Saturday, July 24, 2010

West Mesa High School Class Of 1974 - 36th Year Reunion

Tonight, the widely-scattered Class of '74 gathered at La Placita Restaurant in Old Town Albuquerque for the 36th year high school reunion! About 150 people showed up.

These events are rare. There had been a reunion in 1994 (I didn't hear about that one) and now this year's event. This year's reunion is a trial reunion for the Big Blowout in 2014 (the 40th year reunion).

I was a bit apprehensive about the reunion. West Mesa High school suffered severe overcrowding in 1974, to the point where senior and junior classes went to a morning session, and freshman and sophomore classes went to an afternoon session, in order to squeeze out enough room in the overcrowded facility for everyone. The graduating class of about 660 was New Mexico's largest that year. Thus, I expected to know few people at the reunion, because I just didn't know enough people in the class at the time. This stress put a lot of pressure on school spirit, and as a result I was surprised to learn that it was the Class of 1974 that was taking a lead on this reunion. The center-of-gravity wasn't the North Valley: instead, it had to be the area right around the school proper. Somewhere there, the school spirit struggled on.

I worried about strange things. One day, in 1973, I mentioned to classmate David Brown that pennies have a definite odor - get some in your hand, roll them around, and check it out! David thought this very strange, so, for almost every day in my senior year he would come up from behind and ask: "So, been sniffing any pennies lately, Marc?" I fretted that he would remember and ask this question again at the reunion.

Some people I didn't expect were at the reunion, and some people I did expect weren't there. I was sad to hear that Cash DuHigg left this life, and didn't make the reunion (we gathered in his memory).

Photo captions:

Lawrance Bernabo, Class President, Newspaper Editor, Class Valedictorian, etc. Lawrance achieved fame several years ago for writing more product reviews for than anyone living. It was great to see him again after all this time!

Danny and Sylvia Herrera. Danny is head of the editorial board for the Albuquerque Journal: he lived a decade in Modesto, CA. Danny was always an affable character, and I'm glad to see the newspaper business has been good to him and his family.

Lee Owens and Dan Brummel. I recollected how shocked I was when Dan Brummel won the class medal for Perfect Attendance (Dan never missed a day in school for any reason for four long years). Dan Brummel? Dan Brummel!

Dan told a funny story about how he decided, for the sake of irony, to deliberately ditch the awards ceremony and skip his award for Perfect Attendance. Dan, in turn, was shocked when a streaker unexpectedly interrupted the ceremony before Dan had a chance to leave the gym. Huffy school authorities closed and locked the doors to the gym, forcing Dan to abandon irony and humbly accept his award.

I didn't know that Lee Owens at one time married Brooke Bigney! When did that happen? Whodathunk?

Danny Villanueva: It's Danny Villanueva! Danny and go all the way back to first grade! First grade!

David and Donna Brown: To my relief, David asked no questions regarding "sniffing pennies". Instead, he related rock climbing tales.

Nancy Garnett: Always had a crush on her. Finally let her know!

Ken Sanchez: Never knew him, but they say he's on the Albuquerque City Council.

One woman (didn't catch her name) confessed she was now a school principal. "I was the girl most likely to ditch class," she said. "What would Mr. Barefoot (Vice-Principal in charge of discipline) think now?"

Friday, July 23, 2010

Random Observations Of The Day

Overheard in downtown Sacramento - two women leaving a restaurant:

Woman 1: So rude!
Woman 2: It's true: chivalry is dead!

Also, woman on a bus shouting to make herself heard above traffic:

Woman 3: I was in the hospital. I got stitches in my scalp.

Reactions to my copy of this month's "Rolling Stone" featuring 'The Black Eyed Peas' on the cover:

Drugstore clerk: "My girl Fergie!"

TSA employee: Please show me your ID. Thank you. Please enjoy reading your "Rolling Stone".

New Mexico Hiatus

This afternoon I will be flying out to ABQ to see whether the rainy season is stuttering to life out in the Southwest. Blogging will be irregular in the meantime.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Now They Are Calling It Tropical Storm Bonnie

Hmm... 'Tain't much. Now they are calling it Tropical Storm Bonnie. Yet, there is little sign of strengthening.

