Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Long Reach Of The Dead

If I see a floating trumpet at the seance and it blows "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", then I will support DADT:
On the matter of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) once promised that he would listen to "leaders in the military," telling people that the "day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, Senator, we ought to change the policy, then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it." But when those military leaders came to him and told him it was time to change the policy, McCain retreated from his previous pledge, because it turns out he gets to pick and choose which military leaders he gets to heed.

And in this case, McCain has chosen the signatories of a letter signed by "over a thousand retired and flag general officers," among other folks. But, as noted by Amanada Terkel, that letter turns out to be something of an exercise in ghost whispering:
...a new Servicemembers United report obtained in advance by DC Agenda severely undermines the legitimacy of this letter. Some of the problems:

- The average age of the officers is 74. The "oldest living signer is 98, and several signers died in the time since the document was published." Servicemembers United Executive Director Alex Nicholson added that only "a small fraction of these officers have even served in the military during the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' period, much less in the 21st century military," so it's hard to believe that they "know how accepting and tolerant 18- and 21-year-olds are today."

- "At least one signer, Gen. Louis Menetrey, was deceased when the letter was published and didn't sign the document himself. According to a footnote on the letter, his wife signed the document for him after his death using power of attorney -- six years after Alzheimer's disease robbed him of the ability to communicate."
The Huffington Post blogger then gets a bit snarky and proclaims:
Anyway, for his next trick, John McCain will produce an 1876 letter from General George Armstrong Custer that reads, "No, no, don't worry, I can totally take these guys!"
But that just reminds me of a little story, one of many fascinating stories, in Evan McConnell's book "Son of the Morningstar", which is all about General Custer, the 7th Cavalry and the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

It turned out that when the 7th Cavalry was in the field, one of the more-reclusive, more-retiring laundresses of Custer's 7th-Cavalry sickened, and then died. Upon preparing her body for burial, they discovered the laundress was actually a man.

DADT, or variants thereof, have a longer history than many people might realize.

Which is why people fight so to retain it. It conforms to a certain kind of military tradition wherein plain-speaking is not prized, and is indeed sacrificed in the name of order.

DADT is alluring to some officers because it seems to simplify the administration of military discipline. It is a terrible hoax that, in fact, gravely complicates the administration of military discipline.

Time to bid farewell to DADT....

Equatorial South Pacific Storminess Taking Off

Trouble brewing in the general area of the Solomons, and Fiji. Tomas might threaten Fiji and eventually approach New Zealand; Ului is likely to head towards Queensland:



The Global Warming Wrench Ratchets Forward

Eastern Australia got rains, but Western Australia got baked this summer:
By Monday morning (1 March 2010) Western Australia is almost certain to have sweltered through its hottest summer on record.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology the average of all the minimum and maximum temperatures recorded across the state this summer is likely to be 29.6°C; 0.2°C above the previous hottest summer, recorded in 1997-98, and 1.3°C above the long-term summer average of 28.3°C.

Confirmation of the state-wide summer record will follow a succession of hot months with WA recording its third hottest December and its second hottest January. This month is likely to be the third hottest February on record.

Preliminary data also suggests that by month's end WA will have recorded its hottest summer days (in terms of daytime maximum temperatures), and hottest summer nights (in terms of overnight minimum temperatures).

The state-wide records date back to 1950.

Perth, where temperature records date back to 1897, has also experienced an unusually hot and dry summer. With only three days to go, it is very likely that the summer of 2009-10 will be the city's second hottest, as well as its driest, summer on record.

So far this summer, Perth has recorded a mean maximum temperature of 31.8°C, which is 1.6°C above the long-term mean, but 0.2°C below that of the hottest summer recorded in 1977-78

In addition to the unusually warm conditions, summer in Perth has been unusually dry. Perth has recorded only 0.2 mm of rainfall during summer 2009-10 (up to 9am on 26 February), well below the average of 35.1 mm, and below the previous record dry summer in 1974-75 when only 0.8 mm was recorded. Provided no measurable rainfall is recorded in the remaining few days of summer, Perth is heading for its driest summer since rainfall records commenced in 1876.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Objectivity And The TV News

EMBED-Technical Difficulties On Live Newscast - Watch more free videos

I don't quite follow this, but one doesn't have to to see the problem.

Viking Mass Grave

Less-than-amicable relations, apparently:
Fifty-one decapitated skeletons found in a burial pit in Dorset were those of Scandinavian Vikings, scientists say.

Mystery has surrounded the identity of the group since they were discovered at Ridgeway Hill, near Weymouth, in June.

Analysis of teeth from 10 of the men revealed they had grown up in countries with a colder climate than Britain's.

Archaeologists from Oxford believe the men were probably executed by local Anglo Saxons in front of an audience sometime between AD 910 and AD 1030.

The Anglo Saxons were increasingly falling victim to Viking raids and eventually the country was ruled by a Danish king.

...Samples of 10 remains were identified as Scandinavian by Dr Jane Evans and Carolyn Chenery, of NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory, part of the British Geological Survey, based in Nottingham.

Their work has revealed that the men had scattered Scandinavian origins, with one even thought to be from north of the Arctic Circle.

Isotopes in the men's teeth also show they had eaten a high protein diet, comparable with known sites in Sweden.

Initially, it was thought the burial site dated from the Iron Age (from 800 BC) to early Roman times (from AD 43) after examining pottery in the pit, later identified as a Roman quarry.

Isotope testing was carried out on the men's teeth. Radiocarbon dating later revealed they were from the Saxon period.

...The archaeologists believe the men were stripped naked either before being killed, or before being buried, because there was no evidence of clothing, such as pins or toggles.

Most of them were in their late teens to early 20s, with a handful in their 30s.

Religions Can Be Just Plain Weird

Give me Mormonism any day:
Authorities are investigating a Hialeah man who allegedly smuggled illegal Giant African Snails into Florida and convinced his followers to drink their juices as part of a religious healing ritual.

...Stewart, 48, who court documents describe as ``El Africano'' or ``Oloye Ifatoku,'' said he practices the traditional African religion of Ifa Orisha, which is often confused with the Cuban Santería, a blend of Yoruba and Catholic practices.

...Federal authorities began their probe in November after receiving complaints that the so-called ``healing'' practice ``is not an accepted practice of the Santería religion,'' and worshipers were falling ill after drinking the snail mucus.

...The snail ritual was supposed to cure worshipers with medical problems.

One witness told investigators that during the ritual, Stewart grabs a snail from the cage, then would ``hold it over the devotee, then cuts the [snail] and pours the raw fluid directly from the still live [snail] into the mouth of the devotee.''

Several followers became violently ill, losing weight and developing strange lumps in their bellies, the warrant said. Witnesses told investigators they saw at least 20 snails in his backyard box and several black-spotted eggs.

One witness, the warrant said, told the feds that Stewart himself eats the raw snails.

Stewart was aided by a woman known as the ``Godmother'' or ``Yeye Ifafunke,'' who claimed to a priestess from Africa who smuggled in snails under her dresses on flights to Miami, the warrant said.

