europe to dance again with Denham’s group and with the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas.

Now 91, the grizzle-haired Zoritch lives in Tucson. “Russian dancers dance from the soul,” he declares in English still tinged by his native Russian. “Dance should live. If it doesn’t come from the heart it is not dancing.” And by dance, he means ballet, “not modern,” he says with a wicked grin. “Anyone who’s not lying in bed can do Agnes de Mille.”

He was born Yuri Zoritch in Moscow in 1917, the year the Russian Revolution erupted. When his parents’ marriage broke up, his mother moved her two small boys to Kovna, Lithuania. After she took Yuri to see Coppélia, “I became intolerable, hopping around, menacing the furniture,” he remembers. So his mother hauled him to the ballet studio of Pavel Petroff, who had danced at the Maryinsky.

“I was lazy. I hated it. I didn’t want to dance. But in Europe mothers had the upper hand.” He pauses. “I owe everything to my mother.”

When Yuri was 13, the Zoritches moved to Paris, where he studied with Olga Preobrajenska, the luminary who taught Anna Pavlova among other greats. After just four years in her studio, at 17, he started dancing professionally, first with the Ida Rubinstein troupe in Paris, and then with the succession of post-Diaghilev troupes.

“I never saw Nijinksy or Pavlova,” he laments, but he danced for the great Russian choreographers who carried on their tradition: Michel Fokine, Bronislava Nijinksa, and Léonide Massine, who created 18 ballets on him. He calls Massine the “greatest choreographer I have ever known.”

He danced with all three of Balanchine’s “baby ballerinas” of the Ballets Russes, also trained by Preobrajenska: Tatiana Riabouchinska, Irina Baronova, and Tamara Toumanova. But his favorite partner was a Frenchwoman, Yvette Chauviré. “She was wonderful to dance with. She was such a great artist. She allowed you to have a ‘conversation’ with her.”

He put in years of grueling travel, to Asia, Australia, North and South America. On one Monte Carlo tour the troupe performed in 120 North American cities in six months, many of them one-night stands. “We traveled in sleeper cars—one for the dancers, one for the musicians, one for the stagehands.” But the tours introduced classical Russian dance to new audiences, he says with pride, and revitalized ballet around the world. “From Podunk to L.A. to New York and Winnipeg, the crowds would come. They’d be cheering.”
And people have yet more memories too:
Jory Hancock, the director of the UA School of Dance and interim dean of the College of Fine Arts, said life in the Ballet Russe was difficult and that Zoritch wanted more freedom to dance in different roles and to experience Broadway and film.

"The dance scene was more fluid in the U.S., and he was enticed by that," Hancock said about Zoritch.

He eventually moved to the United States and began work in in film and on Broadway.
Zoritch took up teaching after becoming well-known in America for his performance with Sergei Denham's Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.

After running his own dance school in Los Angeles, he joined the faculty of UA in 1973, where he established a highly respected ballet program.

He taught varying levels of dance at the UA for 14 years.

Hancock said Zoritch was one of the most extraordinary dancers of his time.
"There was a period of three decades where he was on top of the world," Hancock said.

Jim Clouser, a visiting associate professor of dance at UA, said Zoritch was comparable to Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Zoritch retired from the UA in 1987. Hancock said that even after retiring, Zoritch still came to classes at the university.

"He was dressed how we wanted students to dress, in tights," Hancock said. "He had the most beautiful port de bras (movement of the arms)."

Thom Lewis, a student of Zoritch's at the UA, said he was the epitome of a classical ballet dancer.

According to Dance magazine, Zoritch worked with nearly every leading lady coming up in the ballet world from 1936 to 1962 and performed works by legendary choreographers, including George Balanchine and Marius Petipa.

Zoritch appeared in several films, including "Night and Day" (1946) and "Samson and Delilah" (1949).

Zoritch was known by some as harsh, but Lewis said people did not understand his sense of humor and his "old-school approach."

