Friday, March 19, 2010

Sean Hannity's "Freedom Concerts" Are A Pricey Scam

Conservative blogger decides to follow the money:
For the last several years, Sean Hannity and the Freedom Alliance “charity” have conducted “Freedom Concerts” across America. They’ve told you that they are raising money to pay for the college tuition of the children of fallen soldiers and to pay severely wounded war vets. And on Friday Night, Hannity will be honored with an award for this “Outstanding Community Service by a Radio Talk Show Host” at Talkers Magazine’s convention.

But it’s all a huge scam.

In fact, less than 20%–and in two recent years, less than 7% and 4%, respectively–of the money raised by Freedom Alliance went to these causes, while millions of dollars went to expenses, including consultants and apparently to ferry the Hannity posse of family and friends in high style. And, despite Hannity’s statements to the contrary on his nationally syndicated radio show, few of the children of fallen soldiers got more than $1,000-$2,000, with apparently none getting more than $6,000, while Freedom Alliance appears to have spent tens of thousands of dollars for private planes. Moreover, despite written assurances to donors that all money raised would go directly to scholarships for kids of the fallen heroes and not to expenses, has begun charging expenses of nearly $500,000 to give out just over $800,000 in scholarships.

In February 2009, a well-known conservative writer sent me this, about a friend at FOX News:
The guy went on to tell me about Hannity’s “Freedom Concerts,” which are staged across the country with the proceeds going to children of slain soldiers. Of course, as the guy tells it, there’d be a lot more money every concert to go to the cause if Hannity didn’t demand–and get–use of a Gulfstream 5 plane to fly him and his family/entourage to the concerts; a “fleet” (that’s the word the guy used) of either Cadillac or Lincoln SUVs for him and his family/entourage; and several suites at really expensive hotels for him and his family/entourage. The promoter apparently values Hannity’s star demands at well over $200,000 per event. The source says he heard that Oliver North pulled Hannity aside at one of the concerts and told him that this had to stop. But that may mean that, from now on, Hannity has to fly on a G4 instead of a G5, gets only a few luxury SUVs, and two or three suites.
North is the founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance.

I began investigating these claims, and lo and behold, I discovered that Freedom Alliance gives very little money to the children of slain troops to pay for college and even less to wounded troops. The stories of injuries to troops and how much Freedom Alliance gives them–$200 for a soldier from a poor neighborhood who lost three limbs–is heartbreaking. Soldiers with traumatic brain injuries, severe wounds to the face from disfiguring burns and explosions, and multiple amputations got $1,000 or less, with only a handful of exceptions.

The tax forms available to the public for the Freedom Alliance–for the years 2006-2008–paint a tragic story, a story of a charity that makes gazillions and spends very little for the purposes it claims, a charity that spends millions more on its small staff and crony consultants than it ever gives in scholarships to the children of the fallen or severely injured troops or in aid to the injured troops themselves. While Hannity’s Freedom Concerts take in millions, only a few hundred thousand go to the claimed intended recipients.

Lady Gaga Manages To Surprise Australians With Crudity

And she's coming to San Jose in August. Caveat emptor!:
SHE pretends to eat human hearts, bathes in blood and vomit, simulates sex and does it all in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans.

But there is no age restriction preventing children attending the controversial concerts of American pop sensation Lady Gaga, who performs in Adelaide on April 3.

Her Australian tour has been attacked for pushing vulgar and offensive themes on to her young fans.

The show features bulimia, binge drinking and constant expletives, making chaperoning parents think twice about Gaga's latest act of pop defiance.

During her tour, aptly titled Monster Ball, the Grammy Award-winning singer takes the audience into a gothic Wizard of Oz wonderland, where a video of a model making herself vomit on to Lady Gaga is shown on a film loop.

Linda Fitzsimmons, who took her nine-year-old daughter Jessica to Lady Gaga's Sydney show on Wednesday, has called for a rating system for live music shows similar to movie classification.

"I was shocked and surprised," she said.

"I couldn't believe it. (Jessica) likes her songs and I'm OK with her listening to them. There's no swearing in them . . . " she said.

"But if I tried to take her to an MA 15+ movie, someone would stop me at the counter. Why not with concerts?"

Hadn't Paid Any Attention At All!

Jerry notes "UNM and Purdue still in the hunt!":
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- After all of Darington Hobson's big talk about a deep NCAA tournament run for New Mexico, Montana nearly shut up the Lobos right away.

Roman Martinez had 19 points, six rebounds and four assists and third-seeded New Mexico overcame a shaky start to beat 14th-seeded Montana 62-57 in the NCAA tournament's East Regional on Thursday night.

Hobson added 11 points, 11 rebounds and six assists while playing with a sprained left wrist for the Lobos, who used a 17-0 run after halftime to briefly break open the game after trailing by a point at the break. Hobson underwent X-rays and his status for the second round is unclear.

Well, That's Reassuring

The Tower Theatre plans to show "Greenberg" (times still unspecified). Same with Davis' Varsity Theatre.

I saw "Baghead" at the Tower, along with maybe four other people. Blink, and you'll miss it!

Fake Memo

Republicans fake a memo to try and change the debate at the last minute:
Democrats today are accusing Republicans of circulating a fraudulent memo that claims to be sent to "Democratic health and communications staff" and which suggests the majority party leadership wants to make big changes to Medicare next year after health care passes.

A senior Democratic leadership aide told TPMDC in an interview the memo, obtained and printed by Politico and leading the Drudge Report this afternoon a few days ahead of the health care vote Sunday, is "a hoax."

"We have checked with every Democratic office, no one has ever seen it. It did not come out of a Democratic office," the aide said, adding that media outlets printing the memo have not checked with leadership offices if the memo is authentic. A second Democratic leadership aide confirmed the memo was not sent by the Democrats. A third Democratic aide also said the memo is fake, citing the "draft" stamp and saying no one uses such things.

"If this were a Democratic communications person who wrote this, they should be fired, because this looks like Republican talking points," the third Democratic aide told TPMDC.

Mackay Prepares

1996 Chinese Launch Disaster

John sends an interesting link about a hushed-up 1996 Chinese rocket launch disaster.

Wachovia's "Risk-Management Culture"

Go for the green, and the hell with the law!:
MIAMI, March 17 (Reuters) - The Wachovia Bank unit of Wells Fargo & Co has agreed to pay $160 million to settle U.S. allegations that it laundered Mexican drug money.

Under the agreement, Wachovia will forfeit $110 million, representing the proceeds of illegal narcotics sales that were laundered through the bank, the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of Florida said.

The bank will pay an additional $50 million fine to the U.S. Treasury.

"Wachovia's blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations by laundering at least $110 million in drug proceeds," U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Sloman said on Wednesday.

A deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice resolved charges that the bank willfully failed to establish a program to guard against money laundering. It also resolved Wachovia's admitted failure to identify, detect and report suspicious transactions in third-party payment processor accounts.

...Prior to the settlement, Wachovia said it was cooperating and was "committed to maintaining compliant and effective anti-money laundering policies and practices, and a strong compliance and risk management culture."

"Omar Was Pretty Good With Computers"

More than 100 drivers in Austin, Texas found their cars disabled or the horns honking out of control, after an intruder ran amok in a web-based vehicle-immobilization system normally used to get the attention of consumers delinquent in their auto payments.

Police with Austin’s High Tech Crime Unit on Wednesday arrested 20-year-old Omar Ramos-Lopez, a former Texas Auto Center employee who was laid off last month, and allegedly sought revenge by bricking the cars sold from the dealership’s four Austin-area lots.

