Saturday, April 24, 2010

Too Far From God, And Too Close To Juarez - "Breaking Bad" - Season 2

About six years ago, my rage against FOX News grew so great that I cancelled Cable TV, and after awhile, willingly stopped watching television altogether. There is a price to pay for that course of action, of course - I never know what's going on or what people are talking about, particularly young people - but it frees up a lot of time, in exchange.

Last week, while purchasing the Black-Eyed Peas' album 'The E.N.D.' at Dimple Records, I saw that they were also selling "Breaking Bad" - Season 2, on DVD for $32.00. This Albuquerque-based AMC series caught my interest, not only because it's based in my hometown, but also because Jerry said it was one of the best TV series he had ever seen. So, sight unseen, I eagerly paid the $32.00 (plus tax) for Season 2. Even if Jerry was wrong, at least it would be a welcome piece of Albuquerquiana for my collection (I still can't quite believe how New Mexico's star has risen in film & TV over the last several decades - Governor Bill Richardson grovelled and spun, and wheedled and buttonholed, and bent every child labor law, and offered ridiculous tax concessions to Hollywood - but it worked!)

What a great series! Tense Southwestern film noir along the lines of 'No Country For Old Men' (much of which was also filmed in New Mexico). Jerry was right! I've seen just five episodes so far, but they were gripping TV at it's best! I will have to get Season 1 too, and all the others!

For an Albuquerque native like me, "Breaking Bad" is very jarring to watch. Such dark, evil doings on the sunny, happy, streets of the Duke City! And the camera doesn't lie either; it is Albuquerque, in every familiar picayune detail (but a side of Albuquerque I'm definitely unfamiliar with).

Like many Western cities, there is a lot of terrain relief in Albuquerque. Thus, even incidental views of the horizon are packed with information regarding filming location. Every corner of the city has a different horizon, a different look, and they are all imprinted on the minds of every Albuquerque resident.

Season 2 starts out in a junk yard. Now, there are junk yards in the South Valley, in the strip of land between Broadway and I-25, south of Gibson, near the airport. Indeed, the bland, pediment-like horizon visible in the distance stamps the location as South Valley. Bingo! One house had an unfamiliar architecture, but the plane trees by the sidewalk stamp the location as probably near the University, where plane trees are common. Bingo! There were brief glimpses of the Kimo & State Theaters. Plus, the locus point of the DEA side of the show; the real Federal Building downtown! Bruce says "Breaking Bad" filmed recently at a house a block away from where he lives, in Martineztown. He pointed out the house to me too. I'm eager to see this house show up on the series, and if I'm really lucky, maybe see Bruce's house too!

The cinematographer is in love with the beautiful monsoonal Southwestern skies, full of beautiful clouds. It's gorgeous! So far, though, I don't see the Sandia Mountains. Maybe in other episodes?

The sister-in-law has a problem with kleptomania, and her sister confronts her with her theft of an item from Gertrude Zachary's. Now, Gertrude Zachary is one of Albuquerque's most famous merchants, specializing in Indian jewelry, so the mention here amounts to valuable product placement. Nice! Next time I'm in Albuquerque, and I get the itch to shoplift, Gertrude Zachary's will be first on my list!

And the DEA raid on the motel. That would be the Crossroads Motel, across Central Avenue from Presbyterian Hospital, and thus located just one or two hundred yards from the location where I was born! Watching this series is a very personal experience!

Albuquerque is a great place to host "Breaking Bad". It's just a little too close to Juarez for comfort, isn't it? No escape from geography!

But then, in these days of transnational drug cartels, we are all just a little too close to Juarez for comfort, aren't we?

But, truth be told, Juarez really isn't the problem at all, is it? Especially when one understands chemistry well, like 'Heisenberg' does!

Viva Film noir! Viva 'Breaking Bad'!

Friday, April 23, 2010

"Gypsy" - DMTC - Final Dress Rehearsal

Amy Jacques-Jones as 'Gypsy' Rose Lee.

Tonight's opening night! Merde!

Just a few sporadic pictures (I had camera difficulties).

The production has had some difficulties. We were left at the beginning of Tech Week without a 'Tulsa'. The production is lucky: Joshua James, probably the most-talented of all male Sacramento community musical theater volunteers, graciously agreed to step in and learn the role (essentially in two days). Not surprisingly his dance sequence is great (and not surprisingly, my camera failed when he took the stage with Amy).

Everyone Will Be Happier If You Put The Lawyers In The Closet, Get Them All Chatty, Cozy And Comfortable, And Quietly Shut The Door

I had some reservations about joining the Sacramento Bee's 'Sacramento Connect', mostly because of my weakness for patronizing YouTube. The 'Content License Agreement' looked rather formidable. So I asked for clarification from the Sacramento Bee:
Thank you for your invitation. I have two reservations, regarding item (5c) in the partnership agreement:
5. Representations and Warranties. You represent and warrant that (c) the Material does not and will not infringe on any third party's copyright, patent, trademark, trade secrets, proprietary rights of publicity or privacy, or other legal rights,
Reservation 1 is that some YouTube videos I've posted in the past (uploaded by others) have subsequently been pulled off of YouTube because of copyright infringements. I (and others) no doubt thought we had 'fair use' of the material, but we apparently were wrong. Thus, any representations I might have made at the time to the Sacramento Bee, or others, about the material would have been wrong. A perfect example in the news from the last several days are the many 'Hitler' Downfall videos, two of which I posted, and which now are in the process of being yanked.

Reservation 2 is that some YouTube videos I've uploaded fairly-recently (of other people's work, and subsequently posted on my blog) may infringe on the copyrights of others. There seems to be a bit of a Wild West aspect regarding the YouTube frontier, and many artists will tolerate infringing material if they believe they have more to gain by the exposure. There's a conspiracy of silence about all this, however, and where the lines really are located in practice is unclear. Nevertheless, any representations I might make to the Sacramento Bee regarding the material would either be false, or suspect, and certainly open to challenge, should artists care to make a challenge.