He said that Zoritch was honest and direct.

Kandis Meinel, another student of Zoritch's, knew Zoritch for 40 years and considered him to be a grandfather figure in her life.

She said he could be sarcastic in his criticism, but he really meant it as a way for students to improve.

Lewis remembered that if a dancer's feet were not turned out in a position called rear attitude arabesque, Zoritch would tell the dancer she looked like "a doggy at the fire hydrant."

Lewis said compliments from Zoritch "meant an awful lot because of his history."
"It's a shame he is gone, he was a lovely man," Lewis said.
I remember hearing the "doggy at the fire hydrant" a lot in Zoritch's class. I remember one of the first days in class, when a female student showed up to class in a bright, lemon-yellow leotard. No, no, no, no, no, no, no!!!!

When completely exasperated by the sorry, run-of-the-mill university dance students (sometimes a subject of some bitterness), Zoritch would compare the dance students to livestock. Now, in an old-school environment, that would be a shocking reference, a slap to the face, which should make the students pay attention better. A Russian dancer would straighten up. Regrettably, in an American university environment, such a comparison could backfire. I've learned over the years that American women are really not fond of being compared to livestock. No, not at all.

But that was George Zoritch for you. He said what he thought.

I remember the day he suddenly fell into uncharacteristic self-pity. He abruptly blamed Michel Fokine for ruining his knees with Cossack-style kazachok (Russian kick) dancing. Long-ago hurts still lived! Still, his usual disposition was sunny and humorous - as long as one continued to work hard!

Zoritch was also eager to employ the latest technological aids too. In 1982, the use of VHS tapes was still pretty new, but Zoritch was doing his best to use them to aid his choreographic efforts and incorporate them into his instruction whenever appropriate. Because he was older did not mean he was ready to stop learning.

We had a live piano player too (an elderly fellow who finally retired, surprisingly enough, in order to explore music generated by computer). When the students initially couldn't follow his tempo, Zoritch would halt the exercise, and, tongue-in-cheek, blame the piano player for choosing the wrong tempo. The piano player graciously accepted the blame, then start again (of course, at the same blistering tempo).

I remember the day Zoritch showed up to class limping, with black eyes and his arm in a sling. Apparently in an over-confident moment, he slipped and fell from the roof of his house. Still, he could teach class, and he did. So, a few months later, when I tripped over a difficult-to-see wire while jogging, I showed up to class anyway, despite the pain, in order to observe class. Because attendance is important, especially in dance.

And that was another lesson I learned the hard way too. My first semester, I got frustrated and boycotted his class for the rest of the semester. Nevertheless, Zoritch did not fail me, but rather gave me a "D" (which was the only "D" I ever got in my academic classwork). Because I HAD been there for awhile, Zoritch gave me credit. Because attendance is important, especially in dance.

A great dancer, and a great inspiration to everyone!

Temperatures On The Great Plains Should Warm Up

Mostly on Sunday.

It's Bad Luck To Say Good Luck On Opening Night!

So, some more pictures from Wednesday night rehearsal will have to do!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Proselytizing In The Public Square

Brit Hume doesn't quite grasp that it was inappropriate to proselytize to Tiger Woods on FOX News.

All my life, as an agnostic swimming in a sea of Christians, I've become accustomed to people proseltyzing to me under all kinds of circumstances, whether inappropriate or not.

There is a certain charm about the earnestness of some folks as they proselytize away. A year ago, for example, when Andrew and I were on the trail, descending Rob Roy Mountain, near Wanaka, New Zealand, we encountered a dentist who was eager to preach the Gospel. But his message was very much a personal one: his faith had helped him survive the removal of a brain tumor. One couldn't help but respect his testimony of faith.

As a representative of FOX News, however, Brit Hume cannot help but speak on behalf of the FOX News organization, which may include people of a number of faiths. Perhaps he cleared his message with FOX, but likely not. Whether approved or not, the message is not personal at all.