...The dealership used a system called Webtech Plus as an alternative to repossessing vehicles that haven’t been paid for. Operated by Cleveland-based Pay Technologies, the system lets car dealers install a small black box under vehicle dashboards that responds to commands issued through a central website, and relayed over a wireless pager network. The dealer can disable a car’s ignition system, or trigger the horn to begin honking, as a reminder that a payment is due. The system will not stop a running vehicle.

...Ramos-Lopez’s account had been closed when he was terminated from Texas Auto Center in a workforce reduction last month, but he allegedly got in through another employee’s account, Garcia says. At first, the intruder targeted vehicles by searching on the names of specific customers. Then he discovered he could pull up a database of all 1,100 Auto Center customers whose cars were equipped with the device. He started going down the list in alphabetical order, vandalizing the records, disabling the cars and setting off the horns.

“Omar was pretty good with computers,” says Garcia.

...First rolled out about 10 years ago, remote immobilization systems are a controversial answer to delinquent car payments, with critics voicing concerns that debtors could suffer needless humiliation, or find themselves stranded during an emergency. Proponents say the systems let financers extend credit to consumers who might otherwise be ineligible for an auto loan.

All She Wants Is To Sit In My Car

Late Thursday night, in Woodland.

As I pulled into the convenience store parking lot, I saw a young blonde woman in a gold sports jacket leaving the store and looking at my car.

As I got out of my car, she approached and asked if I could give her a lift. "Where do you live?", I asked. She pointed in a vague and unconvincing way to the southeast. "Well, I'm going to go inside first," I said.

"Is it all right if I sit your car?" she asked. I looked around the parking lot to assess if anyone appeared to be watching or menacing her, then quietly asked "are you in some kind of trouble?" She looked around the parking lot. "I just want to sit in your car," she replied. "Well, I'm going to go inside first," I repeated.

Very peculiar. She wasn't acting like she wanted to sell something, like sex or drugs, and she didn't seem to be frightened, despite her badly-acted show of paranoia. Her motivations were - unclear.

Inside, I asked the convenience-store clerk about the woman. Apparently she had asked for merchandise for free, and had been loath to leave the store. "She said she had been in a hospital," he said. "A mental hospital?" I asked. He shrugged his shoulders. "She says she lives around here, but I don't know where. If she gets into your car, though, you won't be able to get her out." "Really?", I asked. The clerk nodded his head.

I left the convenience store uncertain about what to do. If I could get a solid address out of her I just might drive her home. Nevertheless, by the time I got outside, she had vanished into the Woodland night.

Peculiar - and she's still out there!

A. O. Scott At The New York Times Likes "Greenberg"

More reviews!:
To some extent, “Greenberg,” like nearly all of Mr. Baumbach’s work going back to “Kicking and Screaming,” is a comedy of manners. West Coast versions of the hyper-articulate recent college graduates of that movie, his 1995 directing debut, have grown up and been supplanted by a strange new generation. Some of the humor in “Greenberg” comes from the various collisions between youth and middle age. Kids these days! They don’t know what you’re talking about when you quote “Wall Street,” and they don’t appreciate Duran Duran. Damned Internet!

...It is partly arrested development — the refusal to act his age — that draws Roger to Florence, who functions less as a standard love interest than as his mirror image and moral counterweight. Like Roger, she is lonely and adrift, but her identity crisis is different from his. While he is aggressive even at times of indecision, Florence, at her most decisive, still seems tentative and hesitant.

...Her problem is that she is not sure what or who else should have value to her. Florence is in the early stages of the battle for love and success, having taken her marching orders along with her college degree. But she has only a vague sense of the mission.

...But “Greenberg” is not easily forgotten, and the misery of Roger’s company provides its own special kind of pleasure. Mr. Baumbach’s sense of character and place is so precise — the film seems so transparent, so real — that his formal audacity almost passes unnoticed. Rather than push Roger and Florence through the grinding machinery of an overdetermined plot, he allows them to wander and sometimes to stall, to inhabit their lives fully and uneasily. They are more like characters in a French movie than the people you usually meet under the Hollywood sign.

Only at the end, in the wake of a brilliantly executed party sequence — in which Roger, the solitary Gen-Xer, finds his world of defensive ironies and carefully preserved pop cultural references overrun and trashed by a swarm of Millennials — does his arc, as residents of Hollywood might call it, become apparent. Mr. Baumbach abruptly, and with a subtle display of self-conscious wit, reveals “Greenberg” to have been a romantic comedy all along. Here we are in a car speeding toward the airport and what might be the prospect of a happy ending. And suddenly a movie about a man who is defiantly difficult to like becomes very hard not to love.

Betsy Sharkey At The LA Times Doesn't Like "Greenberg"

More reviews!:
Noah Baumbach's favorite terrain is deconstructing life's emotional ups and downs with characters so narcissistic and self-delusional they make everyone on screen and off as uncomfortable as possible. With "Greenberg," the writer-director who came to prominence with 2005's "The Squid and the Whale" has reached new highs or new lows, depending on your point of view.

...The nanny/personal assistant/possible girlfriend Florence, one of "Greenberg's" few rays of light in Greta Gerwig's good hands, puts it best. In trying to explain away yet another injury to her psyche about midway through the film, she says, "Hurt people hurt people."

The same could be said of Baumbach's relationship with his audience, with "Greenberg" his angriest, most conflicted and most painful movie yet. Stiller's Roger is just out of a New York psychiatric treatment center where he's been recovering from a breakdown. There's nothing to suggest he's made much headway.

...Meanwhile, Florence is almost as adrift as Roger, though in more of an innocents-abroad way. As they stumble around romance and a relationship, Gerwig comes the closest to salvaging the film. She makes Florence an open book and an easy read, a night spent singing sad ballads in a mostly empty bar saying all that needs to be said about those lost in the dream factory.

Planning A Season

I almost forgot to mention last Sunday's article regarding DMTC and how we plan a season's worth of shows.

Hmmm.... Steve doesn't mention the most-essential decision-making tool DMTC employs - a specially-designed roulette wheel to make those difficult calls:
The Davis Musical Theatre Company's "Kiss Me, Kate" still has one weekend to run ... and there are two shows remaining in the group's 25th anniversary season. But DMTC co-founder Steve Isaacson, with his wife, Jan, already is processing renewals for next season – and will begin working on the season after that in October.

Planning and selling are essential – and never-ending. But how does it come about?

"We go through a list of about 60 musical shows that we think are contenders," Isaacson said recently in a telephone interview. "We won't do anything that we've done in the past five years and we try to do a new show every year. This year, we're doing three new ones."

...DMTC competes for community musical theater audiences with Sacramento's Runaway Stage Productions, although Isaacson said there's no harsh rivalry. "I usually talk with Bob Baxter to make sure we don't conflict on shows. I've known Bob for 30 years, and we get along very well in that regard."

Isaacson said, "We run our shows by Music Circus, too. In the early or mid-'90s, they actually moved a show for us," putting it later in their season so as not to conflict with DMTC's performances.

Three main concerns affect DMTC's choices, Isaacson said. First, of course, is a show that has affordable performance rights. Then, "we have to do shows that actors will come out and audition for, and that audiences will pay to see."

In that regard, although the Davis troupe has presented a daring – and outstanding – "Cabaret," it may be less willing to put on "The Full Monty" or "Altar Boyz," both of which Runaway Stage has tackled.

"We're not in a position to really push the envelope," he said. "Until we're at the point that we can put on anything we want and people will come, we have to be smart" about audience desires.