Well, you may see some rain from this on Saturday in Tampa. It may be hard to distinguish from normal Florida summer reality.

Bobby Jindal Inveighs Against Deep Water Drilling Moratorium

I'm on an E-Mail list that covers mostly-conservative politics, mostly in Louisiana. Today, I received an update, looked, and predictably got bent out of shape. This video is Part I: Part II is here.

If jobs are so important to Louisianans, then why let BP, or anyone, drill without anything approaching adequate safety regulations? They don't do that in Norway or Canada. Why is it OK in the Gulf of Mexico?

The jobs Louisianans lose because of the deep water drilling moratorium are jobs they damned-well deserved to lose. If 50,000 arsonists are employed in the state of Louisiana, should I be upset if the Feds stepped in and deprived them of their jobs? Let the unemployed file a claim with BP - it's safer.

Baffling Gulf Weirdness

So, the Feds feel they might be compelled to open the oil well again if a tropical storm approaches? And why, pray tell, would they even think of doing anything like that? Are they afraid of not having something to manage when the wind is blowing? What does BP think?

So far the FNMOC WXMAPs show stormy weather moving into the Gulf, but with little development, and fading with time. It's not Katrina by a long shot! Just chill!

There seems to be a pervasive lack-of-trust in the Gulf that could well make for unforced disastrous decisions on every side.

[UPDATE: These guys seem to have negotiated this decision (which most children would have no trouble with) all right.]:
The temporary cap on BP's ruptured oil well can stay closed even if ships evacuate the Gulf of Mexico during a tropical storm, the federal government's oil spill chief said Thursday.

Growing confidence in the experimental cap's security convinced scientists it was safe to leave it unmonitored for a few days, Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said.

Allen said they'll decide Thursday evening whether ships will have to leave.

"The decision has been made to leave the cap on, even if the well is unattended," Allen said.

Forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami say the storm system has already caused flooding in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti. It could become Tropical Storm Bonnie later Thursday and reach the Gulf of Mexico by Saturday.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Did The Right-Wing Noise Machine Just Lose A Hubcap?

It's so hard to tell, because it clanks, and huffs and roars so much even when it's standing still.

Like I say, it's not good enough to simply change the channel from FOX News. You have to cancel Cable TV altogether to make sure the message gets through:
Shirley Sherrod, the Department of Agriculture employee forced to resign over misleadingly edited footage showing her making "racist" remarks at an NAACP meeting, has lashed out at Fox News and conservative journalist Andrew Breitbart, accusing their journalistic practices of being a manifestation of racism.

"When you look at their reporting, this is just another way of seeing that they are (racist)," Sherrod told MediaMatters' Joe Strupp.

Her comments came ahead of Wednesday's apologies to Sherrod from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who took the blame for Sherrod's forced resignation.

“I did not think before I acted, and for that reason, this poor woman has gone through a difficult time,” Vilsack said, as quoted at The Hill. “There was no pressure from the White House, I want to make sure everyone understands this was my decision, and I regret having made it in haste.

"This is a good woman," Vilsack said. "She's been put through hell."

Greg Sargent at the Washington Post describes Sherrod's comments about Fox News as "pretty incendiary stuff," adding that Sherrod "appears determined to force a larger conversation about the Breitbart-Fox News axis's broader efforts to stoke white resentment towards the nation's first African American president."

As the political tide quickly shifted in Sherrod's favor, embarrassed reporters and bloggers began to backtrack on their reporting of Sherrod's comments as "racist" earlier this week. At Fox News, which played an instrumental role in publicizing the video, a news host even suggested that the network didn't air the story to begin with.

Responding to an NAACP press release in which the activist group said it was "snookered by Fox News and Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart" into believing Sherrod had treated a white couple in a racist manner 24 years ago, Fox's Bret Baier responded: "Fox News didn't even do the story. We didn't do it on Special Report, we posted it online...."

However, MediaMatters has chronicled the extensive coverage given the story on Fox News before it turned out the tape had been edited to make an anecdote about racial reconciliation appear to be a racist rant.