The Kiwi dentist never told us what to do with our faiths. He left that to our own judgments. Suffice for him to testify. On the other hand, Brit Hume presumed to tell Tiger Woods what he should do with his Buddhism. Rather rude, I thought.

One strange proselytization episode I experienced was among an apartment full of Salt Lake City Mormons, in 1989. I excused myself, and as I was leaving, someone asked whether I was Mexican. I said I was derived from Mexicans, and in parting the person said they had a place in their religion for my people. Kind of creeped me out a bit....:
Brit Hume is continuing his media tour in defense of his remark that Tiger Woods should convert to Christianity if he wants to be redeemed. This time, he claims that the media uproar that followed his comments is just "anti-Christian bigotry."

Hume said on Fox News that Woods, who is "said to be a Buddhist," should turn to Christianity because "I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith."

According to, when asked if he was surprised by the "media uproar" that resulted from his comments, Hume said ""No, I'm not surprised," and that "sure," he'd do it again.

Hume also said that "the most controversial two words you can ever utter in a public space are 'Jesus Christ.'"

He continued: "I'm somewhat at a loss to explain it because so many of the people who purport to be aghast at such mentions are themselves at least nominally Christian. But there it is."

"The Producers" - DMTC - Wednesday Night Rehearsal

I've only just started going through the pictures. I'll add more today as time permits.

Max Bialystock (Martin Lehman, Leo Bloom (Andy Hyun), and Ulla Inga Hansen Bensen Yonsen Tallen-Hallen Svaden-Svans (Amy Jacques-Jones).

Also: Elizabeth Fernandez, Mary Young, Chris Petersen, and Pamela Kay Lourentzos.
Roger DeBris as Adolf Hitler (Richard Spierto) and Ulla (Amy Jacques-Jones).
Adam Sartain as a supremely-confident Hitler Wannabe.
Adam Sartain, a no-longer-supremely-confident Hitler Wannabe, quails in the presence of Franz Liebkin (Kyle Hadley).

Roger DeBris' choreographer (Scott Griffith).

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


This evening, E. was sitting at the kitchen table, once again trying her skill playing 'PapiJump' on the i-Phone.

As she played, we could both hear a strange sound coming from outside, almost like a cow lowing in the distance, but with a peculiar, un-cowlike urgency.

"Don't tell me that there's some homeless guy standing in the DMV parking lot and crying," she groused as she played on. I went out back to see what was making the sound.

To my surprise, that was exactly what was happening. In the DMV parking lot behind the house stood what appeared to be a homeless man, bawling. Just bawling.

I approached him and asked: "What's wrong?" (maybe a bit breezily - it's hard to know how to respond to a stranger's grief - but for all I knew he might be injured). The man, who appeared to be in his 50's, abruptly stopped, pulled his knit cap tighter over his head, turned his back and started stumping away. He said: "Leave me alone, man!"

I looked down where the man had been standing. There was a shockingly-large wet patch, where the man's tears had sprinkled and smeared onto the pavement.

Driving to Davis a few minutes later, I saw the same man standing in the parking lot at the corner AM/PM convenience store.

I hope he's OK....

"Dead Octopuses Confound Portugal"

That's a great headline - I just had to check it out:
What is killing the octopus of Vila Nova de Gaia? That question has obsessed the Portuguese city, located just across the Douro river from Porto, since Jan. 2, when 1,100 lbs. (500 kg) of dead octopus were found on a 1.8-mile (3 km) stretch of local beach. The following day, another 110 lbs (50 kg) appeared; today there was just one expired creature. "It's very strange that so many should be killed, and in such a confined area," says Nuno Oliveira, director of the Gaia Biological Park, a nature refuge on the outskirts of Vila Nova de Gaia. "There's nothing in the scientific literature for this kind of mass mortality among octopus."

...Local biologists have ruled out pollution or contamination because no other species were affected. And although some suggest that perhaps a boat, illegally fishing the multilegged creatures, threw them overboard in a panicked attempt to avoid detection, that possibility also seems unlikely. "The sea has been very rough," says Oliveira. "No one has been out fishing for days."