The final step in the process is timing – deciding which play to present when. "When we've narrowed our list down to about 12 shows (twice as many as will be performed in a season), we put them in order.

"In the first slot, we know we're competing against Best of Broadway for dancers, so we can't have anything too dance-heavy in that spot." (Best of Broadway canceled its fall 2009 production, citing financial difficulties, but says it hopes to return this fall.)

"The Young Performers committee chooses shows that would complement DMTC shows throughout the season, too. When we did 'Into the Woods,' the young performers did 'Jack and the Beanstalk' because they could use much the same set.

"The February-March slot has to be a show that won't conflict with the Easter holiday. We try to do a family-oriented show then."

He proceeds through the six-show season that way. There's always one choice that Isaacson calls "the last slot, last shot," or the "Oh, my God, I can't believe DMTC is doing that" show. In the current season, that show probably was the New Year's production, "The Producers," which Isaacson said "was a major success. Artistically, it was a wonderful success, and financially it did well, too."

In the coming season, "Singin' in the Rain" may be that wild-card choice. "We had 'Spamalot' on our list, but I notice that Music Circus is doing it. It's also set-heavy and men-heavy (two drawbacks for a small community theater).

"Yes, the show might sell, but it has more of a niche audience appeal, I think. Our general season-ticket base – I'm not sure they would go for it."

The Multi-Tasking Adam Sartain

Adam Sartain E-Mails:
An update on the situation for you:

I am now in the Candidate’s Forum and will be present at Noon. Meanwhile, my advisors will cover for me at the BBQ. I’ll try to leave the Forum as soon as I can and head over to the BBQ and schmooze until close to 3PM. Then (and this is just in) I’ll be heading over to the Democratic Caucus to attend their endorsement meeting at 3.

But I’m used to doing 20 things at once (after all, I am a musician), so it shouldn’t be too bad.

Ului Weakens As It Approaches Coast

A weaker, fast-moving storm should do less damage:
CYCLONE Ului has been downgraded to category two with the Bureau of Meteorology predicting it is unlikely the system will intensify.

Speaking outside an emergency disaster management meeting Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts said Cyclone Uliui is expected to travel quickly across the coast towards Mackay early on Sunday.

He said the cyclone is likely to develop into a large rain depression bringing heavy falls. Emergency crew are preparing for high winds and flooding as well as 200-300mm of rain to some areas.

..."It now appears unlikely that the cyclone will reintensify", the statement said.

It said the most likely scenario was for it to cross the north Queensland coast on Sunday morning between Cardwell and Mackay - with the storm possibly remaining a category two when it hits land.

Earlier today, Tony Wedd from the Bureau of Meteorology's Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre said on current tracking Ului was likely to turn south-west today and accelerate towards the coast.

``The most likely scenario is for the cyclone to cross the coast Sunday morning between Cardwell and Mackay and you'll see on our tracking map, we're expecting it to hit Proserpine,'' Mr Wedd said.

Whitsunday resorts have been evacuated, reef trips closed and flights cancelled as the tourist mecca battens down ahead of the cyclone .

...In Mackay, Mayor Col Meng said a full disaster management meeting was planned for 2pm Friday.

The Pioneer River, which snakes through the centre of the north Queensland city, poses a potential flood risk under a cyclonic deluge on the already saturated catchment area.

Luxury boat owners in the Mackay marina spent the morning lashing down boats as old salts warned to “get ready for a big blow’’

...Ului has been tipped to dump about 200mm of rain on the northern central coast, decreasing to 100mm inland north of Longreach.

``The heavy rain should be further north than anything else we've had,'' Mr Wedd said.

``It should miss the southern Queensland areas that were flooded.''

Sad For The Birds

And birds are so susceptible to smoke too:
Hundreds of exotic birds and a dog have died in a blaze that destroyed a building at a private Las Vegas nature preserve and sanctuary.

Las Vegas fire spokesman Tim Szymanski (zim-ANN'-skee) says more than 250 caged birds died in the blaze a little before 5:30 a.m. Friday at the Gilcrease Nature Sanctuary. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

...The preserve is a nonprofit sanctuary, education center and rescue operation for animals including tortoises and horses.

It has housed large birds including ostriches and emus, along with smaller species like finches, parakeets and parrots.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

And Also, The Long-Awaited Armond White Pan Of "Greenberg"

Armond White lashes out in so many directions simultaneously that you have to be an expert to understand it. Nevertheless, as everyone expected, he gives "Greenberg" a 'thumbs-down':
Greenberg is a mite less obnoxious than Baumbauch’s other films (better photographed, too: I liked Harris Savides’ image of Stiller barely swimming across a pool—possibly an homage to my joke that Baumbach was the rat at the bottom of Margot at the Wedding’s pool). Co-conceived with Baumbach’s talented wife Jennifer Jason Leigh, Greenberg continues Leigh’s filmography of masochistic females encountering sadistic males. It’s interesting to watch Greta Gerwig spar JJL-style with Stiller’s Baumbachian prick. I’ll probably be attacked for stating the obvious—that Greenberg seems to dramatize Leigh-Baumbach’s curious relationship—but that’s the film’s only point of interest. Its imitation of mumblecore’s boho nonchalance just seems more proof that Baumbach lacks inspiration and has made yet another vanity project.

And 'Salon' Too!

Everyone's got an opinion!:
"Greenberg" is an unsettling but ultimately joyous little picture, a movie that's as self-conscious as anything Baumbach has ever made, and yet far more open: It reaches out to the world instead of insisting on hugging its own pain, tight. There are points in "Greenberg" where Roger treats Florence with inexcusable cruelty; he's cruel to her, in fact, right after he proffers that heartfelt mix-CD. But slowly, gradually, he's getting the hang of not hurting people. "Greenberg" is all about that halting, forward movement. Maybe there's no happy ending for Roger Greenberg, but there's no going back, either, and that counts as progress.

More "Greenberg" Flotsam And Jetsam!

Noel sends one review of "Greenberg" from Slate, but they've posted two reviews! Everyone's a critic, I guess!

Here's a piece of one review by Dana Stevens:
The uneasy power differential between Roger and Florence is mirrored in the star-power differential between Stiller and Gerwig. She's a 27-year-old actress best known for co-writing and starring in the mumblecore indie Hannah Takes the Stairs, while he's … Derek Zoolander, Greg Focker, Tugg Speedman. Putting them together was a bold casting move, but as good as they both are in their roles—she in the flustered, galumphing mode of early Teri Garr, he in the clenched and mumbling one of late Woody Allen—they never quite seem to be sharing the same movie. Stiller appears more at home, and his character makes more sense, in his scenes with Ifans, a tall, gentle man whose diffident manner provides the perfect foil for Stiller's perpetually simmering rage.

There will be many people—my viewing companion was one of them—who'll be as repelled by Greenberg the movie as most of the people in it are repelled by Greenberg the man. That's their prerogative, and Baumbach's experimental foray into abrasive romantic comedy certainly isn't for everyone. But Greenberg's inconclusive last scene hints at the possibility that even the bitterest basket case stands a chance of finding someone who loves him. That's sort of my hope for this movie, too.
And here's the other by Jessica Winter:
There's another problem with treating the people in your life as short-story fodder or as characters in the movie unspooling in your mind: They might start thinking for themselves and reciting lines you didn't write for them. When Greenberg's Florence says that she likes spending time with Roger, his response is apoplectic: "You don't like it!" he screams. It's an absurd outburst, but one that a narcissist consumed with self-loathing feels in his blood and bones. He can't imagine anyone not thinking what he's thinking—and haven't so many of us been there, at least once or twice in our lives? Baumbach's malcontents may drive us crazy, but they always retain a measure of sympathy and humanity because they are extreme manifestations of a universal dilemma: the impossibility of escaping one's own head.