...Consuming snail mucus or eating snail meat as part of a Santería ritual is ``unheard-of,'' said prominent Santería priest Ernesto Pichardo, who prevailed in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993 to get the religion officially recognized.

``I'd never seen that kind of snail in my lifetime -- anywhere I have practiced this religion,'' said Pichardo, who was panelist on the MegaTV show.

...Stewart insisted his religion is traditional to Africa, and should not be confused with Santería.

``What I practice is somewhat different, and that's what caused the backlash against me,'' he said.

...The snails, native to East Africa, are considered highly dangerous because they can consume up to 500 species of plants. They even eat plaster and stucco. They contain both male and female reproductive organs, and can lay up to 1,200 eggs a year.

Authorities are warning South Florida residents to report any sightings of the giant snails, which are considered an invasive species harmful to people and Florida plants.

The snails are ``one of the most damaging in the world in regards to plants and agriculture,'' federal plant pathologist Frederick J. Zimmerman wrote in an affidavit filed in court.

In 1966, a boy visiting Hawaii brought back three giant snails to Miami, and his grandmother released them into her garden. Seven years later, there were 18,000 of them. State authorities said it took almost 10 years and $1 million to eradicate them.

``This is the only known successful giant African snail eradication program on record,'' according to the press release.


What politicos will do to keep people quiet! Nevertheless, it's past time to 'come clean', so to speak. Should have called her bluff in 2002!
A late-night confession by Utah's House majority leader about sitting nude in a hot tub with a minor 25 years ago has shocked this conservative state's political establishment.

Rep. Kevin Garn acknowledged the hot-tub incident on the last day of the legislative session on Thursday, saying he had paid the now 40-year-old woman $150,000 to keep quiet about the episode when he ran for Congress in 2002.

In recent days, Cheryl Maher began telling her story to local news media about being naked with Garn when she was 15. Garn is more than 14 years older than Maher.

Garn said that violated a confidentiality agreement he had with the woman and he's tired of living in fear.

Greta Gerwig Interview

The review from Variety makes her seem like an acting ninja; both present and absent at the same time:
Familiar until now only to fans of ultra-low-budgeters such as "Hannah Takes the Stairs" and "Baghead," Gerwig here makes her move toward the mainstream with work likely to divide, or at least puzzle, viewers. A big young woman who's attractive enough but not at all in the usual glamorous-actress mode, she offers no perceptible performance in the popularly received sense; you don't detect impulse, calculation, yearning, hidden feelings or anything else beneath the surface. She just seems completely real, behaving the way people do, just reacting to things as they happen. Either she's a total natural -- most likely -- or she has the most invisible technique of any modern actor. Either way, interest will surround her subsequent work.
And an interesting review by cinema blogger Glenn Kenny:
Ben Stiller deserves full acknowledgement as Greenberg's co-creator. His performance is some kind of career peak, a beautifully modulated piece of craft and one of the best bits of physical acting you're likely to see in a film for a while. Greenberg's whippet-thinness comes off as born of a certain kind of spite; Stiller's here highly-prominent Adam's Apple sometimes functions as a character in and of itself. Stiller's smallness of frame works wonders when his Greenberg, feeling defeated before he's even made an effort at accomplishing anything, curls up in a corner. Florence, Greenberg's romantic foil, such as she is, has a frame that's the opposite number of Greenberg's matchstick; obtrusive and awkward and gangly and hardly smoothed-out. Todd McCarthy got a bit of smack from some overly sensitive observers for referring to Florence's portrayer, Greta Gerwig, as "a big young woman;" but here she's supposed to be "big," at least relative to Stiller, and apparently she put on 15 pounds for the role.

Gerwig is, I'm happy to say, also very fine here. I've always found her to be an appealing screen presence, but this is really the first time she's been asked to embody a fully conceived character rather than present a haphazard compilation of tics, traits and attitudes. She acquits herself quite beautifully. Florence, who's the personal assistant to Greenberg's very successful brother, at whose L.A. home Greenberg is sojourning after a stint in a mental institution, is established right off the bat as almost shockingly passive, making her the unfortunately perfect receptacle for Greenberg's abuse and deflected self-loathing.

Retirement Kicks

Should have picked officeholders instead:
The 68-year-old grandfather accused of punching children in a Northwest Side Walmart appeared in Franklin County Municipal Court this morning.

...Caught in the act at his local Walmart on Wednesday night, Conone admitted that for months he'd been punching children on the backs of their heads with his keys in his fist, Columbus police said yesterday.

The grandfather also told them why, police said: He got a kick out of it.

"He stated that he does this because of the excitement of being able to do it and get away with it with the parents right there," said Sgt. John Hurst of the special victims bureau. "He'll just strike them in the head and just turn around and walk away."

..."He told us it was because they were unable to defend themselves," Hurst said.

Today's Useful Blog

Random Eats, via B3ta:
"I have a problem," confesses Nairn. "I buy cookery books but never ever use them. It culminated in January with me buying 11 books simultaneously. So what I've decided to do is take one book a day in to work, then have someone randomly pick a page and I'll eat for dinner whatever that recipe is. Here's the result:

Maybe Some Progress In Afghanistan

Just got to cleave the Taliban from Al Qaeda. And in the face of rampant corruption in the Kabul regime. Hard work!:
Reporting from Washington - A growing number of Taliban militants in the Pakistani border region are refusing to collaborate with Al Qaeda fighters, declining to provide shelter or assist in attacks in Afghanistan even in return for payment, according to U.S. military and counter-terrorism officials.

The officials, citing evidence from interrogation of detainees, communications intercepts and public statements on extremist websites, say that threats to the militants' long-term survival from Pakistani, Afghan and foreign military action are driving some Afghan Taliban away from Al Qaeda.

As a result, Al Qaeda fighters are in some cases being excluded from villages and other areas near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border where they once received sanctuary.

...Al Qaeda is believed to have fewer than 100 operatives still in Afghanistan. Though mounting attacks there is not the network's main focus, it remains interested in striking U.S. and other targets.

...Last year, the organization began offering stipends to Afghans who would escort its operatives into the country, but there are indications that many Taliban are refusing this inducement, one U.S. official said.

"The Afghan Taliban does not want to be seen as, or heard of, having the same relationship with AQ that they had in the past," said the senior official, who is familiar with the latest intelligence and used an abbreviation for Al Qaeda. The officials and others described the assessments on condition of anonymity.

...U.S. officials remain unsure whether the alliance between Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban is splintering for good, and some regard the possibility as little more than wishful thinking. A complete rupture is unlikely, some analysts say, because Al Qaeda members have married into many tribes and formed other connections in years of hiding in Pakistan's remote regions.

But the tension has led to a debate within the U.S. government about whether there are ways to exploit any fissures. One idea under consideration, an official said, is to reduce drone airstrikes against Taliban factions whose members are shunning contacts with Al Qaeda.

...But Al Qaeda's resources and manpower have been greatly diminished over the years.

