Friday, October 15, 2010

Ill Health, Apparently

Noticing the ambulance arrive at "Streets of London" I asked: "Who's sick?" They replied: "Didn't you see him? He was sitting inside at a table with his head down. He didn't look healthy and he wasn't just resting his head...."

Monkey Filmmaking

But you know the monkey critics will give it just two bananas:
When Oedipe is complete, the researchers premiere it at the Clermont-Ferrand film festival in France, billing it as the first film ever directed by a monkey. The film is surreal, drawing on imagery from Capucine's favourite films and video games and depicting the monkey's desire to be reunited with her owner.

Oedipe receives mixed reviews - some see it as nothing but "cut and paste" work, others as a stunningly original and modern work of art. Whatever your take on Oedipe, Capucine is one of the more entertaining films I have seen in quite some time.

No Trouble Packing This House!

Fast-talking comedian Robin Williams sold out the Crest Theater in less than 30 minutes today.

"Sold out in 26 minutes," said Sid Heberger, manager of the downtown theater. "Pretty cool."

Tickets went on sale at 10 a.m., drawing a long line to purchase a seat for Sunday's 7:30 p.m. performance.

Meg Had Better Genuflect

L.A. Sheriff Lee Baca takes exception:
Brown has touted Baca's endorsement in pushing back against the Whitman ad. Baca argued that Brown helped to reduce crime as mayor of Oakland while Whitman was on the sidelines.

"For her to discredit Jerry Brown and imply he doesn't have a record -- he has a record," Baca said. "Where was Meg Whitman when we needed her?"

Baca, a Republican who often endorses both candidates in a race, also said that Whitman had never called him to seek his endorsement, which seemed to annoy him.
"If President Bush can call me for an endorsement, and Al Gore can call me for an endorsement, and John McCain can call me for an endorsement... I think if you're running for governor of California, you ought to call me," Baca said.

Less Than A Week Away

Not fun.

One Enormous Chicken Coming Home To Roost

D-day points at the asteroid about to hit the economy:
L.Randall Wray calls it the biggest scandal in human history, and something he’s been aware of for the past several years:
We have long known that lender fraud was rampant during the real estate boom. The FBI began warning of an “epidemic” of mortgage fraud as early as 2004. We know that mortgage originators invented “low doc” and “no doc” loans, encouraged borrowers to take out “liar loans”, and promoted “NINJA loans” (no income, no job, no assets, no problem!). All of these schemes were fraudulent from the get-go. Property appraisers were involved, paid to overvalue real estate. That is fraud. The securitizers packaged trash into bundles that ratings agencies blessed with the triple A seal of approval. By their own admission, raters worked with securitizers to provide the rating desired, never looking at the loan tapes to see what they were rating. Fraud. Venerable investment banks like Goldman Sachs packaged the trashiest securities into collateralized debt obligations at the behest of hedge fund managers–who were allowed to choose the most toxic of the toxic waste—then sold the CDOs on to their own customers and allowed the hedge funds to bet against them. More fraud [...]

Now we know that it was not just the mortgage brokers, and the appraisers, and the ratings agencies, and the accountants, and the investment banks that were behind the fraud. It was the securitization process itself that was fraudulent. Indeed, the securities themselves are fraudulent. Many, perhaps most, maybe all of them.
...The foreclosure fraud is merely the last link in this chain, the final fraud that the banks hoped could get these toxic assets (we didn’t know how toxic) off the books. They got caught.

And yet, the banksters who committed these atrocities, who crashed the economy once and now maybe twice, who brought untold suffering upon millions if not tens of millions, think you punks are to blame:
Wall Street’s reaction to the allegations that some banks cut corners while foreclosing on 3 million homes since 2007: Pay your mortgage in the first place [...]

“If you didn’t pay your mortgage, you shouldn’t be in your house. Period. People are getting upset about something that’s just procedural,” said Walter Todd, portfolio manager at Greenwood Capital Associates.

Some said the issue is one of personal responsibility for one’s own debts.

“Everyone’s responsible for following the law. If we all don’t have to pay our mortgage, should we just stop paying taxes, too?” said Anton Schutz, president of Mendon Capital Advisers. “Your mortgage didn’t get to a robo-signer by accident, it’s because you’re not paying.”
That could be the most arrogant article I’ve ever seen in an American newspaper. These ingrates think they shouldn’t dare be challenged. And the line “everyone’s responsible for following the law” in the context of making excuses for not following the law is pretty rich.

...The “pay your mortgage” argument has even less resonance when you realize that the servicers routinely broke the law that demands they work with the borrower to avoid foreclosures. This is hard-wired into every servicing agreement, and they simply ignore it, preferring to collect fees on the foreclosure. There’s not one step in the process where the servicers weren’t criminally negligent, from predatory lending to document fraud and robo-signing, and every single step in between. Spare me the moralizing.

The banksters may try to lash out their customers, but the investors know the score. The banks ruined the housing market, to sum it up. In addition to bank stocks falling rapidly yesterday, credit default swaps for banks are skyrocketing. Nobody wants to insure them.

...Rosner sees the potential for a Lehman-type collapse as investors try to jam the banks with the faulty MBS, all of which could be called into question. I laughed at one analyst’s prediction that this would result in just $10 billion in losses. Maybe on the first day.

More Bloodletting On The YouTube Frontier

Got a message from K.B. indicating I should pull down her video ASAP. And so I did.