Scramble, Folks, Scramble!

People on the Capricorn Coast prepare as Tropical Cyclone Ului approaches. Godspeed to them - it will be a long weekend!

The NOGAPS model currently seems to show the storm crossing the coast slightly farther south than Australia's BOM shows in this map, with Mackay getting the brunt of the storm surge.

The meteorological gods are displeased, it seems. They apparently want WIN's Peter Byrne to fall on his sword for expressing his opinions (valid opinions, mind you, but at a questionable time), even if they have to march right into his hometown to make the point.

And who is the chief meteorological god? The angriest of all? You know the answer to that question!

Not Dead Yet

Won't she take the hint?:
A woman who lives in Garden of Eden, N.S., got a shock when she learned she had been declared dead not once, but twice, in the past five months by the federal government.

Theresa Fraser, 77, who lives in the rural community about 37 kilometres east of New Glasgow, said she first learned she had been declared dead when she drove into town to do some Christmas shopping at the end of November.

She went to her bank to get some money from her pension cheque, which was automatically deposited by the government. But the teller told her she didn't have enough money in her account.

...The teller helped Fraser call the Canada Revenue Agency in Ottawa to find out why her cheques were late.

That's when Fraser found out the federal government thought she'd died.

...During the conversation, the probable reason for the mix-up was discovered: another Pictou County woman with the same name and middle initial had recently died.

...She was told the problem was corrected, and her cheques started to arrive again in January.

But last week, another letter arrived in the mail from Canada Revenue.

"It came to the estate of the late Theresa Fraser — my address and social security number was on it and everything," Fraser said. "So I died again."

This time Canada Revenue wanted her to return the GST cheque they had sent to her in January for $94.50.

Fraser got back on the phone to prove yet again that she is still alive. But she fears this may not be over yet.

"I might be dead by the time it's over, if they keep bugging me," Fraser said.

In the meantime, she will continue to volunteer in her community and knit for her grandchildren.

St. Patrick's Day At Callisons

D.: American women are so consumed with material wealth that they've surrendered their maternal role. No society can survive that way! My neighbor's wife suddenly said her husband was 'too controlling', and left, taking her income with her. As a result, he is losing his house AND his family!

M.: One thing I've always respected about Muslim societies is that if women are widowed, or otherwise lose their function in society, they can become someone's third wife and still have a place in society. Someone takes care of them.

D.: That's the word I wanted: maternal function, not maternal role! No society can survive without a maternal function! At least Muslim societies have values: we have wants!

"Foxy Brown"

I remember, back in 1974, that my high school friends (who, for some reason, never called me by my first name) and I rarely agreed about what movies we should see, or how we should spend our weekends. Conversations would often go something like this:
Marc: Let's go see one of those blaxploitation movies! Let's go see "Foxy Brown"!

Friends: No. Let's go see "Magnum Force" with 'Dirty Harry'!

Marc: 'Dirty Harry' is supposed to be a cop, but he doesn't abide by the law. He never reads anyone their constitutional rights. He's nothing but a fascist!

Friends: You miss the point, Mr. Valdez. 'Dirty Harry' doesn't follow the rules, but he always gives the criminal a choice. "This is a 44. Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world. It can take your head clean off. You've got to ask yourself one question, Do I feel lucky?" See? The criminal gets a choice: a personal choice. It's interesting! On the other hand, 'Foxy Brown' isn't going to give you a choice: she's just going to kick you in the nuts. Then afterwards, we can play miniature golf!

Marc: Miniature golf? Why can't we cruise Central Avenue for chicks like everyone else?

Friends: Why cruise Central Avenue when one can play miniature golf?
Yes, high school was like a dialogue of the deaf. We were working at cross-purposes, I suppose. Thank goodness I'm an adult now and have choices! So, tonight I watched "Foxy Brown" for the first time, on DVD.

Lots of 70's-style sex and violence. Good times! But my friends were right. 'Foxy Brown' didn't give the Bad Guys any choices. She just kicked them in the nuts. On the other hand, she wasn't actually a cop (unlike that fascist 'Dirty Harry'), and thus wasn't bound by law and tradition to read anyone any Constitutional rights. So there!

So, I'm off to cruise for chicks, but first, the lesbian bar fight scene from "Foxy Brown".

Fiji News Still Scarce

Some places there were kicked pretty hard:
SUVA, Fiji — A powerful cyclone destroyed more than half the houses in many villages in northern Fiji, but only one death has been reported, officials said Thursday.

The full extent of the damage from Cyclone Tomas has yet to be determined because communications to the hardest-hit areas remain cut off and may not be restored before the weekend.

...A nationwide curfew was lifted Wednesday, but a state of emergency will remain in effect for 30 days in the country's northern and eastern divisions, where aid agencies say up to 130,000 people were affected by the storm.

"It is evident that wherever Tomas has struck, the damage has been overwhelming," Commodore Frank Bainimarama, Fiji's prime minister and military chief, said Wednesday as the first reports began to roll in.

The storm, packing winds of up to 130 miles (205 kilometers) per hour and gusts of up to 175 mph (280 kph), first hit Fiji late Friday. It blasted through the northern Lau and Lomaiviti island groups and the northern coast of the second biggest island, Vanua Levu, before losing strength as it moved out to sea Wednesday, the nation's weather office said.

"One village on the island of Taveuni lost all its houses, but there was no loss of life," Disaster Management Office senior official Pajiliai Dobui told The Associated Press.

While Fiji's north suffered overwhelming damage from the powerful winds and sea surges, Dobui said preparations for the storm meant "peoples' lives were not put at risk." Only one death was reported.

Dobui said some villages in the Lau island group lost up to 60 percent of their houses, especially near the coast where powerful waves surged inland.

"The impact of the storm surges was quite devastating," made worse by high tides at the time the storm passed over the islands, he said.

On the northern island of Koro, seven of the 14 villages were badly damaged, said Julian Hennings, a spokesman for the island's Dere Bay Resort.

...Tiny Cikobia Island, home to about 400 people, suffered more than three days of hammering from the cyclone, which smashed houses, uprooted trees, washed away all local boats, and scattered debris across the island.

But Dobui said "many very strong homes" built on Cikobia after earlier cyclones "withstood Cyclone Tomas and protected the lives of our villagers."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Adam Sartain's campaign for the 9th Assembly District seat is facing a problem: his Discovery Park fundraiser, and a Curtis Park public forum for candidates, meet at the same time:
Candidates vying for City Council's District 5 seat and for the 9th Assembly District will be at the Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association's Candidates Forum at Sierra 2 Center this Saturday. The event will start at noon with the Assembly seat forum. Participating will be candidates Chris Garland, Roger Dickinson, Lauren Hammond and Kevin McCarty.

The City Council forum will start at 1:15pm with Henry Harry, Terre Johnson, Patrick Kennedy and Jay Schenirer participating.

Dan Murphy, past SCNA president, will moderate. After opening remarks, there will be questions from the audience. Subjects will likely cover a broad range from the budget crisis to public safety and the impact of new development on established neighborhoods.
Adam responds:
I called them up to straighten this out. The coordinator should be contacting me soon. It looks like I may have to start the BBQ a little late or duck out in the beginning of it and arrive “fashionably late”. But if at all possible, I’d like to at least see what I’m up against.