...[E]vidence points to some sort of disease: a parasite, bacteria or a powerful virus. "It affected octopus of all ages and sizes," says Mike Weber, director of the Aguda coastal station, an aquarium and biological research institute located in Gaia. "That suggests that it wiped out the entire local population."

...There is one other option, however. In December 2007, Portuguese police confiscated 9.4 tons of cocaine in a shipment of frozen octopus from Venezuela. "I suppose it's possible that someone defrosted the animals, took out the cocaine, then threw their bodies overboard," says Weber. Still, like Oliveira, Weber is betting on a biological cause. "We've had swine flu, bird flu," he says, not completely in jest. "Why not octopus flu?"

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Who - Won't Get Fooled Again

J. wrote to suggest a blog:
Hey Marc,

Here's another commie pinko liberal blog you might enjoy following. There are some pretty interesting pieces posted on it.

We're freezing out here in Oklahoma--makes the Fox viewers very smug about being global warming deniers....
Well, I can't help with the weather or the smug Fox fanatics. Climate, after all, is averaged weather, and the globe on average can still be getting toasty even as large swathes of America freeze rock-solid. The conditions are not mutually-exclusive at all. And if the global warming deniers can't grasp that simple fact, then it's time to sell them gold medallions as an investment opportunity. Because someone is gonna get rich (and it isn't the dittoheads).

So, reading the commie pinko liberal blog, per request, I found myself drawn to the post featuring The Who's classic song of political disillusion, "Won't Get Fooled Again".

At the time "Won't Get Fooled Again" came out, in 1971, our family was right in the middle of an abortive move from Corrales, NM, to San Diego, CA. So, for me, the song is about disillusion, but not just political disillusion, but disillusion with many, many things: the idea of California as a Paradise on Earth, for one; the idea that all things come out right in the end, the idea that people are rational and know what they are doing, etc., etc. So, this song is one of the beacons of my life....

We'll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again

(small instrumental)

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that's all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain't changed
'Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
No, no!


I'll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I'll get all my papers and smile at the sky
Though I know that the hypnotized never lie
Do ya?


There's nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Is now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again
No, no!



Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

Hatiras - Your Love

Nice disco sound!


Yup. Suspicious. Honey is just the worst:
Authorities say the suspicious material inside luggage that prompted the shutdown of a California airport turns out to be five soft drink bottles filled with honey.

Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood says the bottles, found inside a checked bag at Bakersfield's Meadows Field, had tested positive for traces of an explosive.

Youngblood says investigators are trying to determine whether there was something in the honey or on the bag that caused security alarms to go off shortly before 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.

They have been questioning the bag's owner, 31-year-old Francisco Ramirez, a gardener from Milwaukee who says he flew to Bakersfield to spend Christmas with his sister.

The discovery of the suspicious material halted flights to and from the airport. Two security officers reported feeling ill after being exposed to the bottles.

Can One See Andromeda On A Foggy Night?

I encountered Tom Kear at the Davis AM/PM last night. I wonder if I should have gone along?:
T.: I'm heading down Mace Blvd. into the country with my telescope. Wanna come along?

M.: I can't. I'm busy. But thanks for asking!

T.: I just hope I can find a place without the fog....

Monday, January 04, 2010

Practice For The Pig Bowl

Like E. is fond of saying, "America's dummiest criminals!":
Two burglary suspects fleeing Sacramento County sheriff's deputies Monday afternoon headed for the Foothill High School campus to ditch their pursuers, according to sheriff's Sgt. Tim Curran.

They ran through the campus and onto the football field - where, it just so happens, players were practicing for the upcoming Pig Bowl.

The Pig Bowl, you'll remember, is the annual matchup between area firefighters and law enforcement. Unfortunately for the suspects, it was the latter team working out that afternoon at Foothill High.