Barney Missing

Message from Steve Isaacson:
Our gardeners left the gate open and our little black dog, Barney, got out in South Davis. Please if you have any info email me ASAP ( He is about 11 pounds, very friendly, no collar, but he is microchipped...smooth black fur with a white patch on his chest.
Hoping the best for Barney!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Free Bill!

Image from TheManWithThePlan at B3ta.

What's Up With Greta Gerwig?

Another step forward:
Greta Gerwig and Adam Brody are starring in Castle Rock's "Damsels in Distress," Whit Stillman's first movie since 1998's "The Last Days of Disco."

The movie revolves around a group of style-obsessed college girls who take in a new student (Gerwig) and teach her their misguided ways of helping people at their grungy university, sort of "Mean Girls" filtered through the lens of the filmmaker behind such urbane indie dramas as "Barcelona," "Metropolitan" and "Disco."

The crux of the story is focused on the relationship between Gerwig's character and a suitor (Brody), whom the girls are taken with but have doubts over his intentions.

Shooting is under way.

Gerwig, repped by UTA and Caliber, starred opposite Ben Stiller in "Greenberg" and recently shot "Arthur," the Russell Brand-starring remake of the 1981 comedy.

Brody, repped by UTA, last appeared in "Cop Out." He has ensemble dramedy "The Oranges," co-starring Hugh Laurie and Catherine Keener, in the can and recently wrapped "Scream 4."

Loon Watch

Demented-looking fellow peers around the corner and steps in front of the door to Office Max. Automatic door opens. Man cackles and retreats. Automatic door shuts. Man peers around corner again. Door opens. Man laughs and talks to invisible troll behind door. Door shuts.

Stumbled Across A Comstock's Magazine Photo Shoot On J Street

Even the suits need to be stars sometimes!

Ishi Mural

I hadn't stopped at the gas station at 24th & Broadway for awhile, and when I did I noticed that there was now a mural on the business located next door. The business has been empty most of the year, but had been showing signs recently of reopening soon. This new mural looked strange and mystical, so I took a photo.

"That's Ishi," said a young man on a bicycle who appeared mysteriously behind me. "The last of California's wild Indians. It took the painter 2 1/2 weeks to paint that mural!" Then the young man bicycled off....

Peripatetic Whale

On the move! But I'm wondering: there was that grey whale recently that ended up off the coast of Israel. Maybe these long trips are more common than we realize:
LONDON — It wasn't love. It could have been adventure. Or maybe she just got lost. It remains a mystery why a female humpback whale swam thousands of miles from the reefs of Brazil to the African island of Madagascar, which researchers believe is the longest single trip ever undertaken by a mammal -- humans excluded.

While humpbacks normally migrate along a north-to-south axis to feed and mate, this one -- affectionately called AHWC No. 1363 -- made the unusual decision to check out a new continent thousands of miles to the east.

...Stevick laid out the details of the whale's trip on Wednesday in the Royal Society's Biology Letters, calculating that, at a minimum, the whale must have traveled about 6,200 miles to get from Brazil to Madagascar, off the coast of east Africa.

"No other mammal has been seen to move between two places that are further apart," said Stevick, who works at the Maine-based College of the Atlantic. And while he said "the distance alone would make it exceptional no matter where it had gone," there was an added element of interest.

Humpbacks are careful commuters, taking the same trip from cold waters where they hunt plankton, fish and krill to warm waters where they mingle and mate "year after year after year," he said. The location of their feeding and breeding spots sometimes varies, but their transoceanic commute doesn't usually change much.

Swapping a breeding ground in Brazil for one in Madagascar was previously unheard of.

"That's almost 90 degrees of longitude -- so a quarter of the way around the globe," Stevick said. "Not only is this an exception, but it's a really remarkable exception at that."

Paula's Peregrinations

Today, Paula is skating along the northwestern coast of Cuba, and heading for the Keys. The NOGAPS model forecast for the next week is that Paula will make a loop, by travelling across the southern tip of Florida into the Bahamas, weaken considerably, reverse direction, and then return to Florida as a remnant low, and travel up the eastern Florida coast. So, nearly the entire Florida coast from Ft. Myers to Cape Canaveral will be affected by Paula in one way or another as it makes its journey over the next week.

NOGAPS also forecasts that there will be another storm in the pipeline that follows a similar path to Paula and travels northwards from the Caribbean Sea. I’m hoping that this storm, hypothetical so far, never actually generates. As noted before, NOGAPS has a weakness in that it allows it to spawn tropical storms too readily, so there are some grounds for hope.

Taking A Stab At A "Lake Pirates" Explanation

The "Lake Pirates" story is one of the strangest of the year. The lack of trust between the American and Mexican authorities is palpable and is complicating efforts to get to the bottom of it.