At the moment, I'm thinking maybe it's better to decline participation, unless the Sacramento Bee is similarly willing to experiment.
The representative of the Sacramento Bee replied:
Thanks for the reply. We’ve run into some of the same issues with our own Bee blogs. I don’t have a problem with the way your blog has introduced YouTube into various posts … you seem to have fun with them (like the headline over the ‘Glee’ video) and not claiming this is your content. Our own attorney has advised us not to post such things to Bee blogs, but acknowledges it’s murky territory and has left the final decision to the top editors at The Bee … and some of our bloggers are doing some of the same things you are doing. In short, we are willing to experiment here, and we don’t have a problem with what you are doing. In fact, we love the blog, think it is well written, and both insightful and funny (something our best writers here at the Bee struggle with each day).
So, the answer seems to be basically no one knows anything for sure (except maybe the lawyers, and maybe not even them). In that case, the blogger probes into the darkness, like an interstellar pioneer, until something else from beyond the galactic core probes back, and then you decide what to do (Run Away! Phasers On Full!)

YouTube is a real conundrum for people. The artists themselves seem to be conflicted, and probably have one opinion on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and an altogether different opinion on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday (on Sunday, they just don't know). Like they say, hard cases make bad law.

I like the little bit of flattery. Like they say, flattery will get you everywhere! And as I've mentioned, the Sacramento Bee likely has more to gain from the proposed arrangement than the individual bloggers do, since it plugs holes in their coverage of the community and should require little maintenance. Promises to the bloggers of potentially-increased readership are unlikely to be met, just because the Internet keeps expanding all the time. If the number of readers doesn't keep up with the Internet's growth, someone is bound to be disappointed. But, once again, no one knows anything for sure.

...Except maybe the lawyers, and no one is that keen to talk to them anyway.

Yet Another Storm?

The longer-range forecasts are suggesting there is yet another storm heading our way, perhaps on Tuesday, April 27th.

Privacy Expectations

This Philadelphia case is interesting. If the School District believes it can get away with the argument that people don't have an expectation of privacy in their own homes, I believe they have a surprise coming:
Blake Robbins should have known better.

So says the official who ran the Lower Merion School District's controversial computer security system when it snapped Robbins' picture in his home and led to his invasion-of-privacy suit against the district.

Even in his own home, the Harriton High School sophomore had "no legitimate expectation of privacy" from the camera on his school-issued laptop, information systems coordinator Carol Cafiero contended in a court filing on Tuesday.

Cafiero - who is on paid leave while the district investigates the laptop controversy - claimed Robbins lost any legal protection from the Web-camera security system when he took a school laptop home without permission.

Robbins had previously broken "at least two" school computers and did not pay the insurance fee required to get permission to take home the Apple MacBook that later snapped his pictures, Cafiero's attorney, Charles Mandracchia, wrote in the filing.

"When you're in the home, you should have a legitimate expectation of privacy," Mandracchia said in an interview. "But if you're taking something without permission, how can you cry foul when you shouldn't have it anyway?"

Mandracchia's court filing and comments came on the heels of the district's latest disclosures about the volume of photos and "screen shots" taken over two years by the high-tech security system that was designed to track lost or stolen laptops.

District officials said Monday that the built-in cameras on students' laptops had been switched on 146 times, taking 56,000 pictures in the process.

Putting Some Perspective Into Tea Party Coverage

This is a welcome attempt at getting a bit of perspective.

In truth, we often can't quite see what the truly important events and people are in our time until years later. Either the important things are so obvious they don't seem to merit comment (until they change or disappear), or the important things are still gestating and out-of-sight to most people.

My opinion is that the presidency of Barack Obama is closely paralleling the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Both presidents dealt with economic downturns early in their terms. Reagan suffered midterm election reverses, and Obama is even more likely to do so (since this downturn is worse than the 1982 recession).

Nevertheless, because of defense-oriented deficit spending, by 1984, Republicans were ascendant. Ascendancy is likely to happen to Democrats by 2012 too, because of stimulus and finance-oriented deficit spending. Thus, the Tea Party movement seems to me to be at peak strength right now. It has nowhere to go from here but down. It doesn't have anything really new to offer - cutting the deficit has been, and remains, the GOP's primary platform since before I was born (and something they address only fitfully when installed in power):
2009 was the year when many journalists concluded they were slow to recognize the anti-government, anti-Obama rage that gave birth to the tea party movement.

2010 is the year when news organizations have decided to prove they get it.

And get it. And get it some more.

Part of the reason is the timeless truth in media that nothing succeeds like excess. But part of the reason is a convergence of incentives for journalists and activists on left and right alike to exaggerate both the influence and exotic traits of the tea-party movement. In fact, there is a word for what poll after poll depicts as a group of largely white, middle-class, middle-aged voters who are aggrieved: Republicans.

But just read the succession of New York Times stories, profiling newly energized activists who are “bracing for tyranny.” Or follow the dispatches of the CNN crews who went along with two national Tea Party Express bus tours. Or delve into the crosstabs of polls conducted in the past few weeks by the Times, CNN, and, POLITICO about the opinions and demographic characteristics of tea partiers. Or check out the blogger the Washington Post hired to chronicle their movement.

The findings have been unveiled with the earnest detachment of Margaret Mead reporting her findings among teenage girls in Samoa.

Indifference has given way to curiosity, and —in recent weeks especially— to a nearly manic obsession that sometimes seems to place the tea partiers somewhere near the suffragettes and the America-Firsters in the historical ranking of mass political movements.

...The tea parties’ main expression has been public gatherings. But last week’s Tax Day crowds were not representative of a force that is purportedly shaping the country’s politics. About a thousand people showed up in state capitals like Des Moines, Montgomery and Baton Rouge – and even fewer in large cities like Philadelphia, Boston and Milwaukee. In some cases, turnout was less than the original protests spurred by the stimulus, bailouts, financial crisis and new Democratic president last April 15th.

In Washington, about 10,000 people showed up on the national Mall last week – a rally worth covering but far fewer than the tens of thousands who marched in support of immigration reform in March.

...What’s more, the eruption of protest after a president of a new party takes the country in a new direction is a standard feature of modern American politics. Ronald Reagan’s election produced record-breaking rallies for the now-forgotten Nuclear Freeze movement. The right, with rhetoric and occasional excesses that are almost identical to those of today, rose up angrily against Bill Clinton in the mid-1990s.