"Many [Taliban] do not see AQ bringing that much to the current fight," said a military official. "A lot of their resources have dried up, and the quality of their fighters has been significantly degraded."


I have never believed that 'tough' interrogation ever did anything useful. People will say anything under 'tough' interrogation. It's the softer forms of interrogation that produce results.

The Bush Administration turned into a caricature of everything they claimed to be against. Some Christians these!

The Nazis lied to their victims too. The Nazis had doctors helping them out too. Same in the Gulag Archipelago. The totalitarians had lawyers helping them out too. And you couldn't question their motives: they were all about making the world safer too! In many ways, the Nazis were more-civilized than we were: at least they followed the Geneva Conventions and allowed the Red Cross into their prisons holding Prisoners of War (which helped save the lives of many American POWs).

I'm afraid scalping is too soft a punishment for Rove and all the other folks in the Bush Administration. Evil knows no limits!:
A top aide to former US president George W. Bush has defended the use of harsh interrogation techniques, insisting he is "proud" of the methods and they had helped prevent terrorist attacks.

Karl Rove also told the BBC in an interview broadcast Thursday that he did not believe waterboarding -- a simulated drowning method -- amounted to torture.

"I'm proud that we used techniques that broke the will of these terrorists and gave us valuable information that allowed us to foil plots," he said.

"I am proud that we kept the world safer than it was by the use of these techniques. They are appropriate, they are in conformity with our international requirements and with US law," he added.

"Flying airplanes into Heathrow and into London... bringing down aircraft over the Pacific, flying an airplane into the tallest building in Los Angeles" were all terror plots that were thwarted by tough interrogation, he insisted.

Asked specifically whether he thought waterboarding was torture, he replied: "No it's not. People need to read the memos that outline what was permissible and not permissible before they make a judgement about these things."

"Every one of the people who were waterboarded had a doctor who had to ascertain that there had been no long-lasting physical or mental damage to the individual," he said.

People being waterboarded were also told they would not drown, said Rove.

Bush-era lawyers authorised waterboarding and other harsh interrogation in a serious of memos.

Critics have fiercely attacked these memos, saying they let the previous US administration subvert the limits of its constitutional powers during its "war on terror."

Lady Gaga And Beyonce - "Telephone"

Oh, good grief! Great and just awful, simultaneously! A bit of an oxymoron - high-talent decadence! Completely toxic!

(I posted this last year too with reference to Lady Gaga): And what is decadence? From Wikipedia:

Used to describe a person's lifestyle, it describes a lack of moral and intellectual discipline, or in the Concise Oxford Dictionary: "a luxurious self-indulgence"

....Applied to the arts, decadence implies an elevation of self-indulgence and pretension over effort and talent; when applied to science and the professions, it describes an erosion of professional ethics

....In literature ..."decadents" relished artifice over the earlier Romantics' naive view of nature (see Jean-Jacques Rousseau). Some of these writers were influenced by the tradition of the Gothic novel and by the poetry and fiction of Edgar Allan Poe.

Oscar Wilde gave a curious definition: "Classicism is the subordination of the parts to the whole; decadence is the subordination of the whole to the parts."
I bet Oscar Wilde never thought of great product placement like these two did, but I'm sure he would have known how to characterize it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

High Profile Terror Takedown

Hmmm. A big fish!:
Indonesian police said Wednesday that they had killed Dulmatin, one of Southeast Asia’s most-wanted militants, during a raid outside Jakarta. Mr. Dulmatin's recent activities sheds light on how Indonesia's militant Islamists are splintering and adapting, experts say.

Dulmatin and two other men were killed during a raid that has been linked to a group of alleged militants captured last month in Aceh. Sidney Jones, a leading authority on Indonesian militant groups at the International Crisis Group in Jakarta, says Dulmatin was part of a group of men who have broken away from a range of militant organizations out of frustration at a lack of militant action by those groups.

Dulmatin is believed to have helped plot and execute the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing that killed 202 people, mostly foreigners. His death comes six months after members of Indonesia’s US-trained counterterrorism unit killed Noordin Top, the leader of a splinter group of the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah.

...Dulmatin’s death does not mean much for JI, Jones says, but he was a crucial link between a group that calls itself Al Qaeda for Southeast Asia and militant groups in the Philippines, including the Abu Sayyaf.

Understanding the personal connections between these groups is necessary to determine financing and support for transnational crime, analysts say. “How else do you send 20 people for military training?” asks Noor Huda Ismail, a terrorism analyst, referring to a paramilitary camp in Aceh where police have captured 21 militants since late February.

He calls Dulmatin’s death disappointing, and says it raises more questions than it answers. “It’s clear that this is a major blow to weaken the network, but we lose so much invaluable information by killing these [militants].”

...Other analysts share that sentiment, but say opportunities to gather intelligence still exist. “The police have a goldmine of information with the 21 people they have arrested,” says Jones. “Dulmatin was one of the most dangerous terrorists in the region and a known killer.”

A Conservative Moment Here At Marc Valdez Weblog

I'm Left; Far Left, and heading more Far Left as the years flip past. Michael Moore, I'm going to pass you (if I can only get around your 'Wide Load')!

Nevertheless, there is a need for balance, even here at Marc Valdez Weblog.

Scary Out There Towards Granite Bay

E.: MMMAAARRRRCCCC! Wake up! I was driving on Sierra College Boulevard this morning, and I was in one of the two turn lanes waiting for the light to turn, when a car hit another car in front of me. MMMAAAARRRCCC! It was spinning and spinning in the intersection and I could see the people in the cars!

M.: Oh, that's terrible! Did you see how the accident happened?

E.: No.

M.: You mean a car accident happened right in front of you and you didn't see it?

E.: I was looking at the traffic light for the turn arrow.

M.: Did you stop and help?

E.: MMMAAARRRCCC! No one stopped! When the light changed everyone just kept going!

M.: (I guess life is cheaper in the 'burbs than I had thought) Oh, that's terrible!

Strange Davis

This sounds entirely out-of-character for Davis, and not too far from the theater either. I wonder what happened?:
Davis police said that a man was stabbed Wednesday night, possibly while walking in the area of East Covell Boulevard and Pole Line Road.

The man was not certain of the exact location of the attack because he is unfamiliar with Davis. However, he might have been walking on Chestnut Lane, police said.

The victim suffered wounds to his back, neck and chin that were not life-threatening. He told police three people attacked him, but he was unable to identify them.

Everybody's Favorite Bank Behaving Badly Once Again

Don't even get one payment behind with us, or we'll play hide-and-go-seek with the parrot:
PITTSBURGH—Bank of America Corp. apologized after its local contractor entered the home of a mortgage borrower when she was away, cut off utilities, padlocked the door and confiscated her pet parrot, Luke.

...A Bank of America spokesman said Wednesday a bank employee erroneously believed the house was vacant and sent the contractor there with instructions to install a new lock and otherwise "secure" the property. The bank spokesman said those instructions were inappropriate because Ms. Iannelli wasn't in default and the house wasn't vacant.