These folks have at least taken a stab at an explanation. It wouldn't surprise me if the real story is far weirder:
The STRATFOR report (subscription required) suggests that because the truck the couple was driving had Tamaulipas, Mexico plates (the Hartleys had lived in Reynosa, Mexico before moving to McAllen, Texas five months ago), and then had set out on their jet skis toward a "known battleground" in the war between Los Zetas and Gulf cartels, "it is possible that Zetas scouts identified them as a Gulf Cartel surveillance team."
STRATFOR sources say Los Zetas scouts, known as halcones, had identified the Hartleys' truck as it made its way to Falcon Lake and watched the two set out on their Jet Skis toward the Old Guerrero region. Both Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas operatives have been known to conduct surveillance and countersurveillance operations on personal watercraft, so these scouts thus identified the Hartleys as possible Gulf surveillance assets, given their vehicle's license plate and their method and direction of travel on Falcon Lake. Their description and position was radioed to Los Zetas members on the Mexican side of the lake, after which the couple was apparently confronted by Zetas enforcers.Tiffany Hartley has said the couple attempted to get away when they saw the boats approaching, and STRATFOR suggests that this action "prompted the men to open fire."
The STRATFOR report also suggests that Los Zetas are in the midst of a "damage control campaign" to "to identify and eliminate those who engaged the Hartleys without proper authorization." The report also cites sources saying that after Hartley was identified as an American, his body was destroyed the same day, to avoid backlash from the U.S. government. Nevertheless, the case has received a large amount of attention, partly because of Tiffany Hartley's omnipresence on national television in the days since. The report suggests that "the decapitation of Flores Villegas was a stern signal to both the United States and Mexico that no body will be produced and to leave the situation alone."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Getting Slapped Around By Duffy

Interesting! I just received a DMCA Cease and Desist Order regarding a post I made of a YouTube video in May, 2008, of a song by Duffy called "Syrup & Honey". It's a very sweet video. Maybe just a little too sweet.....

Interesting that it took them more than two years to get around to it. It's not even my video!

What do you do when a young, pint-sized Welsh woman suddenly comes charging at you, nails a-slashin'? My instinct is to roll over and ask her to scratch my tummy....

Message From Cancun

The message from down south states:
All was good in Cancun last night. A little rain, no wind!
That’s wonderful to hear!

My own forecast was a bit unsatisfactory. I was worried mostly about the path; less so with the timing. The storm was moving faster than I realized, but I could have caught that if I’d paid closer attention. And I’m very happy the storm turned as it approached (it had been making almost a straight line for you!)

Hurricane parties are better when there isn’t much of a hurricane to worry about.

The Folks In Cancun Got Lucky

I feel like I blew the forecast on this. I didn't forsee the storm turning the way it did, and I didn't understand how fast it was moving.

Nevertheless, the news is good, so far. Cancun was largely-spared:
CANCUN, Mexico (AP) — Hurricane Paula roared off Mexico's top vacation resort of Cancun on Wednesday without immediate reports of major damage, and it was projected to veer into western Cuba's cigar-producting country.

The Category 2 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph, swiped at the island of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres overnight during its northward trek. Late Wednesday morning, the storm was centered about 80 miles southeast of Cabo Catoche on the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Paula was expected to shift to the northeast and weaken slightly on a course that would carry it into western Cuba by Wednesday night or early Thursday. The center said a tropical storm watch has been issued along a swath through the Florida Keys.

...There were no immediate reports of major problems in Cancun or other resort areas. Quintana Roo state officials said they could guarantee the security of all 27,000 tourists currently in the state during the October offseason.

"We can declare the coasts completely out of danger," Quintana Roo Gov. Felix Gonzalez said. "The hurricane is leaving, and we can lift the red alert."

He said some 1,500 islanders evacuated from Isla Holbox would return home Wednesday along with 60 fishermen from Isla Contoy. Transportation resumed to Cozumel, where there were about 1,800 tourists, after being suspended overnight.

Quintana Roo state prosecutors said a U.S. man drowned when he went swimming in heavy surf near his hotel. Mickey Goodwin, a 54-year-old Texas resident, ignored warnings and red flags alerting to dangerous waters, authorities said in a statement.

In Cancun, more than 20 domestic and international flights had been canceled.

Dozens of boat owners in Cancun had hauled yachts and other vessels to shore, while sea tour operators canceled reservations. Along Cancun's popular strip of night clubs and discotheques, workers took down billboards and other large objects ahead of heavy winds.
The current forecast is interesting. It shows Paula following a looping trajectory and essentially stalling along the northwestern Cuban coast for days, dissipating somewhat, then reforming a bit and resuming its northward journey into the Gulf of Mexico. (Tampa is likely to get at least some showers at some point from all this.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

No Experience Necessary

Reductio ad absurdum of the Housing Bubble:
NEW YORK (AP) -- In an effort to rush through thousands of home foreclosures since 2007, financial institutions and their mortgage servicing departments hired hair stylists, Walmart floor workers and people who had worked on assembly lines and installed them in "foreclosure expert" jobs with no formal training, a Florida lawyer says.

In depositions released Tuesday, many of those workers testified that they barely knew what a mortgage was. Some couldn't define the word "affidavit." Others didn't know what a complaint was, or even what was meant by personal property. Most troubling, several said they knew they were lying when they signed the foreclosure affidavits and that they agreed with the defense lawyers' accusations about document fraud.

"The mortgage servicers hired people who would never question authority," said Peter Ticktin, a Deerfield Beach, Fla., lawyer who is defending 3,000 homeowners in foreclosure cases. As part of his work, Ticktin gathered 150 depositions from bank employees who say they signed foreclosure affidavits without reviewing the documents or ever laying eyes on them -- earning them the name "robo-signers."

The deposed employees worked for the mortgage service divisions of banks such as Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase, as well as for mortgage servicers like Litton Loan Servicing, a division of Goldman Sachs.

Ticktin said he would make the testimony available to state and federal agencies that are investigating financial institutions for allegations of possible mortgage fraud. This comes on the eve of an expected announcement Wednesday from 40 state attorneys general that they will launch a collective probe into the mortgage industry.