Soda Bottle

Vexatious Requesters

Harrass, but verify:
As the state continues to receive e-mails seeking Obama's birth certificate, the state House Judiciary Committee heard a bill Tuesday permitting government officials to ignore people who won't give up.

"Sometimes we may be dealing with a cohort of people who believe lack of evidence is evidence of a conspiracy," said Lorrin Kim, chief of the Hawaii Department of Health's Office of Planning, Policy and Program Development.

So-called "birthers" claim Obama is ineligible to be president because, they argue, he was actually born outside the United States, and therefore doesn't meet a constitutional requirement for being president.

Hawaii Health Director Dr. Chiyome Fukino issued statements last year and in October 2008 saying that she's seen vital records that prove Obama is a natural-born American citizen.

But the state still gets between 10 and 20 e-mails seeking verification of Obama's birth each week, most of them from outside Hawaii, Kim said Tuesday.

A few of these requesters continue to pepper the Health Department with the same letters seeking the same information, even after they're told state law bars release of a certified birth certificate to anyone who does not have a tangible interest. Responding wastes time and money, Kim said.

Both Fukino and the state registrar of vital statistics have verified that the Health Department holds Obama's original birth certificate.

The issue coincides with Sunshine Week, when news organizations promote open government and freedom of information.

"Do we really want to be known internationally as the Legislature that blocked any inquiries into where President Obama was born?" asked Rep. Cynthia Thielen, R-Kaneohe-Kailua. "When people want to get more information, the way to fuel that fire is to say, 'We're now going to draw down a veil of secrecy.'"

Nobody at the hearing questioned the fact that the president was born in Hawaii.

Attorney Peter Fritz asked why the state would pass a law punishing repetitive requests for open records. Instead, the state could simply say it would only answer each person's question once.

If the measure passed, the state Office of Information Practices could declare an individual a "vexatious requester" and restrict rights to government records for two years.

"Greenberg" Press Tsunami Arriving, But When Does It Crest?

Every day, something new!

The film opens this weekend in NY/LA, and next weekend elsewhere, and so a press tsunami is to be expected, but I'm like the folks were recently in Hawaii regarding the tsunami from the Chilean quake, wondering like "OK, is it safe to go down to the water?"(I just hope the movie shows in Sacramento - I'm getting worried because I see no announcements).

Here's another review:
Ultimately, the film is difficult to categorize. It’s funny, but it’s not a comedy. It’s about two people forming a connection, but it’s not a romance. It follows a narrative arc, but it’s really more of a character study. Basically, it’s the kind of movie that gives studio marketing departments fits, yet that’s part of what makes it great. In many ways it’s a more mainstream film than Baumbach’s previous efforts, but Greenberg is also a refreshing leap forward. What’s more, it’s a career high point for Stiller and proof that Gerwig is more than ready to graduate to the big time.

...4 stars (out of 5).

Suggested Constitutional Amendment To Keep Foreign Money Out Of US Politics

Interesting suggestion:
This insight gives a clue to perhaps the most sensible constitutional response to the Supreme Court’s decision. Not, as an angry gaggle of activists have proposed, through an amendment aimed at denying what Citizens United never asserted—that corporations are persons. But instead, through an amendment that recognizes what no one has ever asserted—that whether or not they are persons, corporations are not United States citizens. And if there is something appropriate to keeping the conversation about who is to govern us to us citizens, there may well be something appropriate in protecting elections against undue influence by non-citizens.

A simple amendment would give Congress precisely this power:
Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to restrict the power to limit, though not to ban, campaign expenditures of non-citizens of the United States during the last 60 days before an election.
This amendment would not require that Congress enact any speech-limiting legislation. My own view is that we should encourage the broadest range of free speech, including speech by corporations, Canadians, and curious dolphins (at least when we learn to understand what they’re saying). To the extent members of Congress are, and seem to be, independent of these expenditures, there is no good reason for the state to limit them. But the amendment would give Congress a power to limit campaign expenditures by non-citizens, at least during a narrow window when America is focused upon the question of whom they should elect to represent them.

Scanning The AU Press Regarding TC Ului

It looks like the folks on the Capricorn Coast are finally coming alive to the fact that Tropical Cyclone Ului is going to make this a hellacious weekend for them. Hopefully the storm doesn't rake the coast, but rather crosses perpendicularly; and doesn't linger, but shoots on in.

I was worried that WIN's Peter Byrne's rant from a couple of days ago might make people too complacent. Instead, what I think was happening was that TV-veteran Byrne was lodging a widely-felt and popular protest that Australian TV News had become too sensationalistic, and dishonest. These are sentiments I think most people can agree on, in Australia, the U.S., and elsewhere. And Byrne was technically-right: TC Ului was nowhere near the coast at the time, and the hype may have been uncalled for - at that instant.

Still, Byrne may be partly-responsible for keeping complacent people complacent. The forecasts ranging out to a week in advance (and available to him when he made his rant), showed TC Ului being pushed rapidly into the coast. That kind of strong shove in the forecast generally survives changes in the details of the weather forecasts from day-to-day. In other words, the storm's fast break for the coast was going to be a real phenomenon, no matter what happened. So, Ului was the wrong kind of storm to go off-message with. Protests can wait. Complacency has to be disrupted. TV hype, disagreeable as it often is, is sometimes dead-on right. What matters now is storm preparations. People have to start NOW!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"The French Were Not Amused"

I'm glad European politics is more serious than American politics:
David Cameron is caught up in an extraordinary 'dwarfgate' row with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The dispute centres on a claim that Mr Cameron made a remark about 'hidden dwarfs' while discussing a photograph showing himself with Mr Sarkozy - who is seven inches shorter than the Tory leader.

...And Shadow Chancellor George Osborne allegedly fuelled the Franco-Tory war by describing a box placed beneath a speaker's lectern as a 'Sarkozy box', before bursting into a fit of giggles.

...The Tories last night dismissed the dwarfgate report as 'nonsense' and claimed it was a 'Labour Party plant'. A senior Conservative source claimed that Gordon Brown was angry that Mr Sarkozy had agreed to meet Mr Cameron - and had even tried to stop the meeting taking place.

...The dwarfgate row erupted when Mr Cameron gave a newspaper interview in his Commons office, in which he appeared to mock Mr Sarkozy.

An article described framed photographs on Mr Cameron's desk, two featuring him with Barack Obama and several with Baroness Thatcher. It continued: '...and one with Nicolas Sarkozy that prompts a joke about "hidden dwarfs".'

It went on to state that Mr Cameron boasted how he liked a photograph of himself with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governor of California, 'because I'm taller than the Terminator'.

It is not clear what was meant by 'hidden dwarfs', though the implication is that the phrase was uttered by Mr Cameron and aimed at Mr Sarkozy. The French were not amused.


Subway 6" cold-cut sandwich meal deal, followed 2.5 hours later with tonkatsu and California rolls.


Washed Ashore

I E-Mailed Deborah yesterday about my Phoenix-metropolitan-area dream of a few days before, which I called an 'Agnostic Dream':
I recently dreamt that, along with thousands of other people, we were desperately trying to ford the Salt River at the location of Tempe’s Mill St. Bridge, even though water was waist deep in the river and thus a menace to automobile traffic, and even though the Mill St. Bridge was still open (although traffic was slow, because it was crowded). The reason why people COULD NOT WAIT to cross the river was because they HAD TO GET OFF the Superstition Freeway.