Mortgage lenders have struggled in the past three years to hire and train enough people to deal with the biggest wave of foreclosures since the 1930s. Nearly eight million households, or 15% of those with mortgages, are behind on their payments or in the foreclosure process.

...At the same time, suicide threats from distressed borrowers are so common that one lender, OneWest Bank Group in Pasadena, Calif., had to establish procedures for alerting the police. Lenders' call-center employees are under heavy pressure. "These people make $14 or $15 an hour, and we ask them to move mountains," said a OneWest executive at an industry conference last month.

In her civil suit filed in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, Ms. Iannelli said a contractor hired by Bank of America entered her house about 15 miles north of Pittsburgh in mid-October when she was away. According to the suit, in an "invasion" of the home, the contractor stopped utility services, cut water lines and electrical wiring, damaged flooring and finishings, poured antifreeze into sinks and toilets, and "stole" the parrot.

Ms. Iannelli, who owns a diner and works part-time as a bartender, said Bank of America representatives weren't helpful when she called in to protest. They first denied knowing where the parrot was, and later told her she could go to the offices of the contractor, about 80 miles away, to retrieve the bird herself. Ms. Iannelli said bank representatives also told her they were "tired" of hearing from her, hung up on her and advised her to seek help from the police.

...Mr. Rosenzweig said Ms. Iannelli had missed one payment around the time of the incident but quickly caught up and was now current on her loan.

After she drove two hours to reclaim her parrot in October, the bird initially seemed nervous, Ms. Iannelli said in an interview Wednesday. "He's doing very well now," she said.

But Is It Art? If So, What Kind?

George W. Bush urinal sculpture:
Sculptor Clark Sorensen produces handmade, homemade pieces in his studio/garage in the Mission District section of San Francisco.

"It started kind of as a joke," said Sorensen. "I was working in porcelain, and I thought, 'what can I do with a urinal?'"

...The one-of-a-kind urinal is not installed in any men's room. It is on display at a gallery art show in San Francisco.

If You Don't Use It, You Lose It?

Hmmmm. I wonder if this is to get out of making boutique blends of California gasoline for air pollution reduction purposes, or if it really is the economy, or if something else is up? All that capital investment too!:
Some of the nation's biggest oil companies are looking at permanently reducing how much gasoline and diesel fuel they make, a move that analysts say would almost certainly trigger higher prices for drivers.

Energy companies are suffering huge losses from refining because of slumping gasoline use -- a product of the economic downturn and changing consumer habits and preferences. Energy experts say refining cutbacks have begun and will accelerate as corporations strive for profits.

..."Refineries will have to be closed," said Fadel Gheit, senior energy analyst with Oppenheimer & Co. "Unless this excess capacity is permanently shuttered, a recovery in refining margins is unsustainable."

This week Chevron Corp. launched an overhaul of its fuel-making and retailing business with a plan to cut at least 2,000 jobs, put a refinery in Wales up for sale and take a hard look at its Hawaii refinery.

Royal Dutch Shell said it was reviewing its refinery operations with the idea of keeping only those with the best growth potential. Sunoco Inc. has sold one plant and said last month that its previously idled Eagle Point, N.J., refinery was being shut down permanently.

Valero Energy Corp., the nation's largest refiner, last year closed a Delaware refinery, laying off 500 workers, and mothballed a plant in Aruba.

"We're actually assessing the entire East Coast, whether we should be there or not," Valero Chief Executive William R. Klesse told executives at a recent energy conference.

Energy industry executives say they are facing up to what was previously inconceivable: that the nation's appetite for petroleum products may never return to levels seen earlier in the decade, even if a strong economic recovery takes hold.

"None of us will sell more gasoline than we did in 2007," Tony Heyward, group CEO for oil giant BP, said during a recent earnings teleconference.

For motorists, talk of refinery cuts promises to be anything but cheap. It's feared that leaner supplies will translate into higher pump prices punctuated by expensive spikes when operations are disrupted by weather or other events.

...Consumer advocates want regulators to probe refinery closures and consolidations that slash supply.

"We know from internal documents from the last time we had a situation like this, in the 1990s, that there was an intentional strategy on the part of some companies to drive up profit margins by shuttering or closing refineries," said Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen's energy program.

...Refiners say they're merely trying to improve profits so they can keep making gasoline.

"There have been dozens of investigations by state and federal agencies, including some with subpoena power, and not one has ever found evidence of any conspiracy or collusion to manipulate prices," said Tupper Hull, spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Assn., an industry trade group.

If gasoline doesn't seem particularly cheap these days, that's because operators are keeping a tight lid on production; U.S. and European refineries are running at the lowest rate in more than a decade, Gheit said.

Still, compared with demand, there are too many refineries, he said, and an estimated 3 million barrels a day of excess capacity in the U.S. and Europe must disappear to achieve sustained improvement in earnings.

That would be like eliminating 10 refineries worldwide the size of the 270,000-barrel-a-day Chevron facility in El Segundo -- and its 1,000-plus jobs. Other estimates of excess refinery capacity are even higher.

...The recession contributed to declining fuel demand. But in that same period, vast -- some think permanent -- changes happened.

Americans drove less and switched to vehicles that got better mileage or didn't use gasoline at all. They used mass transit in record numbers. Baby boomers began retiring and stopped commuting. And gasoline gained even more of something that didn't have to be refined from oil -- ethanol.

Few in the refining industry saw what was happening. The belief, particularly after hurricanes Katrina and Rita temporarily devastated the Gulf Coast petroleum network in 2005, was that more refineries were needed.

In the wake of the twin hurricanes, the average U.S. price of regular gasoline jumped nearly 18% to $3.07 a gallon -- a high for the year. In 2008, Hurricane Ike's disruption of refinery operations briefly took prices above $5 a gallon in some parts of the nation.

Critics complained that no new U.S. refinery had been built since 1976, leaving the country's gasoline supplies vulnerable. In fact, between 1998 and 2009, U.S. refining capacity increased by 2.2 million barrels a day, to 17.67 million barrels a day, with the addition of equipment and with improved processes at existing facilities, Energy Department data show.

Refiners raked in big profits from 2003 to 2006, but "by 2007, it was largely over," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service, an energy information firm in Wall, N.J.

"Now, along with very weak demand numbers for gasoline, everything points to biofuels getting a larger and larger share in the future."

Some people worry that refiners may cut so much that price surges will become inevitable.

"The question is whether they are going to over-adjust," said Phil Flynn, an energy analyst for PFGBest Research. "Probably, they will."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"Kiss Me Kate" at Davis Musical Theater

This is excellent - a great Mark Deamer promotional video!

Stop-Animation Dances

Fun watching videos produced by E. in the YPT!

Einstein's Theory Still Looks OK

Apparently Einstein's general relativity is holding up, but they keep dragging Dark Matter along with it too, instead of throwing it into the ditch. I don't like Dark Matter. It's either mass that's too dark to observe, or bad equations, and there is nothing special about it.:
Score one more for Einstein. A new study has confirmed his theory of general relativity works on extremely large scales.