"This was an industrywide scheme designed to defraud homeowners," Ticktin said.

Purse Cake

Yesterday at Step One, Mikki served everyone a cake she had bought at a cake auction. The cake was created by a 12-year-old named Emma whose mom 'works at CALPERS'.

Now this is an interesting, functional cake. I bet it has numerous hidden compartments....

Folks In Cancun Want To Know About Paula

An appeal from the tropics is relayed to me:
I'm in Cancun with a large group I booked & many were flying in tomorrow. Can you ask your friend the truth about Paula & what she is going to do to the Cancun area.
It looks as if there is slightly contradictory information on Paula. I am most comfortable with the satellite picture guidance, which shows the storm heading almost directly towards Cancun. I tend to discount model guidance (not enough weather information is available to them in the Caribbean at this small scale to make them totally reliable guides).

My guess is that the eye of Paula will pass just east of Cancun very early on Thursday morning. It will be almost a direct hit, so considerable caution is required. Winds will likely be in the 50/60 mph range, and there will be heavy rain. For a tourist, Thursday will be a lost day. One favorable element is that the storm is fairly small by tropical storm standards, so a direct hit is required for maximum damage.

Here is what I glean from the Internet:
(I’m using this link for reference – ignore any security certificate warning)

The COAMPS regional model suggests that Paula will make a direct hit on Cozumel while travelling northwest, and plunging into the Yucatan Peninsula. So, they will see the 85 knot winds, high surf, and all the rest.

At Cancun, winds will pick up starting about midnight, Thursday morning, and there will be heavy rain all Thursday morning long. Nevertheless, winds should be less there than at Cozumel. Still, at 40 knots, they will be significant. So, Wednesday morning will be a bad day to be a tourist in Cancun. Windy and rainy. Not devastating, though.

In contrast, the NOGAPS model shows Paula remaining offshore, with the storm already having made closest approach by Wednesday midnight. So, the models disagree with each other right now.

Current satellite pictures suggest a direct hit on both Cozumel and Cancun as the storm travels from south to north. So Cancun may get the worst of what is actually a pretty small storm.

National Hurricane Center suggests the storm will be beginning to weaken when it passes Cancun, so winds will be around 80 mph, tops, with 50 knots more likely in Cancun.

Weather Underground says the following:
at 400 PM CDT...2100 UTC...the eye of Hurricane Paula was located
near latitude 19.2 north...longitude 86.0 west. Paula is moving
toward the north-northwest near 9 mph...15 km/hr...but a turn to the
north is expected tonight and Wednesday. On this track the core of
Paula should reach the Yucatan Channel on Wednesday and be over
western Cuba Wednesday night or early Thursday.

Maximum sustained winds are near 100 mph...160 km/hr...with higher
gusts. Paula is a category two hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson
hurricane wind scale. Some slight strengthening is possible tonight
and Wednesday...but a gradual weakening should begin thereafter.
Paula is a small hurricane. Hurricane force winds extend outward up
to 15 miles...30 km...from the center...and tropical storm force
winds extend outward up to 60 miles...95 km.

Estimated minimum central pressure is 981 mb...28.97 inches.

Paula May Be Aiming At Southern Florida

Current forecasts suggest that Paula now has a sense of direction, with landfall in the Naples area around midnight, Thursday night/ Friday morning. So far it looks OK in Tampa, but the storm is strengthening, so it needs careful attention. A hurricane a short distance away always requires attention.

"Stockholm Syndrome" Affects Historical Reenactor

Getting just a little too close to his subject!

Historical reenactors do us all a favor by bringing us closer to the past, but without a strong moral center, one can end up sympathizing with one's subject. It's a similar condition to "Stockholm Syndrome", where kidnap victims end up sympathizing more with the kidnappers than law enforcement.

Iott is wrong in several respects. During WWII, Americans did sit down and make judgements and take action against the Nazis. In response, Patton's army, among others, invaded Germany, and my father, among others, fired artillery at the Nazis. And as to why they fought Nazis rather than Communists, it was because the Nazis posed a far bigger threat. War ultimately proved unnecessary to dislodge the Communists: not so the Nazis:
Iott defended the members of the unit, who he said "wanted to fight what they saw as a bigger threat to them than Germany," so they joined up with the Nazis to fight the eastern front of the war against Soviet forces. "I don't think we can sit here and judge that today. We weren't there the time they made those decisions," he said.

Iott called "what happened in Germany during the second World War one of "the low points in human history," but defended the Wiking Division when Cooper referred to them as collaborators: "I don't know that I would put that label on them. They were doing what they thought was right for their country. And they were going out and fighting what they thought was a bigger, you know, a bigger evil."
What are the key characteristics of "Stockholm Syndrome"?:
  • Hostages who develop Stockholm syndrome often view the perpetrator as giving life by simply not taking it. In this sense, the captor becomes the person in control of the captive’s basic needs for survival and the victim’s life itself.
  • The hostage endures isolation from other people and has only the captor’s perspective available. Perpetrators routinely keep information about the outside world’s response to their actions from captives to keep them totally dependent.
  • The hostage taker threatens to kill the victim and gives the perception of having the capability to do so. The captive judges it safer to align with the perpetrator, endure the hardship of captivity, and comply with the captor than to resist and face murder.
  • The captive sees the perpetrator as showing some degree of kindness. Kindness serves as the cornerstone of Stockholm syndrome; the condition will not develop unless the captor exhibits it in some form toward the hostage. However, captives often misinterpret a lack of abuse as kindness and may develop feelings of appreciation for this perceived benevolence. If the captor is purely evil and abusive, the hostage will respond with hatred. But, if perpetrators show some kindness, victims will submerge the anger they feel in response to the terror and concentrate on the captors’ “good side” to protect themselves.