Curran said members of the team - composed mainly of sheriff's deputies - ditched their pigskin and joined in the chase, eventually dog piling 19-year-old James Hill Jr. just off the field. One deputy threw a pair of handcuffs into the pile and another locked them in place.

Meanwhile, the offensive line chased down the other suspect, a 17-year-old boy, and took him into custody elsewhere on campus, Curran said. An earlier version of this story said only one suspect was caught by the football cops.

Also arrested was 20-year-old Jamario Hill, who deputies caught after he jumped a fence behind the Robert Frost Way home he and the other suspects allegedly had targeted, Curran said.

The three suspects face charges of attempted burglary and conspiracy, Curran said.

It's Gonna Be A Long Year....

If everyone goes postal over small stuff:
The gunman who opened fire in the federal courthouse this morning, killing a security officer and wounding a deputy U.S. marshal, was Johnny Lee Wicks, according to a law enforcement source.

In 2008 Wicks filed a federal race discrimination complaint against a regional commissioner with the Social Security Division. Wicks’ complaint stemmed from an encounter he had with regional commissioner at the social security office after learning his monthly social security payment would be reduced.
With a bit of a local past:
Johnny Lee Wicks, 66, is a former Fresno resident who was cited for misdemeanor battery in 1998.

Fresno County Superior Court records show that Wicks lived in an apartment building on the 800 block of Van Ness Avenue in downtown Fresno. On Oct. 27, 1998, Wicks was cited after a disturbance with J.C. Williams Jr.

The case against Wicks was dismissed in Superior Court in July 1999, court records show.

2009 Was Australia's Second-Warmest Year On Record

Globally, 2009 was the 5th warmest year on record.

Interestingly, rainfall means are increasing too.

Meanwhile, In Iran, Protesters Appear To Save Two Men From Hanging

And elsewhere, protesters negotiate with police to try and win them over.....

Big Bank Bailout

E.: MMMMAAAARRRRRRCCCC! Bank of America is eating my money!

M.: Let's see: $35 for the bounced-check fee, $35 for insufficient funds, and $35 for not remedying quickly the condition of insufficient funds. That's $105 of fees for just one bounced check, and there are others....

E.: They know that I don't balance my checkbook, because I always ask the teller for my balance before withdrawing money, so when they use their cameras and see me come in the door they say: "Here's that Asian woman who doesn't balance her checkbook! Let's sock it to HER!"

M.: It might help to balance the checkbook....

E.: I can't! I lead a very busy life, and don't have the time.

M.: Maybe a smaller bank or credit union would be better for you.

E.: I moved my account from Wells Fargo to Bank of America for exactly this reason, but Bank of America is WORSE! I'm going to close my account today!

"Inside The City" Interviews Mark Ferreira

Interesting interview with Mark Ferreira in "Inside The City":
Soon after his endeavors in medicine ended, he was hired to play piano for a season of shows at Garbeau’s Dinner Theater. Three seasons later, in 2007, the then-owner approached then-25-year-old Ferreira about buying the business.

“I said yes. I mean why not?” he says with a boyish shrug. “I was—and I think still am—the youngest dinner theater owner in the country.”

But his age, or lack thereof, didn’t stop Ferreira and his business partner from going on to break every record in Garbeau’s 28-year history within the first season.

“When we took over, we tried to modernize it,” he recalls. “Their previous model had been big, classic musicals—which are great—but we have a bar. I didn’t see martinis and the Von Trapp kids [from The Sound of Music] mixing particularly well. What we had to do when picking shows was think, ‘Could I have a cocktail and enjoy this show?’ We decided that ‘comfortably edgy’ was our best bet.”

That gamble paid off for two and a half years before the economy changed his luck.

“It’s ironic to think about it now,” Ferreira says with a smirk, “but before I bought it, the previous owner asked me what scared me about owning a theater. I said, ‘Four-dollar gas and a full-scale recession.’ I don’t want to say I caused the recession, but ... ”

Ferreira’s all-too-prescient prognosis was indeed what proved to be the company’s downfall.