In the wake of the embarrassing scandal, everyone from the White House to the news media is being criticized for its handling. But many prominent voices are now speaking up about what they see as a pattern of disinformation and deceit coming from conservative activist journalists.

"When the right-wing noise machine starts promoting another alleged scandal, you shouldn’t suspect that it’s fake — you should presume that it’s fake, until further evidence becomes available," writes Paul Krugman at the New York Times.

Disturbance Fading

Looks like good news. The weather forecasts show the disturbance fading as it approaches Florida. In Tampa, the folks might not even notice it pass by on Friday, or Saturday.

"Man, Can I Use Your Phone?"

Stranger (S.) approaches me on the street:

S.: Man, can I use your phone? I have this cell phone shell here. See, it's broken. It belongs to a woman I know.

(after much fussing)

M.: It looks like she is not answering the phone call.

S.: She grabbed me by the hair. I have long hair. See? It hurt. And these marks on my hand are from climbing over a fence. See? The marks are in-between the knuckles. If I had hit someone, the marks would have been on the knuckles. But I would never have hit anyone. I just don't do that.

Breitbart's 'Mistake' Isn't A Bug, It's A Feature

Everyone is apologizing to Shirley Sherrod today, even though it should have been clear she hadn't committed a firing offense. All of this drama could have been avoided by following one simple little rule:
Never pay attention to anything Andrew Breitbart produces, or anything that gets air time on FOX News!
Certain rules, if followed, get you through life trouble-free!

Finally Connected A Name With The Number

The dancer I liked so much at the 2010-11 Sacramento Kings Dance Team (SKDT) auditions at Cal Expo on Sunday is #149, Carly Steffenson (second photo in this gallery), who - no surprise there! - will be starting her third season with SKDT. She simply did everything better than anyone else. She really has no peer in the group! She is just awesome!

Yesterday, I was listening to the various interviews of the auditioning dancers on Sacramento Kings television, trying to catch #149's interview. I failed there, but they did ask one dancer what was the wildest thing she had ever done. She stated that she had once dressed in a gorilla outfit in order to startle farm workers picking strawberries in the fields. I thought this answer was a little strange. But, of course, they had to ask, and, of course, she had to answer....

Beware of beautiful women dressed as gorillas in California farm fields....

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Bit Mystified By Mark Williams

I wanted to avoid commenting about Mark Williams' problems, but since he's from Sacramento, I may as well.

Tea Partiers have generally avoided most racist pitfalls. At this year's April 15th Tea party at the California State Capitol, for example, the Tea Partiers mocked liberals for assuming the Tea Partiers were going to stumble into obvious racial traps. The Tea Partiers were going to be above that. They wanted to focus on health care reform and government spending, not race.

Coming from California, Talk radio host Mark Williams should be even more sure-footed than your typical Tea Partier suburbanite, yet he clearly isn't. Why? Has a couple of years in New York altered his thinking? Absent Mexican illegals to focus on, has he turned to savaging blacks? No one made him start using Southern-planter-inspired race rhetoric, so why is he doing so?

Maybe Williams wanted to get satirical, but missed the mark. Wikipedia has a discussion of satire, including this point:
This "militant" irony or sarcasm often professes to approve (or at least accept as natural) the very things the satirist wishes to attack.
If the NAACP or Benjamin Jealous was on the record as promoting a welfarist mentality, Williams might have a point. Unfortunately for Williams, the NAACP is focused on securing civil rights and not on exploiting the welfare system - there is a reason the NAACP is run by lawyers, after all - and so Williams' efforts at satire fall into another category - just offensive.

One must be careful with satire to aim at the correct target:
This week, Williams' accidentally racist chickens have come home to roost. After posting one of his most overtly racist (accidentally, I guess) statements ever to his personal website after the NAACP passed a resolution calling on national tea party leaders like Williams to condemn racist rhetoric seen at tea party rallies in the past, Williams has found himself ostracized by a growing number of tea party groups across the country.

...As the public face of the Tea Party Express, which has helped propel candidates like Nevada Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle to victory this year, Williams represents one of the most establishment-connected groups on the Tea Party circuit. Tea Party Express was founded and is run by Republican operatives, which puts it on par with groups like FreedomWorks.