And just a few years ago, hundreds of thousands of Americans turned out to rally against the Iraq war. Now, veterans of those protests – covered largely as spot news and spectacle – wonder why they didn’t get the weighty, anthropological treatment assigned to the tea parties.

“They’re being treated with a lot more respect than the anti-war movement was,” said Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier who died in Iraq, who became the most visible face of those protests.

“The anti-war movement has always been treated as a fringe movement – even though at the height of our movement we had hundreds of thousands of people at protests and the majority of public opinion on our side,” said Sheehan, who spoke to POLITICO from a bus on her way to an Oregon protest against the Afghan war.

...For both the left and the right, both have become symbols that outweigh their actual impact – thanks largely to excessive media attention. Conservatives mostly rush to defend them while liberals delight in mocking them, and reporters can’t get enough of the spectacle.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

That, And 'Perkiness', If You Will

Walking back from lunch, I passed a woman wearing a black T-Shirt with bold white letters, reading:
Judge me by my size, do you?

Janet Mercurio Directs Russell Boulevard's Future

What a wonderful profile, for one of DMTC's favorite people!:
Then one morning last fall, I was cruising along the Russell trail and saw a line of saplings spaced several feet apart, encircled with fresh mulch. It brightened my day. A few weeks ago, I saw more new plantings.

Somebody had cared enough to get involved.

Turns out, it wasn't Yolo County or any of the area's well-organized arbor groups. It was one woman, Winters resident Janet Mercurio, who saw a need and dug deep (both in the dirt and her pocketbook) to plant about 150 trees along the Russell Boulevard stretch – with more to come.

It may be decades before that part of the bike path is bathed in shade. But on this Earth Day, Mercurio's small but meaningful gesture shows how people can help the environment the other 364 days of the year.

"Gypsy" - DMTC - Wednesday Night Rehearsal

Amy Jacques-Jones as 'Gypsy' Rose Lee.

(images from ACT II, and the beginning of ACT I).

Deborah Hammond as 'Mama' Rose.

Rehearsals can be fun affairs; trying to straighten out potential problems before they become real problems.

I'm not precisely sure what happened at one point, because it all happened entirely in the dark, but Amy slipped behind the curtain, and then the curtain opened (apparently unexpectedly) a couple of seconds later. There was a clothing malfunction, or some unexpected event, because Amy went "Eeek!" and ran off into the wings. Whatever it was, the little girls in the cast practically died with laughter at the unexpected outbreak of modesty.

Pastey (Jason "Clocky" McDowell), Rose (Deborah Hammond), and Tessie Tura (Monica Parisi).

Electra (Karen Mo), Tessie Tura (Monica Parisi), and Mazeppa (Christina Rae).

Tessie Tura (Monica Parisi).

Electra (Karen Mo).

Mazeppa (Christina Rae).

Pastey (Jason "Clocky" McDowell) and Herbie (Jason Hammond).

Deborah Hammond as 'Mama' Rose.

Deborah Hammond as 'Mama' Rose.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Joining The Borg

Using Statcounter statistics, here is a graph of daily Weblog visitors since August, 2004 (the Weblog itself dates to October, 2002).

The number of Page Loads is indicated by the top of the blue bars, and the number of Unique Visitors by the bottom of the pink bars. The all-important Return Visitors is the red line near the bottom.

Interestingly, the number of visits seems to have little to do with Weblog content. People like to visit after weekends. Sometimes, readership jumps during big DMTC shows. Still, what is most-striking is just how stable everything is. Abrupt declines in Returning Visitors is usually connected to whether or not I'm taking trips (for some reason, my readers seem to hate travelogues).

Abrupt increases in the number of visits are driven mostly by Search Engine improvements. In 2007, several technical improvements were made to Google, which made it function much better at relating search terms to target Web Pages. Those improvements abruptly drove up the number of Page Loads (if not the number of Returning Visitors).

Over the years, the Internet keeps expanding. Since roughly the same number of users inhabit a larger and larger digital universe, there is a constant downward pressure on the number of visits to any given Web Site, since there are simply more places *Out There* for people to go. So, like everyone else, I keep trying to find ways to drive up traffic, running harder and harder just to stay in the same place.

Lo, and behold, The Sacramento Bee is offering their idea of a solution:
Hi Mark,

I wanted to invite you to sign up your blog for Sacramento Connect, a linking and social media network The Bee launched March 29. The network consists of and regional blogs and sites handpicked by Bee editors.

You’ll notice when you visit that a toolbar appears at the bottom of your browser. The toolbar is powered by a semantic search engine that pulls in RSS feeds to find related content across the Sacramento Connect network. Readers can than click the toolbar, which appears on every page of as well as partner blogs and sites, to find related content across the network based on the page or story readers last clicked. The toolbar also makes it really easy for users to share links via email, Facebook and Twitter. Partners in the network are seeing a noticeable increase in traffic. This link will take you to a list of our current partners:

As a partner of Sacramento Connect, we provide you with a line of javascript so the toolbar can appear and function on your blog, and we’ll help walk you through the installation. Our intent is to make it easier for readers to find content they are interested in and to share content, and to increase both your traffic and our own. Bee editors will also be highlighting partner content on a Sacramento Connect landing page ( and via Twitter and Facebook. We will also be promoting content partners in the paper. In the next month, we will be taking the network mobile, and if you don’t have a mobile offering Bee web developers will do most of the work for you. All of this is free.

This link will take you to the partnership agreement and application to officially join the network:

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Thank you,

Tom Negrete
Managing Editor, Online
The Sacramento Bee
Hmmm.... That's interesting!

One of the reasons I started my blog is that I could tell that there was no way the Sacramento Bee, or any newspaper for that matter, could keep up with the Sacramento Community Musical Theatre scene. Newspapers were reducing staff, but the number of local theaters and local shows were expanding exponentially. If people didn't cover these events themselves, through their own blogs and with their own media, they wouldn't get covered at all.