The study was one of the first rigorous tests of this theory of gravity beyond our solar system. The research found that even over vast scales of galaxies and clusters of galaxies, the equations of general relativity predict the way that mass pulls on other mass in the universe.

The new work also helps rule out a competing theory of gravity that seeks to do away with the need for bizarre concepts like dark matter and dark energy that have irked some scientists. This research indicates those pesky ideas may be here to stay.

Come On Folks, Let's Get Feeling Copacetic Again!

Oh, oh! Controversy regarding "Greenberg"! Outraged tweets!

As a blogger who has invited himself into "the self-regarding media bubble" of cinema, all I have to say is STOP SHOUTING and enjoy the movie!:
Over the last couple of days, the insular world of the New York entertainment media has gotten its collective panties in a bundle over the question of whether New York Press critic Armond White had or had not been banned from press screenings of "Greenberg," the new film from director Noah Baumbach ("The Squid and the Whale," "Margot at the Wedding") that opens next week in New York and Los Angeles. Anonymous e-mails and outraged tweets have flown back and forth, complete with exaggerated First Amendment claims and calls for a critical boycott of Scott Rudin and Focus Features, the producer and distributor of "Greenberg," respectively. In comments forums, fellow critics have lined up for or against White, a legendary contrarian known for his forceful and idiosyncratic opinions. (I know White only slightly, but have always found him a pleasant guy in person.)

Although the charges and counter-charges in this case are pretty salacious, the furor is only partly about White and Baumbach. It's also about the uneasy symbiosis between film critics and the movie business, two organisms that feed off each other in an awkward dance of privilege, access and manipulation. L'affaire "Greenberg" is also heartening to many film journalists, in a peculiar way. It suggests, in the face of all available economic evidence, that what we do still matters. "I think it's almost a badge of honor to be occasionally disciplined or threatened by movie publicists," wrote Hollywood Elsewhere blogger Jeffrey Wells in a recent post. "Call it an oblique tribute to your tenacity or toughness of spirit or perceived influence."

If you need to get caught up on this earth-shattering dispute, valuable blow-by-blow histories can be found on New York magazine's Vulture blog and at The L Magazine. Mind you, calling this kerfuffle a tempest in a teapot might be demeaning to teapots. Neither Baumbach nor White is famous enough for anyone outside the self-regarding media bubble to care, and there were no First Amendment issues involved. (Getting to see movies for free is a perk, not a right.) In any case the worst of the nastiness has now been papered over: White will see the film this week after all, and Leslee Dart, a publicist with the powerful agency 42West, told Village Voice columnist Michael Musto that the decision to deny White entry to an early press screening was hers alone, and didn't come from Baumbach or Rudin. (It may be that Dart is taking a bullet for her clients, but that's exactly what publicists are paid to do.)

One thing that's clear in all this is that nobody expects White to like "Greenberg" too much. Although he's known for venomous diatribes against the films and directors he dislikes, Baumbach's last two films have proven to be especially irresistible targets. Here are the opening paragraphs from White's memorable review of "Margot at the Wedding":
Noah Baumbach makes it easy to dislike his films. Problem is, he also makes it easy for New York's media elite to praise them. Start with his style: "The Squid and the Whale" and Baumbach's new "Margot at the Wedding" are two of the decade’s most repellent movies. Visually, both look like mud; their smart-ass, low-budget affectations (shot by high-price cinematographers) bridge lo-fi mumblecore with Conde Nast hipsterism. This anti-aesthetic lays waste to the bromide that nobody sets out to intentionally make a bad movie; Baumbach does. His deliberate ugliness makes him the Lars von Trier of Brooklyn and the Hamptons.

Baumbach's characters -- picked from New York's self-punishing literary class -- are also repellent. Not since Woody Allen's Big Apple reign in the 1980s has a filmmaker so shamelessly flattered the professional classes in the guise of exposing them. Baumbach labels their tales with haughty movie titles that are actually New Yorker magazine short-story code, referencing a style of middle-class entitlement and smirk.
White goes on to describe the characters played by Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh (Baumbach's wife) as "skittish hateful chicks" and describes the director as a "cinematic enabler to New York's most obnoxious people," trafficking in "arrogance, conceit and ugliness." Other than that, though, he loved it!

Now, White isn't the first critic to be blacklisted, or threatened with blacklisting, over unpalatable opinions, and he won't be the last. In fact, White confirms that it's happened to him before. He was barred from a screening of Spike Lee's 1996 documentary "Get On the Bus," after a long-running feud with Lee and one of his publicists finally boiled over. The list of banned or almost-banned critics stretches at least back to the 1970s, and includes such luminaries of the trade as the late Pauline Kael, Judith Crist and the original TV-critic duo of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel.

There are various reasons why the White-Baumbach contretemps sparked such a Twitterific uproar. White's incendiary critical persona, and propensity for making enemies, have rendered him an object of fascination for many of his fellow film journalists. Indeed,'s Vadim Rizov did some admirable digging and comes up with a suggestive case that White's antipathy to Baumbach stems from an ancient feud with Baumbach's mother, onetime Village Voice critic Georgia Brown. White, Rizov says, should have recused himself on that basis from reviewing Baumbach's movies.

This history connects to Leslee Dart's most explosive claim. She told Movieline's S.T. VanAirsdale that White "has gone on blogs and in interviews and said that [Baumbach's] parents should have aborted him." Various versions of this have often been cited on the Internet, but hardly ever sourced. In an e-mail, White confirms that it stems from his 1998 review of Baumbach's "Mr. Jealousy," in which he suggested that other critics were praising the movie simply to curry favor with Baumbach's mother, and concludes: "To others, 'Mr. Jealousy' might suggest retroactive abortion." That's a mean-spirited and distasteful dig, to be sure, but Dart and others have distorted and repackaged it beyond recognition. (Although that review predates the New York Press' Internet archive, J. Hoberman of the Village Voice has unearthed it.)

...I don't expect Armond White and Noah Baumbach to get past this dust-up and start exchanging holiday cards any time soon. But the only thing Baumbach, Rudin and company have accomplished this week is to make sure that lots and lots of people who'd never even heard of Armond White will now want to read his review of "Greenberg" next week.

Citigroup Asks The Wrong Guy

In today's edition of 'Hapless Google Searches That Somehow End Up On My Web Site', we have a Google search from Citigroup regarding 'Toowoomba whorehouses'.

That is an interesting search. Carefully-regulated prostitution apparently is legal in Queensland, AU.

Nevertheless, does Citigroup, the organization that carries my mortgage, have so much free time that they are worried about 'Toowoomba whorehouses'? Oh, now I remember, they have too much money! Of course! That I can understand!

In my hour-long tour of the city of Toowoomba, I never saw a whorehouse. This is about as risque as things got. You must admit what a cute storefront it is!

I'm sure "Cheeky Fashions" does a fine job. Even more so than in America, Australian women look spectacular (and their masculine mates look like hell). The dichotomy in fashion sense is jaw-dropping!

Cheeky fashions is one thing; cheeky behavior is another. If Citigroup has too much money, why not buy out this store's inventory? I'm sure that would make everyone happy!