Puzzling dream, with strange resonances, but interesting!
Deborah replied:
Of course this is no longer possible due to the Tempe Town Lake--it's over your head! And the Superstition frwy, hmm, maybe the Hohokam? I dreamt I went to the science center to see AstroCaptain. We learned his theme song: "Hear the wave, we're Flying, Flying!"
Hmmm. For an artist, Deborah is spending way too much time with computer programmers, engineers, and other literalists. So, I replied:
Pretty painting! But I digress....

You are confusing me with facts. I'm trying to confuse you with concepts: people HAD TO GET OFF the Superstition Freeway!
She replied:
I know.

And last night someone left a chilled martini sitting on highway in an empty area.


Do you drink it?

It held lambent meaning.
Flummoxed, I replied:
Lambent meaning? You mean it wasn't just a road hazard? I'm too literal for my own good! Aaarrrgghhh!

Nevertheless, a pretty painting! It looks like this lady had to get off the Superstition Freeway too, but no one told her about the iceberg in the Tempe Town Lake, or anything!

"Dark Matter" And Them Dad-Gum Liberals Again!

Today, the left-wing blogosphere is all a-twitter with liberals making fun of Conservapedia for a summary statement they made a few days ago:
A slight modification to Isaac Newton's theory for very low gravity and a new experiment may disprove liberal claims that "dark matter" comprises 25% of the universe.
I'm all for kicking conservatives when they are down, so I'll make fun too. Ha ha! Ho ho!

Thank goodness Science is mostly-removed (should be entirely-removed) from the stultifying left-right dichotomy of looking at things. I believe that "Dark Matter" is rubbish, but that doesn't make me a 'conservative' - whatever that means in Science - but rather just another loud-mouthed blogger with an opinion (albeit a somewhat-educated loud-mouthed blogger).

The reason disc-shaped galactic rotational speeds shouldn't behave in an inverse r-squared manner is that these galaxies don't have a spherical symmetry, but rather have a more cylindrical-type symmetry (where speeds would behave in a more inverse-r manner). Since disc-shaped galaxies aren't quite cylinders either, but more like cylindrical segments, rotational speeds will fall somewhere in-between inverse r-squared and inverse-r.

But "Dark Matter" theorists are looking at lots of other things too, so what can a loud-mouthed blogger say about where all their errors (and successes) are? The questions will be resolved by meticulous, mathematical attention to the subject by serious scholars.

Wherever the Truth may lie, looking at the question of "Dark Matter" from an ideological perspective is worse-than-useless!

Ha ha! Ho ho!

"I Want To Be A Na’vi"

"Greenberg" opens March 26th in most places (March 19th in NY/LA). From Black Book's interview with Greta Gerwig:
What did you do?
I ate a lot. My main memory of Los Angeles is delicious taco stands. When I read the role, I thought of Florence as someone just seven pounds too big, just a little uncomfortable in her own skin. What we did was I got to L.A. a month before we shot the film, so I had a month and we did a costume fitting when I got there at my normal weight, and then I packed on like 12 or 15 pounds and then they didn’t adjust the costumes so you just have that shirt-pulling quality that’s hard to fake. I mean it’s not like my Raging Bull moment or anything, but it was important to me that she looked the way I thought she should look. But I did have a moment before the first day of shooting where I was like, “What have I done? This is my big break and I’m all pimply!” And then I saw the film and I’m so glad that I did, because it makes the love story seem more romantic or more real. There’s something unfortunate when you see glossiness or everything’s been prettied up. And I feel grateful because I just thought “Well, maybe my next role, they’ll say they want me back at that weight!” Great, I know the perfect taco stand, Pinchos on Sunset.”


Are you going to avoid traditional glossy Hollywood films?
I don’t know. I think part of me would like to do something with a green screen. Is that bad? It just seems so crazy, but I want to be a Na’vi.

Time To Get All Americans Some Health Insurance

Uninsured patients - the scourge of American medical care:
The patient was only slightly injured when he limped into a hospital in the northwest New Mexico city of Farmington.

The only problem was, he was a dog.

When the automatic doors at San Juan Regional Medical Center's emergency room slid open Saturday night, the pooch walked in, blood on his nose and paw, and a puncture hole in one leg.

Animal control officer Robin Loev (LOHV) responded to a call from the hospital and suspects the puncture wound was from the bite of another dog.

Loev says the German shepherd mix appeared to be intelligent and calm -- and knew enough to go to the right place.

The animal was taken to the Farmington Animal Shelter and claimed by its owner.

The Temporary Crown Is Now Permanent

And I am master of all I survey!

Or so my peasants say!

Dr. Krippen says I've been a good boy, but must not chew on the right side for an additional day (not that I'd want to, it aches so...).

TV Weather Presenter Scoffs At Tropical Cyclone Ului

Oh boy, nobody does complacency like complacent TV weather presenters!

I'm a meteorologist, and I'm perturbed at what I see as complacency among the responsible authorities. The forecasts show the storm hovering for a time, then making an abrupt fast break for the coast in the general vicinity of Mackay. People may have little time for their preparations if they don't start NOW. I pray Mr. Byrne doesn't come to regret his comments.

Wow, the folks in Mackay have barely even noticed the storm!

Only Sporadic Information About Fiji

Some of the small, scattered islands are taking a beating:
A powerful cyclone has hit northern Fiji, damaging buildings and crops, and forcing at least 5,000 people to leave their homes.

Cyclone Tomas, a category four storm, is packing winds of up to 170km (106 miles) an hour.

The storm is forecast to intensify and shipping has been warned to stay away; a night-time curfew is in operation.

Schools have closed, public services have been suspended, and international flights have been cancelled.

Fiji Meteorological Service (FMS) said gusts had caused havoc across the north of the country. Power has been disrupted and roofs torn off by the wind.

There were no early reports of injuries, but officials said a woman was swept away in heavy seas as the storm approached.

The cyclone was reported to be generating waves up to 7.2 metres (24 feet) high.

The head of Fiji's Disaster Management Office, Pajiliai Dobui, told local radio that Cyclone Tomas was likely to be the most powerful storm in recent years.

Fiji's main islands of Vanua Levu and Viti Levu are expected to get off lightly as the storm heads towards the northeast.

Smaller islands are expected to be badly hit by winds, heavy rains and high seas. Communication has already been lost with several smaller islands.

...The cyclone was said to be moving slowly, increasing the potential for damage.

Cindy Sheehan's Latest Soapbox

I was just wondering today what Cindy Sheehan is doing these days, and here she pops up!:
Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan is restarting her campaign against wars in Iraq and Afghanistan today, setting up tents and teaching protest seminars near the Washington Monument.

Dubbed "Camp OUT NOW," the protest is geared to pressure President Obama and Democrats, whom Sheehan says have abandoned the anti-war cause now that they have control of the White House and Congress.

"Obama said there'd be one combat battalion coming home per month, and that has not happened," Sheehan says. "We still have significant troops in Iraq, and he's ramped up in Afghanistan.

...Sheehan's group, Peace of the Action, will hold seminars on grass-roots organizing and civil disobedience near the Washington Monument, leading up to a peace march Saturday. Sheehan says the group plans to "start doing actions" on March 22, although she wouldn't discuss details or how long they might last. Possible actions include blocking Washington, D.C., intersections and offices in Congress, she said.

"We're demanding that we see some movement in the direction toward peace and bringing our troops home, and we're determined to stay there until that happens, so it's an indefinite thing," she says.