In a way, blogs can act like newspaper adjuncts, covering items and events that newspapers no longer could, or never would. After all, if I'm having trouble with water in my basement (as I blogged about today), could I rely on the Sacramento Bee to convey the news to people in Roseville and Folsom? I think not! So, it makes sense to for newspapers to host communities like this. And it makes sense for me to join as well.

Nevertheless, I don't believe Weblog traffic will increase much, if at all, as a consequence of joining this community. As I say, the Digital Big Bang makes the Internet Universe larger and larger all the time. It would be nice to be proved wrong, but expecting the Sacramento Bee to increase my readership is likely a vain hope.

On the other hand, if I just had an exclusive Tiger Woods interview....

When They Started Allowing Morons To Have Mortgages, It Guaranteed That Soon The Only People Living In Houses Would Be Morons

For years, I've been troubled by water flowing into my basement. The trouble predated my ownership (if you want to call it that) of my house. Despite my efforts to locate and stem water flows from various locations, whenever it rained, water mysteriously appeared in the basement, from location(s) unknown. Damage to the foundation accumulated, with the southern wall of the house sinking several inches over the last several decades, including over the last fifteen years, when I was nominally in charge.

In 2006, when Mad Adam was working in the basement, he decided to dig out the flower bed in front of the porch and install rubber sheeting against the foundation, to keep runoff from the flower beds coming through the foundation. Brilliant! Except it didn't work. Water continued to appear mysteriously.

Last weekend, while clipping vegetation by the side of the porch, I took a look at how water from the gutters poured down a chute into an underground drain. Suddenly I realized the connection between the chute and the drain wasn't very good: there was an inch gap between the tubes, and they weren't aligned well. There was plenty of opportunity for leakage. Was this the source of the water in the basement? Why hadn't I noticed this before? So, instead of allowing water to continue to pour into the underground drain, I placed a rubber tube at the chute's exit to carry water away from the foundation, and waited for the next rain.

I'm happy to report that, with this last rain storm, there is no new water in the basement. A conundrum that has puzzled me for fifteen years, and caused endless damage, is now solved.

Next mystery for the coming fifteen years: why does the light in the laundry room make sporadic buzzing noises?

Folks In Ohio Didn't Realize It Was 'Picnic Day' In Davis

But they got drunk anyway:
Janice McCoy-Nuttle, of the 900 block of Beech Street, was laying in a bed surrounded by as many as seven Chihuahaus and 10 cages filled with birds.

Police report a white parrot was standing on her forehead at the time, biting her face, while another smaller bird was perched on her chest. She was reportedly intoxicated to the point where she could not stand up and speak to officers and was unable to remove the bird from her face.

Liberal Democrats Surge In Britain

Things start getting interesting in Britain:
What, you ask, is going on? The honest answer is that no one in Britain really knows what is happening with our election. Just a few months ago, it was all very simple: Fiscal collapse and a much-loathed prime minister equals stonking victory for David Cameron's remodeled Conservative Party.

The next government will still have to survive an Era of No Money, and Gordon Brown is no more popular than he was last year, but everything else has changed and an election that once promised to be somewhat dull has become a deliciously unpredictable, even absurd, spectacle.

The first seeds that something odd and unusual might be growing came in the first week of the campaign, when polls reported surprisingly strong showings for the Liberal Democrats in key marginals. But it was last Thursday's televised debate that really allowed Nick Clegg, the young, hitherto little recognised Liberal Democrat leader to make a startling impression that has changed the election utterly.

Clegg devised a ploy that was devilishly cunning: He reminded viewers that, despite what they may have been told, it is not actually illegal or even socially embarrassing to vote for the Liberal Democrats.

...For the last five days, Britain has been waiting for two things: the Iclandic ash cloud to move on and the Liberal Democrats to come back down to earth. Neither shows any sign of happening.

All this poses a number of problems, not the least of which is that the nature of Britain's political system is such that the Liberals could "win" the election in terms of votes but actually come third in terms of seats won. The great virtue of the first-past-the-post system is its clarity in awarding victory; the problem is that this clarity depends upon there only being two viable parties. For the first time since Labour supplanted the old Liberal party in the 1920s, this is no longer the case.

So, yes, the party with the fewest votes could win the most seats, while the one with the most votes could end up with the fewest seats. And you thought the electoral college was odd? Labour support is narrow but deep, while the Lib Dems' vote is wide but thin. Out-of-date constituency boundaries also favour Labour.

Ensign's Senate Race Surprise

Life is tough in a casino economy - up and down, up and down:
Sen. John Ensign's re-election campaign took in just $50 in contributions, from one contributor, during the first quarter of 2010, according to FEC reports. The paltry take comes as more bad news for the scandal-tarred Nevada Republican, who would run for re-election in 2012.

Disclosure reports examined by TPMmuckraker show that Robert Donald, a Las Vegas retiree, was the sole contributor to the "Ensign for Senate" committee between January and March. Donald gave two separate $25 contributions.

Australian April Rainfall So Far

I think this is just the most colorful graphic image. It reminds me of chicken pox, or adolescence, or something....

Things are still pretty dry in the West. They are beginning to sail into the dry season, when Australia resembles Mars more than anything else....

What's New In The Junk E-Mail Folder Today?

Well this isn't junk!:
This is your personal invitation to Kourtney Kardashian's Birthday Hosted By Kim & Khloe Kardashian at Wet Republic Ultra Pool at the MGM Grand.
I'd love to go, but right now I'm mad at Khloe Kardashian for appearing on the cover of Lifestyle Magazine and bragging about how she lost ten pounds in ten days. Yeah, right! Like, maybe she lives in a sauna, or something! And all this bragging while I'm standing in the supermarket checkout line, checking out the magazines, starving from my diet amidst this surfeit of food, yet having lost only five pounds in three weeks, and still forced to gaze at her fab bod.

No, I will wait for my personal invitation to Kim Kardashian's Birthday, Hosted By Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian at the Luxor, in October (after Khloe has emerged from her sauna).

It's That Hypnotic Voice

Ron from Sierra Pacific called. His job is to schedule customers for air conditioning and heater maintenance. Summer is coming, you know, and it will be hot!