Historical reenactment has brought Mr. Iott nothing but praise to this point, and there is no physical danger, so one can see why he might develop an attachment to the Nazis. But it's a demanding hobby, requiring many hours of work, and partly as a result, he may be a little too isolated for his own good.

Stumbling Towards The Real Crisis

TARP (I) was nothing. The economy's real plummet point -it's Niagara Falls, if you will - is coming into sight just now. Just who owns all these properties, worth trillions of dollars, securitized between 2002-08? No one knows! Procedures weren't followed and the banks clouded the titles! It's a lawyer's dream come true!

A second bank bailout, larger than the first, would be required just to cope with the foreclosure crisis, but would one even be feasible? The Obama Administration has always assumed it's best to keep existing banks afloat, but it may be better, after all, to simply decimate them and start over:
White House advisor David Axelrod's attempt over the weekend to minimize the foreclosure mess as mere paperwork "mistakes" was a massive misrepresentation of what's really going on. With Democratic politicians across the country calling for a nationwide foreclosure moratorium, Obama's reluctance to get out in front of the issue, so far, is yet another public relations disaster. Even if a national moratorium is not the right solution to an incredibly complex problem, the White House needs to be articulating, now, exactly how it intends to tackle this monster.

...But the key facts are these: In the process of making mortgage loans, transferring ownership of those loans, slicing and dicing them into securities and, finally, initiating foreclosure proceedings on loans in default, banks, lenders and mortgage servicers engaged in illegal activity on a large scale. The legally mandated procedures put into place to ensure that no errors are ever made with respect to the transfer of property simply weren't followed. Key documents necessary to prove ownership -- to prove that a bank, for example, has the legal right to begin foreclosure proceedings, cannot be located and may not even exist.

Whether you want to dismiss this debacle as a concatenation of paperwork errors made while seeking economies of scale, or out-and-out calculated fraud by the mortgage industry against homeowners, is in some ways an irrelevant game of semantics. When legally mandated procedures aren't followed, courts get upset, investors start wondering if they've been sold a bill of goods, and the litigation floodgates fly open. Bank of America and GMAC and other lenders have declared their own foreclosure moratoriums because they have suddenly realized that they are looking at potentially devastating legal liabilities.

Progressives can be excused for feeling an almost unlimited sense of schadenfreude at the suddenly scrambling banks. For many people, on the left and right, there would be nothing more pleasurable than the sight of, say, Citigroup, bankrupted by a sea of mortgage-related lawsuits. It is also of course enormously important to take advantage of this opportunity to completely rethink the government's approach to the foreclosure crisis, and find a way to keep people in their homes with mortgages that are more appropriate to their current financial wherewithal. By itself, however, a national foreclosure moratorium isn't going achieve that -- it will just postpone resolution of the problem, and in the process conceivably create some dangerous new risks.

And here's where Obama's problem lies. The foreclosure crisis isn't just about banks playing fast and loose with people's homes. The recklessness with which banks and mortgage servicers handled their business has thrown into question the entire architecture of securities assembled from mortgages. All that toxic waste just turned a Hungarian sludge shade of bright flashing orange. If and when the owners of those securities start their own legal actions or demand that the issuers of the securities take them back, the biggest financial institutions in the United States will once again teeter on the brink -- and threaten to bring all the rest of us down with them. There are systemic risk implications to this "paperwork" lollapalooza.

The Trouble With Fresno's Business Climate....

Is trusting a rock star with anything:
Developer Milt Barbis and two companies associated with building Fresno's Cabo Wabo Cantina have filed a federal lawsuit that blames rocker Sammy Hagar and others for the demise of the short-lived restaurant and nightclub.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Fresno, seeks close to $589 million from Hagar, his Red Head Inc., two other businesses and an individual.

...Barbis' lawsuit describes a disastrous and chaotic string of events from the moment the contract was signed to open one of Hagar's Cabo Wabo cantinas at Granite Park.

It paints Hagar as an arrogant tyrant who threatened Barbis and micromanaged the design and construction of the cantina, which resulted in millions of dollars in cost overruns.

When Barbis asked why he couldn't use the beer and tequila that was most profitable, Hagar allegedly replied: "Because I [expletive] said so. I'm a hall of fame rock star. I can do what I want."

...Still, it was Cabo Wabo that sparked the development of Granite Park's business side. Nine additional tenants signed on, the suit says, based on Cabo Wabo being the anchor tenant.

Soon, however, Hagar and an associate were dictating construction details down to where plants and trees outside the building should be located. Hagar then demanded construction be halted for a major building change -- a 40-foot-high lighthouse on Cabo Wabo's exterior wall. Those demands delayed construction by nine months, the suit says.

...The cantina opened on Aug. 28, 2008. Hagar was supposed to appear, but contract disputes delayed his appearance. He demanded new contracts, the suit said, and a two-night appearance for around $18,500 became one night for $28,000.