..."The energy was for electing Democrats. Now the energy is for keeping the Democratic majority," she says. "Even though we're still in Iraq and Afghanistan and now in Pakistan and Yemen."
Since Ben and Natalie W. are so active in Code Pink they've come to know Cindy personally. Ben mentioned that they actually bumped into Sean Penn that way!

One thing I'm encouraged about is that Obama appears to be adhering to his Iraqi withdrawal schedule. Some well-informed observers, like the blogger Juan Cole, are practically ecstatic about this state of affairs, particularly since it is often the U.S. presence that is the cause of Iraq's instability, and the U.S. withdrawal can only help. Afghanistan is another problem altogether, however. And don't even start with Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and the rest!

Talking About Cakes, What's New At 'Cake Wrecks'?

Oh, just the usual....

Long-Departed, Hardly-Missed, But....

They CAN'T be serious!:
Event: 36 Reunion for West Mesa Class of 1974

West Mesa High School
Event Type: Reunion
Invited Classes: Class of 1974 (your class)

Jun 12 2010 11:30 AM - Jun 13 2010 3:00 AM

In-Person Event: Tentative
To be determined
(no map available)
Organizer: Michael Watson (contact)

"Kiss Me, Cake" Fundraiser

"Kiss Me Cake"

Fun time at DMTC! This first-time fundraiser went well, with about 20 bidders.
Sushi Cake, made from Rice Krispie Treats and Fruit Roll-ups (purchased by Dannette V.)
"Little Mermaid" Cake (made by Erin Kelly).
Butterfly cake, made with real flowers (purchased by Rand M.).
Mary Young's traditional bunker-busting chocolate cake (purchased by Marc V.)
A table o'cakes!
The auction gets underway at 5:45 p.m. on Sunday.
Masters-of-Ceremonies Thomas Lea and Erin Kelly.
Erin and her friend Kelly (aka, 'Vanna White').
Lea Mentink, and the Mentink German Chocolate Cake masterpiece.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ului/Tomas Update

Forecasts suggest Tomas will completely miss New Zealand, but that Ului WILL drive right into the Queensland coast this weekend, in the general vicinity of Mackay!

Homer Simpson's Dream Job

No more nuclear plant for Homer! Where can I apply?:
A spokesman for the firm Proactol Ltd said that while their fat binder was already clinically proven, they wanted to test it in the real world.

The job ad, which has already gone up in UK job centres, reads: “We know it’s incredible, but it’s true.

“We are willing to pay you £23,750 a year to continue doing EXACTLY what you do every single day, and all we ask in return is that you eat 16 per cent more calories a week – or 400 more calories a day – whilst introducing Proactol into your diet.

“The ideal candidate should not already be on a diet but eat a healthy balance of carbohydrates, fats and proteins and be prepared to increase their existing calorie intake by 16 per cent a week by eating fatty foods such as Chinese takeaways, fish and chips, pizza or McDonalds.

“Essentially we want you to be yourself. No strings, no catches.

What Does He Mean "Harmless"?

Photo by Judy Du Pont.

From the Townsville, QLD, Bulletin. Just your typical Australian menace!

These snakes are not poisonous, so, in that sense, they are harmless, but they are thoroughly ill-tempered and have nasty, bacteria-covered fangs, and you don't want them anywhere near your nether regions (although, it is true, I did touch one when I realized it was too cold for it to harm me, but at least I didn't tempt him by waving my nether regions at him):

In a scene only embodied in many peoples' worst nightmare, Mr Eves came face to scaled snout with the 2.7m carpet python during a night-time trip to his North Ward cottage's bathroom.

''It was about 9pm and I was going to the bathroom,'' Mr Eves, 65, said.

''I saw a dark shape in the toilet, so I turned on the light to check what it was and there was the snake sitting quite happily in the bottom of the bowl.

''I wasn't scared because I knew it was harmless.

''It's one thing to have a frog in the toilet, but not a massive python.''

...''It would have been a terrible thing to have gone to take a pee in the dark at 2am and find it there,'' Mr Eves said.

Attending snake wrangler Brian West said it had most likely used the city's sewer system to find its way into the Mr Eve's bathroom. He said carpet pythons were common in North Ward, however, the toilet specimen was ''unusually large''.

''Most people don't understand that the sewerage system is full of air, not water,'' Mr West said.

''There are also plenty of rats down there and it makes a pretty ideal environment for the snakes.''

The snake was released in bushland in accordance with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service guidelines, Mr West said.

The Baboon Tax

Frickin' primates:
Baboons with a taste for Chardonnay grapes are terrorizing farmers in South Africa's Western Cape wine region, munching tonnes of grapes ready for harvesting, local media reported on Monday.

Farms in the Franschhoek Valley had been emptied by rampaging Chachma baboons, who sneak into secured plots and help themselves with top grade grapes, The Times newspaper said.

"They can easily wipe out up to two tonnes of grapes a week when you are not watching, and that makes about 1,500 to 2,000 bottles of wine," said Mark Dendy-Young, farm manager of La Petite Ferme.

Dendy-Young said he had lost up to 40 percent of his harvest last month to the baboons.

Third "Kiss Me, Kate" Weekend

Martin Lehman as Petruchio and Kyle Hadley and Giorggio Selvaggio as Gangsters #1 & #2, respectively.
Marianna Seda as Lois Lane (aka Bianca).

National Pi Day

Left: Tara McMahon models a shirt she created several years ago using 'puff paint' (available at crafts stores), honoring everyone's favorite number, Pi. To celebrate, Tara brought a slice of pie to the theater on Sunday, March 14th, to eat at precisely 1:59 p.m. (3.14159....).

If this all seems a bit odd, just remember, Pi is the quintessential irrational number.

The Trouble With Hollywood, And The Trouble With People Who Think The Trouble Is In Hollywood

Ross Douthat waxes thoughtfully on Iraq and the movie 'The Green Zone':
Consider “Green Zone,” the new Matt Damon thriller that doubles as a meditation on Why We Are in Iraq. The director is Paul Greengrass, a talented Englishman whose quease-inducing “United 93” remains one of the few compelling films to emerge from 9/11. The source material is Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s “Imperial Life in the Emerald City,” a dense and nuanced account of the Iraq occupation’s disastrous first year. But the film itself, a slam-bang account of the hunt for weapons of mass destruction, has the same problem as nearly every other Hollywood gloss on recent political events: it refuses to stare real tragedy in the face, preferring the comforts of a “Bush lied, people died” reductionism.

The narrative of the Iraq invasion, properly told, resembles a story out of Shakespeare. You had a nation reeling from a terrorist attack and hungry for a response that would be righteous, bold and comprehensive. You had an inexperienced president trying to tackle a problem that his predecessors (one of them his own father) had left to fester since the first gulf war. You had a cause — the removal of a brutal dictator, and the spread of democracy to the Arab world — that inspired a swath of the liberal intelligentsia to play George Orwell and embrace the case for war. You had a casus belli — those weapons of mass destruction — that even many of the invasion’s opponents believed to be a real danger to world peace. And you had Saddam Hussein himself, the dictator in his labyrinth, apparently convinced that pretending to have W.M.D. was the best way to keep his grip on power.

But this opening act, and all the tragedies that followed, still awaits an artist capable of wrestling with its complexities. In “Green Zone,” everything is much simpler. “We” were lied to. “They” did the lying. The “we” is the audience, Matt Damon’s stoic soldier and the perpetually innocent American public. The “they” is the neoconservatives, embodied by a weaselly Greg Kinnear (playing some combination of Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Bremer and Douglas Feith) and capable of any enormity in the pursuit of their objectives.