Nevertheless, there is something mesmerizing about Ron's New York/East Coast accent, his soothing low tones, and the abrupt, almost conspiratorial way he initiates telephone conversations. I find myself transfixed.

If Ron wanted me to buy six air conditioners, I would do it. If he wanted me to drive to Hoover Dam, I would do that too. Or buy gold. Or write letters to the editor.

Whatever Ron wants, Ron gets.

Catching Perps In Hemet

A bit anarchic out there on the Foreclosure Frontier, but so far no one is arresting "The Voggles". Does that mean they are innocent?:
The Southern California homes of dozens of white supremacists were raided Tuesday as part of a probe into a string of potentially deadly booby trap attacks targeting police officers, authorities said.

Federal and local officers converged on 35 homes and took 16 people into custody in Riverside County for a variety of crimes, including weapons, narcotics and parole violations, Hemet police Capt. Dave Brown said.

None of the arrests were directly related to the booby trap attacks that have plagued the small Hemet Police Department since New Year's Eve.

"But we hope some (arrests) will lead us to our suspects," Brown said.

District Attorney Rod Pacheco said everyone arrested was connected to white supremacist groups.

"They are upset with our aggressive posture against all gangs," Pacheco said. "White supremacist gangs have been very violent, especially toward law enforcement."

Hemet police have been targeted at least three times. In one case, a ballistic device strapped to a fence at the gang unit compound sent a bullet within inches of an officer's face.

In another incident, someone rerouted a natural gas line at the compound, filling the building with flammable vapor. No one was hurt.

Four city trucks were set ablaze, and an explosive device was attached to an unmarked police car after an officer went into a convenience store.

A fire at a police rifle range was being investigated as a possible arson.

Pacheco stressed the investigation was ongoing, and detectives were exploring a variety of theories about who was responsible for the booby traps.

Hemet police officials previously suspected the Vagos motorcycle gang may have been behind the attacks. But a series of arrests did not lead to any charges.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"Self-Executing" Doublethink

Teasing apart 'conservative' philosophy is a fun parlor sport. The best analyses generally start with that amazing book, George Orwell's "1984", because it can be dissected in any number of ways to great profit, by conservatives and liberals alike.

Orwell based "1984" on his bizarre political experiences in Spain's Aragon province, fighting with the P.O.U.M. in the Spanish Civil War. The most amazingly-evil things happened, and only a great writer like Orwell could properly capture it all.

Still, Orwell didn't live long enough to see our modern improvements to the world of Big Brother. In particular, even though he met people like him, George Orwell never met Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, William Kristol, et al., personally.

In 2004, I blogged about how George Bush's "War on Terror" was far better than the Tri-partite edge-of-the-empire skirmishing that Orwell mentions in "1984" at creating a modern dictatorship, because it was far more efficient: fewer resources were required and there was less chance of deadly miscalculations.

Below, Billmon starts with "1984" and looks at the creation of the closed conservative mind. Noting Billmon's observation that "reality must not push back too vigorously against the false reality that’s being constructed," I note that comfortable suburban America is a perfect place to create false realities of all kinds, precisely because life in the suburbs is usually pretty darned comfortable.

The next great project: link "1984" with that other great classic from the 1940's, W.J. Cash's "The Mind Of The South", which explores another closed mindset, the pre-WWII South, using blogposts by folks like Billmon and the films of Michael Moore as glue:
The business, of course, is disinformation: the creation of a closed loop of emotions, beliefs and pseudo-facts that buttress, at all times and all points, the party line.

However, the more I study this, the more I’m convinced the primary goal of the exercise isn’t to convince the broader public, whom I think the Rovians essentially view as the equivalent of the "proles" of 1984 -- dull lumps of unthinking flesh who, nine times in 10, will follow the loudest, most simplistic and most passionate voice they hear.

The goal of conservative disinformation, then, is to provide that voice by creating the kind of "mind" (e.g. epistemic community) among the true conservative faithful that Sanchez is talking about: one impervious to reason, logic and -- most importantly of all -- factual evidence. The growing nervousness of some conservative intellectuals, like Douthat and Frum, about this project perhaps reflects the dawning realization that they are basically irrelevant to its success.

The creation of a closed mind is, of course, a prerequisite for successful doublethink (defined as the ability to hold two diametrically opposed beliefs at the same time, and to immediately change one or both of those beliefs when instructed). By their very nature, doublethink constructs tend to be fragile. They have a low tolerance for contact with non-managed reality -- much less open debate (thus the need, in 1984, for the constant writing and rewriting of history, to ensure a seamless and timeless continuity to the party line).

But the real breakthrough discovery by the conservative propaganda machine (Fox News, in particular) is that despite this inherent fragility, it doesn’t take an Orwellian police state to create and maintain the kind of self-contained, artificial consciousness that doublethink requires. Indeed, it can be done even in a supposedly free and open society -- that is, as long as two conditions are met.

The first is that the target audience must be trained to be active participants in their own indoctrination, and not just the passive recipients of it. The circular logic that Sanchez mentions -- i.e. if something contradicts the accepted conservative narrative it must be liberal, and therefore false -- is a key tool for creating this kind of "self-executing" doublethink.

The second requirement, however, in many ways is the more important, at least in a society not fully under the control of those seeking to create the closed mental loop: Reality must not push back too vigorously against the false reality that’s being constructed. In particular, non-conservatives (especially the non- or quasi-conservative mass media) must accept the disinformation narrative as legitimate -- i.e. as simply another political point of view -- and ignore the manipulative process by which it has been created.

But in a free society, those two conditions cannot be maintained perpetually and indefinitely (knock on wood), which may explain why the conservative movement in the US has shown a tendency to crash and burn whenever it runs into realities (the 1991 recession, the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, Hurricane Katrina, the 2008 financial meltdown, etc.) that can neither be assimilated by the false conservative reality nor fully denied by its inhabitants -- thus puncturing the doublethink bubble.

So far, however, these setbacks have all proven temporary. The conservative "mind" has shown an impressive ability to pick itself up and put itself back on the track after every derailment. Whether that's mainly due to the machine’s technical efficiency, or a testament to the sheer power of the will to believe among the conservative faithful, I don't know. Both, I suspect.