Before it was cool for tea partiers to publicly endorse Republican candidates, the Tea Party Express was doing it. They're no fringe group of grassroots activists -- these guys are supposed to be the professionals. The group was created by a team of high-level California Republican consultants, and the Tea Party Express' PAC -- Our Country Deserves Better -- still boasts legendary GOP bamboozler and former Rep. Howard Kaloogian as its co-chair, and veteran Republican political consultant Sal Russo as its chief strategist.

...And here's how it sounded when Williams tried to make the point in the form of a fake letter to Abraham Lincoln from NAACP President Benjamin Jealous that Williams posted to his blog:
Perhaps the most racist point of all in the tea parties is their demand that government "stop raising our taxes." That is outrageous! How will we Colored People ever get a wide screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn? Totally racist! The tea party expects coloreds to be productive members of society?

Tropical Storm Developing - Headed Towards Gulf

Right now, the Bermuda High looks like some kind of squash - it's not even round. As a consequence, wind flows are unusually zonal - east to west.

It looks like a tropical storm may develop north of Puerto Rico, cross southern Florida, and head straight towards BP's oil well in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Closest approach to Tampa on Friday; Saturday for BP.

All that onshore flow is going to drive all that oily mousse onto those beautiful north Gulf beaches this weekend.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

2010 California State Fair

Since I'm planning to travel to NM this weekend, I pretty-much had to go to the State Fair this weekend, or forget about it. Usually I go with the DMTC crew, but this year I went by myself, which allowed me to see all the sort of things that the DMTC crew usually pass by.

This year I saw:

Sheep and Pigs: The State Fair is, first and foremost, about farm animals. Nevertheless, I arrived at 4:00 p.m., the brain-boilingest part of the day, and only a few sheep and pigs remained in their pens. They were very, very hot sheep and pigs. There were so few visitors way back amongst the pens that people mistook me for an authority figure (Where is the best place to put the sawdust dumpsters? How about over here? Can you help put a sun shade over this pig? Sure, why not?)

The way you keep your pig happy on a hot afternoon is to water it (water stream from the owner, off-right).

Hot sheep.

A Few Horse Displays: Miniature horses!

Horse kids bows.

Talking to the mini-horse!

Equestrians with flags.

Marc's Second Bungee Jump: Amusement Management International ( sponsored a bungee jump 'ride' at the 2010 California State Fair, and I had to give it a shot!

The camera man is the same fellow who attached my hip harness and leg irons: an exchange student from Kazakhstan. For a fleeting moment, I wondered: "Why has fate worked in such a way that, today, I am placing my life in the hands of a Kazakh exchange student?" But sometimes in life, it is better not to ask too many questions.

That familiar ache I noticed after my first bungee jump at the Kawarau Bridge in Otago, New Zealand: that ache located around the liver, returned! Plus I got a new ache - a crick in the neck. But it was fun, a bit scary, and the thrill of plunging headfirst towards the ground took my mind off the heat for a few minutes. The height was 130' (I think Kawarau was 144'). Lost my sweat cloth afterwards, though.

Step Up Dance Show: I blundered through the heat over to the Promenade Stage and watched Keith Turk and many of the younger kid dancers from the KAST Performing Arts dance studio in Roseville, performing here as the Step Up Dance Show, live! I saw Sherrika and said hi!

Step Up Dance Show on the Promenade Stage (a Bollywood-inspired dance).

KAST performed this salsa dance on the Promenade Stage.

Here are bows.

After the dance show I wandered pointlessly around in the heat, and saw random things. Eventually I realized that there was something going on at the Golden One Stage.... Oh! Keith Turk, Sherrika, and everyone were already over there too. What was going on?

2010-11 Sacramento Kings Dance Team Auditions: At the end of the auditions, the women trying out posed for photos with the Kings Dance Team staff.