Can't Think Of An N-Word

In Improv workshop class last night, we played the 'Alphabet Game', wherein two actors improvise a scene with dialogue that must start in alphabetic order (Person 1 starts with the letter 'A'; Person 2 with 'B', Person 1 with 'C', etc.)

I became tongue-tied at the letter 'N'. As I departed the stage I told one of the actors (an African-American) that "I can't think of an N-word." He laughed unusually hard about that.

Like Bernie Says

Bipartisanship leads directly to failure, and America hates losers:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Wednesday assailed the White House for purportedly wasting a year vying for Republican votes on health care reform, alleging that the protracted debate weakened the bill and damaged the party’s standing among progressives.

“We have wasted month after month negotiating with people who do not support serious reform,” he said at a progressive media summit on Capitol Hill. "It's been a year now and I think the White House finally got that message."

President Obama advocated for a bipartisan bill last year and worked extensively to court Republican votes, offering major concessions in the process. But only one Republican – Rep. Joseph Cao (LA) – in Congress wound up voting for it, and even he has since backed out.

But Obama has struck a more aggressive tone in recent weeks, demanding an up-or-down vote on the health care bill and championing the use of reconciliation to amend it. Better late than never, said Sanders, who also claimed Democrats made a strategic blunder by ignoring the single-payer option.

"I think [Sen. Max] Baucus [(D-MT)] made a mistake and would admit it when he said single payer was not on the table," the senator said.

A self-described Democratic socialist, Sanders is an ardent proponent of a Medicare for all insurance system. He ripped Democrats in his speech for refusing to seriously consider the idea -- if even to use it as a bargaining chip for a stronger bill -- noting that it has support among millions of progressives.

The Vermont senator blamed the White House in part for the Democratic timidity, alleging Obama should have focused on the substance of the bill "from day one," rather than dwelling on the elusive goal of bipartisanship.

He said the senate has 50 votes to pass strong health care legislation and urged Democrats to move forward aggressively with the proposal, describing it as flawed but nonetheless an important step forward.

Michael Gerson Is A Ninny

Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson clearly rejects the idea of partisanship producing the legislative victories that last the decades. In his view, Ronald Reagan was a strong and unifying leader because he transcended partisanship. That view is rubbish, of course: Reagan pursued a conservative course that led to the defeat of liberals. There was nothing about the process that transcended partisanship. Victor, meet vanquished; vanquished, victor.

Oh, yes, Gerson also states that 'America was ready' under Reagan. What the hell does that mean? America is always ready to meet the victor. America likes winners!

Similarly, Obama can't be a strong and unifying leader now because he is (finally, belatedly) following a liberal course that will lead to the defeat of conservatives.

Oh precious bipartisanship! Who is left to sing its praises? (Gerson, of course! But only that very special kind of bipartisanship that always results in Republican victories.)

Oh yes, and America is presumably 'not ready' now for health care reform. But hey, like I say, America is always ready to meet the victor. America likes winners!

That's how it has always worked, and that's how it will always work.

Michael Gerson, 'Concern Troll' from Hell:
Whatever the legislative fate of health reform -- now in the hands of a few besieged House Democrats -- the reformers have failed in their argument. Their proposal has divided Democrats while uniting Republicans, returned American politics to well-worn ideological ruts, employed legislative tactics that smack of corruption, squandered the president's public standing, lowered public regard for Congress to French revolutionary levels, sucked the oxygen from other agenda items, reengaged the abortion battle, produced freaks and prodigies of nature such as a Republican senator from Massachusetts, raised questions about the continued governability of America and caused the White House chief of staff to distance himself from the president's ambitions.

...Instead, the president chose the current complex, regulatory approach to reform, precisely because it seemed less radical and disruptive than the other options. It was patterned in part on health reforms in Massachusetts signed by then-Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, thereby applying at least a veneer of bipartisanship.

So what went wrong? Some analysts blame structural factors, particularly the growth in partisanship. It is true that the Republican caucus in Congress has become more homogeneous in its conservatism. But it is also true that Obama wants to seriously expand the role of government at a moment when skepticism of government is widespread. His health-reform plan may have seemed moderate on the congressional ideological spectrum. But the creation of a new middle-class entitlement can't be considered moderate in the context of the times when even previous entitlement commitments seem unsustainable. And it has not helped that the Massachusetts model of health reform has resulted in unchecked cost increases, requiring higher taxes and benefit cuts. These financial concerns not only unify Republicans of every ideological stripe, they reach into the right of the Democratic coalition.

...The final reason for Obama's failed argument on health reform is neither structural nor strategic. It is psychological. As the evidence mounted that the body politic was rejecting Obama's health-system transplant, Obama faced a choice about the nature of his presidency. He could retreat toward incrementalism or insist on transformation.

...Because Obama has chosen liberal transformation, the political outcomes are limited: He can appear radical in victory or weak in defeat. Given his health-reform decisions, it is no longer possible for Obama to be a president both strong and unifying.

Love Story In The Pinnacles

A brave new beginning in the wilderness:
A lonely cave on a cliff in the rugged Pinnacles National Monument is the setting for a story of two love birds who found one another despite unimaginable hardship and decided to bring new life into a world that almost destroyed them.

They are, of course, giant corpse-munching vultures, but wildlife biologists could not be more thrilled if they were Romeo and Juliet.

The lovers in this case are California condors and together they have built the first condor nest in the Pinnacles in more than 100 years, a pivotal moment in the effort to bring back the majestic birds from the brink of extinction.

"Condors historically called the Pinnacles home, but because of the declining population the birds have not nested in the park in 100 years," said Carl Brenner, the chief of interpretation and education for the national monument, which is in the Gabilan Mountains about 30 miles south of Salinas. "Forty years ago there were no condors in the park. This is a milestone for the park recovery program."

A nest with a single egg was found recently in a cave on top of a cliff known to rock climbers as Resurrection Wall, on the west side of the park. The egg is the product of a romance between 7-year-old condors with the decidedly unpoetic names 317 and 318.

The lower-numbered female, released in the park in 2004, is one of 26 condors who now reside in and around the Pinnacles. Her mate is from a flock that hangs out along the Big Sur coast, Brenner said.

The pair was first spotted in February displaying feathers, flashing their brightly colored heads and necks and performing other shamelessly flirtatious rituals associated with condor courtship. Biologists tracked the pair to their nest using radio telemetry and global positioning technology and confirmed the egg.

...The birds will retain their numerical names, Brenner said, unless the Chumash Indians, from the Santa Barbara area, decide to give them proper names.

The tribe has naming rights because they consider condors sacred, but so far they have only named one condor for its skill teaching younger birds how to live in the wild, naming it Hohi.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

"Filegate" Finally Ends

The Clinton Administration's "Filegate" scandal is now over, and a federal judge agrees: it was never anything at all but Republican make-believe BS. But be assured, given the tactical success of "Filegate" in sowing confusion, the Republicans will continue to come up with more phony, make-believe lawsuits for the forseeable future:
A federal judge in Washington has dismissed the last legal remnants of Filegate, a scandal that engulfed the Clinton White House nearly 14 years ago.