One final note: I should clarify that when I refer to the creation of a "self-executing" conservative doublethink as a breakthrough, I’m only talking about the American political experience. The ability of an authoritarian movement to build a powerful false narrative -- and then persuade millions of followers not only to believe it but actively defend it against encroaching reality, even in a more-or-less free society -- was clearly demonstrated in Weimar Germany during the 1920s and ’30s by [GODWIN REDACTION].

One can hope the peculiarities of time, place and culture explain much, if not all, of the catastrophic success of that previous experiment, which is unlikely to be repeated now.

But I’m not entirely sure it would be the smart way to bet.

Georgia's Former Gov. Roy Barnes Reminds The GOP....

Because a latter-day Sherman with nukes would be Georgia's nightmare:
Former Gov. Roy Barnes accused Republicans of “anti-intellectualism and (an) anti-public school mentality.”

He questioned why conservatives let deficit spending slide under presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, but attack President Barack Obama for it.

“If there’s something you’re going to run the deficit up for, run it up for education, because it will pay back time and time again,” Barnes said.

Barnes also clarified his position on the new health care reform law, saying unequivocally for the first time that he supports it and would implement it in Georgia.

Something needed to be done to help the 1.7 million uninsured Georgians, Barnes said, although he said he would have sought more revenue from insurers to fund the law.

“I don’t think we took enough off the hide of insurance companies,” he said.

...Barnes, in particular, took aim at what he characterized as Republicans’ frivolous pursuits since they took power, such as making it illegal to implant a microchip in a person without his permission and threatening to secede from the U.S.

“Do they not know that the Yankees have got the atomic bomb now?” he joked. “We won’t make it through Bull Run.”

YouTube Disaster Of The Day

Somebody ought to do something! It would be me (but I'm too compromised):
Downfall parodies are a well-established part of online culture and follow a familiar format: phony subtitles are presented along with Hitler’s final soliloquy in his besieged bunker (you might need to watch for yourself). The Downfall format has been used to mock everything from social networking sites, to politicians, to the iPad, to self-important hipsters. The list goes on, but as of this week Downfall videos are disappearing fast. Both “Hitler Gets Banned from XBox Live,”—which had over 4 million views before it was taken down—and the meta-parody “Hitler Wants to Make a Meme,” are currently unavailable due to Constantin’s copyright claim.

Value For Money

Skewed priorities?
In 2009, the worst economic year for working people since the Great Depression, the top 25 hedge fund managers walked off with an average of $1 billion each. With the money those 25 people “earned,” we could have hired 658,000 entry level teachers. (They make about $38,000 a year, including benefits.) Those educators could have brought along over 13 million young people, assuming a class size of 20. That’s some value.

My Microchip Makes Me Blog

What does your microchip make you do?
The Georgia state legislature is holding hearings on a bill to ban implanting people with microchips -- as one rumor suggested the Health Care Reform bill mandated.

But the good folks who run the Judiciary Committee seemed to have gotten a bit more than they reckoned with when one of their hearing witnesses claimed that she had already been implanted with a microchip.

And not just any microchip, but one the Pentagon had implanted in her "vaginal-rectum area", apparently to track her movements.

Rush Limbaugh Plays Bait-And-Switch With Computer Models, To The Listener's Detriment

Listening to the radio this morning, I heard Rush Limbaugh lambasting environmental 'wackos' again. Apparently 'flawed computer models' are to blame for shutting down that economic powerhouse, the European aviation industry. People are 'going broke', stranded unexpectedly as they are in expensive locales, at the mercy of ruthless hotels and restaurants.

What is Rush talking about? What 'flawed computer models'? Based on previous Rush tirades, the listener is left to presume that the 'flawed computer models' are the same ones that provide estimates of global warming due to greenhouse-gas emissions.

So, in order to check Rush's sources, I had to go where I hate to go these days, where I go only every six months, or so, since it's no longer privy to White House gossip anyway, but where all conservative media folks nevertheless still get their talking-points for the day: Drudge.

Drudge referred me to this article, which sheds more light:
Flawed computer models may have exaggerated the effects of an Icelandic volcano eruption that has grounded tens of thousands of flights, stranded hundreds of thousands of passengers and cost businesses hundreds of millions of euros.

The computer models that guided decisions to impose a no-fly zone across most of Europe in recent days are based on incomplete science and limited data, according to European officials. As a result, they may have over-stated the risks to the public, needlessly grounding flights and damaging businesses.

It is a black box in certain areas,” Matthias Ruete, the EU’s director-general for mobility and transport, said on Monday, noting that many of the assumptions in the computer models were not backed by scientific evidence.

European authorities were not sure about scientific questions, such as what concentration of ash was hazardous for jet engines, or at what rate ash fell from the sky, Mr Ruete said. “It’s one of the elements where, as far as I know, we’re not quite clear about it,” he admitted.

He also noted that early results of the 40-odd test flights conducted over the weekend by European airlines, such as KLM and Air France, suggested that the risk was less than the computer models had indicated.

The acknowledgement that the computer models were flawed is likely to provide ammunition for critics who believe that authorities have shown excessive caution. The closure of much of the airspace over Europe over the past five days is estimated to have cost airlines a total of $200m a day in lost revenue.

Mr Ruete’s comments highlight the lack of technical expertise that has hamstrung European policymakers as they try to manage the consequences from a rare act of nature. Mr Ruete compared the scenario with his work in the 1980s trying to assess health risks after the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

He also urged European officials to consider adopting US aviation standards.

“If you take the situation across the Atlantic, there the advice would probably be: don’t fly over the volcano. Otherwise, it is up to you to take the precautions necessary,” Mr Ruete said.

While the US system leaves air carriers with the responsibility to determine whether or not it is safe to fly “the American model is not a model of less safety”, he said. “You just need to look at the statistics to see that.”

Under European rules, member states have the power to decide whether or not their airspace should be open. But decisions during the past week have been guided by computer models from the Volcanic Ash Centre in London and Eurocontrol, an organisation that co-ordinates air travel.