Hagar played at the new club on Oct. 28, 2008. By December, the club closed after Hagar terminated the license. In January 2009, Red Head Inc. filed a lawsuit against Barbis' Fresno Rock Taco, calling Fresno's Cabo Wabo "a disaster."

I Rave U

I most humbly beg permission to join the ensemble, please.

Early Halloween

The Living Dead:
Former Vice President Dick Cheney is rebounding from five weeks in the hospital this summer, and plans about 10 stops on the speaking circuit in coming months – along with some hunting trips as well, according to friends.

Cheney spent much of the summer at Inova Fairfax Heart and Vascular Institute, a stay that was prolonged by a bout of pneumonia. He had a left ventricular assist device implanted, a pump that is used in dire cases, and that can be used as a bridge to a heart transplant.
And witches:

I Don't See The Humor

Researcher Dr Lesley Harbidge of Glamorgan University said: "The Lifetime of Laughter Scale shows that there really is a law of diminishing returns when it comes to laughter.

"We laugh twice as much in our teens as we do in our fifties. And our findings suggest that it's all downhill from 52.”

The study found that while an infant can laugh aloud as many as 300 times every day, life rapidly becomes far less fun.

As Harry Enfield’s Kevin and Perry so deftly depicted, things soon change. While teenagers are the age group most likely to laugh at other people’s misfortunes, they laugh on average just six times a day.

Things get even bleaker in what should be the relatively carefree twenties, when we laugh four times a day.

This rises to five times a day throughout the thirties, when having children is cited as a major factor in restoring a sense of humour.

By the time we reach 50, Brits are laughing just three times a day, while the average 60-year-old manages a hearty guffaw just 2.5 times in the same period.

To add insult to injury, the study suggests that the art of joke telling is on the wane.

It found that most Brits are only able to tell two jokes but more than 600 of the 2,000 questioned cannot remember telling a joke in the last twelve months.

...The study, commissioned for TV station Dave, found that those over the age of 50 were more likely to complain and spend time worrying than their younger counterparts.

It found that they have written an average of 2.9 letters of complaint in the last year alone, rising to 3.5 for the over sixties, compared to just 1.8 by those in their twenties. Those aged over 50 are also far more likely to have experienced a dispute with a neighbour.

The age group also spends the longest time – an average of one hour and 41 minutes – worrying every day, with money pinpointed as the biggest concern closely followed by health.

One Year On

On October 11, 2009, I broke a tendon in the left ankle area. Still thinking about having it attended to....

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tropical Storm Paula

Current forecasts show Tropical Storm Paula slowly heading north, and then stalling, remaining in a sort of purgatory somewhere west of Key West, for days and days and days, before slowly moving north again. That’s very unusual behavior for a tropical storm. So, we’ll have to keep an eye on it.

Dannette Slings It Right Back!

Just too funny!

A Trip To Wal-Mart

Gawd, what am I doing here?

Besides low prices, the general theme here seems to be fecundity. Everywhere I look, there are babies, or infants, or small children, or larger children. And even where there are adults, like the proud-looking Muslim man dressed all in white, he is being led around the store by his tween-aged son.

Even where fecundity isn't the theme, the exception proves the rule. In the birth-control aisle, four teenagers, age about 16, eye the merchandise. The two boys loudly compare the merits of the merchandise: the two girls silently shift their weight from one leg to the other in uncomfortable silence. Things are more-open now than in the days of my parents, which may be a good thing - a certain practicality - but there is also a certain loss too, as evinced by the romantic, fluorescent lighting here at Wal-Mart on a Sunday evening.

They have wine here for $1.97 a bottle! Two-Buck Chuck is still Two-Buck Chuck at Wal-Mart! Of course, there is a surfeit of wine in the world. As mentioned in another blogpost, the problem is particularly acute in Australia, but it's bad everywhere. How do you make any money at all with these low prices? The bottle alone is probably worth two dollars....

"Burn The Floor"

Loved this amazing ballroom dance Broadway extravaganza! Dark, and percussive!

Even without looking at the program, I could tell the creative team was unlikely to be Californian, or even American, despite the many American references. It wasn't just the style (International, not American).

Lots of Latin dancing, by athletic people who know how to do it. Lots of bare-chested, short-haired men with loose-fitting shirts. Not much Tango, and virtually no West Coast Swing at all - essentially zero. The absences were telling. I would have guessed an Australian synthesis, and apparently that is the case.

It's funny how you can just SENSE that Southern Pacific vibe, and know that Californians would have done things differently!

Vive l'difference!


Dennis de Laat - Sound Of Violence (Main Mix)

My understanding is that this was the soundtrack in the discotheque sequence of "The Social Network".


Watched this movie on DVD. Here, Sacha Baron Cohen's efforts to shock did not seem quite so successful as with 2006's "Borat", maybe because, despite the different material, it followed the same playbook too closely. Plus, people are trying so hard to be tolerant and gay-friendly these days, even in America's remotest backwaters. In order to shock, you really have to be offensive, and thereby go past the point of comedy.

Still, there is one priceless scene, where Brüno adopts an African baby and brings him on a local, Jerry-Springeresque TV show, in front of a largely African-American audience completely prepared for any sort of sleaze, and nevertheless manages, with ruthless skill, to hit - Every. Single. Hot. Button. But there, it's the endless possibilities offered by the collision of race, homosexuality, celebrity, and nationality that provides the fodder, not just the gay schtick.