Judge Royce Lamberth dispatched a pair of suits over the matter today, ruling that there was no intentional misconduct and that the acquisition of hundreds of FBI background files on former White House staffers was simply a mix-up.

The nut graph to Lamberth's 28-page ruling :
After years of litigation, endless depositions, the fictionalized portrayal of this lawsuit and its litigants on television, and innumerable histrionics, this Court is left to conclude that with this lawsuit, to quote Gertrude Stein, 'there's no there there.' While this Court seriously entertained the plaintiffs' allegations that their privacy had been violated--and indeed it was, even if not in the sense contemplated by the Privacy Act--after ample opportunity, they have not produced any evidence of the far-reaching conspiracy that sought to use intimate details from FBI files for political assassinations that they alleged. The only thing that they have demonstrated is that this unfortunate episode--about which they do have cause to complain--was exactly what the defendants claimed: a bureaucratic snafu.
First Lady Hillary Clinton once dismissed filegate as a 'pseudoscandal.' It was no laughing matter to Clinton aides, who racked up huge legal bills to defend themselves in the lawsuits.

I Want One Of These For Christmas

Canadians Like Their Hockey

Let's Hear It For Peekskill!

Folks in Peekskill, NY, are upset because Saturday Night Live recently mentioned their town in a disparaging way:
George Ondek, a 20-year Peekskill resident, said he was "very hurt" by the skit.

"I take very big offense" at what was said on the show, said Ondek, 68. "They should apologize to the people of Peekskill. After all, it is a very historic city."
And I must agree with the folks in Peekskill. Every hometown is home, and that makes it great!

Plus, remember, I'm from New Mexico. I'm totally, totally vulnerable on this score.

As an example, here is a NM picture from the LA Times. 'Nuff said.:

Somewhere in New Mexico

Gas Prices Also Want Six-Pack Abs

Nefarious forces are at work preventing them:
Blame rising gas prices on investors raising the cost of crude oil. Blame them on government spending chasing money into commodities and away from currency. Don't blame them on the local gas station.

Those are the views of oil industry analyst Trilby Lundberg, who doesn't see prices rising much beyond current levels.

"Gasoline prices want to decline. Demand is still low because of the economy," said Lundberg, publisher of the Lundberg Survey. Artificially high crude oil prices prevent that while pressuring stations' profit margins, she said.

New Mexicans And Their Precious Facials

Now New Mexico doesn't have nightingales that I'm aware of, but it does have plenty of people seeking relief from sun-damaged skin, and we will do what we must:
Just check out the Ten Thousand Waves spa in New Mexico and its Japanese Nightingale Facial:
This is our signature facial. We are the exclusive importers of processed nightingale droppings, which have been used for centuries by geisha in Japan to brighten and smooth their skin. The droppings are dried, pulverized, and sanitized with ultraviolet light at the nightingale farm. We add essential oils to the powder to use as a cleanser and/or mask, formulated for your skin type.
At least this stuff is organic. In Las Vegas, they sell facial mask containing gold. That's right, gold! Or, at least they SAY it contains gold. It's probably less-costly than nightingale poo.

The Transparent Menace

That's it - walls everywhere from now on!:
Estimates are that between 100 million and 1 billion individual birds are killed annually by collisions with windows in the United States alone


Don't worry; be happy:
BERLIN - A German woman has failed in a bid to force her country's government to halt experiments at the world's largest atom smasher which she feared would lead to the Earth's destruction.

Germany's highest court, the Federal Constitutional Court, said it had thrown out a complaint from the woman, who wasn't identified and lives abroad. She had sought to reverse an earlier rejection by a Cologne court.

"A coherent account by the plaintiff showing that the damage she fears would come about is missing" from her case, the court said in a statement.

CERN's Large Hadron Collider, located underground outside Geneva, started work in 2008.

I Guess We Really Did Stop Making Things In The USA


"Made in India"

The Weakest Link

E.: MMMAAARRRCCC! They let me go from the jury! They don't want any Orientals there with colds!

M.: Oh that's terrible!

E.: I'm so glad. The parking there is so bad. But my friend from school is probably still in the jury. MMMAAAARRRCCC! She might be gone from work for three months!

M.: I guess you failed the exam.

E.: I get so nervous when nearly everyone has finished filling out their pamphlet and I'm all alone. They had a list of 150 people and they asked - do you know this person; do you know that person? Lots of people! I didn't know anyone, though. I'm slow and I didn't finish answering all the questions.

M.: What was the case about?

E.: It was gang-related, so don't tell anyone.

M.: OK.

[I believe it was this case. Here are latest Sac Bee articles on the case. Here is a television news report from 2007....]

Tuesday Morning, 2:30 AM, P & 19th Streets

Well, it looked like the usual police scrum that always gathers to escort happy and potentially unruly patrons from the Zebra Bar at the corner at closing time. But the cops had gathered across the street and next to the Thistledew Theatre instead, and it was a little late - well after closing time. Whassup?

A large, dark and empty pickup truck, hood up, and completely inundated with white foam.

I suppose there is a story there, but I don't know what it is....

How To Resolve The Status Of The Possum?

In New Zealand, possums are foreign pests originally imported from Australia, so they must be exterminated. At the same time, their fur is in increasing demand, so they must be farmed. Killed - farmed; killed - farmed. Can both be done, or is it a hopeless dichotomy of purpose?:
Snowy Peak chief executive Peri Drysdale, whose company has been a pioneer of the merino-possum blend, said there were occasional shortages of the fur.

"It comes and goes ... . there's big chunks of time where we are all anxiously wondering if there will be enough [possum fur] for tomorrow and the next day, and then there's periods of time when there's more than we know what to do with."

Drysdale said there was a problem with the health board - which kills possums to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis - and DoC poisoning animals that were not collected and went to waste.

Steve Boot, co-director of Basically Bush, an East Coast company that buys possum furs and skins from harvesters, said DoC had entered into the dialogue with Textiles New Zealand because of budget cuts.

In last year's Budget, the department was forced to shave $54 million from its spending over the next four years, meaning planned possum control on 23,000ha of land would not go ahead.

Boot said if the harvesting industry was integrated into the way the possums were managed on a long-term basis, it could make a "huge dent" in animal populations, at no cost to tax and rate payers.


* Possum fur is usually blended with merino to make garments which are warmer and lighter than regular wool.
* About 1.7 million possums a year are killed in New Zealand. Forty per cent of the fur goes to China.
* The industry is worth about $100 million annually and employs 1150 people.
* A kilo of possum fur fetches $95, and 18 to 20 possums are needed to yield a kilo.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Brimming SE Queensland Reservoirs

VIDEO: Dam near full

Amazing how well things have improved!

That Primal Urge To Shop

Woman kidnapped by her boyfriend, but she knew what would catch his interest:
The woman said she had come home from work when her boyfriend grabbed her. She said at one point Foster held her down on her bed for about an hour against her will.