European safety procedures on volcanic ash were put in place after two incidents involving British Airways and KLM jets in the 1980s, in which aircraft engines lost power after flying through ash above Indonesia and Alaska.

In the wake of those events, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, a UN body that sets flight standards, asked air traffic controllers to develop contingency plans. Under these plans, the presence of ash prompted airspace to be restricted.
Ah ha! The problem is not 'flawed computer models' after all! Certainly not the same ones that provide estimates of global warming due to greenhouse-gas emissions!

The problem seems to be two-fold: lack of information about the 'safe' level of volcanic ash concentration, and lack of information about the ash itself: height, size distribution, rate of fall, and the like. The best computer models ever devised are going to stumble if the information upon which they feed is flawed, or incomplete. The models aren't to blame: it's the inadequate information upon which they are being forced to rely.

So, understandably enough, in the absence of reliable advice, European authorities are being quite conservative about taking risks with lives and aircraft, and shutting down vast swaths of airspace. And don't be misled by the article, which seems to assume American aviation authorities have a much more gung-ho mentality about the safety of flying through volcanic ash than Europeans do. If Mount Saint Helens blew it's top again, American authorities would act exactly the same way European authorities have been acting - with extreme caution. There is just too much at stake!

There is a real lack of understanding of the interaction between volcanic ash and aircraft. What people do know is pretty sobering. Suspended pumice can fuse onto turbine blades, thus damaging them in flight. Aircraft that have flown into thick volcanic ash by accident, generally at night when the plumes can't be seen, have suffered engine shutdowns. All these aircraft have been able to restart their engines - thank God! - but there is no guarantee they can do so. Nothing like the excitement of restarting damaged engines on an airliner plunging to Earth! And there is precious little laboratory or field experience to decide what a 'safe' concentration of volcanic ash is. Computer models have to be guided by something, and if that something isn't there, you have a problem.

Rush deliberately misleads when he slams 'flawed computer models'. Not the first time, either, or the last. His favorite targets are climate scientists and environmentalists, and he would rather have people scoff in know-nothing ignorance at all computer modeling rather than have to listen patiently to the best-available (if sometimes hedged and inconclusive) qualified technical advice. And what does Rush care about European aviation anyway? Is he flying to Europe soon? Nah!

(But remember, Rush does like to fly to the Caribbean a lot, and they have volcanoes down there too. We all have some stake in a good answer to aviation's problems - even careless and flippant Rush.)

Eyjafjallajoekull's Offset CO2 Emissions

The current estimate (at left; in black) seems approximate - the volcano hasn't submitted itself to a rigorous government-approved emissions-testing protocol.

(h/t John)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Nevada Mandatory Sentencing Requirements

I suppose it's a good thing she didn't ask the boy if he wanted a beer. In Nevada, the penalty for that is probably death:
ELKO, Nev. — A Twin Falls woman convicted of forcing a 13-year-old boy to touch her breasts was sentenced Monday to life in prison.

Michelle Lyn Taylor, 34, was convicted of lewdness with a minor under 14 in November after a week-long trial in Elko County, Nev., District Judge Mike Memeo’s courtroom.

With the conviction, Taylor faced a mandatory life sentence, and Memeo set parole eligibility after 10 years, the minimum sentence. If released on parole she must register as a sex offender and will be under lifetime supervision.

...Kilpatrick said despite the parole eligibility after 10 years, there should be no mistake that it’s a life sentence for Taylor.

“She is getting a greater penalty for having a boy touch her breast than if she killed him,” she said.

After he sentenced her, Memeo said he was bound by state statute to impose the life sentence, but said he isn’t sure why the prosecution chose to charge her under that statute.

...Taylor, who lived in Jackpot, Nev., at the time of the crime, kissed a friend’s child, forced him to touch her breast and asked him to have sex with her in February 2008.

Taylor claimed she was intoxicated and doesn’t remember what happened that night. She told jurors she roughhoused with the boy, but didn’t force him to touch her inappropriately.

Just Met Rochelle Swanson, Davis City Council Candidate

Three weeks ago, Davis City Council Candidate (and 2003 Gubernatorial Recall candidate) Daniel Watts was kind enough to visit the DMTC theater. Daniel toured the facility and talked to Steve and Jan.

Daniel discussed DMTC with fellow Davis City Council Candidate Rochelle Swanson, who also wanted to learn more about DMTC.

Today, Rochelle Swanson, together with her campaign manager Will Arnold, also toured DMTC and talked to Steve and Jan.

One problem DMTC has had over the years is that many people in Davis, particularly in the business community (from which City Council candidates frequently come), don't really know much about our theater. The problem was exacerbated when DMTC moved from the Varsity Theater in 2005: to some, DMTC appeared to have either dissolved at that time, or faded from view. DMTC, of course, did neither. Thus, DMTC has an ongoing mission to educate people in the business community, in general, and City Council candidates, in particular, about the theater, and to otherwise heighten the community's awareness of DMTC's existence..

Candidates Rochelle Swanson and Daniel Watts have taken the trouble to visit DMTC and learn more about the theater. Their willingness to visit and listen is in stark contrast to other City Council candidates of the recent past, who have done neither.

As a non-profit theater, DMTC cannot endorse candidates. As a Sacramento resident, my recommendations do not carry as much weight as a Davis' resident's recommendations would. Nevertheless, speaking personally, as a blogger interested in Davis affairs, I urge Davis voters to carefully consider Rochelle Swanson and Daniel Watts for their votes for the seats on the City Council in the upcoming election.

New Generation iPhone?

Discovered where new high-tech devices are always found, on a barroom floor in Redwood City, California.

Rain Tomorrow....

But the slow-moving storm might dawdle around, and not clear out till Thursday.

"Greenberg" Still At Number 18!

Same position as last week! A slow, inexorable decline, but slower than you'd think, and thus the money piles up!

Goldman Sachs's Highest Execs Managed The Crimes

Goldman Sach's top executives knew exactly what was going on and made certain their investors bought the pig-in-a-poke:
Goldman’s top ranks changed its stance on housing in December 2006. In a meeting in a windowless conference room on the executive floor, Mr. Viniar, the chief financial officer, and Mr. Cohn, the president, gathered about 10 executives for a briefing. Mr. Sparks, the head of the mortgage unit, walked them through the numbers. The group was unanimous: Goldman had to reduce its exposure to the increasingly troubled mortgage market.