Here are a few interesting trivia points offered by imdb:
An interview with La Toya Jackson was hastily cut from the theatrical release due after the unexpected death of Michael Jackson at age 50. The segment, seen among the DVD's deleted scenes, contains a joke which refers to Michael as someone Bruno wants to meet with, rendering the line anachronistic with Michael's death.

The sequence where Bruno enrolled at the Alabama National Guard, filmed at the Alabama Military Academy in Fort McClellan, Anniston, went undetected until a young cadet who recognized him from Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006), notified elder officers who were unfamiliar with the actor.

Ayman Abu Aita, the man depicted as a terrorist, has expressed his intent to sue Sacha Baron Cohen for depicting him as a terrorist falsely, lying to him about the interview telling him he's interested in the Palestinian cause while he's a Christian charity worker who spent eight years in Israeli jails.

Sacha Baron Cohen and his crew reportedly illegally accessed a fashion show in Milan using fake IDs. After he entered the stage, the lights were dimmed and Baron Cohen was escorted out of the fashion show by security.

Russian Roulette

E.: MMMMMAAAAARRRRCCCC! We were drinking the other night, so we decided to play "Russian Roulette".

M.: Please explain to me in more detail about this game.

E.: We take a wine bottle, set it in-between us, spin it around, and we have to kiss whoever the bottle points at.

M.: I think they call that game "Spin the Bottle".

E.: We call it "Russian Roulette". It was funny: as soon as they heard we were playing, one of our couples got nervous, and left.

M.: I wonder why?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

"The Social Network"

The fellow behind me in line at the ticket booth hissed "I don't want to see 'The Social Network': it's patronizing!"

So, I spent the movie trying to figure out precisely what he meant......

I guess the idea is that if you think everyone is into Facebook, and you make a Facebook movie, the same way if you think everyone is into car chases, and you make a car chase movie, then maybe you are being patronizing by doing so. But this movie is so much more than that! The dialogue flies at Mach 1, so even if you miss parts of it (and you will), you can still catch the gist of what's going on. And slowly, almost imperceptibly, the story moves from the opaque particular (computer programming) to the the crystal-clear universal (betrayed friendship).

I wondered how a Harvard alum from the past might view this movie. What would someone like JFK think? The places and locales would be so, so familiar, and the social interaction too, but the dialogue would be utterly mysterious and strange. The world HAS changed that much, and in such a very short time!

And this is very recent history indeed; starting towards the end of 2003! I find it a bit disturbing that this blog is older than Facebook. As Ebert mentions below, I also noticed that the audience I was sitting with was very, very interested in the movie!

Other reviews make interesting points. For example, Craig Kennedy:
Jesse Eisenberg is the brilliant yet arrogant social misfit Mark Zuckerberg who, along with Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), combined the opposing forces of exclusivity and ubiquity into a cutting edge hook-up service for the Ivy League that was quickly transformed into a worldwide, multi-billion dollar phenomenon. Using the timeless launching point of boys who just want to connect with girls, Sorkin’s script takes a multi-threaded approach to the inevitable drama, jumping back and forth in time between the rocket ship rise of Facebook, the different lawsuits that would ultimately spring up as soon as money became involved, and ultimately the sad decline of a friendship. In the end, everyone gets rich, but no one seems very happy about it.

...The danger in such a character is that he isn’t very likable nor especially interesting as a human being. Part of the genius of Sorkin’s script however is that he frequently plays this unlikable social incompetent against the Winklevoss brothers (Armie Hammer in both roles), a pair of overprivileged jock frat boys who accuse Zuckerberg of stealing their idea and who are even less likable. By comparison, it’s much easier to pull for the nerd.

Garfield’s Eduardo meanwhile counterpoints the intensity of Zuckerberg. He’s softer, more handsome and more nuanced than his best friend. He’s not the same kind of genius, but he’s still smart and has a firmer grasp on the big picture. Plus he’s got the money to back up the brains. Garfield combines the nervous excitement of success with a quiet sensitivity and a growing fear that he’s a lesser player in the whole scenario.

The other key performance in The Social Network is Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker, the Napster creator who became involved in Facebook as it was just starting to get the attention of the moneymen in Palo Alto. If you haven’t made the leap already, it’s time to take Timberlake seriously as an actor. He’s fantastic as the fast-talking, charming and slightly devious character who manages to pull Zuckerberg into his orbit by sheer force of personality. What Timberlake brings to the screen here is a lifetime removed from The Mickey Mouse Club and ‘N Sync.
Roger Ebert also says interesting stuff:
David Fincher's film has the rare quality of being not only as smart as its brilliant hero, but in the same way. It is cocksure, impatient, cold, exciting and instinctively perceptive.

It hurtles through two hours of spellbinding dialogue. It makes an untellable story clear and fascinating. It is said to be impossible to make a movie about a writer, because how can you show him only writing? It must also be impossible to make a movie about a computer programmer, because what is programming but writing in a language few people in the audience know? Yet Fincher and his writer, Aaron Sorkin, are able to explain the Facebook phenomenon in terms we can immediately understand, which is the reason 500 million of us have signed up.

...Zuckerberg may have had the insight that created Facebook, but he didn't do it alone in a room, and the movie gets a narration by cutting between depositions for lawsuits. Along the way, we get insights into the pecking order at Harvard, a campus where ability joins wealth and family as success factors. We meet the twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer), rich kids who believe Zuckerberg stole their "Harvard Connection" in making Facebook. We meet Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), Zuckerberg's roommate and best (only) friend, who was made CFO of the company, lent it the money that it needed to get started and was frozen out. And most memorably we meet Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the founder of two legendary web startups, Napster and Plaxo.