Such glib scapegoating looks particularly lame in the wake of last week’s Oscar triumph for “The Hurt Locker,” the first major movie to paint the Iraq War in shades of gray. But “The Hurt Locker,” of course, was largely apolitical. Throw politics into the mix, and there seems to be no escaping the clich├ęs and simplifications that mar Greengrass’s movie — and Robert Redford’s “Lions for Lambs,” Oliver Stone’s “W.” and all the other attempts to bring the Bush era to cinematic life.
Daniel Larison, at (of all places) 'The American Conservative' calls bullshit:
Yes, the problem might be that we do not have artists capable of rendering contemporary architects of a war of aggression that was based on shoddy intelligence, ideological fervor and deceit in a sufficiently subtle, even-handed manner. If only Hollywood were better at portraying the depth and complexity of people who unleashed hell on a nation of 24 million people out of an absurd fear of a non-existent threat! Life is so unfair to warmongers, is it not? Then again, the reason our debates are so poisonous and our nation so divided might have something to do with the existence of utterly unaccountable members of the political class that can launch such a war, suffer no real consequences, and then reliably expect to be defended as “decent” and “well-intentioned” people who made understandable mistakes. The unfortunate truth of our existence is that villains do not have to come out of central casting for comic book movies. They are ordinary, “decent” people who commit grave errors and terrible crimes for any number of reasons. Many great evils have found their origins in a group’s belief that they were doing the right thing and were therefore entitled and permitted to use extraordinary means.

That said, I do agree that we should have a greater appreciation for ambiguity and complexity. Would that we had had more of this when the President was railing against an “axis of evil,” administration supporters were authoring absurdly-titled works called An End to Evil, and advocates of invasion were routinely claiming that anyone opposed to the war did not understand that evil existed in the world. Where was this discomfort with sharp “Manichean” divisons then? Where were the complaints against simplistic and naive “reductionism” of complex realities?

Perhaps more of a tragic sensibility would have held some of the delusions of war supporters in check. Perhaps they would have been less enthusiastic to start a war that did not have to happen. After all, the Iraq war was nothing if not a product of a comforting, false vision of a world cleanly divided into good and evil, in which “we” were liberators and “they” were villains, pure and simple. When “they” possess a weapon, it is a dire threat to all of mankind, but when “we” possess the weapon it is no problem at all. “Their” aggression is proof that they must be destroyed, while “our” aggression is evidence of our noble intentions. Of course, when opponents of the invasion attempted to hold our government to the same moral and legal standards the government invoked against Hussein, we were told that this was to engage in “moral equivalency” and “relativism.” There is nothing quite like the relativism of universal moral standards!

Perhaps one reason there is not much interest in exploring the tragic side of our politics is that Nemesis is ever-elusive. The ambition and pride of political leaders may lead to disaster, but the men whose ambition and pride fueled the calamity escape relatively unscathed. We have an abundance of hubris in our politics, and there are more than enough sins that invite punishment, but unlike the famous figures of tragedy our leaders never answer for what they have done. It is always “History” that is supposed to judge them. In the meantime, they walk away, and often enough they head off to a comfortable retirement. They remain unaccountable and surrounded by a small army of revisionists just waiting to rehabilitate their reputations in a few years’ time.

When that changes, perhaps we will have more complicated storytelling that does not simply vilify the people responsible for a great crime. However, since there will apparently be no accountability for our leaders in the real world, we may have to settle for the inadequate stories we have now.

CO2 Rise Accelerates

Up, up, and away!:
OSLO (Reuters) - Levels of the main greenhouse gas in the atmosphere have risen to new highs in 2010 despite an economic slowdown in many nations that braked industrial output, data showed on Monday.

Carbon dioxide, measured at Norway's Zeppelin station on the Arctic Svalbard archipelago, rose to a median 393.71 parts per million of the atmosphere in the first two weeks of March from 393.17 in the same period of 2009, extending years of gains.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Wake Up! Trouble Afoot!

The folks in Fiji are on alert:
Issued from RSMC Nadi at 4.30pm Monday
15 Mar 2010

Category 4 Tropical Cyclone (TC) Tomas had its centre located just east-southeast of Cikobia and about 60 km eastnortheast of Udu Point 4 pm today. The cyclone is moving south at about 10 km/hr.

Though still a Category 4 Hurricane, TC Tomas has intensified a little more from this morning. Estimate average winds of 95 knots (175km/hr) and momentary gust up to 125 knots (230 km/hr) close to the centre. Damaging gale force winds extend to about 150 nautical miles (280km) from the centre.

TC Tomas has maintained a very slow southward movement all day today and is expected to continue moving south at this slow pace for the next 24 hours. Thereafter, it should curve southeastwards and accelerate. It should also intensify a little more but reach peak strength within the next 12 hours or so.

The core of the cyclone (storm/hurricane force winds), after passing over Cikobia Island, should be moving southward onto eastern Vanua Levu, Rabi, Kioa, Taveuni, Laucala, Qamea and nearby islands overnight, and spread to Northern and Central Lau tomorrow. High winds and very heavy rain is expected as the “eye: of the cyclone passes overhead or nearby.

Most of the Northern Division and almost whole of the Eastern Division should experience severe effects of the Hurricane including flooding from the sea due to storm tide (storm surge+ high astronomical tide) and wave effect (phenomenal seas and swells generated from high winds).

With its southward course now, the Central Division may only escape with marginal effect of TC Tomas, i.e. with damaging gale force (35-40 knot) winds which usually causes damage to weak, temporary structures and vegetation (shallow rooted crops, tree branches, etc.). However, heavy rain is expected with flooding of low lying areas and even some rivers/streams.

The Western Division should largely escape with only strong winds, except for Sigatoka, Coral Coast and Rakiraki which could experience marginal gales (up to 35 knot winds). No significant flooding is expected in Nadi, Lautoka, Ba and Tavua either.
Meanwhile, the Aussies have noted TC Ului's existence, but don't seem sufficiently alarmed yet:
Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology
Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre

Issued at 10:16am EST on Monday the 15th of March 2010

At 10 am EST Monday, Severe Tropical Cyclone Ului [Category 4] with central
pressure 940 hPa was located over the Coral Sea near latitude 12.9 south
longitude 159.7 east, which is about 1450 km northeast of Mackay.

The cyclone is moving west southwest at about 7 kilometres per hour.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Ului poses no immediate threat to the Queensland coast
and is expected to remain well off the Queensland coast for at least the next
few days.

Its longer term forecast track is still uncertain but at this stage the most
likely scenario is for Severe Tropical Cyclone Ului to remain offshore and track
in a general southerly direction.

"Greenberg" In The New Yorker

David Denby:
This is tricky, ambiguous material, seemingly better fitted to a short literary novel than to a movie, and it could have gone wrong in a hundred ways, yet Baumbach handles it with great assurance. In long scenes between Greenberg and Marr, he says something amusing and mean, and she, because she’s either too kind or too surprised, doesn’t come back at him. The characters can’t get any kind of rhythm going, but the actors hold the bumpy conversations in tension. The scenes don’t lose their pace or their shape; they sustain a ruffled, poignant mood.

...Greta Gerwig has acted in mumblecore features, and she has the relaxation and the changeableness of an actress who has done improvisation on camera. Her speech is slightly slurpy, and she can look Raggedy Ann messy one moment, then radiantly beautiful the next. She’s convincing as a young woman who doesn’t quite know who she is, and as Marr her instinctive goodness slowly begins to work on Stiller’s Greenberg, whose sheer perversity has its own fascination.