Oh! The 2010-11 Sacramento Kings Dance Team Auditions! Oh paradise! Fine, hard work from Sacramento's hardest-working women! According to Sherrika, five or six auditioners were known to her and her crew. I thought I recognized one dancer, but decided I was likely wrong. Three dances were given to be performed, and according to Sherrika, the dancers weren't good at all with the jazz routine. The hip hop routine went well, and I saw the final quick-burlesque routine too. Disaster struck just before the end: one dancer slipped, fell and hurt herself, but she still managed to make tomorrow's callbacks (provided she can walk, poor dear). For the last dance, the dance captain Stephanie gave many instructions regarding the routine - strut with emphasis, to make the routine hot; isolate the rib cage to emphasize the breasts, swivel the hips like this; arch all the way back; etc. Very hard to do it all correctly, with correct rhythm, during a quickly-learned dance. Nevertheless, I noticed only one dancer - #149 - managed to do it all exactly right. I have no idea who she is - tall, serious - I hope to attach a name to the number this week - but she is awesome! My heroine! I hope she makes it onto the team!

Sacramento Kings' coverage:

[Update: And it looks like a decision has been made: ]

Here, in the last of three required dances, Choreographer Stephanie emphasizes body motion.

Here is a quick run through of a portion of the last of three required dances.

After sunset, a stroll on the Midway.

It was hard to choose the best ride (I didn't ride any). I liked the fact that the "Spin Out" ride, which rotated people along two different axes, made people drop two pair of thongs and an iPhone on the rotating metal turntable while I watched. None of the other rides seem to do this. I did notice that they had that other ride (I don't know what they call it, but it's like an ice tray full of people that they spin longitudinally) on the midway (one year I rode it, and heard all the coins hitting the pavement below after falling out of people's pcokets).

Carousel ride (this one was formerly housed at Michael Jackson's Neverland).

Carousel detail.

Ferris Wheel.

Transportation suggestion.

Metal monster.

"Curtains" - Runaway Stage Productions

Left: Michael McElroy.

I joined up with the DMTC crew on Saturday night at the 24th Street Theatre to see Runaway Stage Production's (RSP's) "Curtains." A fine show!

More to come. First impressions. I was struck how, despite a very-skilled and experienced cast, two players were doing their level-best to steal the show: Michael (MikeMac) McElroy, and Kris Farhood.

MikeMac's inspiration for his character was a character named Darren Nichols on a Canadian TV show called "Slings and Arrows". MikeMac has mentioned before how much he liked that TV show (I haven't seen it), and his character really stood out!

Meanwhile, Kris Farhood is a fine dancer, but acting level took a major step up for this show. This is the best I've ever seen her do!

Everyone did a fine job on a sometimes-cramped stage: Andrea St. Clair, Darryl Strohl, Lillian Baxter particularly.


Left: Andrea St. Clair.

Below: Kris Farhood.

DMTC's 2010 Teen Dessert Cabaret

Every year, if feasible, DMTC presents the Teen Cabaret, in order to raise funds for DMTC's two $500 scholarships. Friday night, DMTC presented the 2010 Teen Cabaret.

'We Go Together', from "Grease".

Left to right, first row: Matt F., Maya R., Shannon M., Ashlyn B., and Mary Ellen P.

Second row: Kara S., Sarah G., McKinley C., Petra F., and Ella G.

Third row: Wil F., Brian S., Ashley H., Wyatt M., and Riley H.

'Vanilla Ice Cream', from "She Loves Me" - Petra F.

'Viva L'Amour' - Matthew F., Wil F., Wyatt M., and Brian S.

'Sara Lee' - Foreground, Wyatt M. Background, left to right, Ashlyn B., Sarah G., Shannon M., Petra F., and McKinley C.

'What You'd Call A Dream', from "Diamonds" - Brian S.

'Fabulous Feet', from "The Tap Dance Kid" - Kara S.

'I Could Have Danced All Night', from "My Fair Lady" - Nora U. Soon, Nora will be a student at NYU in NYC.

'I Enjoy Being A Girl', from "Flower Drum Song" - Sarah G.

'Anything You Can Do', from "Annie Get Your Gun" - Ashley and Riley H. I've never seen this song interpreted as sibling rivalry before!

'Anything You Can Do', from "Annie Get Your Gun" - Ashley and Riley H.

'Interplanet Janet', from "Schoolhouse Rock" - Ashlyn B., and Shannon M.

'Someone Like You', from "Jekyll and Hyde" - Maya R.

'Taylor The Latte Boy' - McKinley C.