It is the mercurial Parker, just out of work but basked in fame and past success, who grabbed Zuckerberg by the ears and pulled him into the big time. He explained why Facebook needed to move to Silicon Valley. Why more money would come from venture capitalists than Eduardo would ever raise with his hat-in-hand visits to wealthy New Yorkers. And he tried, not successfully, to introduce Zuckerberg into the fast lane: big offices, wild parties, women, the availability of booze and cocaine.

...In an age when movie dialogue is dumbed and slowed down to suit slow-wits in the audience, the dialogue here has the velocity and snap of screwball comedy. Eisenberg, who has specialized in playing nice or clueless, is a heat-seeking missile in search of his own goals. Timberlake pulls off the tricky assignment of playing Sean Parker as both a hot shot and someone who engages Zuckerberg as an intellectual equal. Andrew Garfield evokes an honest friend who is not the right man to be CFO of the company that took off without him, but deserves sympathy.

"The Social Network" is a great film not because of its dazzling style or visual cleverness, but because it is splendidly well-made. Despite the baffling complications of computer programming, web strategy and big finance, Aaron Sorkin's screenplay makes it all clear, and we don't follow the story so much as get dragged along behind it. I saw it with an audience that seemed wrapped up in an unusual way: It was very, very interested.
Justin Timberlake is AMAZING as Sean Parker, aka Satan. What does the Bible say about Satan?:
Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, Yes, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 2 And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die. 4 And the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die: 5 For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
That tempter, the one that shall be as a god, that's Justin Timberlake's Sean Parker! What an excellent acting job!

Andrew Garfield is also amazing as Eduardo Saverin. He tries to be the moral center of a highly amoral story, and gets pushed aside.

Imdb has interesting and important anachronisms and trivia regarding the movie:
The events of the film take place in 2003 and 2004. However, most of the computers in the film are running Windows XP Service Pack 3, which was not released until 2008.

The deejay at the 2003 party is mixing with a music software called Serato Scratch Live, which did not get released until May of 2004.

During the Valentine's Day a cappella performance the girl checking her email remarks that she hopes the links she's being sent come from 'Cats That Look Like Hitler' the scene takes place in early 2004, while the website didn't launch until 2006.

The song being played in the nightclub is "The Sound Of Violence," performed by Dennis de Laat. This song did not exist until the year 2009.

Because director David Fincher was unable to find any suitable identical twin actors to play real-life identical twins Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss, two unrelated actors were hired to play each brother - Armie Hammer as Cameron and Josh Pence as Tyler. Fincher thought that Hammer looked the most like the real brothers, so for some scenes, the visual effects team photographed Hammer speaking Tyler's lines and created a computer-generated model of his face to paste over Pence's. Traditional split-screen work, with Hammer's separate performances as each brother stitched together in the same frame, was also used.

The opening breakup scene with Jesse Eisenberg and Rooney Mara ran eight script pages and took 99 takes.

Cameo: [Aaron Sorkin] The ad executive that Mark Zuckerburg and Eduardo Saverin meet in New York is played (in a credited appearance) by Sorkin, the screenwriter for this film.

During one of the depositions, it is mentioned that the invention of Facebook made Mark Zuckerburg "the biggest thing on a campus that included nineteen Nobel Laureates, fifteen Pulitzer Prize winners, two future Olympians, and a movie star." One of the lawyers then asks, "Who was the movie star?" and the response is, "Does it matter?" This movie star was, in fact, Natalie Portman, who was enrolled at Harvard from 1999 to 2003 and helped screenwriter Aaron Sorkin by providing him insider information about goings-on at Harvard at the time Facebook first appeared there.

The Only Complication To Using An Electric Mower

Running over the electric cord does not speed matters....

CORE Dance Ensemble - "The Doorway" Preview

(Too many good pictures here)

Also see sister post for "Improvisation".

CORE Dance Collective - Improvisation

Left: Whether intended or not, it almost looks like Tina DeVine is channeling Vanna White here.

This is the best of times for CORE. Let me explain.

At today's Crocker opening, Ruth Rosenberg, who ran her fabulous modern dance ensemble in the 1990's, and through her indefatigable work over the last decade, now reigns as the Sacramento Valley's doyenne of dance, passed by shortly before CORE performed and stopped to say hello. I asked her: "How do you like CORE?" She replied: "It was through my recommendation that they are here today at the Crocker!" As she departed, a little voice in the back of my head said "but I saw them first!"

You know you are arriving when everyone wants to be associated with you, in any way, great or small.

Which reminds me of the late 90's, when modern dance balletomane Bill O'Brien and I would be tottering around Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall, trying to get to our seats for Mark Morris' annual Christmas treat, "The Hard Nut." Bill would say: "You know, I discovered Mark Morris!" "Do tell," I'd reply.

Left: Blair Kendall.

Also see sister post for "The Doorway" preview.

New Crocker Art Museum Addition - Members Preview

Sally invited me to accompany her on the members preview of the long-anticipated opening of the new addition to the Crocker Art Museum. The Grand Opening is on Sunday, 10/10/10.

Surveilling the Surveillance sculpture.

Out the window and across the courtyard, the old Crocker Art Museum.

Also see posts related to CORE Dance Collective, who performed on 10/09/10 at the Crocker Art Museum.