“When gas hit four dollars a gallon in March 2008, our attendance dropped significantly—and never really recovered,” Ferreira says. “When money’s tight, people stop eating out and supporting the arts. When you’re both in one, it’s nearly
impossible to survive.”

Though he calls Garbeau’s “a true victim of the economy,” Ferreira has all but abandoned his ambitions.

“Small businesses are the backbone of America,” he says, “and that’s what theaters are. I think what the community needs to do now is let their cliques fade away and be so in love with their art that they learn to work together.”
I've heard Mark discuss his "$4.00/gallon of gas" theory several times to explain Garbeau's demise, but I'm not persuaded it's correct. After all, DMTC in Davis would seem to be similarly-exposed to gasoline price increases (3/4 of DMTC's audience resides outside Davis; half in Sacramento). DMTC and Garbeau's are both along freeway alignments on the edge of the Sacramento metropolitan area (same goes with Magic Circle in Roseville as well as the Woodland Opera House in Woodland). Yet, at least with DMTC finances, I didn't notice an attendance shock in early-to-midyear 2008 corresponding with the gasoline price increase. Mostly I was surprised by the complete absence of a sign of such an effect.

It may be that DMTC suffered its recession early. DMTC lost about 10% of its audience just with the move to the new theater in late 2005, and the slow return of these folks may have compensated for the absence of others driven away by high gas prices. Many theatergoers are extremely casual about their attendance, so when the venue changed, they simply lost track of where the company went.

During the New Year's Eve Gala this weekend, for example, I met one of these people: a Davis resident who had participated in YPT shows at DMTC in the 90's, but simply lost track of the theater company, and discovered only last week that the company still existed. If participants can lose the theater, why not the general public?

But part of it too maybe the older demographic DMTC tends to draw on - wealthier and less-vulnerable than the 'comfortably-edgy' demographic Garbeau's was shooting for.

I have no idea what Garbeau's finances were like, but I remember hearing radio ads when Garbeau's reopened under the new management. I remember staring at the radio, aghast and agog at the use of precious money for such a speculative purpose, money that might well have been borrowed, for all that I knew. I understand the magic appeal of advertising - all the community theaters need it like oxygen - but it's just too damned expensive! So, I wondered about the use of money.

Clearly, Garbeau's experienced a sudden shock in 2008, and Mark is probably correct in attributing the shock to gasoline price increases, but the shock passed by the fall of 2008 and the audience didn't return that quickly. Could it be that the real estate shock slammed the Rancho Cordova/ Folsom area far harder than the other corners of the Sacramento metropolitan area? Or were younger people slammed far harder than older people? Or was there an artistic component: shows that didn't have the widespread appeal of the big musicals couldn't pull the audience back into the theater in time (comfortably edgy became un-comfortably edgy under the gun)?

Mark refers to cliques with what sounds like a bit of exasperation, but comfortably-edgy and clique-y are close cousins: hard to get one without the other.

I don't know the answers, but this is an interesting interview with a great guy!

In The Doctor Zone Today

Not quite the same as going to the mall - the customer is not always right:
Dr.: "And I see that you haven't had your colonoscopy yet."

M.: (Staring at the floor) "I've been a bad boy."

Dr. "Well, I'll give you a referral, which you will need to set up with a phone call. And some blood labwork, for which you will need to fast, and an X-Ray of that left ankle. Would you also like an HIV test?"

M.: "Well, I haven't had any homosexual relations....."

Dr.: "My colleague and I notice that most new HIV cases are among heterosexuals."

M.: "Really?"

Dr.: "Really. I'll get you one of those too...."

Michelle Bachmann Decides She Didn't Really Mean That Part About Not Cooperating With The Census

By all means, please DO cooperate with the Feds!:
The key issue here is that according to current population estimates, Minnesota is right on the cusp of losing one of its eight seats in Congress, and will be in a close competition with Missouri, Texas and California for that district.