She said she finally convinced Foster into letting her up from the bed so she could take him to Walmart. While they were in the store, she said Foster would not let her out of his sight, the report said.

The woman said she was able to tell a sales associate she needed help and asked if they would call the police for her.

Foster ran out of the store and left before deputies arrived.

The Uncanny Valley

Jerry sends this NPR interview about 'The Uncanny Valley' in regards to animation:
Mr. WESCHLER: Which was this notion by a Japanese roboticist named Masahiro Mori. The notion was that if you made a robot that was 50 percent lifelike, that was fantastic. If you made a robot that was 90 percent lifelike, that was fantastic. If you made it 95 percent lifelike, that was the best - oh, that was so great. If you made it 96 percent lifelike, it was a disaster. And the reason, essentially, is because a 95 percent lifelike robot is a robot that's incredibly lifelike. A 96 percent lifelike robot is a human being with something wrong.

YORK: Mori called it the uncanny valley, a play on Sigmund Freud's idea of the uncanny, something familiar and yet foreign at the same time. The makers of "Shrek," having learned their lesson, re-imagined Princess Fiona as a slightly more cartoony-looking love interest, thus avoiding the valley.

But "Final Fantasy," a $135 million digital adventure, which opened the same year as "Shrek," was fully animated with characters that were realistic in an unprecedented way and yet not real enough. Audiences reported feeling unsettled and the film bombed. The studio that made it later folded. On the other hand, "Avatar..."

...YORK: Avoids the uncanny valley because the aliens are distinctly alien - blue, stretched and unreal. The faces of the Na'vi don't trigger our uncanny reflexes because they're simply not human. Faces, despite 10 years of refinement in computer rendering, animators still can't accurately create them. So many muscles attached to each other moving in tandem, so many complex and inimitable plays of light.

...YORK: There are a number of theories as to why we're afraid when we gaze at nearly real faces. One suggestion is that it's existential because we see the potential for being replaced by nearly-perfect computers. Theologians argue that we're seeing human imitators that lack a soul. But the most convincing explanation for the fear may be evolutionary. We see in uncanny faces something unhealthy or unappealing and our instinct is to recoil. Maybe they're contagious. Maybe they're not suitable mates.

Greta In NY Magazine

Press coverage is amping up!:
But Greenberg is a very different movie than Gerwig has ever made. She is, for the first time, off digital video and onto rich, celluloid film. She had to audition in front of Scott Rudin, her co-star is Ben Stiller, and she had a souped-up trailer all to herself. “I definitely pushed every button in there,” she says. “I was like, It has a radio! And it works!” But perhaps the biggest difference is that the rambling conversations of her earlier films, which happen in the sad Formica kitchens of Carroll Gardens rentals, have been replaced by snappily written Baumbach dialogue and shot in carefully art-directed and wallpapered rooms in L.A. “It was a dream,” Gerwig says, “because my mom said that people were starting to think that I’m really inarticulate. And I was like, ‘Mom! Who speaks in full sentences anyway?’ Well, Barack Obama, maybe. You can hear that man’s commas. But I’m not giving speeches."

'Reconciliation' Is A Nice Word

Toles' cartoons are the best!

Colorado Rockslide

Oh, oh, the most-scenic portion of I-70 is blocked!:
The slide struck around midnight Sunday near Hanging Lake Tunnel in Glenwood Canyon, a deep, narrow chasm about 110 miles west of Denver, the Colorado Department of Transportation said.

No injuries or damage to vehicles were reported.

...Officials haven't determined how long the highway will be closed. Because of the rugged terrain, the shortest detour adds about 200 miles around the mountainous Flat Tops Wilderness Area.

The largest hole in the roadway was 10 feet by 20 feet. About 20 boulders ranging from three to 10 feet long were scattered on the highway, with the largest weighing 66 tons, officials said.

...A 1995 rock slide on I-70 in Glenwood Canyon killed three people.

A slide on Thanksgiving Day in 2004 closed the highway and required nearly $700,000 worth of repairs. No one was hurt because the highway had previously been closed for an unrelated crash.

The Union Pacific Railroad said its tracks through the canyon weren't affected. The tracks carry freight trains and Amtrak's California Zephyr.

"Chambers" Opens This Weekend!

This is the best local dance show this season! Don't miss! (Here are my rehearsal pictures):
Experience CORE's explosive third season with Chambers, featuring the world premiere of Artistic Director Kelli Leighton's work "The Hand That Feeds", a dark exploration into the frailties of the human soul struggling for its unique voice. This show includes an encore performance of the critically acclaimed "Rising Undercurrent," along with a new collaborative piece, "Ain't That A Kick", showcasing young artists in our community and featuring songs by Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Nat King Cole.Come enjoy the unique and powerful collection of movement and emotion in CORE Dance Collective's Chambers.

Dates: Friday and Saturday March 12 & 13 and March 19 & 20, 2010
Time: 7:30pm
Where: Benvenuti Performing Arts Center
4600 Blackrock Drive
Sacramento, CA 95835

Tickets available at:
Step I Dance and Fitness 1920 T St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
or online at:
CORE Dance Collective

Presale: $12 student/child/senior; $14 Adult
At the door: $14 student/child/senior; $16 Adult

Check out the feature article on CORE's performance in the March 1-15, 2010 edition of Sacramento's SubMerge Magazine - available on newstands now!

Second Weekend Of "Kiss Me, Kate"

Fun weekend!

Singing was sometimes a challenge on Friday night. Act I ended with a series of small glitches. Martin's whip had a knot in it, and as we learned, knotted whips don't snap. The falling seagull fell just behind Marguerite and hooked on the hem of her dress. Jan jumped and quickly unhooked it, but it retrospect I think it would have been better if it remained hooked. Then, as Martin threw her over his shoulder, the bird and its death grip would have been clearly visible to the audience.

We had a big laugher near the front row of the audience Sunday afternoon. Big laughers make for a pleasant time.

Roy Ashburn Steps Up

And comes out of the closet:
The family-values California Republican legislator who was reported to have been at a gay club on the night last week that he was arrested for drunk driving has acknowledged he is gay.

"I'm gay," State Senator Roy Ashburn told a radio host from his central California district in an interview this morning. "Those are the words that have been so difficult for me for so long."

Ashburn, a divorced father of four, said that his many votes against gay rights were efforts to represent the conservative views of his constituents.

Old Jews Telling Jokes

Steve recommends "Old Jews Telling Jokes".

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Interesting Praise!

Emanuel Levy:
A star is born: The main reason to see "Greenberg" is not Ben Stiller, who has played similar parts before, but a new, gorgeous actress named Greta Gerwig, who has so far made a mark in a number of small indies. With some luck, Gerwig, boasting the attractive looks and skills of the young Meryl Streep (circa "Deer Hunter" and "Kramer Vs. Kramer"), vulnerability and photogeneity of the young Jessica Lange, should become a major player in Hollywood in the next decade.

Trailer For Every Academy Award Winning Movie Ever

Everybody Hurts