A few months later, in February 2007, senior executives began turning up on the trading floor. The message, one former employee said, was clear: management was watching.

“They basically said, ‘What does this department do? Tell us everything about mortgages,’ ” this person said.

The executives told Mr. Sparks to tell his traders to sell Goldman’s positive bets on housing. The traders’ short positions — that is, negative bets, mostly used to hedge other investments — were placed in a central trading account.

Not everyone was happy about it. One trader leaving the firm wrote the mortgage unit a one-word e-mail message: “goodbye.”

Goldman turned over all these negative positions to Mr. Swenson and Mr. Birnbaum, the traders who had previously been positive on the market. Along with Mr. Sparks, they have been credited for managing the short position that yielded a $4 billion profit for Goldman in 2007. Mr. Sparks retired in 2008. Mr. Birnbaum also left in 2008, to start his own hedge fund.

But former Goldman employees said those traders benefited from the short positions that were given to them. And their trading was tightly overseen by senior executives.

At one point in the summer of 2007, for instance, Mr. Birnbaum made a case to Mr. Cohn that some mortgage assets were cheap and that Goldman should let him add $10 billion in positive bets. Mr. Cohn said no.

Meantime, Goldman managers instructed Mr. Egol in early 2007 to add insurance against mortgage bonds.

By the third quarter of 2007, the mortgage unit was minting money, while Goldman’s rivals were losing big.

Big Shot

Politics is so theatrical! This story regarding Floridian Jim Greer reminds me of what then-obscure Jesse Helms did at the Republican National Convention, I believe, in 1972. While entering the convention hall, Helms had a cameraman slowly walk backwards in front of him, while filming - just to make that all-important I'm-a-big-shot display to impressionable delegates:
Sharon Day, a Broward County committeewoman and secretary of the Republican National Committee, called Greer pompous and showy.

...At one out-of-state RNC meeting, an aide kept walking in and handing notes to Greer, Day said. She was afraid something bad had happened in Florida, so she asked the aide about the notes. They were blank, she said. Her conclusion: Greer had had them delivered to make himself look important.

Carrie Lucas "Dance With You"

Feeling nostalgic for some genuine disco....

Longer version here

"Gypsy" - DMTC - Tech Week Begins

Worrisome Crime

The nightclub isn't identified, but the only club I'm aware of in that vicinity is 'Image'. It worries me because I'm in the vicinity of these locations every day:
04/17/2010 01:33 AM
Officers observed a vehicle driving east bound on J St at a high rate of speed. Officer was attempting to catch up with it. Several other units observed the vehicle prior to it colliding with a Taxi at J St and 17th St. The vehicle continued for several more blocks before pulling to the curb at 23rd and J St. Officer found that one of the occupants had been shot in his abdomen and arm. Fire responded and transported victim to UCD. Another gunshot victim (shot in forearm) was located as they were driving to Sutter Hospital. After further investigation, it appears a group of subjects were pushed out of a nightclub on J St/ 7th St. The group moved to 7th Street near I Street where a SUV possibly drove by and shot into the crowd hitting the two victims. The victims had non life-threatening injuries.

"Smokey Joe's Cafe" - Magic Circle Theatre (Reprise)

On Saturday, I went to see "Smokey Joe's Cafe" a second time; this time with Sally. A number of the performances had improved from when I saw the show opening weekend Saturday....


Sunday, April 18, 2010

"Eurydice" - River Stage - Cosumnes River College

On Friday evening, several of us DMTC folks went to see "Eurydice" at River Stage (Director: Frank Condon).

Playwright Sarah Ruhl interprets the Greek legend of Orpheus & Eurydice from the viewpoint of Eurydice, and introduces a figure not in the legend: Eurydice's father. The story is about the bond between a father and his daughter; forgetfulness and the need of a daughter to eventually leave her father for her husband. Sarah Ruhl wrote the play in honor of her own father, who had recently passed away. Frank Condon likely had personal reasons of his own to direct the play.

Paul Fearn plays the father, Destiny Robbins played Eurydice, and Spencer Tregilgas plays Orpheus.

Jim Carnes at the Sacramento Bee provides a good summary of the play:

The Greek myth of Orpheus is one of the world's great love stories. When Eurydice suddenly dies, Orpheus, a master musician, pours out such sad music that the gods are persuaded to give him a second chance at life with her. He storms the gates of the Underworld to lead her back to Earth with only one stricture: If he looks back, he will lose her again, and this time forever.

(Several other cultures have similar tales. Even the biblical story of Lot and his wife bears a resemblance: When he looked back, she was turned into a pillar of salt.)

In Ruhl's tale, the Underworld has its river (presumably the Lethe, although it goes unnamed here). There's no fire and no stench here, and one arrives via elevator, in which – interestingly and inexplicably – it is raining.

A dip in the river removes all memory of the real world, or is supposed to. When Eurydice arrives, she is greeted by her dead father, who has escaped the memory loss and helps his daughter recover pieces of her memory as well.

In fact, it was a letter written by him to her for her wedding day that inadvertently resulted in her death. His wishes for a happy life for his daughter – giving her, as it were, to her husband – resulted in her returning to him, albeit through death. That's just one of the ironies of the play. The inevitability of loss and what we gain from the experience of it is another interesting aspect of Ruhl's story.

It's a difficult thing to put on stage, but director Condon and his cast and crew succeed admirably.

The set, beautifully designed by Kale Braden (who also did the lighting) is a multilevel affair with walkways throughout the audience, where a surprising amount of the action takes place. The acting is uniformly fine, with Spencer Tregilgas as Orpheus and Destiny Robbins as Eurydice appealing and solid in their roles. Paul Fearn shows true affection as Eurydice's father, while Earl Victorine romps through two comically sinister roles (as A Nasty Interesting Man and Lord of the Underworld). Eric Alston, Joshua Carranza-Vick and John Hopkins add humor as a chorus of Stones (named Big, Little and Loud, respectively).