...The Star-Tribune says in its editorial over the weekend:
It's ironic that a Minnesota member of Congress, Republican Michele Bachmann, went so far last summer to declare her intention to only partially complete her census forms, and to suggest reasons for others not to comply with the census law. If Minnesota loses a congressional seat, Bachmann's populous Sixth District could be carved into pieces. She likely would have to battle another incumbent to hang on to her seat. We've noticed that her anticensus rhetoric has lately ceased. We hope she got wise: Census compliance is not only in Minnesota's best interest, but also her own.
The really fun fact, as I've learned from Minnesota experts, is that Bachmann's district would likely be the first to go if the state lost a seat. The other seats are all fairly regular-shaped, logical districts built around identifiable regions of the state (Minneapolis, St. Paul, the Iron Range, and so on). Bachmann's district is made of what's left over after such a process, twisting and turning from a small strip of the Wisconsin border and curving deep into the middle of the state. As such, the obvious course of action if the state loses a seat is to split her district up among its neighbors.

Celebrating The New Year The Arizona Way

With parties:
A north Phoenix family struggled in vain Wednesday night to rescue a relative who fell into a backyard fire pit.

The man had been roasting a pig in the 3-foot deep pit, apparently for a large block party to celebrate the New Year. Somehow the man fell in about 8:15 p.m.; the house is in the area of Union Hills Drive and Seventh Street.

Family and friends had been trying to put out the fire with a garden hose and had pulled him out when firefighters arrived, Dorian Jackson, a Phoenix Fire spokesperson said.

Fire crews pronounced the man dead shortly after.
With games:
MESA, AZ -- Police have identified a 17-year-old boy who was killed Saturday when his teenaged sister accidentally ran over him with her car.

Mesa Police spokesman, Ed Wessing, said Dwight J. Brock, Jr. was dropped off at Superstition Springs mall by his 16-year-old sister, Nicole, Saturday evening.

According to Wessing, the two were playing around, with Dwight jumping in front of the car and Nicole slamming on the brakes.

The last time that happened Nicole was reportedly unable to stop and ran over her brother.

Dwight was taken to a local hospital in extremely critical condition and was later pronounced dead.
Grabbing money, wherever it can be found:
Asta Forrest, a Danish immigrant who fell in love with Arizona after moving to Fountain Hills with her husband, left nearly $250,000 to the Arizona State Parks Board when she died of cancer at age 82.

When parks officials received the money in 2003, it was the largest private donation the parks system had ever received. They were unprepared for such a large gift, said Ken Travous, who served as state-parks director for 23 years before retiring in June.

"We had never received anything of that magnitude before," he said, adding that he began "looking for something that was big enough to really make her proud."

While parks officials considered what to do with the money, Arizona's budget deficit ballooned into the billions. Last month, when the Republican-led Legislature met in special session to cut $140 million from the budget, it swept up half the money in the parks system's donations fund, which included most of Forrest's donation.

"It was like they had kicked me in the stomach," Travous said. "Surely, I thought, they have some shame. But they're shameless."

...Forrest's friends said she would have been devastated to learn that her donation will not go to support the parks system, but instead to pay for operating expenses, such as building maintenance and electric bills.

"She would have been totally nauseated," said Roger Essenburg, a close friend and the executor of Forrest's estate. "She would have never have given the money if she had known the state was going to take it way from the parks board."

...Friends say she called Arizona her "Garden of Eden."

"She just loved everything about Arizona - its beauty and all the natural scenery," Essenburg said.

Reese Woodling, chairman of the state-parks board, said officials now are reconsidering the way they solicit donations. Woodling wants to make sure money donated to parks stays there, particularly given that budget cuts could close up to half the state's parks in the next six months.

"We'll do whatever we can to keep those donations flowing in," he said.

"For our Legislature to take that money and not give it a second thought is unconscionable."